...Tuscono watched from the bench as Levine got into a checkered cab and headed off Ocean Drive to the airport or to a stop at an U.S. based Masad operative, the destination was never discussed; knowing that the truth would not have been told.
Since the time was now closer to 1 p.m., Tuscono walked across the street, feeling some hunger pains, and into one of his local favorite restaurants, Caffe' Milano. Being greeted by Molly, the afternoon hostess, Tuscono asked, "Black Bryan?" It seems that in this particular kitchen there were three different chefs named Bryan, so it was only a logical conclusion to Tuscano that he would call his buddy 'Black Bryan', forget the fact that visually there would be no confusion as this chef was not only 6'3" and three hundred pounds but black. Molly simply 'winked' and walked into the kitchen.
Tuscono took a seat in one of the secluded booths just as the chef cleared the kitchen swinging door. "My brother 'T', how are you?" "Where have you been?" "You don't like me anymore?..." Tuscono raised his arms in surrender, got back to his feet and gave the huge man a big hug.
"I've been busy brother; chill my man," said Tuscono. Bryan responded to the hug and told Tony "sit for I have a special treat for my brother by another mother."
Tuscono said that he didn't have much time as he was involved in a meeting for the last few hours and hadn't even turned his cell on since early in the morning. Bryan just shrugged and said, "I know you have a office here in SoBe even though I don't know what you actually do and probably don't want to know but I also know how much you love New Orleans, it's people and it's cuisine and tonight's dinner menu is perfect. Tony just relax and give me an opinion of this bayou 'magnifico'. I'll just give you a small sampling" ...to which Tuscono just rolled his eyes and sat for the sampling of the coming feast.
The chef continued, "tonight our first course is Chevre and Field Bushroom Bisque with Candied Shitake
. I will then offer, as a second course, either a Grilled Salmon Toro
, which is a charred salmon brushed with sweet soy over frisee lettuce with toasted hazelnuts and citrus vinaigrette or a Duck Salad
, a duck leg and summer tomato confit over baby arugula and shaved fennel salad with champagne vinaigretter and lemon candy. My third course is Pan Seared Redfish topped with crawfish and jumbo lump crab ragout and served over garden vegetables
or Chicken and Boudin
, a chicken thigh stuffed with boudin sausage, roasted with bourbon mop served over braised greens with brown gravy or Braised Beef Short Rib
slow braised topped with truffled potato brulee, english peas and shave asiago."
Tuscono responded by saying "my brother, I don't have hours to enjoy your feast even though you have touched my hunger soul and my mouth is watering..." Black Bryan interrupted by simply telling him to remain seated, relax and partake in a simple sampling for his favorite chef.
As the chef swaggered back to the kitchen, it dawned on Tuscono that he still had his phone in the 'off' position. No sooner did the device hit the 'on' slot then the lights lit and the various sounds went off as if silent for weeks. Tuscono just looked at the cell, shook his head and was ready to hit the 'off' switch when he saw a message come in from Maggie. Maggie O'Brian the VP of operations at GST. Maggie is a 'book' in herself, all 5'10 and green eyes with Asian and Irish heritage; also, a 'live-in' with Tuscono as he believes in very few rules, simply production, loyalty, and security leaving the department of 'human resources' to the normaly arrogant folks that take up that profession with the sorry companies that find it necessary to have an actual nonprofit expense department to handle humans.
"Tony, sorry for interrupting whatever you're doing but you have an an urgent call from Francesco on a Vatican secure line. I explained that you were in a sensitive meeting and would get back with him as soon as possible. Francesco's response was somewhat unexpected," as Maggie's voice sounded unusual as if with a thousand questions herself.
"What response, I don't understand" replied Tuscono.
Maggie continued, "Francesco knows that our lines as well as certain Vatican lines are secure so he simply stated that the Pope himself wants to speak to you."
There was no response from Tuscono and there was a defeafening pause before Maggie continued, "He said that there is a 'situation' but it was going to be handle 'in-house' with the guard working with Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City and Interpol but was more confounded that his Excellency even knew of GST or you."
"I'm at the Caffe' Milano and Black Bryan is in the process of creating a huge sampling of his New Orlean's style menu for tonight. I'll go into the kitchen and tell him that business has again interfered but that we promise to bring the entire crew for dinner tonight. I'll be there in a few minutes." Tuscono pocketed his cell and went into the kitchen; minutes later on Ocean Drive walking to his office with his brain attempting to figure out the message from Francesco.
Indeed, he and the new Holy Father, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had been acquianted but entirely by circumstance, and not necessarily favorable circumstance, two decades or so ago. Although the Pope was born in Buenos Aires, he was the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother, Regina Sivor, although degreed was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children. Pope Francis a highly educated man who rose quickly, after his ordination, through the ranks of the South American Catholic Church hierarchy. In 1986 he spent significant time in Germany finishing his doctoral thesis and became very close personal friends with Pope John Paul II. This simple fact came back to Toscono for he knew that the time spent in Germany was significant and not simpy for the doctoral degree as well as recalling the historical circumstance that found his father leaving Italy for Buenos Aires during the facists upraising and intrigue taking place in Italy as well as within the Vatican.
There had been rumors through the Intelligence apparatus since the beginnings of World War II and certainly in the decades to follow that the Vatican was very instrumental in setting up alliances with various secret societies, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), a military arm as well as a funding conduit for the Vatican with close ties to Opus Dei, P2, and the Masons as well as spy agencies, CIA and the OSS, precuror of the CIA, KGB, Massad and foremost the Mafia and that these networks have been on going. Nevertheless, it was estimated that along with very large amounts of gold bullion, tens of thousands of Germans and Italians were helped to freedom of Argentina as that war and the alliances of all the various participants progressed even to the untimely, unsolved, mysterious death of Pope Paul I, only thirty three days as Pope, and the massive financial scandal that followed with obvious links.
The last thoughts that crossed Tuscono's memory before he hit the button on his private elevator within the Hotel was the last conversation he had with the new head of the Catholic Church back in 1984 while Pope Francis was the Rector of the Colegio de San Jose
in San Miguel as well as his last conversation less than a month ago with Francesco DiGiuda, Lieutenant Colonel of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, Guardia Svizzers Pontificia
only one of two Italian born members of this elite corp, concerning the visitation to the Holy See by Putin.
Upon entering his office, having cleared all the necessary retinal and hand scan access control devices necessary for entry to the innner sanctum, Tuscono moved quickly to his private office with a hand motion to Maggie to join him. Once inside his soundproof office he signaled, via datacom, to Jonathon Carpenter, the IT guru, to give him a secure line to the Vatican using the STU-111 and AS-232 Fortezza crypto card with GST's own matrix G-20, a roving switching system that utilizes two distinct satalites for maximum security blocking any chatter from verbal communications as well as a 1062 attachment for secure recording which automatically produces files on any name, incident or date brought up in verbal discussion.
"Signore Tuscono, thank you returning my call so quickly" Francesco having answered the call after the first ring just as Jonathon gave the 'thumbs up' sign, for clarity and recording and security volumes, to Tony through the bullet resistive glass window.
"My friend it is always a pleasure to speak with you and so soon after our call concerning the Pope's visitor; with me, is Maggie with whom you spoke earlier. And, before we get into your call let me congratulate you on solving the multi-million dollar jewelry heist of the Pomellato Boutique" responded Tuscono, although wondering to himself how the Vatican Guard gets involved in a civilian matter.
"Grazias Tony, but I was fortunate to be friends with one of the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State, the Corpo della Gendameria dello Citta del Vaticano
who are actually the police force of Vatican City and the extraterritorial properties of the Holy See. Due to circumstances and relationship to the office of the Vatican, I was asked to work with the Gendarmerie and we got lucky securing the Diamonds and put a couple of Bulgarin nationals in prison." "But more importantly, I've been asked by our new Pontiff to give you a call and it goes without saying that I was shocked that Pope Francis even knows your existance, with all due respect my friend."
Tuscono interrupted at this point before Francesco could continue saying, "I realize that is surprising to not only you but also to Maggie who is looking at me with very quizative green eyes so please let me briefly explain. Back in 1984 while I was still with the Agency we received an anonomous tip identifying the location of one Michele Sindona"...."Holy Shit" came the humorous comment from Francesco and then he immediately apologized to Maggie for his expression and asked Tony to continue.
"As you well know, Sindona, the advisor chosen by Pope Paul VI to advise the Vatican Bank, swindled tens of millions of dollars from the IOR, Istituto per lo Opere di Religione
, thus casting the financial supervisory body, the Autorita di Informazione Finanziaria
, into very questionable state to say the very least. At the head of this conspiracy was Michele Sindona or at least as far as we were concerned although there is intel that suggests much further implications by certain Church officials as well as even now implications to the death of John Paul I. In any case, based on our information at that time, we did a 'snatch, bag and transport' covert operation, seized Sindona in San Miguel and had him back in New York within 48 hours and given over to the FBI as if he never left his Eastside apartment. Unknown to us, and due to Sindona's Italian influence he was taken from his cell in September of 1984 and extradited to Italy; sentenced to 25 years but lasted only two days and was found dead in his cell. We became curious as to the information received that enabled us to do the 'snatch and bag' operation since it contained an extra level of 'need to know' security from the Agencies top brass; however, it didn't take us long to discover that the information came via a phone call from a church in San Maguel. I visited that Church months later and was welcomed by Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Enough said."
There was a long pause before anyone spoke but then Francesco broke the silence by saying "This explains very much to me, my friend. I've been assigned, 14 days ago, a special assignment by the Holy Father and have been given much leeway by picking my own team from both the Guard and the Gendarmerie but was mystified by his Holiness' request at our daily meeting today to have a conversation with you regarding this assignment and the newly acquired information received from Interpol."
Tuscono interruped by saying, "well, congratulations but I have no idea of what you are talking about and have no reason to know but whatever we at GST can do to help you and the Pontiff, as always, our services are available to you."
Francesco paused then stated, "thank you and it seems that you and your expertise can be of service so please permit me to continue. As you know, my father was a part of the Paltine Guard back in the day and was personal friends with Albino Luciani, the Cardinal of Venice, known as Pope John Paul I whose death, as you so know, mysteriously happened only after 33 days in Office. He was also very good friends with John Paul II. As you also know, no one within the Guard is permitted to marry while part of the unit. One such person, a friend of my father and myself, is Hanns Stephenson who spent six years with the Guard and departed to marry, with the blessing of the Pope. Hanns became a successful banker and has three children. His middle child is named Karol Jozef Stephenson, named after Pope John Paul II and unknown to most the Saintly Pope John Paul II was also the Godfather to this child. This young man, Karol Jozef Stephenson, now in his early thirties, has been kidnapped. Due to the past relationship between John Paul II and Pope Francis this has taken on hugh implications and urgency."
Francesco paused and collected his thoughts, and then stated, "Tony we know that the same Bulgarian and Turkish mafioso group that fostered Mehmet Ali Agca, the terrioist that shot Pope John Paull II, kidnapped Stephenson. And from the intel of earlier today via Interpol we now know the specific location of this group." Then another pause..."we have been thoroughly trained to protect the Pope, the properties, the riches and wealth as well as knowing how to solve crimes; but, we need the very best when it comes to Hostage Rescue. Pope Francis would like your team's assistance."
"Maggie, have someone call Black Bryan....and, notify J. Hymon in the Shanghai office to load team '3' asap Rome".........Tuscono told Francesco that he would see him within hours and to tell the Holy Father to trust 'few' as it is still a very dangerous time.