The investigation begins
The flight from Moscow landed at Rome’s airport in the fading light of the late summer evening, where a limousine bearing the seal of the Vatican awaited its passenger. Patrick would first report to his superior Cardinal Spinoza before beginning his research into the Order within the Vatican’s vast library. As he was being driven through Rome’s streets to the cardinal’s private residence, his mind was working overtime. If half of what he had heard was true, then the antichrist was a real entity after all. He nervously crossed himself and absentmindedly stroked the tiny silver cross that hung from his neck. The Cardinal’s limousine stopped outside the door to his official residence and Patrick quickly disappeared inside. Cardinal Spinoza held out his hand as Patrick knelt to kiss the proffered ring bearing the ancient insignia of the Inquisitor General –Ricardo’s holy badge of office. Assisting his young protégé to his feet and motioning him to follow, Ricardo entered his private office.
Ricardo’s rise through the backbiting ranks of the Roman Catholic’s ruling body had not been an easy one. He was the illegitimate son of an impoverished aristocratic lady from a minor family within Brazil’s elite. To keep her shame from her immediate family and social circle, she had given him over into the care of her most trusted female servant and confidant, Silvia, immediately after he was born. Silvia brought young Ricardo up as her own child in her home deep within the sprawl of favelas which cover the hills around Rio de Janeiro. He knew nothing of his birthmother except what his much loved adopted mother Silvia told him from time to time. He entered the church after graduating from the seminary in Rio. Over the first few years of his vocation, he ministered to his poverty stricken flock in the favelas, and to the homeless living on Rio’s dangerous streets, where armed gangs controlled the daily lives of the poor. Eventually through sponsorship from his superiors in the Latin American branch of the Catholic Church, Ricardo finally made it to Rome.
He immediately took advantage of infighting between jealous members of the Vatican hierarchy. He became highly adept at playing the very real Machiavellian political games employed there. The end result of his deliberate manoeuvrings was the eminent position he now enjoyed as the most powerful and feared cardinal, second only in the hierarchy to the pontiff himself. Ricardo was fully aware that his position within the Roman Catholic Church differed little from his historical predecessors, when they occupied similar positions of power in the churches’ former incarnation as the Roman Empire. The cardinals constantly fight among themselves in their bid for power and riches, while supporting their spiritual leader the Pope, the modern day equivalent of Emperor, by waging holy war against the evils that their flock are subjected to on a daily basis, while at the same time seeking riches and power. In many ways, they were not so very different from the Roman senators of old.
Ricardo seated himself in his high backed, ornately carved, red leather bound chair behind his large marble topped fifteenth century desk. He could see that Patrick was clearly worried by what he had found. Motioning him to sit, Ricardo folded his hands around the large gold cross that hung from its chain around his neck and nodded to his young friend to begin. “Eminence, I hardly know where to start. Miles and his old friend David have proof that the antichrist actually does exist!” Patrick began nervously, as beads of sweat broke out on his forehead, hardly able to believe the words that were tumbling forth from his own mouth. Ricardo silently gestured for Patrick to continue. “I also have proof of an organization called the Order whose members follow the antichrist, blindly doing his bidding. Eminence I am also sure that another evil entity exists. I planted a small listening device when I left the meeting outside Moscow. I have their unguarded conversation about the real purpose for wanting our help, captured on tape. Miles may be my friend eminence, but he and David are conspiring against god by their involvement with this other entity,” Patrick finished, collapsing back into the chair trembling with fear and at the same time, constantly crossing himself while sweating with nervous excitement.
Ricardo sat silently for a few moments with a grave look on his darkly handsome face and then posed a question. “Do you know the name of the antichrist my son?”
“Yes eminence, his name is Asima. David’s friend and co-conspirator is…”
“Yes, yes my son, I know of Doctor Nick Palmer and his work on ancient Sumeria,” Ricardo interrupted. “Asima is the name of an ancient Sumerian deity – correct?” Ricardo continued. “And what of this other entity you say they are working with, what is its name?” he casually inquired.
“It is a female they call Ithis your eminence, and…”
“Your main target my son, must be to find out all you can about Asima and the Order. Did you manage to find out who the members of the Order’s inner circle may be?” Ricardo enquired, once again cutting Patrick off in midsentence.
“Yes eminence,” Patrick began, “David and Miles have managed to uncover two names – Malcolm Davies and Doctor Palmer’s former tutor, Professor Joseph Randle.”
“Very well my son. I suggest you start with them. Find out all you can through our contacts in the United Kingdom and expose them through Miles’ newspaper, The Times. Also, make sure that the story is syndicated by all news media worldwide. The sooner the Order is exposed the better, I’m sure you will agree. Through intensive interrogation of Davies and Randle by some of the more forceful brethren within our ranks, you should have no difficulty in finding out the rest of the Order’s inner circle. Use all of our holy office’s resources to discredit and destroy the Order first. Then we shall deal with this Asima – understood?” Patrick nodded and started to leave when Ricardo added, “Leave the taped conversation my son. I wish to hear it for myself.” He passed over the tape-recorder, bowed, kissed the ring on Ricardo’s hand once more, and left to begin his investigative crusade. “Well my dear did you hear?” Ricardo looked towards the wall of his office where Ithis now stepped forward into the room.
She smiled and nodded. “What of your priest Ricardo. How will you manage to control his obvious zeal for finding out about our real purpose?” she asked as she crossed the room towards him.
“Don’t concern yourself with him. He will obey me in all things I assure you. I wish you had told me about your quest much sooner Ithis. If I had known about it, Nick and David would not now be in hiding. But with Asima still physically trapped inside his tomb, at least you can continue your important work. Go back to your friends with my blessing. Tell them that two more recruits to the cause have joined the ranks in their quest. If I know one thing about my young protégé it is that he will move heaven and hell to expose the inner circle members of Asima’s murderous organization my dearest Ithis. Now go in peace. Come back from time to time and I will fill you in on our progress.” Ricardo smiled, before destroying the incriminating taped conversation, and kissing her hand in fond farewell.