WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE! c 1986, 2001, 2005

Part III
Eighth Chapter
The Shadowing

Episode Eight Fire and Ice

       While the darkness of principalities was only too evident in Rome this night, the winter sun was preparing to pull the shades over Dallas as the clouds gathered darker momentum over the western plains. Frustration had engulfed Corrie Morelli waiting for word from Pat. Was Vic putting her off? If so, why? Thank God the fatherly Ben O'Fallon had soothed her angst. He would be the buffer between Corrie and Victor. But she had heard nothing lately from Benjamin either. The tension was steadily mounting, aided by the mental fuel of the known and unknown. The known in the revelation pouring from every network and cable news outlet of even more grizzly details of the terrible holocaust less than four days ago; the unknown in not knowing when or where the terrorists would strike next. Corrie had heard enough to fear the worst. What she was about to hear was what she feared most.

Dateline: Dallas - - November 4th, 5:30 p.m.

       The traffic slowed to a crawl on the Expressway heading north out of the city. Vehicle lights casting a blinding blur of ribbon as bumper to bumper they inched forward. Corrie strummed her fingers against the wheel as she impatiently urged the car ahead of her to move up, fumbling with the cd player in trying to reach the set she sought. Another sound caused her to freeze in her thoughts. Her cell phone. Normally this was part and parcel of her day, a welcome attachment to her life. But for some reason this evening it was and interloper.

       "Morelli, here."

       "Corrie, glad I got a hold of you." It was Victor and from the tone of his voice she imagined the worse. "I need to see you as soon as possible."

       "It's about Pat, isn't it?" Her words echoed through the sepulchre of thought.

       "Yes." That was all Vic Van Wess could divulge for the moment.

       "Oh, Vic, is it bad?"

       "I can't say much on the phone. I need to see you. Where are you?"

       Craning her neck to see the next exit sign ahead, "Backed up on the Expressway a mile from SMU."

       "You know the Le Peep Restaurant on Buckner, Corrie?"

       "Yeah, I can ease over and take the Mockingbird exit...eventually, and cut across."

       "Good, I'll buy dinner. Can you make it in half an hour?"

       "I'll try. Traffic's a bear right now."

Dateline: Outside of Rome - Brunatti's Villa in Palermo Heights - November 4th, 11:40 p.m.

       The fire flickered in the fireplace, burning low. A glowing red mass of ashes seemed to be watching two men sipping brandy near the hearth.

       "The Master cannot be pleased," a somber Luciani Serrano acclaimed to his companion Guillaume Brunatti as the two sat in the latter's study high above the eternal city in the expansive Palermo Heights area.

       "I would not think he would be, Lucio."

       Sipping a fine brandy which Brunatti had provided for this miserable night, Serrano responded. "Too much has gone awry of late. It is confirmed, Guillaume. Ezerbet is dead. Authorities found him in a trash bin off the Via Magdalena.

       "You are sure, Lucio?"

       "Si. No domanda."

       "And the young Shenneker?"

       "I believe Usif carried out his mission quite well."

       "Too well it would seem, Lucio." What about Maria?"

       "Dead," he stated to Guillaume. Brunatti stifled a sigh of sorrow for as much as he was enamored with the body, he cared not for the soul; thus he nodded casually as if just told that his bank balance was correct.

       "When she failed to stop the enemy at that restaurant, her fate was sealed, Guillaume. The power within her destroyed her in the same manner Shenneker died."

       "Ah," as Brunatti smacked his lips as if imagining the scene of destruction, "the Master ripped her apart. A fitting punishment for one who does not perform to maximum potential."

       "Do not forget," reminded Serrano, "it was necessary. The Master spewed her body all over the street, making it damn difficult for the authorities to know who she was. DNA or no DNA."

       "A horrible sight," cackled Brunatti, "A tribute to his power, though."

       "And a warning, Guillaume, to all who witnessed her death."

       "Yes, well then, Lucio, tomorrow morning we shall follow up to make sure they don't discover her true identity." Reaching behind him he retrieved the flask of brandy, "more, my friend?"

       "Si, encora," Serrano encouraged. "Has he instructed you as to what is next?"

       "Si, Lucio. I've already made contact with Elena. She's in place within the Vatican. She'll not fail, not as Maria Figuerido failed. "

       "She had better not fail, my dear Senor Brunatti, or his wrath will fall on us as well."

       "Grabe has, what they say 'German guts' and loyalty," Guillaume said forcefully, trying to make the assessment of this disciple of the basilisk sound concrete as he scowled, "Not weak like Maria. Maria wanted the power, did she not?"

       "Yes. Don't we all?" Serrano spoke truth.

       "It doesn't matter, Lucio, as long as the power flows from the Master and is given back when the task is done. Maria failed to meet the test of obedience."

       "We will not fall victim to that fault," added Serrano.

       "Nor to our pride." Brunatti was adamant.

       "We have spent too long, Guillaume, to find ourselves failing the Master at the moment when he is ready to assume full power and his rightful authority over the world. Has he not promised us such glory that neither of us can imagine?"

       "True, Lucio."

       "Has he not provided for us all these years?"

       "Quite well," sighed Brunatti with utter satisfaction. "A few more tasks, and his reign will begin, and our kingdoms will reign with his. No, Lucio?"

       "Si. But do not forget, Guillaume, that between us and a portion of the Master's power lies the tasks allotted first to Macelli and now to Elena. Their success precedes our final task."

       "Ah yes, Lucio. The anticipation is delicious."

       "Then the candles are secure?"

       "You worry too much, my dear anxious Serrano." Brunatti gently ran his fingers over the rim of his brandy snifter, smiling. "They are loaded and ready for disbursal. The truck arrives tomorrow."

       "Bene. More devastation, Guillaume."

       Raising his glass in a toast with Serrano, Brunatti exclaimed triumphantly, "New Nasiriyah took out temporary foundations, this will destroy the one permanent foundation standing in our way."

       Luciani Serrano joined his glass as the two snifters clinked and the elixir of brandy cascaded into their blood streams with a rush of warmth and a taste of victory.

       "We pledge our loyalty to the master," Serrano intoned. "We pledge our lives to make his reign possible."

       "Long live the Basilisk" Brunatti replied and then began to laugh. Softly at first, then louder, as if the emotion had long been imprisoned within him. He threw his head back against the maroon leather chair and howled in laughter that echoed another laugh that he'd heard before - the mocking leer of the Master. But he didn't care if the Master heard him now. He was entitled to his moment of mirth. He had served well. Damn those who had not.

Dateline: Vatican City - Father Urazzi's office in the Vatican - November 4th, 11:45 p.m.

       "You know it won't go well if you do not tell us the truth." Cardinal Josef Vendhem screeched as he circled the chair where a weakened Captain Riage Benziger slumped, prevented from slipping off the chair by the rope binding his body to this furniture.

       With Vendhem, a caricature of a Nazi gestapo if there ever was one, were Cardinal Antonio Macelli and his assistant cleric, Father Roberto Urazzi. The only light in the room, a desk lamp that had been twisted up to glare in Riage's face in hopes he would break and tell all. Such a scene in the movies might work, but in this all-too real scenario the world had been plunged into, the heat of the light only served to force Benziger to sweat ever more profusely. The more he was grilled, the more stubbornly he dug in, determined to be loyal to the end.

       That did not deter Vendhem, "If the Holy Father does not show up, then you will pay dearly."

       Macelli could at least see that his compadre was getting nowhere. Thus he changed tactics, "Where did you go, Captain Benziger?"

       "I - I told you, your Eminence, I was knocked out." Riage stammered.

       "But how did you get out?" shot back Urazzi. "The Closet was locked."

       "I didn't say anything about a closet," Benziger pounced on Urazzi's mistake.

       "Perhaps, my dear Riage," Macelli paused, trying to cover up for the faux pas of his assistant, "you play us for fools. Sister Bridget told us she locked it herself. There was nothing amiss when she was there...and you were nowhere in sight."

       "I do not understand your line of questioning," the Swiss Guard murmured, pain seering through his body as the ropes burned against his perspiring flesh.

       Vendhem stepped in front of Benziger, trying yet another tactic. "You can see, Antonio, he is lying. He's is trying to cover up a dastardly plot against our dear pontiff."

       "That is not true," gasped Riage, "I would die for him."

       "Perhaps you may," Vendhem icily replied as the phone rung on Urazzi's desk.

       Urazzi picked it up, wondering who knew they were there at this time of the night, he cupped his hand over the speaker to muffle out any other noise in the room.

       "Pronto." A few seconds, and the Judas-like priest turned to Macelli, gesturing that it was for him. The Italian prelate motioned Urazzi to stall which Urazzi did, hesitating and then telling the caller, "Si, momento."

       The Vatican priest handed the phone to his boss. Macelli turned his back to Benziger, Urazzi and Vendhem. "Yes. I'll be there immediately." Click.

       "I must go, Josef. Tape his mouth and keep him in the next room until later." Leering now ever more impatiently, Macelli turned to Benziger, "We shall soon get to the bottom of this."

       With that he slithered out of the room to his urgent appointment.

       "Father Urazzi, you heard His Eminence. Tape his mouth and take him into that room."

       "Uh, yes, your Eminence. Ah, I can't move him by myself."

       "Ah, very well, untie him from the chair and he can walk on his own into the room. I will not risk a hernia on such tripe. Hurry, be quick, dear man." Almost disgustingly, Vendhem belittled Urazzi, "what Antonio sees in you, I have no idea."

       Urazzi was embarrassed as he bowed like a clutz to the cardinal in a pitiful fashion, kneeling down to untie the ropes around Benziger's feet as Vendhem watched with the eyes of a vulture.

       Riage's strength had practically left him and so he did not resist when Urazzi shoved Benziger's arms up past the heavy hemp that held him to the chair behind his back. He would await a better opportunity when the odds were better. Shuffling to his feet, his hands still bound behind his back, he watched Vendhem shift ever so slightly near the desk and pick up a paper weight as if to defend himself against this helpless guard, whose hands were still bound, his legs weakened by the rope that had cut off much of the circulation to his feet. After two steps his knee gave out and Benziger tumbled forward towards Vendhem who was now behind the desk.

       Urazzi was slow to respond as he bent down to pull the fallen Swiss Guard back on his feet. It was then that Benziger saw it. A newspaper peeking out beneath a pile of other papers. The headline was legible. "MILLIONS TO PAY TRIBUTE TO POPE'S COFFIN." In shock his eyes betrayed him. Vendhem realized it immediately.

       "He knows."

       With a Teutonic rush Vendhem brought the heavy paper weight down hard on the back of Benziger's skull and the Swiss Guard crashed to the floor.

       "Is he dead?" shrieked a startled, panicked Urazzi.

       "You figure that out, Roberto, on your own time. I have too much to do to be piddling with peons like you and him. Be quick. Drag him in there and stand guard. Can you do that, Father Urazzi?"

       "Si, your Eminence. Scusi."

       "Well then, dump him in there now!"

Dateline: Vatican City - Corridor outside Macelli's office - November 4th, 11:58 p.m.

       A Swiss Guard, one whom had not been enticed by the Basilisk to this point, stood between Cardinal Macelli's office door and a nun demanding entrance, as Macelli came bounding down the hall.

       "Your Eminence, this nun says you wanted to see her, but she has no credentials."

       Recognizing Elena, Macelli assured the gatekeeper, "It is quite alright, I will vouch for her. Allow her to follow me into my office, kind sir."

       Polished heels quickly clicked as the Guard came to attention, resuming his sentry position with a salute and then marching off stately down the corridor in total obedience.

       "I thought you had compromised most of them, Antonio," a disgusted Grabe chided the rotund prelate.

       "Not all are worthy or ripe for the Master, Elena. Now tell me. After your premature reaction in Iraq is all still in preparation?"

       "A few minor setbacks, nothing more. I understand the prize is missing." Elena was throwing the onus back on Macelli.

       "Only temporarily, Frau Grabe. Your help will be useful in locating the mole within."

       "If it furthers the Master's cause, of course."

       "Bene. Then this is what I ask of you --"

       The shadows droned out the rest of the details these two insidious members of the Legion were plotting as the Angelus bell rang out on the stroke of midnight in Rome. All was not well.

Dateline: Dallas - - November 4th, 6:05 p.m.

       Headlights, tail lights and exhaust meshed with the flurries of an early November snow that had been falling on Dallas for the last few hours. It was getting more intense now, evident by the fleet of sand trucks that had been dispatched by the city. One such metro vehicle was slowing traffic along Buckner Boulevard, depositing the granules to prevent skidding. Never mind the residue it left on the rocker panels or played havoc with underpinnings, it was for the safety of the populace.

       Safety. Victor Van Wess mulled that thought in his mind as he watched this surrealistic traffic scene from his perch inside the Le Peep restaurant. No one was safe any more and the more the talking heads on the cable news networks along with the big three network news experts expounded and repeated ad nauseum the measures that must be taken, the more obvious it became they didn't have a clue.

       Vic had seen it coming over the years, but, like a puzzle with several missing pieces that drive one toward frustration, even insanity at times, he struggled with answers in following trails that so often wound up as dead ends. This time however, Van Wess had found one piece that had led to a destination he suspected, but never could garner enough evidence to verify his fears. He would take that trail tonight after securing Corrine Morelli's trust and ensuring that his loving, unsuspecting wife Amy was taken care of in the event of his sudden demise.

       It was not something he feared, rather something he dreaded. Despite his sailor vocabulary, part and parcel of the industry of the press room for more decades than he cared to remember, Vic was one who had always followed the path of righteousness and morality. One who always sought to set things right. That is why he waited this evening to speak face to face with Corrie. He owed her that because it was he who had caved to Pat's promptings, sending him to that godforsaken place in Iraq. His last words to Pat seemed to haunt him. " Don't like sending you, Pat...but, it's your funeral."

       With the evidence Vic had just received an hour ago, those words ate at him like acid on a battery cable. How could he explain to Corrie? As he quaffed down another cup of coffee and motioned the waitress for more, he realized he had better come up with something quickly for she had just exited her car, sloshing toward the warmth of the lobby of the restaurant.

       Corrie spotted him from the entrance. Her heart racing, she mounted the elevated platform where seven tables were set near the window. Vic was in the far corner facing out into the bleak night, much like his heart this evening.

       "Victor, it is good to see you. Though I wish it were Pat."

       Always a gentleman, Vic stood and pulled out her chair for her as he helped her remove her overcoat and drape it over another chair. "Me too, Corrie, me too."

       "I don't like that tone, Vic. Something's wrong isn't it? Oh my God is it Pat?"

       Vic didn't look her in the eye immediately as he lit a cigarette, stalling for how to tell her.

       Corrie waved the smoke away, "God, Victor, those cancer sticks'll kill you...if not me."

       "Sorry. There are a lot worse things than these that scare me, Corrie. Like this."

       Never one to finesse, Vic pulled out his Mirror Reflector Card and inserted it into a small MP3-like gismo dubbed the Reflector Imager "By revealing what I'm about to show you, I'm placing both of our necks in a noose - a very dangerous noose. I'm afraid, Corrie, that it might already be too late for Pat."

       "No, don't say that!" Corrie was in denial.

       "Here's the proof, Corrie. Watch and listen.

       He moved closer to her and pointed the lazer beam toward the back of the white chair at an angle where no one else in the restaurant could see what she was about to witness. He placed a small node on the back of her ear. "You'll be able to hear everything and it won't disturb the customers." With that an image, almost in holographic fashion flashed on the back of the chair and Corrie fixed her eyes on it, her fingers trembling as she grasped Vic's hand and squeezed, anticipating the worst.

       What followed, with amazing clarity and audio, was a short eye-witness account of the horrendous events of this evening. From the camera angle it would seem someone had been across the street with a high-powered, high tech zoom lens that captured, in amazing pixilated resolution, the events that occurred just two hours earlier in Rome. Whoever recorded it was not in the restaurant, and had access to the Mirror Reflector Card. The Imager revealed the four masqueraded resisters of the Legion of the Basilisk enjoying their meal. Corrie didn't recognize Pat at first, but Vic pointed out the ever present Pall Mall in his hand and his voice - his drawl - cinched it for Corrie. New emotions surged over her as she watched Pat for a few seconds, then saw the waitress move toward him, almost bump him in her effort to hand something to someone else. Then, her heart plunged as a hellish morphing occurred, one that the Imager could play in phenomenal slow-motion to capture the change from finite being to infernal monster. The noise level increased as shouts and screams were heard and she saw this freak - a hideous reptilian monster lunge at Pat. From that point on patrons of the restaurant, fleeing the restaurant in panic blocked the cameraman's angle as shadows raced in staccato fashion in front of the lens. And then it was over.

       Vic, took the Imager, with the Reflector Card still inserted and pressed it into Corrie's hand, unclenching it first as the tears welled up within this fragile soul.

       "There is no evidence that he's definitely dead, Corrie."

       "Not much evidence he's alive, Vic." Corrie's sadness was now turning toward anger, anger at Vic for allowing him to go. Anger at herself for not putting up more resistance. Anger at the world for causing the events that brought him to his apparent death in a Roman bistro. "How could you? Why didn't you tell me sooner. You knew, damnit, you knew where he was. Why? Vic? Why?" The emotions gained the best of her and she balled like a baby as nearby patrons craned their necks, then looked away as not to seem intruders.

       Vic retrieved a clean hanky, trying to assuage her. "I know it looks bad. Indeed, I thought the worst as well when I first saw it. He was dead. Gone."

       "Thanks, but that's not helping, sir!" She pulled away from him, bitterness swelled within a broken heart that had always been so warm and loving.

       Vic smiled. Was he that sadistic thought Corrie repelled by his saccharine gesture. "I thought so, Corrie, until I received just a little over half an hour ago via encrypted e-mail a short note: 'Pat sleeping with the fish for now. Soon he will swim again. All is not lost.' "

       "I don't get it," Corrie stammered, trying to gain her composure, her emotions on a veritable roller coaster and Vic seemingly controlling the psychological cart she was in. She wanted out of that cart. She wanted Vic to cut the power and leave her alone. She tried to bolt the buckles. "That is not encouraging, Vic, especially after what we've just seen. I think you're just trying to patronize me." She paused a second, then, "I think I feared this moment from the second he kissed me goodnight after the explosions."

       "I know, Corrie. And what you saw was devastating, but I do believe in miracles and I honestly believe Pat is still alive."

       "I want to believe you, Vic, but it sure doesn't look like it does it?"

       "Looks can be deceiving. There is a lot of deception going on."

       Corrie shot back facetiously, her Italian temper evident, "Tell me about it." Her indignation mounted. "So where is he now, Vic? Who are your contacts that have watched him like a peeping tom but didn't rush in to save him?"

       Vic took a deep breath. He was determined that now she needed to know as much as possible for time was indeed running out; yet for the sake of all, not everything as he hemmed over the last question.

       "He's in Rome. From my latest communiqué he's in the catacombs, away from the shadow of the Basilisk and recovering. They are getting him medical help. Look, Corrie, this isn't just a terrorist group with a political agenda of hate like Al Qaeda or the Seventh Storm or any of the other radical Muslim groups."

       "What is it about, Vic?" Her tone was getting icier. "And why is Pat so enmeshed in this mess?"

       "Because he had to, Corrie. It is either fight the beast or perish."

       "And you say he hasn't perished, but the pictures you showed me say otherwise."

       "Yeah, I know. It's confusing enough. You saw it, the deadly, satanic lizard that can grow to be six to eight feet in seconds."

       "Yes, I still don't believe it." A pensiveness was pervading the acerbity.

       "I know it's not natural, Corrie. It's not natural. Corrie, it's a supernatural phenomena orchestrated by Lucifer himself through a world-wide organization of the devil's own."

       "Sounds like an exaggeration of the Exorcist, Vic. Come on, I mean--"

       "I'm not exaggerating! This organization - the Legion of the Basilisk is intent on one thing: to usher in the Antichrist."

       "I'm already scared to death. You're not helping."

       "But we need your help, Corrie. If this thing has penetrated as far as I think it has, we're all going to need help. Spiritual help! That's all we've got left to fight this beast...that, and plenty of cunning to counter the most cunning."

       "I suppose this antichrist has got 666 carved on his skull, too!" Corrie was still confused.

       "It's not that simple and I don't have time to draw you a pert chart. I've been tracking this Legion for almost 15 years."

       "That long?"
       "I know it exists. This scene you just saw gives credence to my fears."

       "And mine, too. I mean that was Pat, not some movie stuntman, for God's sake, Vic."

       "I hear you, Corrie. These pictures are proof enough for me to use, somehow, to convince an unbelieving world that it does exist. That's why I'm confiding in you. I've been warned that the Basilisk's presence is very much here in Dallas as well, Very, very near. I suspect who it is, but before I confront it I want you to promise me that if anything happens to me you'll deliver the Imager I gave you to the address code on the Reflector Card."

       "Okay, but answer me this. Why didn't Pat contact me?"

       "Too dangerous. He's been fighting to stay alive long enough to see the Legion trampled back into hell...otherwise we'll all be trampled by this deadly, diabolical menace."

       "Well, you've got connections. Can't we get Pat out of Rome, Vic?"

       "Corrie, we need him there because Pat and just a handful of others are all that stand between the struggle of good and the dominance of evil for a mighty long time."

       "So who are these others working with Pat?"

       "You sound like Pat now, Corrie, grilling me, but I've got it coming." He managed to force a chuckle as he continued, "It's too dangerous for all concerned if I tell you all those involved. Remember, I don't know everything. But I swear I'll get to the bottom of it. So help me, God."

       "Come hell or high water!" Corrie was now deadly serious and convinced.

       "Corrie, everything I've told you has to remain here. Strict confidence, got it?"

       "Top secret," as she crossed her heart to show her sincerity. "You have my word on it. Can you give me some idea - some tangible name or names I can relate to? Anything?"

       Vic shuffled uncomfortably in his chair, "Ahhh, that's not easy. Okay. I'll try. How about Cardinal Gregory Zachmunn."

       "From St. Louis? The one everyone's ballyhooing lately as the first American seriously be considered for pope?"

       "One and the same, Corrie. For at least seven years I've worked secretly with him. We've even worked to have one of ours installed in a Vatican post. He's proven invaluable."

       "Who is that?"

       "Monsignor Stephen Navarro. A dear and loyal friend that's meant much to this old sinner here."

       "But aren't there more in the Vatican that can be trusted? I mean, after all it's the --"

       "That's how deep the devil has penetrated, Corrie. It was predicted by Pope Leo XIII and no one paid any attention. So much has been compromised over the past century."

       If I remember from my early catechism classes, Vic, wasn't it the Virgin Mary who also foretold these events at Lourdes?"

       Actually it was around that time but at La Salette in the western Alps. The one thing she said that stuck is that 'Rome would lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.' The modern church has definitely lost the faith. Now it is ripe for becoming the seat of the Antichrist and I'm going to do all I can to stop it.

       "God, now I hope Zachmunn does become pope," Corrie opined.
       "That makes it all the more dangerous for him and those working for the same cause."

       "Well, I've never been much of a joiner, but in this case...with Pat and...oh, I'd go to hell and back to find him, Vic. There's got to be something we can do. Can't we go to Rome to help Pat?

       "I wish it were that easy. No. I doubt we'd be of any help, even if we got there in time."

       "In time!?!"

       "Yes. Time is vital. This Basilisk can be in many places at one time...take any form...it's not confined to a mortal body...yet."

       "Yet?" Corrie was incredulous.

       "The Basilisk is a spirit, a being. Evil, yes, but nevertheless a being. Remember they were once angels. They are spirits who are much more powerful than finite beings and when they are desperate as all evil spirits are, it makes it even more dangerous."

       "So are we talking about a lizard or the devil, Vic?"

       "One and the same. To establish an earthly kingdom it must take on human form. A 'host' if you will - one of its disciples. You can bet it'll be one of its most powerful disciples, too."

       "So what do we do, Vic?"

       "Pray, Corrie. Now you know as much as you need to know. Guard this Imager with your life. I'm going to do a little more digging. If my suspicions are correct, then I'll call you."

       "For God's sake be careful, Vic."

       "It's for God's sake that I'm doing this. Only contact the code I gave you in the event anything should happen to me."

       "No, Victor, don't say that."

       "God alone knows, Corrie. But never forget the Basilisk does exist. You have visible proof of that. Its power is incredible."

       They finished their meal quickly and left. In truth, both had only picked at their food for the subject matter was one that would cause anyone to lose their appetite. So also with Vic and Corrie. As he hugged her and lugged his aching steel-pegged leg out into the frigid November night, Corrie had a sense she would not see Vic alive again. The thought sent shivers through her spine, mingled with the chill of not knowing for certain whether Pat was still alive, whether he was seriously injured, and whether she would ever see him again.

       As she scraped snow off her windshield before getting into her car, she felt a coldness in her heart. She was not consciously nor totally aware that the stalactites of doubt and fear were melting into a searing stalagmite of hate and revenge. But she had a suspicion as she pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. Hope springs eternal, but her springs of hope were solidifying, forming frozen icicles that threatened to pierce her heart, her flesh. The thaw would be dangerous, very dangerous.

"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.

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