12 . 45 A.M.
PAPAL PALACE, VATICAN CITY, ROME.
The Pope looks visibly shaken by what had just occurred few minutes ago as he sat on a sofa in the balcony. He had a clear view of the city in all its beauty, but he could barely appreciate the beauty as he normally did. Tonight strangely heralded impending doom and he could feel it; his fears were heightened after the unexpected intrusion into the palace.
The strange intruder who introduced himself as just The Messenger did drop a message that had been haunting him since he left.
In the small brief case he delivered is a Blu-ray disk which contained a recorded voice message.
He played it again, for the sixth time and listened to it but didn’t quite understand the content as it comprised of a foreign language and pidgin English.
He had sent for the Camerlengo through one of the Swiss guards guarding the lodge.
The Camerlengo is a clergy specially chosen by the Pope himself to serve as the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See and to assist him both personally and on official matters. He was much closer to the powerful religious leader than any other person.
He had chosen Pietro Francesco Bademosi, a Nigerian-born priest as his Camerlengo. He gave him the enviable position because of his exceptional brilliance. The Camerlengo knew more than was required in moral theology, philosophy and the canon law. His general efficiency made him easily likeable.
The heavy oak door opened a bit and the face of the handsome ebony priest appears.
“Morning, Santita. I was just informed that the security of your private quarters was breached a few minutes ago and the guards were attacked, are you okay?” he said, walking in and taking a seat opposite the Pope.
He obviously still possessed youthful exuberance and he looked as bright and anxious as always. He was on a black night robe with a gold cord tied round the waist and was barefooted.
“Yes, he didn’t seem to be after my life,” the Holy Father maintained a calm demeanor.
“Grazie a Dio, your life was spared. You seem worried, what was that all about?” the Camerlengo asked.
“This,” he said, turning over the laptop to him, “I want you to listen carefully to this audio message.”
The cleric played the audio and by the look on his face, he evidently understood what it meant.
“It is a threat, Your Holiness; a serious threat from an internationally acclaimed terrorist. I think he’s from my country, Nigeria,” the Camerlengo said when the audio finished playing.
“What is the content?” the Holy Father asked, fixing his eyes on the clergy.
“Not something you would like to hear, padre.”
“Go ahead, we are listening.”
The Camerlengo shook his head.
“I think it’s a trap. It claims to be from a notorious mafia and religious sect in Africa known as The Malibu and they’re demanding your presence for a negotiation of some sort.”
The Holy Father nods his head serenely.
“But it doesn’t make any sense,” the Camerlengo said, “there is more. He gives you only 24 hours to do so and threatens to blow up the Vatican City and unleash untold horrors if his needs are not met. He mentions all the important places of the Vatican; the Academy of Sciences, the Vatican library, the Belvedere palace, the Vatican museum, the Sistine chapel and even this very papal palace.”
“Is there any other thing we should hear?” the Pope asked.
The Camerlengo did little to hide his surprise. He had always known the Holy Father to be calm even when it was raining fire and brimstone, but he looked remarkable tonight, almost beaming right in the face of death.
“He promised to air this at exactly 6 a.m. today in every major television station in the Vatican and in the major countries of the world. According to the audio message, he would do disastrous things so as to demonstrate how serious he is.”
“Perfect timing for the evil forces trying to take down the Holy Church. Tonight, we might be celebrating the risen Lord in an inferno.”
“I beg of you, Your Holiness. Don’t be pessimistic.”
“You just heard it yourself, but something must be done. Get me the Chief Swiss Guard and inform the Alitalia that we would be requiring her services. ‘Shepherd One’ should be readied. And we may possibly put an end to this before it becomes late.”
“But Your Holiness, your scheduled visit there is almost a month away and besides your life may be in danger, my Lord,” The Camerlengo protests.
“Listen carefully, Francesco. If it’s possible that this message could be delivered in such a manner, is it then our life that would be difficult to take? We are willing to sacrifice my life for the good of the church. We must have to do this.”
“But Your Holiness, your scheduled visit to Nigeria is just a month away and besides your life might be in danger,” the Camerlengo implored.
“We have made up our mind,” the Pope said.
The Camerlengo made a slight bow.
“If that is your wish, Holy Father.”
“Please do send for Signoré Giovanni Lorenzo.”
“You mean the President of APSA?” the Camerlengo asked.
“Yes, we need him in times like this.”