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The Fight for the White Smoke

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Tuesday, December 4, Year of Our Lord 2018


The wooden stairs creaked on the way down to the unfinished basement as Matthew and Elijah climbed down the stairs.  The room was well lit, with several overhanging lights illuminating the lower level.  The stairs laid out from one corner and descended downwards, leading to an open and medium sized basement.  It was unfilled, save for a nice washing machine and dryer in front of Matthew and to the right of that in the other corner a TV next to a couch and some chairs.  Other people filled the couches and chairs as the TV was tuned to the popular cop show SBC: Minotia.


Matthew stepped onto the basement floor and walked towards the group, while the group greeted Matthew and Elijah as they made their way towards them.  One of the guys on the couch, Nathan, invited Matthew to sit next to him on what appeared to be the “lead” couch, with the senior members of the Circle of Matthew, Nathan, and another one, Elizabeth, sitting there.  Elijah sat on the floor in front of the TV while the others sat in the assorted chairs and turned towards Matthew as he sat down.


Matthew cleared his throat and begin as someone offered him a bottle of beer, which he took.  He began in a somewhat serious tone, “Thank you for coming, ladies and gents, just have a few updates to discuss.  Firstly, we have everything set to make Monsignor Kevin the new Bishop of St. Paul.  Obviously, this is huge for us, and we should have him christened in a week or so.”


Matthew took a swig of his beer and continued.  “In other news, the arms we ordered recently have arrived and are being stored in the complex.  The meeting with Cardinal Melku from Orioni is expected to happen in around two weeks, which is where the payment will happen.  Monsignor Kevin has got that.  That brings us up to having the secured the vote of around 30 cardinals, including the chamberlain of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Bertone.


That’s all I have to say.  Nathan?” The bald, older man to Matthew’s left shook his head.  “Elizabeth?” She repeated the action.  Matthew nodded, “Alright, sounds good.  Now be quiet- this is my favorite episode.”

  *       *        *
Saturday, December 8, Year of Our Lord 2018
Monsignor Kevin walked hurriedly on the crowded sidewalk in downtown Minotia, the noise of honking cars and talking people drowning any other noises out, as rush hour in big cities tended to do.  Rogers wore his clerical shirt, accompanied by his black pants and dress shoes, and carried with him a briefcase.  The heat and humidity made him and the other commuters sweat, however were partially helped by the clouds covering the sun.  


He hustled along, bumping into the shoulders of other commuters walking to their apartment or to the metro on their way home from work.  Coming to an intersection, he found his destination on the corner across the street, an apartment building many stories high that instead of just occupying the corner spread to either side, allowing for more apartments and rooms.  The pedestrian light illuminated green as Rogers approached the crosswalk, and he continued without missing a step as he took a left across the busy intersection.  Coming to the door of the building, he opened it and took a step inside.


The cool AC relieved the Monsignor of the oppressive heat and humidity.  The lobby he had just entered through was filled with some cushioned armchairs and couches to both his immediate left and right which surrounded coffee tables, while the desk and receptionist lay straight ahead.  Behind the desk, to the left and right, were hallways that went away from the lobby with doors set in them, which Rogers reasoned to be an assortment of apartments and custodial closets.  The desk itself was square in shape and being in the middle of the room, not against the wall, with the wall straight behind the desk being occupied by a twin set of elevators.  

Monsignor Kevin nodded to the receptionist while walking past her, reaching the elevator and pressing the up arrow button to the right of it.  He waited until the elevator opened, then entered it and pressed the “3” button.  He ascended, the elevator opened, and he exited.  Rogers walked down the hallway, the classic refreshing scent of hotels filled his nostrils as he took a left and walked away from the elevators down the hallway.  He stopped at a door near the middle, which read “305,” with a plaque next to it also reading, “Anthony Figorio, P.I.”  Rogers nodded his head to himself, and hesitating for a second, knocked on the door.

Edited by Sancti Imperii Catholico
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Wednesday, December 8, Year of Our Lord 2018


Rogers stood in front of the door, waiting anxiously for someone to open the door as his palms began to sweat.  He was nervous about to see his old colleague, one he had fallen out with many years ago during their time together in the Marines.


The door opened suddenly, a barely clad woman standing in the door frame with a cigarette stuck in her mouth.  The woman took no lengths in trying to cover herself up, even to people who could potentially walk past the room.  The scent of the room streamed past the woman and smelled heavily of tobacco and alcohol.  
The women eyed the Monsignor up and down before asking in a tone of annoyance, “Who the hell are you?”  Rogers got past his moment of surprise, and trying to avoid looking down, he looked into her bloodshot eyes and answered, “Monsignor Rogers.  I’m looking for Anthony.”  The woman rolled her eyes before turning her head over her shoulder and yelled, “TONY! Someone’s at the door for you.”  Rogers heard a man yell, “LET ‘EM IN!”  The woman backed out of the doorframe and let Rogers through.
Rogers walked through the door and took in the room.  The kitchen lay to his left, with some chairs and a counter separating it from the hallway.  The hallway led down to the living room, where Rogers could see a TV playing a movie and a couch facing the TV, where he saw the back of someone's head.  The hallway also had two closed doors in it.


Rogers walked down the hallway towards the couch, where the man stood up and looked behind him to say Rogers.  The man’s faced morphed from annoyed to boiling anger.  The man clenched his teeth and said, “Kevin.  Get the f*ck out of here. Now,” the last bit wavering with anger.  Rogers took a deep breath to calm himself before replying, “Anthony.  I have business.  This is nothing personal.”


Anthony approached Rogers bare-chested.  Rogers almost gagged from the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke and brandy.  The man replied through gritted teeth, “I don’t give a sh-t, get the hell out of here!”  With this, he reached into his pants pocket.


Rogers calmly patted the briefcase, and said to Anthony, “I said business, Tony.  Something to pay rent with.  I am not here to talk about your choice in prostitutes.”  

Anthony’s face looked like it was as if the Monsignor had punched him square in the jaw.  Fuming but interested in what his former partner had to say, he slightly relaxed his jaw and took his hand out of his pants pocket to motion for Rogers to follow him.


They moved towards the kitchen and sat down at a small table just before the entrance towards the kitchen.  Still mad, Tony nodded his head to Rogers, indicating he should speak.  Rogers opened the briefcase, revealing the contents to be wads of cash.


“Tony, I feel I am trouble.  You obviously do not care, but I can pay you 50 grand and I think that’s all that matters.  There’s a man named Joseph Reed, his address and contact information lies in the briefcase.  He works for some secret group called Ordo Sacra Gloriosa. I have never met these people, but I’ve worked with them through this Joseph.  If I am to give you this money, you must find out who this group is.  I think you are the only one capable of this job, Tony.”


Tony looked at Rogers with one eyebrow cocked, slumping in his chair, “You think I will try and track some random secret organization that I have no clue about and expect success... for 50 grand.  75.”
Rogers fired back, “60.”
“70.  Or I’m not doing the job.”  Anthony read the Monsignor’s face and smiled slyly.  Rogers was not as happy, and stifly replied, “Fine. Nothing more.  The rest will come to you by next week.”  After finishing, Rogers stood up, leaving the briefcase on the table as he headed towards the door.
_________________________
[SECURE TRANSMISSION]
To: Amir Paulos, assistant to Cardinal Edris Melku of @Orioni
From: Matthew Fisher
Hello again,
Rogers has the payment.  Will meet at 0300, corner of Frederick and Ave Rd.  Make sure Melku is 100% up for this.  No turning back.
-Matt

 

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Thursday, 3 January, Year of Our Lord 2019 

St. Murphy’s Cathedral, Deopolis 

Inner Chambers of the Palace 

Cardinal Patrick Agrilo walked through the connection of rooms that was the Inner Chambers. These rooms, separated from the public eye, served as the private cogs of the machine that was the Salvian Catholic Church.  All doctrines, bulls, traditions, and everything else originated or passed through these sections of rooms and offices.  The rooms, while certainly large by conventional standards, were not nearly as large as those inside the Cathedral.  Separated by the St. Benelian Courtyard, the Papal Palace connected to the more famous Leotine Chapel through two long hallways, wrapping around the courtyard and forming a bell-shape. 

 

The hallways and rooms of the structure, emulating that of the Cathedral itself displayed the opulence of the Church.  Decorated with Renaissance era frescos and paintings, the ornate design of the building took breaths away.  The colorful and intricate illustrations and images breathed an air of life into the building. 

 

Exiting his office, he quickened to a brisk pace as he sought for what he was looking for. Agrilo was the Administrator Curiae of Deopolis, meaning that he was the overseer and conductor of almost all of the administrative duties in the whole Church.  In his 50s, he was rather young to be a cardinal, but through clever plays by the Ordo he had successfully be instituted by the previous pope.  Soon after, that pope conveniently retired amid even more convenient scandal, opening up the papacy once more.  In this office of power, Agrilo was able to stall and delay elections, as the Ordo worked more young men to the upper echelons of the clergy through him.  He loved the power and concluded that he would be the one chosen to be the new pope by the Ordo.  But his dreams were rudely interrupted by a lowly priest from St. Paul’s. 

While Kevin was never a serious (or at least favored) candidate for the papacy among the Ordo, his ideas were valued by the group.  Patrick furrowed his brows at the thought. Rogers was the one who moved the focus away from Agrilo and towards an older cardinal, John Roberts, an older man, more entrenched in the Church’s power structure.  But he of course was not at the top just yet.  And without a pope, the men at the top were part of the Supreme Cardinal Assembly, the Magnissimum Comitium Cardinalicium.  Those were the only people Agrilo needed to move the light back onto him. 

              *               *               * 

 

Rogers walked down the stairs into the unfinished basement.  Peering into a corner, he saw Tony lying in the makeshift cell, dehydrated, beaten, and only half-conscious.  He walked over to him, keys jangling in his hand.  Reaching the cell door, he unlocked it, picking Tony up over his shoulders.  Tony only grunted softly.  Rogers walked back up the stairs quietly and out the front door, the humid air blanketing Rogers in the soft night.  He lay Tony in the back seat of his car before getting in the front and then driving off. 

Matt lay asleep upstairs in his bedroom, none the wiser. 

Later that morning... 

Matt started when he heard a very loud knock on his front door, accidentally cutting himself with his razor in the process.  Cursing, he quickly wrapped a towel around his waist and hurried downstairs.  Peering through the peephole, he saw Rogers standing in front of his door, arms crossed and foot tapping.  Matt opened the door hurriedly. 

“Come on in, Kevin.”  Kevin nodded in affirmation before walking in and turning towards Matt.  “I need to speak to Tony.”  Matt closed the door and looked back at Kevin.  “Alright, go ahead.  I’ll be down in a sec.”  Kevin walked downstairs while Matt hurried up, quickly finishing his shave and changing into some clothes.   

He left his bedroom and came to the top of the stairs, seeing Kevin at the bottom with a furious look on his face.  Matt got an unsettling feeling in his gut. 

“What’s up?” he inquired.  Kevin, lips pursed, motioned his head towards the basement stairwell.  “Tony’s gone.”  Matt’s eyes widened, hurrying past Kevin as he ran down both flights of stairs.  Reaching the basement, he saw the empty cell and screamed in rage. 

 

*               *               * 

 

Friday, 4 January, Year of Our Lord 2019 

St. Paul’s, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish 

Parish Rectory 

Father Leo had all forgotten about the note, until he saw another one in the mail in a stack the other priest had gotten from the mailbox.  He was becoming worried at this point. 

Adam saved a lamb 

Millions more remain in danger 

Seek Judas. 

The Biblical references made it, if more cryptic, even more annoying.  He was about to trash the note and disregard the entire matter before seeing a manila folder, with the word Judas scribbled on it in black pen.  Leo opened the folder and took its contents out of the folder.  On it were profiles of several men he didn’t know.  Their names, occupations, and IDs were all on it.  None of them looked familiar, except one.  Joseph.  He used to be a regular attender, that he knew.  Was he supposed to go for him first?  What was he even supposed to do?  He had no clue.  Did God? 

Edited by Sancti Imperii Catholico
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Thursday, 3 January, Year of Our Lord 2019  

St. Murphy’s Cathedral, Deopolis  

Inner Chambers of the Palace 

Agrilo found what he was looking for outside the office of some clerk.  A raised, closed wooden box with an open slit and a little plaque above it that read “Letters.”  Agrilo slid the letter into the box and then turned away, smiling. 

________________ 

The pile of letters was dropped off onto Cardinal D’Angelo’s desk.  Sitting down, he took a letter opener and picked up the first letter on his desk.  He read the envelope, and seeing it was from a fellow cardinal, opened it quickly.  Several papers were in the envelope one of which had the words “Read first” written on it.  He unfolded it and read, 

 

Dearest brothers of the Magnissimum Comitium Cardinalicium,  

 

It has come to my most troubling attention as Adminstrator Curiae that a recently appointed bishop under the name of Kevin Rogers, who was accepted by the most holy Assembly, has committed egregious & terrible acts against God and his Church.  His sins (of which the appropriate documents are accompanying this letter) include those of fornication, sodomy, and treason against the Church. He has sought to undermine the authority of the Comitium as well as other senior members of the clergy. 

Make no mistake, he is a great enemy of God and the Church.  He is a Satanist and seeks the destruction of the flock... 

D’Angelo read no more.  It was a long letter, but the cardinal had read all that he needed.  He took a long look at the several documents that accompanied the letter. It contained an assortment of “evidence” against Rogers.  The first document contained what seemed to be a report of some sorts of an organization called the Ordo Sacra Gloriosa.  It contained pictures and information on many of its members, including apparent proof of collaboration between the group and Rogers- hacked emails, stolen mail, and cell phone conversations.  D’Angelo pondered how Agrilo had gotten this information.  As the Administrator Curiae, he certainly had a lot of outreach.  He shook off the thought, deeming it unimportant.  What was important was to get this information to the Comitium.  

 *          *         * 

“We’ll just have to ignore him- move on with the elections.” 

“We can’t do that, he knows too much now.  He’ll snitch- if not to whoever hired him, certainly to someone in authority in the Church.”  

Matt pondered this last statement.  Kevin was correct, he knew that.  But what could they do?  There were no security cameras in the house- the neighborhood was safe enough to the point that Elijah felt comfortable without a security service, Matt figured. Suddenly, an idea came to him.  Matt rushed downstairs without a word, a slightly puzzled Rogers following.   

Matt walked over to the cage, and bending over the lock examined it.  He smiled and chuckled to himself.  He turned over his shoulder to Rogers. 

“No signs of tampering.  Someone from the inside did this.”  He turned back around and shook his head, still chuckling. 

*          *         * 

Monday, 7 January, Year of Our Lord 2019 

Pacar Office Building, St. Paul’s 

Front Desk 

Father Leo pushed open the glass doors and walked to the front desk that stood in front of him.  He had driven some half an hour to the place where Joseph worked, where, from his research, he had concluded he was part of the upper echelon of the regional hierachy.  

The secretary at the front desk looked up from her computer to look at Leo before smiling politely and looking back down.  Brushing the hair out of her face she finished what she was typing and focused on Leo. 

“Good afternoon, how may I help you?”  Leo approached the desk, leaning on the raised counter and saying “You wouldn’t happen to know where uh,” he glanced down at his other hand, “Joseph Reed is?”  The secretary politely smiled once more before replying, “He’s vacationing in Trinity right now. Would you like me to let him know you asked for him?” 

Leo furrowed his eyebrows before shaking his head.  “No, thank you.”  He turned around and walked out the door.  The secretary was confused for a moment before forgetting about the matter and returning to her work. 

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Friday, 11 January, Year of Our Lord 2019

Ordo House, Trinity

Matt sat by the kitchen island, fingers tapping on his laptop.  He was still at Elijah’s house, securing the last of the payments between clergymen and other people in positions of power to secure Cardinal Roberts the papacy.  Once there, the Church would be there's. 

He heard a knock on the door.  It didn’t sound friendly- not the knock of a neighbor or solicitor, but rather someone that demanded attention.  Matt slowly scooted the stool he was sitting on backwards and put his feet on the floor.  He walked to the front door and looked through the peephole.  Two imposing figures stood outside, dressed in a white uniform shirt and dark blue pants.  The badges on their chest and patches on their shoulders revealed who they were, as well as the entourage of vehicles and officers that stood outside: the Papal Police.  Matt swallowed nervously.  The voice muffled through the door, he heard one of the officers say, “Papal police, open the door right now.”  Matt put his back on the door, heart pounding.  He knew Tony would snitch- he had already bribed a police officer that came earlier to keep quiet.  But the Papal Police?  There was no way Tony could’ve gotten them to come here.  This wasn’t even a religious matter, as far as they were concerned. 

“Papal police, open this door right now!”  The voice sounded more irritated this time as if he knew that they’d have to breach the house anyways.  Matt’s heart continued to thud in his chest, so loud he thought they could hear it on the other side of the door.  He crept as quietly as he could towards his laptop and grabbed it before making his way to the back door.  Suddenly he heard the front door smash open and without even turning to check he booked it out the back door. 

Matt heard shouts and footsteps throughout the house as he swung open the door and sprinted through the backyard.  He tossed his laptop over the fence and began to climb it when he suddenly felt two strong hands on his back grab him and throw him on the ground back first.  Matt couldn’t even catch a glance at the man who had grabbed him before he was flipped over and handcuffed, the dirt rubbing onto his cheek as the grass went into his ear.  The officer picked him up off the ground before forcibly slamming his feet into the ground, a stab of pain travelling through the arch of his foot to his calves.  The officer forcefully escorted him through the backyard to the front, where he was able to see several police officers search the house and bring out Elijah and another member of the Circle.  The cluster of vehicles and officers had by now attracted several people to watch, some of who were just coming home from work.  The setting sun didn’t let Matt see the faces of the officers, but a passing cloud stopped it long enough for Matt to see a face he recognized: Cardinal Agrillo.  Matt caught his eye.   Agrillo grinned smugly before the sun came out again, but Matt could still see Agrillo’s figure walk towards the police car he was being led towards. 

An officer opened the door and the one leading Matt forced him into the seat, gripping his shoulder and pushing down hard.  Matt sat there for a few moments before Agrillo appeared, his forehead against the top of car and his right arm slung over the door, his smug grim still on his face. 

“Matthew Brown, you’re under arrest for conspiracy against the Church.  Do you have anything to say for yourself?” 

Matt spat on Patrick’s shoe.  “Traitor,” he spat out contemptuously. 

Patrick stood up and shrugged, wiping his shoe off on Matt’s pants leg.  “Just looking out for myself, Matt.” He locked eyes with Matt one more time, Matt’s eyes smoldering with anger and his face twitching, showing signs of rage.  Agrillo walked away. 

 

St. Paul's Cathedral Rectory

Bishop Rogers sat on the couch watching TV when he suddenly heard a commanding knock on his door.  He absent mindedly patted his cat who was sitting next to him before standing up, stretching, and walking towards the door.  He opened it, expecting a churchgoer asking for his prayers or a solicitor, but was surprised when he saw two officers from the Papal Police. 

“What brings yo-” 

He was interrupted by the officers grabbing him, forcing him outside and slamming him against the brick wall next to the door.  His head smashed into the brick wall, the hit causing him to momentarily lose his sense as lights danced around his eyes.  His hands were forced behind his back as he was handcuffed, then forcibly led to the police car in the parking lot.  He heard a muffled voice began to speak, “Bishop Kevin Rogers, you are under arrest for conspiracy and treason against the Church, heretical actions...” 

He stopped listening after the officer said that, focusing instead on staying on his feet and not passing out. 

 

Inner Chambers of the Palace

Cardinal D’Angelo’s office phone rang.  Expecting the call, he picked it up before the first ring was even complete. 

“Brother, the deed is done.   Rogers and Brown have been arrested.  We are investigating the whereabouts of the rest of the members and will arrest them as soon as we can.” 

D’Angelo shook with excitement.  “Excellent work Agrillo!  The enemies of God have been stopped.  The Church has been saved by your hands.” 

Although D’Angelo couldn’t see it, Agrillo was grinning ear to ear, his plan working out perfectly. 

“You are too kind, Mark.  I will be back in Deopolis shortly with Rogers and Brown for questioning.”  Agrillo hung up then.  D’Angelo put the phone back into the receiver before making the Sign of the Cross joyously. 

 

St. Paul’s, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish 

Parish Rectory

Father Leo was eating his dinner with the other parish priest at the kitchen counter, the TV on in the other room facing towards the kitchen, allowing both to watch the news as they ate.  Leo was taken aback when he heard Roger’s name on the television, and quickly focused on the newscaster.   

“... and Matthew Brown have both been taken into custody by the Papal Police on charges of conspiracy.  The operation was led by Cardinal and Administrator Curiae Patrick Agrillo, who after acquiring sufficient evidence was given the order from the Magnissimum Comitium Cardinalicium to enact the arrest of these two individuals.” 

Leo was taken aback.  He had thought that name sounded familiar.  In fact, both did.  He got out of his seat and rushed into the rectory office, opening his desk drawer to find the documents he was looking for.  He found both profiles- one on Matthew, the other on Cardinal Agrillo.  He figured that he could never accuse a cardinal of the suggested crimes, but had instead sought Brown.  But maybe now was the time to come forward about Cardinal Agrillo. 

Edited by Sancti Imperii Catholico
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