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

Part IV
Ninth Chapter
The Shrouding

Episode Ten: Angels of Mercy

       Eleven o'clock and the stillness of St. Peter's Basilica took on an added luster. The lights remained dimmed, but thirty-one candles were placed before the altar above the tomb of the Apostle Peter. Thirty-one Cardinals gathered to pray the holy Rosary and chant Matins, the first prayer of the day in the Ordinary of the Divine Office according to the Roman Rite. They knelt near the papal bier. Three candle standards flanked each side. Standing at attention perfectly still, were two Noble Guards in full requiem regalia. The Rosary had begun in Latin. "Credo in Deum Patri omnipotentem, Cratorum Caeli et terrae; et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius, Unicum, Dominum nostrum, Qui conceptus est..."

       The group was missing two from their ranks. The thirty-one realized it would be fruitless to wait for them. They weren't coming. Sour grapes one might call it. The truth is that bitter gall runs deep. The Legion was reeling and railing, roiling and rallying.

       That was evident in the office of Cardinal Antonio Macelli as five members of the Legion met to plot their next move and assess the damage. These five had no idea that one of their members had taken it upon himself to create another diversion; one that would have universal repercussions. Even if they did, it wouldn't have mattered. Human life meant nothing to those who had sold their souls. They had no heart.

Dateline: Vatican City - Camerlengo's office in the Apostolic Palace - November 5, 11:05 p.m.

       Cardinal Josef Vendhem was pacing. Elena Grabe was thumping her fingers impatiently. Macelli was writing something as Guillaume Brunatti and Luciani Serrano lounged, still looking ridiculous in their Swiss Guard outfits. The tension was palpable like a malignant tumor.

       "Alright. We can sit here and mope or we can regroup." Macelli tried to rally some enthusiasm. It would not be easy.

       "I wish I could share your optimism, Antonio, but that was a major blow tonight," railed Vendhem. "Without the forty I do not see how we can get the needed votes."

       "Perhaps we should go immediately to the alternative plan, no?" offered Elena.

       "We know how anxious you are, Elena," Macelli replied. "But that will not accomplish our goal until we can gain control from within. Destroying what we have worked for will only strengthen the opposition."

       "He is right. They do not give up," Brunatti fretted. "The more that are destroyed, the more rise up."

       "I believe," roiled Vendhem, literally spitting the words out, "it was the historian Tertullian who said 'the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.' I do not mind the blood, but I, for one, am sick of the seeds."

       "Then," countered Macelli, "we need to plant more dissension and doubt among our colleagues in the Conclave before it begins."

       "How do you propose to do that, Antonio?" asked Serrano.

       Macelli directed his question to Vendhem. "Josef, how incriminating are the sin sheets?"

       "We will have to fabricate some things in order to nail a few of them," scowled the acting Vicar General.

       "They are that clean?" Serrano was incredulous.

       "You forget, Lucio, many we could have compromised were sacrificed for the Master in Iraq," Brunatti informed. He knew his words would agitate Grabe, if not Macelli and Vendhem as well. But he felt a need for pre-eminence in the midst of these would-be power mongers.

       Macelli chose to ignore Guillaume's remark, focusing instead on still finding the elusive Papal ring and seal. "If we can only find the ring we can introduce into the conclave tomorrow a document that will give us a simple majority. Can you get eleven votes, Josef?"

       "Ja. I can guarantee eleven. But you must find the ring."

       "We have not been able to get anything out of the Irish nun," groused Macelli.

       "Damn that Irish whore!" blurted Elena. "I have ways of making her talk. I vill waste no more time coddling her!" Anger swelled up in Grabe's voice and eyes.

       "Perhaps she really knows nothing," suggested Brunatti.

       "Oh, she knows something," Elena shot back. "And I vill get it out of her. First we must find the American Gallagher. He is here. We must find him."

       "And Navarro," demanded Macelli. "He has disappeared. Captain Lubac notified me that they found Kutsch. He had been jumped by Navarro from the laundry cart. Yes, Sister Bridie definitely knows more than she is letting on."

       "I would say then," deduced Vendhem, "when we find Navarro or Gallagher we will find out more as well. They, too, must know something."

       "Both Americans are here, I know it," insisted Grabe. "I talked with Blix earlier. He is sure the reporter is here as well."

       "Reporter?" Vendhem seethed with this unexpected news. "Then that is the tie with Navarro," he pontificated. "Find them and we will find the ring."

       "As the Americans would say, 'Easier said than done'," chirped Serrano.

       Macelli ignored his quip, turning to the fraulein. "Elena, do you have enough serum?"

       "I vill make it last, Herr Antonio."

       "Can we increase the guards, Antonio?" Vendhem inquired.

       "We have lost two," complained the rotund Italian Prelate. "I might be able to obtain two others off duty, and then there is Kutsch as well as Lubac and Dionis in the basement with the nun."

       "The nun is tied up, no?" Vendhem surmised in a sarcastic tone.

       "Ja." confirmed Grabe.

       "Well then, Antonio, utilize them," commanded Vendhem.

       "You also have Lucio and I, Antonio." Guillaume reminded, fearing he and his friend had been lost in the shuffle for power-mongering among the three others.

       "Yes, but you need to be there when the shipment arrives," reminded Macelli, seeking to pacify the two lesser men in the Master's plan.

       "We must advance the search immediately," advised Vendhem. "Let the hunt begin."

       "I have enough wireless intercoms here for everyone," Macelli indicated as he pulled out from his desk drawer slim, state-of-the-art intercoms smaller than one's hand.

       "Ah, bene, we keep in touch, no?" Brunatti enthused.

       "Si," Macelli nodded as he handed Grabe three of the sleek walkie-talkies. "Elena, take these. Go to the basement. Apply the truth serum. Let it work throughout her system. In a short time Sister Bridie will tell us all we need to know. Give one of these to Captain Lubac and one to Sergeant Dionis and have them search the Basilica and crypt."

       "Ja vol." Grabe obeyed, "And then?"

       "Search the nuns' area. They might be hiding there," barked Macelli.

       "What about Lucio and I?" begged Brunatti.

       "As guards no one should suspect you in the Cortile di San Damaso. Search that area. It is through the hallway to the left. Search every room," commanded Macelli.


       "Josef, work on the sin sheets. I will take two guards and search the west wing, the Loggie di Raffaello and the Sistine area. I will send two more guards to search the Swiss Guard quarters and the area behind the Palace, and I will contact the two off-duty guards to search the Audience Hall and the Domus Sanctae Marthae," finalized the Camerlengo, feeling once again the power of his Master surge through his being.

       "What about the Vatican Museum and Library?" offered the Vicar General, a stickler for perfection.

       "No, Josef, those have been locked for a full day," assured Macelli. The gates are on a timer. There is no way they could have penetrated those areas, but have Lubac search the Sacristy chapel as well, Elena."

       "I believe we have every area covered then, Antonio," encouraged Serrano.

       "It may be a needle in the haystack," Vendhem emphasized, "but we must find it. The Master demands it. Do you understand?"



       "Bene," noted Macelli. "We are the Legion."

       The others joined in. "We pledge our lives to make his reign possible. We are the Legion. Long live the Basilisk."

       They dispersed, in hunt for their prey. They would sweep the halls and rooms, awakening not a few. It was only a necessary security check, nothing to be alarmed over they would assure as they probed and poked in closets, under beds, in every nook and cranny of the Apostolic Palace, St. Peter's and beyond.

Dateline: Dallas, Texas - The Crooked Spigot - November 5, 4:08 p.m.

       Patrons were filling up Ben's happy honky-tonk. Happy hour. Normally he'd be whistling and pouring drinks, laughing and joking with the crowd. This afternoon his thoughts were elsewhere. They had been ever since Vic had left three hours ago.

       Patrons were clamoring for service and old Benjamin O'Fallon was pouring as fast as he could, trying to fill all the orders. Trying just to catch up, praying even as he poured.

       "Sorry, I'm late, Ben. Traffic," alibied Nelly Mae Austin, a mid-fifties red head who, despite her makeup and mascara, could not hide the fact her youthful beauty was waning. She had more problems than that however.

       "I believe, Nelly Mae," Ben retorted gently but firmly, "you be needin' to work on the eighth commandment a bit. Might cha be agreein'?"

       "Sorry, Ben. It won't happen again, I promise."

       "Now take these over to that table and these to those good folks in the corner. Then come back for these. After that, can ya be takin' the bar? I need to tend to somethin' very important in back."

       It had been gnawing at Ben all afternoon and right now something in his inner being - call it a gut hunch, call it the Spirit of the Lord - was prompting Ben to do something now, not wait as Vic had instructed Ben. If he had not heard from Vic by 5 o'clock, Ben was to log on to his computer and use a special password. That way he could patch into Vic's Mirror Reflector file. Vic had confided that he would record his showdown with Blix. Vic had left Ben a galley copy of the front page and story he had written for tomorrow's issue. It was tucked safely in Ben's safe. Ben had placed it there immediately after Vic had left.

       That was still a little less than an hour to go, but something told Ben to check now, not wait until five. Retreating to his small office behind the bar, Ben booted up his old Gateway. It was of the ancient variety, a Pentium II, but it still worked and that was good enough for Ben. His eyes weren't as good as they used to be and he chose not to spend more than a few minutes at the computer. He himself had never trusted in computers. Computers had only made man more pliant for the devil. Soft. Slothful. Lazy.

       Squinting to see the URL Vic had given him, he typed in www.metromirror.com and then the page Vic had instructed him to pursue. An encrypted page appeared and Ben typed in saintjude, then the special password Vic had confided. It took a minute or so to load but Ben was in. He was instructed to refresh and a new screen popped up. Hitting play he watched with trepidation the replay of Vic's encounter this afternoon. He found himself praying the prayers of Divine Mercy with Vic. Then gun shots and the vile monstrous satanic beast. Shock. Nausea. Anger. Sadness, immense sorrow. Most would have turned it off immediately after Blix devoured Ben's dear friend, but again the voice within urged O'Fallon to keep watching, learn, and warn. Hundreds, nay thousands would be thankful this night.

       Within minutes Ben was on the phone. Getting through to someone took another minute with the voicemail nonsense that was entirely impersonal. Ben hated it, but had to get through to someone, anyone.

       "Metroplex Mirror, editor's office. Lori speaking."

       "Lori, this be Benjamin O'Fallon. I've urgent, very urgent news for you. Please, you must be notifyin' all in the buildin' to evacuate immediately. Sound the alarm and get movin' for God's sake."

       "Hold on, Mr. O'Fallon, if this is really who you say you are. Where did you get this information?"

       "From Vic. The place be rigged to go off any minute. Go do it now."


       "This be no joke. God be havin' mercy on anyone who thinks it be. Hurry. Get everyone as far away as possible. Now!!!"

* * * * * * *

       Before grabbing the Reflector disc, retrieving the galley from his safe, and evacuating The Crooked Spigot for the last time, Ben made two more calls. The first was to 911 to notify the police and fire departments, the second to the Middle East while, just a mile away, workers were already scurrying down stairwells and out onto the street and as far away from the Metroplex Mirror as they could. The efficiency of the DFD and DPD was evident. Within two minutes they had arrived and the building had been completely evacuated by 4:25. All 213 employees had safely made it out of the building and were still moving away to the south two blocks away. Thank God for Benjamin O'Fallon; thank God he had listened to his heart and gut.

       Across town Edwin Blix was unaware of this rescue effort as he strapped in. The plane had been delayed in taking off. The fuel truck had been late in filling up the tanks. It had just left. Blix looked at his watch. 4:28 as the Lear picked up speed, the buildings racing by and then liftoff. The jet elevated above the city and banked right to head north across Greenland. He glanced at his watch again. 4:30. Peering out the window towards the metropolis of Dallas he saw it and grinned. A satisfaction that knew no bounds, knew no mercy. The implosion brought the six-story, block-wide structure to its foundation and below. The smoke billowed into the air. It could be seen in the distance as Blix shifted Corrie to the window.

       "Mah dear, Ah would like y'all to see the fruits of mah work. See. Ah do mean business, Ms. Morelli."

       Corrie didn't say a word. The tears said it all as she slumped in her seat, strapped in this metal monster bearing a living monster within.

       The ruthless publisher, who had deliberately destroyed his own business with such sadistic delight, called out to Ans. "Champagne, mah good man. Let's celebrate."

       The bald eunuch robotically responded, soon producing a bottle of France's finest along with two Irish crystal glasses.

       "A fine show of power, don't ya agree?" Blix goaded and gloated as Ans popped the cork and began to pour. "Ah must say Ah do enjoy using mah power. Always have. Suppose you might say that's what first led me into the path of mah Master: Power. Riches and worldly kingdoms to rule over. Those are thoughts to keep the heart pumpin', darlin'."

       "What heart?" Corrie regurgitated her feelings; her words blending with the blackness of the night outside as the plane sped towards Rome, propelled by turbos of black fire.

Dateline: Vatican City - St. Peter's Square - November 5, 11:32 p.m.

       Like the primitive, but effective Native American smoke signals of times past, this afternoon in these same Southwest plains the black smoke billowing upward into the Texas sky was just now alerting the world through instant technology.

       As Romans were preparing to retire for the night, news of the latest act of terrorism had not yet reached across the Atlantic. It would not be long.

       Kyle Jarek, GNN's Rome correspondent for the last eight months was setting up for a remote report. His cameraman, Derek Turley had set up across the square with the Basilica and the area of the Sistine Chapel in the background.

       A GNN Satellite News trailer was parked strategically near the press pool satellite in the roped-off Piazza Sant'Uffizio. This latter plaza was located just on the outside of the Bernini Colonnade south of the Square. Inside the trailer a news director was choreographing a remote live feed to GNN Central in New York City.

       Jarek readjusted the knot in his tie, pulling it up tighter. Despite the hills and buildings that sheltered them from the full force of the winter wind which had picked up as the evening waned, there was a definite chill to the air. A cold airstream was coming in off the Mediterranean. Kyle buttoned his Armani overcoat higher, stretching his neck, then unbuttoned it, and buttoned it again, pressing his earpiece firmly into his ear. He was ready to discuss what had transpired earlier today at the Vatican, as well as tomorrow's funeral, and the possibilities which might arise during the upcoming Conclave.

       "We have the feed from New York, Kyle," came the announcement in Kyle Jarek's small earpiece.

       "Which looks better?" he asked the cameraman just four feet away.

       "Keep it unbuttoned, you look too stiff. Loosen up, man," Turley advised.

       "Jarek, give me a voice check," directed the control room.
       Kyle inhaled deeply, "Testing, testing. Hommmm, hayyymmmm, heeeemmmmm, haaammmmmm, hoooommmmmm."

       It was his way of loosening the diaphragm as he got a thumb's up from Turley.

       The control room buzzed. "Two minutes away. They're in commercial break. Can you see the monitor, Kyle?"

       "Yeah," he affirmed, glancing at the monitor and prompter which Derek held at eye-level, making it more intimate, more personal when talking to the anchors and guests in the New York studio, as well as the viewer. So many thought these news reporters and anchors were so well versed, so eloquent. If only they realized these news people were merely reading almost everything. All part of the illusion.

       "One minute thirty, Kyle," the director alerted. "I'm going to switch you to Bart Sundgren, Julie Simpson and Father Cameron - - uh, what's his last name, Ginny? Yeah, Lewis. Fr. Cameron Lewis. Make sure you give leeway for the A-B roll. I'll let you know. Go ahead, you're connected."

       "Hello? Anyone--"

       "Kyle, good to hear you." It was Julie Simpson, the 31-year old blonde co-host of "Outfoxed" a mid-day magazine program. The title of the show was an obvious dig at Fox News Channel which, ever since the election of 2000, had risen to the top of the cable news ratings. Outfoxed was a tongue-in-cheek, tough talking news show that dealt primarily with remote reporters to discuss the key events of the day around the world.

       "Listen, Bart wanted to ask you a couple of questions. Okay?"


       "Here he is, Kyle," she gave way to Bart Sundgren, an older 50-ish anchor who acted as the ringmaster, so to speak, for these sessions that had gained in the ratings. Opinions paid well. Bart knew the game and was a master at his craft.

       "Kyle, how're you doing?"

       "A bit chilly but other than that, can't complain, Bart."

       "Listen, Kyle, we've got Fr. Cameron here. He says there are four Cardinals being considered as serious Pope material. Can you confirm the scuttlebutt you've heard?"

       "I'll try," Kyle offered.

       "Okay, he says the front-runner is not Cardinal Gregory Zachmunn, but the Genoese Prelate Cardinal Gregorio Bondi who had been consecrated by the esteemed Cardinal Giuseppe Siri on August 15, 1985 in Genoa. Does that jive with what's coming out of Rome?"

       "I have heard a few- -"

       "Excuse me, Kyle, we've got to break away," Julie hurriedly interrupted. "News breaking event in Dallas. Explosion at the newspaper out there. Just keep monitoring. Don't know when we'll get back. Gotta go."

       Just like that Kyle was left holding the mike.

       "What was that all about?" Turley was confused.

       No more so than Kyle Jarek as he shrugged, suggesting a most welcoming idea to Derek. "Hell with 'em, let's go get some coffee. If they want me they've got my pager. Doubt there'll be much happening tonight."

       "You've got a point Turley agreed. "Whatever happened in Dallas will consume the networks until tomorrow morning."

       "C'mon, it's getting colder," Kyle invited as he wrapped his arm around Turley's shoulder as they headed toward the truck and back to their hotel. Little did they realize that had they stayed they would have witnessed some scenes reminiscent of an old-fashioned serial of yesteryear. The sparks would fly in less than an hour.

Dateline: Blix's Lear Jet - airborne above the Texas-Oklahoma border - November 5, 4:35 p.m.

       Sparks were flying verbally inside Blix's Lear jet as it continued its course, now approaching Oklahoma airspace in a northeasterly direction.

       "Ah do believe you haven't touched your champagne, darlin'." Blix badgered. He wouldn't let the psychological browbeating go.

       "I've nothing to celebrate," Corrie replied firmly, refusing the drink.

       "Mah dear," Edwin sighed, sipping the golden liquid that fizzed in the finely cut crystal glass. "It's irrelevant what ya celebrate. Ah insist, darlin', you drink to mah success. Or, Ah will kill you heah and now and you'll never see your dear Gallagher again."

       "Go to hell."

       Ignoring her anger, he continued. "Ya'd like to see him...at least one more time before y'all die. Wouldn't ya?" Blix slipped the idea into her mind and watched it ferment. "After all, ya don't want to go to an eternity of hell not knowin' what he's been up to...why he walked out on ya. Do ya?"

       "You monster," she snapped at him, wishing she could grab the glass and hurl it at his face, that mouth.

       "Monster. A lovely epitaph," he agreed, sipping again. "Come, missy. Drink. It's an order. Either that or Ah'll dispatch ya in the same manner as Van Wess."

       "Why?" she cried, "Victor was a good man."

       "Good!?!" Blix screamed. "He was unspeakably good. A 'moral' man of virtue. A meddler. He guessed at the ultimate struggle which was takin' place in the world, and he did what he could to assure that victory would fall to his side. What might be good for him and for others definitely ain't good for me, darlin'."

       Corrie's tears, sliding down her cheeks, were a visible reminder of the emotional storm in her heart. She dared make no sound out of fear that her own hatred of this man, this beast, would feed his own evilness and weaken whatever remained of her own resolve.

       Blix continued. "He signed his death warrant when he sent yer lover boy. He'd become a damn danger so Ah obliterated him."

       The word escaped him in a breathless denial of reality. But he was brought back to it immediately when Jordan Collier interrupted him.

       "Sir, I believe you should turn on channel 3. Now!" Collier insisted with great urgency. Blix flipped the screen above to the satellite channel Jordan had referred to.

       The station came up immediately; a short, dark-haired reporter was interviewing a fire fighter.

       "'...so we can be thankful for that. We've also evacuated all buildings within a half mile radius, but have found nothing suspect yet."

       "Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, that was Fire Chief Donald Denton and we're happy to hear there were no casualties. Amazing, considering the total destruction here at the Metroplex Mirror and surrounding blocks."

       "Rachel?" A split screen of the smoldering scene and Bart Sundgren in the GNN studios appeared. "Can you tell us how is it that not one person was killed or injured?"

       "That's a miracle," the viewers could hear Julie Simpson exclaim into her mike.

       "Bart, Julie, I couldn't believe it myself, but you heard it first-hand from Fire Chief Denton. Let me see if I can find out more here," She moved toward a group of people standing across the street, poking the microphone in the face of one man. "Sir, how did you know to get out of the building in time?"

       A balding gentleman in the standard printer's ink apron responded, "The alarm went off. Somebody said 'get out now' and we moved. Dropped everything."

       The GNN field reporter Rachel Rodriguez moved her microphone to another, a woman, still trembling and wrapped in a warm coat. "And you, Ma'am, how did you know enough to get out?"

       "I thought it was a fire drill. We just moved without panicking. Dropped everything. Figured we'd be back after it was over.Never realized it was the real thing! Unbelievable! Here in Dallas. Thank God for the alarm."

       "Who set off the alarm?" probed Rodriguez.

       She was met by various shrugs of the shoulder until she heard someone in the back yell, "Lori called our department, that it was no joke."

       "Who's Lori?" asked Rachel to the crowd.

       "Vic Van Wess' secretary," called out one man.

       "Is she here?" Rodriguez pressed on.

       "Over there, she's in the group on that corner."

       The camera panned towards a group of people standing on a corner a half block away, two blocks from the cinder crevice that firemen had pretty much had under control by now.

       "I'm going to seek this Lori out as we walk, you can--"

       "Excuse me, Rachel, this is Bart. We've got Renaldo Morgan standing by in Turtle Creek. Renaldo, can you tell us what happened there?"

       "Yes, Bart, truly horrendous. There was a similar explosion here at the magnificent mansion of the publisher Edwin Blix. It too has been demolished. Police and firemen are just arriving. I'm keeping my distance because I don't know how safe it is. I'm standing to the left of the entrance. A car has been upended. Debris has flown all over the area. It looks very much like a deliberate attack on Blix and his company."

       Sirens could be heard in the distance as Bart interrupted again. "Thank you, Renaldo, we'll get right back to you. Right now Rachel is with the secretary of the editor of the Metroplex Mirror. Rachel?"

       "Thank you, Bart. Yes, I'm standing with Lori Jorgensen, secretary for the editor Victor Van Wess. Tell me, Lori. Did your boss call you to warn you?"

       "No, a very good friend of his did. I - I thought it was a ruse at first, but his tone told me I better do something."

       "Thank God you did. What--"

       The screen went blank. Blix had turned it off. He was livid.

       Corrie knew instinctively that it was Ben who had called. How he knew she didn't have a clue, but she knew it was dear old Ben. God bless him. For the first time today she felt a rush of hope. It showed as she looked directly at a seething Blix. She couldn't resist the next thing that came out of her mouth:

       "I do believe you are right, Blix. It is time to celebrate. Now I think I will have that drink."

Dateline: Vatican City - Basement - November 5, 11:44 p.m.

       Grabe barreled out of the elevator surprising the two guards who had been sleeping.

       "Wake up, you fools. We have work to do."

       "Sorry, Sister, I --"

       "Captain Lubac, my name is Elena. Never call me 'Sister,' she snarled. "Macelli wants you both to search the entire Basilica, crypts, Sacristy, and chapels for Gallagher and Navarro. Here are their photos and two telecom units to keep in touch. Stay on channel 6."

       Sister Bridie was still unconscious, tied to the chair. Grabe moved behind and grabbed her arm, plunging the syringe into her bicep. "No resistance now, you Anglo Saxon wretch," the German rebuked.

       Stephen watched helplessly, hidden behind the stored pillars and huge ceramic statues behind and to the right of the elevator. He wanted to lunge at this heartless fraulein, but wisely recalled Captain Schuster's warning.

Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 5, 11:45 p.m.

       Macelli's intercom buzzed just as he closed the door to the sacristy, the anti-chamber to the Sistine Chapel.

       "Pronto. Si?" Concern formed on his face. "Are you sure? Alright, I will notify Elena immediately. Meanwhile I will finish up here."

Dateline: Vatican City - Basement of Apostolic Palace - November 5, 11:45 p.m.

       "Captain Lubac, she is not responding. Wake her up! Mach schnell!"

       "It is not as easily done as putting her to sleep, Elena."

       "Do it! Eben!" Grabe's tone signaled that Lubac had no other alternative.

       He placed his fingers just above her nostrils and squeezed at a strategic point. Sister Bridie gasped for air, bringing her back to consciousness.

       "Good. Now both of you get over to the Basilica. I can handle this simple nun. Go."

       They scurried onto the elevator. The door closed and headed upward just as Elena's telecom buzzed.

       "Ja." She listened intently as Macelli explained the urgent situation and the break the Legion had been waiting for. "I vill go there immediately," Elena promised Macelli.

       Turning toward the bound Irish nun, Grabe revealed the conversation with Macelli. "Schwester, I vill be back and you can tell me about this Fr. Donaldson who you knew was in the infirmary. According to our sources he is still there." Elena hunched down to look Sister Bridie in the face. "However, is it not strange that he would call from St. Louis in the United States just a few minutes ago? Who then, Sister, is in the bed upstairs in the infirmary?"

       "Patrick Gallagher, it be." Sister Bridie said sluggishly, but surely. She could not help it, the truth serum had taken effect as Elena stood up and moved quickly toward the elevator,

       The German imposter nun pressed the button impatiently, waiting for the lift to return. "Dank, Schwester. I shall return for more news you might like to impart. For now I need to eliminate the American if he does not know where the ring is."

       The elevator arrived and soon Elena was ascending to the second floor and headed for the infirmary.

       Stephen, still crouching until the door was fully closed, realized now was his chance to free Sister Bridie before they returned. But how, how would he be able to warn Pat in time?

"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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