"I'm here to look after our country's interests," she said, ice forming on her tongue. "Which includes preventing U.S. mercenaries from disrupting papal elections."
Who had sold me out? Murf ran a tight shop. Angelo. Had to be Angelo.
"I'm only helping to make it a level playing field," I said.
"Are you Catholic, Mr. Renard?"
"Not technically, though I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far. It's definitely an option, spiritual-wise."
"If you were, you'd be excommunicated. Placing your soul in mortal danger might not worry you, Mr. Renard, but any Catholic involved in this—this sinister operation of yours—is also automatically excommunicated. Am I getting through to you?"
"Excuse me, but what's so quote unquote sinister about an American Pope? I thought you were looking out for our interests here."
"Do you have any idea," she said, "how catastrophic this could be? Trying to influence the election of the Roman Pope?"
"Unlike influencing the election of the U.S. President?"
"Mr. Renard, the Pope is above politics! He is a holy figure!"
"Well, our President is no saint, I'll grant you."
The interview didn't go uphill from there. She threatened to have me deported.
"Where?" I said. "To the other side of the Tiber? I'll walk and save you the trouble."
Unfortunately, she took me up on my offer. And just try to find a cab in Rome during a papal conclave. I had to walk back to my pensione. I was as steamed as Tullio carciofi when I got back to the Tiberculosi.
I said to Lorraine, "Turns out Angelo is no angel. He's working for the bad guys."
"Who are the bad guys? I'm confused."
"Us. As usual. Typical bureaucratic small-mindedness. You'd think she'd have offered to help."
"So are we closing up shop?"
"Of course not. Reinforcements are on the way."
At this exact moment the phone rang. It was Bernard. "A quarter million dollars to charter a 747?" He didn't sound at all pleased. This happens. The client tells you money is no object, and suddenly he's going over every bill with an electron microscope.
"Mr. Baroom," I explained, "the Knights of Columbus are our foot soldiers in this campaign." It took ten minutes of strenuous client mollification to calm him down.
"I thought he was rich," Lorraine said when I hung up. "He wasn't sounding very rich."
"He'll feel better when he sees the TV coverage of the Knights pouring into Saint Peter's. Where do we stand with the crucifixes?"
"They should get here tomorrow, by FedEx." We'd ordered thousands of crosses made from miniature longboards. They'd be distributed to followers of Cardinal Kanu to wear. If you're going to start a cult, you need gear. These would definitely get all the brahs amped, as they say in surfing circles.
Everything was coming together nicely, but I was concerned that the U.S. embassy might expose our operation. I conceived a plan. As the toast goes, "Confusion to the enemy."