1038 words (4 minute read)

Chapter 4

The refreshing air of March whipped through the lung of James Briar as he walked south of the St Peter Square. Briar felt the power of the Holy City as he looked around.

Trying to clear his thoughts.

He was surrounded by the two hemicycles of four-row colonnades: its portico had to give an open maternal welcome to all Catholics, and to heretics; enlightening them about true faith.

Mr Bessette heart has been stolen.

He could not help but feel a profound sense of sorrow. Stealing from the dead might be the worst thing to do, but taking organs… He rather not thinks about it too long.

Brother Andre reputation of being a miracle man made him an easy person to revere. When he died, several thousands of people came to pay their respects. It was a clear sign of his great popularity. His popularity has never lessened since. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. His books on the proper use of St-Joseph oil and medals were James favorite classroom text. Tonight’s meeting as created a lot of questions in his head.

Why does the Cardinal want to see me?

Again the image of an empty jar on a pedestal in the Oratory flashed is mind. James turned and looked at the majestic view, for a moment, trying to force images out of his mind.

The place was a living hell -Jewish vendors wheeling carts of new rosaries, a beggar carrying bags of garbage, illegal vendors selling Vatican guided tour. Couldn’t help but put a smile on James face, as he navigated through the chaos trying to make his way to St-Peter’s Cathedral.

He always wanted to admire the Basilica but never had an excuse to travel to Rome. Rumors were to say that a lot of religious figures gathered their holy power from the same place James was standing.

Entering the Saint Peter’s Basilica, James had mixed feelings.

The beauty and grandness cannot be denied, but at the same time it is obscenely opulent... There is just too much wealth and grandeur for a church.

On his way to the meeting point, James took a second and stopped at the “wall of prayer”. He never really understood why people were waiting to touch the black cube and pray, but today the Basilica was empty.

For James, it was the six-foot-tall painting of King Solomon holding the key of truth above the wall that first drew is eyes, immediately announcing to the adepts; this was no ordinary painting,  all four corner of the gigantic frame have eight pointed stars embedded to it; mostly referring to a high degree mason rank.

“Signore” said affirmatively a voice behind James.

As James turned he was face to face with two bodyguards reminding him an old movie he saw last night aboard the plane.

“I am so sorry I didn’t see the time fly in front of this gigantic masterpiece of Illusions.”

James whispered to the agents “THIS is ... beautiful.”

“If you can please follow us.” Asked the guard, scanning the painting, wondering if James was sincere on his previous comment, or if he was mocking the holy painting.

Agent Virelli was walking fast, his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back. As he advanced, his glacial blue eyes seemed to freeze the floor before him, radiating an icy aura that chilled the soul.

Briar followed the agents down the staircase into the catacomb beneath the Basilica. As they descended, they passed between two armed guards with taser guns. The message was clear: Nobody goes out without the blessing of Agent Virelli.

Descending below the catacomb level, James fought a rising trepidation. Virelli’s presence was anything but a sign of good fortune, and the Basilica itself felt like an empty cemetery waiting for is next guest.

James could hear his own footsteps resonating off the marble steps, each one more smooth and perfect than the last. The split staircase met at the bottom on either side of a wonderful statue.

“Do you approve?” Virelli asked, pointing the wonderful three-dimensional piece of art.

James sighed. “Yes, it is very beautiful.”

James sensed this guy was  hard to please. He wondered if Virelli had any idea that this sculpture was in fact, a clear sign of submission; The man, feeding a sheep was a great opportunity for James to pull out a joke, but he decided not to bring it up.

As they descended further, the space slowly emerged from the shadows. Built fifteen meters beneath the catacomb level, the Necropolis, looked like and endless grotto.

“I noticed the Basilica was empty, any reason why?” Briar asked nervously.

“Close for the day.” Virelli replied, sounding as if James were questioning the integrity of his team. “My own agents and I have taken over the security until my investigation is finished.”

James nodded, moving quickly to keep pace with Virelli.

“How well did you know the Cardinal?” Virelli asked.

“Actually not at all, we’d never met.”

Virelli looked surprised. “Your first meeting was to be today?”

“Yes. We’d planned to meet at the Basilica.”

Virelli scribbled some notes in his little book.

“Who requested tonight’s meeting?” Virelli asked suddenly.

The question seemed odd. “His Eminence did,” James replied as they passed in front of Saint Peter’s tomb. “His Secretary called me a few days ago, telling me that he wanted to have a meeting with me.” James could not believe he was lying to a member of the authority.

“To Discuss what?”

“I do not know. Miracle, I imagine.”

Virelli looked sceptical. “You have absolutely no idea what your meeting was about?”

James did not. The Cardinal had a penchant for privacy and mystery.

“Mr Briar, can you at least guess what he might have wanted to discuss with you? It might be helpful, as the Cardinal went missing since yesterday.”