“I could have driven the SUV. Do you really think we need all this fuss with the limo?” Arnold was much more comfortable when they kept a low profile. A black stretch limo rolling up to the United Nations Plaza was not exactly what he considered to be low profile.
Father Cass reached across to Arnold and patted his hand. “If we had arrived on bicycles in messenger uniforms, I think they would have spotted us, Arnold. It’s two-forty, and they’ve probably been waiting for us for ten or fifteen minutes by now. I don’t think there’s a lot we can do about it at this point, so we may as well enjoy the ride.”
“I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Father. Look at the Plaza. There must be somebody from every news agency on the planet out there.” He tapped on the glass to get the driver’s attention. The driver lowered the glass.
“Is there any way we can avoid this crowd?”
“I don’t think so, sir. I was just talking to a contact I have and they’ve got the back entrance covered too. It’s six of one, half dozen of the other, sir.”
“Okay, thanks. Well, boys. Paste a smile on your face, because this is it. Everybody ready?”
Father Cass grinned. “Does it really matter? I’m looking forward to it. Either way, today’s the day. Let’s go.”
Arnold grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute, Father. I’ll take the lead and John can bring up the rear. Stay close to me. We’ll move as one once we exit the vehicle. Everybody got it?”
Cass and John answered as one, “Got it.”
The door to the limo opened, and as planned Arnold exited first followed by Father Cass with Senator Gardner bringing up the rear. Velvet ropes cordoned off the entryway, but the crowd of reporters and onlookers was at least ten feet deep and thick by anyone’s standards. Security guards were stationed at three-foot intervals with their arms outstretched and were doing a good job of keeping the crowd back, but that didn’t keep reporters from sticking microphones and cameras as far into the walkway as humanly possible, shouting questions at the top of their lungs.
They snaked their way toward the front as quickly as they could, doing their best to stay together and trying to ignore the reporters, when a voice rang out above the others, “Cass, it’s me! Cass, over here!” Father Cass stopped momentarily, stepped away from Arnold and John, and turned toward the voice. Arnold felt the priest’s absence from behind him and the next moment the man he had been protecting for the last five months, the man who just yesterday had saved his life, was lying on the ground with a bullet hole between his two very dead eyes.
Senator John Gardner stood up from where he had been seated in St. Florian’s Church and walked passed the plain oak coffin holding the mortal remains of Father Cass Radnaezewski and proceeded to the lectern. He looked out over the congregation and was gratified to see that the church was not only filled, but there were people standing in the aisles. John Gardner had been asked to give a few eulogies in his life, but when he had been asked to give this one, he had been humbled and almost afraid, afraid that he could not do the man justice. But his wife, Anne, told him that he owed it not only to Father Cass, but he owed it to Amanda. So, he asked for guidance and forged ahead.
“First and foremost, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Radnaezewski, Father Cass’s parents. The loss we are all feeling couldn’t possibly compare to that of losing your child. We are so sorry, and we want you to know that our hearts are with you.
There are so many of you here today who have known Father Cass longer and better than I have and could probably do a wonderful job telling you about what a wonderful man he was and is, because he will always be alive in our thoughts and memories. But those of you who are close to him and those of us who were very close to him in the last few months got together and decided who should speak, and I was elected, so here I am.
We all know that Father Cass was chosen. He was given a special connection to God and according to Father Cass, you may call that God whatever you like, because in the end God is God is God. Believe what you will, but I have seen and experienced miracles with Father Cass that defy reason, and I know many of you have also. I know that with his help, many of you were healed. My granddaughter, Amanda, recovered from end-stage leukemia, and my friend Arnold was shot. The bullet went through his cheek, exiting through the back of his head and he was…well, anyway he was healed through the grace of God with Father Cass’s aid. I was there and I saw it happen.
All of us witnessed twenty-four hours of peace, bounty, and goodwill. It happened all over our planet. We all saw it, we all witnessed it, we all wanted it, but for a few. The young man who shot our dear friend, Father Cass, was apprehended. It turns out the only identification he had on him was an Italian passport. One can make a leap and assume that the information we received about the Vatican seeing Father Cass as a threat was accurate. But does it matter now?
He was a man of faith and beauty and love and an enduring belief of the goodness of mankind. He gave all of us a real and wonderful chance at a beautiful life, the life our creator wanted us to live. But he’s gone now. Struck down by someone or something that found him to be a threat. He was our one and our only last chance.
Rest in peace, Cass. We love you. We always will.”