his head and winced as pain shot from his eyeballs to the back of his
skull. The cop was probably trying to trick him. He quickly added, I
dont know if was them or him or maybe even
her. He got up, squeezed himself between the cops
chair and the wall, and started for the door. He had answered all the
questions he was going to.
The fat cop said, Hey, where you going?
I gotta talk to His Eminence.
The cop put out his hand to stop him, Rossi pushed it away and kept going.
He entered the dimly-lit nave, the rows of pews empty since a police guard
had been placed at the entrance to the cathedral. He genuflected and quickly
crossed himself. Behind him, he heard the cops chair squeaking on
the cement floor, knew he was coming after him, but figured he wasnt
going to make a big fuss in the sanctity of the Duomo. Using the backs
of the pews for support, Rossi hurried down the left side aisle, then
ducked into a narrow passageway leading to the rear entrance of the left
transept. Except for a few low voltage bulbs that hung from the ceiling
and cast pools of light, the passageway was dark. It was also dank from
centuries of moisture that constantly seeped through its stone walls.
The cops footfalls could no longer be heard; hed probably
decided not to follow knowing that Rossi couldnt get out of the
cathedral without passing him. Rossi inched his way, slipping over the
marble floor, toward a light in the apse where the cardinal and detectives
had gone. A few steps further and he could hear voices, one unmistakably
that of Cardinal Fenocci. As the apse came into view he made out the scarlet
skullcap. His heart raced. How was he going to explain to His Eminence
what had happened. He had seen the old man fly into a rage at much less
important mistakes. And wasnt this a mistake? A mistake of his judgment?
Of course, he should have been more alert since he, Vincenzo Rossi, was
charged with the responsibility of guarding one of the Catholic Churchs--no,
Christianitys-- most valued treasures: the priceless coverlet that
had draped the Lord Jesus Christs body after He had been cut down
from the Cross. The Shroud of Turin.
Hunching as though it might make him a smaller target, Rossi limped through
the gate of iron grillwork into the apse, most of its space taken up by
a long table covered with a cloth that draped all sides to the floor.
About two years ago he had watched a crew of four build the vault below
that very table. The vault was constructed from a block of aluminum about
three meters long and wide, and one meter high with a lid of thick crystal.
Within it rested the silver reliquary that held the Shroud. No. He corrected
himself. The reliquary had held the Shroud. Only a privileged few knew
where the Shroud had been hidden . So how then could
? Never mind,
too late to think of that now. What had happened, happened. Above the
table, hanging like a rectangular pennant, was a cloth replica, one-third
the size of the real Shroud. A plate glass the size of a store window
partitioned the apse from the sanctuary. Through it visitors could peer
while a guide would point out on the replica the features of the image
on the Shroud.
The coffin-like silver reliquary, its lid open, had been removed from
the vault, and now rested on the table. In front of the table, hunched
over on a canvas-back chair sat Agostino Cardinal Fenocci. Alongside him,
one arm resting on the back of the cardinals chair as though to
protect him, stood Virgilio Caprio, his secretary. Two men in dark suits,
the detectives, were leaning into the reliquary, playing the beams of
their flashlights into its interior where the Shroud had been locked.
But, of course, the Shroud was not there. Because of Vincenzo Giovanni
Carlo Rossis carelessness it was God only knows. Gone. Stolen. A
treasure, a strip of linen about one meter in width and four meters in
length, the cloth in which Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped the body of
Jesus after he had taken him down from the cross, a cloth that had been
in the custody of the Cardinal of Turin since 1578. Rossi recalled the
chill that had coursed through his body the first time he stood less than
a meter from the Shroud and had witnessed with his own eyes the imprint
of Jesus, the splotches of His blood on the cloth. He was that close to
God. And now
You are the guard who was on duty? The detective with a walrus
mustache wearing a neatly-pressed suit spoke in a tone that Rossi interpreted
as implying he was involved in the theft.
Rossi nodded. Why couldnt this have happened on a night when Tonini
was on guard duty? But, no. He would not wish this disgrace on Dominic
or anyone else. He dropped to a knee before the cardinal and reached for
his hand. Your Eminence.
Cardinal Fenocci withdrew his hand, his lips curled downward, his brows
drawn, his face a mask of disgust. He would not allow this incompetent
to kiss his ring.
Please, Eminence. Let me explain.
The cardinals lips trembled, his face paled. What is there
to explain? he rasped, the words echoing in the hollow chamber.
You allowed someone to--to
He left the rest unsaid and
turned his head. As far as he was concerned this idiota no longer existed.
One of the detectives grasped Rossis arm. Go back to the sanctuary
and wait. We want to ask you some questions.
Caprio said, Come Vincenzo. I will go with you.
© 2002 Barry Friedman
anyone steal the SHROUD OF TURIN?
four segments cut out of the linen
the blood of ?
to Turin to Cervinia in the Italian Alps. From the Seychelles to Edinburgh,
Interpol investigator Arturo Benavivo tracks the clues
a track with
more twists, turns, and helices than a roller coaster ride
he gets to the solution, the more dangerous it becomes for Benavivo and
until he unravels the answer.in this thrilling biotech
Of the many
stories written about the ancient burial cloth, none has a finale such
it will take your breath away.
Note: THE SHROUD
won runner-up for Best Suspense Novel in the 2002 San Diego Book Awards.
an 85-year-old retired orthopaedic surgeon now in his second career, is
on his way to fulfilling his ambition of being the Grandma Moses of fiction
writing. He has received awards for teaching and research. His published
writings include newspaper articles and short stories in national magazines
in addition to a number of scientific papers. When he and his wife are
not traveling or visiting with their three children and their families,
they are at their home in Southern California.