by Evan James
A modern day Knights Templar exacts revenge for crimes against his order.
8:00 A.M. March 2
The Pelican Express delivery man, in his early twenties dressed in brown work pants and a matching shirt, rode his bright blue Vespa up to St. Anne’s Gate at the entrance of Vatican City, which separates Rome from the smallest sovereignty state. He dismounted on the outside of the gate as a Carabinieri, dressed in blue, looked on as he had done a thousand times before. The courier took his helmet off and grabbed a box that had been secured to the back of the motorbike with two orange bungee cords. He told the on looking policeman that he was taking the box to the papal apartments, and walked into the cobblestone square and made a right. Even though it was only eight in the morning, the square and area around Vatican City was already buzzing with tourists, police, and vendors hawking everything from Vatican Museum tours, to t-shirts, to rosaries.
As the delivery man walked into the entry of the Palace of Sixtus V, he took out a beautiful 12 inch square box from a larger cardboard package. Once in the building, he went to the front desk and laid the fine chest in front of the attending security guard standing behind the two inch thick glass. The guard motioned to the delivery man to put the box on the conveyor to be x-rayed, and to walk through the airport-like x-ray machine beside it.
Now on the other side of the bullet proof glass, the courier brought the box over to the guard, set it down on the desk, and pushed a clipboard towards him. The guard, with a brush cut and a perfectly ironed uniform, looked at the box and the young man in front of him. The guard suspiciously eyed the gold leaf box as he did everything delivered there. He then took out a four by four inch, three-part form and recorded the contact information from the delivery company and sender.
According to the paperwork, the sender of the item was Jean Gilson, the Archbishop of Notre Dame for the past seven years. The guard stuck the bottom piece of the three-part form onto the box and filed the other two. Finally, the guard stamped the paper on the delivery man’s clipboard with 8:09 A.M., March 2, 2014, the current date and time received by the Holy See and handed it back. The courier bowed his head slightly as he said, “Grazie,” and strode out the door and disappeared into the plaza.
The box, along with several other packages, was sent to the basement of the Palace of Sixtus V, which for the last 400 years have contained the Papal Apartments and administrative offices for his staff. The item was addressed to the Enrico Vierne, the pope’s personal secretary. As had been the case for decades at the Holy See, the package would be x-rayed again before being delivered to its recipient. Other security checks would also be performed.
At 8:57 A.M., a short time for any unexpected package to arrive at its destination within Vatican City, the box was delivered to the office Enrico shares with the pope and is adjacent to Pope Pius’s apartment. Enrico, as the pope’s personal secretary, had to be very near his boss all day every day and hence, had the closest quarters to his Holiness. After having breakfast with the pope, Enrico generally started reviewing the pope’s correspondences, of which there were always many. Enrico had been the pope’s personal secretary for the past twelve years, and when Giovanni Lorenzo Savelli was elected to the papacy in 2013 taking the name Pius XIII, Enrico was appointed Principal Private Secretary to His Holiness.
Enrico, had already been working on emails addressed to the pope for an hour, looked at the striking container with wonderment when it was put atop his large mahogany desk that had first been used by Pope Alexander IX in the 17th century. Although many intriguing and objects came through this office, Enrico was drawn to the box and out of curiosity, immediately opening it. The gold leaf box had a smaller box inside, with For Pope Pius XIII on it. Out of protocol, he opened this six by nine by one inch box that was addressed to the pope and read the note within. Few items ever got to the pope without the eyes of his secretary seeing it first.
With the note and box in hand, Enrico hurried out of his office directly into the pope’s living room. The pope was in an overstuffed, leather seat with its chocolate colored arms worn down, his favorite. He was joined in the room by several advisors including Jose Carlozzi, the Inspector General of the Vatican Police, who were watching the news regarding the past nights murders at Notre Dame de Paris. Pope Pius said, “Who could have done such a thing?”
Interrupting, Enrico answered, “I think I know,” as he set down the gold leaf box on a coffee table in front of the pope, and handed the pope the smaller box. As the pope’s eyes focused on what he now held, Enrico said, “I received this less than ten minutes ago, it is from a group calling themselves the Knights Templar and says they are responsible for burning the Archbishops’ of Notre Dame and Sens in front of Notre Dame Cathedral last night!”
Luigi Dubois, Vatican City’s Secretary of State questioned, “de Carbon, the Archbishop of Sens was the second man?”
“Although the French police believe the first body is that of Jean Gilson, the Archbishop of Notre Dame who was hasn’t been seen since yesterday at 1:30 P.M., they have not released the name of either victim and said that they will not have positive identifications until tomorrow at the earliest. I will check on the whereabouts of Carbon immediately,” said Jose in his monotone manner as he looked down at his iPhone.
The pope looked up from the letter and the box and finally said, “Look for Carbon, but I fear he is gone. Here are the archbishop rings’ of Gilson and Carbon, may they rest in peace.” As the pope said this, he bowed his head, made the sign of the cross, and whispered, “Let us pray for the souls of our brothers.” The four other men in the room stood up and bowed their heads with the Holy Father. Solemnly the pope began a Prayer for the Dead.
He finished with the Lord’s Prayer as a tear came to his right eye and ran down over the pain lines on his face. He continued to look down at the box, at the letter, and of the two gold rings of his departed friends. He contemplated the time he spent with them, including a meeting in Paris two years ago when Gilson took them on a wonderful tour of the City of Light before his election to the papacy in January of 2013. The pope silently said another prayer for the archbishops’ souls and the souls of 54 other priests that have been killed by these Knights Templar. As the pope sat there, he looked more pale and fragile than a man of 67. His heart raced as he took several deep breaths to calm him and to control his rage.
“God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
And by Your command we return to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
Their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
Relatives and friends,
And for all the dead known to You alone.
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
May they rejoice in Your kingdom,
Where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
To sing Your praise forever and ever.
The room was silent for a few minutes when Enrico, with his left hand on the pope’s shoulder, sheepishly said, “The letter refers to 54 other priests in France that have been killed over the past two months as retribution for the sins of the church that occurred 700 years ago. Jose, do you know of more?”
For the first time since Enrico walked in, Jose looked up from his iPhone. “There have been many priests that have passed away in France lately, including the murder of Pierre Guilbert on January 1. The abnormal number of deaths didn’t escape our attention…we have been investigating for the past few weeks. Many were elderly diabetics who passed away from diabetic shock, which isn’t uncommon, but the number that died this way in France recently can’t be a statistical anomaly, there must be something else behind it. A number died of heart problems, which is to be expected for men in this age range. In light of yesterday’s event and this letter, we will devote all of our resources to finding these killers.”
Jose didn’t go into the details of Guilbert’s death; it wasn’t necessary as they all knew them. Guilbert, the Archbishop of Bordeaux and one of the pope’s best friends was kidnapped early in the morning of New Year’s Day, his tongue cut out, most of his bones broken, he was castrate, and a splayed cross was carved out of his chest skin. Finally he was shot execution style with a nine millimeter to the head, and his body was dumped in the west end of the Ile de Cite, just below the plaque commemorating the death of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and only a couple hundred meters from last night’s murders.
Giuliano, the camerlengo still stunned by the news, surveyed the others in the room. “54, was that how many Templars were put to death 700 years ago?”
The pope spoke up again, “In 1310, the Archbishop of Sens turned over 54 Templars to the secular government who were burned at the stake. It was a dreadful act by the church. These Knights Templar are demanding the return of the Ark of the Covenant by March 18 or they will kill every priest in France.”
THANKS FOR READING--STORY CONTINUES ON WITH CHAPTER 3