WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE! c 1986, 2001
White Smoke, Black Fire!
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 in society. Those were questions already being posed on the 24-hour cable news stations and thousands of web sites. Catholics would come to understand the significance 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 who wanted to get him to a 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, who was covered immediately in the shroud of a black requiem cope and under escort of Drs. Ghislieri, Kinsajira, and Ogidi, as well as Colin Rembert and two Swiss Guards, the deceased Pontiff was wheeled out of the Sistine and to the waiting EMS van.
Beyond, half a mile away, with rotor blades whirling, an EMS chopper had settled down on the Vatican heliopad. The body would be taken to the heliopad 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 his 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 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 novemdiales, 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. I have but a few more announcements and then we shall adjourn. When we do, we would all do well to heed His Holiness' severe words and avail ourselves of the available confessors. God knows we are all lacking and need purifying. Now the final announcement today."
Julies held a piece of paper in his hand, reading it 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."
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 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."
Gregory smiled, 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. Rome 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 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 down 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 and Erich toppled over. The second bullet caught another victim: Luciani Serrano who took a fatal hit. The Legion's flanks were diminishing.
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.
"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 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, seventeen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. 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.
WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE!