Part V:
White Smoke, Black Fire!
The Shedding

Fourteenth Chapter

      Episode Five

             The contrast of worlds were preparing for the ultimate clash. Those in the subterranean room of the Pentagram were brash in their appraisal. Despite the warnings from two among the summit of six, the other four blanched and scoffed at the weak response of the resistance. Yes, four of their own ranks had been dispatched, but they were merely foot soldiers - very disposable. Yes, four of the remaining resisters had eluded the Legion's grasp, but that was merely temporary. The Master would win out.

      Dateline: Rome - Subterranean room beneath the Pantheon - November 6, 9:10 a.m.

             In almost a hushed whisper the summit of the six was concluding. It had been relatively short, but not, definitely not, sweet. Heated words had been exchanged. Such is the norm for those whose pride is greater than their composure. Now the summit of six had calmed down, they were in accordance toward the Master's plan. It was the agenda of abandonment of all good.
             The summit of six silhouetted against the glowing light and reflecting mesmerizing glass eyes behind them and in the empty chair beside each of the six cast a cloak of evil over the Pentagram table. Around this slab sat six of the most powerful, yet deranged and evil men of the times. Following in clockwise fashion around the table was Edwin Blix, of course.
             Two chairs away sat the Antwerp Banker Gestarde Eislaume, a wiry small man with sunken jaws, the socket of his eyes recessed and a rose-colored monocle pinching against his pointed nose.
             Next to him another empty chair and then the Chinese Secretary for International Trade Heng Shi Kiang in black business suit, blood red tie and an emotionless countenance on his stretched face which practically caricatured his eyes to slant more.
             To his left beyond the next empty chair was a man dressed as a Roman prelate. His face was concealed in the shadows cast by the flickering candles, and he had seldom spoke, consuming every word without emitting hardly a sound. The back of his chair rose higher than the others, the crest forming sculpted ram-like horns above the single, larger eye, redder in hue.
             Beside him continuing in deasil rotation past the empty chair to his left, perched the Hague Banker Maximilian Renschausen, a tall figure with muscular features in his 50's. Despite the graying temples, his strong jaw pierced through the shadows and he, of all the rest was the most talkative. He had prepared a dossier of crunched numbers that updated the others.
             Next to him one chair over sat a crew-cut man, Like Blix, he was an American, but the government, clandestine type. Like Kiang, he too was garbed in a black suit, with black tie. He looked like everyman. His age was undistinguishable as was his identity. The CIA molds them that way.
             "Well, then, shall we conclude, Herr Blix?" Renschausen reasoned, not really seeking a consensus. He had spoken the suggestion. That would signal the rest.
             "Ah'm in agreement, Max, mah man. We must clear the table for the sacrifice." Blix retorted.
             "Well then, my honorable comrades," added Kiang, "you have the forged papal seal. There should be no problems I presume?"
             "You presume correctly," Gestarde Eislaume assured. "Vendhem will be elected. We shall see the white smoke and then--"
             "Black fire," cackled Renschausen.
             "Shall we pledge in preparation for the Mass," suggested the American in the black suit.
             In unison they refrained, "We pledge our loyalty to the Master. We pledge our lives to make his reign possible. We are the Legion. Long live the Basilisk. Forever!"
             Within minutes, at every ten feet red banners were unfurled all around the black walls of the room. The cloth standard bore various symbols of ancient origin, along with upside-down triangles and other forms of pentacles. The summit of six moved to the sides of the table, three on each side as attendants entered to prepare the altar, placing silver patens and silver trays on the massive circular stone slab. Lengths of black linen were unrolled tracing the inscribed pentagram until the entire table revealed black on black.
             Picturing the room as clock, from the head chair in this circular room at the four-o'clock point a doorway led to a small vestibule which connected to a rectangular room. Here was contained a six-foot deep 8 foot by 8 foot recessed stone pit, now filled with kindling two feet deep. In ancient times it was used as both a pool and a well. Today it would serve as a chamber of the most hideous holocaust.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Behind St. Peter's near the Vatican Railway Station - November 6, 9:15 a.m.

             While the Mediterranean sun made its ascent toward the midday heights, it glimmered on the rails leading from the open arch to where the end car blocked the shiny steel, iron and timbers. Nearly half the coffins had been loaded by now as Dominic Nicolosi, his brakeman Luigi, and the switchman looked on from the platform beneath the overhang of the Vatican Railway Station. All the coffins had been replaced in the Nervi Hall. The rest were still waiting to be loaded, backed up in the western end of the tunnel which led out toward the Vatican Railway Station. Many of the recruited volunteers were biding their time still in the tunnel, waiting to move their coffins up as the line moved ever so slowly. This was no place for one with claustrophobia. In snail-like fashion the line moved and, yet, man could only accomplish so much time-wise. For the Italian volunteers this day, even more patience was needed for no Roman was ever accused of working too fast.
             Dominic Nicolosi, the man who would whisk these precarious time bombs away, glanced at his pocket watch on the long chain attached to the loop of his denim overalls. At the same time he drew deeply on a cigar, protruding from his jolly, double-jowled jaw beneath a thick bristly mustache that curled out on the tips into a perfect handlebar.
             Cardinal Zachmunn had warned it would be time-consuming and, considering the spontaneous planning, all was going as well as could be expected he realized. Yet, these workers were cutting it close. Dominic's nervousness was becoming more evident as the clock ticked away. Few Italians were ever patient. Nicolosi was no exception.

      Dateline: Rome - Subterranean room beneath the Pantheon - November 6, 9:18 a.m.

             The procession was underway as the black and red vested participants took their places for the beginning of the Satanic ritual. Still struggling, but bound and gagged, the supple, nude bodies of the two girls were ceremoniously carried forward in the same manner medieval caterers would hoist a roasted pig. God have mercy on the victims' souls for the Devil would devour even the spirit.
             The hooded transporters laid the nude bodies down on the stone altar, each on the black linen forming the bottom of the pentacle in a V-shape, as the black and silver-garmented high presbyter - Josef Vendhem - known here simply as the Knight of the Scimitar, followed the subdeacon carrying the shiny sharp-edged metal curved blade who preceded the deacon Antonio Macelli, flanked by six demented acolytes who accompanied the procession.
             All Legion members in attendance had encircled the Pentagram-covered stone altar. The main celebrant had taken his place in front of the chair with the molded ram-like horns. It had been, in a clearer light with the help of the alternating red tapestries, revealed as the great throne of the King of the Serpents - the Crotalus Basiliscus. Lord Josef Vendhem occupied this chair. He had already been acknowledged by all present as the Great Satanic Pontiff. Within a day or two, their plan was that he be recognized by the world as the Roman Pontiff as well. That would crown the Master's efforts. All had pointed to this event, this takeover.
             In the vilest of mockery of the opening words of the True Holy Mass - which begins with the Sign of the Cross and then the celebrant's words "I will go unto the altar of God" - Introibo ad altare Dei - Vendhem incanted: In nomine Magni Dei nostri Satanas. Introibo ad altare Domini Inferi - "In the name of our Great God Satan, I will go unto the altar of the infernal Lord." The cantor responded in an unrecognizable guttural chant. The Black Mass had begun.
             While this unclean, abominable sacrifice followed its course, across the Tiber and unbeknownst to Elena Grabe and Luciani Serrano both still at the Vatican, or the sextet of Legion leaders and the cleric partakers in their demonic observance, a counter-effort was well underway by the growing response of the resisters.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Behind St. Peter's near the Vatican Railway Station - November 6, 9:20 a.m.

             "Rapido, rapido!" Nicolosi encouraged as six men hoisted another pine box onto the ledge of the hold, pushing it forward. The carriers were getting ahead of the stackers, but still from Dominic's perspective, they seemed to be moving too slowly, holding up the line.
             He did not recognize the man in a highly starched white shirt and Gucci shoes whose furtive glances had been sizing up the situation, scoping out the reasons for this evacuation. He had asked a few helping carry the coffins. But they had looked at him with askance for they had all promised the three cardinals that they would keep this operation confidential. Why then would one of "their own" be asking questions. Collier would get to the bottom of this and the command from Nicolosi signaled to him that he had to be of great importance to this mission.
             He approached the engineer. "Parla inglese?"
             "Un po'," Nicolosi pretended, waiting to see what this stranger wanted.
             "Why're they loadin' these here coffins on the train?" Jordan's Texas twang betrayed his locale.
             "Why not?" Dominic cleverly retorted.
             "That's what I asked, pardnah, why?"
             "And I say why not?" a gleam sparkled in the engineer's eyes as he blew smoke rings in Collier's direction, causing the latter to cough, making more of a fuss about the smoke as if he had encountered a smoker in one of Plano's finer restaurants.
             "Yeah, well, that's not gettin' me anywhere, y'hear?"
             "Of course, you can go nowhere when you stand still." Nicolosi may have looked like the stereotyped engineer but his mind was as sharp as a philosopher.
             "Look, who can I talk to who makes sense?" Jordan didn't cotton to this runaround. "I ain't got all day, bud."
             "Then perhaps His Eminence Gregory Zachmunn will put up with your behavior, I will not. Arrivederci." Dominic turned his back on the insolent Texan, sending a clear message he wanted to be rid of Collier's presence.
             In his abrasive manner, Collier blurted a profanity and headed back towards the opening of the tunnel. No way would he talk with Zachmunn, but that told him volumes. He had heard Blix warning of the St. Louis prelate's cunning and thoroughness. Whatever the American cardinal was up to, wouldn't be beneficial to the Legion, that Jordan knew.
             There had to be some way he could slow down the effort, someway to sabotage the evacuation of these coffins. Why were they loading them on the trains before the funeral? It haunted him as he entered the crowded tunnel, shoving against the spoor of pall-bearers heading towards him. He knew better than walk down the middle, realizing he could get jammed by these requiem pine battering rams. Hugging the wall, he saw the sign near a lever that operated an iron gate above. It had been wrenched up to allow passage. The sign warned any who ventured near or under. PERICOLO.
             Without another thought he cried out. "Fire! Fire! Danger! Fire!"
             The alarm traveled by ear to every volunteer as they began to panic. "Al fuoco! Al fuoco! Aiuto! Presto!" Soon pandemonium had broken out as practically everyone dropped the coffins and raced for the open air. Jordan clung to the wall to elude being trampled; also, because he had something else he needed to do. As the last vestige of fleeing deserters filed past him, he reached up and pulled at the handle, unloosening it and bypassing the crank. With a heavy thud the iron gate smashed to the floor separating Collier from the rest of those who had fled in panic. Wiping off the dust and grime stirred up from the sudden impact, Jordan realized he would have to exit from the other end for bringing down a gate was easy; lifting it would take more than one. Nevertheless, for now he felt smug for he had stymied their agenda.
             Little did he realize what was in these coffins for he had not been privy to this vital sabotage by the Legion in Iraq. Foot soldiers rarely are confided in by generals.

    "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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