Goddess Murder, 21. Aquinas

XXIII.  Aquinas

 The mind of the world is Zeus, and all things are besoul’d and full of spirits.

Thales

The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses . . . Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of and enslav’d the vulgar . . . thus began Priesthood, choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounc’d that the Gods had ordered such things. Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast.

William Blake

Walking into the Aquinas the next day, I almost collided with the young priest who had tried to steal my package. He looked terror-stricken and walked quickly up the hall away from me.

Jerry came out to greet me. “Eddie, good to see you!” he boomed, with fake enthusiasm.

“Glad to see you too, Jerry,” I replied. We know each other, from professional societies and Catholic activities. I’ve just never liked him.

He ushered me into his office, sat me in the best chair, ordered some coffee for me, and finally asked, “Now, what can I do for you, Eddie?”

“Jerry, I want to find out how much responsibility you might have for some recent events. I’m not interested in pressing charges against you, if any of the activities turn out to be illegal. If you’re not behind all of it, then someone else must be. I need to know that.”

He looked dubious. “Eddie, just to be sure we’re on the same page, what events and activities are you talking about?”

“As you probably know, Bob Marlowe sent me some manuscripts that he had smuggled out of the Vatican just before he was killed. The day the package arrived, a young priest, whom I just ran into in the hall here, tried to steal it from the GESW mailroom. Almost everyone on our translating team has had their offices broken into. And the safe in the GESW, where I was keeping the originals, was burglarized, by someone who took a shot at a police officer. Obviously you have some connection with the young priest. How much of the rest are you responsible for?”

Fonzarelli looked glum. “You’re right. I did send O’Kelly—that’s his name—to try to grab your package. My contacts in Rome told me that the manuscripts were missing and that high-level security concerns would be at risk if the manuscripts weren’t recovered. You can’t accuse me of trying to steal them from you, Eddie. That’s stolen Vatican property you have. My duty is to try to retrieve it and return it to the rightful owner.”

“You may be right about the physical pieces of paper, Jerry, but the contents aren’t Vatican property. They are historical documents that people have a right to know about and that the Vatican was apparently attempting to suppress.”

“Eddie, don’t you think the Vatican, like any other institution, has the right to quarantine information that could potentially destroy it, even if the information is probably a clever forgery?”

“I don’t know whether institutions have any such right. Is the Vatican still that afraid of Witches? That seems absurd,” I said.

“It is absurd,” Jerry agreed. “I want the Gospel of Mary; that’s the danger. If people were to believe this blasphemous nonsense about Jesus being married and his wife being his true successor, the authority of the Successor of Peter would be totally undermined or even destroyed. We can’t allow that to happen.”

“We?” I asked, ironically. “When was the last time we made common cause?”

“I certainly can’t remember,” Fonzarelli said.

“How do you know so much about what’s in these Gospels?” I asked.

“They have been read, but only by completely trustworthy persons. My contacts felt they needed to tell me enough that I could understand the gravity of the situation.”

“I’ll tell you what, Jerry,” I said, tossing a sheaf of paper onto his desk. “There are your copies. Now you can make up your own mind about them, instead of relying on someone else’s opinion. Tell your contacts in Rome that the cat’s out of the bag, or whatever’s the equivalent idiom in Italian.”

He picked the papers and flicked through them as if they might burn his fingers.

“So you sent O’Kelly to pilfer my package. What do you know about these break-ins?”

“Nothing. At least, nothing directly. Come on, Eddie, do I hang out with burglars?”

“Then you know something indirectly?” I pursued.

“Yes.” He looked even more glum. “I don’t know many details. But my friend in Rome said that Marlowe’s stealing of these manuscripts upset the plans of some powerful people.”

“In the Church?”

“Some are connected with the Church in some way, but it’s not church business, not at all. If the people responsible for Marlowe’s death were the ones I can guess, they can command the services of burglars and even more dangerous characters.”

“Dangerous?”

“Eddie, you and I are on opposite sides on lots of arguments, like your conviction that Vatican II was the greatest event in modern church history. We have also stood shoulder to shoulder in academic processions. I consider you the loyal opposition, as I suppose you do me. But that’s not who you’re dealing with here. If you don’t give those papers back, you and your colleagues may be in great physical danger. If they’re who I suspect they are, they won’t stop at burglary. I wish O’Kelly had gotten them. You would have been much safer.”

“Who do you suspect they are?” I asked.

He looked uncertain, then depressed. “I can’t tell you. It would be risky for me to say and for you to know.”

“Why do they want the papers back now? Since they know who to burglarize, they must these Gospels can’t be kept secret any more.”

“No, Eddie, you don’t get it,” Fonzarelli said, shaking his head. “These people don’t care about the intellectual contents of these Gospels. It’s the physical pieces of paper they want.”

“But why?”

“I don’t have a clue. But they aren’t people you argue with. Come on, Eddie, don’t be stubborn. You don’t need the paper at this point. Give it back. Don’t risk your life.”

I contemplated Fonzarelli with curiosity. He’s genuinely concerned for my safety. He disagrees with me vehemently on most of modern theology, but he doesn’t hate me. What the hell has Bob gotten me into?

 Driving back across the bridge, I thought about my colleagues and friends who had already been drawn into this . . . plot, if that’s what it was. Could they all be in danger? Even the members of Brendan’s coven, like . . . Andy?

I was hit with a jolt, like waking up suddenly.

I’m afraid for Andy, afraid I might not have a chance to get to know her better. I’ve been so damned lonely since Janet left. I’ve been trying to keep busy. Meeting Andy is like walking out of a tunnel into a valley of greenery and new life. But why would a beautiful, intelligent young woman be interested in a second-hand, middle-aged, ivory-tower intellectual like me? It would be crazy to get your hopes up, Edwards. Maybe I need to get myself more of a life. Go to Al-Anon meetings. Sure.

I had glimpsed something that I hadn’t known I wanted. I couldn’t allow myself to think that I might ever achieve it.


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