There was nothing special about Belleek, Ireland save for the bridge crossing the river Erne. And Michael liked it that way. He walked with the urgency of anybody tramping home after a night at the pub. He and Lolsy had spent the early evening listening to Mick Mc Loughlin strumming and singing of old things in a modern way. His gravel voice giving his guitar a soul that was deep and expansive. He watched the way Lolsy swayed to the music with her ale. Operations like this were the few times she escaped the convent to be in the world. She cloistered herself in prayer between operations to keep her soul pure, to seek forgiveness from God for the sins she had committed on his behalf, and to reenergize.
The melancholy of the moment though wasn’t lost on him. He had a job to do and his heart while not in it was resolute to see it through for his soul’s sake.
As they strolled the bridge they began to look for the stone knot with the Ladybirds. The looked and looked along the bridge. As they entered the Republic of Ireland they saw it off to the right under the tree just where the intel had said it would be. As they approached it Lolsy lit a cigarette turned and blew a cloud of smoke signalling to the rest of the team that they had found the location.
The young priest strode towards them with purpose. He wore a smile on his face but anyone astute in tradecraft knew a fake when the saw it. Michael’s brother from another father looked like Michael but with shocks of bright, blood red hair. The collar hid bullet wounds and scars from his 10 years of resistance against the Mother Church. He was a man like his brother of action and conviction. Just…on the other side.
“Grace be to you, Brother Quinn.” Michael quipped as he approached. Quinn stopped looked at his mess of a brother. “Father, Michael how has the Cross of Christ challenged you today.”
The reference to the moniker ‘father’ still knotted his guts. Michael thought back to his ‘incident’ at the Vatican. Le Seigneur Est Un or the Lord is One had been terrorizing the Diocese of Paris for several months eventually killing the Cardinal and the Bishop during Mass to ‘purify’ the Church. Now they had come to Rome to finish their mission. Michael had played cat and mouse all day with the wet team sent to kill the Pope. He had eliminated all but one. A young man dressed in the garb of a seminarian. They should have cancelled the public mass that day but His Eminence insisted that God would protect him. That would be put to the test today.
As they raced toward the altar the young man with golden blond hair raised his Glock and sent three rounds down range hitting two Swiss Guard and an Italian soldier. Michael tried to get a bead but couldn’t hit him without hitting the crowd and that would be a disaster. Why is the Holy Father not moving? He thought as he ran through the crowd. He had decided to cut the angle to the Pope by taking a side aisle. The Swiss Guards knew who he was. They let him through. He was a legend and who were they to stand in his way and deny him his glory?
Michael cut off the terrorist throwing his body between him and the Pope. Screams emanated from the crowd and panic set in. But Michael could not hear them. He only saw one person. Heard only one breath. As the boy drew his Glock and placed the sodium site on his chest Michael prepared his soul to see Jesus. He would finally be rid of the desires for sex and booze and violence. He would give all as Jesus had given all…
But the click said otherwise. Empty. “My turn.” He said with a sneer. He removed the Kbar with the custom knot on the hilt from the belt under his cossack and plunged it through the young man’s chest and through the wooden altar piercing the ossuary containing Peters’ bones the shock of those around him.
As the young man bleed out all over the altar he called out to him. “Father read me my last rites. I wish to confess before I die!” Michael stood and looked at him saying nothing, eyes as cold as a shark stalking its prey. He looked the man in the eyes. “No.” And he turned and walked away.
The Pope in shock screamed. “Father, it is your duty, for Christ’s sake hear his confession!” Michael walked up to his best friend from seminary and the look in his eyes was all the Pope needed to see. There would be NO forgiveness today.
As Michael walked away he entered St. Peters Basilica and left his bloodstained collar on the high altar. But the knife? The knife he kept and was wearing today on his hip as he studied his brother.
Quinn could see in his eyes his intent. “So are you going to do it here or can we go to a more private place?” He snickered. ” I don’t suppose you wish to hear my confession.”
Michael looked at father Quinn in the eyes. “Either I bring you back to the light or take it from you boy.” His hand gently caressing the pommel of the knife which matched the stone with the Ladybirds.
“Pope Peter sent you? Of all people you? Did you read the readout on the mission?” Quinn could finally relax and signal to the sniper 2000 meters away to not to shoot his brother today.