Episode Six: Escape from the Embers
The Basilisk had struck swiftly and decisively in Tel Aviv. While for the Legion Helene's expendability was a minor matter, Fasif Khadid would not consider it such. He would mourn his beloved. The Legion knew he would not let this heinous, ghastly attack go unpunished. If only he had known the Basilisk had now focused its full attention on him. Appropriate for the antagonists, it was under cover of darkness the black fire came.
Niki had not known when Fasif left the Field of Death to return home. He himself had been delayed in Kuwait City with several parishioners within his catacomb church there. As he veered the car onto the drive heading back to Fasif's villa, he wondered if Gallagher had arrived alright in Rome, whether he would be successful in his rendezvous with Karel. She was much like her father and mother. She would compliment Pat's naturally inquisitive and often impulsive nature. Together they would gather the needed information to form a counterstrike against the Antichrist.
Dateline: Fasif's Oasis Villa on the Kuwait-Iraq border, November 2, 8:58 p.m.
As he rumbled over the ruts on the outskirts of Fasif's palatial estate, Andriopoulos glanced at his watch holding his wristwatch near the dashboard lights of his Humvee, squinting at the time. Nearly 9 p.m. Even before he came in sight of the towering cypress trees he knew that the foreboding which had pulled him here had been all too real. He was anxious to communicate to his mentor his most recent findings at the Field of Death. He had the evidence that would cement Fasif's findings. Now for the next step.
It would be a step taken slowly in lieu of the events that were just unfolding as Niki's machine reached the crest of the hill 200 yards from the estate. A flash, then another and explosives rumbled through Fasif's estate, flames bursting forth everywhere. Like a searing serpent it reached Fasif's car in the driveway and another explosion.
"Oh, God, no!! Not Fasif. Oh, no, no. I was too late!" Niki shrieked in horror as he slumped against the steering wheel, sobbing for a few seconds. Then, he cuts the headlights and slowly edged the Humvee toward the charred cinder fast disappearing in this consummate conflagration. Within 200 feet of the house, the shocked Greek grinded the vehicle to a halt and raced on foot toward the smoldering beams, hoping against hope.
The smoke and heat kept him from entering the area immediately. He leaned on a palm, staring at this scene of utter destruction - merely a glimpse of what the devastation on the Field of Abraham had been. However, this time it was personal. It was Fasif and Elias. A sickening feeling rushed through his body. He wanted to cry out, but it was impossible. Tears welled up inside until his stomach could take no more. A sudden roar of nausea unleashed the dam of all he had digested over the past 12 hours, the stench of regurgitation deluged downward in a gush on the grass beneath his dusty boots.
A minute or more, and Niki wiped his mouth, took a few breaths. The nausea had left. Weakness was settling in. Through sheer will power he made his feet move, gingerly stepping over pieces of fallen masonry, through the smoldering inferno, smashing barricades of fallen beams as he raced toward what was once Fasif's study.
A moan. He heard it distinctly. Instinctively he pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket and lunged forward through the smoke to the source of the sound. Groping through the billowing incineration he found a body writhing in pain, his entire flesh seared. Carefully turning the body, Niki realized he was staring into the scarred, disfigured face of Elias, but seconds from death.
"Elias. What? How? Fasif?" was all Niki could utter.
The look in Elias' eyes told it all. He lowered his head towards his vest, covered in plaster. Niki took the cue and reached in for the small case in Elias' pocket.
With his last breath, Elias gasped, "It's to - too late. Go, get out. They're coming. Save yoursel..."
Then Fasif's trusted servant was gone. God had taken him from this misery. Niki uttered a quick ejaculation, "Be merciful, Father." Then he made the sign of the cross over Elias, "En tow animati, tu Patros, kai tu Haiou, kai tu Aegiou plumatose. Amyn."
A small charred crucifix with flecks of shiny mylar jutting from the wood lay near Elias' hand. With his handkerchief Niki instinctively lifted it, quickly wrapped it in the linen out of respect for the sacramental and inserted it carefully in his pocket along with a small case in Elias' other hand.
Just then a flame shot towards him preceding a fiery side beam that timbered near him, laying bare the wall as it crushed the door frame; sparks flew anew just a few feet from the Greek priest. The new barricade before him prevented Father Andriopoulos from taking a direct route back. He had to use another exit as he stumbled through the burning debris toward the kitchen and out onto the private driveway Fasif and Elias had always used. The heat was almost unbearable. Frozen in horror, Niki wished his feet need never move another inch as he gasped for air. Through the thick haze he reached the area where only the shell of Fasif's car remained. It, too, was burned to a hollow.
With a woeful moan escaping his lips, Niki edged himself forward to peer into the wreckage. Smoldering upholstery from the seats, the stench of melting leather and disintegrating electrical circuits pushed him back. Nothing else. Not even a pile of ashes remained of his beloved friend. He would probably never know how it happened or where Fasif was in this inferno. The deed was done, and he was convinced the Legion of the Basilisk was responsible.
Silhouetted against this haunting holocaust, Niki screamed from the top of his lungs in an emotional outburst, "I will not fail you, Elias. Nor you, my dear Fasif!!!"
His deep tones awoke a stalking fiend as gunshots rang from the cypress grove. Niki dove just in time to dodge more bullets, then hurled himself through the flames toward his vehicle on the hill, rolling and running with every ounce of strength he had left, crouching as low as he could. Behind him he could hear voices. There were more than one and they were intent on silencing the one man who had been witness to this complete annihilation of one of the strongest powers of good.
Panting and moving with a swiftness and desperateness that defied logic, Niki reached the Humvee and jammed the gear into reverse, spinning and kicking up dust as the exhaust backfire meshed with the deadly ammunition aimed his way. He careened down the twisting road backward until he could turn the vehicle around where the road widened, then descended the hill as vehicle and driver lunged forward together in desperation, racing like a bat out of hell.
Hell, that's what this was. He must get away! He had to flee; escape not only this scene of execution, but this region itself. But how and where?
The Legion was growing stronger, tightening its ranks against its enemies. Niki was an enemy...perhaps now more so than ever. With Niki rested all the hopes Fasif had fought for. They were pursuing him, headlights in his dust a good 100 yards behind but gaining.
Niki drove at breakneck speed. He prayed he would make it. He had to survive if there was to be any hope of curtailing the Legion - stopping the Antichrist from gaining total dominion.
Dateline: Oblate General House on Via Aurelia, Rome 7:30 p.m.
The stately manor of the General House of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was bathed in moonlight as it stood majestically on the hill on Via Aurelia just south above the Vatican City complex. This four-story estate had been near the original birthplace of Eugenio Pacelli who had gone on to become Papa Pacelli, better known as Pope Pius XII. It was here that Monsignor Stephen Navarro, O.M.I. had arranged for Cardinal Zachmunn to stay at the latter's request.
The Archbishop of St. Louis had arrived in the late afternoon following an uneventful flight from Lambert International in St. Louis. By the time this Prince of the Church had cleared customs he had not reached the Oblate General House on Via Aurelia until nearly 6:30 p.m. After a visit to the chapel, unpacking and a light snack, he had rested for a few minutes before being the cordial guest of the Superior General for a late supper.
As an Oblate Lay Brother removed the plate from in front of the cardinal, Gregory drew his shoulders back, "The meal was delicious, Brother. My compliments to the chef."
"We're glad to accommodate you, your Eminence," gushed the Superior General of the Order as the waiter also removed his plate. "We deem it an esteem privilege to have you stay with us."
Another waiter brought a modest desert tray that tempted the taste buds of the eye, but the Cardinal knew better. "None for me. Must watch my figure," he joshed as all chuckled. At 5'11" 190 pounds this American prelate, with a command of seven languages, was in better shape than most his age. He attributed that to regularly jogging in the early morning and virtuous living. The thinning hair was a badge of honor to him, almost like a tonsure in its formation.
"Then would a fine liqueur suit the palate, your Eminence?" the Superior General offered.
Such epicurean elixers may tempt the palate, the Cardinal knew, but it was a luxury he could very well do without. Temperance was a virtue he was loyal to in order that he might keep himself tethered to the moral virtues when temptations knocked. The General's invite was just such a siren and only a polite 'no' would quiet their beckoning.
"Truly I am quite refreshed and full," Cardinal Zachmunn assured.
"Very well then, your Eminence, may I..." The head of the Oblates was interrupted by another lay brother who humbly entered the room with great urgency.
"Sil vous plait, pardon moi. Un telephon maitenant por le cardinal."
"Thank you, Brother Henri, he will be there shortly," the Superior General affirmed.
Looking at his watch, Gregory rose from the table. "A call at this hour must be important. Where can I take the call, mon frere?" The cardinal's smile eased the tension on Brother Henri's face.
"Le foyer, mon Pere," the lay brother bowed humbly backing up and ready to lead the cardinal to the small nook in the foyer off the main lobby.
"Merci beaucoup, Father General. It was delicious," Gregory complimented. "Please, Brother, lead the way."
With that he was off at a brisk pace from the refectory towards the foyer following the black-cassocked lay brother to the phone.
"Je suis, mon Pere. Telefono," the lay brother announced to the American Prelate as they reached the foyer. Founded by French Bishop Eugene de Mazenod, the Order was staffed by French Lay Brothers who mixed languages as the Italian and English crept in with the territory.
"Merci, mon frere." The Cardinal was cordial as he nodded to Brother Henri.
The lay brother bowed respectfully as he backed away while responding, "Je ne se pas, a plus tard."
With that he was gone, leaving Gregory alone in the foyer as his hand came to rest on the receiver still in its cradle, the light on the phone blinking on hold. Whoever was calling would have to be one of only two people at this late hour.
"Cardinal Zachmunn, here." He listened intently. It was news he had not expected and the call would not last long.
Where are you now?" he inquired anxiously. The answer satisfied him to a degree, "I understand."
"I will do as you wish," the Cardinal assured. "I knew it was bad, but had no idea this bad. I will notify Victor by e-mail. He must be informed. I am ready to help in any way I can. But are you sure the course you have taken will work?"
A short pause and he knew the decision was correct.
"Yes. I will keep it confidential until the final hour. God be with you, my dear friend."
Gregory hung up and, before returning to his room, he paused to gaze upon the magnificent life-size bronzed statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception that dominated the entrance lobby off the foyer. A few candles in their holders, which jutted from the wall, cast a pale light as the statue seemed to sway with the flickering light. The twelve stars above her head glimmered brighter than he had noticed before and he meditated instantly on the passage in the Apocalypse 12: 1. Beneath the woman's feet was the moon, resting on a jade globe. Coiled menacingly around the slivered Luna and on the earth was the serpent about to be crushed by the Blessed Virgin Mary's heel - a fulfillment of Genesis 3: 15. Gregory contemplated on those two verses - one from the first book of the Old Testament, the other from the last book of the New Testament. The battle foretold in Divine Revelation was nigh. He could only pray and hope her Immaculate Heart would triumph soon and the evil one would be vanquished. From the events that had transpired over the past 40 hours this revelation didn't seem to jell with actualities. But faith was all most had left. He silently said an Ave Maria. He knew the beast was growing stronger, more cunning, ever closer, and much more powerful as the shadows of the night seemed to hiss in the quietude of this room where a holy man braced for the ultimate battle ahead.
He stared into the small refrigerator in his room at the Esperia, peering over the generous selection of liqueurs and potables. What did the Italians have against Budweiser? Pat thought as he scanned the shelves, finally spotting a welcome miniature Jack Daniels and a cold soda water. As he poured the refreshing liquid into a half-filled glass of whiskey, he sighed deeply, determined to turn in early so he would be fresh for the morning rendezvous with Karel.
Pat was a trooper. As much as he wanted to contact Corrie, he followed Fasif's directions literally to the letter - a sealed letter he had been given by Niki at the airport in Kuwait City. He was not to open the envelope until he had safely arrived at his hotel room. Espionage of the sort of mission Pat was on demanded such cautions.
Little did he know of the tragic course of events this evening for his mind tried to focus on his cara mia. He realized she was probably in a pique, he pictured her probably fretting with her typical Italian temper. Though he didn't want to confront her under such circumstances, he felt that was small potatoes to what lie ahead with the mission he had been entrusted with. "Wait for me, cara mia, I won't let you down." He prayed she'd understand; hoped his message would get through to Corrie without being traced.
It was as if telepathy penetrated the mystical science of the mind and heart.
Dateline: Corrie's sedan - Dallas, Texas, November 2, 1:40 p.m.
The cell phone distracted Corrie from the road ahead as she cruised north on the expressway towards Plano. Her appointment in McKinney was still fifteen minutes away on this early afternoon of fairly mild traffic.
"Yea, Corrine Morelli."
"Ah, Corrine. Benjamin O'Fallon here."
"Benj, it's good to hear from you."
"I've talked with Pat."
Corrie almost lost control of her car as she veered into the next lane.
"Corrine, you there?"
"Yea, Benj, I'm so anxious. Tell me, tell me. How is he? Where is he?"
Ben O'Fallon suggested she pull over at the next exit so they could talk. The signal was going in and out and he didn't want to be responsible for an accident. Damn cell phones were the biggest distraction on the road, thought Ben. Ah, for the good old days of phones that cranked, when a real live operator came on the line. Forever wed to the past, O'Fallon silently remanded himself to be patient as he waited for Corrie to park.
"Okay, Benj, I'm pulled off at Addison. Quick, tell me," Corrie begged nervously.
"Right now he be in Rome and he be safe."
"Thank God," Corrie muttered to herself, her eyes focusing upward. "What's he doing there?"
"Ah, let us just say he be safe, Corrine," Ben tried to assuage her. "Don't be a askin' too many questions, me lass."
"Me lass, my ass! I'm a big girl, Benj. I have a right to know what..."
"For your own sake, Corrine," O'Fallon tried to calm her. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, missy, pray and shut up. You can't be helpin' him with your histrionics. You need be calm and on your knees. God be protectin' him."
Taking a deep breath, Corrie attempted to put on a calm front, "Did Vic send him there?"
"In a roundabout way I be thinkin."
"You be thinkin! Hold on a second, Benj, what's going on here? First Vic blows me off, now you. Is Pat in trouble?"
"After what we saw on the telly, everyone be meetin' with trouble."
Corrie knew he wasn't going to divulge any more information to her, if he even knew. But why did he call Ben, why not her? Before she could get it out of her mouth, O'Fallon anticipated the question.
"He not be callin' me direct. A friend was the one who set up the phone call. We be trustin' in the Lord on this one, Corrine."
"Vic?" Corrie quizzed.
"No, an old acquaintance of Victor's via an old acquaintance. Tis a long story and you need to be gettin' back on the road, but he did say he misses you. And he's countin' on me to let you know he's safe."
"Promise you'll keep me informed, Benj." Corrie searched for comfort.
"On me mother's grave I be promisin', Corrine. You be takin' great care, now. God be blessin' you for your patience."
"And you too, Benj. Thanks. Really appreciate letting me know. You take care now, you hear?"
She doubted Ben heard the last sentence. He wasn't one to linger long on the phone. So Pat was at least alive. But why hadn't he called or e-mailed her. Was he having an affair? Oh, God, Morelli, how dare you think such a thing, she reprimanded her conscience, still searching for answers that had been stirred anew by this most recent news. The time on her digital CD player flashed her back to the reality of the moment. A quick call to her client that she was running late and she would be back on the expressway.
While Corrie was heading north on a modern thoroughfare in the bright Texas sun, Niki was parked in a knoll off a dirt road still in shock and dismay, trying to catch his breath on this bleak night in southern Iraq.
Dateline: Basra military complex in southern Iraq - November 2, 10:45 p.m.
The lights caught Niki's eye in his rearview. If he didn't move in the next minute he would be toast. He knew it as he revved up the Humvee and peeled back onto the road heading straight toward the airstrip. Twisting and careening forward the Humvee skidded over the rutted road, jolting every bone in his body.
Somehow he saw it ahead across the road in the dim light from the airfield. A shimmering thread of wire. Not even time to think, Niki instinctively bailed out of the Humvee, tumbling into the brush and down the embankment as he heard the vehicle go hurtling over the other side some thirty feet ahead. Then an explosion. The fire gave away his position and he slunk further into the brush while the pursuit cars pulled to a halt just short of the pack of Iraqi guerillas in military fatigues who suddenly emerged like maggots from hiding places along the road. They had set a deadly trap and somehow, someway, Niki had been given the grace to detect it just in the nick of time. Silently he gave his guardian angel and God a nod. Then voices.
"Ah, good, he's finished," shouted one guerilla as he stood at the edge peering at the flames engulfing the Humvee.
"Are you sure," questioned a second guerilla as he studied a few of the militia who had ventured closer, trying to douse the fire with an extinguisher in hopes of confirming a dead body - Niki's.
"It's too hot to get near," yelled another in the ditch within safe distance. "No one could survive. Take it on good authority. He's dead."
Another, one with greater rank demanded identification. "Make sure. He could have been thrown." Gesturing to the others he commanded them into action, "You, you, and you cover the brush on that side. You three take this side."
To avoid detection Niki scurried through the thorn bushes, ripping his clothing as he stumbled through the bramble, blood etching from his open cuts, slipping and sliding down a steep hill to the base of the airstrip compound. His battered body came to a halt at the other side of a dilapidated guardhouse, separated by an imposing monstrous barbed-wire fence.
From his prone position in the underbrush Andriopoulos could hear voices and commotion beyond the wire barrier. Climbing a nearby cedar tree with every ounce of courage left, he hung on the branch swinging his legs for momentum and thrust himself over the prickly circular steel shards probing the perimeter to keep out intruders. He landed with a painful thud ten feet from the shack. Moving stealthily back into the shadows near the shack he could now see the airstrip compound clearly. A bevy of cargo planes were lined up on the tarmac, engines revving and tight security as convoys of trailers brought by endless trucks transferred coffins and wooden boxes from their containers into the bellies of these C-130's.
No sooner could Niki catch his breath than a jeep pulled up to the guard gate less than twenty feet away. As far as Andriopoulos could decipher it was the guerillas chasing him. Focusing his senses he heard one guerilla militiaman bark out, "We must see Colonel Hudec. Immediately!"
The guard remained in military mode, "Your credentials?"
The guerilla shoved the rifle into the ribs of the startled guard, "How's this? Now get Juri Hudec here on the double."
As if on cue a motorcycle pulled up from the inside the compound and an imposing figure dismounted, fearless of the guerilla's rifle. "This is my jurisdiction," the figure snapped.
Immediately the guerilla lowered his rifle and all the other guerillas took note as the figure motioned them away from the guard's earshot, yet closer to Niki.
"Oh, it's you. Move over here quickly."
The militia guerillas recognized the voice. It was Colonel Juri Hudec himself who sought answers as he continued to interrogate the guerilla charges. "The mission? Successful?"
"Like clockwork," beamed the lead guerilla, "We did a thorough job on Khadid's house."
Hudec was not convinced. "Are you sure Khadid is really dead?"
The second guerilla piped in, trying to reassure the Iraqi colonel. "Stop worrying. No one could escape...except the Greek. We blew up his jeep around the bend."
Another guerilla stepped forward. "No body yet, sir."
"Make sure you find him," demanded Hudec.
"We'll find him if he doesn't slip inside the compound," another guerilla asserted, "if he's still alive that is."
"Not to worry about the inside," Hudec was defensive. "I'll stake extra troops on the perimeter. I assure you all will be well. My men do not fail."
"For your sake, Colonel, they better not. The Greek's the last one left."
Staring down the insolent guerilla, Hudec shot back, "You are in no position to order...if indeed the Greek still breathes."
The first guerilla managed to avoid a confrontation, intoning, "We'll find him. When we do, we'll be able to convince the citizens that the Greek killed Khadid out of outrage for plotting with the Shenneker woman and the Israelis to kill the pope and other religious leaders."
The second guerilla gruffed, "The world will focus on the Israeli State and detest those usurpers for their heinous acts in the Mid-East. We must not forget the memory of Saddam."
Hudec wanted no part of the propaganda for he had more important things on his mind. "And the Jew Shenneker?"
A third guerilla noted the time, "The deed should be finished. She will interfere no longer."
Decayed teeth were barred for all to see as the guerillas beamed proudly. Hudec joined in, "Then truly we have won the day. The master will be pleased. Now, I must get back to the planes. The hour grows late. The coffins must be airborne in minutes. He waits for their arrival in Rome."
That was all Niki needed to hear. There was no place to go but onward. As the two guerillas spun their jeep around, a swirl of dust choking the atmosphere and screeching tires Niki made his move, bolting across the tarmac pellmell toward the chugging engines idling on the runway. Hiding between the trailers carrying coffins, he dodged in and out, closing in on a conveyor belt penetrating the belly of a C-130.
One guard at the top of the ramp, none at the bottom. Providence provided a loose bolt near Niki's foot. He clutched it and hurtled it into the hold clanging off the inside wall. The distraction worked as the guard left his post to check the disturbance. That gave Niki enough time to leap for the bottom rung of the ramp half way up and in the dark shimmied onto the conveyor belt clinging to the girders supporting it.
The guard would return to his post in seconds. No time to be choosy Niki reasoned as he pried the top of one of the countless coffins open and plunged his worn, torn and exhausted frame inside, rearranging the lid over him as he felt a thud and he was motionless in the coffin daring not to breathe.
"Ouch!" He wanted to yell out, but that would mean certain detection, certain death. He was safer here among the departed even though it was cramped enough. He could feel grooves where containers had been set in place, no doubt makeshift urns for the remains. No body survived the holocaust on the Field of Death. Surprisingly, there was not the stench he expected. Thank God for that. They must have really sealed the urns tight he thought. From within this dark, cramped chamber Niki could hear footsteps and then a voice shouting from the tarmac. "All clear. They are all loaded. Clear to take off."
The guard on the plane picked up his pace as Niki could hear him panting, yelling in a heavy mid-east accent, "Wait. I am getting off this death flight."
With that the superstitious guard had cleared the hold as the heavy door subsequently closed with a metallic bang that reverberated through the wood of Niki's container. The engines' roar drowned out everything else and Niki could sense the semblance of taxiing and then airborne as he thought to himself aloud, conversing with the charred remains of the bodies within this dark wooden cocoon within the entrails of a larger metallic cocoon.
"Whoever you are, your urns are safe with me. I know you will not mind sharing your ride to Rome. While you are at it, you might mention we could all use some Divine help in this quest. Our ranks are growing thin." A short silence, and then a pained whisper from a tired, exhausted Greek priest: "And I am getting claustrophobic!"
Niki never in his wildest dreams imagined himself traveling in this manner. Of all the ungodly, dark, cramped ways to travel... It reminded him of the Apostle Paul who had to be lowered over the city walls in a basket in order to make good his escape from an angry horde of Jewish zealots who refused to accept Christ. Not a bad analogy, he considered. He was in a casket, instead of a basket, and he was fleeing for his life from the clutches of the Antichrist. And if he hadn't taken Pat to Kuwait City for his flight to Rome, or had he not tallied a while in checking up on some of his catacomb flock there, he might very well have been there with Fasif and Elias when the explosions occurred. Somehow, with God's grace, he would be allowed to finish Fasif's work. On this sad, but determined note, he waited patiently in the dark, sensing this winged monster was gaining speed.. Other than the drone of the engines, it would be a silent journey. A time to think, to ponder and plan. With the Legion of the Basilisk literally clutching at his throat he couldn't afford to make a mistake, even a small one. With Fasif gone, he winced, those united against the Antichrist had suffered the loss of their guiding light. But, then, he reminded himself, God lets happen to us what must happen...and where He orders He also gives.
"God, the time of giving is at hand," Niki prayed in his heart. "Time's about run out, No?"
Then the C-130 lifted with a tremendous thrust into the dark sky, where he was heading only God and the pilot knew at this moment. Sealed within the confines of this pine box, Niki adjusted his body to brace himself better for the jostling of the fight. Strange, Niki thought as he felt the sides of the interior. They were not wood, not velvet or silk. No, they were padded by soft plastic strips all along the sides. He was grateful that they provided a softer cushion against the bumpiness, but curiosity started to eat away at Niki. As the plane moved farther away from Juri Hudec and closer to its destination, Niki was bathed in fear, choking on his own phobia in this dark sky-born tomb.
"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The Daily Catholic who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The Daily Catholic, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001, 2005 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, nineteen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. Each day the fiction of this novel is shockingly becoming fact. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental. We have been retooling and bringing everything up to date since its second release in 2001. Because of the times, we are most interested in publishing this work and are open to any help anyone can provide in seeing this become a reality.