As his eyes slowly opened, he became aware of the faint morning light, the first vague shadows emerging from the darkness. Beyond the gauze curtains, rippled by the warm breeze, he could see sunlight upon the terrace. He sat up and noticed the disarray about the room: his tuxedo, her gown, the empty bottle of Cristál. And beside him, Aliá, still asleep, facing away from him, the sheet turned down to her thighs in the heat, the indentation of her spine and the smooth curve of her hip reviving in his mind the consuming desire of only a hour before.
The .45 automatic, a large and elegant N filigreed into the ebony grips, was on the bedside table. Picking up the pistol, he firmly but quietly pulled back the slide then eased it forward, chambering a round. There was work to do today, payments to be made, contracts to be filled.
He reflected for a moment on the turmoil and violence of his existence, the moments of passion stolen from the days and nights of confrontation and death. How different, how very different, from those simple days on his father’s estate, the carefree days frolicking about the grounds, safe from the world’s terrors. And his dear nanny, Deirdre, always stern and proper when his parents were about, but so affectionate and devoted when they were away from prying eyes. His life had been turned upside down when she left to marry that doltish dustman Archibald. Ah, Deirdre, he thought, if we could have frozen space and time and the farthest reaches of the cosmos, if we could have stayed forever within a world of our own making, if we could have.
But of course they couldn’t. He turned and lightly stroked the small of Aliá’s back. In his mind he again said goodbye to fair Deirdre, then smiled as he thought, if only I had known what was to follow. The reflection ended, the smile gone, he knew it was time to get moving.
An hour later he was quickly pacing back and forth across a large room, oblivious to the elegant furnishings, the ornate wall hangings, the echoes produced within the 30 foot ceiling. He chain-smoked as he walked, hesitating slightly whenever his cell phone rang only to be ignored. “Damn him!” he thought. “He must come through! And it had better be quick!” He could hear the sounds of an immense crowd outside. “Jesus, all those people acting like sheep, crowding into the square, whenever he decides to show his bloody face! Just so they can hear him pontificate some stupid bullshit! ‘Blessed Pontiff’ my ass!”
After several more circuits of the room and not a few cigarettes, he abruptly stopped as the doors opened, and in walked the Holy Father himself, accompanied by three red-robed cardinals.
“It’s about fucking time! Couldn’t you have cut the crap short today?” The pope smiled wanly at this stern rebuke, as the cardinals raised their eyebrows and opened their mouths in silent gasps.
“Tell these guys to beat it; you and I have to talk.” The pope, showing the debility of age, turned stiffly to the cardinals and made a slight hand gesture, bidding them to leave the room. After they had left and closed the huge doors, the pope finally spoke.
“Now, my son, please, let us talk.”
“There’s not much to talk about. It’s quite simple. You, the great and powerful Holy Father, started this mess. You stirred things up with that Papal Bull, you brought back Deirdre to be involved in this harebrained scheme of yours, then you left me in the lurch. I expect you to finish it, and quickly. If you don’t, you’ll need more than that bloody Popemobile to protect you when you go to Rio.”