Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Pius Man, Chapter 4: A Pious Mission

Sorry everyone, but I'm not actually going to be able to host a radio show tonight. I will, in all likelihood, be driving all through the night with my merry band of con goers, coming back from LibertyCon. It'll be seven hours before I drop off some of the people I'm with, and I crash at his place, before getting up the next morning and starting all over again.


Anyway, today, in place of a radio show, I have to give you this special warning:  A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller has launched. It is live. It's alive. A-LIVE I TELL YOU! AHAHAHAAHAHAHAAH.


So, in the immortal words of Jack Bauer....


By now, you're probably well aware my yanking this from the shelves when I signed with Silver Empire Publishing.

But right now, it's back, and up for preorder, here, direct from the publisher, currently being sold with deep discounts. You can buy them cheap when you can. Because this deal will only last until July 1. So, hurry.  Or you can order from Amazon now.

And if you're new here, and have no idea what A Pius Man is ... It ate up ten years of my life, and the best use I have ever gotten out of my Masters in History outside of writing biographies of older vampires.

But here you go, here's the next chapter. When you're hooked, order it. 

Or preorder it. Or something.

You'll note this one is a little shorter than usual. Sorry about that. But a little Sean goes a long way.

Anyway, there will be more to come on A Pius Man. You have been warned.

Chapter IV:
A Pious Mission

The summoning had been easy. After all, it was merely, “We lost a target in Rome,” on a cell phone. He was then given information about the contact, and his travel information.
Scott “Mossad” Murphy allowed his mind to drift over the information he had been given. According to German Intelligence, a terrorist on the Mossad hit list had been found in Rome with two bullets in him. It looked like a professional killing, and Mossad didn’t kill him.
And, since it’s Rome, they decided to send in their golden goy, he thought. He looked around the Roman landscape and wondered, Gee, it’s not like a blue-eyed, dark blond Irish Catholic from Boston will stand out in Rome! What have my superiors been smoking?
Murphy couldn’t argue. As a Catholic, he had strong Goyim Brigade contacts in the area, so it sort of made sense. But still, if bullets were already flying, King Saul Boulevard should’ve known better than to send him.
Now all he needed was to meet his German contact at the alfresco restaurant. Murphy had only been given a contact phrase, and nothing else. At least he would get some fresh air while he waited.
Murphy caught his reflection in the restaurant window. His mix of brown-blond hair had effected profound confusion among his enemies, and the various dyes he employed made him excellent for work around the world. His skin was pale, and his eyes were dark enough blue to be considered a dark brown with improper lighting, which he always managed to find in the West Bank. He wasn’t that tall, almost like he had suffered from slight malnutrition in his youth. His build was due to habits formed during his previous existence as an accountant. He was very thin, which his family had always thought to be a genetic aberration, given that both of his parents and all of his five siblings—older and younger—had been tall basketball players.
He sighed. I’ll make do. There’s gotta be some tourists somewhere.
Is this seat taken, or do you have a wife?” asked a rich, female voice. The voice was young, but over twenty, and had notes out of Barber’s Adagio.
She also said the magic words. Murphy turned in his seat.
The woman standing next to him was about 5’7”, and wore a charcoal-black turtleneck over deep gray slacks—dress so professional she could have been on her way to see the Pope. Her light pink lips were curled into a smile, which made her glittering amber eyes light up. Her eyes were slightly almond-shaped, set above gently sloped, obviously Slavic cheekbones. Her hair was a deep brown laced with flecks of dark gold, and the ringlets stopped about the middle of her well-endowed breasts—full enough to be noticeable, but not intrusive.
Scott Murphy felt his jaw begin to slacken, and automatically regained his composure. “I’m not sure if you want the chair, it looks a little dirty to me,” he replied. The chair was as shiny as polished silver.
She smiled, eyes glittering. “I know it does. I’m used to dirty, I come from Germany.”
Really? Can’t hear the accent. “How is the weather this time of year?”
It’s snowing,” she said as she slid into the chair with grace. It was May.
Murphy opened his mouth and moved his lips, but no sound came out. He paused, rubbed his lips as though entering into deep thought, and slid his fingers up his face to rest on his cheek. He mouthed one more time.
She scanned his mouth, reading, “Do you read lips?”
Yes,” she answered.
Do we need to exchange names?” he mouthed.
We’ll be working together,” she replied, mouthing the same way. “So I’d guess so.”
He offered his hand. “Scott Murphy.”
Manana Shushurin. Call me Mani.” She squeezed his hand lightly. “What have you been told?”
Someone died, and we’re supposed to keep watch on someone… I hope you’re not the spy. You’re too dazzling. You’ll attract attention like you have flares attached to you.”
That’s the point. I’m considered the perfect spy.”
Scott Murphy blinked. “The perfect spy is a gray colorless little man whom no one would notice if you tripped over him … which is sort of why they call me that around the office.”
She beamed. “Exactly. What were your thoughts on first contact?”
That you’re too pretty to be a spy …” He stopped and chuckled. “Point taken.”
She nodded. “We were also told you attract no attention; I can be a diversion.”
No kidding; you’re a weapon of mass distraction. “Can you be inconspicuous for, I don’t know, the majority of the mission?”
She took out a cap, one usually seen on muggers in old “Foggy London” movies, and set it so the sweatband stopped just over her eyebrows. No one could see her face unless she was looking right at them.
Not a bad adjustment,” he admitted. And it would be hard for someone to report what she looked like, even if they stared right at her … and they will be.
She nodded. “Thank you.” She studied him for a moment with those brilliant brown eyes. She looked over his hands, his arms, his face. She took him in, and then took him in again. “May I ask, why did they send you? Sorry, but—”
I don’t look Jewish?” he joked. “I’m Irish Catholic.”
She cocked her head to one side with curiosity. “And yet you’re in Mossad…?”
Murphy shook his head. “First of all, we just call it ‘the Office.’ We never call it … by that name. As for me … Well, you heard about John ‘Taliban’ Walker Lindh? An American who went to Jihad University in Yemen? Well, I decided that we needed one for our side—” he started talking again, “—and I joined up.”
The waiter set down his cappuccino and walked away. Without even looking to see if he was out of earshot—which he was—Murphy continued. “Let’s just say,” he mouthed, “that I had a good view of the World Trade Center on an unfortunate day.”
Shushurin cocked her head, admiring what seemed to be Murphy’s own built-in radar.
A pipe appeared in his hand, and he held it up, waiting for her approval. She nodded. He lit up and let the smoke drift up, briefly letting his mind flit back to the morning of September 11, 2001. “Anyway, what about you? Shushurin sounds odd for a German.”
East German,” she answered, as though it sufficed for an explanation.
Ah, Russian father?” He thought a moment, considering the history of the area, and the border shifts over time. “Or is it Polish?”
It’s from Lvov. It used to be part of Poland, then Russia. Do you carry a weapon?”
Murphy shook his head. “I’ve always been better at just spycraft. I can improvise.” He stopped mouthing his words as the waiter drifted closer to them—“I can make use of almost anything they have here for all sorts of”—as the waiter drifted away behind them, he started mouthing as soon as the waiter was out of earshot—“weaponry.”
Manana cocked her head. “I have to ask, how did you know he was out of range?”
It’s a gift,” he mouthed to her. As he talked, he continued making hand gestures like an Italian Jack Benny, always able to hide his mouth from possible lip readers in the room, but making it seem natural. “As I said, I don’t do guns—as soon as you use, you lose. I’m never violent.” He emphasized that with a sharp cutting gesture. He leaned forward. “So, what’s the mission? Who, exactly, has died?”
Ashid Raqman Yousef.”
I hope he wasn’t related to Ramzi Yousef,” he joked.
She moved forward, allowing the world to imagine that she was merely about to kiss him across the table. “He was.”
Murphy didn’t show his visceral, gut-jerking reaction. This could be bad.
In the early 1990s, Ramzi Yousef had taken the first major swipe at the New York City World Trade Center. Before there had been Osama bin Laden, there was Ramzi Yousef. Even though that bin Laden had already started his career, next to Yousef, bin Laden had looked like a rich playboy who wanted a play at jihad, a mere Gucci terrorist. Yousef had made grand plans for terror across the planet, even making detailed plans for killing Pope John Paul II.
What was Ashid Yousef doing here? I know his brother wanted to kill the Pope, they found the plans on him when they caught him, but—”
She smiled, almost reading his thoughts, and squeezed his hand to cut him off. “Yousef was doing research. The BND kept an eye on Yousef. He spent weeks going back and forth from his hotel to the Vatican Library. Then he died. Two shots, very professional. One day, Ashid made a phone call to Iran, and woke up dead.”
Murphy blinked. “Odd. That sounds more like an Office hit than anything al Qaeda would’ve done.” Murphy continued. “Could friends of his have hired someone to kill him? It’s unlikely, but a well-disciplined terrorist takedown of one of their own? They’d sooner steal a page from The Godfather, invite him back home, and work him over there. It’s either that or it was a CIA hit, but even that makes no sense; the CIA would kidnap him, or follow him around until he led them to someone higher up in the chain of command.”
Shushurin nodded, reached out and touched his arm to complete the illusion of intimacy. His eyes brightened in response. “Is there another possibility?”
Murphy took her hand in his. “It was a rush job. It needed to be handled immediately. Which means he was either going to run and talk to someone, or about to compromise an attack.”
Could they have spotted our tail?” she asked.
He squeezed her hand right back, hoping that they would both go unnoticed as they continued with the charade. “This is Rome, not Moscow rules. They don’t have counteragents trailing our tails, which means that Yousef would have had to have spotted and reported your people. Unlikely if he was sent here to do research; I mean, if he knew how to empty an assault rifle into the Mall of America, he’d be out in the field, doing it, not locked up in some vault.”
The Vatican Archives—a large, fully stocked, fully furnished vault. My only question is, what was he doing?”
Wilhelmina Goldberg blinked at the priests and nuns in the Vatican gardens. The short Secret Service Agent didn’t even look away from the bizarre sight in front of her. “Tell me they’re not doing what I think they’re doing.”
Giovanni Figlia grinned broadly, looking like a male Italian fashion model as he kept one hand in his black slacks, and gestured with the other. “Tai chi. His Holiness wanted them to do this, if only to keep in shape. It’s only twenty minutes a day, as voluntary as the rest of the hour.”
Goldberg raised a brow. “Rest of?”
Figlia nodded. “We’ve hired someone to train our ‘citizens’ for self-defense. His Holiness wants to be certain that if someone shoots at him, anyone who feels compelled to attack the shooter could do so safely.”
Hashim Abasi frowned in thought at the idea. The Egyptian cop looked at the elderly nuns, the pudgy and middle aged priests, and shook his head. “Surely, you’re joking. The odds of such a thing happening—”
Oh?” Figlia asked. “You mean an apprehension by one of our fine, upstanding nuns?”
Abasi bowed his head. “Of course.”
The first person on John Paul II’s would-be assassin was a nun, right before a Swiss Guard. Luckily, the shooter didn’t mind being taken without a fight. Should it ever happen again, only with a suicide bomber, the Pope wants our people to have a chance.”
Goldberg nodded her obviously dyed blonde head. “Not bad. They’re a replacement for CATs – a Counter Assault Team, what we use to support a detail when it comes under fire.” She frowned, revealing worry lines all over her mouth, as well as her forehead. “Given the size of Vatican City, there isn’t much need for a mobile CAT. Training civilians isn’t a bad idea, if your trainer is smart enough to teach them when to approach and when to run.”
He nodded. “Si, Signore Ryan is very good about that.”
Abasi unbuttoned his tan jacket and slipped his hands in the pocket as he watched the Vatican residents continue to go through the motions. The Egyptian counted them and tried to decide how effective they would be. “And where, may I ask, is your trainer from? American Special Forces?”
No. While loro sono molto bene—” Figlia paused, and began again, remembering to stay with English. “These are ordained priests and nuns. We will not have them carry guns. Our objectives needed them to learn how to disarm and disable someone. Special Forces do not have the luxury of taking prisoners. This man teaches mostly Krav Maga, but uses other techniques as well.”
Goldberg was intrigued. Protection that avoids killing? “Who’d you get?”
Another big grin. “I’ll introduce you.”
They approached as the final tai chi position was taken. The trainer saw them coming and said “Tempo finita. Take cinque.”
The trainer took a step off of a box and shrank a foot. While he moved with the lazy grace of an egotistical cat, and beamed with a charming grin, something was … off. He was in his late twenties, but he gave the impression of being younger, just in the way he walked, and how he looked at them with his electric-blue eyes—Goldberg had only seen that color once, in the middle of a particularly bad lightning storm. They stood out even against his pale skin and stark black hair.
Hey, Johnny, come stai, mio amico?” he said grandly.
Figlia tried not to smile. Rusty phrases like that were as far as this man’s Italian went, and calling him “Johnny” instead of “Gianni” was typical of how he handled Italian. “I wanted to show you off. Meet Hashim Abasi , Egyptian police, and Villie Goldberg, U.S. Secret Service.”
The shorter man nodded and shook hands with each. “Charmed. Sean Ryan, of Sean A.P. Ryan & Associates.”
Goldberg cocked her head. “Aren’t you a security company? American?”
He nodded with a big grin, the bright eyes nearly glowing. “Yes, ma’am. Have you heard of me?”
She cocked her head and closed one hazel eye, studying him a moment. He was basically neat – professional haircut, clean cut, business casual dress … Her eyes shot open as it occurred to her.
Oh, crap!” she blurted.
Sean Aloysius Patricus Ryan barked a laugh. “Yup, you’ve heard of me. Normally, I would say don’t believe anything you hear, but one of my employees is ex-Secret Service, so in your case, I would think you can pretty much believe everything.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the priests and nuns. “Don’t worry, though. I’m just teaching the civvies how to hold their own without killing or being killed. You can have Gianni’s boys and girls, I don’t deal in such things. Heck, I barely deal in this.”
Abasi glanced at him askew, still lost about the conversation. “Odd to hear you say that. If I may ask, what were you before you did … this?”
Hollywood stuntman.” Abasi’s deep brown eyes almost popped out of his head. Sean Ryan laughed. “Now you know why they got me—I was trained how to hurt people without really hurting them, something the Fathers and Sisters need to learn.”
Abasi laughed. “With their bare hands, I suppose?”
Sean paused, turned, and walked back to the box he’d been standing on. He opened it and came back with a small black cylinder in each hand. He flicked both wrists, snapping the cylinders outward—they telescoped into tactical batons. He touched the butt of each baton together and twisted, locking them in place to form a seven-foot staff.
I figured it would just be easier to teach them previously approved methods. I mean, if a medieval monk could use a staff without being excommunicated, it shouldn’t be a problem now.”
Goldberg raised her hand. “’Scuse me, isn’t this a little much?” She looked at Commander Figlia. “Your Pope seems to take a great interest in security. What is he, paranoid?”
For the first time, Figlia scowled. “Let us take a walk.”
They walked for a minute, making certain that they were far enough away from Abasi and Sean to be out of earshot. The head of Vatican security slipped his hands in his pockets, and made certain to keep his movements careful and controlled. “Tell me, Special Agent Goldberg, what do you know about the Sudan? Before the North-South split of 2011.”
She shrugged. “Arab Muslims killing or enslaving black Christians.”
Si. You know the nearest, strongest, non-Muslim government? Uganda. The strongest religion? Catholicism. Archbishop Kutjok was the most hated clergyman in the Sudan. They tried to kill him twice, and that was before he became Pope. He’s terrified of a suicide bomber in the middle of Saint Peter’s Square killing dozens in an attempted assassination. He wants me to make sure that doesn’t happen, and you to double-check me, and Sean Ryan to make sure that innocent civilians aren’t helpless civilians. In the Pope’s world, all life is sacred, a gift from God, and no one is exempt from that. Trust me, he’s less worried about his death than the deaths of those around him. He knows the risk he takes every time he steps outside, and he finds it an acceptable price to pay for doing the work of God. But he doesn’t believe it’s acceptable that people should die just because they gathered to see him.”
Sean Aloysius Patricus Ryan watched Figlia and Goldberg walking away, and once they stopped, he started reading their lips.
Sean sidestepped to square himself with Abasi, still reading lips around the larger man. “Yes, it was a family business. Now it’s security.”
Abasi leaned over, blocking Sean’s view of the other two—but Sean had already gotten enough details.
What made you qualified for this sort of work?”
Sean looked at the Egyptian straight on, and quickly analyzed him. Abasi was big and bulky, without moving awkwardly. He certainly lifted, but he would probably take a second or two if Sean needed to drop him. Abasi’s tan suit was well tailored, and probably new—which was unsurprising, given the nature of his assignment would include making a good impression to a foreign country. Abasi looked 35, but was probably older, though Sean would have usually laid money on the reverse being true.
Sean gave him a broad grin. “I’m a mick. I beat people up for fun, doncha know?”
Abasi smiled. “I am sure my wife would have liked that.” Too bad she’s dead, Abasi thought.
Sean chuckled. “I always knew the Irish would marry anybody.” He hesitated a moment. “Or is it that anybody will marry the Irish?” He gave a casual shrug. “To tell the truth, I have a few connections here and there that keep me just one step ahead of everybody else. That and a Kevlar suit’s all I need.”
Abasi looked at the young man, studying his form and how he held himself. He was relaxed, almost languid, but in the way that a panther was lazy. The grace of a well-fed predator. “I somehow doubt it is that simple.”

Sean grinned. “Is it ever?”

And, if you've done that....

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