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

Part IV
Ninth Chapter
The Shrouding

Episode Eight: The Gambit of Fianchetto and Zugzwang

       The Players were positioning themselves. The great chess board was set. The playing table: the Vatican. Crucial strategy between the forces of good and evil was intensifying. In this intriguing game, each player begins with two bishops on opposite colors. Both bishops can never meet. Each bishop controls half the squares on the chess board, therefore, both bishops can control all the squares on the board. A bishop is most effective in an open position where he has room to move. The poison pawns were in place while the grabbing of pawns would continue in the Sala Regia this night with the bishop pieces placed on the flanks through a fianchetto move that would either place their opponent in a state of en prise or block a Bad Bishop. Such was the hope of the good bishops as well as the bad ones: Create a situation that occurs when any move one side makes will weaken his position, however, he is compelled to move in accordance to the rules. This zugswang was the strategy, the gambit Cardinal Gregory Zachmunn was counting on this evening as the last of the Vatican personnel, Prelates and diplomats to pay their respects to their fallen colleagues had vacated St. Peter's Basilica and the doors locked.

       If one were to have remained within the great cavity of this magnificent structure, still the largest authentic church in the world, one would have been overwhelmed by the immense silence within. Not a soul breathed, not a mouse crept, and, strangely, not one candle flickered.

       Outside the confines of this centuries-old edifice, few living creatures were aware of the black Mercedes that slithered through the St. Anne's gates. It snaked around and behind the great Basilica and into the maze of abandoned avenues and alleys behind the Apostolic Palace, creeping to a stop.

Dateline: Vatican City - Back Entrance to the Apostolic Palace, November 5, 8:05 p.m.

       One of Macelli's mavericks in full regalia met Brunatti and Serrano. The trunk lid popped up and the two men exited the car. With help from the Swiss Guard they lifted a huge black trunk out and carefully carried it to the top step.

       "E pesante. Si?" Serrano expounded to the guard.

       "Si. Ma necessario," assessed the guard.

       "You have the costumes?" Brunatti asked curtly.

       "Si. Inside."

       "C'e Elena qui?" Serrano inquired.

       "Si. She waits inside as well," the guard assured.

       They hefted the heavy trunk up and carried it inside, up a short flight of stairs and set it down in a small foyer. A statue of St. John Chrysostom, a Doctor of the Church and the one referred to as the "golden throated one" for his magnificent homilies, towered above the three men as Elena arrived. If only the world could have heard the golden voice warn this night of the danger, the immense danger, that lie within the trunk. But the marble statue remained silent, staring straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the conversation below.

       "Ah, good. It is finally here." snapped Elena. "Open it."

       They set it down and Guillaume produced a key that unlocked the trunk. Books, missals and other religious items and nuns' garments had been jostled somewhat, exposing the cavity that contained the false bottom.

       "This will not do," she complained, as she rearranged the base of the trunk, stacking the books so they hid the bottom deck which contained the computer. It was the same type of computer she had used to detonate the explosives on the Field of Abraham nearly six days ago.

       It had arrived from the United States by way of Soto Ichariak and Edwin Blix's private jet, the same that had carried Pat to Basra. This Lear jet had logged a goodly amount of miles over the past week. Soto had directed the trunk and other materials to the warehouse which Niki and Ogidi had surveyed. This modest two story building on the hill above the Coliseum was merely a cover for the covert operatives of the Legion. It had been purchased by Blix International three months ago, though no records would show such connection.

       The guard had motioned to Brunatti and Serrano to a room off this small foyer. Within five minutes they both emerged in full regalia. Serrano looked a bit stout and short for his outfit. Brunatti's fit fine.

       "Realize there are other guards who will be suspicious," sneered Grabe.

       "Are you sure?" queried Serrano.

       "Ja. I am sure." the German snarled.

       They would realize the truth of her words. Two sets of guards would intercept them on the way to Mother Agnes' old room on the third floor of the east wing. Fortunately for them, and unfortunate for the forces of good, Captain Royce Schuster and Lieutenant Felix Geraud were not there. Therefore a thorough search of the trunk was not conducted. The lead covering over the cavity that contained the computer prevented the portable security scanners from detecting the contents beneath her 'belongings.' X-ray beams would only show an extremely thick bottom. If anyone had been suspicious perhaps they might have searched further. However with the presence of two guards accompanying this nun, no guard dared question a nun by going through her things, not in her presence at least. Because of this unwritten courtesy the coordinates determinator of doom had been smuggled into the Vatican this night.

       Once safely inside Mother Agnes' room, Elena dug into the trunk, flinging the religious items unnecessarily into a heap on the side. Carefully she unlatched the false bottom, lifting the small computer out and placing it on the table. Brunatti and Serrano watched attentively as the German Mastered her craft.

       She slipped from beneath her habit a plastic card and inserted it in the side slot. The screen came to life as a Flash message evolved out of the blank background. 'Mirror of the future - Window to all: The Reflector Detector awaits!'

       Blix had supplied the weapons and the trigger. Grabe typed in a password and within seconds she was connected. A few clicks and she was on wireless voice modem. It was ringing directly to the private modem of Edwin Blix.

       "Elena, y'all set up?" Blix recognized her ID and had responded promptly.

       "Ja. No problems. Brunatti and Serrano are with me. Macelli and Vendhem are busy with the foolish ones in red."

       "Then all's secure?"

       "For the most part, Herr Blix."

       Blix was livid. "What do you mean 'for the most part'? Ah want purrrrfection! Ya hear?"

       Apprehension showed in her voice, "Ve are working on it."

       "Workin' on what!!!" He was bellowing.

       "The prize is still missing. They did not get the ring. Urazzi is dead and two guards missing" she listed.

       "Oh, is that all?," Blix said sarcastically.

       "We have an Irish nun in the basement. She will talk after the foolish ones' meeting tonight when Macelli joins me."

       "Are ya so sure, Elena?" Blix's voice dripped with gall. "Ah'm afraid Ah do not have the confidence in ya Ah once did. The premature triggerin' in Iraq. That was inexcusable."

       Grabe took a deep gulp. "We will not fail."

       "No, y'all better not."

       "I await further instructions," Grabe responded in a non-emotional voice.

       "We gotta clean up the loose ends, before we proceed further, ya heah?"

       "Ja, mein Herr."

       "Ah need ya to find someone for me. Name's Patrick Gallagher. Maria was to eliminate him but she failed. Ah've reason to believe he's not only in Rome, but quite possibly in the Vatican itself by now."

       "Ja. Macelli just gave me a picture of him. Ve will search him out." Elena assured.

       "Good, Ah'll mirror over another photo of him so y'all can be on the watch for him."

       "What is his business here?" Grabe inquired.

       "Mah editor mistakenly sent him to Iraq in place of Jordan Collier. Gallagher's mucked things up wherever he's gone."

       "That is not good, mein Herr."

       "No it's not, Elena. But Ah'll handle Mr. Van Wess in mah own way. In fact, he's waitin' for me in mah study as we speak. Ah'll let him wait a while longer. I love to see 'em squirm," Blix stated sadistically. One could sense the reptilian hiss in his words.

       "The photos of this reporter are coming through now," Grabe notified Blix. "Ja, it is the same person Macelli identified."

       "Good. Then get him!"

       "Very well," answered Grabe. "Any instructions for Brunatti and Serrano?"

       The two Italians, ridiculously decked out in Swiss Guard duds, shuffled their feet nervously anticipating Blix's instructions.

       "Have 'em make sure the shipment arrives safe and stay with it," Blix insisted. "That's all."

       "That is it?" blurted Serrano in obvious disappointment.

       "That's what Ah said. See that it's done and done well. Y'all understand?"

       "Yes, sir!" Brunatti, Grabe and Serrano all replied in rote. "We pledge our lives to make his reign possible. We are the Legion. Long live the Basilisk."

       "Yeah, see to it. Adios." Blix signed off.

       Grabe, Brunatti and Serrano stood there, not exactly sure what just transpired. Blix had a way with people that way. Like his Master, he used people and then discarded them as yesterday's garbage. That had always been the modus operandi of those who were slaves to the prince of the world. Like the fallen angel Lucifer, they said 'non serviam' - 'I will not serve.' In truth, they were serving and, in doing so, ironically and fatefully, serving up for themselves an eternity of unending fire and brimstone. The logic of the lust for power is totally illogical.

       As the moon peeked around the great dome looking from the Sistine Chapel, thirty-three men were gathered in the Sala Regia adjacent to the Sistine Chapel. In the Domus Sanctae Marthae forty other men waited vainly and with great vanity for their chance to swing the conclave for Josef Vendhem as the next Pope. It was a fait accompli they had been told. They had also been offered the carrots of plum assignments. Yes, Heaven on earth would be theirs. There was no need to wait for any other reward. Life after death was mere superstition to those men who had fallen for the great lie, selling out to the world, the flesh and the Devil. With the six, who had occupied the Sala Concistoriale earlier, they would be in cahoots. Misery indeed loves company.

Dateline: Vatican City - Sala Regia Hall, November 5, 8:25 p.m.

       The formalities had concluded, roll call completed and assignments made for the first General Congregation preceding the events tomorrow. Cardinal Julies Mendoza had been seated as Dean of the College of Cardinals with three assistants. By acclamation the members had selected Cardinal Krementz, Cardinal Medelia and Cardinal Kravic. Cardinal Visserant had been appointed by them as secretary. Macelli, as the chamberlain, sat to the side beaming. He had the numbers. Or so he thought.

       The lectern stood in the center. Behind six chairs faced out toward twenty-six other chairs five deep, five across, except for six in the last row, including Marcini's wheelchair. All faced the lectern. While the rules for the Conclave prohibited any Cardinal who had reached the age of 80 from participating in, not so all other functions. This included their active participation in the pre-conclave General Congregation.

       Cardinal Mendoza had just finished all the unofficial announcements that took nearly half an hour. It included Macelli's formal explanation why he had taken the authority to dispense with the novendiales and had moved the funeral up from nine days viewing to only three. He also, to the consternation of many in the room, tried to rationalize why the conclave would follow so soon after the funeral Mass and why that mass would also serve as the official pre-conclave Mass. Many of the Prelates were twitching and stretching, their eyes wandering. They were impatient. The general consensus from their body language: Let's get on with the important matter of hand.

       The Dean of the College caught the drift. "The Sala Regia Sede recognizes His Eminence Thomas Wetherby from Canada."

       "Thank you, Your Grace," the Canadian proceeded. "Distinguished fellow Eminences of the College, I feel it is necessary that we bring to the floor the supposed document on the Jews that has caused so much consternation and besmirched the name of our dearly beloved Sovereign Pontiff of happy memory. I believe we --"

       "I object," the Puerto Rican Cardinal voiced, standing up in the second row and purposely interrupting Wetherby's trend of thought. Several other Cardinals rose to join Lopez' protests, creating a scene that prevented Wetherby from continuing at the moment. So this was Macelli's ploy.

       "This is highly inappropriate," Cardinal Mendoza shouted, banging the gavel in trying to restore order.

       Several Cardinals complied by being seated.

       Cardinal Visserant left his secretarial chair behind the lectern and moved to Mendoza's side, whispering something. Mendoza was not pleased, but considering the circumstances, he decided to allow Visserant to address the body of Cardinals.

       "The Chair recognizes His Eminence Leon Tourrieu Visserant from France."

       "Merci beaucoup, your Grace. Gentlemen, the point my distinguished colleague Cardinal Wetherby has made is indeed important and should be addressed."

       Visserant was patronizing. Gregory shifted uneasily in his chair as the Frenchman continued.

       "However, for a representative analysis of a matter of such importance, I believe the first priority must be the question of acknowledging another decree His Holiness Clement XV would have wanted fulfilled. Therefore, I believe it is pertinent we first place before the floor the matter of the additional preconium Bishops the Holy Father freely chose to receive the privileges of the red biretta."

       This pompous, ambiguous oaf was going to have his way, thought Cardinal Quentin as he turned from the first row to get Gregory's attention. Gregory's eyes were closed in prayer.

       Lopez rose again, "Your Grace."

       Mendoza had no choice but to recognize the pesky Hispanic Prelate. "The Chair recognizes His Eminence Frederico Eijo Lopez from Puerto Rico," relinquished Cardinal Mendoza as he tapped lightly with the gavel on the lectern.

       "Gracias, Your Grace, I would like to put before all the question of utmost importance. You all have before you a copy of the Holy Father's motu proprio declaring the next Consistory to have been held in February next year, as my distinguished colleague Cardinal Visserant has introduced. In happy memory of the late Clement XV, I propose we place before the floor His Holiness' wish and vote by acclamation that we adopt his desires and include those 40 selected Bishops in the Sacred Conclave. Therefore I move--"

       "Point of order," shouted out Cardinal Wetherby. Lopez glared at the Canadian.

       Mendoza acknowledged the interruption. "And that would be, Cardinal Wetherby?"

       "There is doubt whether this document we all have before us is an official document," Wetherby responded.

       "And why is that?" Mendoza knew what he was doing as he led the question.

       "Because, Your Grace, there is no seal. Without the seal there is no proof this came from the hand of the Pope of happy memory, our beloved Clement XV."

       "He has a point," referenced Mendoza directing his remark to Lopez.

       As Vendhem shifted uneasily, the San Juan Prelate looked toward Macelli. Macelli was glaring daggers. Visserant was in the process of writing and never looked up. The camerlengo made a gesture with his hand across the throat, indiscreetly signaling Lopez to shut up. Never send a boy to do a man's work thought Macelli as he stood to be recognized.

       "If it please the Chair, Your Grace, perhaps I can clarify this."

       "Please do, Cardinal Camerlengo." Julies encouraged.

       "Very well. Cardinal Adamo and I personally witnessed the Holy Father's signature in the Sala dei Pontefici. The problem with the seal was that the servants had not left a new batch of wax."

       Cardinal Plinio rolled his eyes, glancing toward Cardinal Zachmunn. Gregory acknowledged and nodded his head. He was ready as he rose to address Cardinal Mendoza.

       "Excuse me, Your Grace, but I believe the Cardinal Camerlengo could drone on and on all night in assuring us it is official," quipped Gregory. "Be that as it may, the fact is the seal is absent. Therefore we cannot admit the document as ex officio into evidence. I therefore move it be stricken from the docket."

       "Point of order, Your Grace." Cardinal Krementz had risen to his feet from the assistants' row.

       "The Chair recognizes His Eminence Erich Rupert Krementz from Germany." Mendoza had no choice.

       "I believe, Your Grace, and I think my distinguished colleagues of the College will agree, there was a motion on the floor. Therefore we must vote on accepting the document per His Holiness' desire as he so wrote."

       "Would the secretary please review that to see if there was a motion," urged Julies.

       He was looking directly at Cardinal Visserant.

       "Ah, oui, Mon Grace, Cardinal Lopez did indeed make a motion." The Prissy of Toulouse was lying through his teeth.

       His fellow countryman took note. Cardinal Philippe Maurin had been leaning towards admitting the additional forty. Even after speaking with Cardinal Zachmunn he still had doubts. But realizing Visserant was bearing false witness was too much. The Archbishop of Marseilles then and there decided he would vote against the measure if it did come to the floor for a vote.

       "You are sure?" asked Mendoza.

       Leon Tourrieu du Visserant didn't flinch as he nodded yes.

       Clearing his throat the Dean of the College had no choice. "Very well, then."

       "Your Grace?" Cardinal Jean-Henri d'Estambleau of France, a progressivist from the word 'go' rose to get Mendoza's attention.

       "The Chair recognizes His Eminence of the Apres College, Jean-Henri d'Estambleau of France."

       "I believe it would be proper to vote by acclamation, No?"

       "No!" Gregory was on his feet and prepared for this expected counter. "Per the official decree Quodcumque Solveris, His Holiness has pre-empted quas inspiratio. Ergo, if there were to be a vote, the pro scrutinium must apply to the general congregation as well as the rules of the Conclave."

       "So noted," exhaled Mendoza, recognizing his American counterpart had headed off an emotional moment. With a voice vote those intimidated by Macelli or Vendhem would have no choice but vote for the measure. With a secret vote there was a greater chance they could deny voting against, when in truth they did. "Very well. If the assistants will distribute the ballots and pens we shall proceed with vote by scrutinium. It will be two-thirds majority plus one."

       "Point of order," Cardinal Krementz barked.

       "The Chair recognizes His Eminence from Germany." Cardinal Mendoza had hoped he could slip the two-thirds ballot rule past the pro-document forces, but they wouldn't give up.

       "Your Grace, there is no precedent for two-thirds plus one ballot for General Congregation or particular congregation. Therefore it applies only to proceedings within conclave. I believe all that is needed is a simple majority."

       Mendoza huddled with the three assistants. It was a matter of protocol, but despite Cardinal Medelia's presence, Julies knew that standing with Visserant, Krementz and possibly even Kravic, the deck was stacked against avoiding the vote. He glanced toward Cardinal Zachmunn, seated in the third row. Gregory merely held up his hands folded in prayer. It was in God's hands. Silently the Archbishop of St. Louis said a Memorare and prayed that the Holy Ghost would be with them.

       The ballots were distributed. It was, in essence, a dress rehearsal for the Conclave except it lacked the formality, the pomp and circumstance. There was no chalice and paten or an altar. Instead each Cardinal walked to the front and deposited his folded ballot in the Dean's scarlet biretta. The whole process took ten minutes.

       "With all ballots presented," the Dean of the College announced, "the assistants will now scrutinize the ballots."

       The tension mounted with each announced vote. The process began with Krementz opening the ballot, then passing it to Cardinal Medelia to read and note. He then handed the ballot to Cardinal Kravic who read it aloud as Visserant tallied the number. The duty fell to him as the agreed-upon secretary for these proceedings.

       Despite Visserant's logging of the results, almost every Cardinal in the room realized the count. The tally had reached 15 votes for admitting the forty Bishops, 14 against the measure with four votes to go. Gregory scrunched his eyes, hoping for a miracle. Surely God would not allow the Sacred Conclave to be so dishonored.

       "No," announced Kravic. All knotted at 15, three to go.

       "No," the Croatian Prelate intoned. Those opposing were up by one with two to go. Gregory continued to pray.

       "Si." A sigh could be heard in the room. The next vote would decide the fate of the papacy.

       Perhaps it was the look on Krementz' face as he opened the last ballot, but Gregory could feel a breath of fresh air seconds away. It was as if the Holy Ghost were physically present on the wisp of wind to blow away the intentions of those out to destroy. It seemed to Gregory that Cardinal Medelia held the ballot for an inordinate amount of time before finally passing it to Cardinal Jon Anton Kravic to announce.

       You could hear a pin drop before the Croatian's booming voice echoed throughout the hall. The frescoes seemed to come alive in celebration. Pope Gregory XI's return to Rome from Avignon seemed ever more triumphant. Pope Alexander III took on a brighter luster as the repentant Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa knelt at his feet. The image of the raising of the ban from the Roman Emperor King Henry IV seemed to elevate to a higher degree; and the shouts of victory could be heard in the still fresco of Lepanto. Victory indeed!

       The crescendo of the pre-Conclave general congregation of the College of Cardinals had reached its climactic moment at 8:52 p.m. Roman time. For the next 45 minutes all matters of business in preparation for the funeral and conclave would be anti-climatic. Some looked forward; others simmered...most notably Cardinals Antonio Macelli and Josef Vendhem. The Master would be livid. So would the forty Bishops waiting for news in St. Martha's Place. They would be notified shortly after ten p.m. that they would not be joining the certified College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow afternoon. The longer these pretenders waited, the more they realized the inevitable.

       The battle for control of the papacy had rendered a short-lived triumph for the forces of good. However, as sweet as it was for Cardinals Gregory Zachmunn, Julies Mendoza, Thomas Wetherby, and fourteen other Prelates among the 33 present for the balloting, there was no time to celebrate. The enemy would regroup, retaliating with whatever weapons of destruction suited the Devil's fancy. Gregory knew intuitively that they may have won the battle, but not the war. And this was definitely a war - a war to the end.

       War was raging in the mind and heart of another solitary soul 9,000 miles away on the concrete plains of the Lone Star State. Her bunker was the front pew of Christ the King Church on Preston Road just north of downtown Dallas. As she knelt in prayer this day, far removed from the activity in Rome, she was unaware of what was going on, of what had happened to her Patrick. This couldn't be real. She hoped and prayed she would wake up soon and realize this had all been a nightmare, a bad, bad dream.

Dateline: Dallas, Texas - Christ the King Church, November 5, 2:30 p.m.

       Though she could not identify the source of the calling, Corrine Morelli had been drawn by the silent siren of the Holy Ghost to this stately, magnificent old marble church. It was one of the few that had not been torn down and rebuilt in the cookie-cutter mold of the new churches that were so sterile. This orthodox edifice, built in the style of the great churches of Europe, was a contradiction to the modern world. Its location ironically illustrated this for the back of the church faced out towards the North Dallas Tollway, snubbing by its architectural placing, the septic tank of modern civilization with all its noise and hubbub, all its careless cares. However, the acoustics were such within the womb of this beautiful church that one could lose oneself in prayer and contemplation, just as God intended churches to be. It was truly a sanctuary.

       She had knelt there in the first pew on the right for nearly an hour in silence, trying to make sense of it all. She did not know whether to continue to pray or rail at God for allowing this all to happen. All she had was her faith, weak and unpracticed as it was. Yet, like a bicycle, the instincts of the Catholic culture - a Catholic's sense of survival - kicked in once she'd received Ben's call. When all else fails, drop to your knees.

       That is what she was doing, mulling over and over Ben's words and his concern for Vic. Why couldn't someone give her something concrete about Pat? There had to be a shred of hope somewhere.

       She focused on the tabernacle directly ahead of her on the side altar, separated only by the long marble communion rail. It was so beautiful, so serene here. Corrie remembered how she used to come here over a decade ago. This special area in the northwest corner of the church had been a daily oasis for those who hungered for the Latin Mass. She had worthily lined up with other daily communicants at that very altar railing in front of her to receive the Bread of Life on their tongues during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She didn't realize, as her mind wandered, how much she had taken for granted.

       Corrie had never understood why the Bishops would rescind permission for the daily Mass in Latin, especially at the height of the Rudy Kos infamy that had left such a scar on Dallas. Few realized back then that it was merely the tip of the iceberg. The record 94 million dollar judgment awarded to victims against the Diocese had been only the precursor to so many other sordid scandals within the Church that were laid bare to the world as civilization passed into the third millennium.

       In her own limited way of thinking, she couldn't help but feel that had the Bishops allowed the Latin Mass to continue here at Christ the King that things might have been different. Indeed, she thought, had all the Bishops followed John Paul II's motu proprio "Ecclesia Dei" back in 1988, Corrie believed prayer would have fended off the corruption. The Pope's recommendation, in the wake of the very questionable action against Archbishops Marcel Lefebvre, was to make the ancient Gregorian Mass readily available to as many as desired it without prejudice by the ordinary of each see. She knew in her heart at least that the situation would never have reached the proportions it had.

       She felt the weight of the cross this day, not at God, but towards herself for not having seen it sooner. She was angry with Vic for having allowed Pat to go to Iraq. And, she was particularly bitter towards those who were God's representatives, those entrusted to guide His flocks. The Bishops were the object of her wrath as she tried to muster up forgiveness. This day that was nigh unto impossible, especially with her beloved Pat taken from her.

       After the Dallas chancery had shut down the daily Masses in Latin not only during the week, but on Sundays as well, she had become embittered against this suppression. Never get an Italian woman angry. She vowed not to go along with the new-fangled services that were ripe with innovation, novelty and irreverence as experimentation became the norm. Considering the alternatives, she had decided it was better not to go. She had continued to pray since that was part of her cultural, instinctive fiber, but the sacraments had been taken from her and if they wanted to play that game...well she wouldn't go along. The hell with them.

       It hurt to the core being denied something she had been in the habit of always doing. As the years passed and the scandals mounted she had even felt embarrassment at being Catholic. Her dear departed mother would have been scandalized had she seen her daughter deny her Catholic identity.

       But Corrie wasn't alone. As the decades had stretched on more Catholics had begun to compromise, eventually caving to the pressure of political correctness. It hadn't been cool to be Catholic anymore, as if popularity determined faith. Many had sought out Protestant sects to join, finding themselves well at home because of the similarities between the 'mass' Pope Paul VI had promulgated and a regular Protestant service. Beneath the veneer and the wording of some prayers, it was all the same thing - a commemoration of the Last Supper. If only they had known their Catholic faith they might have resisted at the very time the Vatican II Church had decided change was good. But few had.

       This had just given license to the Devil to orchestrate the demise as sin and deception continued. Scandals weren't as scandalous, so jaded had the world become. In Europe they laughed at such accusations for it had become commonplace in the Old World thanks to legislation in the Netherlands that soon had spread throughout the continent. Safeguards had been shackled in order that those who serve mammon could unshackle their own inhibitions in a blatant display of virtueless conduct. This had only given rise and tolerance to many vices practiced by several who were but a majority vote away from the papacy this night.

       Corrie was not aware of that, only mistrusting of the politics and intrigue that had plagued this diocese ever since. The wreckovation of all that was sacred had been given free rein by both the old regime and the new one in Dallas.

       Naively she had stubbornly clung to the idea that had Rome only known what was going on in Dallas the Pope would long ago have stopped it. At the same time she hadn't thought twice about calling President William Jefferson Clinton on the carpet for his lies about his sexcapades and knowledge of China-gate because he was the head man. Later she hadn't doubted that the corruption within business giants like Worldcom and Enron and many other moguls started at the top. In her history classes, her favorite figure had been Harry S. Truman simply because he never took guff and coined the famous phrase "the buck stops here." Yet, she, as well as the great majority of Catholics in general, could not connect the dots when it had come to the widespread laxity, corruption and the Pope...until it had been too late. Little had she realized that this naiveté had indirectly chauffeured in the insanity that had prevailed and had prompted the terrorism on the Field of Abraham.

       Due to a few valiant parishioners, they had managed to stave off the demolition of this gothic cathedral. Those who had endeavored to keep the faith replete, had fought to keep the traditional statues, candles, stations, and all other sacramentals that shouted Catholic tradition, so that this church still truly looked and felt like a Catholic church.

       While that might have been a consolation in the past, this afternoon Corrie didn't know what to feel. Her heart was torn, her mind racing, plummeting into an abyss of horror at the dangers Pat faced if he was still alive. Yes, she truly loved him and therefore not knowing hurt all the more. She was here to ask for a miracle. Little did she know how necessary that was for the entire world, not to mention the small squadron of valiant ones in Rome who defended virtue and good against overwhelming odds. The Basilisk was growing stronger, nourished by the fall of so many men whose souls had been consumed with vice.

       As she knelt, frozen to the kneeler, Corrie didn't know whether it was God or the Devil prompting her on. Regardless, she knew in her heart where she had to go, what she had to do.

Dateline: Vatican City- Sala Regia Hall, November 5, 9:50 p.m.

       The General Congregation was coming to a conclusion. Division permeated the room. Resentment reined. A majority could not be reached as the meeting droned on.

       "My distinguished brothers," Mendoza announced. "I am afraid time does not permit us to continue this most important issue. Because everything has been expedited by the Cardinal Camerlengo, we will have to table the matter of the document on the Jews until later."

       Macelli was not a happy camper. He stared straight ahead, focusing on the mural of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa kneeling at the feet of Pope Alexander III. What a miserable acquiescence of surrendering power, the camerlengo groused interiorily. Come hell or high water he would never succumb to such weakness. Non serviam meant forever as far as Macelli was concerned. He would regroup. He would find the resisters' Achilles heel and strike. And if he couldn't find it, he had other means to strike...quickly and deadly.

       So wrapped in his thoughts was the Italian Prelate that he did not consciously hear Mendoza's announcement that since the matter of the document was in pending suspension, no further dissemination could be made. He did not realize the Dean's finality that a brief statement would be released to the press notifying them of the status of the document. It would throw more doubt on the document. But it wasn't the document that crowded his mind at this moment, but the hatred within that he had been foiled in the first volley.

       "Without any further business," Cardinal Julies Mendoza announced, "may I call for adjournment?"

       "Your Grace," said Cardinal Quentin, "I move we adjourn."

       "His Eminence William Richard Quentin has moved to adjourn. Is there a second to the motion?"

       "Your Grace," noted the Polish Prelate, "I second the motion."

       "His Eminence Kazimierz Strovinsky has seconded the motion to adjourn. All those in favor, signify by saying 'Si'."

       The majority bellowed loudly "Si."

       Without even calling for a nay vote, Mendoza concluded, "The 'si's' have spoken. So be it. Before adjoining let us close in prayer. Domine, Qui dixisti: Jugum Meum suave est, et onus Meum leve: fac, ut istud portare sic valeam, quod consequar Tuam gratiam."

       "Amen," the rest responded.

       Bringing down the gavel, the Dean of the College made one last announcement, "We will gather in the Basilica at 10:55 for the Rosarium and Matins. We should be finished by 11:30. We will meet back here tomorrow morning at 9:30. We will march in procession to the Basilica at 9:45. Please, brothers, do not be late. Gracias."

       Immediately the noise level intensified as the Cardinals began talking, remarking about various things, high-fiving and hugging one another - those who had approved of the way things went this evening. Those who did not quickly exited, their bodies first, their lingering hatred slowly ebbing after them, as so many dark shadows.

       Two were Macelli and Vendhem as the latter caught up with the rotund prelate at the foot of the Scala Regia, the great staircase that led from the Sala Regia to the first floor.

       "Antonio, now what do you propose?" Vendhem's tone was abrasive and abrupt.

       "Not here, Josef," Macelli shushed him, noting the other Cardinals descending the stairs as they were dispersing. "Meet me in my office at 11:00."

       "We will not be attending the Rosarium then?" Vendhem replied curtly.

       "Of course not. We have more important matters to tend to, Lord Vendhem. Much more important matters."

       Vendhem clicked his heels and turned an about-face heading away in true proud Nazi fashion as a covey of other Cardinals soon swarmed around Macelli.

       "Did you anticipate this, Antonio?" demanded Cardinal Erich Rupert Krementz.

       The salvo continued from Cardinal Visserant, "Oui. You had assured us we had nothing to worry about."

       "We trusted you, comrade camerlengo," strutted Cardinal Teofilius Radkalionis.

       Macelli was trying to backpedal as Cardinals Hong-Ju and Raul Carteaga approached. It wouldn't get easier for the deceitful one as Cardinals Dietrich Kalschthoeler and Frederico Eijo Lopez joined the pack of hungry wolves.

       The Italian Prelate was reeling, stalling for time. Damn, he thought, how could the Master have allowed this? Lopez. That's it. He pointed at the Puerto Rican red hat, hoping to deflect the blame on Lopez.

       "You blew it, Cardinal Lopez. Your timing was off. You were to wait for my cue," he accused.

       "But, your Eminence, I--" stammered Lopez, totally taken off guard, unprepared for Macelli's survival strategy.

       "No excuses, Lopez. I had a planned strategy and you veered from that, you sniveling fool."

       Macelli was on the offensive, a desperate attack to fend off the ravenous red hats surrounding him. Had Lopez stood up to the camerlengo, perhaps Macelli's influence would have evaporated then and there. But the San Juan Prelate still had a lot to learn. Surrounded by his peers, he apologized and the needle of blame so smoothly shifted from the camerlengo to this foolish Puerto Rican Prelate.

       "How could you," lambasted Radkalionis, followed by rails from Carteaga and Visserant.

       "I do believe we have much work to accomplish before the Conclave," asserted Macelli seeking to regain control.

       "Ja. Ve need to convince four more to gain the vote in conclave," affirmed Krementz.

       He had been schooled by Pope-makers. He had learned his craft well for he was becoming one now.

       "Which ones do you see as penetrable, Erich?" Cardinal Lopez was seeking inclusion, trying to make amends. All he wanted was acceptance.

       Rejection to those who reject God's laws and holy will was unbearable. No wonder hell had to be so miserable.

       "The most plausible would be Maurin and Estrado," replied Krementz. "Do you have dossiers on them, mein Herr Camerlengo?"

       "I believe Vendhem is working on them at this very moment," assured Macelli confidently. "We still need two more."

       "I do believe my Spanish brothers Estrado and Medelia can be compromised," suggested Cardinal Carteaga.

       "Good, you work on them," commanded Krementz. "Cardinal Visserant, your assignment is Maurin. Cardinal Lopez, your target is Estrado. We have little time. I need not remind you, mein freres, of the urgency of the matter."

       Macelli could feel his authority slipping away. It was only temporary he told himself. It was good that for now he could count on Krementz. After all, many incompetents had fouled up the Master's plan. Krementz had no idea of the Legion. His agenda was modernism, which in truth was an insidious agenda concocted by Satan himself and which had been condemned by past Pontiffs. Yet, Krementz believed with all his being that he was right, that the Motherland deserved a Pope and Vendhem was that man. Far be it from Macelli to tell this German Prelate the truth. He could be used and used well for the Master's purpose. The Deutschland would triumph with the white smoke of the Vicar General, and perish with the black fire of the Basilisk, for those not of the Legion were expendable, nay, they had to be annihilated.

"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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