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

Part V
Twelfth Chapter
The Shedding

Episode Seven: Locked, Loaded and Loathed

       The contrast of worlds were preparing for the ultimate clash. Those in the subterranean room of the Pantheon were brash in their appraisal. Despite the warnings from two among the summit of six, the other four blanched and scoffed at the weak response of the resistance. Yes, four of their own ranks had been dispatched, but they were merely foot soldiers - very disposable. Yes, four of the remaining resisters had eluded the Legion's grasp, but that was merely temporary. The Master would win out.

Dateline: Rome - Subterranean room beneath the Pantheon - November 6, 9:10 a.m.

       In almost a hushed whisper the summit of the six was concluding. It had been relatively short, but not, definitely not, sweet. Heated words had been exchanged. Such is the norm for those whose pride is greater than their composure. Now the summit of six had calmed down, they were in accordance toward the Master's plan. It was the agenda of abandonment of all good.

       The summit of six silhouetted against the glowing light and reflecting mesmerizing glass eyes behind them and in the empty chair beside each of the six cast a cloak of evil over the Pentagram table. Around this slab sat six of the most powerful, yet deranged and evil men of the times. Following in clockwise fashion around the table was Edwin Blix, of course.

       Two chairs away sat the Antwerp Banker Gestarde Eislaume, a wiry small man with sunken jaws, the socket of his eyes recessed and a rose-colored monocle pinching against his pointed nose.

       Next to him another empty chair and then the Chinese Secretary for International Trade Heng Shi Kiang in black business suit, blood red tie and an emotionless countenance on his stretched face which practically caricatured his eyes to slant more.

       To his left beyond the next empty chair was a man dressed as a Roman prelate. His face was concealed in the shadows cast by the flickering candles, and he had seldom spoke, consuming every word without emitting hardly a sound. The back of his chair rose higher than the others, the crest forming sculpted ram-like horns above the single, larger eye, redder in hue.

       Beside him continuing in the rotation past the empty chair to his left, perched the Hague Banker Maximilian Renschausen, a tall figure with muscular features in his 50's. Despite the graying temples, his strong jaw pierced through the shadows and he, of all the rest was the most talkative. He had prepared a dossier of crunched numbers that updated the others.

       Next to him one chair over sat a crew-cut man, Like Blix, he was an American, but the government, clandestine type. Like Kiang, he too was garbed in a black suit, with black tie. He looked like everyman. His age was undistinguishable as was his identity. The CIA molds them that way.

       "Well, then, shall we conclude, Herr Blix?" Renschausen reasoned, not really seeking a consensus. He had spoken the suggestion. That would signal the rest.

       "Ah'm in agreement, Max, mah man. We must clear the table for the sacrifice." Blix retorted.

       "Well then, my honorable comrades," added Kiang, "you have the forged papal seal. There should be no problems I presume?"

       "You presume correctly," Gestarde Eislaume assured. "Vendhem will be elected. We shall see the white smoke and then--"

       "Black fire," cackled Renschausen.

       "Shall we pledge in preparation for the Mass," suggested the American in the black suit.

       In unison they refrained, "We pledge our loyalty to the Master. We pledge our lives to make his reign possible. We are the Legion. Long live the Basilisk. Forever!"

       Within minutes, at every ten feet red banners were unfurled all around the black walls of the room. The cloth standard bore various symbols of ancient origin, along with upside-down triangles and other forms of pentacles. The summit of six moved to the sides of the table, three on each side as attendants entered to prepare the altar, placing silver patens and silver trays on the massive circular stone slab. Lengths of black linen were unrolled tracing the inscribed pentagram until the entire table revealed black on black.

       Picturing the room as a clock, from the head chair in this circular room at the four-o'clock point a doorway led to a small vestibule which connected to a rectangular room. Here was contained a six-foot deep 8-foot by 8-foot recessed stone pit, now filled with kindling two feet deep. In ancient times it was used as both a pool and a well. Today it would serve as a chamber of the most hideous holocaust.

Dateline: Vatican City - Behind St. Peter's near the Vatican Railway Station - November 6, 9:15 a.m.

       While the Mediterranean sun made its ascent toward the midday heights, it glimmered on the rails leading from the open arch to where the end car blocked the shiny steel, iron and timbers. Nearly half the coffins had been loaded by now as Dominic Nicolosi, his brakeman Luigi, and the switchman looked on from the platform beneath the overhang of the Vatican Railway Station. All the coffins had been replaced in the Nervi Hall. The rest were still waiting to be loaded, backed up in the western end of the tunnel which led out toward the Vatican Railway Station. Many of the recruited volunteers were biding their time still in the tunnel, waiting to move their coffins up as the line moved ever so slowly. This was no place for one with claustrophobia. In snail-like fashion the line moved and, yet, man could only accomplish so much time-wise. For the Italian volunteers this day, even more patience was needed for no Roman was ever accused of working too fast.

       Dominic Nicolosi, the man who would whisk these precarious time bombs away, glanced at his pocket watch on the long chain attached to the loop of his denim overalls. At the same time he drew deeply on a cigar, protruding from his jolly, double-jowled jaw beneath a thick bristly mustache that curled out on the tips into a perfect handlebar.

       Cardinal Zachmunn had warned it would be time-consuming and, considering the spontaneous planning, all was going as well as could be expected he realized. Yet, these workers were cutting it close. Dominic's nervousness was becoming more evident as the clock ticked away. Few Italians were ever patient. Nicolosi was no exception.

Dateline: Rome - Subterranean room beneath the Pantheon - November 6, 9:18 a.m.

       The procession was underway as the black and red vested participants took their places for the beginning of the Satanic ritual. Still struggling, but bound and gagged, the supple, nude bodies of the two girls were ceremoniously carried forward in the same manner medieval caterers would hoist a roasted pig. God have mercy on the victims' souls for the Devil would devour even the spirit.

       The hooded transporters laid the naked bodies down on the stone altar, each on the black linen forming the bottom of the pentacle in a V-shape, as the black and silver-garmented high presbyter - Josef Vendhem - known here simply as the Knight of the Scimitar, followed the subdeacon carrying the shiny sharp-edged metal curved blade who preceded the deacon Antonio Macelli, flanked by six demented acolytes who accompanied the procession.

       All Legion members in attendance had encircled the Pentagram-covered stone altar. The main celebrant had taken his place in front of the chair with the molded ram-like horns. It had been, in a clearer light with the help of the alternating red tapestries, revealed as the great throne of the King of the Serpents - the Crotalus Basiliscus. Lord Josef Vendhem occupied this chair. He had already been acknowledged by all present as the Great Satanic Pontiff. Within a day or two, their plan was that he be recognized by the world as the Roman Pontiff as well. That would crown the Master's efforts. All had pointed to this event, this takeover.

       In the vilest of mockery of the opening words of the True Holy Mass - which begins with the Sign of the Cross and then the celebrant's words "I will go unto the altar of God" - Introibo ad altare Dei - Vendhem incanted: In nomine Magni Dei nostri Satanas. Introibo ad altare Domini Inferi - "In the name of our Great God Satan, I will go unto the altar of the infernal Lord." The cantor responded in an unrecognizable guttural chant. The Black Mass had begun.

       While this unclean, abominable sacrifice followed its course, across the Tiber and unbeknownst to Elena Grabe and Luciani Serrano both still at the Vatican, or the sextet of Legion leaders and the cleric partakers in their demonic observance, a counter-effort was well underway by the growing response of the resisters.

Dateline: Vatican City - Behind St. Peter's near the Vatican Railway Station - November 6, 9:22 a.m.

       "Rapido, rapido!" Nicolosi encouraged as six men hoisted another pine box onto the ledge of the hold, pushing it forward. The carriers were getting ahead of the stackers, but still from Dominic's perspective, they seemed to be moving too slowly, holding up the line.

       He did not recognize the man in a highly starched white shirt and Gucci shoes whose furtive glances had been sizing up the situation, scoping out the reasons for this evacuation. He had asked a few helping carry the coffins. But they had looked at him with askance for they had all promised the three cardinals that they would keep this operation confidential. Why then would one of "their own" be asking questions. Collier would get to the bottom of this and the command from Nicolosi signaled to him that he had to be of great importance to this mission.

       He approached the engineer. "Parla inglese?"

       "Un po'," Nicolosi pretended, waiting to see what this stranger wanted.

       "Why're they loadin' these here coffins on the train?" Jordan's Texas twang betrayed his locale.

       "Why not?" Dominic cleverly retorted.

       "That's what I asked, pardnah, why?"

       "And I say why not?" a gleam sparkled in the engineer's eyes as he blew smoke rings in Collier's direction, causing the latter to cough, making more of a fuss about the smoke as if he had encountered a smoker in one of Plano's finer restaurants.

       "Yeah, well, that's not gettin' me anywhere, y'hear?"

       "Of course, you can go nowhere when you stand still." Nicolosi may have looked like the stereotyped engineer but his mind was as sharp as a philosopher.

       "Look, who can I talk to who makes sense?" Jordan didn't cotton to this runaround. "I ain't got all day, bud."

       "Then perhaps His Eminence Gregory Zachmunn will put up with your behavior, I will not. Arrivederci." Dominic turned his back on the insolent Texan, sending a clear message he wanted to be rid of Collier's presence.

       In his abrasive manner, Collier blurted a profanity and headed back towards the opening of the tunnel. No way would he talk with Zachmunn, but that told him volumes. He had heard Blix warning of the St. Louis prelate's cunning and thoroughness. Whatever the American cardinal was up to, wouldn't be beneficial to the Legion; that Jordan knew.

       There had to be some way he could slow down the effort, someway to sabotage the evacuation of these coffins. Why were they loading them on the trains before the funeral? It haunted him as he entered the crowded tunnel, shoving against the spoor of pall-bearers heading towards him. He knew better than walk down the middle, realizing he could get jammed by these requiem pine battering-rams. Hugging the wall, he saw the sign near a lever that operated an iron gate above. It had been wrenched up to allow passage. The sign warned any who ventured near or under. PERICOLO.

       Without another thought he cried out. "Fire! Fire! Danger! Fire!"

       The alarm traveled by ear to every volunteer as they began to panic. "Al fuoco! Al fuoco! Aiuto! Presto!" Soon pandemonium had broken out as practically everyone dropped the coffins and raced for the open air. Jordan clung to the wall to elude being trampled; also, because he had something else he needed to do. As the last vestige of fleeing deserters filed past him, he reached up and pulled at the handle, unloosening it and bypassing the crank. With a heavy thud the iron gate smashed to the floor separating Collier from the rest of those who had fled in panic. Wiping off the dust and grime stirred up from the sudden impact, Jordan realized he would have to exit from the other end for bringing down a gate was easy; lifting it would take more than one. Nevertheless, for now he felt smug for he had stymied their agenda.

       Little did he realize what was in these coffins for he had not been privy to this vital sabotage by the Legion in Iraq. Foot soldiers rarely are confided in by generals.

Dateline: Vatican City - Third Floor of the Apostolic Palace - November 6, 9:40 a.m.

       Leaving Sister Bridie behind with instructions for Dr. Ghislieri when he showed up in case Monsignor Navarro didn't return, Stephen had stolen out the door of the Papal Apartment and down the corridor past the nuns' rooms towards the headquarters office of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Loreto.
       To his good fortune, Elena didn't hear him as he passed her room. She was nervous. Where had the resisters disappeared to? Things were too quiet. Serrano had not reported back yet. Was he in trouble? The funeral was less than an hour away. Now was the time to set the trigger. She would not wait for word from the Master. Things had gone awry too many times. If she didn't act now the window of opportunity would close soon.

       Methodically she reached into the trunk and retrieved the fairly bulky computer-like mechanism that would tweak the signals to reach the imbedded chips inside the coffins at the exact timing set on this remote trigger. Two hours and several more minutes would give her time to escape before the entire edifice of the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica exploded in one huge holocaust that would consume all the participants within. It would be spectacular. The world would know there was no hope left. They would capitulate to the powers that be and she would be among the elite to wield the power, her prize for her key participation in the destruction of the one institution that had always been the last obstacle to world domination by the Antichrist and his minions.

       She opened the lid and lifted the screen, entering on a special keyboard the necessary variables of each chip whose data was already stored in the files to set the timer. This time it would be pure time, no pitch signals that backfired at the Field of Abraham because some moron switched the schedule, concluded Grabe as she hurried through the series of data files, predetermining the coordinates.

       Her mouth watered in anticipation of the gore and destruction that would ensue at high noon. It didn't matter the consequences. It would be too late for everyone. The world had been manipulated over the past fifty years to accept whatever anyone said if it were delivered through the arranged channels of communication. The great war begun on September 11, 2001 and waged so overconfidently in 2003 had tilted the balance of power and enabled the One World Order to take shape as the military powers became bogged down in the quagmire of politics and the unorthodox guerilla tactics of ancient and radical Islam sects. The powers of secular Zionism, while pleading the victim, had cleverly maneuvered themselves into position through economic collapses globally. They who rule the banks rule the world. This maxim had been in force ever since the House of Rothschild came to power following the French and American Revolutions. Few realized the revolution of the 21st century had been carried off under cover of patriotism and democracy by the very prophets of finance few knew even existed.

       None of that mattered to Elena. She was a hands-on warrior for the Master. She wanted none of the political gambits and posturing. She wanted action and this day she would have her way come hell or high-water. The Master would be pleased. Vendhem and Macelli and the rest were expendable. They would serve no purpose once the Church was destroyed for despair would reign. Serrano would be helpful to keep up the ruse until it was time for her to vacate the Vatican. Then she would allow the gruff Italian to accompany her back to New Nasiriyah where he would meet with an untimely death. She prided herself that she had not given Macelli all of the deadly potion that afternoon in the hills above Rome. She prided herself on staying a step ahead of everyone and this fierce pride showed on her countenance as she pressed in the final coordinate and pushed the key to activate the timer.

       Gathering up the few necessary things she would need, she closed the suitcase. The trigger would be fine right where it was. The frequencies would be perfect. The explosion - an incendiary delight, the likes of which the world had never seen. Overconfidently she placed the suitcase beneath the bed and strutted out of Mother Agnes de Christi's old room and down the hall, away from this godforsaken place. The deed was done. There was no turning back now. She had rigged the timer so that no one could override her commands if they tried. All efforts would fail for her plan was failsafe. Or was it?

       She was yet unaware that Stephen was three hundred feet ahead of her, having just turned into the front office of the Order's headquarters.

       "Yes, Father, may I help you," the bespectacled nun sitting behind the reception desk asked as Stephen entered.

       "Yes, I need to see Sister Hildegarde."

       "Scusi. She not here."

       "Do you know where I can find her?" Navarro practically begged.

       "Preparing for Funeral Mass. May I help, Si?

       "Where in the Basilica can I find her?" Stephen probed further.

       "You want to disturb her during Pope's funeral?" the naive nun dared him.

       "That's not the Pope. He's alive, Sister."

       "What?" The startled nun was taken aback, her jaw dropped.

       "It's a long story, Sister. Please, where can I find her?"

       "Possibly in Sacristy. But your claim makes no--"

       Stephen didn't have time to let her finish, "If you see her before I do, just tell her not - NOT - to light ANY candles!"

       "Are you alright?" asked the nun, concern and confusion both registering on her face.

       "Yes, Sister. Pardon me, I know you don't understand and I don't have time to tell you more. Just trust me."

       "Trust no one." The voice came from behind him and it was deep, guttural.

       Stephen wielded around to find himself staring directly into the steel-gray, cold eyes of Elena Grabe in full habit. "You!!!"

       "Do not trust him," Elena commanded the front desk reception nun, "he is an imposter."

       "She's the imposter, Sister." Stephen insisted. "She's with the Legion."

       "What legion?" The nun was really bewildered now.

       "The Legion of the Basilisk," Navarro blurted. "They're out to destroy the Pope and the Church." Even he wouldn't have believed it if he didn't know. How was he going to convince this nun as to the evil intent of Grabe?

       "See, he is delirious," snapped Grabe, a sickening satisfaction curling on her lips.

       Stephen lunged at the only evidence he knew as he grabbed Elena's arm, ripping the sleeve from her habit in one motion before she could react. His swift thinking had exposed the Basilisk symbol tattoo on her left arm. "Sister, do you know of any nun with a crowned snake-like lizard on her arm?"

       The front desk nun was appalled by the brash action and even more so by the grotesque image emblazoned on this supposedly religious nun's arm. "What is that?"

       "Oh, come now," Elena stammered on the defense. "I did that before becoming a nun. It will not come off. Do you hold this against me?"

       "She's lying, Sister. As God is my witness. I am Monsignor Stephen Navarro, head of the Pontifical Council for Universal Communications." His trump card was his ID which he promptly produced. "Check it with your computer, Sister."

       Grabe dug in. She had not been prepared for this confrontation from so brazen a resister. Almost instantly the data appeared on the nun's computer verifying Stephen's identity.

       "Mi dispiace," the front desk nun acknowledged. "You are legitimate, Monsignore. Then who is she?"

       "Not one of God's creatures!" Stephen braced for what was coming next as he ducked out of the way, crying out to the front desk nun to get out.

       But it was too late. She could not move, frozen in place as she watched the ugly morphing in shock. Elena had grown more angry, transforming into the hideous monstrous lizard, the same that had devoured Helene Shenneker and Victor Van Wess. Instantly the wimple and veil she was wearing ripped asunder as animated, thicker hair coiled out, morphing into a Medusa-like head that hissed from all sides as it morphed into the reptilian monster of biblical times. The Master had fully possessed her very being and now was manifesting itself. The rest of the habit shriveled as thick, putrid green scales bulged forth, a slithering, undulating tail crashing against the door frame behind it, slashing at the wall, as extensions - talon-like pincers grew from the sides of the hideous abdomen. With one lunge her claw found the frail neck of the helpless nun, crushing her mercilessly.

       Stephen screamed out as loud as he could. "Don't look at it!"

       But it was too late for the front desk nun. Without hesitating, he darted out the door looking for any kind of reinforcement. He knew Grabe was dangerous but he had never fathomed this! Two guards heard the commotion as they rounded the corner and he waved them his way. The noise and dying screams of the front desk nun alerted them to have their halberds out and thrust forward. It would do little good as the repulsive reptile seemed to play with their weapons like toothpicks, gorging one of the guards and knocking the other down. By now the bloody turmoil had summoned several nuns to the hall and they shrieked in horror. This served to distract the Grabe-monster for a split second. It was just enough as Stephen dropped and rolled, scooping up a knife dropped by a fallen guard. With split-second precision he rolled directly under the monster and, with all his might, thrust the blade up into its chest. It was nothing but an empty cavity, reeking of maggots. The action prompted more screams from the nuns and a louder, bellowing roar from the heinous being who once was the German fraulein Elena Grabe.

       Another guard approached carefully without making direct eye-contact, making a swipe at the Basilisk which allowed Stephen to roll out of the path of the lunging beast and flee into the hall. The guard was not as fortunate as the monster targeted him. The frightened guard turned on his heels and headed down the other hallway right toward the startled nuns.

       Stephen could see the impending danger and from 200 feet away at the other end of the hall, he emptied his lungs in hoping to divert more deaths. He whistled frantically to gain Grabe's attention, and cried out, "Hey, lizard breath, you ain't so tough."

       He knew instantly that was one of the dumbest things he'd ever said, but it worked. The beast abandoned pursuit of the guard and turned away from the nuns, loping after Stephen, roaring, but noticeably weakened. She, or it, was leaving a trail of green blood, slime. With every step more oozed out and the more furious the unholy creature became.

       Despite the ailing state of the hulking lizard, it still was gaining on Navarro as he reached the end of the hall. Only an elevator. He punched the button desperately and prayed as the beast drew closer. The morning sun reflecting in the great window blinded the Basilisk. Its breath could be felt by Stephen as it closed in on him for the kill.

       Realizing he had only one chance, he moved right into harm's way at the window as the reflection beamed back at the lunging reptilian entity with opened jaws ready for the final gorging. Stephen dropped just as the beast hurtled at and over him, tasting nothing but glass as it shattered everywhere.

       Shock in Elena seeing her own reflection and immediate defenestration were his only defense as the force of the lunge carried Elena through the shards, plunging the ghastly beast downward to her ultimate death three stories below on the hard pavement of the courtyard.

       Stephen, sweating and panting, cautiously peered through the broken shards to the scene below. He was just in time to witness the sizzling of unearthly flesh on the asphalt, and then evaporation. There was nothing left of the hard-crusted Teutonic woman who had paid with her soul and, as always, failed in her quest for earthly gains.

       The Devil had called in his mark. The spirit of the beast had slithered off, but Grabe was toast.

       The guard caught up with Stephen at the window, "Padre, where did that monster come from?"

       Without looking up, Stephen, still trying to catch his breath, rasped, "straight from the bowels of hell!"

"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. Towever 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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