Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Pius Man, Chapter 5: A Pious Death

A Pius Man is out and ready, everyone.

If you haven't bought it already, maybe this will intrigue you into buying it.

Also, I will just ask that you recall what I'm trying to do with this chapter. I want everyone to look at this and suspect everybody. Almost everybody at least. There are a handful I couldn't make look sinister enough.

Oh well, maybe next time.

...So, let me know if I make everyone look suspicious enough.


If you like, you can order from Amazon.

And now, the final chapter to be released on the blog.



Chapter V:
A Pious Death

Maureen McGrail crouched over the dead priest in Dublin. Father Harrington’s arms had been spread out at his sides, deliberately posed as though he’d been crucified. The old man had been shot first in both knees, and finally in the heart. On his forehead was a precisely carved swastika. His silver hair was spotted with black, crusted blood, and his pale blue eyes were frozen open, staring at the ceiling.
McGrail sighed into her face mask before rising. She always hated wearing the bright white spacesuits at homicide scenes—meant for the protection of the evidence—but then, except for the occasional public-service murder, she just didn’t like homicides. Her green eyes scanned the room, and the luggage on the bed.
And where were you going, Father?” she asked in a soft brogue. “And why?”
McGrail looked to the police officer in the hallway. For some reason, she could clearly hear him humming, “Come Out Ye Black and Tans.” “How old was he?” she asked. “Where was he going?”
Her assistant, Peter Boyle, looked up at her. “Almost ninety. He had booked a plane ticket to Rome to give an affidavit in the canonization thing.”
McGrail smiled. “Which one? Is it one of the local boys? One of the Belfast Martyrs?”
Pius XII, Pope from 1939 to 1958.”
McGrail furrowed her milky white brow. As a police officer, McGrail had never needed to know much about history. The most she learned about history she read in what she dubbed “Catholic Paranoid novels.” They were stories about the Knights of Malta, Knights Templar, or the Church suppressing the truth about everything that happened before the Enlightenment.
As if the Church were ever that organized.
They were fun reads, but rubbish history.
What about the Pope?” she asked.
Peter smiled. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
She rolled her eyes and patiently shook her head as she walked out of the room. It was true that her fellow citizens might read ten times the per-capita average for Europe. And yes, Dublin might have had one bookstore per block. And she could get a fellow Irishman to argue about anything from microcircuits to “the year of the French.” But the average Garda precinct would never have enough people to keep up with omnivorous Irish readers.
Boyle cleared his throat like a professor beginning a lecture. “Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli. Died 1958. There are books that blamed him as emissary from the Vatican, as papal Secretary of State, and as Pope, for aiding and assisting Hitler’s rise to power. Still another tries to make a case that the Pope did nothing to save Jews in Rome, and the only reason so many survived was due only to the rank-and-file Catholic priests.”
McGrail raised an eyebrow at him. “You’ve specialized in the subject?”
Boyle grinned. “No, but it’s amazing what you can fake just by reading the backs of books.”
McGrail sighed. “So, our dead man was to testify on the matter? He was summoned?”
No, volunteered. We talked to the maids about how he’s been the last week. Agitated beyond all hell; he was annoying everyone, muttering that ‘the truth must come out’.”
She grinned. Boyle had a near-perfect memory, so everything he had just said was a near-quote. “He was going to talk about death camps and such?”
Not quite. You see, Father Harrington was with Father Carroll-Abbing down in Rome when Harrington was still in the seminary.”
McGrail cocked her head to one side. “Father Carroll-Abbing?”
He nodded. “Ever read Susan Zuccolti’s Under His Very Windows?”
Aren’t I happy to let someone else fight out the whole thing and wake me when the last man is standing?” she said with a smile. Boyle tried not to roll his eyes at the way she asked questions for almost every sentence. It was almost a regional dialect – if “Ireland” could be considered a region. It wasn't a particularly urban way of speaking, but she didn't quite sound like she was in county Kerry, as those folks tended to not speak to people, but sing to them, their accents were so lyrical. “She was a Catholic basher, ya?” McGrail asked.
Not quite. Priests and nuns were the heroes in her book; her main argument was that while the rest of the Roman Catholic Church acted, Pius was asleep at the switch, through either timidity or malice aforethought.” He smirked. “Google is your friend, ya?”
McGrail nodded, stepped out in the hall, and then stripped off the hood of the suit, letting her raven black hair fall over her shoulder blades. She breathed in fresh air. “So this Carroll-Abbing is?”
One of the hero priests—Irish. He died in 2001, in Rome. Father Harrington here—on the floor—was a seminarian in Rome in the forties—in his mid-teens, if my math is right. Who knows, Harrington might have been a footnote.”
McGrail sighed. “Well, he is now, isn’t he?” She peeled the suit off her body. By the time she was done, she wore only her black suit pants and loose white blouse; throw in the running shoes and she was five-six. “Any sense to this being a neo-Nazi thing?”
He cocked his head.
Thought not. I was called in because I’m Interpol, and someone wants me to fly to Rome, wasn’t I?”
Father Harrington was killed late yesterday, early today, don’cha know? We left the body in situ so you could see everything before it was disturbed. We called Rome. They’d be happy to help with our inquiries. Rome is expecting you soon enough, about six o’clock their time.”
Doesn’t that mean I’ll—”
Be leaving almost immediately? Definitely.”
McGrail headed for the door. “If you need me, won’t I be home, packing?”
McGrail stepped out onto the solid foundation of a Dublin street. She looked out over the early morning emptiness of the sidewalks deeply, enjoying the quiet. All of the doors on the buildings around her—in good old-fashioned tradition—were bright, vivid colors, each different from the other, in an assortment of greens and blues, purples and even the occasional…was that brown?
She looked behind her at the ugliest door on the block, which belonged to the Markist seminary she had just left, a garish color that looked like it wanted to be either brown or black, and only resulted in the color of mud.
Aren’t they all barbarians?” she muttered.
McGrail was about to go about her business when she stopped a moment. She turned and leapt up the seminary stairs, taking them two at a time. “Boyle!”
Peter’s head peeked into view over the top of the stairs. “What?”
Did Father Harrington live here?”
No, he’s diocesan, over in Kerry. He was invited. The Markists were having a symposium on the Pius thing, and this guy was going to give a lecture tomorrow, then be on a plane to Rome not long after.”
Can I go to his place, then? Or will the Captain not allow that?”
Peter Boyle shrugged. “Only if you can be three places at once.”
She groaned. “Are the Kerry boys at least searching it?”
He smiled. “Leave it to us to worry about that. I’ll let you know when they get around to finishing a report. Okay? Enjoy Italy.”
Maybe.” She turned to leave, and then stopped, looking at the Markist brochures for the order and the seminary. She picked one up before heading out the door. The cover read, “Markist Brothers, Founded Berlin, 1958.”
The year Pius XII died. Hmm. Anyway, we’re off to see the Pontiff, the wonderful Pontiff of Rome …
Giovanni Figlia took both Hashim Abasi and Wilhelmina Goldberg into the basement of the Office of the Swiss Guard, a building next to the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square. The subterranean level looked somewhat new in comparison with the rest of the city, with metal security doors that Goldberg would have sworn she had seen on the vault containing the Crown Jewels of England.
Commander Figlia used a hand print, iris and retinal scan, as well as a nine-digit alphanumeric readout combination panel.
What is this place?” Goldberg asked. “Where you keep old Nazi war criminals the Church is protecting?”
Figlia cringed, remembering the scolding he had received for joking about something similar once.
The metal vault began to swing open, very slowly. “Here, in fact, is our weapons vault.”
The wall of the vault was lined with bullet-resistant glass cases of futuristic weapons, as well as some old-fashioned guns, in addition to the obvious gas canisters, rubber bullets, and beanbags launched from muzzles the size of baseballs. And there were a few normal fragmentation grenades and flash-bangs. The entire weapons collection consisted of chrome and Plexiglas. Figlia stepped inside, and presented it like Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film. His black suit and polo shirt meshed so well with the chrome and glass finish, it was almost as though he had dressed to match the d├ęcor.
Goldberg gaped and took several steps inside. She tried to see directly into some of the cases, but eventually gave in, and grabbed a step ladder so she could see inside.
Abasi stayed at the door and looked around at the equipment. “I didn’t know you could afford weapons like this,” he began.
We can’t, really.” Figlia stepped into the vault, leaning up against the wall opposite Godlberg. “The older guns, the lethal ones, all … come se dice? Ah, yes, they ‘fell off the back of a CIA truck’ during the 1980s. After the Pope was shot, and because il Papa was working with the CIA on the Solidarity crisis in Poland, the head of the CIA then, Bill Casey, delivered these. The latest assault rifles we have are all M16A2s—though I would prefer the M8, or more M4s. The rest are non-lethal weaponry we test for the companies that make them. As a result of testing their product, we are given free samples.”
Hashim Abasi laughed. “I almost thought you had paid for all of this yourself, like the Saudis’ Wahhabi mutaw’een religious police. The ones that drive American SUVs.”
Figlia shook his head. “Our budget is … nonexistent, since we are given this for free, which is odd, because I think we should be the second-biggest market for nonlethal weapons.”
Figlia quickly opened a case, picking out a boxy, rectangular weapon that looked like an art-deco version of a Stinger missile launcher. “This is from the Air Force Research Laboratory, a directed energy cannon … a microwave gun. It doesn’t burn flesh. It only feels like it, very painful.”
Figlia gently placed it on his shoulder to demonstrate how to hold it, then placed it gently back in its case. He removed another weapon, which looked like a glorified water rifle.
Anti-traction gel gun—anyone who tries to drive or walk on this will not be able to. Nontoxic, biodegradable, and dries up in twelve ore … hours, depending on conditions. We’ve also malodorants, stink bombs so bad they are limited by chemical-weapons treaties… which Vatican City never signed, so it doesn’t matter.”
Abasi chuckled. “You haven’t thought of the U.N.’s ways of doing things, have you?”
Figlia shrugged, putting away the weapon. “They are useful third parties, but in terms of making international law, they think they’re God, but without the sense. Some say John Paul II was unable to deal with the West because they gave his homeland to the Soviets. I think this pope cannot tolerate the U.N. because they put Sudan on the Human Rights Commission, which is like putting Hitler in charge of the committee on Zionism.” Figlia shook his head. “Anyway, we’ve also the new soft bullets, as well as the WebShot Kevlar nets from Falls Church. This is the one I’m particularly fond of …”
He pulled out what looked like a flashlight. “It basically uses ultraviolet laser light to transmit an electric current—a Taser beam that works at a range of two kilometers.”
At this point, Goldberg coughed firmly so she could get his attention – and she stayed on the stepladder so she could see eye-to-eye with him. “Excuse me, but before you even tell me what your tactics are, what are you doing with all this weaponry? The range of an MP5 is about the length of Vatican City. Right now, you got more than enough artillery to tangle with a small army. Is the Pope expecting an invasion of the Vatican?”
Figlia’s eyes went flat and his voice serious. “No. Why?”
Where I come from, you need enough firepower to keep the shooter’s head down. With the MP5s, you got that. With the M16s, you got that squared. I guess you got sniper rifles too. But you can get the same effect by attaching the beam thingy to a telescopic sight. Hell, it could be made into a medium-sized handgun and you can call it a phaser. What am I missing?”
Nothing,” he said flatly. “We’re just cautious.”
Goldberg looked at Abasi. “You don’t believe him? Do you?”
Abasi held up both hands before him, and took a step back. “It would be rude to say so.”
That’s what I thought.” To Figlia: “For God’s sake, you expect me to believe that a Church as anti-science as this one will suddenly turn to devices like this? I mean, come on, you only just cleared Galileo two decades ago, and you threatened to cook him.”
A soft, polite cough sounded behind them. Goldberg looked over her shoulder, and spotted the priest from the bomb site, evident from the silver hair, young face, and bright violet eyes. “If I may answer,” he said in a soft, gentle voice. “There are a few problems with your statements. The Church is not anti-Science For example, Nicholas Orsme penned the concept of impetus and inertia over 300 years before Isaac Newton made it his first law of physics. St. Augustine invented psychology in the confessional 1500 years before Freud was conceived and is so listed in the better history-of-psychiatry texts.
Galileo formed his heliocentric theory using the astronomical devices in his cathedral, and partially plagiarized a theory from Polish Archbishop Kupernick, generally known as Copernicus.. Galileo’s theories wouldn’t be proven until two hundred years after he died, and he was told to teach his theories as if they were theories, instead of fact. At the time, there was no evidence that it was true, so even by today’s standards, Galileo would have been laughed out of the scientific community.”
The priest shrugged. “Thus ends the sermon.”
Abasi looked down at the priest from his six-foot height.
You go by Father… doesn’t that mean you walk around in a suit and tie?”
Father Frank laughed. “You’ve been to America! How nice. First, this is as much my uniform as a police officer’s; besides, women simply go crazy over the collar.” He laughed and waved it away. “They used to say back in the seminary that if a broomstick wore a Roman collar, women would chase after it.”
Abasi grinned broadly. “You’re very odd for an American priest.”
That’s because I’m a Roman Catholic American, not an American Catholic.”
Abasi laughed. Thank you. When I went to America last, I visited Georgetown, run by your Jesuits. They had taken down crucifixes because they accepted money from the government. I do not worship Jesus as you do, but even I have more respect than to take down his image for money.” He said the last with disdain.
Father Frank smiled. “I used to be a Jesuit. I and many Jesuits of the old school have gone over to the Opus Dei … unofficially.”
Agent Goldberg looked on curiously. “Funny, you don’t seem to be a right-wing fascist.”
Abasi and Father Frank glanced at her. Then, suddenly, Goldberg laughed. “That was a joke, fellas.” She rolled her eyes. “So, you routinely go around lecturing random VIPs?” she asked Father Frank.
Not as a rule, no.”
Whew, good to know…” She frowned. “I’m going to regret this, but what was Galileo jailed for, anyway? Being an arrogant prick?”
Father Frank hesitated. “He had started as being friends with the Pope. Maybe frenemies. That, and malpractice as a science professor. But, he kept all of his church pensions and kept up all his communications with other scientists around Europe. Was it smart to disobey a direct order from the Church, and make fun of the Pope during the Protestant Revolutions? No. But, because the Church sentenced him to house arrest for teaching a theory like it was the Truth, it has been labeled as ‘anti-progress’; nowadays it’s just good science. Some have even charged that Newton was prosecuted by the Church—which is difficult, as he was Anglican. Contrary to the claims of some best-selling novels, the church has never suppressed a scientist. Although I can think of a few novelists who’d fit the stake better…”
The priest smiled. “The fact is the Church has been a fan of science, especially with the development of the anthropic principle in 1974, which states that, scientifically, the universe seems to be made for mankind. As a cardinal contemporary of Galileo said: ‘the Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.’ The Jesuits even run the Vatican observatory out in the American desert. No other religion has one.”
She glanced at Father Frank. “Can we help you, Father?”

Yes,” he said, as soft as ever. “I was sent to assist Commandatore Figlia in showing you around. He knows the technology, but I know the history.” He tapped his collar and smiled. “Besides, a collar can open many a door here. You might say I could even get away with murder.”

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

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