White Smoke, Black Fire! is both a prophecy and an inevitable incendiary event waiting to happen. Set in the near future five years after the death of Pope John Paul II, this tightly-woven mystery action-thriller is packed with intrigue, espionage, terrorism, secret tunnels, hellish monsters, explosions, and heart-wrenching love interests that will carry the reader on a tidal wave of anxiety, suspense, horror, and reality across three continents in an eight-day span. Gleaned from the daily headlines and the Scriptures, White Smoke, Black Fire! transcends the politically correct era and sweeps the reader through a vortex of violence that can only be defeated by those who see through the smoke, who believe.
This novel for our times deals with how the Antichrist, through political cunning, ecclesial infiltration, and media manipulation, desperately tries to wrest control from within the Vatican after the world has witnessed on global TV the shocking annihilation of countless political and religious leaders among the one million present - including what many see to be the pope - during a universal ecumenical "One Eucharist" - Una Eucharistia - One World Religion event staged on November 1 (still the "night of the devil" - Halloween - in the U.S.) at the birthplace of Abraham in the Tigris-Euphrates valley near Ur in Iraq. Think Assisi on a much, much broader scope. Those responsible are an international demonic cartel known for centuries as the clandestine Legion of the Basilisk, vanguard of the Antichrist. The tragic events of 9-11 and the current flood of terrorism wrought by extremist infidels pale in comparison to the carnage on the Field of Abraham, afterwards ignominiously dubbed the "Field of Death." The Basilisk has struck at the heart of the Christian pulse in the hotbed of Islam-Israeli tension and the entire world feels its impact. So much for the 'fruits' of ecumenism.
This inferno. which claims the lives of over one million souls, signals the beginning of the ultimate apocalypse. From the Halloween haunts of an old tavern in downtown Dallas, the daily Metroplex Mirror's wise-cracking, chain-smoking ace reporter Pat Gallagher is plunged into a physical and psychological eight-day journey into hell as he, along with an eclectic, ethnic mix of eleven other ordinary people, are suddenly catapulted into the smoldering ashes of the Basilisk's Black Fire in a desperate effort to save themselves and mankind - body and soul.
The Basilisk's tentacles reach out in a political, ecclesial, and foreign cabal to enshroud the election of the next pontiff, who will be announced by the white smoke billowing forth, if it isn't already blotted out completely by the Black Fire of hell. Unbeknownst to the world, the real Sovereign Pontiff - Pope Clement XV (a fictitious successor who will succeed John Paul II's successor - whose reign will be short) - was stolen away, close to death and isolated in the dank recesses of the medieval Castel Sant'Angelo on the Tiber where he has time to realize the catastrophic lengths that have been reached because the Church had let down her guard over the past century - a moral and ethical meltdown that raised its ugly head in the 60's of the twentieth century, but was planted long before and, which, now rages out of control, bordering on insanity and total fulfillment of the biblical prophecies - just as the daily headlines affirm.
Twelve major characters of the resistance are swept up in the complicity and danger that grow darker and more sinister with every hour. The twelve principals are Gallagher; his love interest Corrine Morelli; an unpredictable 'journalist' and underground priest from Greece Niki Andriopoulos; Mid East Medical Officer and Cardinal in pectore Fasif Khadid; the mysterious African Dr. Makuta Ogidi; a loyal Swiss Guard Major Riage Benziger who is willing to give his life for the Holy Father; an Irish nun assigned to the Papal Quarters Sister Bridie McCullough; an American priest heading the Universal Communications Pontifical Office Monsignor Stephen Navarro, OMI, strategically placed in the Vatican by St. Louis Archbishop Cardinal Gregory Zachmunn who has ties to both the Metroplex Mirror editor Vic Van Wess and his good friend and owner of The Crooked Spigot Benjamin O'Fallon; the Spaniard Cardinal Julies Mendoza, Dean of the College of Cardinals; and the resourceful Australian media magnate Colin Rembert. Of these twelve, one will be a Judas - a betrayer who could possibly be the Devil himself!
They, along with a supporting cast of heroic men, must counter the satanic plot of American media mogul, international arms dealer, and mastermind Edwin Blix (Gallagher and Van Wess' own boss), ruthless German spy Elena Grabe, the Camerlengo of the Vatican Cardinal Antonio Macelli, the Vicar General for the Holy See Cardinal Josef Marie Vendhem, Venezuelan vixen Maria Figuerido, Turkish hit man Usif Ezerbet, Mafia heavies Luciani Serrano and Guillaume Brunatti, and six of the most barbarous bankers and power-brokers in the world as well as a host of ill-reputes in all walks of life including bad clerics, prelates and Swiss Guards who have crossed over.
The fast and furious action takes the reader from a major news network to the wide expanse of ecumenical pomp and circumstance on a massive synthetic stage in the arid region of Iraq; from the cold climes of Moscow's Red Square to behind the wailing wall of Jerusalem; from the minuets of Mecca to the steamy jungles of Burma; from the murky labyrinth of Rome's slums to the private chambers of the Apostolic Palace within the Holy See where the resisters desperately try to counter the machinations of the Legion's moves within the Vatican itself as preparations for the Papal funeral and the impending Conclave in the famed Sistine Chapel proceed.
On special assignment for the Metroplex Mirror, Pat literally stumbles into Niki Andriopoulos late on November 1st while searching for clues on the hollowed out debris of the Field of Death in New Nasiriyah, Iraq. Niki offers shelter at the oasis of Fasif Khadid where the reader discovers, with Pat, the shocking reality of what has happened over the past century and what the lizard portends. Though Gallagher is a tough nut to crack in convincing him the dangers are very real and the Resistance is the only hope to thwart the revolution and stop the nefarious Legion of the Basilisk, various signs finally move him to work with the Resistance. Unbeknownst to Pat is the fact that Vic and Ben back in Dallas are very much a key part of the Resistance working underground.
After Pat is flown commercially to Rome in the early evening of November 2nd, Niki returns to Fasif's from the Kuwait airport and, just as he approaches Fasif's estate, explosions rip the stately home asunder. Nothing but rock and ruin as Niki races into the rubble to find Fasif's faithful servant Elias to whom the Greek priest gives the Last Rites and retrieves a small crucifix before fleeing for his life for he has been spotted by the Legion. Niki races away in his Humvee, chased toward the Basra airstrip where he just eludes his captors in another fiery explosion. Stealtily he flees across the tarmac and onto a C-130 plane revving up its propellers on the runway. It is full of pine box coffins of the deceased cardinals, prelates, dignitaries and other personnel of the Vatican including the coffin of the Pope. The destination: Rome. He slips inside one of the caskets to escape detection as the plane rumbles down the runway and into the evening sky. When he arrives at Fiumicino Airport outside of Rome shortly after midnight, he is discovered by the medical examiner Dr. Ogidi who believes him and seeks to protect Niki by generously giving him the keys to his humble flat in Rome.
Pat receives in his hotel room a mysterious call around 3 a.m. notifying him of Fasif's destruction and the death of Fasif's beloved sister Helene Shenneker in Tel Aviv for the Basilisk has struck again. Pat is cautioned to be careful in his rendezvous with Helene's daughter Karel Shenneker the next morning in St. Peter's.
After all the coffins have been delivered to the Vatican under cover of darkness and set up for viewing in the modern Paul VI Hall - except for Clement XV whose Papal Bier is placed before the main altar in St. Peter's, Niki goes undercover on the morning of November 3rd to search out an old friend to analyze the strange material he peeled off the inner wall of a coffin and the mysterious material flecked on the charred crucifix he had retrieved. Meanwhile Pat follows up on his rendezvous with Fasif's niece which leads to various locations where Karel, fearing detection, asks him to meet her at the Via Magdalena in the evening. Elena and Macelli meet on the outskirts of Rome, preparing for her entrance into the Vatican as a replacement for Mother Agnes de Christi - the Mother Superior of Sr. Bridie's Order. While this transpires Riage Benziger tends to a very weakened and nearly comatose Pope in a turret room on the outskirting wall of Castel Sant'Angelo where the major had carried the Holy Father out of harm's way through the secret passageway of the Leonine or Hadrian Wall connecting the Apostolic Palace to the Castle.
On the evening of November 3rd Pat arrives too late to save Karel who has been terribly shish-ka-bobbed on a hanging sign in the alley. The Legion is still there and one tries to attack Pat. It is the Turk Usif Ezerbet whose blows give Pat a concussion before Ogidi kills the Turk. Gallagher is taken to Ogidi's where he and Niki tend to Pat's wounds. Once Pat regains consciousness the next morning, Makuta corroborates further Fasif's findings on the Basilisk. This is realized by Stephen in the late afternoon of November 4th when he can feel the fetid breath of the beast within the hallowed halls of the Vatican near the Sistine Chapel. The Devil is indeed inside and firmly planted. Naive to this, Riage makes his move to get help for the dying Pontiff. As darkness descends, he steals away from Castel Sant'Angelo back into the Vatican through St. Anne's Gate where he is shuttled away as if a prisoner. He manages to call for a diversion and leave a shoe-polish S.O.S. towel under his pillow before continuing to be escorted to Macelli's office where he will be interrogated and intimidated. Meanwhile Ogidi prepares Pat's disguise for a dinner meeting of the four resisters at the Ristorante Romano. Through Makuta's magic Pat is transformed into an old man, but once he begins imbibing while dining with Niki, Stephen and Ogidi, Pat's bravado and brashness show through and one of the Basilisk's plants - Maria Figuerido - is wise to the good guys' plans, seeking to eliminate them. They just escape the advancing Basilisk and thanks to Niki's quick thinking Pat is saved from death, though badly in need of medical help, having been mauled by the transmuted Figuerido who is destroyed by her own Master for her failure.
Somehow, someway this scene is captured on the Imager Reflector card and transmitted to Vic in Dallas who realizes now what is going on and dares share it with Corrie who is not aware Pat is okay, though greatly hurting in the catacombs. He cannot stay there or he will die for Makuta does not have the proper medical supplies to treat Pat's wounds. Stephen offers to smuggle Pat into the Vatican infirmary to get him help. No easy task with the black-hearted Macelli and Vendhem and their traitorous guards lurking everywhere. Riage discovers Macelli and Vendhem are not there to help him and in a noble effort to protect the location of the Pope, he sacrifices his own life. Stephen finds the body and with Pat's help they drag it to the utility room where Sr. Bridie discovers them in her daily duties. Convinced of their sincerity, she boldly smuggles Pat to the infirmary concealed in a laundry cart while Stephen meets up with an aggressive Australian Colin Rembert who talks his way into accompanying the head of Universal Communications for the Holy See to the Sistine Chapel where preparations are underway for setting up the conclave. Rembert introduces them to a high tech marvel - the Penultimate - which wows Stephen and the handicapped elderly Cardina Marcini. As the hours pass doubts start to creep in and Stephen is worried that Colin may be a Legion plant. Marcini allays his fears and now Navarro must focus his attention on checking on Pat. Eluding the Legion guards, he chooses the clandestine route of the laundry cart but Macelli intercepts their path and Sr. Bridie is unceremoniously taken to the basement and tied up while one of Macelli's guards takes the laundry cart to the office of his secretary Fr. Roberto Urazzi to dispose of the dead Benziger and Urazzi. But Stephen overpowers the guard in the office and places Riage's body in the cart, taking it to the utility room in a panic. He is able to find Cardinal Zachmunn to warn him and Gregory commandeers two faithful guards to retrieve Riage's corpse to give him a proper burial.
Captain Schuster and Lt. Geraud have directed Stephen to a secret passage that leads to the basement where Sr. Bridie is held captive by Macelli's cohorts. Will he be able to rescue her in time? What of Pat who lies in a weakened state two stories above in the infirmary bed? Can Cardinal Zachmunn and Mendoza and the good cardinals counter what the modernist and Legion prelates are planning? And what exactly is Fr. Niki and Dr. Ogidi up to in tracking down clues to the Legion's plans? Across the pond in Texas Vic has confided in Ben what he must do to thwart the Legion's advance. How does it tie in with events within the Vatican? Many have already lost their lives on both sides. What lays ahead? The answers are forthcoming fast and furious beginning with the 71st episode: Episode Seven of Part IV - The Shrouding, Chapter Eleven.
Hopefully the above synopsis will help refresh your memory. To really get the full feeling, to immerse yourself totally in this action-pack thriller, take the time to go to the Prologue to begin at the beginning to get the full flavor. We warn you, you won't be able to stop reading in anticipation of what will happen next. Enjoy and please feel free to share it with others.
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