Consuelo and Antonio are caught in the act.
Chapter 22 The Snare
Maria waited nerves on edge. As the day turned to twilight she wondered if the liaison was ever going to materialize. Six O’clock turned to seven and still no Consuelo. She began to pace nervously back and forth in front of her window. On the table was the rose she had promised to place on her sill when she departed. Then the clock would begin and thirty minutes later Ricardo would come to her aid. She was to drop some petals before the door so the rescuers would know where she was. Another fifteen minutes passed before she heard a quite knock. She placed the rose on the sill and went to open the door. Consuelo waited outside. She took a second rose and clutched it in her hand.
“Come,” said Consuelo, “already we’re late and your lover waits; no doubt with baited breath.”
Taking her charge by the arm they went downstairs and crossed the street. Maria breathed with relief as they went up the steps and entered the anticipated wing. They walked down the hallway and passed the row of visitors rooms to the last door on the left. It was the suite referred to as "The Cardinal’s Quarters," meaning it was the most well-appointed of the apartments. Here the Reverend Mother paused.
Maria took the rose and placed it in her hair. Consuelo noticed and smiled approvingly. She intends to make the evening memorable, the RM thought. She knocked softly on the door, failing to notice several petals fall to the floor. The door opened revealing the countenance of Antonio, smiling broadly.
“I've brought you a little love bird,” said Consuelo as the door swung wide.
“Please come in my dear,” said Antonio.
"I'll leave you two to get acquainted," said the Reverend Mother. With a knowing wink she turned about and headed off back down the hall. Brother Bernardo motioned inside with a half bow and flourish.
"I believe your name is Maria, is it not?"
“Yes, it is,” she answered nervously, without having to pretend.
Inside was an elegantly furnished room. There was a desk beneath a chandelier, two book cases, and a long table. On the other end was a huge bed with a canopy. On the table was a pitcher filled with water, a decanter of wine and two glasses."
“Don’t be nervous,” said Antonio. “Since this is not your first time, think of me as a long familiar lover; that mysterious someone of your dreams.”
Inside Maria’s head a mental clock was ticking… Less than ten minutes had passed twenty more to go.
“I want to thank you Father, for the annulment.”
"A pleasure to be of service..."
"What do you wish me to call you? By your title or do you have a name you prefer instead?"
“Antonio,” he answered, “my name is Antonio.”
Brother Bernardo couldn't get over it... This is one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen; he made a mental not to congratulate Consuelo on her good taste.
“Would you care for some refreshment?” he asked.
She smiled and nodded. He poured them both some wine from the decanter and extended her a glass…
“It’s so much more relaxing to have someone with experience. Consuelo often uses me to introduce the virgins to the pleasures of lovemaking; initiate the Initiates, if you will. It can be something of a chore and I'm glad we can dispense with that worrisome little task."
Dear God, Maria thought, It's true! What they are doing is here unconscionable."
She spoke up. "You're correct that I have some experience but only through my husband... still he was a fearsome taskmaster. I continue to have nightmares of what he did to me?" (One of the strategies she had considered was to engage him in a tale, like Scheherazade, in the Arabian Knights, and thereby buy some time.)
He didn't bite. "Was that the husband in France… the one you ran away from?”
“The same, Father. I fled him fearing for my life.”
Antonio took a sip and set his glass on the table. He began to unbutton his frock.
“You need have no fear of me on that on my account…You'll find me a patient and gentle man.”
She stood silently and took a sip of wine.
“Drink deeply," he recommended. ”There’s a full bottle. I can see that you’re nervous."
She smiled weakly.
“Nervousness is always to be expected at first, but soon it will turn to pleasure and we'll have a more enjoyable time,” he motioned with his thumb, "in that big bed.”
She pretended to drink more by tilting the glass. The time was passing with an agonizing slowness… there was still at least fifteen minutes to go. He sat down in a chair and took his boots off one at a time. Then he stood and unbuckled his pants letting them drop.
She watched motionless. All that remained was his undergarment and she could see his eagerness, peeking not so shyly from beneath.
“Your turn,” he said…
Maria walked over and dropped to her knees…”Before we make love Father…”
“Antonio…will you take my confession? What I have done to escape my husband… to prevail upon your kindness is sinful and an affront to God."
"Then let me set your mind at ease... I have a special authority vested by almighty God, and I hereby extend it, absolving you of all sin."
I don't believe he just said that, thought Maria... Solicitation is bad enough but promising absolution is even worse. He could burn for this.
In a voice laced with contrition she asked, "Would it be imposing too for you to confess me, before we... you know... do it?"
“I suppose I could, l Maria…however it would be more acceptable in the eyes of the Lord if we were both naked.... unadorned as when we came into this world.”
Why is it that women always try and delay the inevitable? he wondered.
Maria sighed… this was unexpected but there was little to be done.
She stood up and began unbuttoning the top of her habit. Then she unbuttoned her skirt and let it fall to the floor. Pulling the blouse over her head she set it on top. She tried to extend the undressing part, exaggerating the removal of her garments, but could see that this only excited him more. His eyes gleamed and his eagerness strained, peering out like a one eyed Cyclops. She removed her panties revealing the thick mat of wiry hair that surrounded her womanhood and then slipped off her halter, letting her breasts fall free. Maria was in the fullness of her beauty and a stunning example of her sex.
As he watched he voiced many “Ohhhs” and "Awhhs" smiling with a wicked grin. She was a delight such as he had never witnessed; a veritable study in womanly perfection. He stood and let his underwear fall about his ankles. As he stepped out, his phallus stood in salute of her beauty. He sat back down and she fell to her knees. Closer, he indicated and she crawled to the edge of his chair, her face but inches from his masculinity.
“Bow your head and confess to me,” he said…
“Dear father, I have sinned; rather than be a dutiful wife I have shirked my responsibilities and brought pain and suffering to those who took pity on me.” She took a deep breath and was about to continue when Antonio cut her short…
“You're forgiven Maria. Say no more. You can make a more personal and lengthy penitence when you return to your room.”
Maria looked up, her mind a complete blank; at a total loss for how she might further delay matters.
Antonio stood and touched his member to her mouth. ”Pleasure me," he said brushing it back and forth across her lips.
Maria had not been a virgin when she met Benvolio but her experience was limited to a groom, who will go unnamed, in the stables of their estate. This was totally beyond all expectation and she turned her head away. Antonio forced it back around, taking her ears and twisting. She winced looking fearfully from the corner of her eye.
"Are you going to behave?" he asked.
She struggled as he pushed it insistently into her mouth. She rebelled, trying to spit it out but he only twisted harder. She gurgled as slipped into her throat and began gagging. The taste and texture were repugnant and she began retching.
"Damn you woman," he cursed relenting. Shaking his head in disappointment he withdrew reluctantly. “Did your husband not instruct you in fellatio?”
“No Father” she answered sputtering. Her stomach rolled and she sprang to her feet running over to the table. Raising the pitcher she took a mouthful, sloshing the contents about and spitting into a chamber pot.
“I’m sorry I took you unawares." he said without any real contrition. "Your husband is to blame for not teaching one of the fundamental skills of matrimony.… however, be that as it may, let us adjourn to the bed where you can demonstrate those remedial skills you're more familiar with.”
Maria backed away. Antonio sprang and twisted her arm behind her back.
“You’ve been paid in full for this service," he said, chin pressed to the nape of her neck. We can do this gently or we can get rough… your choice… but do it we will. Raising her arm she winced in pain and stood to her tiptoes. Guiding her across the room he threw her face down onto the mattress. As she gasped in surprise his weight pressed against her thighs. He spread her buttocks and looked wistfully down at the forbidden orifice.... Not this time he decided. With heavy hands and rough insistence he turned her over. She struggled while he held her hips and muscled between her legs.
Forty minutes exactly to the time the rose appeared on the sill, Ricardo nodded and the entourage moved towards the doorway. Benvolio had a key and turned the tumblers, throwing open the door. It was quite in the courtyard and there was nobody about to notice the arrival of the armed party. With a clear sense of their surroundings they moved out in accordance with the plan. They proceeded across the street and up the stairs to the suites where the visitors were quartered. There they turned down the hall looking at the stones and were rewarded at the end by the presence of three rose petals. The hallway was still deserted and they were yet to be discovered. At that instant they heard a cry from inside. “Help Help,” the voice called out.
The Marshall slammed his fist upon the oak portico, demanding in a loud voice…. ”In the name of the King open this door….
Save me!” came the same pleading voice.
Two soldiers swinging sledges stepped forward and in quick order the door splintered and the latch was raised. As they poured inside they saw Maria wrapped in a bed spread and Brother Bernardo, naked, looking up in dismay.
“What took you so long?” cried Maria in a mixture of anguish and hysteria.
Benvolio rushed to her side and said consolingly “Relax, It’s over now; we have the rogue and he'll rue the day he ever laid hand on you.”
“Benvolio” said Don Ricardo, “Get Maria out of here. Find Teresa and meet me in the coach.”
Maria clutched the bedspread and allowed Benvolio to hustle her from the room.
Antonio cringed seeing the Cardinal standing in the doorway.
“I would never have believed this of you, Antonio, had I not seen it for myself. You’re a disgrace to the Brotherhood and your debauchery will not go unpunished.”
The Marshall punched Antonio in the face sending him into the wall…”So this is how you treat the brides of our Beloved Savior.” Next he delivered a body blow to the solar plexus. Antonio sagged trying to catch his breath. “…Fornicator! How can you stand before God and abuse this poor woman? A priest is supposed to be an example, not a corrupting influence." Another blow sent Antonio to the floor…”I should cut your balls off but I’ll leave the honor to Don Ricardo.”
”Let’s not be too hasty,” said the Cardinal, ”Lest we allow emotions to precipitate some bad decision making.”
“Your Eminence, I hope you are as disgusted by all this as I am." said Ricardo. This man is a hypocrite; a disgusting hypocrite!"
"I couldn't agree more, “the Cardinal replied.
"How you deal with this matter will determine the scope of the scandal and the shame of the Church....Do I make myself clear?”
"Don't threaten me Don Ricardo."
"Try brushing this disgrace lightly aside and you will see how I threaten."
Ricardo walked over to Antonio. "I should kill you now for what you tried with my sister."
"I had no idea who she was. Maria was delivered to my door. I had every reason to believe she was willing."
"Name the solicitor!"
Consuelo, hearing all the commotion, had rushed to the scene and was immediately taken into custody. A deputy ushered her into the room.
"Is this the woman responsible?"
"Forgive me Consuelo; they made me confess...Yes, she is the one."
Reverend Mother Sanchez looked about, eyes wide with terror.
"Since this is a time for admissions," continued Ricardo, "please tell the Cardinal who fathered Teresa's child.”
"I did it. I take full responsibility. Please don't kill me!"
“Your Eminence," said Don Ricardo, "What this whorehouse needs is a good scouring.”
The Cardinal shook his head, still unable to believe what he had just witnessed.
"Marshall, I leave these two in your custody. Do with them as the Cardinal Mendoza directs."
Don Ricardo stormed from the room well satisfied with the night's work. Outside he paused. Realizing there would never have a better opportunity he went upstairs to Consuelo's office. He checked her desk and found nothing. Then he turned his attention to the bookcases. In the center of one was a hinged mirror that opened into a cabinet. Inside were shelves. He has seen such a device before and began searching for the pick hole. Finding it, he inserted a small blade and heard a click. Pulling on the shelf it opened revealing a secret compartment containing some bound volumes. One dated back to 1462 and was entitled “Guest Legers,” He opened the most current and examined it closely. There were five columns to a page…In the first was written the name of a person, the second a room number, the third a girl’s name, the forth a date and finally a signature.
The latest entry read Antonio, VII, Maria, and May 21, 1489. Antonio Bernardo.
The others were written in cyphers and were unintelligible.
“Ah,ha,” Jackpot,” said Ricardo aloud.
He gathered them under his arm and closed the mirror. He went back downstairs and stepped into the street. The carriage was waiting and a groom opened the door. He climbed inside seeing Maria and Benvolio on the opposite bench and Teresa alongside. He reached over and squeezed Maria's hand…
“You did well little sister. I'm so very proud.”
Turning to Teresa he said, “Seeing you makes this the happiest moment of my life.” She took his hand and kissed it. From overhead came a loud bark. “… What was that,” Ricardo asked?
"Bruno says it’s time we were on our way," Teresa answered.
The carriage lurched forward and the escort fell in behind. It was a long ride home but nobody seemed to notice.