Read The Angel of Milan Online
Authors: R. J. Grant
The occult aspect of the Atonement Lot, while only legend, made it a very needful thing. If it fell into the hands of Satanists, I supposed that they would quickly enact some Satanic Ritual to destroy the Seal, and symbolically free Azazel from the pit. If that were the case, I would have to move quickly to prevent the loss of such an important artifact to superstition and depravity.
In the next second I found myself thinking of Burtuchi’s words,
I believe he is Grigori
. I pondered the legend of the Atonement Lot and its connection to the Grigori. Could it possibly be what it was reported to be? Did the Lot actually bind the fallen angel Azazel in the earth?
“No,” I said aloud. There was no doubt in my mind that the dangers were human, and had nothing to do with the supernatural.
Did the Vatican have the right to the Atonement Lot? Maybe, but I did not question the morality of it. In the possession of the conclave, the Atonement Lot would drop into obscurity again. Out of sight, and out of mind, just like many of the other antiquities the Pontiffs locked away from the world. For now I needed a plan—first to retrieve it, and then a means to disappear once it was in my possession. For the time being, I was sure I had a target on my back.
Dinard had not indicated that I was known to be Paladin, only an academic that would carry the Lot to Rome. I was sure the little man would have felt compelled to ask more questions if he suspected my true vocation. After all, the order was another of those religious legends of antiquity that surely would have excited the little priest. I took solace in the fact that whoever would opposed me for the Lotthey were, they had no idea who or rather what they were really dealing with. Let them come, I would not die alone.
Suddenly I felt the need to pray, but my mind was distracted. Maybe it was pride in my position at the Vatican that led me to my present circumstance. Wasn’t it my access to the secret archives that allowed me to identify the Atonement Lot in the first place? I thought of the vaults below the Vatican crypts where I would pass the ancient inscription on the wall, ‘Peter is here.’
How many times had I walked down the narrow stone steps to the unobtrusive wood door that led into the steel security chamber. I would place my hand on the optical reader, and at the same time look into the retinal scan. I was then greeted by a computer voice requesting I enter my personal code at the keypad. Finally, I would respond to a number of questions that compared my audio response for final recognition. Once inside, most of the secrets were open to me for study. It was an awesome privilege.
On my very first visit to the vaults, Cardinal Betuchi himself accompanied me. I was awed at what I saw before me. There were scrolls from Alexandra, and Babylon, spoils from the Roman sack of Jerusalem as depicted on the Arch of Titus.
There were gold and silver objects from the Far East, and a section of the archive was devoted to the Knights Templar and Free Masonry. It was the letters and copious records kept by the Templar that identified the Atonement Lot I found in Milan. Constantine brought gifts to Milan to celebrate his sisters wedding with Licinius, Emperor of the Eastern Empire in 313 AD. However, the Templar described the Atonement Lot in a shipping manifest from Jerusalem to Milan in 1150 AD, long after Constantine’s sister’s wedding. I wondered if the Lot had been intentionally miscataloged to protect its identity. I would never know.
I finished emptying my suitcase, and placed the final items in the back of the closet shelf—a bottle of French brandy, an HK 45 pistol and a spare clip. I stood momentarily staring at the closet shelf.
“Maybe access to the archives was not the reason I was lead to this penance,” I whispered.
I took a deep breath, remembering the warning Cardinal Burtuchi gave to me years ago when I accepted the Order of Paladin.
‘Adama, my son, do not take these responsibilities lightly. Pray always that you do not corrupt yourself, and that your actions remain righteous, lest the Spirit condemns you.’
Tonight I will pray, I thought, but I feared the corruption had already taken place. In any event, tomorrow morning I would visit the archbishop.
I awoke with the first rays of light shining through my window. I dressed quickly and intended to find breakfast on the avenue. As I walked down the stairs to the first floor, I was surprised to hear many voices from the dinning hall down the corridor. Father Dinard was coming out of a doorway in the hall. He immediately burst into a broad smile, and announced his pleasure at seeing me.
“Ciao, Father, please join us so I may introduce you to everyone.” I was not in the mood for morning pleasantries with the rectory but succumbed to Dinard’s gregarious nature.
“Of course, Father, I would be glad to meet everyone. I am surprised everyone is up so early.”
“Not at all, not at all, several masses have already been said, and we will all be out attending our ministries shortly. We are dedicated to the needs of the community, and despite appearances, there are many needs.”
Dinard provided introductions while beckoning me to enter the dining hall. A dozen cassock-clad men surrounding the table voiced their pleasure in the introduction. I was both surprised and pleased to find that breakfast consisted of coffee and gelato. Dinard, seeing the smile on my face at the gelato, leaned near and whispered.
“We live a simple existence here, Father, but as you can see we are not without some simple pleasures.”
I responded with a quiet, “Bravo, Father, bravo.” This seemed to please Dinard to no end. I determined that whatever else Dinard was, he was also resourceful.
After finishing my coffee, I excused myself and left the rectory. I had an early appointment with the archbishop at the Duomo. I knew the meeting would be only a courteous formality. There was probably little to be learned other than what I already knew. Someone with access had taken the Atonement Lot from the private treasury room. The archbishop would make a great display of his trust in those he had appointed, assuring me that none of them were involved. No matter, certainly one of them was, and if others beside Crochi were involved, they might very well pay the price with their lives when I found them.
The visit with Archbishop Savica went precisely as I had anticipated. Reluctantly, the bishop provided the names of the two priests other than he who were entrusted with access to the treasuries—Monsignor Belgerio and Father Crochi, both of whom had what seemed iron clad alibis concerning their whereabouts during the time of the theft. Alibi or not, Crochi was now dead under suspicious circumstances. I asked the archbishop to arrange an interview for me with
the remaining Monsignor Belgerio. The archbishop pledged his full cooperation, and said he would arrange such a meeting for the next morning
I left the rectory, and crossed the piazza deep in thought. Stepping off the curb, I was almost hit by a black SUV that stopped directly in front of my path with the window rolled down. A well-dressed young man in his early thirties stared out at me with a rather stern look on his face even though I wore black with the white collar of a priest. I expected a curse to leave the man’s lips, as was usual in any traffic dispute in Milan. I planned to apologize, stepping around the car to continue on my way. To my surprise, I received a greeting.
“Ciao Padre Adama. Benvenuti a Milano.”
“Mi conosce?” I replied.
“Yes, Father, I know you. Cardinal Burtuchi said you speak-a English well. Do you?”
“Yes, I am fluent in English as well as several other languages.”
“Then if you don mind, I would like to speak-a English for practice.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Giovanni. The cardinal sent the word you were coming to Milano. I am here to help-a you. Please get-in.” I hesitated only a second before entering the car. When the car merged back into traffic, I studied the driver.
“How did you know where to find me? Giovanni, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, my name Giovanni. I knew you go to see the archbishop as soon you reach Milano. I ask a friend at the rectory to call when you shows up. Then, I watched for you to come out.”
I was still not at ease with the man, and decided to assure myself that he was who he said he was.
“Why didn’t you wait for me to contact you as instructed?”
“Padre,” he said, with a broad smile. “You were not told-a my name. I was contact you, no.”
I relaxed. Giovanni was my man.
“I am very pleased to meet you, Giovanni. Sorry for the questions. I had to be sure you were who you said you were.”
“I understand, Padre. I would done the same thing.”
“Giovanni, drop the Padre, just call me Adama. I don’t always dress with my collar turned around.
“As you wish, Adama. Now, if you tell me how I be assistance to you?” He asked, while I thought a moment of how to summarize the events that brought me to Milan.
“There has been a theft from the treasury of the Doumo,” I began to explain.
“That much I know from Cardinal Burtuchi, but he told me no-more. Is it of-a great value?”
“Yes, but not for its composition. Although solid gold, the value of the metal is not more than a few thousand Euros. However, it is an artifact from Solomon’s Temple, making it immensely valuable in the political arena for a number of parties.”
“Ah, the vicious Jews. They cause-a much trouble, no?”
“Yes, as well as the miserable Palestinians, and the rest of homicidal Islam, not to mention the lunatic Evangelicals, and possibly those scum Satanists. I’m afraid we will be stirring a caldron of trouble no matter who is involved. Any of them in possession of the Atonement Lot could set off a firestorm of contention for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”
“I understand Padre… I mean, Adama.”
“But for the time being, I’m afraid we are dealing with a thief on the inside. There was no break in. Someone with access has removed the Seal. Find him, and we will see where it leads.
“Well, that be easy then. I’m sure there only few with such access.”
“That is my understanding also. There are only three—Monsignor Belgerio, Father Crochi, and the archbishop. All can prove they were somewhere else when the object was removed. However, Crochi has since been murdered in the streets.”