The November winter sun was setting fast in the west, reflecting off the deep, dark indigo of the Tyrrhenian Sea beyond the expanse of the vast Fiumicino complex, which incorporated the Leonardo da Vinci airport terminal. North of this was a private airstrip for corporate and private jets. From Ogidi's viewpoint in the front seat of the cockpit, he could see another chopper, a silver one gaining altitude. Below several had gathered on the tarmac, around a few bodies who were down, and were, in typical Italian fashion, waving their arms threateningly, but futilely at the far distancing whirlybird heading due northeast toward the Tiber, its destination quite possibly the Vatican.
Meanwhile, on the scuffed surface of the Holy See, the crowds had slowed Blix's exit. Compacted by the fact he was dragging Corrie along, while still trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, his route had been tedious. He had reached the spot in the Square where he was squeezed into a 20 foot wide gamut between the phalanx of Italian militia guarding the ruins and rubble on the left, and the partially damaged massive stone statue of St. Peter on the right. Pushing and shoving continued unabated, much of it by the hooded Franciscan holding the cold steel of a gun to Corrie's side.
Dateline: Vatican City - St. Peter's Square near the Basilica steps - November 6, 5:50 p.m.
Pat and Niki had reached the Vestibule of the Basilica by way of the Scala Regia leading to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Racing down the right nave of the empty, cavernous edifice they sprung out the door south of the Portico by Maderno. Standing on the top step, they frantically searched the crowd for any sign of Corrie and her abductor, sharing the binoculars to zoom in on any suspicious movement.
From the corner of her eye, Corrie spotted Pat and Niki on the steps for the area had been roped off. One chance, that's all she had. Forcing her incisors out with the most vicious clamp she could, she bit down hard on Blix gnarled hand. He let go for an instant, just enough for her to shout from the depths of her lungs for help. Her outburst created a stir around her, but Edwin quickly embargoed any further flare-ups by slamming her upside the head, rendering her unconscious. He would have to drag her the rest of the way.
To Pat's everlasting good fortune, Corrie's scream caught on the slight dusk breeze and honed in on him. "Over there, Nik. Let's go!"
They flew down the steps and ran into a bulwark of people at the base of the Basilica wall. Pat had seen the brown cowl with Corrie. He could see the tip moving slowly past the corner and disappeared to the side. "They're headin' down the side," Pat called back as he tried to part the seas of humanity.
"Wait," Niki grabbed his shirt, pulling Pat back. "I have a better idea. Through the Basilica."
They raced back up the steps and back into St. Peter's racing down the left nave, hurdling debris, stone, and shards of glass - the result of the explosions. Though it was partially blockaded, they were able to pass through by the entrance to the Excavation Office for the Necropolis Tour and towards the Sacrestia. The polished granite Tenerani monument to St. Pius V above the entrance to the Vestry was unscathed; not so below as they climbed over some smaller statues that had been rocked from their fittings.
Dateline: Southwest of Rome - Corporate tarmac on the north side of Fiumicino - November 6, 5:52 p.m.
The EMS chopper had landed, and the attendants along with Doctors Kinsajira and Ogidi had rushed to the aid of the two men lying on the tarmac, as Colin followed, trying to seek the source of this mayhem Both bodies were bleeding profusely; bullet wounds to the chest.
"This one did not make it," Ogidi signaled, covering the poor wretch's head with the white sheet.
"He still breathing," shouted one of the attendants, drawing Dr. Kinsajira over to the patient losing much blood from deep head and shoulder wounds.
"We must airlift him immediately, Per favore, Ho fretta." Kinsajira demanded.
The attendants lifted the patient onto the portable gurney and rushed him to the EMS copter, still idling ready any time to lift off. Colin raced with the patient, forsaking his journalistic tendencies for that of heartfelt empathy, holding the hand of the man, trying to reassure him he'd be okay.
Loading the victim on board and strapping him in, Kinsajira, called back to Ogidi. "Adesso!"
In the swirling wind from the chopper, Ogidi couldn't understand, but knew they needed to take off. He gave his fellow physician the go sign, waving them away. He would stay with the people here. Quite possibly there might be others injured. The EMS whirlybird whooshed up and away, straight to Ospedale Santo Spirito. Colin would be dropped off last. That's the cost of riding in an Emergency vehicle.
Dateline: Vatican City - Bombed-out south side of the Basilica - November 6, 5:56 p.m.
Pat and Niki had zigged and zagged, dug and climbed over the rubble into the large chapel known as the Canon Sacrestia. Part of the back wall had crumbled from the force of the detonation. A gaping hole above the altar revealed that sunset was almost complete.
They raced to the door leading to the corridor that had previously led to the Pauline Hall, now nothing but rubble. The door was jammed as they opted to squeeze through an opening in the wall and drop four feet to the mound of stone, glass and steel ground into fine ruins, still hot to the touch. They scurried down the obstacle course of molten mortar, marble and other materials, still smoking as they found an area of flat ground, untouched by the coffin bombs.
Pat did a quick 360 searching for Corrie and the cowled one. If her abductor or abductors had doubled back into the Square, they were shafted. Both he and Niki were relatively sure they had not been able to penetrate the wall of Italian militia on the south side, guarding the South Bernini Colonnade. That meant they had to be in this area, possibly behind some of the huge boulders west between St. Peter's and the Domus Sanctae Marthae, which had also been leveled, more in an implosion manner.
As they vaulted one obstacle after another, crawling over and around more searing stone, Niki saw it first, zooming in with the binoculars on a brown cowl peeking from behind a huge block of the St. Martha's Palace Facade, now smashed on the ground below, ten feet from the south base wall of St. Peter's. Stealthily they snuck forward, hoping to catch the culprit unaware, overpower whoever they were and rescue Corrie.
With his back clinging to the huge shattered stone structure, Niki crept closer, hoping to God the cowled one wouldn't be alerted to their presence. Pat had taken the high road, climbing up on the smashed granite to sneak up on the kidnappers from above with Niki striking at the same time from behind.
As he reached the crest, Pat yelled "Now!" and hurled himself down on top of the cowled one while simultaneously Niki grabbed at the mysterious abductor from the back. Wham, they rammed into each other. All they could show for their strategy was an empty Franciscan habit. No one there.
Pat threw the woolen frock down in disgust. "Now, what, Nik!?" Despair was setting in.
The whir of a chopper approaching distracted Niki for a second. He zeroed his binoculars on the helicopter. Definitely not a press, police, military or medical copter. It was heading toward the back of the Vatican. "Get up on the rock, now, Pat!" Niki barked.
Pat did immediately and Niki tossed him the binocs. "What do you see?"
"Just a sec, Nik, hold your horses!" Gallagher scanned the area between them and the destination of the helicopter drawing closer to the walls of the Vatican. Then he spotted them. A man dragging Corrie. They were nearing the top of the sloping Vatican Gardens above the Vatican railway station building, and were heading toward the opening in the old wall, near the far south medieval tower. "There, Nik. I see 'em. Let's go."
They headed out, hoping they could catch them by taking the railroad tracks. They would race to the ladder just before the tunnel on the northwest side of the station, behind the Governor's Palace, and scale the wall, scampering across the garden to the wide turret, now silhouetted against the evening sky. They did not see two other plain clothes figures already ahead of them who had emerged from beneath the Governor's Palace.
Dateline: Southwest of Rome - Corporate tarmac on the north side of Fiumicino - November 6, 5:58 p.m.
Once the EMS chopper had disappeared, most that had gathered had scattered. Ogidi had returned with many to the main hangar where two men were arguing. One was an airline pilot, the other the customs official Ogidi had dealt with several nights ago when the coffins had been delivered after midnight on November 3rd.
He dared to interrupt the altercation between the two. "Scusi," interjected the African. "Che cosa?"
"Ah, bene," the Customs official immediately recognized the representative for the International Organization for Worldwide Medical Health. "Signor Ogidi, per favore. Aiuto."
Ogidi nodded as he slipped into his role as Inspector as smoothly as a chameleon. "What is the problem?"
The pilot spoke first, "I know not who you are, sir, but I have filed a flight log and this bloke will not authorize it until the owner notifies Customs as to the purpose."
Ogidi pounced on the opportunity with this English bloke, nodding to the Customs official. "No problemo, signor. I will take it from here. Do you have the docket?" Makuta asked the Customs official who immediately produced it for the doctor.
"Si," the official sighed, relieved to be rid of the headache.
Ogidi directed the English pilot out the side door and they walked toward an adjacent hanger, passing
one lone gentleman steering a cart towards the area where the shootings had occurred which would soon be drenched with hot, soapy water to erase the blood stains. Makuta and the pilot continued on.
"Tell me, my friend, what happened a short while ago?" Ogidi probed.
"Blimey, it was sudden. One of the twins went crazy. Pulled a gun on the chap, he did."
"Twins?" Ogidi's eyes alighted.
"Yes, the Ichariak brothers, they motored in by way of that ghastly limousine over there," replied the Englishman, pointing to the white limo with the smashed back windows and side.
"I see," acknowledged Makuta, as they continued to walk into an unoccupied area.
"Ghostly they are," remarked the pilot. "Tell me, what is necessary for us to clear the customs?"
"Where have you logged on for?" Ogidi inquired.
"Well, sir, it is top secret, but trouble I do not wish. Therefore, a remote airbase in southern Iraq."
"I see," the African responded, in an unrevealing tone. "And the cargo?"
"None that I know of, sir. A few suitcases, fancy garments on hangers, nothing else that I know of. The pilot Derrick Fenton can verify that," the Englishman insisted.
"And where is Mr. Fenton?"
"He is, sir, catching up on some sleep I believe in the back bay of the plane."
"That silver bird over there?" queried Ogidi.
"Yes, it is registered to Blix International," the co-pilot affirmed.
"Of course, Makuta patronized.
"So is there a problem?," the co-pilot mused, not realizing the seriousness of the situation.
"I tell you what I am going to do, my friend," Makuta deadpanned. "You seem like a very nice gentleman and I would hate for you to lose your license over discretions which you have no part in. Therefore, my strongest advice is to catch a shuttle as far away from here as you can. The police will be here soon because of the shootings and will trace it back to your comrades."
With the realization of the consequences hitting the co-pilot squarely in the face, he turned on his heels and hightailed out of there, not bothering to look back.
Dr. Ogidi seized on the co-pilot's panic-filled exodus. Clutching the flight log, Makuta moseyed toward the silver Lear jet on the tarmac. The door was open, the ramp down.
Makuta mounted the steps, and turned left toward the back of the plane.
Next: Part VI - The Unveiling SIXTEENTH CHAPTER - Episode Five
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