Here is Chapter 2 of a rough draft in progress. You can find Chapter 1 by clicking here. Enjoy!
The white building stood out in contrast against the Manhattan skyline. Not that it functioned as Manhattan anymore. The towers once built to prosperity and ambition had fallen, only to rise again as centers of study and contemplation.
The city had improved. Crime vanished. All the perversions once considered art were confiscated and burned on barges that circled the land in constant reminder.
It took some time, yes, but the populace came around.
This morning an aria echoed from deep inside the bedroom broadcast on speakers to reach the limits of the porch. The porch was that in term only. It consisted of Italian marble, a grand fountain, luxury furniture and a media center covering all areas of the territory.
Even with the spread of options, Father Paul Kramer sat with his journal on his knees and a pencil in hand. The wind rising up the building shifted what was left of his hair. He was writing notes on the cross and the idea of self-sacrifice for a greater good.
The flow of logic gave much-needed comfort.
For what were they without logic?
They were the bastard children of Rome.
When word came that all funding and support would be cut, they had to get creative. It was not time to panic. It was time to gather and set plans in motion.
He stopped writing and looked to the horizon. Far below the workforce would be starting their morning commute. The war had ended. Things looked different now. This was a second chance.
This was the new center of faith without corruption, Rome without the scourge of revisionist history.
“He requests your presence.”
The statement came from his left. Kramer checked his watch. The bastard was always on time.
“I’m on the way.”
The attendant scurried back inside.
The elevator to the Holy Residence rose in blinding speed. They had adapted it from the tech firm that owned in building in the time before. It was accessible only by retina scan and monitored by three levels of security. Kramer watched the floors blink by until the numbers vanished.
No one really knew how high they were headed.
In a moment, the doors opened.
He always thought of the temple, of their Lord and Savior clearing out the tables of the money changers. The scriptures had said he fashioned a whip and drove out all those seeking to business in the house of the God.
What would Jesus say about this?
A vault of gold and currency, guarded by soldiers. A communications center four times the size of his own. A media studio broadcasting the morning news. Conference rooms with men in suits talking seriously over cups of coffee.
Kramer walked past all of this ignoring their fleeting glances.
Finally, when it seemed he would stride off the edge of the floor and fall into nothingness, a set of doors stood in his path. These guards, four altogether, moved to the side. One keyed in a code that changed daily. The doors retracted and he walked through as they closed behind him with the hiss of pressurized air.
The far wall was glass from east to west. The bed had been constructed here, overlooking the city but not close enough to the edge that a stray member of the media could take a picture. A body laid on the bed, deep under a mound of covers.
Two doctors passed a tablet back and forth looking at images. A nurse replaced an IV bag.
“How is he?” Kramer asked. One of the doctors turned to him.
“Good morning Father.” The man went to bow and Kramer waved him off.
“Two weeks, maybe six. The cancer is spreading.”
Laughter came from the bed. Kramer walked to the edge and touched the skeletal hand that rested on the blankets.
“You still use that thing?”
He looked at the pocket of his coat and the edge of the journal sneaking out. Even with a tumor in his brain, his vision was still sharp.
“How are you doing Vinny?”
The nurse cringed. When Kramer made eye contact with her, she smoothed out her scrubs and left the room.
“Fine brother. Just fine.”
Vincenzo had risen through the parishes in the midst of the war. He was young, a star of the faith. He delivered fiery messages that grew the church. He was the architect of this new world.
He was still the kid from the Bronx that would play pickup basketball after school.
“Soon this will be yours.”
“No, sir. Not me. No one knows you’re sick. We can milk this as long as we need. Set up a stable transition.”
“There’s nothing stable anymore.”
“When’s the last time you heard of any conflict?”
Vinny laughed again. The laughter turned to a deep cough that rattled his lungs.
“You remember Sister Margaret?”
Margaret was a nun of the old order, ancient when they were kids. She ran her classroom like a dictatorship and they’d gone home with many years of scarred knuckles.
“She always said silence was deadly. Idle hands are the devil’s playground and all that.”
They stopped talking. Machines beeped in the background.
“Get Father Paul a chair.”
One of the doctors looked over for a second and went back to his reports. The movement happened in a blink. The arm that had rested on the blanket now gripped the doctor’s hand. The guy dropped his tablet as it skittered across the floor.
The doctor left the bedroom and returned with one of the chairs from outside.
They left together. Kramer settled in the seat.
“You didn’t have to do that Vinny, scaring the kid.”
“I still got it, don’t I? Now get that journal out. We have some business to discuss.”