Though violence is definitely not a virtue, over the course of history its employment has sometimes been necessary in order to preserve virtue. From the time Lucifer and the legions of angels, bewitched by his infernal insanity, were cast from the Heavens, the modus operandi has always been not to dialogue with the Devil. No deals have ever proved fruitful in dealing with the demons. Those who planned and orchestrated the Second Vatican Council ignored that maxim in believing man could serve both God and mammon. It is impossible to play both sides.
Now the few who clung to the truths and traditions that had served the Church of Rome so well for so many centuries were ready to fight. They were ready to use violence if violence were thrust at them. They would do so not only to preserve the Mystical Body of Christ, but also to validate the countless souls who had fought for the faith; that they had not done so in vain. This tenet had been clouded greatly during the last five decades as matters of this world had more and more been given preference over things of Heaven. Indeed, the dogmas had been blurred by the relativism of the heresy that all worshiped the same God.
This had been the premise of the ill-fated One Eucharist document which Clement XV had been coerced into, never seeing the final anathema-ridden revised draft. Macelli had seen to it through another compromised pawn - the late Cardinal Solomon Adamo, a man who did not share the wisdom of his namesake. Indeed the Secretary of State Adamo would never have urged the Pope to go to Iraq, never have traveled to Iraq himself, never have been a party to such subterfuge had he only known Macelli's intent.
The same, no doubt, for other members of the Curia such as Cardinal Galeotto Brancacci, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He had inherited a veritable mess of confusion and relativism allowed to fester by previous prefects, most notably Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The latter was the trusted prelate John Paul II had appointed, the one who had signed off on the anathema-riddled Pontifical Biblical Commission's conclusions that the Jews wait for the Messiah had not been in vain.
Pope Clement had tried to stop the bleeding by temporarily suspending this commission and other Vatican II-influenced commissions. Though Clement had been a compromise choice, many assumed he would continue the failed Vatican II agenda, despite the universal deterioration that had resulted from the reforms enacted. The schemas prepared had watered down the Faith. Consequently they had also so insidiously given credence to the false beliefs that had always been accursed by the Church prior to the 1960's. The institutional Church had failed to uphold its Divine doctrines.
The balance of power had been thrown out of kilter since the bishops, despite the rash of scandals caused by so many prelates, had continued to wield their power and intimidate the head shepherd. This was the main obstacle the mild mannered Cardinal from Rimini had inherited and had to deal with: mutiny among the miters. The hierarchy was out of control.
In the same manner God allowed destruction in Old Testament times, so also the Field of Abraham catastrophe was sending shockwaves throughout the world. The question most asked: 'How could God allow this?' The real question, considering the moral malaise the world had sunk to, should have been: 'How, in all justice, could He not allow it?!'
Conspiracy abounded as Clement XV, in the short time as the Sovereign Pontiff, had seemed like a cyclone cutting down the houses of hypocrites firmly entrenched in the Church hierarchy. Various curial offices had been put on hold by Clement, most specifically the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Though they were in a state of limbo, still the acting Prefects and their secretaries had accompanied the papal party to Iraq. Once the consentual Judas ink was dry, they were malleable pawns for the evil one; each and everyone of them expendible.
The same fate held for Prefects of the other curial offices. Casualties included nineteen from the nine sacred congregations and twenty-seven from the nine pontifical councils, counting seven of the presidents and fifteen secretaries. In addition, twenty-four from the Offices and Tribunals, including the Prefect of the Apostolic Signature and Vendhem's three assistants in the Reverend Apostolic Chamber, had perished. If one wanted to get rid of the help, send them on a fateful trip to Iraq. At least that was the German Cardinal's warped and sadistic inference, so insanely dedicated was he to his Master.
Dateline: - Vatican City, Apostolic Palace Infirmary - November 5, 5:30 p.m.
Traces of the winter sun were disappearing over the Bernini Colonnade as inside St. Peter's attendants were frantically shooing mourners out of the Basilica. It was already a half-hour past the deadline for viewing. Within a few minutes Prelates, diplomats and Vatican personnel would be arriving for Vespers and the Holy Rosary in paying their respects to their deceased colleagues.
As darkness descended the Square still swelled with people. They would exit eventually, but they would not go quickly nor quietly. The surge of "Ave, Ave, Ave Maria" slippered across the massive St. Peter's Square in reverent, melodious tones, acoustically boxed in by the great Basilica on one side and the enclosed curved Colonnade on either side. It forced the melody out onto the open Via della Conciliazione which was now wall-to-wall with bodies who were slowly, reluctantly moving inch by inch away from the Vatican.
From the Cortile di San Damaso, Pat Gallagher would have had a clear view from the second floor of the Infirmary all afternoon had he been awake. As it was he had been in a deep sedated state. Time and rest would heal the wounds more quickly as the medical staff prepared for a skeleton crew so most could attend the pre-funeral services.
The night nurse had begun her rounds after relieving the day nurse at 5 p.m. As this tertiary nurse reviewed the charts and prepared the prescribed medicine for the nine patients in the infirmary this night, she was unaware of the dangers that lurked within these hallowed halls. She entered the room where Pat rested, moving to his side to check the monitor and IV. Then she gently prodded him.
"Scusi, Signore. Let us take your blood pressure, per favore?"
Pat was coming out of a deep sleep. He felt woozy but cognizant of his surroundings. The Third Order nun wrapped the blood pressure cuff around his arm and pumped. He could feel the pressure which brought him back to the reality of it all. As she studied the gage, Pat couldn't help but think of all that had passed so quickly over this last week. Poor Karel, he thought. God how he wished he could turn back the clock! Even inside the Vatican he could feel the Basilisk's presence, could smell its stench. Were his friends safe? God, he thought, what about Corrie, and Vic?
He was scared for not only himself, but also for those he loved.
"Well, you won't be getting around anytime soon, Padre. Your blood pressure is still way too high.
You do not smoke, do you?" The night nurse inquired clinically.
"Some," Pat tempered the truth.
"It can kill you," she remarked still in a very clinical tone.
"So can a lot of other things," Pat shot back. "Think about it. No one gets out of this life alive anyway."
"Si. Tranquillo. Shh, il termometro."
With that she stuck the thermometer in his mouth, jamming it under his tongue. Pat was content to wile away the next few seconds as he scanned the room, more coherent now that he had been awakened. The pain wasn't as intense. Was it the laser surgery or the pain medicine? He didn't know and prayed it was the former while his attention focused on a magnificent painting of Castel Sant'Angelo on the side wall. That was the same one he saw on his way into Rome in the taxi. Impressive. The nurse withdrew the thermometer.
"Bene. No febbre."
"That picture over there. It's an interesting setting. What's it of?" inquired Pat.
"Oh, that. Castel Sant'Angelo," the nurse responded. "It was critical to the Popes in times past as an escape route when the Vatican was under siege."
"Really?" enthused Gallagher, urging her to continue.
"Si. Pope Saint Gregory VII in the eleventh century fled there when the German King Henry marched on the city. So also Pope Clement VII in 1527. They and many other Popes escaped danger in the Vatican through secret tunnel to the great circular fortress that had once been a pagan tomb. Today it is empty. Too many problems. A tourist filed a lawsuit some years ago and the Italian Parliament thought it best to just close it down"
"Empty?" asked Pat. "What's it called again?"
"For a priest," the nurse remarked, "you ask an awful lot of questions. No? You would have made a good, what they call - reporter. No?"
"So I've been told," Pat winked. If only she knew.
"You need to stop talking and rest, Father Donaldson," she playfully reprimanded him.
"I'm not that tired."
"You will be," she assured as she maneuvered a clip on the IV. "Rest now. We will check on you later this evening."
As she exited she looked back at the picture, nodding to him. "Si, much history in this castle."
"Castle?" The epiphany finally hit him.
She had left the room as he stared at the picture, trying to penetrate the stone walls and see through to the room, to where the Pope was. He had to notify, he had to... The castle began fading into the distance, farther and farther away, rising into the sky, swirls enveloping it, and then a black fog totally engulfed it as the sedative in Pat's system took full effect.
Dateline: Vatican City - Apostolic Palace Basement - November 5, 5:40 p.m.
Three floors below another resister for the cause would not make Vespers this evening. Sister Bridie was in an unconscious state, her head drooped towards her right shoulder, hands stretched painfully behind the wooden chair. For hours she had been rudely sealed to this wooden constriction by the taut rope, which bound her wrists and held her fast to this position. Her ankles had also been tied to the legs of the chair. Sergeant Alonzo Dionis had secured her members tightly to the wood with a reel of fresh rope. He had cut three sections off the long 100-ft. hemp to confine the Irish nun, then rewound the rope, clasping a clip around it to hold the roll in place and fastened it to another clip on his belt.
She had been helpless and, after Gestapo-like grilling, much in the same manner Macelli, Vendhem and Urazzi had subjected Riage Benziger to before his untimely death, she divulged nothing. More than the physical torture, it was the mental agony that grew and, through mercy, God allowed her to escape the grueling treatment by lapsing into an insentient state.
To her good fortune and the guards', who would eventually be held accountable for their actions before the almighty Judge, they had not searched her, not stripped her down nor defiled her in any way. Whether these particular guards were truly evil or merely duped obedient stewards of a far worse evil, they were accomplices to the Legion. The fact was that most who had secured the approval of mammon had no time for a woman, so perverted were their carnal desires. As she sat there barely breathing, the two guards sat and waited, joking and wagering on when she would awake, much in the same fashion the Roman soldiers cast lots for the cloak of Christ.
Whatever they wagered, all bets were off as the elevator door dinged and out stepped a perturbed Antonio Macelli accompanied by Elena Grabe. The guards snapped to attention.
"Buona sera, Senor Macelli."
"E oribile!" the rotund Camerlengo scowled.
One of the guards tried to apologize and appease at the same time. "We have not been able to extract any- -"
"No excuses," Macelli snapped, taking a glass of water from the table and splashing it in Sister Bridie's face.
The shock of the cold liquid awoke the weakened nun. Realizing it had not been a dream, but a living nightmare uncontrollable tears began to flow, disgusting Macelli all the more.
"I have no time for tears, woman. I want answers."
Sister tried to abate her weeping, castigating the ecclesial fraud standing over her. "You be a shameful disgrace to the Church and our dear Lord, you be."
Macelli snarled and then, in a sickly sweet tone, attempted to mock her further. "My dear misguided Irish whore of your Christ, being a hero will only cost you your life. You don't want that. You want to live."
"Sure n' I don't - not if it be by the Basilisk's rule?" she sniffled, the tear ducts still moist.
"Vat does she know of the Basilisk?" Elena demanded as she moved into Sister's view.
Sister Bridie was now more defiant than ever. "Just that it will fail. You will fail. God not be allowin' it!"
"Hah, God!" snorted Macelli. "There is no God. He will not save you. Forget Him and cooperate with us and you may have anything you wish, dear Sister."
Indignantly Sister Bridie gathered up all the strength that she could, bellowing in the most authoritative voice possible. "Begone, Satan!!!"
Her outburst caused Macelli to lose control. In a fit of temper he reached back and pulled with all his might one of the many giant ceramic statues being stored in this room. It crashed to the floor, plaster flying everywhere. In outrage he grabbed the nape of Sister Bridie's neck beneath her veil, twisting her head down towards the shattered pieces.
"You see that? Smashed beyond recognition. That, Sister, will be your fate if you do not tell us what you know about the Pope. Where is he?"
"Go to hell!" Sister managed to mutter in disgust and contempt.
"Use it now," demanded Grabe to Macelli. "Ve vaste valuable time with this harlot. This truth serum will be the answer. Urazzi failed but I shall not. Men. They do not think." Loathing laced her words as she continued. "Let a real woman handle this weeping willow of a woman."
With the syringe in her right hand, she grabbed Sister Bridie's left arm and rudely pulled the cuff and sleeve up towards her exposed bicep to insert the syringe. A corner of white towel with deep black marks was visible. She yanked at it, then began pulling it out from the sleeve beneath Sister's wimple. Grabe was not gentle.
"Vat is this?" she barked, yanking it all the way out.
"There is something written on it," observed Macelli, despising this dominant German female.
"Ja. But it is all smeared."
Turning back to the helpless nun, Macelli glared and probed. "But there was something written here, wasn't there, Sister Bridie?"
"You be goin' back to hell!!!" she spit out.
Grabe had seen enough. Furiously she wielded the syringe down toward Sister's exposed arm. With every fiber of strength left Sister Bridie rocked in her chair as the needle found nothing but the back of the chair. The impact of the hard surface forced the needle back up into the container which continued on its instant course to collide with the wood. The crack of glass and the fluid spilled out, forcing the syringe from Elena's hand in shock. Shards hit the floor breaking up into smaller pieces melding with the shattered statue. Macelli was livid.
"Now you have lost control and the means to make her talk as well, you dumbkoff!" snapped Macelli, taking great delight in mocking this obnoxious fraulein. The fact of the matter was that even though Macelli had not coaxed the information he so desperately desired, he got a sick rush from seeing his competitors within the Legion fail. Misery loves company and there is no company more despised like the love of evil to create infernal misery.
"I have more upstairs," retaliated Grabe in a pique. "I will get it. All is not lost."
"Bring it later tonight," commanded Antonio. "I have other matters to tend to which I am late for as it is. We waste time here."
He turned to one of the guards, "Captain Lubac, temporarily dispatch the sister until we have need for her later."
The guard, known as Leon Lubac, strategically placed his thumb and forefinger on the back of Sister Bridie's neck. Pinching just the right spot, he quickly rendered her unconscious. She would thank him later. It sure beat being knocked over the head with a blunt object.
"Do you think it is a good idea to wait?" Grabe dared question Macelli's decision.
"Under the circumstances, yes," retorted the red-robed prelate. "Besides, Elena, you allowed your anger to conquer your sensibilities. That serum was valuable."
"It will not happen again," Grabe reeled under the rebuke.
Macelli had once again gained the upper hand. "It had better not, We have already had too many foul ups."
Again he turned to the Judas guard Captain Leon Lubac. "Captain, where is that guard with the soiled linen?"
"Sergeant Kutsch never returned. I thought--"
"Damn!" Macelli realized something was afoot.
"I will go bring him back. Urazzi's office, no?" Lubac was trying to gain redemption.
"No! Elena will go and take care of the problem. You, Captain, call your cohorts and post two guards at the entrance to Monsignor Navarro's office and two at the entrance to his room."
"Why not just bring him here?" Grabe tried to reason.
"No! We need to loosen the knot, let him betray his hand. He knows much more than he is letting on. There is also another man. Navarro smuggled him into the Vatican last night or this morning. Lieutenant Rogers van Bulthazar identified him. He digitized a still photo from the security cameras. Here is what he looks like. He is a reporter from Dallas. His name: Pat Gallagher. Find him!"
Macelli had reached beneath his blood-red cassock to produce a folded Xerox of Pat's photo, handing it to Lubac. He handed two more to Elena as they stepped into the elevator.
"See that the guards you pass are given these. Wait until 6:15. Then go to Urazzi's office. There will be no one in the halls for they will be in the Basilica or the receptions. Bring the bodies of Urazzi and Benziger back here in the linen cart. We will dispatch of them in the incinerator behind this room along with the meddlesome nun as well. Oh, and see if you can locate Sergeant Felix Kutsch. I sent him up there hours ago. I suspect he may have run into some problems. Find him also."
"Ja voll." Grabe complied. "For the Master I will do this."
The elevator door opened to the third floor and the two exited. Grabe turned right down the corridor towards the cloistered wing where Sister Agnes' old room was located. The German would retrieve more serum. Macelli headed left down the marbled corridor to the intimate gathering in the outer reception room of the Secretary of State. Here in the Vatican Palace five of his compromised colleagues awaited in a pre-General Congregation session that few others knew about.
A floor below, Monsignor Stephen Navarro, O.M.I. was in his office working diligently, so much so that he did not hear the two guards, whom Lubac had called, arrive for sentinel duty on either side of the front door. Stephen's mind, for now, was focused on collating the last of the eulogies of those Vatican personnel slain on the Field of Abraham five days ago. He had already left biographies of each Cardinal eligible for the conclave in the respective areas where the Cardinals would gather. Along with these, he had copies of the Holy Father's Quodcumque Solveris which had pre-empted John Paul II's Universi Dominici Gregis. These would be distributed to the press corps later tonight or before 8 a.m. tomorrow in the common press room located in the Nervi Hall. This latest collection, this tome of material would furnish the fifth estate the material they would need to provide stories, features, and sidebars before, during and after the funeral.
He looked at his watch. Still ten minutes or so before four volunteer attendants would arrive. With their assistance he'd be able to get them to Paul VI Hall. Realizing time was slipping away, he intensified his efforts of preparing the last of the kits, each weighing five pounds or roughly one fourth of a ream. It took that much paper when eulogizing and providing data on the final tally of 172 victims from the Holy See who lost their lives in Iraq, including 81 Cardinals.
With his immediate duties completed, he could focus all his attention on rescuing Sister Bridie if she was still alive. The thought sent chills up his spine as he wrapped up the final kits.
So much work. So little time. So short the help. So many dangers. So great the sorrow.
Next: PART IV: The Shrouding ELEVENTH CHAPTER Episode Three
"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.