Chapter One of “The English Occultist”
by Peter Ceteli
Copyright © Peter Ceteli 2016
The Vatican. May 8, 1978. Evening
What kind of a world is it where one cannot lay down one’s life for one’s friend?
The police and the army were working flat out, they said. Only a matter of time till they found Aldo Moro. The old man did not believe them, and they had turned on him.
So he wanted to offer himself in ransom? What if the terrorists took him at his word? What good would that be?
“As much good as I have ever been,” he had wanted to say.
A knock on the door. The boy from the library.
“The books you requested, Holy Father.”
“Ah yes. Quite an armful, I see. Over there, please. On the table.”
With Alcide de Gasperi, and the Americans, of course, they had rebuilt Italy after the war. Aldo Moro and Giulio Andreotti ran the State. He ran the Church. The free world was in their debt.
Then, the previous March, on Via Fani, Aldo Moro was kidnapped, and all their certainties flew in their faces: loose paper on a sudden wind.
He, the Pope, wanted to offer himself in Aldo Moro’s place. His life for the life of his friend. And he could not.
Again, a knock on the door, quiet and insistent. Pasquale? No. The young priest, the one whose name he could never remember.
“Don Pasquale, has he returned yet?”
“He is still with the President, Holy Father.”
The old man could see Giulio Andreotti bending over to whisper in Pasquale’s ear. He could smell the soap he used. Feel the cold, clammy touch of his hand.
The young priest cleared his throat.”Your Confessor, Holy Father. He is with Cardinal Villot.”
“His Eminence is here? At this hour? Why was I not informed.”
The old man walked over to the table. But there was no pile of books, there was only one book. Not even a book, at that. A notebook. With scuffed covers. And page after page of tiny handwriting. He had ordered other books, and they had been in the young priest’s arms. Where were they? Now there was only one book. This little one. He took it and began to read.
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