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The Third Revelation: The Rosary Chronicles
     

The Third Revelation: The Rosary Chronicles

by Ralph McInerny
 

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Retired CIA operative Vincent Traeger spent years working undercover in Rome. Now he is going back to solve a mystery. The Vatican’s Secretary of State has been brutally murdered along with a prefect of the Vatican Library. Traeger suspects that a Cold War adversary may be involved. But there is more than deadly politics at work.
 
The answers can

Overview

Retired CIA operative Vincent Traeger spent years working undercover in Rome. Now he is going back to solve a mystery. The Vatican’s Secretary of State has been brutally murdered along with a prefect of the Vatican Library. Traeger suspects that a Cold War adversary may be involved. But there is more than deadly politics at work.
 
The answers can only be found within the story of the Lady of Fatima: the image of the Blessed Mary who appeared to three peasant children in 1917—and predicted a pope’s assassination.
 
Fighting an unseen enemy in a world of religious fervor, deception, and blood, and shadowed by a powerful billionaire whose devotion to God may mask the devil’s work, Traeger must navigate a treacherous maze through history, faith, and his own past if he is ever to discover the astonishing truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101014646
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
1,025,148
File size:
488 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

PART I

Chapter ONE

Chapter TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

 

PART II

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

 

PART III

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

 

EPILOGUE

Closer to God . . .

Anatoly turned and saw the uniformed guard approaching.

“Può aiutame?” he asked, trying to look like a confused tourist.

The guard stayed put, tucked his chin into his chest, and glared. Anatoly pointed to the top of the fence.

“Che cos’è?” the guard asked.

The guard’s eyes were lifted upward like a martyr’s when Anatoly plunged the knife into him. He unbuttoned the man’s uniform jacket as he eased the dying man to the roof.

Dressed in his victim’s clothes, he would be able to use a more direct way into the Apostolic Palace than he’d originally planned. All he needed now was a place to change and hide the body.

Some things, Anatoly thought, worked out perfectly.

It boded well for his mission.

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

THE THIRD REVELATION

 

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author and Tekno Books

 

PRINTING HISTORY
Jove mass-market edition /March 2009

 

Copyright © 2009 by Tekno Books.

 

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eISBN : 978-1-101-01464-6

 

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In homage to
Robert Hugh Benson

Wherefore we love thee, wherefore we sing to thee, We, all we, through the length of our days,

The praise of the lips and the hearts of us bring to thee, Thee, oh maiden, most worthy of praise;

For lips and hearts they belong to thee, Who to us are as dew to grass and tree.

For the fallen rise and the stricken spring to thee, Thee May-hope of our darkened ways!

 

—GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, “AD MARIAM”

PROLOGUE

“Is it you, or must we wait for another?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He slipped his knife into the knapsack of the girl ahead of him as the line approached the security check at the entrance to Saint Peter’s Basilica. She wore her hair in a crew cut, and her shapeless T-shirt could not conceal the ripe body within. Anatoly was counting on the distraction of her breasts to keep the guards’ attention off of him.

It worked.

The girl was smiled through the checkpoint without a search of her bag, and Anatoly, too, was waved through, though without a smile. He walked up behind her. She turned in alarm when he opened her knapsack.

“Security,” he said, in a reassuring manner. He plucked the knife from the knapsack. “I’ll take that.”

“Where did that thing come from?” she asked.

“You are free to go,” he told her. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he said, putting the knife safely back in his pocket.

She walked off, clearly confused.

She was no longer his problem.

He swam through the sea of people, stood in another line, and finally rose to the roof. He hurried along the front of the basilica, behind and below the great statues that looked out on the square and at Rome beyond. When he reached the archway that linked the basilica and the Apostolic Palace, he stopped. A steel fence, the width of the bridgelike top of the archway, barred his way. The rods were two inches in diameter and rose to speared tips.

He looked across at the palace and then at his watch. He must get there within the hour. Everything depended on it.

There was a voice behind him.

“Signore!”

He turned.

A uniformed guard. Anatoly beckoned him.

“Può aiutame?” Anatoly asked, trying to look like a confused tourist asking for help.

The guard stayed put, tucked his chin into his chest, and glared. Anatoly pointed upward to the top of the fence.

Slowly, the guard came toward him.

“Che cos’è?” the guard asked.

The guard’s eyes were lifted upward like a martyr’s when Anatoly plunged the knife into him. He unbuttoned the guard’s uniform jacket as he eased the dying man to the roof, taking his weapon.

By dressing in his victim’s clothes, he would now be able to use a more direct way into the Apostolic Palace than he’d originally planned.

All he needed now was a place to change and hide the body.

Some things, Anatoly thought, worked out perfectly.

It boded well for his mission.

 

 

Would nothing go well today? Cardinal Maguire thought as he walked onto the roof of the Vatican Library. He glanced at the nearby villa, which was his penthouse home as prefect, then walked to the patio where potted lemon trees and a vast array of flowers and greenery created a living reminder of his native county. He sat, closed his eyes, then opened them in annoyance. He had fled here from another interminable conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Fled, but not before putting both his diplomacy and his charity to the test. The ambassador had persisted, talking on and on.

Maguire had sighed and had said again with as much diplomatic patience as he could muster, “Your Excellency, I am not authorized to accede to your request.”

The Russian’s flat Slavic face was expressionless, but his recessed eyes seemed to be reading the cardinal’s lips rather than listening to what he said.

“Meaning, of course, that what I seek is in the archives, Excellency,” the ambassador responded.

They traded titles almost ironically, more a sign of distrust than of respect. “I have not said that,” the cardinal replied.

“I can infer as much from your silence. Imagine what mischief such information could cause in the wrong hands.”

“There is no danger of that.” Especially if the Russian did not manage to get into the archives.

“Ah, you live in the next world, not in this one.” The diplomat did not mean it as a compliment.

“Not today, although eventually, I hope to.” The line of the cardinal’s lips widened and something like dimples appeared on his cheeks.

“Who can authorize you to respond to my request?” The Russian would not listen. Or perhaps he was not used to taking no for an answer.

“The secretary of state,” the cardinal offered.

“He sent me to you.”

Cardinal Maguire smiled. Ah yes. Such was the Roman way.

“And you send me back to him,” the Russian went on, aggrieved.

“Perhaps a private audience with the Holy Father,” Maguire suggested.

Silence.

That should have ended the conversation. It was one they’d had twice before, with the same outcome. But this time Chekovsky seemed rooted to his chair. On the previous occasion, the cardinal prefect had turned the ambassador over to Brendan Crowe. The young priest from Maguire’s home county had been trained in moral theology. He thus could manage to deceive without actually deceiving.

Why did this Russian have such a fixation with the reports on the long-ago attempted assassination of John Paul II? That pope had died a natural death after a protracted and debilitating illness. The papacy had changed hands in an ordered manner, with appropriate pomp and ceremony. Years earlier, the USSR had given way to Russia. For both their people, it was a different world.

He wondered what the Russian needed. Reassurance that all the bodies had been buried? Of course the KGB had been behind the Turk Ali Agca’s attempt on the life of the pope. John Paul’s memo on his conversation with his would-be assassin when he visited him in his prison cell made that clear enough. But at this late date, the government that had sponsored the attack was gone, lost in the rush of politics and time. But still the Russian pressed on. What, Maguire wondered, did he think was in those documents?

And why was he so desperate to lay his hands on them?

 

 

“Did Agca ever mention accomplices?” Father Crowe asked when Maguire had had him fetched from his office.

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because Agca is still alive. What he said to the pope he could say to anyone. But if he has spoken to others . . .”

“Have you ever looked at the materials?”

Crowe seemed to find the question surprising. But where is there an archivist who is not curious? The CIA and British intelligence had provided the Vatican with their lengthy reports on the assassination attempt. Once, Maguire had found such materials intriguing, but his experience with Chekovsky made the whole matter loathsome.

“So there were others?” Crowe asked.

Maguire displayed his palms. “I am sick to death of the matter.”

And so he was. He left Father Crowe and slowly climbed to his rooftop garden, his Garden of Eden. Well, Dante had located it on the top of Mount Purgatory. Relaxed in his chair, he closed his eyes again and this time found the peace he craved. Soon, he sat there napping, surrounded by his greenery.

 

 

With the guard’s pistol on his hip, and the guard’s uniform making him anonymous, Anatoly stood in the Bernini Colonnade as if on duty. He waited for his moment. When the young Swiss Guard stood alone at the door while his companion was occupied answering the questions of a little band of tourists, Anatoly strode toward the entrance, saluted the guard, and continued inside. He projected the flat, calm look of a man doing his usual, boring business, just like the Swiss Guard he passed. His whole back seemed to have become one of those disks that pick up signals from satellites far out in space. But the guard had not even returned his salute, and simply waved him on into the building. Anatoly marched steadily on, reviewing in his head the plan of the palace he had memorized.

He was inside. And he knew just where to go.

Up a staircase worthy of a czar, along a corridor whose walls were lined with Flemish tapestries, he made his way to the office of the Vatican’s secretary of state. In the reception area, at a desk that seemed miniature in the huge salon, sat a young priest plinking away at the keyboard of a computer. He looked up at Anatoly, his gaze inquiring, but not wary.

Odd how a uniform chased away thoughts that this was an intrusion.

Which it wasn’t.

It was something far more dangerous.

“I have been ordered to check the cardinal’s office,” Anatoly said.

The priest started to rise.

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Anatoly said. “It is most likely a nuisance call. This will only take a minute.”

It took three minutes.

The Vatican secretary of state sat in his desk chair, resplendent in his cardinal’s robes. The chair was turned so that the light from an open window fell on the breviary he was reading. He might have been a painting by Goya—except for the modern leather desk chair. His lips moved in prayer. Like Hamlet before his praying uncle, Anatoly hesitated.

The chair turned and the secretary of state looked up at him. Again, the uniform seemed to be a perfect disguise.

“Yes?”

The pistol or the knife? He hesitated just a fraction of a second too long. Hesitation. That was bad.

Doubt appeared in the cardinal’s eyes.

Time to act, Anatoly thought.

“I’ve been asked to check your office for possible security violations.”

The cardinal sighed, waved permission, and returned his attention to his book.

Anatoly circled the desk, gripped the back of the chair, and pushed it rapidly to the window.

How frail the old man was.

Even as the startled prelate began to struggle in Anatoly’s arms, Anatoly lifted him easily from the chair. He ignored the cardinal’s outraged glare and threw him out the window. The cardinal was too startled even to scream as he fluttered through the air and formed a broken scarlet flower on the pavement below.

“Where is the cardinal?” the priest from the outer office asked Anatoly upon entering the room.

Anatoly turned to look at the man. “He stepped out.”

“Stepped out? That’s not possible. I was sitting at my desk. He never went past me.” The confused priest looked around the office for his superior.

“Truly, he left the building. But come close, I have something interesting I’d like you to see.” Anatoly beckoned the priest to the window. The man, still uncertain, came up beside him. Anatoly pointed down at the pavement. Just as the priest stiffened in horror at what he beheld, Anatoly grabbed his cassock and lifted. A moment later, the priest joined his superior on the pavement below.

Now, Anatoly had to move swiftly.

In an armoire in the corner, he found a plain black cassock and a little round box of Roman collars. The cassock was short, so he rolled up his trousers. He decided against taking the pistol with him. Instead, he hung the uniform and the weapon in the armoire and hurried away, looking at his watch.

Ahead of schedule, he thought, and smiled.

 

 

There was no peace to be found in the roof garden today, Maguire thought, even though Chekovsky did not react angrily as he had the time Cardinal Maguire had turned the ambassador over to Brendan Crowe.

“Father Crowe knows as much as I do, Excellency,” Maguire had said before leaving the ambassador.

“Or as little,” Chekovsky muttered. The Russian’s little eyes seemed to be imagining how a certain cardinal would look in a Treblinka cell. He shuddered with outrage but controlled it. “Thank you, Your Excellency,” he said finally.

Maguire left the area. He knew he could trust Crowe to get rid of the Russian.

Chekovsky watched Maguire leave, then turned to Crowe. He studied the younger man for a long minute. Brendan could feel the sting of his anger in the glance.

“Are things ever stolen from the archives, Father?”

It was a strange line of questioning. But Brendan was too well disciplined to let that thought show on his face. He could answer a thousand such questions without ever once letting unnecessary information, or a lie, cross his lips. “Would we admit it if that ever did happen?” he asked.

“I suppose bribery could be effective even here.”

“I wouldn’t advise it.”

“What would you advise?”

“Let sleeping dogs lie.”

“We say much the same thing in Russia.”

“I know.” Crowe rattled off the phrase in Russian. The ambassador’s eyes lit up. He studied Crowe closely.

“Is it you, or must we wait for another?”

“Another devil quoting Scripture?”

The Russian gave a slow smile. “You know your New Testament better than that.”

Are you waiting for someone?”

The ambassador’s flat face became expressionless again. He stood. “I am wasting your time, Father.”

Crowe escorted Chekovsky to the elevator. When it arrived, an odd-looking priest emerged from it and hurried past them. Brendan saw the Russian safely into the elevator and out of this level of the building. As the elevator doors closed on the Russian ambassador, Crowe turned around to look for the strange priest. He hadn’t recognized him, which was unusual. But there was no sign of the man.

At his desk, Brendan returned to the task that had been interrupted when Maguire fetched him, but he found it hard to concentrate. He sat back, wishing for peace, envying Maguire his little aerie on the roof. Maguire usually found the solace he needed there.

Just as he thought he had his concentration back, a very tall Swiss Guard suddenly burst into the office. The young man’s usually cool and calm expression was distraught.

“May I help?” Brendan asked.

“An assassin is loose!”

“What?”

“I tell you, someone is on a rampage. The secretary of state and his assistant have been murdered. I would advise you to leave at once and seek a place of safety.”

And then he was gone.

Crowe was on his feet. And then he was running to the stairway that led to the roof.

When he came through the door and onto the roof, he stopped and looked around. For a moment the peacefulness of the place reassured him. And then he saw Maguire, sitting in a chair on the patio he had turned into a garden. He approached his superior cautiously.

“Your Excellency? We need to seek shelter. I’ve just been told a killer is on the loose.”

It seemed a shame to wake the cardinal, but the situation was urgent. He placed his hand on Maguire’s shoulder, ready to shake him into consciousness. And then he saw the knife buried in the cardinal’s chest.

No blood was visible, revealing its presence only as a damp spot on the red robes.

But the pall of death was unmistakable.

Brendan’s first thought was a priestly one. He murmured the formula of absolution over the body of Cardinal Maguire.

Only when he had finished did he take a careful look at the scene. A briefcase lay on its side on the floor by the body, its contents spilled across beautiful tiles. Then he heard the slam of the stairway door.

The killer?

He ran toward the sound, not at all sure what he would do if he found someone. But the stairway door was locked.

He could hear footsteps thundering down the stairs.

He ran across the rooftop to his superior’s dead body as he punched numbers on his cell phone.

PART I

Chapter ONE

I

“I’ll want to talk to him first.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When former CIA agent Vincent Traeger arrived in Rome, he avoided both the consulate and the embassy, located on the Via Veneto, and went directly to a restaurant in Trastevere. He was unhappy to be here at all, unhappy to have his peaceful retirement interrupted, and very unhappy about what had brought him here.

He’d been instructed to make contact with the Vatican representative at the restaurant. One of the agency’s top field agents for decades, Traeger was used to clandestine meets, but he still hated going in without knowing his target. No name for the Holy See’s rep had been given him. Still, it was the function, not the person, that was important. Traeger took an outside table. After a moment, he began slapping a rolled up copy of Le Figaro against his leg as he studied the street. A minute later, a man took the other chair at his table.

“Ça va?”

“Comme vous voulez.”

“Ah, you speak French.”

“As little as possible.”

“I noticed your newspaper.”

Traeger looked directly at the man. Of middle size, hair shot with gray, a meaty nose.

The man made a little sibilant noise, then asked, “What is left when ‘Ciao’ has a vowel movement?”

“CIA.”

The man nodded. “I have a table reserved inside.”

“Do you have a name?”

In answer, the stranger who’d approached Traeger took out his wallet and opened it enough to show his Vatican City identity card.

“Llano?”

“Rodriguez. Llano was my mother’s name.”

They went inside to a table in a secluded corner.

“It is good of your government to lend us your services,” Rodriguez said.

Traeger shrugged. Only a handful in Washington knew he was here. But then only a handful knew who he was. He’d spent most of his adult life in deep undercover.

“So, Mr. Rodriguez, what do we do now?” he asked the Vatican rep.

“We find a cunning killer,” Rodriguez said softly. “And we stop him.”

“And what have you done so far?”

“What we could,” the man replied.

And so they discussed the four brutal murders in Vatican City: two cardinals, a priest, and a basilica guard.

“Why isn’t the Vatican in an uproar?” Traeger had spent enough time in the Holy See to know that four murders there, and in a single day, would have brought the Vatican to its knees. And media flocking to its gates.

“Only the news about the murder of the guard has been made public,” Rodriguez replied. “We’ve ascribed the other deaths to natural causes and spaced out the funerals.”

“I caught some coverage of the secretary of state’s funeral. Quite a send-off, the full state ceremony,” Traeger said.

“Yes. There is much to be said for a great pontifical funeral. It can cover even a murder with obscuring clouds of incense. Cardinal Maguire was said to have died quietly of heart failure, which was true enough in its way—his heart failed instantly when someone plunged a knife into it. His body was sent home to Ennis for burial. The secretary of state’s young assistant received quieter obsequies a few days later that elicited little curiosity. The basilica guard was declared to be the victim of a demented tourist—a common enough form of street crime. The police are seeking him.”

“Do you really believe this is the work of some fanatic?” Traeger asked.

“It is possible. If only one had been killed, perhaps that might even be true. The secretary of state was a lightning rod, drawing on himself all the anger of malcontents who would not want to criticize the Holy Father directly. And the guard’s death was incidental, merely a way to gain entrance to areas within the Vatican that are off-limits to the public. But the other deaths make this into something far more sinister.”

“Was there only one killer?”

“Certainly only one who participated in these killings. He killed the guard and stripped him of his uniform. That got him past the Swiss Guards into the papal palace. He threw the secretary of state out a window and did the same to his assistant, a young priest. There he left the guard’s uniform in an armoire from which he took a collar and cassock. He was wearing those when he showed up at the Vatican Library.”

“He seems to have known his way around the Holy City quite well.”

“Indeed. Too well. The only living person who saw him is a priest who worked for the head of the Vatican Library and Archives.”

“For Cardinal Maguire.” Traeger considered the sequence of crimes. Except for the living witness, they were fast, well-executed, and deadly. Worthy of Traeger himself. But the witness was a mistake.

“They were both from County Clare, the cardinal and Crowe. I’m told they were close.”

“I’ll want to talk to him first,” Traeger said.

Rodriguez looked away, rubbed the tip of his nose, and again made that little sibilant noise. “He is not being cooperative.”

“Oh?”

“He was at first, but answering the same questions over and over again has tried his patience.”

“I see. I need to know something. You’ve clearly dug into this investigation. You’re following up on all the leads. Why did you ask for me?”

This was the important question. Traeger hadn’t come all this way to get a crime report. What lay behind these killings? Why did the Vatican think Traeger could help?

Rodriguez took a deep breath. “The Russian ambassador seems somehow linked to what has happened. He had been importuning Cardinal Maguire to release some materials from the Vatican Archives to his government.”

“I take it he is asking after my old acquaintance Ali Agca?”

Rodriguez smiled grimly. “Yes. Incessantly.”

“That explains what I’m doing here. I worked cleanup on that one. You were sent my report on the assassination attempt, were you not?”

“And the British report.”

“Killing four people would not be a good way to get hold of that material.”

Rodriguez shrugged.

“Are there other possible explanations than the reports on the attempted assassination? That was a long time ago. Very old news.”

“We suspect that these killings may be connected with something even longer ago than the attempt on John Paul’s life.”

Traeger waited.

“What do you know of Fatima?” Rodriguez asked.

“She was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed,” Traeger said.

Rodriguez smiled. “Wrong Fatima. Think Portugal.”

“Nineteen seventeen?” Traeger said, surprised.

Rodriguez was impressed. “Your memory must be a hard drive. Yes, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to three peasant children.”

“Are you sure? That seems unlikely. And it isn’t my area of expertise.”

Rodriguez shrugged. “What little evidence we have seems to point there.”

Traeger waited for more information, but the silence stretched between them. Rodriguez did not elaborate.

And Traeger did not pursue it. That possibility would not justify his being involved.

So, silence still hanging between them, both men ate. Traeger relished his soup, his pasta, and his veal, and the hovering waiter kept the wine flowing.

“You are paying for this, aren’t you?” Rodriguez smiled when he said it, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t serious. “The CIA’s expense accounts are legendary.”

Traeger sighed and got out a charge card with his cover identity on it.

“Just remember, the next one is on you.”

 

 

Traeger had spent a lot of time in Rome. He spoke the language. He’d done extensive work with the Vatican at the height of the Cold War and during the Soviet Union’s collapse, back in the late seventies and eighties. He was the official author of the agency’s secret report on the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. He was essentially the CIA’s man in Rome, so he had led the team that conducted the investigation into the shooting. And he hadn’t liked what he’d turned up. The Russians, as represented by the KGB, had their hands all over that plot, in Traeger’s opinion.

Traeger’s digging led him to believe that Zilo Vassilev, the Bulgarian military attaché in Rome, had masterminded it. Among the connecting threads that made Agca’s assassination attempt unlikely to be a lone-gunman attack was the fact that Agca’s shooting of the pope was not his first political assassination. Agca had already killed for political reasons. On February 1, 1979, Agca murdered Abdi Ipekci, editor of a moderate newspaper called Milliyet in Istanbul. Agca was then working under the orders of a group called the Grey Wolves, a radical terrorist organization seeking to destabilize Turkey.

Though only Agca was present when the trigger was pulled, the op had the strong scent of state-sponsored terror. Traeger had figured back then that the Russians were worried about what a popular and dynamic pope from Poland and his apparent intention to unravel the Communist Party might do or say. It turned out that they had good reason to worry.

But that was all long ago, in the past. The USSR had imploded, democracy blossomed in the satellite states, and Pope John Paul II lived into old age despite the assassination attempt and died of natural causes. Traeger had left the agency two years ago. These days he gave his full attention to the computer consultant business that had always been his cover, and spent his free time—a novel concept in his world—keeping in shape by playing lots of tennis and golf. After all, he’d just hit fifty when he retired from the CIA. He looked forward to many years of normal living.

Everyone around Traeger had noticed the change.

“You are traveling less,” Bea, his secretary, said when he asked her to set up the tickets to Italy. “Is this trip business or pleasure?”

“Both,” he said, hoping this would be true.

Bea had been with Traeger longer than it would have been polite to mention. He had often wondered how much she knew of his undercover work for the government. Of course he didn’t ask her what she thought.

If she knew anything about his shadow life, it was their little secret.

Where, Traeger wondered, did such devoted women come from?

In the Washington, D.C., area, there is a notorious surplus of women. They arrive fresh and young and ambitious, but the unfavorable ratio of men to women keeps most of them single. Bea was perilously close to fifty, but she must have dismissed all thoughts of marriage years ago. A shame. But then he himself was a monk. Many agents become serial monogamists in D.C.’s happy hunting ground, but Traeger had recoiled at the thought of placing the heavy burden of his work on the innocent shoulders of a spouse. But lately . . . Traeger shook the thought away.

“Traveling less, but enjoying it more,” Traeger had said to Bea. He let the impression that he was off to Rome for a lark stand. She sighed.

“It’s the one city I long to see.”

A bizarre thought popped into Traeger’s mind. Ask her to come along. The thought seemed more of a joke than a real possibility. Already his mind was full of the task ahead.

He had been approached through the usual channels. Dortmund asked him to lunch in an out-of-the-way place in Alexandria. The agency man’s crew cut was now snow white, his eyes full of secrets. Dortmund had been Traeger’s chief until he retired.

“Do you read the papers?” Dortmund asked.

“The Vatican guard’s murder?”

Dortmund rewarded him with a smile. Almost from the beginning they had been able to read one another’s minds. “The Vatican murders.”

“Murders?”

Traeger got the real story then; how two cardinals and a priest went down as well as the basilica guard. It was clear that Dortmund sensed a connection to the Ali Agca affair and the attempted assassination of a pope. Neither of them had been satisfied with the report Traeger had written. But neither had they seen enough of a link to justify military action against the real instigators of the plot.

“There must be something else we can pin this to. We know that there’s someone else behind it.”

“Ali Agca insisted he was working alone,” Traeger said.

“Bah.”

“I know, I know. The whole mess has to go back to the Russians.” But the young Traeger had been unable to do anything but fume.

Dortmund had not needed to spell out his current suspicions to Traeger over lunch in Alexandria. Half a dozen disaffected agents were loose in the world. The Russian president had been in the KGB, but not all his former colleagues had been so upwardly mobile. How could they wean themselves from the intrigue and violence that had always defined their lives? And there would be smoldering resentment at the way their empire had melted away. Dortmund was fearful that one of them was involved in the killings in the Vatican. At that Alexandria luncheon with Traeger, he’d said he wanted his own man in Rome now. Both to help the Vatican put a stop to the trouble and put a lid on the news.

Traeger agreed to go.

 

 

But the connection between today’s murders and yesterday’s assassination attempt was fragile indeed. The only reason the Vatican had to regard these recent murders as connected with the assassination attempt on John Paul II was the repeated demands of the Russian ambassador that all documents concerning the Ali Agca affair be turned over to his government.

 

 

Traeger learned about this small piece of the puzzle from Rodriguez in the restaurant in Trastevere.

“He had visited Maguire that very day,” Rodriguez said. “Not an hour before the murder.”

“Would the Russians have known of the rooftop villa?”

“Of course. It’s no secret. Maguire was proud of the place and liked to show it to people.”

“Are you sure the Russian ambassador left the library?”

“Father Crowe put him on the elevator. That was when Crowe got a glimpse of the assassin. The killer came out of the elevator when the doors opened.”

“As I said, I’ll want to talk to Crowe first.”

Rodriguez leaned forward and dropped his voice. “The killer moved fast and freely.” A pause. “He might have gotten to the pope.”

Traeger nodded.

“Of course security has been increased exponentially,” Rodriguez said.

“After the horse has been stolen,” Traeger observed.

“What?” Rodriguez did not know the saying.

Traeger spelled it out for him.

“Ah. No doubt you will want to speak to the head of the guard.”

“After Crowe. Why did you mention Fatima?”

“The third secret.”

“Ah.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary had warned at Fatima that the pope would be assassinated. Had She been proved wrong?

“John Paul II always credited Mary with saving his life,” Rodriguez said, and the two men fell silent.

II

“It stopped being a game long ago.”

Father Brendan Crowe accompanied the body of Cardinal Maguire back to Ireland for burial—a Mass in the cathedral at Ennis with half the bishops in the country crowded into the sanctuary, the primate down from Armagh officiating. Old classmates, former mentors from Maynooth, and cousins galore treated him with that chummy deference the Irish excel at.

“You’ll be going back, Brendan?” they would ask.

He was going back. He said it as if pronouncing sentence on himself, but the truth was Ireland seemed foreign to him, prosperous even here in the western counties. How young he had been when they sent him off to study in Rome; what an eternity ago that seemed.

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