Part V:
White Smoke, Black Fire!
The Shedding

Thirteenth Chapter

      Episode Six

             The image of the old-fashioned country doctor fit Giuseppe Ghislieri, M.D. so appropriately. He was a throwback to times past. Colin Rembert was the perfect concierge. He had immediately reached Dr. Ghislieri at his flat on the top floor of an old monastery that had been converted into a pensione on the Via Alberico. He managed the entire fourth floor. Stained glass windows highlighted his living area, the perfect harmonious touch for this medical man who was so religious as well. He had lived here for several years. It was ideal for him since it was close to both the Holy See and the Ospedale di Sant'Spirito, the hospital at the base of the Piazza della Rovere. His abode, compact, but spacious enough for him, looked out towards the Castle of the Holy Angel beyond his veranda balcony on one side and to the Vatican from his bedroom window on the other end of the floor. It was in the latter where Colin had reached him. Within minutes Dr. Ghislieri had descended the steps to his Mercedes in the garage.
             Ten minutes later he was mounting the stairs of the Scala Pia, enroute to the Pope's Private Chapel which was situated between the Sala degli Arazzi and the Sala del Trono on the second floor of the Papal Apartments. This trusted man had a perpetual pass. Pope's personal orders. No one questioned where the head physician of the Holy See went.
             Meanwhile, Stephen had returned to the area of the tunnel where Zachmunn was growing weaker. Sacristy. Together he and Sister Bridie helped to make Cardinal Zachmunn more comfortable, placing a pillow beneath his head and covering his prone body with the tablecloth which Navarro had pilfered from the Pope's kitchen. Though it would not add warmth physically, psychologically a thin garment over a person could give a sense of security, hope. For Gregory it had helped. However, it was not the sheer white pellicle that gave him strength. No, it was Zachmunn's faith in God and knowing that Stephen had been so reliable; he knew and saw the true dedication of Sister Bridie. If he were to die here, at least he was in good company.
             Once Gregory had been made as comfortable as possible, Stephen, with Sister's assistance, had used the knife and nut-cracker to chisel away the primitive bolts that seemingly had not been unloosened for quite possibly sixty or seventy years. Finally they had been able to pry the door open. Blocking it had been a sacristan bench. With the ornate backing it stood six feet tall. With some difficulty Stephen had been able to hoist himself up and over it and, then had pulled it away from the wall, allowing free access for anyone coming or going.
             Their wait had not been not long.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Tunnel just off Papal Sacristy - November 6, 3:00 a.m.

             Crossing in haste through the Sala del Trono to the Sacristy, Dr. Ghislieri took no notice of the two ancient clocks set upon marble tables in this Room of the Throne. Looking down from the other side of the room a delicately ivory-carved Christ peered out from the cross. The features on His face illustrated the pain He must have felt then and now at the sorrowful state to which His beloved Church and His children had sunk. The old timepieces could very well have represented that linear time of Christ and modern time. Perhaps elliptical time. One thing was certain as the Doctor passed through these room enroute to the Pope's Private Sacristy where Stephen awaited with a very weakened, possibly dying Cardinal Gregory Zachmunn: The only time that really counted was beyond finite control for God's time remained infinite.
             Dr. Ghislieri was somewhat surprised that no guards were standing duty either at the entrance to the Sala del Trono nor here at the entrance to the Pope's Private Chapel. There must be more pressing matters elsewhere he assumed as he opened the ornate door to the quiet, dark chapel where a vigil light flickered. Genuflecting, he crossed through the sanctuary to the Sacristy.
             Stephen eagerly greeted Giuseppe, "Thank you for coming, Doctor."
             "Buona sera. Quanto tempo?" the Doctor asked.
             "It started about half an hour ago, Doctor," Navarro answered, ushering him into the tunnel where Ghislieri soon knelt to feel Cardinal Zachmunn's pulse, as a concerned Sister Bridie looked on.
             "Si. Il cuore. Very, very weak. difficolta a respirare," was all Dr. Ghislieri said as he reached into his bag and retrieved a syringe of atropine to relieve pain.
             Cardinal Zachmunn raised his eyelids, trying to speak.
             "No," the Doctor insisted, rolling up the sleeve of Gregory's cassock. "Le daro un antievralgico," as he plunged the needle into Zachmunn's arm. "This make him more comfortable," he assured all present as he removed Gregory's Roman collar and unbuttoned the top few buttons of his cassock. He reached in and pulled out over the black cassock with red trim a chain which contained the Cardinal's Miraculous Medal and another medallion. It was what he had hoped.
             "Si, he heaved a sigh of relief and quickly retrieved from his black bag a small palm pilot in which he entered the numbers on the medallion. Within seconds Gregory's medical history and treatment was in front of him on the small screen. "Si, you were right, Monsignore. Nitroglycerin."
             The Doctor placed two of the tiny pills beneath Gregory's tongue where they would dissolve, then took Zachmunn's blood pressure. "Some Ephenefrine will help raise his blood pressure, very low," diagnosed Ghislieri as Gregory started to sluggishly respond to the medicine applied by the Vatican's chief physician.
             Fifteen minutes passed while the Doctor stayed, monitoring Gregory's progress every few minutes. Meanwhile Sister Bridie joined Stephen in the Papal Chapel praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the great hour of 3 o'clock. Never mind it was after three in the morning, it was still the great hour of mercy for God had preserved the good Cardinal.
             Returning at 3:15, Stephen confided in the Doctor about some of the events that had occurred. In his heart, he knew Dr. Ghislieri could be trusted. Slowly Gregory regained his strength. The color returned and he was strong enough to sit up, to drink some more water.
             "I recommend, your Eminence, you rest here tonight. No?" Dr. Ghislieri respectfully and firmly suggested.
             "Under the circumstances, Giuseppe, I believe you are right."
             "Buono. Would Monsignore then prepare bed in this room to make his Eminence comfortable?"
             "Yes, of course," Stephen replied, throwing open the sacristy cabinets where magnificent copes, chasubles, and white albs hung. He gathered several and laid them out reverently on the marble floor of the Sacristy, giving the Cardinal enough soft padding beneath.
             Sister Bridie followed up by preparing one of the larger copes as a bed covering. Gregory had gotten to his feet and was now standing, aided by the Doctor.
             "I can't thank you enough, dear Doctor," Gregory spoke. "I'm tired, but not discouraged. Once again God has provided."
             As the doctor aided Gregory to recline on the prepared mattress of vestments, Stephen suggested that Sister Bridie take refuge in the Papal quarters. "I know it isn't according to protocol, your Eminence, but considering the time and dangers about, wouldn't you agree that the safest place for Sister Bridie would be in the Pope's own quarters."
             Her amazement and blush were soon calmed by the Cardinal's affirmation. "I agree wholeheartedly with you, Stephen. Indeed, our dear Lord Himself would have it so tonight." Turning his head towards her with a smile that danced in his eyes, "Sister, you've been a true angel."
             "See, Sister, we won't take no for an answer," Stephen chided her good-naturedly. "You need some sleep. We all do. I'll take Sister to the Apartment and I'll be back to keep watch with you, your Eminence."
             "I appreciate that, Stephen. Go in peace."
             Stephen escorted the Irish nun back into the tunnel and up the steep stairs to the Papal Apartment, while the Doctor finished up his diagnosis on the Cardinal.
             "St. Louis? You must have been appalled, your Eminence, at what they did to Fr. Donaldson."
             "What?" Gregory was taken aback by the Doctor's comment.
             "Fr. Donaldson's arm. Flesh was burnt through. Any longer he could very well have lost arm. Had we not had laser technology I fear--"
             "Fr. Donaldson is home in St. Louis, Doctor. I don't know what--" Just then it registered with Gregory as he recalled what Stephen had explained about Pat Gallagher and his odyssey into the Vatican. He couldn't help but chuckle. "That, good Doctor, was not my Fr. Donaldson."
             "Che?" Ghislieri was both upset and confused.
             Gregory tried to appease him, still musing how Pat had pulled it off. "It's okay. You treated a very good man. His name is Patrick Gallagher. He's on our side. He was attacked by the Legion. Stephen smuggled him into the Holy See and Sister Bridie brought him to the infirmary. God just knew you'd be there for him!"
             The Italian physician made a quick sign of the cross in thanksgiving for being God's instrument just as Stephen reappeared. "Sister's fine. I'm gonna grab some vestments and plop down over there. I'll watch him, Doctor."
             "Molto bene, Monsignore. I can see he is in good hands." Extracting from his bag a Remington cordless shaver and a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush he placed it on the counter between the sacristy cabinets. "I have these at home. You need this more than I in morning. Speaking of mattino, I must get some sleep anche."
             "Buona notte, Doctor, and grazie." Stephen gratefully expressed as the Doctor packed his bag and headed for the door.
             "Si. Buona notte," the Doctor replied looking at his watch, "or should I say, buon giorno, it will be light soon. Ah, one more thing. My fee?"
             Stephen and Gregory looked at the Doctor a bit stupefied. "Your fee, Doctor? How much will it--"
             Ghislieri interrupted with a broad smile. "No, no denaro. Orare. You, Monsignore, a Rosary. Si?"
             Stephen nodded enthusiastically.
             "And from your Eminence, when you are stronger, a Mass for my family?"
             "Consider it done, Giuseppe," Gregory assured him. "Thank you again, my dear friend."
             "Ah, my kind of patients," the Italian physician piped as he exited whistling the Ave Maria. Hopefully, in retracing his steps out of the Vatican, his happy piccolo tones would not be heard by unfriendly ears, would not wake the Legion.

      Dateline: Rome - Castel Sant'Angelo - November 6, 3:25 a.m.

             The maze within the ancient fortress had been puzzling and most frustrating for Pat and Niki. They had entered the castle, descending some steps where they came across a giant black phoenix rising from the ashes, with blue and red streaks; a pagan symbol to be sure from the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. They had traveled up a wide caverned corridor which was amply illuminated by the moon above thanks to wide, thick ventilation shafts that reached from the wide tunnels to the upper ceiling of this rock citadel. Shortly, they had come across a miniature of the castle as it had been centuries ago. Niki had stopped to study it, trying to pinpoint what room the Holy Father might be in. It was like finding a needle in the haystack, except this needle was intended to be the thread that held the fabric of the Faith together.
             They had searched practically every room, every nook and cranny - there were plenty of them on seven, maybe eight different levels - until they had realized they had been looking in the wrong place. They finally had come to that realization when they arrived above the parapets of the circular citadel. There, in the shadow of the cast iron angel and bell perched above them on the pinnacle of the castle, they had a better vantagepoint. They had arrived near an area which just a few years ago had served as a restaurant and multi-level observation deck to survey landmarks of the Eternal City. Looking out toward the northwest corner, they had realized instantly where the Roman Pontiff was when they had seen the 80 foot high wall serpentining from the Vatican to the northwest turret on the outer wall. Major Benziger would not have been able to carry the Pope further into the castle. The Pope had to be somewhere in the vicinity of that solid stone minaret jutting out from the wall they hadn't been able to penetrate.
             Racing back down the thick stone ramps, they had hurried outside and to the entrance on the inner side of the exterior rampart.
             Now, mounting two flights of stairs, they arrived in a room where the moonlight was filtered, muted more or less by the lunar angle. Yet, it was not pitch black. They could still see objects faintly.
             "Over there," Niki shouted, as Pat joined him, flicking his lighter. There against the wall was His Holiness Clement XV.
             "That's him," Pat buzzed, without realizing the lighter was getting hot. "Ouch."
             Niki moved to the Pontiff's side. "He is unconscious, but there is a pulse. He is alive, Patrick." You could almost hear the celebration in the Greek priest's voice as if he had seen the wounds of Christ Himself as St. Thomas had when he proclaimed, 'Dominus meus, et Deus meus.'
             "Thank God," Pat declared, dropping to his knees out of both sincere thanks and total exhaustion.
             "This is when we could sure use Doctor Ogidi," Niki lamented.
             "So how do we get the Pope outta here?"
             "I am not sure, my friend. I do know we can neither move him right now nor leave him."
             Pat was already stretched out on the hard stone, curled up in a fetal position. "Maybe if we sleep on it..." He was gone, sound asleep. After a few prayers, Fr. Nikolas Andriopoulos would join him in slumberland. Renewed hope sustained their rest. The Pope was still alive.
             As the clouds shrouded the moon from casting its light this night in Castel Sant'Angelo, the resisters knew in the depths of their hearts what they must do. Somehow the great shroud of evil had to be exposed, the mask of the Legion must be shed for all to see the perfidious hideousness of its face.

      Next: PART V: The Shedding FOURTEENTH CHAPTER Episode One

"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.


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