WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE! c 1986, 2001, 2005

Part II
Fourth Chapter
The Smoldering

Episode Four: Revelations of Basic Basilisk 101

       T he mind, like a steel trap, can clamp down on hard, concrete facts, but when logic melds with superstitions and suppositions it can forge new molds that cast an entire different blind to uncover even greater game, a breed of explanations that few could comprehend, let alone knew existed. This was Pat's state of consciousness as he stood at the mirror in his bathroom. He and Niki had ambled the expanses of Fasif's villa estate for a half-hour or so while waiting to resume his discussions with Fasif and his new found Greek friend. Ah, yes, Niki. He seemed even more of a mystery than he had been when Pat met him last night at that morbid field of scoriae. Who was he really?
       Where was this all leading? Why? What had Pat gotten himself into? Why had he not received a confirmation from Vic on his ReflectorReceive file? This time he'd bring his briefcase into the meeting. It would make quite a story. After all, that's the only reason he was here. He felt a sense of accomplishment and acceptance as he toweled off his face and extracted a few of the fig strands between his teeth before gargling with some Listerine. Ah, the instant refresher. Why didn't the code work when he scanned it this morning? What was jamming his system from sending word to Corrie? Who had put a block on it and why? The more questions he asked, the more questions cropped up. His brain was on overload and he knew he had to unzip even more memory to accommodate the data to come. Resigned to this task, he grabbed his form-fitted briefcase with camera and Reflector computer on board and headed downstairs for the afternoon session of Basilisk 101.

Dateline: Fasif Khadid's Oasis Villa Estate, November 2, 1:00 p.m.

       Fasif was waiting patiently along with Niki as Pat entered.

       "Ah, promptness in a reporter. That is an excellent quality in you, Pat." Fasif was all smiles as he rose to welcome the Shreveport native.

       Pat set his briefcase on the table with the side down so the camera lens was in strategic position to capture every word Fasif would say. With his Reflectorcode card he made a slight swipe over the beam to activate the computer. "I hope you don't mind my gettin' this for posterity and for my editor?" Pat matter of factly asked Fasif.

       Fasif smiled. "A little knowledge can be very dangerous. If too many have it, it becomes a catastrophe. You'll notice the green light is not on. So, no, I do not mind if you leave your Reflector kit there, though it might be better on the floor to afford you room for your ashtray and a beverage later."

       Pat was puzzled. "How do you know about the Reflector and why won't it activate?"

       Fasif's smile widened, "You are a font of questions, my dear Patrick Gallagher. Let us just say I have my sources and you are in good hands. From here on in we cannot allow you to communicate further with Mr. Van Wess or anyone else at your publication, for your safety, and for the cause."

       "How'd you know Vic?" Pat was startled.

       "Relax, my son." Fasif advised. "All these questions will be known in due time. We have much to cover and I would like to proceed with where we left off. Agreed?"

       Pat nodded, assenting to hear him out, resigned that he would not get the scoop he had hoped for.

       Fasif picked up with the very question Pat asked before Elias had appeared. "You asked how that could all happen, I believe? Let me answer you, Pat, with another question. What is the one institution that is most widely respected and trusted in the world?"

       "Whffff, lemme think."

       Realizing time was of the essence, Fasif would not give him the luxury of guessing. "The Roman Catholic Church, my friend."

       Well, I guess, by deduction...yeah, I mean the popes and all. Everybody loves a pope, or should I say did. He's dead now, too."

       "Yes, more proof that the Legion will stop at nothing to achieve their end. Think about it, Pat. The ecumenical document "One Eucharist" could not have been possible without the cooperation and advancement by Rome."

       "You mean they got to the pope beforehand?" Pat shot back as he jumped out of his chair.

       "Well beforehand, my son." Fasif said matter of factly.

       Niki stirred in his chair. "You better sit down for this, Pat." He knew where Fasif was going next.

       "It began well over a century ago," Fasif began. "The forces of evil knew the only way to defeat the Church of the Son of God was to strike from within, slowly but surely. They realized during the pontificates of Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X that they were on notice and could not effectively penetrate the sanctuary, and so they, like Hitler, began with the youth. They trained countless fifth columnists to slowly saturate the seminaries and clergy. They knew it would take decades, but if they were persistent, they would be successful. Most of the popes through Pius XII were vigilant. They knew of some of the operatives but not all. Yet the Roman pontiffs were prevented from concentrating more fully on the infiltrators because of other immediate distractions like World War I, the aftermath, the Spanish Civil War, recession, and World War II to name a just a few."

       "Okay, now wait a minute," Pat was quick to interject. "What are you inferrin'?"

       "First, that the Legion helped spawn both world wars of the past century and many other insurrections," Fasif was adamant. "Remember, my friend, wars do not start on the battlefield. They start in the mind and then move to the heart, which can so easily be blackened by hate and dishonesty. The Legion has always played on jealousies and envy, and that in turn is fed by the other deadly sins. Remember the chessboard? Devastation, despair and casualties are the effects of war, not the cause."

       "The master of the Legion is an expert in psychological warfare," was Niki's short input.

       "He's right, Pat." Fasif continued. "We have definitive proof, as I related earlier of various incidents. Of which Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and high-ups in Britain and the U.S. were all puppets for the Legion."

       "Whoa, you mean Hitler and Roosevelt were in cahoots?" Pat was perplexed.

       "We do not have definitive proof on the president himself, but many around him, yes. And, as for Hitler. Definitely. But such alliances continue up until present time. For instance, Vietnam was not about fighting for democracy and freedom. It was about establishing and controlling the lucrative and necessary poppy industry for the morphine and cocaine trade in the 'Golden Triangle.' This had three purposes. First, to create a distraction that would enable the revolution of the sixties in America and Britain; two to keep the military from destroying the poppy fields."

       "So, the military provided the troops plenty to keep 'em stoked up. I know about that." Pat concurred, drawing from his own journalistic investigations.

       "You're catching on, Pat." Niki enthused.

       Fasif drew deeply on his cigar. "Not only to keep them, as you Americans say, 'stoned', but to inflict an addiction that they would depend upon when they returned to the United States. They would be the seeds of the great drug culture that has so devastated your country and much of the world. All the work of the Legion. The same with the South American wars, the Contra and Sandinistas, Virgilio Barco Vargas and the Cali drug cartel. Control the drug trade and set up cartels that would administer it. Keep the flow coming to blunt their consciences first and foremost. That would allow for every kind of sin, every kind of perversion to come to the fore."

       "Do you have proof on the politicians involved? I can use that for a story." Pat eagerly inquired.

       "I'm afraid, Pat, it goes much, much deeper." Fasif's tone turned somber. "There is no aspect of society that the Legion has not penetrated. From the music and entertainment industry to school curriculums from pre-school through Ph.D's, from influential business leaders and companies to military leaders, from politicians locally, nationally, and internationally to religious men and women at all levels. Now, the third purpose has been the most devastating and complete one. Remember as I said, just prior to Vietnam and the revolution of the 60's there was another revolution afoot. The former were merely decoys, distractions to avert awareness away from what the Legion was truly doing."

       "And what, Fasif, was the cloak and dagger stuff goin' on?" Pat inquired facetiously.

       "Oh, if only we had not taken it so lightly then." Fasif was now very serious, almost a pain in his voice. "Over the first part of the 20th century the Legion had patiently groomed their operatives for the time they would be able to penetrate the sanctuary. That happened with the formation of the Second Vatican Council called by John XXIII on January 25, 1959. His liberality in allowing dangerous elements into the mix played right into the Legion's hands. He had already been programmed to be naively sympathetic to many of the humanistic ideals being promoted. The various schematas sent out to the bishops in preparation for the council enabled the Legion to gain a foothold. Their mark was all over the conciliar documents, so cleverly couched."

       "The watermark of the Basilisk?" Niki inquired.

       "Confirmed." Fasif acknowledged. "In an effort to compromise and seek out alliances for good, the pope himself enabled men, who could rightly be called heretics - men tainted by the Legion, were promoted to key positions of policy and enforcement. They were so clever. They pulled the ruse so successfully. They depicted the battle on the surface as a fresh 'new Spirit' - aggiornamento it was called - vs. the old Roman guard. The first thing to do was to divide. Whether that be families, nations or cultures, the evil one is so devious. The media, for the most part, was already owned by the Legion. Many of the bishops as well, in addition to scores of chancery officials of influence. Therefore their propaganda portrayed the resisters - the Rominita or Traditional segment as radicals, as loonies, as disposable and ill-advised roadblocks to bringing the Church into the modern age. Where in truth a solid bloc was in place to defend the millennia-old doctrines and traditions, the campaign against them caused many casualties within the ranks. Power and coercion were used to intimidate and deflate their efforts. Just as the homosexual element today portrays their numbers to be much larger than they actually are, so also the Legion was successful in conveying to the masses that the Traditional movement were only a few where, in truth, they were many."

       "So what happened to them?" Pat asked, his interest now piqued all the more.

       "Good question, Pat." Fasif flattered. "Remember the Italian contingent was the strongest of the Traditionalists. There was a strong representation from South America and Eastern Europe as well as France and Spain with leanings to defend the Faith at all costs. One of the forces Pius XII had fought so hard to fend off was Communism. He knew its dangers and he knew it had a solid foothold in Italy. That is another reason he had to remain neutral during the war because while he was praying for the defeat of the Third Reich for the sake of mankind, he was equally praying for the defeat of the Soviet initiative for he feared the worst. Papa Pacelli indeed had the gift of foresight. That is another reason he so meticulously kept in check those heretics who were unleashed after his death. Yet one man could not do it all."

       "What's that got to do with the Traditionalists?" Pat groused.

       "I'm getting there, my good man." Fasif showed a noticeable irritation at Pat's interruption. "Whereas one pope resisted at all costs, his successor surrendered."

       "If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em." Pat mused awkwardly, trying to alter Fasif's mood.

       Fasif was not amused as he said gruffly, "That would not be funny when you consider the damage done then and since. I would recommend we take a five-minute break. Consider carefully what we are divulging to you. If you wish to continue in our good graces, you will take this very, very seriously. If not, then we can terminate any thought of you joining us. Though we all will be the lesser for it if that is your decision. It is your decision. Choose wisely, Pat."

       With that Fasif and Niki rose and left the room, leaving him stranded so to speak with more thoughts racing through his head. Oh, if only he could talk to Corrie. If only he had the guiding approval of Ben, then he might be able to handle all that Fasif and Niki were throwing at him. He looked toward the crucifix hanging on the wall. The dilapidated corpse on the cross was Christ and He seemed to be beckoning Pat to come closer. Pat rose and moved over under the vivid image of the suffering Savior. There in the solitude of his heart he asked for a sign, something that would give him direction to either stay or move on to the assignment Vic had given him. While still standing there in contemplation. Fasif returned.

       "Patrick. Perhaps a few words will help your decision." Fasif beckoned him to come.

       The bewildered reporter followed him into Fasif's office where he handed him the phone. Who was on the other end? What was going on? Those two immediate questions would be answered in short order as Pat took the receiver. It would be the sign he had asked for just seconds ago!

* * * * * * *

       The call had truly been an answer to his prayers. How could Ben O'Fallon have known Fasif? How could Fasif have contacted Ben? It had to be 4:30 in the morning in Dallas. That call had to have rousted Ben out of bed. Sure glad to hear his voice, though. Pat knew now Ben would get word to his cara mia and Vic. It also confirmed to Pat that Fasif could be trusted. He knew there was no turning back now. It was full speed ahead wherever that would lead. With that confidence he returned immediately to join Fasif and Niki.

Dateline: Fasif Khadid's Oasis Villa Estate, November 2, 1:35 p.m.

       "Ya got me. I'm in." Pat grinned sheepishly as he plopped down in his chair, a sigh of resolution expelling from his lungs. "I don't know how you know Ben or what, but I'm convinced. If Ben endorses ya, then that's good enough for me."

       "Sometimes," Fasif said assuredly, "it helps to know who to trust without a shadow of a doubt. We felt we could trust you, but it is important for you to be convinced. I say that, Pat, because what I am about to tell you next will not only tie it all together, but will make sense even though it may sound bizarre, even heretical to today's standards."

       "I'm ready. Fire away." Pat lit another Pall Mall straightening his 5' 11" frame in the chair, braced for whatever would follow.

       "Good." Fasif approved. "Recall what I said of how wars begin. Jealousy and envy. Deceit follows for an honest man cannot be jealous or envious. The fruits do not follow. The same with Communism. Yet, in the Pact of Metz. Pope Roncalli basically sold out his brothers and sisters in the Eastern bloc and in Italy as well, not to mention Cuba, Central America and much of South America. All for acceptance at the Council and assure safety for passage of the reforms of the Council. Communism was spawned by the Legion. Now they had pervaded the very institution that stood in their way."

       "If I hadn't talked to Ben, this would have been too much to believe?" Pat sighed.

       "If only this were a tale, a fabrication, a legend that could be dismissed as merely fiction." Fasif's voice was very somber. "If only, my dear man. But it is no tale. It is fact. How else can you explain a total renovation of the Mass - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - the Latin Mass being totally scrapped and in its place a synthetic rite that in no way resembles the bloody sacrifice on the altar reenacted in an unbloody manner?"

       "He's talking about the Novus Ordo rite instituted by Paul VI, Pat." Niki enlightened.

       "Yeah, I know." Pat acknowledged. "The New Order. Kind of funky if you ask me how sterile everything's become. Pardon me for soundin' chauvinistic, but there's too damn many women up there doin' things the priest alone should do."

       "Ah, your Catholic sensibilities are coming through. There is hope." Fasif winked approvingly toward Niki. "Recall, Pat, how the devil seeks to mock God. What are the initials of this new mass?"

       "N.O. - No!!!" The realization showed on Pat's face as his shoulders slumped noticeably.

       "Right. How could the Mysterium Fidei - the Mystery of Faith be so easily removed from the central focus for the tens of millions Catholics worldwide?" Fasif was taking Pat down a path he wasn't prepared for. "It could not have been effected without cooperation from all segments of the Church. While many would like to deny this fact, it is the inevitable conclusion. Consider that there were already various dogmatic decrees that made it impossible to change the Mass, let alone alter even a word. Yet the Novus Ordo changed everything. It was and is, in effect, a fulfillment of Daniel and the Messiah - the abomination of the desolation in the temple. The very first pope chosen referred to Rome as Babylon."

       "St. Peter," Niki educated Pat. "1 Peter 5: 13."

       "Niki is my scripture scholar. We have poured over much and backed up all we speak of," asserted Khadid. "Yes, it is the same Babylon the Apostle John refers to in the Apocalypse."

       "You mean Revelation?" Pat asked.

       "Yes, it has been called that since Martin Luther's time. In truth," asserted Fasif, "it is the Apocalypse and in that Apocalypse are the revelations of our times. I weep for Rome for she has become corrupt through the changes made after Pius XII. She no longer resembles the woman clothed with the sun, but rather the harlot described in the scriptures for she has sold herself by compromising the Faith, by allying with the fornicators, with those who seek to destroy. She has, essentially, Patrick, sold out to the devil."

       "That's too much to believe." Pat was clearly shaken.

       "I know how you feel, Pat. When I discovered this it rocked my foundations," consoled Niki.

       "Ah, but that is the salvific quality." Fasif galvanized. "A house built on a rock will stand. The Church is not corrupt. Those who govern it can be. Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We have God's word on that. But they have tried to prevail, oh how they have tried. In order to effect this destruction they needed to have saturated every level from the Conclave to the home. It could not have worked were they not to have completed that goal. It was necessary. And so they capitalized on the strength of the Catholic conscience to fulfill their mission.

       Pat leaned forward. "And that was?"

       "Obedience." Fasif's voice was strong, but not loud. Yet it penetrate every pore in the room. "No matter how much resistance, they could neutralize the forces of good if they coerced the people into believing a new doctrine - a false doctrine and reinforced it by giving all the impression that Rome officially decreed it. What upstanding, fervent Catholic would resist that authority? So clever, so devious, so complete."

       "Ya know my gramma, God rest her soul, kept complainin' 'bout them taking away her reasons for being Catholic." Pat reminisced as if now he understood her anxiety and concern. "I mean she told me it wasn't right no matter what those new bishops and pope said, it was not in tune with Catholic doctrine. I thought she was just bein' old-fashioned and all, but in retrospect-"

       "In retrospect she was one of the many who recognized what was going on." Fasif affirmed. "But you see the auto-demolition had been so complete that who was going to listen to those who objected? Those who truly knew their faith recognized the travesties, but they were dying off. The Legion was counting on it. When it had to, it eliminated individuals, especially bishops and even a pope, under cover of other causes of death. The Legion could not have done so without the cooperation of government operatives in almost every nation with the full knowledge of the Church. Consider also, Patrick, why they eliminated the Catholic school system and the devotions that sustained so many generations. They had to. They had to reprogram an entire different mindset in the younger generations to ensure the traditions of truth would not be passed on. For the most part they were successful. The sixties revolution was enabled by all religions compromising to worldly standards. But the key component was the Church of Rome. If it could be penetrated the rest would fall in place. There were those who realized this and paid the price, those who were made example of to further demean the loyal opposition. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is a good example of this. Also, the controversy over Pius XII's actions.

       "They're still blamin' him for not speakin' out for the Jews?" Pat intoned, half questioning, half demonstrative. His mood implied he was starting to get justifiably incensed at the subterfuge.

       "Oh, you don't know half of it, Patrick," Niki piped in.

       "Well, of course," Khadid focused. "This is just another ploy to discredit a more traditional pontiff compared to those who followed him. To denigrate him only helps justify the new regime of thought. Elevating those who embrace the new thinking also has been a key component in furthering the lie."

       "Remember what Fasif said earlier about the murder of John Paul I?" Niki reminded Pat.

       "Yeah, makes more sense now." Pat concluded, his spirits noticeably shaken.

       "They tried to assassinate another pope after that. They were afraid he would realize the charade and move the Church back to its true course. This was back in 1981. An assassin's bullet could not do it. What saved him? That is what has remained a mystery. The spin was put forth that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary for he was 'Mary's Pope.' What upright Catholic is not going to buy that? Even the world accepted that, and that helped to turn him into a global superstar with his charisma."

       "Yeah, he was pretty popular." Pat muttered. "Can't see a problem with that though," throwing out his hands palms up.

       Nor could most of the populace and in that the Legion had him right where they wanted him.

       Pat couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Whoa! You tellin' me the pope was a member of the Legion of the Basilisk?"

       "No, Pat." Fasif held his hand up in the manner of a gendarme halting the onrushing crush of traffic. "We must be careful in those kind of rash assumptions. If I implied such, I sincerely apologize to you and to his memory. Only God judges the heart. No, what I mean to imply that just as God allows evil for good, so also His counterpart the fallen spirit Lucifer allows good for evil."

       "Are you following this, my friend?" Niki queried, making sure Pat was on the same page.

       His pursed lips and scrunched brow gave way to his eyes directed toward the crucifix on the wall, "I think so."

       Fasif continued cautiously. "It is important you do, my son, for all concerned. The twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the Apocalypse may hold the answers as well. That is for you to pray and discern over. However consider the facts. The entire ecumenical movement to unite all faiths was pushed most emphatically by him, beginning five years after he was shot. Remember Assisi in 1986? The "One Eucharist" document could not have been complete without Rome's approval. Consider that the young Swiss Guard who protected him that day on May 13, 1981 Alois Estermann, the one who foiled the Legion's assassination attempt.

       "Yeah," Pat recalled, "he got shot inside the Vatican."

       Khadid only nodded as he continued. "They gained their revenge 17 years later when it was expedient and necessary. We have it on good authority that Alois and his wife, along with Cedric Tornay, were ready to confess the great cover-up. That 'cover-up' is the great secret that had been passed down in 1963. Anyone who violated that trust would be eliminated. Many had been. The link came with a fourth glass that was in the Swiss Guard's room that night in May, 1998."

       Pat spoke up, "I thought Tornay murdered them both out of jealousy."

       "That is what they wanted you to think." Fasif asserted. "A trusted member of the Swiss Guard - one working with us. His name is Riage Benziger. He notified us immediately that on that fourth glass was the mark of the Basilisk symbol. There were supposedly only three in that room, yet four glasses. The Legion could not allow the secret to get out."

       "And what is this 'secret?' Pat demanded.

       "I would ask you to be calm, my American friend," Niki inserted. "What Fasif is about to reveal could shake your very soul."

       "Whewww." Pat exhaled. "I'm still trying to digest the last few minutes, Nik."

       "Nevertheless, the 'secret' is the how they gained control, how they were empowered by Satan himself." Fasif's voice was very dire. "Knowledge of the occult event I am about to reveal will forever make you one of the hunted by the Legion if they know you know. I will ask you for the final time, Patrick, if you are prepared for that."

       "Hey, I'm not prepared for any of it. But I've come this far. I gave ya my word. Don't leave me hangin'."

       With that Fasif divulged that before the coronation of Paul VI there had been a black mass, a Satanic mass in the Vatican to enshrine the Prince of the world, to empower him to enter the sanctuary, to have dominion over its inhabitants. That 'abomination of the desolation in the temple' occurred in June of 1963.

       Pat's jaw dropped as he stared at Fasif incredulously. Fasif expected it.

       "Sounds too bizarre to believe, my friend?" Fasif was dead serious.

       "I mean, geez, right there in the Vatican?" Pat was floored. "C'mon, that's scary. I mean really scary!"

       "And if you truly knew how cunning, how deadly the Legion is, you would be, how you Americans say it, 'Scared out of your wits!" Fasif paused. Had he moved too fast? Was Pat able to digest this and truly realize this was no fable, but a very real, very dangerous horror story. The devastation of the Field of Abraham 27 hours earlier was proof of that.

       That is what convinced Pat that Fasif and Niki were not fanatic, crazed men looking for conspiracy under every rock. Indeed, Pat himself was beginning to connect the pieces together and the tableau he was seeing very clearly now stretched way beyond his own imagination. Visibly shaken, Pat began to light another Pall Mall.

       Fasif clutched Pat's wrist before he could light the cigarette. "That strand of tobacco you hold in your lips. Notice how it is smooth, perfectly formed, undefiled, so to speak."

       "Ya sure ain't been in America, Fasif." Pat blurted back, handing him the cigarette. "Back there all ya hear is that it's a deadly drug according to the propaganda that..."

       Nodding, Fasif interrupted. "Ah, yes, and they are right. It is a deadly drug. But of and by itself it is not."

       Even Niki was a bit perplexed, exchanging glances with Pat and then Fasif.

       "You see, gentlemen," Fasif explained, elevating the white cigarette as a prop to explain his next point. "It has many properties that might be offensive to certain senses, yet in its current state, it is exquisitely formed for its purpose."

       "So, what's your point, Fasif?" Pat was getting testy. "I don't need another nicotine lecture."

       "And you won't," Khadid replied curtly. "The point is that until you contaminate it, it is in a state of excellence. What then causes that action of contamination?"

       "You're askin' me?"

       "Yes, Patrick, I am asking you."

       "Well, when ya light it I guess."

       "Good pupil, right Fasif?" Niki encouraged.

       "And what, my good man, do you light it with?"

       "The lighter," Pat concluded.

       "The flame." Fasif emphasized. "A most beautiful spark of fire - the same fire that glows above the candles on an altar, in the vigil light standing sentinel at each tabernacle. However, unlike the beeswax of those blessed candles which burn pure, the flame that ignites this cigarette defiles it." Khadid handed the cigarette back to Pat and gestured for him to light it. "You'll notice how quickly the smooth surface disintegrates. The tip burns brightly, but slowly it envelops the wrapping and eats away, in a manner of speaking, Patrick, at the the foundation of the cigarette. Soon the entire matter is consumed by the tighly coiled, coal-like glow until poof, it no longer resembles what it was."

       "Yeah, so?" Pat wasn't cooperating with Fasif's logic.

       "So, my son, in the same manner the cigarette is destroyed, so also the Church of Rome has been affected, especially in how the reverence and respect for the sacrosanct, so greatly and perfectly displayed in the Latin Mass of Trent, has been extinguished and with it the safeguards against the fires of hell. The fire burns steadily, destroying all that had been formed, slowly but surely until...

       "Until the cancer sets in and eats away at the body," Pat finished Fasif's sentence, as he rose to his feet and snuffed out his cigarette in disdain. A lightbulb of comprehension had intensified wattage in his brain. "Ah, I get it."

       Niki sighed, "Finally, my friend."

       Fasif seized the discovery. "You see, Patrick, the flame of Satan was ignited during that Black Mass and has been scorching the Church ever since. Only the waters of grace will douse the burning, determined ashes; only prayers and vigilance will work as antidotes to the cancer."

       "Yeah, it all makes sense now," Pat sighed. "Why didn't I see it earlier?"

       "Because you didn't take your faith seriously, Patrick." Fasif's voice was stern but fatherly. "You, my son, are not alone. The great majority of Catholics have been lulled into this miasma of complacency, compliance with today's standards which, you'll notice, are not in tune with what the Church previously taught. Because of this comatose mindset, the Legion has been able to suppress even what Heaven itself tried to convey."

       "Come again!" Fasif's last sentence threw Pat for a loop.

       "The messages from the Mother of God at Fatima," Fasif answered. She was trying to communicate in man's timeframe what Heaven has always known. She warned the faithful at La Salette of the realization of the Apocalypse, the red dragon and the corruption of Babylon."

       "She came as a weeping mother," Niki detailed, "telling the visionary Melanie that 'Rome would lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.' This vision was officially approved by the Church."

       "The Blessed Virgin Mary said that? Wow!" Pat shook his head in amazement.

       "And again at Fatima," Andriopoulos added. "While many were led to believe that the full secret of Fatima had been fully revealed in 2000 and dealt with the wars and persecutions of the 20th century, we know from events that have transpired over the past century and Our Lady's other messages to the visionaries at Fatima that the logic is askew. As the years have waned on, we can see the release of the supposed contents was merely a ruse to keep the bloodhounds off the scent."

       "Good analogy, Nik."

       "The fact of the matter, Patrick," Fasif resumed, "is that the Third Secret is still a secret to most. There have been several who figured it out and have born the brunt of the wrath of those out to keep it concealed."

       "And that, Pat, is the Legion's Achilles heel," Niki inserted.

       "How so?"

       Fasif was quick to answer. "Because just as pride was the downfall of the fallen angels, so also the prince of darkness' disciples portray the same fateful trait. That, thank God, is the one checkmate we can count on."

       "Ah, the chess board," Pat nodded.

       "Yes, up until now we have been able to anticipate their next move. But the acceleration of their strategy with yesteday's event makes it even more paramount that we know where they will strike next."

       A silent thud descended on the room as the three sat there as statues deep in thought. Fasif broke the silence, rising and stretching and, as if on cue, Elias entered with a fresh tray of refreshments and snacks. Yet Pat's mind was still racing. The mighty Lucifer, once one of God's chosen sentinels standing watch with St. Michael the Archangel, had bolted from the safe confines of celestial glory for something better? Pat couldn't comprehend such stupidity. It gave him a rush of courage, thinking if the devil was that dumb, he could be had. But not by playing fair. All bets were off, and Pat was ready to place his trust in Fasif, a true man of God, and his new-found friend Niki. Together they would get down and dirty with the devil.

       Elias filled Pat's glass, but the American reporter was lost in thought, his eyes glued to the vivid corpus on the cross and the omen cycling through his mind, 'Rome would lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.' Even with Heaven's warnings and the Word in Divine Revelation, the devil had still gained the upper hand.

       As Pat sat there in the great room of Fasif Khadid in this oasis in the Middle East on the second day of November he wondered what was this beast that had been unleashed. Hypnotically his gaze was drawn to the terrarium where the lizard, which Fasif had extracted, had now crawled out from under the rock it had scurried behind when freed from his warm, fleshy grip. Now it seemed magnified in the reflection of the glass, sending shivers up and down Pat's spine. Goose bumps appeared on his arm despite the 90-degree weather. A damn lizard. It was absurd. Yet the scriptures bore it out. Was it in anyway connected to the Apocalyptic beast as Fasif and Niki had implied? What exactly was that horned monster with seven heads, ten horns and a like number of diadems? How did it connect with the Church and all the terrorist attacks over the past few decades?

       Pat's brain seemed to be on overload, trying to dissect everything he had been told this day. God, he was naive he thought as he gulped down a somewhat warm glass of what he could best describe as a bitter glass of some kind of wine. He wondered if it were homegrown. It surely wasn't imported. He silently hoped he wouldn't have to get used to this beverage. As his thoughts wandered toward trivial things, Fasif brought him back to the reality of the moment.

       "Patrick, perhaps some fresh air and some fresh vino would help the cobwebs. I would assume they need to be cleared so you might better concentrate on the matter at hand."

       "Huh, oh yeah," Gallagher drawled, snapping back to where he was. "Uh, I'll pass on the wine. I'm okay. I just...can't believe all these historical events bein' tied in with a lizard...which is supposed to be the Antichrist himself?"

       "Most certainly," Fasif asserted.

       Pat stammered a bit, "I always thought this Antichrist, if and when he or it came, would come dressed in sheep's clothin', or be tied in with 666."

       "He could" enjoined Niki, "from reports we have received - he could take any shape or form."

       "Reports?" Pat asked.

       Before Fasif could respond, Elias entered hurriedly, leaning close to Khadid and whispered in the doctor's ear. Fasif's expression underwent no change that was discernible. Yet the cigar came out of his mouth as he nodded to Elias.

       All this Pat observed, even though his entire psyche was reeling from the story Fasif had just woven around him so tightly that the American reporter felt claustrophobic. But there was no where to run. The emergence of the Antichrist, this Basilisk had cut off all escape routes. Even death. It was fight or be conquered for all eternity. And he'd never let that happen...not to him or Corrie, Pat vowed to himself.

       "Yes, where were we?"

       "Pat had asked about the reports..." Niki reminded Fasif.

       Fasif chose to interrupt the direction Niki was heading. Niki realized it immediately and backed off. He knew to always take his cue from this wise and mystical man who had been born in Lebanon but had spent much of his life in this region and risen through the ranks medically, politically and ecclesiastically.

       "My question now, Patrick. Can we count on you?" Fasif was blunt and to the point.

       "I don't have much choice," sighed Pat. "I'm a journalist. My job is to get to the truth no matter where it leads."

       Niki chimed in, "But you are not alone, my American friend. I, too, am committed to this, as I have been for some time."

       Niki's comment caused Pat to ask, "What newspaper did you say you work for. Niki?"

       Fasif smiled. "Let's just say he is on special assignment. It bodes well that there be unity among us. Therein lies our strength."

       "So," Pat repeated, "Where do we go from here?"

       "Elias has just notified me that tonight the body of the late pope will be secretly flown back to the Vatican along with the bodies of all those in the Holy See's party. The coffins have been shipped to the Field of Death and will be ready for a 10 p.m. flight direct to Rome."

       "You mean they found his body already out of all that mess?" Pat was incredulous.

       "My dear man," Fasif's voice softened, "I doubt one single body can be identified in that holocaust. No, they will just identify those corpses in the vicinity of where the Pope was, where the cardinals and bishops were seated before the explosions. As you recall from those terrible explosions in New York City and Washington D.C. several years ago, identifying remains was a grisly task, an impossible one. Multiply the carnage on the Field of Abraham and it is much worse. Granted the structural damage is minimal compared to that terrible terrorism in your great city, Pat. Nevertheless, the crater that was hollowed out by the explosives and the heat of this area make it that much more difficult. All day expert dental forensic experts, as well as DNA specialists have sifted through all areas of the main stage by means of the special computers that were designed following the New York City disaster. Indeed, they found the papal ring and..."

       "And..?" Niki anxiously wanted Fasif to complete his thought. Instead a puzzled look descended on the medical examiner's face.

       "The dental records did not match," Khadid said, incredibility belying his tone. "Still, the authorities insist it is he and have marked his coffin as such. In truth, Patrick, Niki, no one will know who or what is in the coffins that are sent to Rome for the coffins will be closed. There will be no open casket in St. Peter's."

       Fasif's voice trailed off. A great heaviness surged through his entire being, but he checked the ebb and continued, "With the funeral services most likely just a few days off, can the Legion be far behind?"

       "But, if the Pope's dead, then why..?" Pat was puzzled.

       "Because," Fasif responded, "there could be more violence planned around the funeral ceremonies or, God forbid, the papal election."

       "You can't be serious, Fasif?" Pat countered.

       "Very serious, Patrick, and, because I am...I want you to go to Rome for us."

       "Rome?" Pat was trying to keep up.

       "You will rendezvous with my daughter Karel Shenneker and an American priest in the Vatican - Father Stephen Navarro."

       Niki eagerly inserted, "Do you wish I accompany him to..?"

       "No, Nicholas, I need you here for pastoral work. I think now it is time to reveal your identity to our American friend so he knows the full truth."

       Niki looked relieved, "I concur. You see, Patrick, I am not really a free lance journalist."

       Pat clenched his teeth. "There goes the trust factor."

       "On the contrary," Fasif reprimanded him, "Nicholas Andriopoulos is a priest."

       "Man has the Church changed," was all Pat could muster.

       "No, times change," Fasif quickly added, "but the Church must remain strong. Her people, her clergy have changed. They have weakened. They have let their guard down."

       "Then why the ruse last night, Nik, when I stumbled over you?"

       "Call it caution. I had to be sure you could be trusted."

       "Likewise," Pat countered. "Though how do you know you can trust me now, amigo?"

       "My soul senses it," Niki answered without hesitation.

       "As does mine, Patrick" Fasif was smiling broadly.

       "I take it I've passed your scrutiny." Pat wanted more answers. "But that doesn't necessarily mean you've passed mine. It still doesn't answer what you were doin' snappin' photos last night, Niki. Or should I say Father Niki?"

       "Niki is fine, Pat," the now-revealed consecrated cleric responded. "Why should I not be there doing what I could for those poor souls? While I administered the last rites to as many as possible - God knows who they were - I also searched for clues to the Basiliskos."

       Pat turned to Fasif. "Where in Rome do I meet Karel and Father Stephen? When? Then what do I do? What? Ah, how do I get there?"

       "Those inquisitive traits suit you well as a journalist, Patrick," Fasif replied. "But you must be more patient, more discerning of all you encounter from here on in. Trust your soul, not your mind."

       Fasif snuffed out the stub of his cigar. "My friends, I must return at once to the Field of Death. I have been summoned." This medical examiner - Dr. Khadid did not say by whom or what. It was not really germane to the issue.

       Fasif started to move away, then stopped, an expectant look covering his face, a sadness that he might never see Niki or Pat again. "Patrick, Niki will take you this afternoon to Kuwait City."

       That didn't seem to answer Pat's questions, "Then what?"

       "I have personally made all arrangements. You will continue to travel in your professional capacity as a reporter. From Kuwait City you will fly direct on a private jet with a group of clerics to Rome arriving at 5:45 Rome time. Your instructions will be sealed. Open them only when you arrive at the Esperia Hotel in Rome. Then destroy its contents immediately."

       "The Esperia," Pat yawned, "Heard of it. Paparazzi hotspot."

       Fasif was all business. "You will blend in. Take nothing with you except the suitcase you have and your other case...and these two small items."

       Elias, still standing behind Fasif, handed Pat two items. A Rosary and a small medical pin with a blue cross on white background with green trim.

       Pat didn't understand the significance. "I don't get it. A rosary and pin?"

       "They will serve as your means of identification to your contacts in Rome," Fasif would only say.

       "If you say so, " Pat was resigned, knowing Dr. Khadid would divulge only as much as needed. Pat had always been of the assumption that what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him, but now he wasn't so sure.

       "I do," Fasif was assertive. "And, Patrick, I also must kindly request that you give Elias the Reflector disk you have supposedly been recording."

       "You've no right to confiscate my..."

       "And the Legion has no right to do what they've done. I must destroy the data on the Mirror's Reflector code for the safety of us all - especially for your sake, Patrick. They know where you are, they can trace it."

       "I can protect my..." Pat shot back defensively taken aback by Fasif's change in tone.

       "Until you've met Karel and have heard her report, make no attempt to contact your editor." Fasif's words were not a request but a command.

       "Hold on a minute. I'm already late filin' my first story. If I wait any longer he'll..."

       "Victor will know soon. Ben will inform him. There is no other path now. You are committed to this quest, my friend. That," Fasif emphasized, "takes precedence over everything else."

       Niki tried to assure Pat. "Trust him, Pat. He speaks the truth. I know."

       Fasif stood, "I must make some calls now. I wish you, Godspeed, Patrick Gallagher. God willing we will have the opportunity to meet again."

       Pat, overwhelmed by the turn of events, stammered. "Yeah, I'd like that."

       "As will I, my American friend."

       Pat stood up, placing the Rosary on the side table as he walked toward Fasif. "How'd you know about Ben, about the Reflector code and Vic? How..?"

       "All in good time, Patrick. In the meantime, I will keep our mutual Greek friend occupied right here where his hidden talents can best be utilized. Right, Niki?"

       Niki rose to join the two. "If you insist, Fasif. But a bit of adventure would be good for my soul."

       "On your journey to Kuwait City fill our inquisitive friend with some answers about Karel so he will be better prepared. I will meet you back here tonight, Nicholas." Fasif picked up the Rosary and pressed it into Pat's hand. "Remember, Patrick, common sense and Faith!"

Next: PART II: The Smoldering FOURTH CHAPTER, Episode Five: Haunted and Hunted

"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, 2005 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, nineteen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. Each day the fiction of this novel is shockingly becoming fact. 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. We have been retooling and bringing everything up to date since its second release in 2001. Because of the times, we are most interested in publishing this work and are open to any help anyone can provide in seeing this become a reality.

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