VThe last of the Vatican personnel, Prelates and diplomats to pay their respects to their fallen colleagues had vacated St. Peter's Basilica and the doors locked. If one were to have remained within the great cavity of this magnificent structure, still the largest authentic church in the world, one would have been overwhelmed by the immense silence within. Not a soul breathed, not a mouse crept, and, strangely, not one candle flickered.
Outside the confines of this centuries-old edifice, few living creatures were aware of the black Mercedes that slithered through the St. Anne's gates. It snaked around and behind the great Basilica and into the maze of abandoned avenues and alleys behind the Apostolic Palace, creeping to a stop near the back entrance.
Dateline: Vatican City - Back Entrance to the Apostolic Palace, November 5, 8:05 p.m.
One of Macelli's mavericks in full regalia met Brunatti and Serrano. The trunk lid popped up and the two men exited the car. With help from the Swiss Guard they lifted a huge black trunk out and carefully carried it to the top step.
"E pesante. Si?" Serrano expounded to the guard.
"Si. Ma necessario," assessed the guard.
"You have the costumes?" Brunatti asked curtly.
"C'e Elena qui?" Serrano inquired.
"Si. She waits inside as well," the guard assured.
They hefted the heavy trunk up and carried it inside, up a short flight of stairs and set it down in a small foyer. A statue of St. John Chrysostom, a Doctor of the Church and the one referred to as the "golden throated one" for his magnificent homilies, towered above the three men as Elena arrived. If only the world could have heard the golden voice warn this night of the danger, the immense danger, that lie within the trunk. But the marble statue remained silent, staring straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the conversation below.
"Ah, good. It is finally here." snapped Elena. "Open it."
They set it down and Guillaume produced a key that unlocked the trunk. Books, missals and other religious items and nuns' garments had been jostled somewhat, exposing the cavity that contained the false bottom.
"This will not do," she complained, as she rearranged the base of the trunk, stacking the books so they hid the bottom deck which contained the computer. It was the same type of computer she had used to detonate the explosives on the Field of Abraham nearly six days ago.
It had arrived from the United States by way of Soto Ichariak and Edwin Blix's private jet, the same that had carried Pat to Basra. This Lear jet had logged a goodly amount of miles over the past week. Soto had directed the trunk and other materials to the warehouse which Niki and Ogidi had surveyed. This modest two story building on the hill above the Coliseum was merely a cover for the covert operatives of the Legion. It had been purchased by Blix International three months ago, though no records would show such connection.
The guard had motioned to Brunatti and Serrano to a room off this small foyer. Within five minutes they both emerged in full regalia. Serrano looked a bit stout and short for his outfit. Brunatti's fit fine.
"Realize there are other guards who will be suspicious," sneered Grabe.
"Are you sure?" queried Serrano.
"Ja. I am sure." the German snarled.
They would realize the truth of her words. Two sets of guards would intercept them on the way to Sister Agnes' old room on the third floor of the east wing. Fortunately for them, and unfortunate for the forces of good, Captain Royce Schuster and Lieutenant Felix Geraud were not there. Therefore a thorough search of the trunk was not conducted. The lead covering over the cavity that contained the computer prevented the portable security scanners from detecting the contents beneath her 'belongings.' X-ray beams would only show an extremely thick bottom. If anyone had been suspicious perhaps they might have searched further. However with the presence of two guards accompanying this nun, no guard dared question a nun by going through her things, not in her presence at least. Because of this unwritten courtesy the coordinates determinator of doom had been smuggled into the Vatican this night.
Once safely inside Sister Agnes' room, Elena dug into the trunk, flinging the religious items unnecessarily into a heap on the side. Carefully she unlatched the false bottom, lifting the small computer out and placing it on the table. Brunatti and Serrano watched attentively as the German Mastered her craft.
She slipped from beneath her habit a plastic card and inserted it in the side slot. The screen came to life as a Flash message evolved out of the blank background. 'Mirror of the future - Window to all: The Reflector Detector awaits!'
Blix had supplied the weapons and the trigger. Grabe typed in a password and within seconds she was connected. A few clicks and she was on wireless voice modem. It was ringing directly to the private modem of Edwin Blix.
"Elena, y'all set up?" Blix recognized her ID and had responded promptly.
"Ja. No problems. Brunatti and Serrano are with me. Macelli and Vendhem are busy with the foolish ones in red."
"Then all's secure?"
"For the most part, Herr Blix."
Blix was livid. "What do you mean 'for the most part'? Ah want purrrrfection! Ya hear?"
Apprehension showed in her voice, "Ve are working on it."
"Workin' on what!!!" He was bellowing.
"The prize is still missing. They did not get the ring. Urazzi is dead and two guards missing" she listed.
"Oh, is that all?," Blix said sarcastically.
"We have an Irish nun in the basement. She will talk after the foolish ones' meeting tonight when Macelli joins me."
"Are ya so sure, Elena?" Blix's voice dripped with gall. "Ah'm afraid Ah do not have the confidence in ya Ah once did. The premature triggerin' in Iraq. That was inexcusable."
Grabe took a deep gulp. "We will not fail."
"No, y'all better not."
"I await further instructions," Grabe responded in a non-emotional voice.
"We gotta clean up the loose ends, before we proceed further, ya heah?"
"Ja, mein Herr."
"Ah need ya to find someone for me. Name's Patrick Gallagher. Maria was to eliminate him but she failed. Ah've reason to believe he's not only in Rome, but quite possibly in the Vatican itself by now."
"Ja. Macelli just gave me a picture of him. Ve will search him out." Elena assured.
"Good, Ah'll mirror over another photo of him so y'all can be on the watch for him."
"What is his business here?" Grabe inquired.
"Mah editor mistakenly sent him to Iraq in place of Jordan Collier. Gallagher's mucked things up wherever he's gone."
"That is not good, mein Herr."
"No it's not, Elena. But ah'll handle Mr. Van Wess in mah own way. In fact, he's waitin' for me in mah study as we speak. Ah'll let him wait a while longer. I love to see 'em squirm," Blix stated sadistically. One could sense the reptilian hiss in his words.
"The photos of this reporter are coming through now," Grabe notified Blix. "Ja, it is the same person Macelli identified."
"Good. Then get him!"
"Very well," answered Grabe. "Any instructions for Brunatti and Serrano?"
The two Italians, ridiculously decked out in Swiss Guard duds, shuffled their feet nervously anticipating Blix's instructions.
"Have 'em make sure the shipment arrives safe and stay with it," Blix insisted. "That's all."
"That is it?" blurted Serrano in obvious disappointment.
"That's what Ah said. See that it's done and done well. Y'all understand?"
"Yes, sir!" Brunatti, Grabe and Serrano all replied in rote. "We pledge our lives to make his reign possible. We are the Legion. Long live the Basilisk."
"Yeah, see to it. Adios." Blix signed off.
Grabe, Brunatti and Serrano stood there, not exactly sure what just transpired. Blix had a way with people that way. Like his master, he used people and then discarded them as yesterday's garbage. That had always been the modus operandi of those who were slaves to the prince of the world. Like the fallen angel Lucifer, they said 'non serviam' - 'I will not serve.' In truth, they were serving and, in doing so, ironically and fatefully, serving up for themselves an eternity of unending fire and brimstone. The logic of the lust for power is totally illogical.
Next: PART IV: The Shrouding TWELFTH CHAPTER Episode One
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