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

Part IV
Ninth Chapter
The Shrouding

Episode Four: Bugs, Bandages and Basement Blues

       The magnificent Sistine Chapel was one of the marvels of God's creation for it was through the brush of Michelangelo Buonarotti that this was so brilliantly illustrated in all God's glory and majestic awe. This 16th century chapel, relatively small and claustrophic in size, was the very same room where the master had spent so much time on his back. Now, for the next several days, it would be home to twenty-one or sixty-one Cardinals and their secretaries. The most this building held had been 115 Cardinals for Benedict XVI's election after the death of John Paul II in the early spring of 2005.

       When Benedict XVI had passed several years later, it had been almost as crowded, suffocating with so many squished into this relatively small chapel, tables encompassing the room for the 106 red hats in the Sistine. Unlike Benedict's relatively quick election, it had taken fifteen votes before Cardinal Tommaso Carandizi had been elected as a compromise choice, an interim locum-tenens, if you will. To the surprise of many who did not know him, especially the media, he chose the name Clement. To those who knew him they expected him to honor a man from his own region - Cardinal Lorenzo Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio Ganganelli who had become Pope Clement XIV on May 19, 1769.

       The 106 in the Sistine had swelled to 248 outside the conclave when the other authorized personnel had been added, all housed quite nicely in the Domus Sanctae Mariae, a no-frills modern hotel within Vatican City just west of the modern Pauline Hall. It had been built in the mid-nineties to accommodate the large number of Prelates and dignitaries. Because they had to traverse from the south side of St. Peter's to the Sistine Chapel on the north side, news media had tried to record every step. It had been a nightmare in preserving the integrity of secrecy with so many prying electronic eyes.

       The much, much smaller number now would be a blessing in disguise. Even though the Holy See was prepared to accommodate a large number, for now Vatican personnel were much more receptive to catering to a smaller group in the more traditional, more intimate, safer environs of the Apostolic Palace.

       Because of the great casualty in Iraq where 81 princes of the Church lost their lives, this would be one of the smallest conclaves since the great Western Schism. That was a time when the cracks of simony, indifference and profligacies of previous regimes had greatly weakened the fortress of Holy Mother Church. That ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation. However, here in this great hall was born the concept for a counter reformation that would manifest itself quite a ways north of here in the Council of Trent, stemming the tide of corruption and revolt that had so rendered the Mystical Bride of Christ impotent. This magnificent room had served as the nerve center of the Holy See until Pope Paul III coerced Michelangelo out of self-imposed exile to complete the great dome of St. Peter's. The comparisons to the state of the Church today did not escape Stephen.

Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 5, 1:45 p.m.

As Navarro stood with the Australian media mogul Colin Rembert, the Oblate Monsignor couldn't help but think how this sacred place had been the birthing canal for countless Popes. Many of them were holy men worthy of the highest office God could confer on man. Others were not as worthy. Still others had ridden in on the devil's coattails despite promptings of the Holy Ghost to the contrary. Their deeds, fruits and legacies had determined their status before the Almighty.

       "Monsignore, un momento per favore." It was the custodian Prince Elisio Borendici III.

       "Yes, Prince Elisio?" Stephen responded.

       "When will we know - quanti Cardinales?"

       Stephen smiled at this faithful Custodian of the Conclave. "Soon," he reassured.

       Elisio was in his late forties, balding a bit on the top, but his hair was still coal black. He was wiry in build, yet possessed a muscular 5' 10" frame.

       His family had been the official Keeper of the Key during Interregni . For over two centuries during this time of sede vacantism their family crest was recognized. whenever the chair of Peter was empty between the death of a Pontiff and the election of another. This royal family, which had seen the brief sede vacantist period of 18 Popes. Yet the heraldry was signatory only since they possessed no power, only the pride of safeguarding the Conclave. Publishers had offered millions for the memoirs of this family, the secrets that had never been revealed. Steadfastly the Borendici family had kept the secrets, their integrity.

       Elisio's great grandfather had seen the election of Cardinal Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto who went on to become in the honors of the Church and Heaven St. Pius X. Elisio's father had ushered in the Vatican II Popes with the election of Angelo Roncalli in 1959, and Elisio himself had become the head keeper in 2007 with the passing of his father. Thus the third Elisio in the grand family of the royal Borendicis had been the Keeper of the Keys for the election of Pope Clement XV. God had assured that the Borendici legacy would continue, for already Elisio and his wife Alicia had been the proud recipients of four boys and two girls. Marco was nearing nineteen and being groomed to someday becoming the new Keeper of the Key - the next prince.

       "Oh, Mr. Rembert, I would like you to meet a prince of a man. This is Prince Elisio Borundici. Elisio, this is Colin Rembert from Australia."

       "Please to meet you, mate." Colin warmly replied. "So it is your family flag that now flies over the Vatican?"

       "Si, Mr. Rembert. We are both honored and sad." Prince Borundici's sincerity was genuine.

       "It is the custom, Mr. Rembert," Stephen informed, "that upon the death of a Pope the Papal Flag is removed during the novendiales and during the time of Conclave until the new Pope is chosen. In its place is flown the coat of arms of the Prince of the Keys, which has been the Borundici family since the time of Pius IX."

       Wanting to offset attention to himself, Elisio sought to change the subject. "Mama mia, you have come long way, Mr. Rembert. No?"

       Colin was chuckling. "Yes, but well worth it. Especially after meeting you, mate."

       "You are too kind, Signore. You flatter me without purpose."

       "Yes. We Aussies are like that."

       "By the way, Mr. Rembert," Stephen interjected. "Elisio's family also have the proud tradition of burning the ballots. He is the one who signals the white smoke if a Pope has been elected."

       "No kidding, mate? Tell me more."

       Elisio was somewhat embarrassed, shifting uneasily for he truly believed what he did was not for man but for God's glory and honor. The Prince shrunk from praise. Such was the caliber of men who are dedicated to truth and tradition. Stephen was tempted to continue the conversation, but time was running thin.

       "Listen, Mr. Rembert, I have to check on some things in that room up there. Talk a bit with Prince Borundici. Take your time."

       Stephen quickly mounted a 30' high custom-made circular ramp five-feet wide and arrived at a small, specially built control room. It was an ideal vantage point for all the proceedings. Stephen was warmly welcomed by his friend Cardinal Guido Marcini at the controls.

       Cardinal Guido was a jovial soul, despite his permanent wheelchair status. One of the most beloved of the College of Cardinals, he had been responsible for bringing much of the Vatican technology from the 18th century into the 21st century. He had had a stroke during his 72nd year. After being resigned to a wheelchair and a whole new lifestyle in the studios of Vatican Universe, the incorporation of Vatican radio, TV and the web, were redesigned to accommodate the handicapped. Allowing Cardinal "Marconi," as he was affectionately called, to continue his work which he loved, added many years to his life. Now 83 years of age, Marcini was three years removed from being eligible to participate in the Conclave. However, because of his Cardinalate he was allowed to attend because he was needed as a worker, mastering the security before and during the Sacred Conclave.

       He was anxious to share his expertise with Stephen, to show him how one could detect any outside interference. Stephen was beaming as he listened and marveled at the enthusiasm of this loving Prelate who truly did not have one enemy - except most certainly the devil.

       Shortly they were interrupted by Colin Rembert, who had just arrived, huffing and puffing from racing up the circular ramp. After a short introduction, Stephen cautioned Rembert about the confidentiality of what the Australian reporter would be shown. The enthused Marcini gave Colin a quick run-down of all the equipment which surveyed every inch of the room. Security at its tightest. Though Stephen had heard the spiel a few times before, he still marveled over this beloved old man's Mastery of his craft.

       "Don't tell him, Mr. Rembert, that you can't teach an old dog new tricks," Stephen chuckled.

       "Si. I am always learning something new. Here. I show you how it is working. Si?"

       With that he flipped a few switches. Immediately an alarm showed there was a bug, some kind of electronic interference in the room. Cardinal Marcini seemed stunned. He had checked it thoroughly. Someone had penetrated the circumference. As he moved a few levers the signal grew stronger in locating the bug. Right in front of him. Stephen immediately understood.

       "Colin, do you have a hidden microphone or recorder on you?"

       "Why, no I - -, oh, wait. Guilty, mate."

       He pulled out a pen from his jacket. It was a normal looking silver pen. "If you'll forgive me," the Australian commentator said apologetically, "I would like to explain this, your Eminence. It is something we have been working on down under. To show you I need you to turn off the surveillance equipment for a short time, mates."

       "We can't do that, Colin." Stephen protested, then turned toward Cardinal Guido. "Your Eminence, I think we have a problem. The scanners did not detect the pen at the entrance, yet you identified it immediately. We need to increase the sensitivity of the scanners."

       "I am afraid, Monsignore, they are at the highest caliber possible. Portable scanners are still not sophisticated enough to pick up ultra high-pitched satellite signals."

       "Can we be sure then, your Eminence," Stephen expressed concern, "that this room is safe from all surveillance?"

       "Si. This has been a good test. No?"

       "Glad I can contribute, reverends," Rembert opined.

       "No challenge is too great, Monsignore," the Cardinal offered. "Let us see what Mr. Rembert has to show us."

       "You mean shut down the surveillance system in the room?" Stephen questioned the Cardinal's rationale.

       "I believe we could, Monsignore. I have a back up in case it is a trick After all, I have enough confidence in my equipment that it picked up something so acute as a pen. Perhaps I must calibrate it so it will not interfere with pens and other non-electronic equipment."

       "That would cause a riot if it is that sensitive," agreed Stephen. "Anyway, it's only a pen."

       "Uh, not exactly." Rembert seemed contrite, as he held the pen up. He clicked it once and a small beam appeared. Another click and two fiber-optic short arms, each less than an eighth of an inch, extended from both sides of the pen.

       "Now my fine Fathers, I will show you the wonders of the future," Rembert beamed as his consternation turned to a smile.

       Within seven seconds his words reverberated as Stephen turned to see himself magnified in living color on the wide wooden beams that helped brace the custom-built platform. The pixels were crystal clear. The projection was perfect, the audio amazingly clear and tonal.

       Cardinal Marcini was clapping like a giddy kid which only prompted Colin to continue the show as he faced the camera out towards the main nave of the Sistine Chapel.

       "Bene. Truly amazing, sir," emoted the Cardinal gleefully.

       "You like?" encouraged Colin Rembert. "If I click this button what I am transmitting will go out to 50 million viewers in Australia and New Zealand and throughout Oceania."

       He clicked and started to pan past the bronze gates within the room to the altar beneath Michelangelo's Last Judgment, voicing over. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Colin Rembert reporting from the heart of the Sistine Chapel just a little over 24 hours from the start of the Sacred Conclave. I am standing with Cardinal Guido Marcini and Monsignor Stephen Navarro, an Oblate priest who is head of communications for the Vatican. Tell me, your Eminence," he pointed the beam towards Cardinal Marcini who was caught up in the magic.

       "Si! Si!" the wheelchair-bound Prelate willingly offered, even before Colin could ask a question.

       "You are in charge of seeing that all proceedings here in the Sistine Chapel are carried off without a hitch?"

       "Well, no," Cardinal Marcini said sheepishly, "I'm really just the--"

       Stephen stepped in to the rescue. "He's the coordinator of all surveillance to assure that no transmissions of any kind are made from these quarters. I hate to be a spoilsport to your viewers, but I must insist we end this now because of security reasons. I hope your viewers understand."

       "The good Father has spoken, dear friends, and, even though these rules apply to the Conclave itself, not the preparations, I will abide. So I will say goodbye for now. Stay tuned for further updates from Rome. This is Colin Rembert saying, G'day."

       "I'm sorry, Mr. Rembert," Stephen said in an exegetic tone. "But if we--"

       "I know," he laughed in his hearty Australian brogue, "if we allow one, mate, we have to allow everyone."

       Both he and the Cardinal were now smiling broadly.

       "Well, uh, no," Stephen corrected him, "if we allow anyone to film in here we are jeopardizing the confidentiality of a very, very sacred tradition."

       "I understand. Begging your pardon, Monsignor. Here, as a token of my appreciation I want you to have this." With that Colin Rembert placed in the startled Monsignor's hand the very pen over which he had just transmitted his report. "But first," as he withdrew it from Stephen's hand, "I'll make it functional. Can't be having a pen that doesn't write, now can we, mate?" He looked for a piece of paper on the custom desk shelf and quickly scribbled 'To Monsignor Navarro. Thank you. Colin Rembert.' Picking up the paper and pen he gently handed it to Stephen.

       Stephen was dumbstruck. "But, I can't accept this. It must cost thousands of--"

       "Nonsense," blurted Rembert, "We have many more. Our technicians who designed it call this beta technology the "Penultimate."

       "Clever," marveled Stephen.

       "Consider it a prototype that we want you to have with our compliments. I will see that the good Cardinal Marcini receives one as well, and Prince Borundici, and I will reserve one for the new Pope as--"

       Monsignor Navarro cautioned him, "I think one or two is fine. We don't want to test the waters of simony now, do we Mr. Rembert?"

       "You have a point, Monsignor, and please, call me Colin. All my viewers do."

       "Well then, Colin. I believe we should be bidding adieu to the good Cardinal here for I have duties to attend to."

       "Yes, of course, Monsignor," Rembert acknowledged and turned toward Cardinal Marcini. "It was an honor to meet you, your Eminence." The handicapped Prelate reached out his hand and Colin instinctively stooped to one knee to kiss his ring. Then he and Stephen began descending the platform.

       "Thank you again for your hospitality, Monsignor. And if you are ever in our country, I would like you to be my guest."

       "You'll put a shrimp on the barbie, so to speak, mate." Stephen couldn't resist as they reached the floor of the Chapel.

       "You'll have to work on the accent, Monsignor, but yes, I'll put a shrimp on the barbie, though I think smoked ribs would be more to your liking. Shrimp are better boiled."

       They both had a good laugh as they exited smiling. That was such a rare commodity lately. Stephen wanted to drink long of the sweet nectar of laughter and mirth, something so infrequent in these times of terror and malice. For so long he had thirsted for the good feelings, the camaraderie that Colin Rembert had imparted this day. A man of good will. God bless him.

       He escorted the Australian back to the Bronze Doors and then quickly made his way toward the supply room as he mused on how he was going to use this special high-tech pen Rembert had so generously given him.

       And then, as a thief in the night, doubt shrouded his thoughts. The demons of suspicion crashed his euphoria. Could it be a bug? Could he unsuspectingly have accepted a gift from the enemy without recognizing that the devil had many faces? Confusion mounted within Stephen's mind, a mind that had to be sharp to stay a step ahead of the Legion.

       While Stephen was struggling with the capabilities and dangers of the amazing transmitting pen he had been given, another high tech instrument had been used to suture Pat's wounds, after replacing the burned skin with skin grafted by laser from his thigh. Advanced laser surgery had come into its own in recent years, replacing the scalpel, and the Vatican was no exception.

       Dr. Giuseppe Ghislieri was one of Firenze's most adept surgeons. Tall in stature, lithe, and basically bald except for a neat fringe of gray-blue strands from ear to ear, he had been lured away from Florence by the promise of becoming the Pope's personal physician and overseeing the Vatican medical staff. He was a knowledgeable man, deeply religious but earthy in his speech, more than a few times slipping in the presence of the Holy Father himself. But his heart was good and he was well respected throughout the Vatican. He treated rulers and peasant alike, rich and poor, from the Pope to the penniless pilgrim. Each to Dr. Ghislieri, was important for he truly understood each person was made in the image and likeness of Christ.

       The good doctor did not cater to many of the innovations that had been implemented since the Second Vatican Council. In fact, he had made no bones of telling the Supreme Pontiff himself and anyone who was within earshot of his rantings of how the Church had been going to hell in a hand-basket because of all the compromises. He was leery of most in the Curia. He could spot a progressivist at fifty meters and they knew it. That was one reason the liberal members of the Curia, those who despised the tried and true traditions, avoided Dr. Ghislieri like the plague. He was a divining rod quite possibly sent by the Divine.

       Giuseppe's family tree dated back to the fourteenth century; the most famous in his lineage being the holy Dominican Giovanni Antonio Michele Ghislieri who went on to become the 225th successor of Peter. Most remembered him better as the great St. Pius V. No doubt from his perch in Heaven this great Pontiff was directing divine intervention for his distant cousin.

       This day the saintly Michele's present descendent Giuseppe Ghislieri, M.D. had just finished smoothing out the burns, renewing the skin where once there had been charred flesh in Pat Gallagher's arm. This had been accomplished through the wonder of lasers that had helped grow new skin in only a few hours by reinvigorating the area of transplanted tissue. It would be painful for awhile and bandages tightly enclosed the sensitive areas of his upper flesh. Even in modern times there was still no such thing, save for a miracle, of an instant cure, but the advances of laser technology approximated the next best thing. Pat didn't realize it at the time but he couldn't have been in better hands.

Dateline: Vatican City - Vatican Infirmary, November 5, 2:15 p.m.

       Pat was groggy, but conscious, as Dr. Ghislieri entered the room to check on him.

       "Ah, como sta? Those were some deep wounds. You will need to rest for a few days, Father. Tell me, what kind of weapon did the mugger have? A blow torch?

       Pat struggled to manage a reply, making it up as he went along. "They jumped me and dragged me over by the Via Ombrellari. Stomped on me and ripped at me with something like a hot iron."

       "Si. That makes sense, Father. I apologize you have been so rudely treated."

       Pat sighed in relief. He had pulled it off. The doctor believed him.

       "You'll be woozy for few hours. I suggest you get sleep. We replenish your blood supply. I not advise much physical activity for while. Pain medication should hold until sera. I know I not supposed to give you these, but here - extra Percocet to get you through night. No tell any one, Padre."

       The doctor squeezed them into Pat's hands, clasping his hand shut just as the nurse entered. The doctor continued. "In day or two you be as good as new. Nurse, keep checking on him for next few hours. You rest now, Father."

       "You gotta deal, Doc. Thanks," Pat exhaled.

       The Doctor smiled, gesturing to the nurse in his broken English. "Wheel him into back room. He watch activities from square. It will help him pass time, though I doubt he will last five more minutes before medicine takes effect. Rest well, dear Padre. I will return around six o'clock in morning. Ciao."

Dateline: Vatican City - Apostolic Palace, November 5, 2:20 p.m.

       Sister Bridie had successfully returned with the cart to the second floor supply room where Stephen was patiently waiting. Thankfully the door had not been locked. She relayed the good news that Pat had been taken in and was under excellent care, warning the Monsignor of the impending danger for his office was too closely guarded. Stephen had entered by the back door of the supply room off the little-used hallway and had not passed by the main corridor where his office stood next to this large linen closet. The acoustics of the room muffled sounds from the outer corridor.

       Stephen knew it had been too good to be true. His euphoria turned to trepidation now. Did they know he was here? That pen had to be a bug. They were following his every move. If that was the case then he had to get rid of the pen. He pulled the shiny silver writing instrument with its various buttons and placed it on the shelf behind some glasses.

       "Sister, did anyone see you come in?" He queried anxiously.

       "I be checkin' both ways. There be no one. The guards know I passed by, but once I turned the corner they not be followin' me."

       "Good," Stephen exhaled. "How many workers normally use this room?"

       "Very few, Monsignor. They be utilizin' the larger room at the other end. This be basically for dignitaries."

       "Ah, I see," Stephen realized. "With the depletion of so many from the Holy See in Iraq, I don't think they'll be using this room for a while."

       "Meanin'?" Sister was puzzled.

       "Meaning, Sister, that if this pen is a tracking device, then they will be led to it. I've placed it up here on the fifth shelf behind the glasses. If any of these are moved, we'll know that Colin Rembert is one of them and I'll have to warn Cardinal Marcini."

       "Who be Colin Rembert?"

       "Another long story, Sister." He left it at that. "Sister, I almost forgot. I have documentation here that will correctly incriminate many members of the Curia. I made a copy as well. I must get it to Cardinal Zachmunn but the fact the Legion is now keeping a bead on me may make it difficult."

       "You be wantin' me to try and get it to him?"

       "You are a smart cookie, Sister. And a loyal one, too."

       "That be the second time today I be referred to as a pastry, Monsignor." She was evidently unfamiliar with American slang.

       "It was a compliment, I assure you, Sister," chuckled Stephen. "I don't know where the Cardinal will be and they will be watching me like a hawk." Stephen handed her a sealed envelope. "Make sure no one else sees this, Sister."

       Nervously the Irish nun took the envelope. "Sure n' they be watchin' me, too, I be fearin'. I be havin' a new superior. I met her just a short while ago, I did. I not be likin' what I see."

       "How do you mean, Sister?"

       "Be it far from me to be judgin', but this Sister Elena be not like any nun I ever be seein'. This German nun be givin' me the shivers, she did, like an evil spirit be governin' her."

       "Go with your heart, Sister. Be careful."

       "Sure n' I be doin' me best." she assured, tucking the envelope safely beneath her scapular and up under the edge of her wimple.

       "That's all anyone can expect, Sister. The rest we leave in God's hands."

       The Monsignor was grateful. But he realized they were searching for him. He had to make sure Pat was safe. He did not want to jeopardize his position now, nor the good Sister.

       "I'm concerned for Pat. Sister, are you willing to taxi me to the infirmary?"

       "Sure n' I can, but they might be suspicious, especially the guard."

       "Tell you what, if you take the elevator to the third floor and then take the elevator on the east end we could return to the second floor and cross the transverse. Then take a right you can - -."

       "I be knowin' the route, Monsignor," the petite nun assured him with her charming smile that still betrayed the angst in her eyes.

       "After you wheel me near the infirmary, try the Cappelia Paolina. Cardinal Zachmunn could be there around 3 p.m. If you can, give him the envelope. No one else."

       "I understand," she replied somewhat impatiently. "Now, if you don't mind me rushin' you, Father, put yer head down."

       She covered him totally in the towels, whispering, "Can ya breathe?"

       "Barely," came the muffled sound inside the laundry cart, a virtual taxi this day within the Vatican.

       She opened the door and cast out into the deep once more. Slowly she pushed the cart towards the elevator. The lift seemed miles away, beckoning her forward. Finally she reached the elevator door. Within thirty seconds it opened to her and she wheeled Stephen, concealed beneath the towels, into the elevator.

       The door began to slide shut when a hand reached in, stopping the momentum of closure.

       "Going down, Sister?" The slime-like inflection oozed from Macelli's lips.

       "To be truthful, your Eminence, I was goin' up I was." Her voice betrayed her nervousness.

       Macelli put his thumb on the basement button and the elevator began to descend.

       "You've no right to be detainin' me from me duties," Sister protested indignantly, fearing for Stephen just concealed beneath the towels.

       The fat Prelate smugly replied, "I think I do. If I recall Sister Elena gave you instructions that you would report to me when I need you?

       "Well, yes, but --"

       "And are you an obedient nun, Sister Bridget McCullough?"

       His words dripped with sarcasm.

       "I be obedient always, your Eminence."

       "Good, then this should be painless." A sly grin formed on his grotesque countenance.

       With a thud the compartment hit bottom and the doors slowly opened to the basement level where three guards met Macelli, beckoning the scared nun off the elevator.

       "Come, Sister," Macelli roughly prodded, grabbing her arm.

       She tried to push the cart to the side of the lift, but Macelli seemed wise to her. "Push the cart out and---" He paused, looked at it again, pondering.

       Sister Bridie prayed with all her heart, tears flowing down her cheeks. It was inevitable the Monsignor would be discovered. Would God allow it?

       Not this time.

       Macelli motioned to one of the guards, and retracted his last statement. "No. Wait. We can most definitely use the cart. Take it to Urazzi's office and pick up the packages lying around and bring them down here. Avanti! Adesso!"

       One of the three Swiss Guards nodded and pushed the rest of the cart back into the elevator. He followed suit, stepping inside. Just the guard and the cart. The door closed and Sister Bridie was alone with Macelli and the two remaining guards. The Monsignor was on his own. Whatever her fate, they could not find the envelope on her. With her hands beneath her scapular she discreetly pushed the envelope farther under her wimple secured by the tight coif. They would have to strip her to find it. Surely they weren't that cruel.

* * * * * *

       As Sister Bride trembled, the elevator ascended back to the first floor where the compromised guard quickly wheeled the cart at no comfort to Stephen, still concealed beneath the towels. Monsignor Navarro knew he had only one shot. He improvised in his mind as he heard the guard above jingle the key chain, finding the right key that would open Father Urazzi's office door.

       The smell of blood immediately reached Stephen's nostrils and he instinctively moved the shroud of towels closer to his nose to stave off the stench that was building. Macelli, to keep the murders concealed, had kept the room closed, not daring to open a window for fear someone might detect the pungent odor produced from the dead bodies.

       Stephen knew he must be ready. The element of surprise was paramount. The cart came to a halt and he could hear the guard mumbling in French, "Mon Dieu, que diable." The sight seemed to sicken the guard as he moved first to collect Urazzi's slumped corpse, lugging it closer to the cart.

       Then, in order to create a cavity for the two bodies, a hand reached in to sweep the towels out. The guard was caught totally off-guard. Stephen sprung from beneath the heap of terry cloth and sheets with a right uppercut reminiscent of the great undefeated boxer Rocky Marciano of the mid 20th century. Unlike Marciano, Stephen did not have the advantage of a boxing glove. Only his bare knuckles. It hurt like hell as he found the guard's jaw, but a little pain wasn't going to deter someone when they were fighting for their life.

       Thus Stephen followed with a quick left that knocked the stunned guard to the floor. Like a jaguar, Navarro pounced on the fallen Swiss soldier as they struggled. In desperation Stephen reached for a heavy bookend that, along with a few books and papers, had been knocked from Urazzi's desk onto the floor and strewn about during Pat's struggle with Urazzi seven hours earlier. Now Stephen and another were locked in a similar conflict.

       With survival his only thought Navarro brought the bronze weight down on the guard's shoulder, then again on his skull, knocking him unconscious.

       Trying to catch his breath Stephen rolled over on his back, breathing deeply as he stared at the ceiling. Now what?

       Did he dare take the chance of alerting the Swiss Guards? How many had compromised their pledge to defend the Holy Father and sworn their loyalty to Macelli? Did he dare try to return to the basement to rescue Sister Bridie? No, not yet. He couldn't overpower the guards who were down there. Oh, why did he give Sister the envelope? He smashed his hand down on the floor in a regretful fit of passion. What about Rembert? He must notify Cardinal Guido Marcini. But he also must seek out Cardinal Zachmunn. Checking on Pat would have to wait. First, he must get the body of Riage Benziger out, away from these traitors who had followed the same course as Judas.

       As Stephen struggled to lift the lifeless body of the most loyal of the Pope's servants into the laundry cart, he did not notice the bible strewn on the floor. It was facing up, open to Luke 16 where the words prophesied the fate of all those who had abandoned the true path. It told the story of four men in this room, two who were faithful, two who were not. Two were already in the midst of their individual judgments. No doubt their fondest wish would be to return to warn others of what awaited them:

    "And I say to you: Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater. If then you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon, who will trust you with that which is true? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's: who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two Masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other: you cannot serve God and mammon."
    Luke 16: 9-13

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