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           Jared de Oliveira Nota
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  "I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image."

  Stephen Hawking





  “Who’s dead this time?” Diego Garamond roused from sleep and outcried, echoing his dream. It was curious that he had nightmares at such late age, and all he wanted was to place himself so far off his wife who slept with angelical quietude as if she didn’t have to wake up anymore. He glanced at the clock on the wall and the time it displayed reminded him that he hadn’t changed its cells for a lifetime. Its pointers both seemed to be stuck at 2, yet the most active and prolonged one kept moving in chronologically accurate pace. He checked his wristwatch, then back at the clock and understood that his wife had done his work for him. It presented indeed, 2 o’clock.

  In the coldest moments of the beginning of dawn, he woke up with sudden defensive reaction by the sound of the telephone like an American soldier under attack in Vietnam. He was a man of light sleep and like all men psychologically self-trained to be vigilantes, the slightest din was enough to give him insomnia for the rest of the night. In consequence of his abrupt movement, his wife Deanna almost roused from her so deserved sleep, after waking up countless times to satisfy their five months daughter’s demands: poop, piss and breast milk.

  Diego started envisioning how many people could call him at that insanely early time. Only his wife Deanna owned more than the right to do so, she had a duty if anything happened but she reposed beside him. While acoustically struggling to identify the location of that incessant ‘trim-trim’, he got lost staring at her, at all he loved in her and all he loved was all of her.

  Diego was too tall for a priest and perhaps too handsome, his chin gapped lightly in the middle, his nose erect, like a proslavery racist European though he distanced from it by infinite virtues and he had instructed his body a behavioural involuntary reflex, to walk with both hands behind his back.

  The telephone, like him, expressed its displeasure for being woken up and it rang with more force. Diego heard its demanding need from his bedroom and auralised it somewhere between the kitchen and the living room. By elimination he solved the matter. If he only spent a little more time at his own house, he could easily recall that the phone rested in the sitting room near that cupboard made of a deceased fine tree from some tropical forest no one cared about. As he always explained to his wife, it wasn’t his fault, in his contract, the word family wasn’t mentioned.

  He looked one last time at Deanna and a smile naturally came. He remembered why he had married her. She could make him smile even in her sleep. She slept like a baby, at least one that wasn’t their daughter, one cute and quiet, and painfully beautiful. He stood up still dizzy and uncoordinated, wore his ridiculous bunny slippers and headed to the living room.

  Diego Garamond’s family lived in an ancient mini-mansion inside the Vatican City. It looked old and timetorn from the outside, still maintaining its gothic architecture but inside, everything imitated the future except for some items which held emotional value and lineage inheritance. The house had belonged to his forefathers who used to work at the Secret Archives. His family had been securing the Library of the Vatican for two centuries and it was his turn now. When he died, his son would take his place but he didn’t have a son yet, only a 5 months daughter, which seemed to be a problem. While for his lovely wife a girl was a blessing, to him, even not admitting it, it was not only a disappointment but also an issue to fix. The Vatican had even given him more time with his wife to try and produce a boy.

  He always considered himself a bit feminist, as a matter of fact he was one of the few clergymen supportive of feminist causes but somehow he understood and agreed to that order. He believed that his job required certain traits only men have. Since he couldn’t specify which traits, he stopped singing feminism around his friends, for a good reason.

  At that time before dawn to which he had no noun for, he reposed at home with his family and he had been given the whole weekend off. He hadn’t seen his daughter since the day she was born, so he discarded that the call was work related and his curiosity just intensified. He took the telephone and before laying it on his ear, Diego had a strong feeling that something utterly distressful was bound to happen.

  “Good…ah… Hello.”

  “My life is in danger Diego,” a man with a distressful dramatic tone said. Diego recognised the voice. It was Paolo.

  Diego’s appealing charms and wit won him a powerful friend, Cardinal Paolo. Together, they left the formality apart and enjoyed the most sophisticated wine from Porto, gossiping about the Pope’s ridiculous dresses or commenting about how the world would be without any religion among other themes.

  The moments with Diego were the break Cardinal Paolo deserved from all the seriousness at the Vatican. Diego didn’t judge him for anything, never, not even his sexist ideologies. After a few bottles, Cardinal Paolo confessed some dark secrets of the Church he wasn’t supposed to tell anybody but Diego, a loyal friend as he certainly proved to be, never said any of it to anyone, not even to his wife. Unlike most men, although he trusted and loved Deanna with all his heart, he cared about seeing her neck where it belongs or was it that he simple didn’t trust women? He didn’t know for sure, all he knew was that secrets are to be kept.

  Cardinal Paolo became as they became closer, progressively open to talk about everything with him because he was a man that would rather cut his own throat than telling a friend’s secret. That breed of men is bound to extinction with the exponential growth of narcissism.

  “Morning Paolo,” Diego said in a hoarse anxious voice, “What is going on?”

  “I know who killed John Paul I, Diego,” Cardinal Paolo said, in a low pitched voice. He seemed delusional, speaking uncomfortably close to the phone, whispering, “I always knew and I let that bastard get away with it but I couldn’t let him become the next Pope so I made a video and gave it to an old friend of mine who is a trusted and reputed journalist and a former priest.”

  “Which bastard,” Diego asked, “You are not making any sense. Who are you talking about?”

  “Listen, Diego, he was supposed to be in the air later today at 8 P.M, after I got myself out of here but they have killed the man Diego, and possibly retrieved the video. I just saw it on the breaking news that he was found dead, suicide they say. It had the Holly Warrior’s signature all over it. He is coming for me. I am already a dead man.”

  “Stop that,” Garamond said, calmer than what the situation required of him. He didn’t give it much credit although preoccupied he certainly couldn’t not be, since he knew that Cardinal Paolo did no drugs nor had mental problems and found pranks exceedingly childish, “Stay inside your chambers, close the doors and the windows. I am coming.”

  “No, you are not,” Cardinal Paolo answered with a decisive tone, “I am alre
ady dead Diego. I know how a great friend you are but you don’t have to follow me to the grave. I have no child, no wife, you do. If you die, who will remember me? A man of God is not missed for he is at once replaced. I will die, with the truth and God on my side. They will send their Holly Warrior and no one runs from the Holly Warrior.”

  The Holly Warrior was the most dreadful and efficient assassin of the Vatican. He had killed more than a thousand men and families in the name of the Church, individually. He had become by repetition, flawless in his craft but he was nothing but a myth. No one ever saw him or lived to tell that did. The name was coined because he always gave eternal silence to people who betrayed or secretly conspired against the Church like the jihadists in the Holly War, only he, played for the opposite team. He was so stealthy that he never killed, the accidents he never created did. No one was even sure he existed. It was just rumours. Whenever someone inside the Vatican died of normal causes, the kind that look fabricated like heart attacks, drowning, suicide, it was customary to say ‘The Holly Warrior took him’ so Diego started to think that perhaps the Cardinal was delusional, talking about fairy-tale characters and conspiracist’s gibberish but if it were all true, he would lose a friend.

  When the pointer on a clock ticks, according to people whose job is to consider us just numbers, somewhere in this overpopulated yet lonely planet 205 people die. As it tacks, the number doubles and as it tick-tacks incessantly around itself, the mathematics on how many people die becomes increasingly harder to solve. Everyone becomes one second older and less alive than was a second ago. Nobody really cares about those unsettling numbers unless who departs is somebody dearly loved or deeply despised, or just when it’s to quote the statistics to sound well-informed. Few men hope to be remembered for eternity, some aspire to have their names on a newspaper and on a tombstone while others simple don’t care about what happens to them after they are gone and even if they owned tombstones, it would look like this, “Here lies a person who just didn’t give a damn about your opinion”. Cardinal Paolo differed from all of them, he was special to Diego. Except himself, Paolo undoubtedly could be the most righteous and selfless man Diego had ever shared a planet with.

  “I said I am coming,” Diego decided.

  “Then we are both doomed,” Cardinal Paolo answered, then a very uncomfortable and terrifying silence followed by the last words of the Cardinal, ‘Oh God, no!’ disheartened Diego.

  “No, what? Diego said, “Paolo, are you talking to me? Paolo, are you still there?” The phone call had been cut. Worried something tragic had happened, his imagination started growing dark wings of its own. He immediately wore his habit, took his car and headed to the Apostolic Palace. Next to Saint Peter’s Basilica, a pair of Swiss Guards demanded that he stopped his vehicle for it was suspicious that anyone drove in at that time but as soon as they saw who it was, they let him enter without inspection. He went inwards the building, and climbed the stairs in an incredible speed, never to have seen the place so desert. It truly seemed more like a house of God at that time without all the tourists, all the short skirts, low-necked blouses, and all the lack of respect for that place. Sometimes he had a private satisfaction when a woman trying to win the record for the shortest dress in the world was burgled and that was quite usual since there is no prison in the Vatican City.

  When he arrived at the main hallway, he was about to intercede when he saw a man emerging from the chambers of Cardinal Paolo. Instinctively, he hid himself. He couldn’t see the face but the man seemed somehow familiar. The man walked tall and smoothly. An urging force coming from within, his protective angel, his survival instincts or perhaps a sixth sense, told him to hide until the mysterious man disappeared along the corridor. Not wanting to sound paranoid, he had ignored Paolo’s dramatic conspiracy theories but at that second, he started to believe that the strange man was indeed the Holly Warrior. He behaved in accordance to what the situation really expected of him, with lots of fear but also an odd and misplaced urge of curiosity.

  Suddenly, Cardinal Paolo’s drama seemed reasonable. The way the mysterious man closed the door as noisy as a feather and inspecting the surroundings like he had eyes behind his head was very suspicious so Diego remained hidden until certainty resided that he was not hiding to ambush and kill him.

  He went to the door, used his master key and opened it. Bookkeepers of the Vatican’s Secret Archives Library all had a master key because they were fully trusted. They knew everything and there existed nothing the Vatican would hide from them. At least that is what they were meant to believe. Diego always thought that perhaps, it was a classic example of misdirection for not all secrets can be unlocked with a master key.

  When he entered Cardinal Paolo’s chambers, he saw Paolo lying on his bed, everything at its rightful place except two things; the bottle of wine was not empty and the Cardinal’s crucifix was not on him. The bottle of wine seemed an understandable oddity because the Cardinal had said that he had planned to flee and getting drunk wouldn’t be smart, something he knew Paolo certainly was. But the crucifix, a real mystery. High priests never separated themselves from it, much less sleeping. He thought, if the man was here right now on the Cardinal demands, Cardinal Paolo was supposed to be awake but if he was indeed his killer, then the Cardinal slept not a normal sleep but a definitive one.

  Diego went close, inspected him from afar and then decided to check his blood pulse. Cardinal Paolo gave a very loud breath like he had been drowning and called out, “Diego?” Diego almost followed Paolo; one, because he was grabbed with a force that almost broke his arm and two, because he expected him to be dead and as far as he knew, dead man don't talk. The cardinal whispered, “456, 34, 21, 567, miracle” and went back to his stiffness. It was like when a chicken is taken its head out, it keeps struggling for a life it will never get back until it rests forever and finds itself on someone’s plate. The assassin had given him a drug that killed instantaneously. Miraculously, Cardinal Paolo was given a last breath and he used it to tell Diego something which made no sense at all, or did it? A perfect situation to use the expression “he breathed his last” and not sound too poetic.

  Diego Garamond left the room in a hurry still thinking what those words meant. Subconsciously, those words made so much sense that he hated himself for not being able to find out what they meant. To avoid suspicion, he went to his work place, the Secret Archives. There, he found Mr. Jonathan Bartolommeo and Mr. Erick Morgo, the other two Archivists. He tried to act normally.

  “Hey John, hey Erick, what are you doing here so soon?” Mr. Bartolommeo asked back, “We should be asking you that. What are you doing here so soon? You asked for a leave to see your wife, didn’t you?”

  “Yes you did. If I had a wife, I wouldn’t come at this time, if you know what I mean.” Mr. Morgo added.

  Mr. Bartolommeo commented with a sarcastic tone, “Yeah, every animal on the planet knows what you mean Erick. But really, what’s it, Diego?”

  Garamond thought for a second and the first thing that came up was, “The damn baby won’t stop crying. Don’t get me wrong, I love her but I love silence more.” They started laughing and Mr. Morgo made a pensive look and headed towards his working desk. Mr. Bartolommeo stayed. “You know, one day you will miss that, they say.”

  “Yep,” Garamond answered, “They say a lot of crap.”

  “Are you sure there is nothing bothering you?”

  “I just told you, I couldn’t sleep. Why are you being so inquisitive?”

  “Nothing. It’s just that you never swear, even when someone sets your nerves on edge and now because of your daughter you swear. I will assume you blame her for not being a boy.”

  Mr. Bartolommeo was a man of elegance. Not too different from Mr. Garamond who had also gone to Oxford and done Theology, as it was customary to Archivists. Usually Archivists were Cardinals but as conservative philosophies tend to be replaced by more modern ones. This generation, only o
ne existed. Cardinal Giovani, who almost never came letting Primate Antonio take care of his affairs. He was committed to his job and to his privileged position, perhaps too committed. Mr. Bartolommeo was a man of art with an appealing wit. He was friendly in modest sufficiency to anyone and according to him, no one was higher, everyone was equal and above us all, only God. He had problems with authority. Mr. Morgo was, on the other hand, a proud private man. He could have great conversations with people if tremendously necessary or socially compulsory but most times, he just liked to stay in his corner, reading his weirdly titled books, and this time he read Fantasia Mathematica. With Garamond and Bartolommeo he had become a bit close, enough to call them friends. To defend his daughter, although he didn’t even know why he had to defend a baby, Mr. Garamond said, “She’s lovely. I am just not used to it yet.”

  “Yeah, I didn’t like the idea of being castrated myself.”

  Diego gave a brief grin, “What does that have anything to do with this conversation?”

  “I don’t know, I just wanted to lighten the conversation a bit.”

  “Well, you succeeded.”

  “Good. I knew cutting them would make a good joke one day.” Diego tried to conceal another smile and he succeeded as soon as the image of Cardinal Paolo struck his mind. He remembered the numbers he said, he looked at Johnathan and Erick and reckoned, “if they know what it’s all about, it is fine but even if they knew, I can trust their discretion.” For the first time, Diego finally did what many ultimately do when they are told a secret, he shared it with another person, “Hey, what you think, ‘456, 34, 21, 567, miracle’ means?” Mr. Bartolommeo instantly said, “About the word Miracle I have no idea but I think the rest means ‘Shelf 456, lot 34, item 21, page 567’ from the Secret Archives. That is how we find anything out of all this gigantic garbage.

  “Of course,” Garamond said. He couldn’t believe he had missed that. Now that it struck him, no other assumption he had come up with seemed to belong to an intelligent species. He had heard and said that sequence of four seemingly unrelated numbers every day. The context he was given had blurred his common understanding. He looked for the answer as if trying to decode a Cipher that would save mankind. In common thinking, an obvious response is the immediately expected from a man about to die but too much of fiction reading was blurring his thinking.

  “Yeah, you know,” Mr. Bartolommeo continued, “I would literally pay people to get in here and look for whatever they think we have without telling them how the shelving system works. They would search for weeks just to find out that there has been a Pope who had flu. But what is it all about, Diego?” While already walking towards shelf 456, Garamond said, “I think I am about to find out,” and then he started going through the Archives. While looking, Cardinal Paolo was found dead in his chambers and he remained there for almost 5 hours till the pope came and they took him to a private room guarded like a fortress.

  Erick and Jonathan, both in shock, stared at all the Swiss Guards, medics and nuns walking past them, coming and going. While the confusion happened, Garamond found what he was looking for. He took the heavy manuscript and went to page 567 and there it was Cardinal Paolo’s crucifix. It was a silver with special carvings. He grabbed it and involuntarily touched the place where the horizontal and the vertical pieces joined. Automatically, the two joined themselves creating a single piece shaped like a pen and he saw the carvings turning into a familiar shape and insignia. There were two crossed keys and the Pope’s Crown in the middle, the blazonry of the Secret Archives. Something else came out in the top that had the shape of a USB port. Diego had never seen a device like that since floppy disks were what people used most for memory storage in the nineties. Mr. Bartolommeo came from behind and recognized the strange gadget so he said, “Leave it”.

  “Why?” Garamond asked, scared for he believed to be alone. Johnathan looked deep into his eyes. His face became as serious as he could be and slowly said, “Or you will die along with your wife and your beautiful baby,” When he noticed that Garamond still inspected the device thoroughly, trying to identify it, he paraphrased it shorter and blunt, “Everyone you love will die. Leave the damn thing!”

  “I am not. I have to find out what it is. I need to.” When he ended his sentence, he started to have a clue on what it was. It had the same shape and insignia of an old key that along with a password, could unlock the darkest secrets the world had ever seen, the Holy Grail, The SAW (Secret Archives Website), a secret website inside the Vatican’s secret website. Like The Holly warrior, all these things were nothing but myths yesterday but seemed uncontestably real and would cost his life today.

  “Jonathan, I know what it is.”

  “Then also how dangerous it is so leave it.”

  “I will disappear and so should you. We have witnessed too much,” Diego resumed, “I will take my family to a place no one can find us and I will tell the world the whole truth about Cardinal Paolo and whatever this thing holds.”

  “So the Cardinal’s death, wasn’t an accident?”

  “No, it wasn’t and this crucifix is the only thing that can prove it. We both know they won’t make any necropsy. They never do.”

  “Diego, I know you enough to acknowledge that I can never convince you otherwise but my friend I have lived enough to foresee how this is going to end and I am fully posetive you shouldn’t run away but if you do, what you probably will, I hope God chooses to protect you and not the Church.”

  “You have to vanish too or you will be killed.”

  “Don’t be naive Diego for it doesn’t suit you, there’s no place you can go the Church won’t find you. I… you… we, have been silent upon various secrets and so have you. This is just another one.”

  “You don’t understand. Cardinal Paolo died because of it. How can you still want to stay passive to this catastrophe?”

  “You shouldn’t have told me that. I know nothing. Leave that thing where you found it and no one will ever find it. Its location dies with its owner. Or burn it if you think you will be tempted to come back and take it.”

  “I understand you. He was never your friend, only mine and friends honour their friends even after death. Goodbye John! I suppose we won’t be seeing each other any time soon.”

  “I will be praying that we do, my friend.” They hugged each other and Johnathan saw his dear friend leaving. His look had surrendered hope, he had lost him forever and he couldn’t understand why Diego didn’t know that idealism always loses to realism and realism is always married to pessimism.

  Garamond arrived home, told his wife to pack all she needed because they were about to leave the house and flee the country and she did without demanding considerations. His face gave her the brief explanation she needed and she knew that later, he was going to explain everything to her. When Garamond was about to leave, someone knocked at the door. It was a friend so he took a gun just in case his friend was bait and rushed to answer to it. He told him to enter while nervously inspecting the surroundings.

  “Why are you here? Were you followed?” Garamond asked preoccupied and confused, grabbing his head and looking everywhere.

  “No, I wasn’t!”

  “Why are you here?” Garamond was still suspicious when he saw at a mirror what seemed to be his friend putting his hand on his coat like one reaching for a gun. Diego pointed his gun to his friend and asked nervously, “What are you doing? Are you the Holly Warrior? Please say ‘no’!”

  “Where is the crucifix Diego?” The man asked looking into his eyes as if not intimidated with the gun Garamond was holding and pointing at him.

  “Oh, my God, you are?! Are you here to kill me?”

  “Give me the necklace and I will let Deanna and the babe live.”

  “I can’t believe this. You couldn’t. We are friends.”

  “I am just doing the work of God, Diego.”

  “Stop with that blind stupid belief for it doesn’t su
it you.”

  “Don’t waste your breath. Hand me the crucifix.”

  “I will never give it to you.”

  “Then I shall find it,” the Holy Warrior threw a knife at Garamond so fast he didn’t even see where it came from. The assassin lowered himself almost kneeling, took off Diego’s gun from his hand and said, “I am sorry Diego and I know this is cliché but ‘it’s really not personal my friend’,” and shot twice in his heart and at the right leg like a messy person who had never used a gun before. He walked towards the panic room. He had the plant of the house so he knew where everything was placed. When Deanna Garamond saw that her husband was pointing a gun at his friend, she hid herself with her daughter at the panic room. She saw her husband killed from the surveillance monitors.

  The Holly Warrior was able to enter the surveillance room and wipe all the recorded videos of the murder but she had managed to escape from a secret back door already, although she suspected not for long. To survive, she fled the country towards Mozambique, thinking that they would never consider Africa. She had gone there with her parents in several family vacations and she knew her way around. She got on a plane and started making the unsettling routine of a third country tourist. She had to stop in South Africa and then travel to Mozambique. Those days, there was no direct plane from Italy to Mozambique.

  She knew that eventually, they would find her so as soon as she got there, the first thing she did was to save her daughter’s life. She grew up in a Convent and she imagined no other life aside of that so she took her baby to a Convent at Maputo, the capital, in hopes that it was the last place they would look for her, since it belonged to the Church. She hid her right under their noses and attached, to the baby, a seemingly paradoxical note: Please save her from false priests and conceal her crucifix from the eyes of those who think God has favourites, them. She waited, concealed behind a tree until a nun came out, looked around, read the note and hid it under her habit. The child was in safe hands.

  Unfortunately, The Holly Warrior had traced her back to Mozambique. She was then found dead beside a young man’s body half her age with a lot of Heroin in the room and in both their bodies. The next day, it was trending on Mozambican and world media: An Arch-priest hid a mentally unstable drug addict mistress who murdered him and fled to Mozambique where she died of a Heroin overdose with her young lover. It wasn’t a perfect murder but people believe in anything the media says. If it said that they had found proof that Jesus was black, people would buy it. It just needs a lot of advertisement.

  The baby was hunted everywhere but was never found. The Vatican laid a very pompous funeral for Arch-Priest Diego Garamond and the Pope said that the devil was infecting us with drugs, alcohol, and other addictions. He also said that the young generations should at any cost avoid drugs, early sex, alcohol and other promiscuous matters. That was the end of it. It was Pope John Paul I assassination all over again. No one investigated thoroughly, no one came forward to reveal the truth and nobody talked about it. The media suddenly did the opposite of what it usually does, this time it admitted to know nothing and people didn’t even suspect anything except for all the conspiracists to whom nobody listens to because people think they are worthless individuals without any social life craving for attention for a couple of minutes. Unlike what common sense will make you believe, it is actually rough to be the only man who sees in a land of blind people and when it is a voluntary blindness, you start considering everybody stupid and as far as transactional analysis and Jesus Christ proverbs go, enlightened people have it hard when they mix with the other kind.




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