Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cardinal and the Constable, ch 14

Chapter 14.
The Closure.
            Francine was absolutely horrified to discover the killer had been courting her. She stomped out of the room, indignantly crying:
            “And I let him kiss me on the cheek!”
            Ernesto sat by Fratelli’s bed as he laid there, a warm cloth on his head, wrapped up in thick covers. Early morning light seeped through the windows, casting floors and walls dusty yellow. Neither had slept very well. Fratelli shifted, stared at his brother then coughed. Dina came in and replaced the cloth with a warmer, fresher one.
            “See, Your Eminence, this is precisely what happens when you go out in the rain,” she admonished, “Now you have a cold.”
            Fratelli groaned as she stuck a thermometer in his mouth.
            “Stop being babyish,” she told him.
            After examining the thermometer, she frowned, shook her head and told him to stay in bed. Of course, he protested:
            “But what about my appointments to hear confessions?”
            “There are two other priests who can do it.”
            Fratelli grumbled but became silent when she fiercely glared back. Ernesto stood and took his hand.
            “Get well, my brother,” he said gently, “And thank you by the way… for possibly saving our lives.”
            “It was nothing- really,” Fratelli’s voice cracked.
            Ernesto smiled and departed, treading softly as not to cause any disturbance.
            Fratelli slept till late noon. He woke up in a dark, candle-lit room and reluctantly ate the cold porridge at his table. This was likely all he would be allowed to eat until he got better. He finished it, frowned from the bitter, starchy taste then walked towards the window and looked outside. Green gardens and trees swayed in lazy summer wind. The white roses peeked up at him. He felt sun shine through the glass, caressing his face. How he longed to be out there…
            Then, he paced across the room, feeling quite bored with himself, his empty musings. He sat in his chair, ceased looking out the window and stared at the patterned ceiling tiles. He began counting them. 2, 4, 6, 8…What was he doing?
            His legs feeling strong, Fratelli decided to quietly sneak downstairs and into the chapel. He owed God a thanksgiving, for the killer’s capture and Ernesto’s safety- and his own welfare. Kneeling down in cool darkness pierced by three solemn candles and the twinkling, red sanctuary lamp, Fratelli mumbled:
            “My hope is in you, O Lord and you will never fail me. You protected me, even when danger lurked in my house. Although I am upset my painting will never be finished, that is least important…”
            He at once began coughing. Raptly, he covered his mouth with a linen handkerchief- but it was too late. Dina overheard, entered the chapel and scolded him:
            “Your Eminence, get back upstairs! I told you to stay in bed.”
            “I’m going…I’m going,” he said hoarsely.
            “You’ll never get well if you keep wandering around the house!”
            Grudgingly, Fratelli retreated upstairs and lay down. He grew rather bored, unable to sleep and asked for his bible. Dina brought it from the library and gladly, he opened to a favorite place, reading in peaceful contemplation.
            The door creaked open.
            “Come in,” Fratelli sighed, laying the bible at his side.
            Jack emerged, walking softly and sat on the chair next to him. His face seemed sullen. Fratelli wordlessly peered up at him then coughed.
            “I hope you feel better soon, Angelo…actually I came up here to apologize for the way I’ve been acting lately. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on religious matters- it’s no way to treat an old friend.”
            Fratelli weakly smiled then replied, “I’m sorry too. Sorry I called you “apostate” and said you worshiped a book… I realize that we both do follow the same Savior.”
            “I know,” Jack said, “I shouldn’t have said what I said either. Stubborn and silly me, I could have kissed your ring- at least to show pride for who you’ve become. I’m afraid I may have started the whole fiasco.”
            “It’s just a piece of jewelry; I shouldn’t have behaved as if it were so important.”
            They looked at each other, both now smiling. Fratelli felt residual humiliation but stuffed it deep inside. This friendship mattered more than his bruised pride. A general relief and joy spread over them. Jack patted Fratelli’s arm fondly, stood and concluded, “I hope you’ll be strutting around in those vestments in no time, my friend.”
            Fratelli laughed then watched him go. Then he rolled over, burying his face beneath the warm covers, trying to get some sleep.

                                    ~ ~ ~
            On a blustery, Wednesday morning, Fratelli had recovered enough to celebrate Mass. Happily he walked across the altar, wearing emerald-colored vestments, and stood at the center where he could see everyone. Jack was visible, not in the front but neither far towards the back. Michele and Ernesto sat closeby, eagerly watching as Gianni came forth and took the Book of Gospels from Fratelli’s hands. He set it on a left table and stood meekly, hands folded together as if in prayer. Not taking eyes off the congregation, Fratelli donned his plain, white miter. He hoped it was not crooked or too loose.
            “Upon this day, we read in the Scriptures: “Surely I have restrained and composed my soul, like a weaned child with its mother: my soul within me is as a weaned child. (1)” What does this mean for us? Are we to become like children?
Aren’t we already so much like children? How often do we cry out for help, begging for our needs to be met, just like little children? How we tell him our troubles and fears! Whenever we do, Our Father in Heaven surely hears us. He is ever-watchful, guarding us night and day. The Lord sleeps nor slumbers. Indeed, all who are here have seen a child resting, restrained and composed in its mother’s arms, not caring for anything, perfectly safe and secure.
 Thus, The Lord wishes for us to quiet our souls in his arms. He wants to become the world to us, so that our entire world consists of him. Our thoughts, our comfort and needs- all in him. In this embrace, we meet perfect peace. The soul wants nothing more. It cries out not. It is weaned from the world and one with God.”
How protected and blessed I am, Fratelli swiftly mused. He sat down silently engulfed in comfort. Yes, even throughout the dangerous moments of the past weeks, he was always cared for!

At home, in the parlor, he rested, closing his eyes against the flooding sun. He stirred hearing footsteps and looked upon Ernesto. His brother took the chair across from him, leaned and spoke:
“I want you to know everything is alright. No one else had been hurt and Gino confessed to the whole murder.”
“He did? Well don’t just sit there, tell me about it! What possessed this poor soul to take another man’s life?”
“Gino realized that during their fellowship of four years, Diego wasn’t paying entirely for his work, he was in essence, cheating him, keeping the leftover money for himself. Gino met with Diego on the clock-tower’s second floor, they talked and he demanded the money owed after all this time. Diego wouldn’t budge and… you know how the story ends.”
Fratelli leaned back, reflecting, resting his chin on one hand.
“This is precisely why it is written in Scripture that the love of money is the root of all evil…”
“You’re right.”
Dina came in and brought two glasses of wine. Fratelli thanked her. They relaxed, slowly sipping, enjoying the sunny afternoon. Ernesto opened his mouth, about to speak but then stopped himself. He simply didn’t intend on ruining this moment.
Michele entered the room, unintentionally breaking their silence. Her face beamed radiantly as the sun which shone through the windows.
“Ernesto, Angelo!”
“My dear,” Ernesto said, unseating and embracing her.
“Before I go to speak with Dina, there is something I wish to tell you both.”
The two men looked towards her, attentively listening. Michele flashed her pearly teeth and said, “This morning I felt sick again but didn’t want to say anything till after Mass. Moreso, this time, I know for sure, I am pregnant. I feel it and I know it.”
“Do you?” Ernesto inquired, taking her arm.
“Yes! I am sure!”
She slapped his hand in a loving annoyance. Fratelli slowly smiled, watching the happy couple again embrace, their faces touching and laughing. He wasn’t certain how to respond and still remained, gawking speechless when Michele left. Ernesto sat down, finished his glass of wine and joyfully grinned. Feeling very warm, Fratelli went to remove the red cap from his head but discovered it wasn’t there. Posture stiffened, he looked around and didn’t see it.
“I’ve lost my zucchetto,” he exclaimed, “Ernesto get up, maybe you are sitting on it?”
His brother stood up. No hat.
Fratelli frantically got up, searching around his chair.
“It’s missing!” he cried.
“Calm down, Your Eminence, It’s got to be somewhere…”
 Gianni suddenly strolled past them, arms folded behind him and whistling; his golden-brown hair crowned by a red zucchetto. In one sweeping, haughty gesture, the cardinal snatched this away, put it on his own head then sat back down. He crossed his arms and huffed.

~ The End

The Cardinal and the Constable, ch 12-13

Chapter 12.
            The Upset.

            Fratelli’s heart thumped in his chest. Slowly, he stooped down and examined the shoes. Discovering one side badly damaged, and a piece scraped off, he almost shrieked. Covering his mouth, he stood, tiptoed down the hallway and peered into the parlor where Gino was working. Maybe this was a coincidence? After all, fancy shoes did damage easily. How could he be so sure the missing piece came from that same shoe?
            He shook his head, trying to think clearly. Suddenly, an idea emerged in his mind. Coming back into the parlor, Fratelli sat in a nearby chair, watching as Gino diligently painted. His delicate hand molded shapes and colors. Mary’s swaddled figure, he outlined in deep blue. He hated to interrupt but asked anyway:
            “I sure feel sorry for what happened to your friend Diego, he was your friend right?”            
            Gino stopped, looked over his shoulder and replied, “We worked together every now and then…I really didn’t know him well.”
            Fratelli clasped his hands. He really didn’t know what else to say. He just sat…and observed. However, his anxiety grew very perceptible to Gino who turned and politely stated, “Your Eminence, I know you are very interested in my work- and I’m honored by this, however, I feel your presence is distracting me.”
            “I apologize.”
            Why should he apologize? It was his own house…well, the Church’s house… Fratelli moved past the door then silently peered around the threshold.
            “I know you are still there, Good Eminence…”
            He crept back to where Gino’s shoes were and again looked closely at the damaged one. Feeling shivers, he wondered if a murderer were right here, in his house.
            Dreadfully nervous, Fratelli summoned Dina and met with her in the kitchen. In case things became dangerous, he wanted her away from the house. Seeing his uneasiness, she asked him:
            “Your Eminence, what is the matter now?”
            “I want you to get Ernesto for me…”
            “But it’s noon and it’s raining, and he may be very busy at work.”
            Thinking quickly, Fratelli answered:
            “Then I give you the rest of the day off, go home!”
             She began protesting then hushed, eyed him strangely and seeing he was serious, gathered her things to leave. He waited until she left before walking into the parlor.
            “I’m going to the market,” he announced.
            Gino gazed at him.
            “It’s raining, Your Eminence.”
            “Well I like the rain!” he asserted, proudly crossing his arms.
            Although he didn’t say anything more, Gino’s face displayed a fine smile. The cardinal added:
            “You can stay here and help yourself to the wine, I’ll return shortly.”
            Fratelli donned his shoes, grabbed his draping, red cloak, wrapped it around himself and dashed outside.
            Soon as he stepped onto the street, his robes became wet. Lifting them up around his knees, he sprinted across the piazza. He hoped to find Ernesto soon as he looked rather foolish out there in the rain; a soggy, red figure running down the street.
            He suddenly halted in front of a figure on horseback.
            “Ernesto, is that you?”
            “Yes, Angelo. What are you doing out here? You are soaking wet.”
            Dropping the hem of his cassock, letting it clump forlornly around his feet, he replied, “Yes…I’m aware of that.”
            Ernesto dismounted and escorted Fratelli beneath an alcove. Cold water rushed from the roof, away from them and pooled along a ditch on the street. The cardinal removed his red skullcap and wrung water out of it. Then he futilely put it back on his soaked head.
            “Your Eminence, just look at you!”
            “Ernesto, there’s something I must tell you…I found a pair of alligator shoes- and one’s missing a piece from it. The same color as the one you had shown me.”
            “At my house- at my house! They belong to Gino Siglio!”
            Ernesto’s eyes widened. He paced back to his horse and quickly mounted. Passing Fratelli, he said:
            “Go ahead home Angelo and I’ll follow you…”
            Reluctantly, Fratelli plodded home. He walked over a few rain puddles though doing his best to avoid them. His shoes were drenched, his finery water-logged and heavy. He looked altogether pathetic by the time he reached home. Ernesto waited beneath a tree as he came inside, tracking mud and water all over the carpet. Dina would be very upset at him…
            He removed his shoes and put his red cap atop the hat rack. It slid, weighed down by moisture and fell. Fratelli sighed, shrugging. He promised he’d pick it up later.
            Fratelli went into the parlor and discovered it dark and empty. Gino was nowhere to be seen! Running back, he told Ernesto and the constable came in after him. He looked for the shoes but found them neither.
            “It seems he knew what you were up to, Your Eminence… What did you tell him before you left?”
            “I said I was going to the market.”
            “Oh, Angelo that is so transparent!”
            “I am sorry, so sorry Ernesto. I failed you.”
            “No you didn’t, you helped me. Putting Gino to flight only makes him look all the more guilty. Now let’s find him.”

Chapter 13.
            The Set-up.

            Frantically, Ernesto and Fratelli searched the cardinal’s villa. Fratelli ventured upstairs, downstairs and into the kitchen while Ernesto stayed, searching through Gino’s supplies, which had been left behind. He retrieved a triangular item, caked with dried paint from a nearby handbag. Peeling paint off of it, he revealed a spade-like, flat blade.
            Fratelli heard him calling and dashed downstairs, almost stumbling over the furrowed rug on his way into the parlor.
            “What is it?”
            “Look,” Ernesto said, holding up the blade, “Turns out the knife wasn’t a knife at all- but some piece of painter’s equipment.”
            “Dear Lord!” the cardinal exclaimed, crossing himself, “The real murderer- was in my house- the whole time!”
            “Well, he’s not in your house anymore. We’ve got to find him before he leaves the city.”
            “Say…Ernesto, do you still have that monk’s habit?”
            “Yes I do…I was thinking the exact same thing…”
            Ernesto recovered the monk’s habit and threw the garment over his head. After Fratelli tied the cord belt, Ernesto said to him:
            “You wait here”
            “But I want to help you…”
            “Your Eminence, this is very dangerous.”
            “I know…”
            “So you’re staying here?”
            “Yes, yes.”

            ~ ~ ~
            The rain lessened, becoming a fine, hovering fog. Gino Siglio tied his long cloak around himself on his way to the local stables, where he rented a horse. Quickly walking onto the street, he mounted his horse and trotted towards the city gates. If he were to gallop, it would look suspicious, so he paced his mount leisurely. Chill air brushed against him. Though day had been hot, night grew rather cold and he hugged his cloak closer.
 As Gino neared the city’s huge, stone gates, a shadow on horseback met him. Panicked, he reached for the gun at his belt but only seeing a white-clad monk, he didn’t draw the weapon.
            “Good evening, brother,” he said casually.
            “God bless you,” the monk replied, “Can I ask you for directions? You see, I’m trying to get to the little church on the other side of Lucca but Lord have mercy, I seemed to have lost my way…”
            At once, another rider appeared. It was Timotheo, sitting strait, sword drawn but held low.
            “Good evening sir,” he said approaching, “May we stop you a moment?”
            Gino laughed and suddenly, brandished his gun, holding it out. Instantly, Ernesto drew his gun, pointing at Gino. The three stood, frozen.
            “Why did you kill Diego Pollini?” Timotheo asked.
            Gino wryly frowned and growled his answer: “You would have killed him too if he cheated you out of as much money as he cheated me!”
            “I don’t think so…”
            “It doesn’t matter, you’re going next!”

Meanwhile Cardinal Fratelli trekked through the street on horseback. He leaned over, peering about and searched the alleyways and buildings for sign of Ernesto. His horse began acting unruly, snorting and stomping. Nervously, he gripped the reigns tighter. He had left in haste and didn’t care which horse the stable loaned him. It figured he would choose a badly-behaved one. Despite his promise to stay safely at home, he felt Ernesto was in danger and needed to reach him soon. However, this horse didn’t seem intent on getting anywhere. It halted, balked then circled.
“You lazy beast!” Fratelli hissed, kicking the horse’s side, “Go!”
 And they were off! Fratelli clutched the reigns for dear-life as the horse swiftly sprinted, its hooves clopping over pavement, at dizzying speed. Wind buffeted Fratelli’s face and he squinted, barely able to see.
“Whoa, stop- stop!” the terrified cardinal yelled.

Ernesto trembled, touching his finger to the gun’s trigger, wondering if Gino would fire at Timotheo at any time. Stinging sweat beaded on his brow but he ignored it, eyes staring intently forward. Then they all heard a frantic shouting and Gino whirled, watching a screaming, bright scarlet figure blur past. It gave Timotheo just enough time. He lunged, wrestled the gun from Gino’s hand and knocked him onto the ground. Ernesto dismounted then quickly shackled him. His fear loosened and succumbed to a faint sense of relief- even joy. The killer was caught at last. Now…to catch that cardinal.

They found Fratelli on a far roadside, heaving and leaning against the horse’s lathery neck. Both were exhausted and pitiful-looking.
“Come on Your Eminence, let’s go home,” Ernesto said, taking the reins.
Now, the horse obediently followed, head held low, his finicky spirit worn out.
“Are you alright?” Fratelli tiredly mumbled.
“Yes, completely unscathed- and Timotheo too. We’ve caught him.”
“Oh, praise God!”

The Cardinal and the Constable, ch 10-11

Chapter 10.
The Confrontation.

Following his prayers, Fratelli sat sipping tea on the veranda, watching the sunrise, feeling a cool breeze touch his face. Gino arrived early, stretched his canvas and began to paint. Francine soon visited and sat, observing him before Fratelli chased her out. He didn’t want any distractions, he wanted a thought-provoking, prayerful picture of the Holy Family, without a hint of the romantic silliness he could sense fluttering between them.
He invited Gino to eat lunch with him. The artist gladly joined washing and wiping paint from his hands before helping himself to prosciutto and pasta salad.
“Thank you so much, Your Eminence,” he said now reaching for the tea.
“Here, let me pour it for you,” Fratelli offered.
He poured the tea into Gino’s white, porcelain cup then refilled his own. Deep inside, Fratelli mused that this was going to be a fine day…
Back in his mind, he wondered where Jack was, having not seen him since dinner, last night, and ventured out into the garden. Some birds flew overhead; a lone duck waded in the fountain and fragrant roses nodded in the light breeze. Carefree, he quickened pace and spoke a joyous prayer:
Thank you, O Lord, for the beauty of your creation. How the flowers and the birds and the still waters betray your majesty! I thank you for delivering my son, Adreo from prison, O Liberty, O Beauty!”
Reaching the iron fence, at the garden’s other end, Fratelli finally sighted Jack.
“Hail, O Friend!” he cried out.
“Good afternoon Angelo,” Jack replied, “You are in very high spirits today.”
“Yes, I am aren’t I?”
Jack smiled. Fratelli put an arm around him and said:
“Come into the parlor, I want to show you something.”
Jack followed him inside. They crossed the hallway and entered the parlor where Gino was busy at work, painting outlines of three soft figures.
“See, I hired Gino Siglio to paint a portrait of the Holy Family!” Fratelli excitedly said.
Jack smiled weakly though he didn’t seem very excited himself. Actually, his fair face displayed a faint disappointment. Noticing, Fratelli led him into the other room and asked,
“Is something the matter?”
Jack’s lips quivered as he hesitated.
“Jack, ever since you came here…you have been acting different,” Fratelli nervously began, “You haven’t been coming to Mass, you have avoided me at prayer, you haven’t kissed my ring once since you’ve got here, not that it’s very important but I thought…well…”
Sitting down, Jack took a deep breath, exhaling slowly and answered; “I’m not the same Angelo. After you left for seminary, I did a lot of soul-searching of my own. I studied the Holy Bible, the Word of God, day and night. Something deep inside was bothering me and I knew I had been doing things wrong all my life….I left the Catholic Church…for a more pure kind of Christianity…I am a Methodist now.”
The color drained from Fratelli’s face. He looked like a ghost in red robes. He felt stricken with hurt and betrayal…almost sick. Feebly, he sat down, his mind scrambling for something to say. All that came out was a rather thoughtless utterance:
“You’re an apostate.”
            “No, I’m Protestant.”
            “No, Protestant.”
            Jack shrugged frustrated. He stood up saying, “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
            Then, in a huff, he left the reeling cardinal behind. Flustered, his heart pounding and angry, Fratelli also unseated. He swiftly strolled outside. He didn’t know what to say or what to do but only walked in a circle, tightly clenching his fists. How could his friend do this? So much for a fine day, he thought.
            Coming back inside, Fratelli didn’t see a pair of men’s boots sitting in the hallway and tripped right over them. Frantically, he grabbed a nearby hat-rack but it went tumbling down with him. Hearing a clatter, Ernesto appeared, saw the fallen cardinal then the boots and suddenly cried out: “Your Eminence, I’m so sorry!! I didn’t realize they were in the way.”
            He helped Fratelli up, dusted off his red cassock and grabbed his hand.
            “Please forgive my carelessness,” he begged.
            Irritably, Fratelli replied, “Why are you even here?”
            Picking up the hat-rack, putting it back in the proper place, Ernesto answered, “We found another piece of evidence…unless you don’t care anymore.”
            “No, I care, I care. I really do want to help you- but I’ve just had the most awful day…”
            “I am sorry, my brother,” Ernesto said.
            Fratelli opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He crossed his arms and glanced towards the parlor.
            “I believe Gino has left by now, shall we meet in there?”
            “No, your bedroom would be more private.”
            “But it’s a mess up there!”
            Dina emerged from the kitchen, hearing them argue, she interrupted,
“It is not messy anymore, now go upstairs. You’re making a racket down here.”
            They obeyed.

Chapter 11.
            The Shoe.

            Entering Fratelli’s bedroom, Ernesto closed the door and locked it while Fratelli sat in his favorite chair by the window. Quietly, Ernesto neared. He pulled a folded napkin from his pants pocket, unfolded it and revealed a sliver of fine, dyed leather…only it didn’t look exactly like leather.
            “It is a piece from a shoe that we found on the clock-tower’s second floor, most likely scraped off during some kind of struggle. Since Diego was wearing black, leather shoes, we believe it may belong to the killer,” Ernesto said.
            Fratelli tried to take the sliver and examine it but Ernesto pulled it away. Frustrated, the cardinal asked, “What is that made of? I’ve never really seen that fabric before.”
            “It’s alligator skin.”
            Fratelli arched his brows, confused as Ernesto continued, “This is a new fashion among the extremely wealthy, an exotic material- see here the scaly pattern.”
            “Odd…” Fratelli remarked, feeling it with one finger.
            Ernesto suddenly withdrew the scrap, re-wrapped it and put it away.
            “Now I brought that here just for you. So you can be a pair of eyes for me and look around to see if anyone is wearing shoes that match.” He said.
            “Yes, yes,” Fratelli replied.
            “Did you ever look for that knife?”
            “I truly did, but there is no such blade in this house. Too strangely-shaped for any real use…”
            “Good for stabbing people...”
            The cardinal gazed aside. Then they stared at each other tensely, reminded how serious this situation really was. Ernesto nervously twiddling his thumbs then finally spoke again:
            “Your Eminence, since we are brothers, may I ask you for something?”
            “Surely,” Fratelli responded.
            Ernesto hesitantly asked, “Has anyone lately confessed to murder?”
            “You mean within the sacrament? You know I can’t tell you that.”
            “But Your Eminence…”
            “No, I cannot break the seal of confession- it’s a sacred, inviolable thing.”
            Ernesto thought a minute then rephrased his question:
            “Did someone not confess to murder?”
            “Do you think I am dull-witted?” Fratelli irately said, “Leave me alone!”
            For several more minutes they stood, not saying anything, awkwardly exchanging gazes. Ernesto eventually said farewell and prepared to leave. Fratelli mused for a second then yanked Ernesto’s sleeve, asking:
 “How is Michele? It’s been so long since I’ve seen her.”
            “She is doing well. Not sick anymore. However, she is certain by now she is not pregnant.”
            The cardinal frowned, somewhat disappointed.
            “Don’t worry,” Ernesto told him, “We’ve got enough at this time to worry about.”
            “I suppose you are correct.”
            Fratelli silently gestured a blessing as his brother left. Then he sat back down, his head heavy with thoughts. Indeed, he was so preoccupied with himself, his own problems… I should really be alert and watch, he told himself. How lazy have I been!

            During dinner, Cardinal Fratelli hardly ate, pondering who would wear alligator skin shoes and wondered where such a fabric might come from. He set his round, red cap on the table before him and idly eyed it. Focusing on that little, red dot helped him think but still, the thoughts ran in a circle.
Matters worsened when Jack came into the dining room, sat down and saying nothing, began to eat. Their tense and rather hostile glances darted back and forth. Fratelli felt a great divide between them, a coldness. Tolerating this no longer, he opened his mouth to speak. However, Jack spoke first;
            “You show me where in the Bible it says I must kiss a man’s ring and I’ll do it.”
            Fratelli’s forehead wrinkled as he retorted, “Where in the Bible does it say everything must be in the Bible?”
            “Easy for you to say,” Jack quipped, “You listen to the pope instead.”
            “-and you follow yourself. Which is worse?”
            They sounded like two children arguing in a school-yard.
            “You bow to statues!”
            “You bow to a book!”
            “At least, I don’t cannibalistically feed on Jesus!”
            “Well, at least, I don’t hate his mother!”
            Angrily, they simultaneously got up and stormed away, in opposite directions, just as Dina emerged ready to pour the wine. She gazed around the empty room quizzically and shrugged.
            At dawn, Fratelli hesitantly awoke. Glumly, he dressed for morning- prayer and Mass. He hoped to see Ernesto there in monk’s habit, hiding within a cathedral niche but did not. Perhaps he took his stakeout elsewhere?
Rainclouds began congregating in the sky matching the cardinal’s grey mood. Light rain began to fall. He disregarded the weather while walking home and strode his garden for a while. Carefully fingering a rose, he drew it to his nostrils and inhaled sweet fragrance.
            “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord,” he whispered, “and clean eyes that I may see and discern only the truth you wish for me to see. Keep the nuisances of my sinful mind at bay… as you surely understand, I am upset. I regret saying harsh words towards my friend Jack, but Lord, he has hurt me deeply and I don’t know what to do. Help me to show kindness despite it all.”
            The realization suddenly hit him: He couldn’t do it alone.
            “Yes, how greatly I need you…” he concluded aloud.
            Returning indoors, he found Gino at work in the parlor. The artist walked, circling around his canvas around in silken socks. His shoes had been left by the door. Remembering his own, wet shoes, Fratelli immediately removed them. Setting his ornate, red shoes down, he noticed Gino wore an even more ornate pair of shoes, made of strange, scaly leather- alligator.