Monday, November 26, 2012

The Cardinal and The Constable, ch 6-7

Chapter 6.
            The Altar-boy.

            Early Saturday, after morning prayers and a short Mass in the cathedral, Fratelli met with Ernesto. Dina brought them a hot breakfast of freshly-baked bread and seasoned apples along with tea. At first, they ate without speaking. Feeling unable to wait any longer, Fratelli broke the peaceful silence:
            “You have more information don’t you?”
            “Yes, but I still don’t feel right talking about this,” Ernesto replied.
            The cardinal blurted, “I don’t feel right not talking about this!”
            “The man who was murdered is Diego Pollini, a wealthy art dealer. In fact, Gino Siglio who has an exhibit now, is rather upset that Diego isn’t able to help him with the work. He was very shocked about his death but I think he’ll be fine.”
            “I met Siglio last night.”
            “Yes, he is upstanding. Unfortunately, Diego didn’t fare so well. In addition to quarrelling with Father Adreo, it seems no one in Lucca liked him very much. They say he was greedy and heartless… in fact, our local merchant, Luigi, even said that good Father did us all a favor by getting rid of him.”
            “But Father didn’t get rid of anybody!” Fratelli cried.  
            Ernesto leaned closer, “Your Eminence, you must admit that Adreo is hot-headed.”
            “Well, yes he can be…but he is no murderer.”
            “I know you’re right Angelo- I want to know you’re right…They have been investigating the crime scene however, there are no signs of real struggle which means Father…I mean, the killer, must’ve come from behind.”
After a moment of silence, Fratelli then suggested, “Here, why don’t we call him a nicer, less biased name like: “Martin”?”
“Yes! I do not know anyone with that name, do you?”
“See, it’s perfect.”
Ernesto spoke again:
“What’s very intriguing however is that the knife-wound was caused by a most strange kind of knife… a flat, spade-like knife. Not any kind we’ve seen before. Now would you mind searching the rectory for a flat knife?”      
Fratelli gritted his teeth. Ernesto glanced back apologetically.
“Please Your Eminence, it could help a lot…”
“Fine, I’ll do it!”
The two shared another cup of tea to smooth over the tension which settled over them. Then they parted ways: Ernesto readied for his morning patrol and Fratelli retreated into his chapel, needing a time of reflection. He had a sermon to write for Sunday, which was also the High Feast of Pentecost, when Catholics commemorated the outpouring of God’s spirit upon the apostles. It mattered a lot to Cardinal Fratelli that each of his words be likewise filled with this spirit.
Preparations for this Sunday Mass also included training Gianni for serving the altar. Soon as Fratelli entered the church’s sacristy, where all the sacred vestments and vessels were held, Gianni followed him and asked, “Do I have to wear a dress?”
“It’s not a dress, it’s a cassock,” Fratelli corrected.
“Do I have to wear one of those goofy, pointy hats?”
“No, only I wear the miter…and they are not goofy- they’re a symbol of apostolic authority.”
Gianni kept quiet to Fratelli’s relief as he fetched various items. Rodrigo peered through the door and greeted them,
“Hello Your Eminence, hello Gianni.”
Sheepishly, the boy replied, “Hello Father.”
Together, all three walked onto the cathedral’s broad, central aisle and climbed the sanctuary steps. Fratelli instructed Gianni how to kneel at the altar before taking his place. Curiously, the boy watched as they exchanged gestures and prayers, mouthing words in solemn Latin.
Dominus vobiscum…(1)”
They said nothing else. Instead. both stared straight at Gianni who fidgeted, putting his hands in his pockets. They kept staring.
“What?” he finally asked.
Slightly frustrated, Fratelli answered:
Et cum spiritu tuo (2)- say it.”          
Nervously, Gianni pronounced the words, stretching them like caramel over his tongue. He didn’t sound half bad. After they went through several more prayers and responses, Fratelli at last stated, “Well-done, now let us show him how to enter.”
Gianni had grown bored, leaning on one large column and yawning when all of sudden Fratelli and Rodrigo came from the sacristy bearing a huge swath of bright red cloth. They placed this around Fratelli’s shoulders. Unraveled, its train spread almost ten feet along the ground. Gianni’s little eyes widened as he grabbed at it.
“You will hold the end up as I proceed down the aisle,” Fratelli told him.
Enraptured by this peculiar ecclesiastical garment, Gianni upheld one end- but forgot to take his foot off the other when Fratelli began walking. The cloth snagged. Fratelli stumbled to the ground. Watching him fall in a big lump of red, Gianni had trouble suppressing giggles. He hastily removed his foot, blushing and covered his mouth. Glaring angrily, Fratelli clambered afoot and remarked:
“Not funny.”

Thankfully, during the grand procession of Pentecost’s High Mass, no one fell. Gianni behaved, walking to the altar and kneeling with perfect form. Flowing chant wafted over them amidst incense-smoke. Here, where heaven touched earth, Fratelli whispered a prayer for Adreo. Though he was terribly nervous and frightened on behalf of his brother-priest, Fratelli spoke his sermon eloquently, betraying none of this frightened nervousness. While ignoring the circling distractions in his mind, he concluded:
May the Holy Spirit of God grant us enlightenment, leading us to all truth. Our hearts must grow quiet in order to be enkindled with his love. Therefore, together, let us hush so we may hear the rushing winds in our souls…and feel the tongues of flame.”

Chapter 7.
The Old Friend.

Before morning-prayer, Cardinal Fratelli anxiously looked around the bedrooms for a knife like the one Ernesto had described and found nothing. He went into the kitchen while Dina was preparing breakfast.
“What do you want, Your Eminence?” she asked sharply, perturbed as he rustled through some drawers.
“A flat knife? Have you seen one? Flat and spade-shaped?”
“No Your Eminence, how could you cook with something like that?”
He didn’t answer but scrambled out.
By noon, summer sun beat upon paved roads and stucco buildings. Needing to get out of the house and settle his mind, Cardinal Fratelli strolled. Passing carriages, small marketplaces and roadside eateries, he smelled intermixed, city smells: food cooking, tobacco smoke, perfume, the scents of vinegar and wine. Reaching the piazza, he squinted against the blaring sun and pulled the wide-brimmed hat over his head.
He barely stopped himself from bumping into a careless child who darted onto the road after a ball. Snatching the bright, yellow ball, a little girl looked up with playful eyes. Instantly, she tossed the ball at Fratelli. The cardinal flinched, ducking, throwing his hands up as the ball knocked his hat off.
Ashamed, the girl started crying.
“No, no it’s okay,” Fratelli assured, blushing horribly, “I’m not hurt…see just my hat fell off.”
The girl only cried louder. People began to pause and look towards the commotion.
“No, no- stop crying, please.”
Quickly, Fratelli took the hat and placed it on her head. It slid down, covering her face. Pushing it back up, the girl’s frown turned into a smile. Her eyes shining brightly, she now giggled. Fratelli decided it was best not to reclaim the hat and began quietly slinking off- as if averting a disaster. However, he glanced back and waved goodbye.
“Goodbye!” he gently said, careful not to upset her.
The girl’s tiny hand waved in return.
Eventually, he walked further down the road. Stepping beneath the calm shade of the clock-tower, coolness swept over him and he sighed gladly. Suddenly, he remembered this was the scene of last week’s murder. Greatly curious, Fratelli began searching, seeing if anything were on the ground… perhaps left behind. Turning a right corner, he stopped and observed faint stains of blood on the ground. He quivered in horror just as someone laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Get away from me!” Fratelli yelled, swatting at them, “You’ll be excommunicated!”
Ernesto grabbed his hands, saying:
“Angelo, it’s me!”
Fratelli calmed, still panting heavily, and gasped, “Are you trying to scare me to death?”
“No, I am sorry I startled you. This is still a crime scene. I was going to escort you out of here.”
“I can walk myself,” Fratelli grumbled.
Ernesto watched him go.

            Fratelli arrived home at about three in the evening. Seeing the time, he remembered that tonight, his old friend, Jack was coming to visit. Finally after fourteen long years, they’d see eachother again! Upstairs, Fratelli obsessed over whether he should wear a regular cassock or something more formal. He chose to dress normally. After all, what did appearances matter when someone knew you so well?
            Dina was setting silverware on the dining room table as Fratelli strolled in. He began pacing by the window, watching the sun sink beneath the hills.
            “Stop it, Your Eminence, you are only making yourself more nervous,” Dina scolded.
            She placed a bowl of olives in front of him and he ate them, gladly distracted. He heard Father Rodrigo and Gianni’s voice in the hallway. As they passed, the priest was gently telling him “We are eating in the parlor. His Eminence is having a very important friend for dinner…”
            After a few agonizingly long minutes, the sound of horse-hooves approached and a light flickered in the front yard. Fratelli moved but Dina rushed out before him and answered the door. Already standing, the cardinal heard footsteps get closer and closer. Finally, a man appeared, wearing bland, grey clothes, his jet-black-hair combed neatly and his pale lips smiling.
            “Angelo Fratelli!” he exclaimed.
            “Jack Holloway!” Fratelli cried out.
            Instantly, he rushed forth then stopped. The two stood only a small distance from each other. Still smiling, Jack grabbed Fratelli’s hand and excitedly shook it. Seeing Fratelli’s hand still extended there in the air, he curiously glanced.
            “Is something the matter? Did I hurt your hand?”
            “No- never mind,” Fratelli said.
            They sat back down and slowly began eating.
            “This is so nice,” Jack said between spoonfuls of minestrone soup, “Real silverware…look at this!”
            “It came with the house…” Fratelli replied.
            “Oh, and here I thought you were trying to impress me.”
            They shared a short laugh.
            Warmly smiling, Fratelli began, “I remember when we were not yet full-grown, when we would take walks by the pond…”
            “Yes, do you recall when we found that old, wooden row-boat with all the holes and tried to repair it?”
            “We were so silly…”
            “But it did float- for couple minutes!”
            More laughter.
            Darkness consumed the sky outside while Fratelli and Jack ventured out onto the veranda, each holding a small glass of wine. They rested, absorbing night’s peace. Crickets chirped smoothly from the tall grasses and a squirrel scuttled about in the rose bushes.
            “So, they call you Cardinal Fratelli now?” Jack asked, “How is life treating you?”
            “I am doing better than others,” Fratelli said, thinking distantly of Adreo, “The Lord is good.”
            “He surely is!”
            “Will you be coming to Mass tomorrow morning?”
            “Of course I will- I won’t want to miss seeing you get all dressed-up!”
            “Jack, I am only dressed up to honor the Lord, from whom all glory comes and to whom it goes…”
            Jack laughed, “You are such a preacher! Yes, yes I know that… But you have to admit with all the fine vestments- it’s easy to think otherwise...”
      Fratelli clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t entirely understand this last comment. In fact, he was a bit startled at it. Yet, he happily sighed and laughed to himself.

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