Episode Three: Revelation of the Revolution
The airwaves had been turned back to regular broadcasting universally, but few could focus much attention on the anticipated programs they had waited for while Pope Clement XV issued his monumental Apostolic Decree. Most were still not sure what he had said exactly or the significance of his decree, yet his words had haunted their souls and now he was indeed dead. Was it true that everything over the past 50 years was now declared null and void? What impact would that have on society as a whole. What of the Church?Would the people comply? Those were questions already being posed on the 24-hour cable news stations, radio talk shows, across neighborhood fences, and around the water coolers, as well as thousands of web sites.
Contrite and sincere Catholics would come to understand the significance of his words once the simplicity of the absolutes were shared with more; once Baltimore Catechisms were dusted off and disseminated more freely. For now, most of the populace was in a flux of confusion for none had been prepared for a Pope to proclaim such radical steps, let alone one everyone had assumed died a week ago but, in fact, had expired before their very eyes in total peace and serenity.
Though it had taken a good half-hour to do so because of the massive traffic and blanket of people, the EMS van had been transferred to behind the Sistine where it had been waiting away from the maddening crowd, per Dr. Ghislieri's instructions for he wanted to rush His Holiness to the hospital. Now Ghislieri realized that would not be necessary and that indeed Providence had stepped in.
Though normally embalming procedures are done within the Vatican itself, the facilities had been destroyed in the explosions and it was necessary now to transport the Pontiff's corpse to a nearby mortuary for preparations before being brought back in a Papal coffin into St. Peter's to lie in state for nine days as properly carried out with every Pope until this last week when Macelli's radical actions had expedited the entire process in order to deceive and destroy.
Ghislieri and Ogidi, being the Medical Examiner, realized an alternative measure was necessary and therefore took charge to transfer the Pope to the appropriate mortuary.
After all the Cardinals had knelt in place and prayed, at the behest of Cardinal Mendoza, a Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri followed by a "Requiescat in Pace" for His Holiness, the expired Pontiff was covered in the shroud of a black requiem cope and then escorted out of the Sistine for the last time by Drs. Ghislieri, Kinsajira, and Ogidi to the waiting EMS van. Colin Rembert and two Swiss Guards accompanied the gurney.
Beyond, half a mile away well behind St. Peter's, an EMS chopper had settled down on the Vatican heliopad with rotor blades still whirling. The body would be taken there immediately by van where, accompanied by the doctors. and two attendants, the pilot would convey them to the Santo Spirito Mortuary, which had been a major cooperator earlier this day with Colin Rembert in providing replacement coffins. Rembert and GNS would cover, for now, all red tape and costs to assure His Holiness was afforded the most prompt attention for proper embalming. By copter they would be there within minutes. By road it would take hours this day.
It might take longer for the world to recuperate from the impact of Clement's words. Already repentance was bearing fruit for priests around the world, no matter the time of day, were being drawn to their respective churches and confessionals to accommodate those already waiting for the Sacrament of Penance. Throughout the rest of the day, and for weeks to come, the lines would grow longer. They had heard and related with His Holiness' sincere apology. God works in wondrous and mysterious ways.
Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 6, 5:00 p.m.
The Cardinals had remained in the Sistine Chapel for there was unfinished work to be done and a certain letter to be read. Also the Dean of the College needed to debrief them as well as read a few of the announcements Clement had left with Julies prior to his death.
"In observing the novendiales, we will resume the Particular Congregations," asserted Cardinal Mendoza in addressing the Assembly. "By precedence and merit, His Lordship Gregory Cardinal Zachmunn shall serve as Camerlengo locum tenens and His Lordship Mbuta Celestin Cardinal Kabwela as the locum tenens as the Archpriest of the Basilica. I shall, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants here present, assume the temporary duties of the Vicar General."
The Archbishop of Madrid sighed deeply. "After His Grace Cardinal Zachmunn has read His Holiness Pius XII's urgent letter, I shall make a few final announcements. Then we shall adjourn. When we do, we would all do well to heed His Holiness' Clement's words and avail ourselves of the available confessors. God knows we are all lacking and need purifying. Now, I turn the floor to my esteemed and devoted colleague from St. Louis in the United States."
Gregory stepped forward, a serious countenance enveloped his face. Every cardinal in the room was aware this letter held the key. Why else would Clement have acted so startingly and decisively? They edged closer on their seats, stretching their aural senses to catch every word.
"This is the contents of a letter discovered most recently and sealed. I received it from Monsignor Navarro who had found it in the remains of a shattered statue placed in the Apostolic basement vault. I quite suspect it is the same one that at one time stood in the entry way between the Papal bedroom and living room of the Papal Apartment. It is definitely from His Holiness Pius XII himself and written with great alarm. I shall read it in its entirety. It was intended for his successor but since it was sealed, it was never revealed until now."
With that Gregory began to read quite possibly the last words Pius XII ever wrote.
We entrust this knowledge to you
as Our successor in the hopes and prayers that you can stop the onrushing terribleness advancing on the Mystical Bride. The gates have been abandoned. There is no one left within these walls to trust save for Our Pro-secretary Alfredo and Sister Philomena. To them We entrust this letter to deliver to you if they see the eclipse has approached and You can be trusted and entrusted. Soon the shepherd will be struck and the sheep scattered.
We have been haunted by Our failure to listen to the Blessed Virgin's Messages at Fatima. Indeed, on the day His Holiness of happy memory Benedict XV consecrated this humble servant an archbishop in the Sistine, the Mother of God first appeared to the children. Yet, like little children We have irresponsibly depended upon Heaven to provide the answers while the Powers and Principalities of the prince of the world have undermined Christ the Lord's Church. Little did We realize until just last month when a priest of God from Covilha asked for a personal audience. Though it posed no problems, oft times We must accede to Our Secretariat. However, this time an Inner Voice prompted Us to accept him into Our chamber. What he has revealed we have confirmed through another source whom We are not at liberty to divulge at this time. His testimony corroborated two other sources that confirm what We had feared. You must stop the interlopers from furthering the facade.
Those who have confided the events of the '48 Spring must remain in pectore, but We feel a tremendous burden in allowing, yea rather
ordering the transfer of Sister Lucia dos Santos to Coimbra. We did so out of fear of a growing threat from Red forces within Spain. We wrote her death warrant by sending her from Tuy. The couriers sent were not who We had believed they were. This the certain priest of the region of Covilha confided that he had heard a confession - outside of the Sacrament of Penance and therefore not violating the Sacred Seal - of an eyewitness who had to divulge the information to settle his heart and soul before his time arrived for Judgment.
The priest was told by the penitent soul that almost immediately after the Dorothean nun of Fatima had been transferred across the Portugal border, that others took charge and took her away to a small hovel not far from the check-point. He heard a gunshot and then a larger woman emerged from the hut. Though clothed in the same habit, she moved with much more swiftness and no longer appeared hunched over as the person who had entered but a few minutes earlier. She was younger, fewer lines of labor, and taller - at least 0.076 meters higher. The man watched as another set of couriers met her and she disappeared into a dark roadster and it sped off. He kept this to himself until he could no longer evade his conscience.
We last were in her presence upon Our Papal Visit to Fatima in 1946 13 May. We can attest she was much smaller and weathered. We now realize why the special communication We had instigated with Sister Lucia dos Santos ended after the transfer. For a decade now We have not heard in the same vein as prior to her leaving Spain.
Our Apostolic Office has been consumed with other matters and only now We realize Our Authority has been penetrated. We fear many more cathedrals and basilicas have also been invaded and the Holy Church is on the brink of returning to the catacombs such as the early Christians. We have grave suspicions from testimonies presented that the nun of Fatima was murdered. Beware of future Fatima proclamations. It must remain in the pure words imparted by the Heavenly Mother. Yet, We fear they will alter much to manipulate their curriculum in swaying souls.
We have failed in staying the Red Menace and the Masonic Forces which have entered the Holy Church. We urgently entreat You to defend the ramparts and weed out the poisonous plants that suffocate the harmony of souls and destroy the Holy Faith. We are weak and failing in health, in truth dying, and have not the strength nor trusted resources to consecrate the land of Russia to the Virgin Mother Queen of Heaven's Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart so pure. We urge You to carry out this failing by Us and to trust in the Lord that those who have infiltrated will not scatter the sheep. We fear they have already gained greater ground than We had ever thought possible. The foundations are crumbling as the enemy of Christ strikes in stealth.
Our Predecessor Leo XIII foresaw these events and still We have turned a deaf ear to such wisdom and awe. Our Apostolic Office did not see the serpents in collar and cloth for We were looking in other directions in protecting Our flock and others outside the flock including the many dear children of Abraham whom We have long prayed for conversion to Christ's Own. War and rumors of war have detained Us while a far worse war has been waged before us and We did not see another Red Wave for the Hammer and Sickle has cut its swath through the Sanctuary and many in red have succumbed to its false promises. Salvation, salvation, salvation! We must preserve salvation! As We wrote in Mystici Corporis, 'From a heart overflowing with love, We ask each and every one of them to correspond to the interior movements of grace, and to seek to withdraw from that state in which they cannot be sure of salvation. For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many Heavenly gifts and helps which can be enjoyed only in the Catholic Church.' Now We fear even that Church is assailed and so many have scattered and will scatter.
Oh, say it can not be true as Our heart grows heavy with this knowledge of clandestine hatred of souls; so much so that they would dare to enter the holy Sanctuary itself and transform the Ark of the Covenant into a brazen idol. You must hasten to guard the great Deposit of the Faith and safeguard the constituted evangelic traditions so under assault. We fear the walls of Jericho are tumbling and We have not the strength left to circle the City as the Divine Advocate has beckoned us to do. The secret truths resulting from Fatima must be revealed and followed through. As We confided to a few before Our elevation, this persistence of Mary about the dangers that menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that would be represented by the alteration of the Faith, in her liturgy, her theology, and her soul. Salvation is at the threshold of being snatched by the fallen angels, by the very powers the Apostle Paul alerted to in his Epistle to the Ephesians. The Arian invasion of the 5th Century, the Crusades of the early millennium, the Revolution of Luther were child's play when standing next to what lies ahead. Be forewarned and girded. Be not shunning of sackcloth. Look to Our pages on the First Book of Machabeus in Your possession now and follow the numbers circled in red to identify those who We strongly believe to be the Judases of these times. In truth, Machabeus is playing out right before our very eyes for Antiochus rises.
The hour grows weary as We fear We are spent from battle. A younger, stronger, wiser one is necessary to carry on the fight. The Barque of Peter must be steadied. Do not allow Her to capsize; far more souls will be in danger for a new wave, a more dreadful swell riding in on the tide of innovation prompts the intruders to saturate the hull and cling like barnacles in destroying the fabric of the Faith. Stay the course! Hold fast the truth. Be ever loyal to Our Predecessors for the days of Matthew 24 are at the threshold. Bolt the door, pray, and guide the flock - "feed My sheep, feed My lambs."
Pius XII, Seven Dolors, 1958 15 September.
The deafening silence was broken by the skeptical rant of Leon Tourrieu du Visserant, a progressivist to the end. "How do we know those are truly Pius XII's words?"
Cardinal Krementz picked up the opposition's mantra, "Yes, could the letter be a forgery and the seal --"
Cardinal Zachmunn had enough of this needless badgering as he silenced the dory of red-hats rowing toward objection. "I can assure my brothers of the Sacred College that it is the official Seal of His Holiness Pius XII and when carbon-dated, will verify its authenticity."
The Dean of the College came to the rescue. "Needless to say, dear Lords of the Conclave, is there any question as to the contents? We know very well that what Pius was warning of, has come to pass. We also know, since the envelope was sealed, that it never reached his successor John XXIII. Was there a reason Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and Sister Philomena did not pass it on to him? Did they suspect that quite possibly it would be treasonous to the Church to reveal the whereabouts of the letter? From His Eminence's notable Intervention some years later to Paul VI, that is a possibility."
Julies paused to let that sink in, drawing in a sip of cool water from the glass on the lectern. Clearing his throat, he continued.
"Where, many are asking, is the bible Pius coded with the names of the perpetrators? I believe we may know. On other points, as to the murder of the visionary of Fatima...perhaps we will never know. But now we have a base to investigate from and investigate we will I can assure you. We will search and find the bible Pius coded with the names of the perpetrators and I feel confident we will be able to trace how the subterfuge grew so devastatingly and destroyed so much. However, this letter needs to be circulated in its entirety and, with the cooperation of the Camerlengo locum tenens, I will release it tonight."
Gregory nodded his approval and the rest of the assembly remained mute.Those who had opposed Mendoza and Zachmunn were spent. Their flanks had fallen. Surrender would be the better part of valor save for a few of the very stubborn who mammon had fully captured.
Julies turned from the sealed letter to another piece of paper in his hand. "And now, I have some good news, uplifting news to announce."
He read slowly. "His Holiness, before his unfortunate demise, had proclaimed the elevation of Captain Royce Schuster to the rank of Major; Lieutenant Alexis Geraud to the rank of Captain. There are others which the Commandant Major Schuster shall announce at a later date. Posthumously Captain Riage Benziger has been elevated to Major General."
The Dean of the College could not suppress a smile as he continued. "There are also two who shall be consecrated Bishops three days hence by order of His Holiness Clement XV on the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica, the Archbasilica of Our Holy Savior. This ceremony shall be conducted with all here present at the Lateran. The two to be elevated are Monsignor Stephen Navarro, Pontifical Head of Universal Communications and Father Nikolas Andriopoulos, a dedicated soldier of Christ. In addition, your humble servant as Dean of the College had been asked by His Holiness Clement XV of very happy memory to confer upon these two worthy shepherds the red-hat in an emergency consistory to be held on that very same day at the Lateran. They will, therefore be eligible to participate with all the full privileges of the College of Cardinals and, rightfully replace our traitorous brethren Macelli and Vendhem."
A delightful, righteous satisfaction filled Gregory's pores as goosebumps came to the fore, and a silent Deo Gratias formed on his lips. There weren't two more deserving of the honor to wear the red biretta than Stephen and Niki. Where would they have been without them?
Dateline: Vatican City - Office of the Head of Universal Communications - November 6, 5:05 p.m.
Like a timed echo the news would not reach Stephen and Niki in the former's office for another few minutes. Pat was converting to Adobe the script of Clement's Lamentabili Culpa from the Mirror Reflector card. The newest version translated the Apostolic Decree into 27 foreign languages, including alphabets, accents and idioms, even some dialects. All would be ready for the press by 5:30, as Stephen programmed them into the heavy-duty lazer printer that he had put to the test 24 hours ago in preparing the 500 press kits. Thank God, he still had paper and toner left. He was confident he'd make it for the press conference tentatively scheduled for six p.m. Roman time.
Immediately following Clement's address, Colin had pre-authorized his technical director in Sydney to release the satellite block, freeing up all other satellites and networks. FCC codes and other regulations would wrestle with the problem, Colin figured. He wasn't going to sweat the small stuff considering what had already gone down. Besides, he had a spiritual mission now in assuring the Holy Father was afforded proper preservation procedures.
Once Colin and Makuta had left the Communications office for the Sistine Chapel with the printed-out copy of Lamentabili Culpa, for Clement to place his official Papal Seal on, Pat had asked Niki to take Corrie outside, both to catch some air and to allow her to cry her tears out. He had also given her some money to bring back some pizzas, beers and, hopefully, he begged, cigarettes. God, he was ready for a nicotine fit evident by his constant finger drumming on the desk as each translation continued to download and then spit out completion on the screen. Each time Pat programmed in the various country codes to transfer them to a file in alignment with Stephen's lazer printer.
"Four to go," Gallagher informed Monsignor Navarro. "That shower offer still stand?"
"Sure, Pat, there's a new bar of soap and extra towels. Careful of the hot/cold nozzle, sometimes it sticks and no one wants a cold shower."
"Well, sometimes it's necessary," Pat snickered.
"Yeah, you got a point, Patrick. A good poi-- " Stephen stopped in mid-sentence. There was a knock on the door. Considering what they had all been through, both froze in their place. Pat snuck behind the door, as Stephen reached for the handle. Slowly the hinges swung open.
"Monsignor, I have a notice for you." It was Lieutenant Alexis Geraud, smiling from ear to ear.
"Come in, Lieutenant," Stephen beckoned, relieved it was one of the good guys.
"It will not be much longer you can call me 'Lieutenant', Monsignor, and not much longer that I can call you 'Monsignor.' " His smile seemed to widen as Pat relaxed his nerves and joined them.
"What'cha gettin at?" For no-nonsense Gallagher, it was cut-to-the-bottom-line time.
"I believe," beamed Geraud extending the paper to Stephen, "the answers are in this document."
Stephen began to read it. "Guess what, Niki's been promoted to Bishop!"
"Yeah, right," Pat joshed, not taking Navarro seriously.
"No, really, Pat. And guess what?" Stephen seemed to be in a daze.
"What?" Pat impatiently demanded.
"Me, too!!!" Stephen exclaimed, reading a bit further. It was then that he dropped the document he had been holding in his hand as the reality hit him and he dropped to his knees for a prayerful few seconds. Then he bounced up, extended his arms in glee. He was beside himself with tears of joy, hugging both Gallagher and the Swiss Guard. "We've both been selected for the miter, I don't believe it!"
"Naw," Pat responded instinctively. "Lemme see."
Stephen retrieved the document he had dropped, and handed it to Pat. "Here. You just hugged a Cardinal-to-be and a Captain-to-be," Stephen winked toward Geraud who was loving every minute.
Sure enough Stephen had been correct. "Well I'll be. That's terrific. Wait'll we tell Nik. He ain't gonna believe it."
Dateline: Vatican City - Behind St. Peter's - Nov 6, 5:15 p.m.
For expediency sake, defrocked Cardinals Macelli and Vendhem had been taken by Swiss Guards to the antiquated dungeon beneath the Governor's Palace above the Papal Gardens behind St. Peter's. There the rotund Italian and the stoic, fuming German joined the Texan Jordan Collier along with Luciani Serrano and several turncoat Swiss Guards who had all been stripped down to gray pantaloons and T-shirts.
The red-cordoned black cassocks of Macelli and Vendhem had been confiscated and both looked different, more obtuse in their stark contrast. The tall Nazi, skinnier than had been previously perceived, and the obese one who, without cover of his cassock seemed to blubber forth his girth. Collier, his clothes soiled from sweat and the dirt and dust of the tunnel, was an indignant scarecrow.
As the fates would have it this evening, the good guys had not rounded up everyone. There were still a few culprits that had escaped detection, including Sergeant Kutsch, who the loyal guards had not been able to locate because of Kutsch's staying a step ahead in eluding his pursuers. Fearing reprisal from the Legion for allowing himself to be overwhelmed by the man in the laundry cart, Kutsch had taken cover beneath a copse of trees near the Monument to St. Peter where he had a clear view of both the back entrance to the Sistine Chapel, the Governor's Palace, and the Gardens. Here he would make his stand, able to detect anyone approaching. He had not been prepared for the explosions that rocked his position and psyche. It had forced him to retreat in total fear and trembling further into the copse of trees, unaware of the degree the Basilisk had gone to destroy. The echo of the loudspeakers had enabled him to hear most of Clement XV's address to the Electors in the Sistine and had seen Macelli and Vendhem being escorted by a few of his cohorts who had not sold their soul. Knowing exactly where the two prelates had been taken, he had waited for the Cardinals to reappear in the courtyard behind the Sistine.
It had not been difficult to identify those who had aligned with Macelli and Vendhem. Like birds of a feather they had all been huddled together away from the rest. This made it advantageous for Kutsch to approach Bela Luzlo, Erich Krementz, Lopez, du Visserant, Carteaga, Hong-Ju and Teofilius Radkalionis, who gathered away from the others, desperately trying to regroup and save their own hides. They feared Macelli would spill all and reveal names. This was Kutsch's fear as well and thus the enemy advanced.
When Kutsch approached them, it was with both suspicion and relief. He spoke to the KGB informant and assassin Radkalionis first.
"Comrade Radkalionis?" the turncoat Swiss Guard ventured.
"Who inquires?" The Soviet was apprehensive.
"I can help you free your two comrade cardinals but I need your help."
Teofilius wanted to be sure this was not a trap. "Why would we want to free Macelli and Vendhem?"
"Strength in numbers, sir." Kutsch replied.
"And what would that accomplish, Sergeant?" Radkalionis was a cagey one.
"From the countenances of your comrades, I think you need all the help you can get."
By now the conversation had attracted Carteaga and Krementz.
"What is the problem, Teo?" Krementz demanded.
"No problem," the Lithuanian Judas replied, keeping his eyes frozen on Kutsch.
"What is it then," Carteaga harrumphed, noticeably irritated over the entire course of events that had taken place this afternoon.
"He claims," the steely-eyed Radkalionis explained, "he can spring Macelli and Vendhem from their incarceration."
"Can he?" blurted Carteaga.
"Yes!" insisted Kutsch, perturbed that he was being grilled by these men whose hearts were as black as his own.
"How?" Krementz insisted.
"I can gain entrance to the dungeon," Kutsch had it all planned out. "I will admit two of you as representatives of the College who have been supposedly sent to interrogate the prisoners. I can take out one of the guards, at the entrance. I am counting on you, Comrade, to eliminate the other one." Kutsch looked directly at Radkalionis. "Together we'll overwhelm the other two who will be guarding the jail doors."
"And then?" Carteaga impatiently queried.
"Then you are on your own," Kutsch retorted. "We are all on our own. I'm just trying to help all. If we have to kill both Macelli and Vendhem. So be it."
Kutsch's last remark brought a diaphanous smirk to the faces of more than a few of these fraudulent prelates who, now in earnest, plotted further their immediate action.
"Let's do it," ordered Krementz. "Now!"
Dateline: Vatican City - Dungeon of the Governor's Palace behind St. Peter's - Nov 6, 5:28 p.m.
Kutsch seemed to feel invincible, knowing one of the guards on sentry had already been compromised. He would only need to take out the other one to admit the assassin cardinals Erich Krementz and one of the KGB's top men Teofilius Radkalionis, intent on taking out both Macelli and Vendhem. Dead men tell no tales. Waiting in the wings on the dark side of the courtyard for news were Cardinals Carteaga, du Visserant, Lopez, and Hong-Ju.
As the traitorous Kutsch distracted the one guard, Radkalionis applied pressure on the back shoulder at the base of the neck of the other. He fell immediately. The other guard realized he better go along or suffer the same fate. Thus he escorted Kutsch and the two prelates along the steps that curved downward where only torches provided light. The eerie shadows of approaching danger should have warned the guard standing sentinel at the entrance to the medieval prison cells.
As Kutsch approached one of the guards immediately recognized the Sergeant as one of those sought; he had overheard the other captives grousing about Kutsch getting away. Now here he was, being escorted by just one guard and two cardinals. Something wasn't right. His defensive mechanism went into action as he raised his halberd. "Halt!"
His fellow guard followed suit. This was not going to go as easy as Kutsch had envisioned. Krementz pulled out a Luger from beneath his scarlet cape and fired one shot into the heart of the first guard. The second just eluded the next shot, diving behind the rock wall where the food trays were slipped in. Two more bullets glanced off the stone and mortar. Bunkered behind the rock, the guard retrieved his own pistol and stood at the ready.
"Grab his keys," Krementz barked as Kutsch yanked the ring from the dead guard's belt, then fumbled to find the right key to open the cell.
By now those within the cell realized something was amiss.
"Get us out of here," demanded Vendhem.
"Be patient, your Eminences," Krementz slyly emoted. Radkalionis was just behind him as they entered the cell and into the light where Macelli and Vendhem recognized them.
"Erich, Teofilius! What took you so long?" groused Macelli looking like Tweedle-Dee from Alice in Wonderland. But this was no wonderland, no fantasy. Only Satan could see through this looking glass for all were his prisoners. Soon they would be permanently his.
Jordan Collier would help that cause as he spotted the Luger in Krementz hand, aimed directly at the rotund Italian and tall German, both stripped of their scarlet garb. With one motion the Texan flung himself at the surprised Krementz, knocking the gun out of his grip. Macelli reacted instinctively, grabbing the loose weapon that had clanked to a halt where he stood.
"I do believe, Erich," a revengeful Macelli spoke, "that you were trying to shut us up."
Krementz tried to retaliate. "Shoot them, Teofilius! Now!"
As trained as he was, he was not prepared for the instant sting in his stomach. Macelli had fired point blank, felling Radkalionis in his tracks. The KGB agent dropped to his knees, then tumbled over bleeding profusely from the spleen. He would be dead within the minute. Krementz tried to regain his feet but Macelli was relentless. Bam, bam! Erich toppled over. The second bullet caught another victim: Luciani Serrano who took a fatal hit. The Legion's flanks were diminishing. Now Lucio was reunited with his friend Brunatti, but they would not be happy. No one in hell smiles.
Kutsch had to think fast, change hats. "I knew you'd see through them, your Eminence," whined the Judas guard.
Macelli knew what Kutsch had planned and fired point blank into the heart of the guard. The other guards were startled. Should they storm the fat man or beg mercy? Either way they were dead.
"Lord Vendhem, we must be away."
"Ja voll, Antonio." Vendhem knew well enough not to argue with a man holding a loaded gun.
"The rest will only bog us down." With that Macelli fired two rounds into the helpless turncoat guards now sprawled out in their own blood.
Jordan Collier was stepping softly, and looking for a big stick for leverage with this Italian mad man. "Your Eminence, I can git y'all outta here. Blix's got a car waitin'."
"Alright," Macelli conceded. "Perhaps he can be helpful, Josef."
Vendhem nodded as they headed for the exit with all swiftness. The tall German took the lead with Macelli ambling close behind and Collier taking up the rear. That was his mistake for the other guard who had been cowering behind the stone barrier stepped out and began to fire, hitting Collier twice in the leg. Blix' chosen reporter stumbled and fell, screaming out in pain. Macelli, already having ascended a few steps fired blindly back towards the entrance to the cell. The bullets ricocheted off the rock walls missing their mark as the guard plunged back behind the stone barrier. Macelli did not have time to go back down to make sure the sniper was dead, but he'd make sure Collier didn't talk as he plugged him in the temple putting the nasty Texan out of his temporal misery.
Hell was filling up fast with permanent residents the devil was not yet prepared to welcome. He needed them alive for a while longer.
Dateline: Rome - Half Block from St. Peter's Square - November 6, 5:35 p.m.
Corrie's mission had been successful. While Niki held a six-pack of brew in each hand, Corrie's arms were full, piled high with three steaming pizzas and several calzones in tow, as they made their way slowly back toward the Square through the seemingly impenetrable wall of people who weren't really moving one way or the other. The Requiem buzz was everywhere. Joy and sadness permeated the night. Joy that the Holy Father had addressed all with such verve, straight-forwardness and humility; sadness that he did not live to see it fulfilled. Yet there was a muffled joy that, to many this night, things would be right with the Church and the world again, thanks to the heroic efforts of Clement XV.
Inching closer to the Square, neither Corrie or Niki were aware that they had been followed. Stealthily they were being stalked, from their departure through the Bronze Doors, ordering the pizza and beer, to right now as they reached the edge of the Colonnade. He was laying back, ten feet, but pushing people to stay up with the Greek priest and Corrie.
As they approached the edge of the border of the smallest nation in the world, several Italian militia flanked the perimeter, Niki and Corrie slipped between them in working their way back toward the Bronze Doors.
The man in the Franciscan hood lurked ten feet behind, people were everywhere. Siding by one of the soldiers he brought his steel-toed Stingray up against the shins of one of the guards. The force knocked the soldier off balance as he started to fall, bracing himself on people nearby for there was no room to fall. Blix seized the opportunity amid the mayhem, reaching behind to help the soldier up while at the same time pilfering the pistol from the side holster.
"Scusi," Edwin feigned, as he patted the soldier down, dusting him off.
The soldier looked up to acknowledge, "Grazie, --" Whoever the Samaritan who had helped him had gone. All the militia man could see was the back of a Franciscan cowl, moving deeper into the crowd. Blix had to keep an eye on the Morelli woman. In his abundant woolen sleeve his left hand clutched the loaded pistol extracted from the military recruit.
Corrie and Niki had moved past the great fountain on the north, moving closer to the Bronze Doors. Blix knocked several out of the way in his haste to keep up. He knew the course they had set; thus he moved at an angle to cut them off at one of the great columns near the Doors.
Up ahead a company of nuns slowed Corrie and Niki, enabling the cowled Texan to gain the advantage. As luck would have it for Blix, Niki was ahead of Corrie, a good two feet as they were making better time than he had thought. He peered around the column and backed off just as Niki's profile passed, he was talking to her, but not looking back. Corrie came next.
Blix sprung from the side, wrapping his gnarly hand firmly over her mouth and dragging her back behind the column, masking it as if he were helping the girl, that she had fainted as he applied more pressure to her carotid. The pizzas and calzones tumbled to the ground.
Blix jammed the barrel of the pistol into her delicate ribs. "Don't make a peep, Missy, or y'all be splattered like that pizza there."
Fearing for her life, fright and survival flooded Corrie's senses once again. Would this nightmare never end? As much as she loathed this man, she had to cooperate. Niki would surely notice her missing and overpower this beast masquerading as a holy man.
Unfortunately for Corrie, Niki didn't notice her missing until he reached the cordoned-off area in front of the Bronze Doors. Looking back, he called after her. Was she lost?
His eyes saw the pizza boxes scattered between footsteps, and he scanned the multitudes. Where was she? Then he saw her hand in the air waving frantically. Someone had her. Who? She was now 50 feet away. He looked again, they were heading southwest toward the Statue of St. Peter on the left side of the Basilica. God, what was he going to do?
Common sense took over. Realizing discretion is the better part of valor, he raced back through the Bronze Doors to Stephen's office.
Dateline: Vatican City - Office of the Head of Universal Communications - November 6, 5:43 p.m.
Pat, refreshed and sporting a set of fresh clothes provided by Stephen, was helping the future Cardinal assemble the remaining documents for the 6 p.m. press conference.
"They should be here any minute," Pat remarked, looking at his watch. "Aren't you hungry yet?"
"Yeah, but it'll have to wait until after this press conference," Stephen replied, "which isn't going to be a picnic."
"Hey, I hear yah," Pat sympathized. "We'll save yah some. After I eat I'm just gonna kick back an--"
Niki burst into the office, out of breath, speaking almost incoherently. "They - they - someone has grabbed Corrie!"
"What?" Pat was on his feet.
"Someone kidnapped her near the Bronze Doors."
"Where is she now?"
"In the Square," Niki gasped, trying to catch his breath, "heading for the front of the Basilica on the left."
Stephen assessed the situation. "No doubt they're heading for either the bombed-out area or behind the Basilica."
"What's the quickest way to head them off?" Pat demanded.
"Not through the Square," Niki insisted, realizing how packed it was.
"Take the Scalia Regia," Stephen asserted. "It'll take you to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and through the Basilica. You've still got your badges, you should be okay. Here, take these. You may need 'em." He handed Pat a pair of binoculars. "I'll notify Lieutenant Geraud. Go."
"Thanks, Steve," Pat eagerly took the glasses, bewilderment showing on his face.
"Well, times a wastin', get going," Stephen insisted as they flew out of the room and west down the marble hall towards the great staircase.
Dateline: Santo Spirito Mortuary - Expanse of lawn overlooking the Tiber - November 6, 5:47 p.m.
The EMS chopper had settled on the grassy tarmac of the mortuary's back side. The attendants waited for the rotary blades to slow down before they moved forward to greet Colin and Ogidi, the first out of the chopper. They were followed by the Swiss Guards, Kinsajira and Ghislieri toting the gurney bearing the late Pontiff. They placed the slab holding Clement on the attendants' waiting vehicle and wheeled it to the doors on the backside where Ogidi signed a paper releasing the body to the mortuary.
Then all quickly returned and, within minutes, they were airborne again, swinging back northwest toward Rome. The pilot would first deposit Dr. Ogidi and Colin Rembert back at the Vatican, then Dr. Ghislieri and the two EMS attendants to its station on the roof of the Ospedale Santo Spirito and then Kinsajira to the Gemelli which was a good distance from the Santo Spirito Mortuary.
While all seemed copasetic, the course would take an interrupted encore. A distress signal on the squawk box had just prompted the pilot to alter direction, banking toward the sea and Fiumicino Airport. There had been a shooting on the far side. Someone was trying to hijack a helicopter. The blades of the EMS spun mightily as it sped towards the scene of the crime
Though the black fire had been greatly subdued this day, the reddish glow of its embers loomed on the horizon.
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