Waiting for his pickup to arrive, he gazed over the Piazza and ended with the balcony where the Holy Father himself stood when addressing his flock. He hadn’t had time to attend his latest sermon, which tore some at his conscience. Not that much though, considering what he’d been doing at the time, but still he felt a pang of guilt about it.
“Well, he thought, hopefully I’ll be in town for the next one.”
He saw a black BMW X5 with tinted windows pull onto the square. The few tourists there gave it strange looks since it was supposed to be a no-driving zone, which didn’t seem to be an issue for the driver nor the Swiss Guards who stood strategically placed around the piazza. The driver stopped the car at the bottom of the stairs and he walked down them towards it. A very large man, dressed in a black suit with a bulge under his armpit, stepped out of the front passenger seat, opened the right back door and nodded to him to get in. He stepped in, took his seat on the soft leather, strapped his belt and then without a word spoken, the driver took off.
Still no words spoken, the driver steered the car swiftly through the morning traffic and headed out on the circular A90, then switching northwards and out of Rome on the A1. He let his mind wander as the surroundings first became poorer and poorer, and then changed into fields and forests. His thoughts drifted back to the young lady who probably still lay fast asleep in his bed under his Egyptian cotton linen. He really wouldn’t have minded having an extra day off to explore her yet again, but as always, business came first. So when his phone had rung at five he’d only had time for a quick shower, trim and that glass of Evian on the balcony. Surely, his so called employer could wait that long. Especially since he’d arranged this drive to God knows where instead of meeting him at a nice trattoria at lovely piazza, where they’d been able to enjoy their espresso and discuss the vices or virtues of female fashion. At least as foreplay until the inevitable scolding he always got.
“We’re here,” the large brute in the passenger seat said and opened his door. He quickly got back from his daydreaming and stepped out of the vehicle and took a look around. They had parked in front of a renaissance palace in impeccable condition, with the surrounding garden meticulously tended. Two gardeners were already out and about, one tending to the roses blossoming in front of the palace and the other trimming a hedge in the likeness of a, unicorn? Why hadn’t anyone ever told him about this place? It absolutely beat the crawlspace they offered him in Rome. He definitely needed to inquire about it the next time they wanted to talk about his wages. Also, the palace looked easily defendable with at least 50 meters of clear space in every direction, at least from what he could see while still standing by the SUV.
“Figlio mio, I’m so glad you’re finally here!”
He looked up at the entrance and walking out of the door, came an elderly gentleman wearing a black cassock trimmed in scarlet. The elderly man stopped in front of the stairs, making him walk up them to him, then reached out his hand for him to kiss the ring. Done with protocol he burst out in a big smile and gave him a bear hug. For all of his elderly looks and all gray hair, the Cardinal was still a bear of a man. He led him through the massive double oak doors, with the bronze letters “Letum Nullus Finis” hanging above them. They entered an anteroom with a massive staircase swirling up to the second store. On the walls hung tapestries depicting heroic knights slaying gargantuan monsters, and on both sides of the stairs stood models in medieval armor; one holding a massive two handed sword and the other a morning star in hand. He really couldn’t resist becoming impressed and took a few seconds to take in the scenery of the tapestries. The monsters looked to be everything from mighty Dragons to hoards of Zombies, the gallant Knights always opposing them, with a big red cross on their armour.
“It goes back a long way…” he mumbled, mostly to himself.
“Indeed it does my son”, said the Cardinal. “Throughout the ages we’ve always had to stand up against the Darkness in the world, banning it to where it belongs.”
The Cardinal then took off up the stairs, beckoning him to join him on his walk. Walking up the grand staircase he couldn’t help wondering just how old and expensive the thick red carpet that covered it was. Probably as old as most of the other things in the grand palace; priceless furniture and ornaments from throughout the ages. Upstairs he gazed upon another grand hallway, this one also covered in tapestries depicting the eternal battle between the Light and Darkness, but it also had several gilded baroque waiting chairs and a grand oak table, big enough to seat a large host.
They passed through the hallway into a smaller office, where the Cardinal took his seat behind a suitably old desk, booted up his computer and said with his voice now in a much more serious tone:
“You know why we yet again have called upon you?”