VOLUME 98: Francesco DiGiuda – Final Chapter
(Previous ‘Tuscono’ excerpts in Volumes 82,83,84,88, 95 and 97)
….The ‘Red’ and ‘Duffmaster’ arrive in Brownsville, Texas after their five hundred mile escorted journey from the hacienda of Skyler Monique Salazar-Luconi, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, having related, in specific detail, the conversation to both aircraft that had previously landed in Rome. The Box Truck is met at the border by Home Land Security, FBI/HRT and representatives of the Church due to the millions of dollars of stolen Vatican Art Work and unreported centuries old artifacts. The millions of Gold remained with the Cartel as the commission price for the return of Art and Intel into the mystery of both kidnappings (Francesco DiGiuda, Captain Pontifical Swiss Guard and Karol Jozef Stephenson, God-Son of Pope Paul II). The government aircraft is loaded with the GST employees, Federal agents and Church officials and departs for Miami for interrogation and authenticity of recovered Church property.
Back in Rome, the GST/HRT team headed up by Jay Hymon had already met up with Captain Maria Delgros and her special Gendarmerie Corp and were on their way to the building that held Karol Jozef Stephenson captive. This abandon building on the outskirts of Rome had previously been identified as the location holding the captive, secured and surrounded by the Gendarmerie Corp waiting on Captain Delgros and Tuscono’s HRT special team.
Meanwhile Tuscono has put the rest of the puzzle together with the detailed briefing from ‘Red’ and ‘Duffmaster and concluded that not only the kidnapping of Stephenson but also that of Francesco DiGiuda were side plots to ‘their’ main objective of killing the Pope. The problem now was that all the resources were involved in the side plots rescuing Stephenson and Francesco with very little thought or resources given to the protection of Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Tuscono immediately through the special hook ups created by Jonathon for this complicated mission talks with Captain Delgros…”Maria based on everything that we have just heard and all the other pieces of this puzzle that are coming together, we have to get protection immediately to the Pope. You know the territory better than anyone so unless you have a better idea let Jay take over the Stephenson rescue and you take your special team and immediately secure the Pope.
” To which Captain Delgros responded, “I have no problem with your men handling this situation however the problem with the Pope is little more complicated. I was told from our source inside the Pontifical Swiss Guard that the Pope is with a detail of the Guard on their way to his summer home, the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills.”
“Isn’t that hours away from Rome and didn’t the Pope close that Palace? “ Tuscono questioned.
“You are partially correct,” replied Maria “and unlike his predecessors Pope Francis has avoided the palace. But with these kidnappings, I’m told, he felt that by going to the Palace and praying as John Paull II did by a statue of the Madonna overlooking the lily pond that he would feel better and be of more use. It is 15 miles outside of Rome but due to the winding roads takes over an hour and would be an ideal location for captures to do harm. I’ll take six of my special unit immediately and copter to the Palace as well as another detail via cars to check the road hopefully to protect his caravan. “
“Jay will handle the Stephenson problem,” said Tuscono as the patch call ended. Tuscono reached Jay and advised to secure this situation and do what is necessary to save the victim but also attempt to keep all or some of the kidnappers alive and into custody while Nagle, Maggie and I have to locate and attempt to save Francesco.
Levine who has remained silent during this entire unfolding but brought up to date by Jonathon, as well as ‘Red’ and ‘Duffmaster, connects to Tuscono with the news that his associates has located what might be the location of Francesco and his kidnappers. It was brought to Levine only a few minutes ago that six to eight hooded men dressed as Monks took a van from the Papacy hours before and headed to what might be their present location less than two miles from Vatican City. The Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Saint’ Angelo) is an ancient imperial tomb turned papal fortress located right on the river Tiber on the West Vatican side directly east of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Long before this Castle was under the control of the Church this structure was a major monument honoring the pagan emperors of Rome. Hadrian, one of the greatest rulers of High Roman Empire built an immense cylindrical sepulcher designed, in form and scale, to rival that of his illustrious predecessor Augustus. A major architectural innovation was that rather than walking straight into the main burial chamber, one ascends a massive winding ramp that coils within the concrete tomb. In order to reach the modern castle you need to walk through the ancient mausoleum. Entering first into a massive antechamber then walking up a giant ramp you go deeper into this huge mountain of brick and cement, it will feel like a decent into the underworld even if technically you’re walking uphill. Continuing you finally reach the emperor burial chamber itself.
As an artificial mountain with sheer walls exceeding 160 feet, it was a natural point of defense within the history of Rome a perfect place for a fortress defending the Papacy. The transformation of the tomb into a castle was a process involving several Popes however keeping its military function and final refuge of the papacy. Most importantly there is a concealed passageway that runs from the Vatican to Castel Saint’ Angelo used by Pope Clement VII in early sixteenth century as an entire battalion of Swiss Guards was massacred to escape through the secret passageway to the castle. All of this detailed information is related to Tuscono via Levine and Jonathon’s hookup.
Jonathon now in direct communication with Tuscono, Maggie and Nagle states “the Castel Saint’ Angelo is now a state museum open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and other that the secret passage keep in mind that it is directly east of St. Peter’s Basilica as was stated earlier and it’s only a few minutes’ walk northwest from Piazza Navona.” Tuscono responds by asking Jonathon to get the most updated blueprints of the building as well as surrounding area of 500 yards of all sides approachable other than by the Bridge of the Angels.
Tuscono looks at Maggie and Nagle saying “until Jay completes his mission we are in over our heads but have no choice but to pursue Levine’s lead do everything we can to gain the release of Francesco. Knowing Levine as I do, he probably has his resources with eyes on the Castel but until Jonathon gets us the most resent blueprints we will simply be walking into an ugly setup. Nevertheless, Tuscono instructs Nagle to pull out the FLIR T630 thermal imaging camera (the camera comes with features as Multi Spectral Dynamic Imaging, UltraMax image enhancement, auto-image rotation, image sketch and autofocus with an added feature being one of Jonathon’s patents which adds distance recording as well as thermal imaging and a radar device used for frequency continuous wave radar to detect motion behind or beneath walls and floors) and once we get through the secret passage set up as close as you can get to see if we get any thermal readings. Thankfully we kept the device and not given it to Jay. We may have to blow this passage but we’ll see what happens when we get to the other side before we destroy a historical tunnel. Maggie, I want you to set up on the Bridge of the Angels with sites into every possible part of the building that can be seen especially those openings at the very top. Take the bolt-action Creedmoor (sniper rifle equipped with bubble level on the elevation turret of the gun’s Schmidt and Bender tactical telescopic sight. Used with Leica Geovid binoculars activation button activates a range finding system) Nagle and I will take the Heckler & Koch UMPs. We might be out number but no doubt have the fire power.” They begin the walk through the passage from the Papacy to the Castle of the Holy Angel.
As the walk begins, Nagle asks the boss “Do you really think we are going to blow this tunnel up?” Tuscono replies with his sarcastic smile, “you scared of going to hell if we do?” Nagle doesn’t hesitate with his response, “If I were scared of hell, I wouldn’t be working with you!” Maggie smiles and they continue through the tunnel. Close to the end of the passage Jonathon connects with Tuscono, Maggie and Nagle and describes the forbodding structure with all floors, turns and passages and relates the latest Intel from Levine whose resources have eyes on the Castle. Tuscono then relates to Jonathon to keep communications up with Jay and the rescue of Stephenson as well as this mission and our exact locations and also include Levine as it seems he’s involved.
The team clears the passage and are immediately astonished as to the magnificence of the Castle structure and the 160 foot high walls thus making certain tactical decisions easily to make but much more dangerous. Tuscono instructs Maggie to take a location at the end of the Bridge of Angels that would give visibility to the top opening columns and portals approximately 500 yards from the Bridge End with final instructions that if a hooded monk shows regardless of who he (or they) might be holding do not hesitate in taking them out (Maggie O’Brian, as earlier discussed, is a former Olympic Shooter, SIS-UK’s secret; intelligence service, M15 – UK’s military intelligence unit specializing as Sniper Captain). He looks at Nagle and says, “Ok buddy, it’s time to start the hunt with our only purpose is to free Francesco so light up the imaging camera and let’s see who is where and hopefully this thing actually works.”
Jay Hymon contacts Tuscono through Jonathon’s hookups and relates the story of the rescue of Stephenson with one kidnapper alive and four killed. Stephenson has been sent to the local hospital, Salvator Mundi International, for a complete checkup in the company of the local police detail that work with Jay. The subject captured is from a branch of the Bulgarian nationals who is simply a paid-for assassin hired by someone to make a kidnapping. According to Jay this subject has no knowledge beyond the instructions given to him by allegedly a Monk or someone dressed as a Monk.
Tuscono tells Jay, “Nagle and myself are about to walk into the Castle Saint Angelo to attempt the rescue of Francesco based on associates of Levine. Maggie is going to be based at the Bridge of the Angels. We can certainly use you and your HRT team so co-ordinate with Jonathon and Maggie as Nagle and I won’t know if communications are going to work within this massive sepulcher.” Communication ends and Tuscono and Nagle enter the tomb.
Nagle swings the FLIR T630 to the side but still visible as he and Tuscono readies the Heckler & Koch UMPs (8 inch barrel lengths with capacity of 600 rounds per minute). The initial steps involve the massive winding ramp that coils with gigantic cement columns that leads into the mausoleum. Few yards into this section, Nagle signals Tuscono that two subjects appear on the T630 approximately twenty-five yards ahead on each side of the antechamber concealed behind two pillars. Nagle reaches into his flak jacket, pulls out six marbles and rolls them onto the ramp. The echo sounds like boulders being rolled. One of the hood perpetrators leans out from the column on the left enough for Tuscono to pull the trigger of his H & K UMP 45 ACP short burst blowing the top half of the ‘monks’ body into the next column. Simultaneously Nagle looking at the opposite column sees the other kidnapper see his comrade blown in half leans enough for a short blast from Nagle’s weapon with corresponding results. Two down and another six to eight to go.
Now into the main burial chamber no other thermal image shows on the FLIR T630 within the next 50 yards but with three levels still above Nagle and Tuscono proceed with caution. Below on the ground Maggie is joined by Jay and his crew. Maggie gives all the Intel that she can while never taking her eyes off the scope of her sniper rifle. Jay takes three of his HRT into the Castle with remaining members protecting the surrounding area of Maggie’s position.
Nagle and Tuscono proceed within this massive mausoleum climbing onto the next level being greeted with automatic fire that ring off the concrete as both hit the deck. Tuscono looks at Nagle and says, “Where the fuck did that come from? What’s the device show?” The thermal image enhancement shows a dark images closer than expected but detail blocked by some type of shield. Without any thought, Nagle pulls out a flash bomb and throws it from behind their column. The bright flash and exaggerated loud noise does its job and three hooded figures give up their shielded position to be met with both H & K weapons clearing the clips with immense fire power.
The sounds rattle through the Castle and alerting Jay and the backup that will be needed in this rescue operation.
Meanwhile Captain Delgros and four of her men are in the police copter flying a few thousand feet above the roadway leading to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills while the rest of her detail are on the highway speeding along the winding highway to make sure the Pope and his vehicle are safe. Unaware of the Pope’s exact location but in touch with the Pontifical Swiss Guard with the Pope, there are two other SUV’s with armed assassins rapidly approaching the Papal vehicle.
The smoke clears with Tuscono and Nagle checking three dead hooded men. Now there are two ways ahead that lead up to the top floor of this massive structure. Tuscono points toward the forward entrance for Nagle to take but advises that he should wait for the backup team that is approaching. Tuscono says to Nagle, “Wait for Jay and take the forward lead as I’m going up these back stairs that I believe lead to the atrium”(the architecture of that time always had a skylight-covered space surrounding the very top of the structure especially in ancient Roman dwellings providing light and ventilation to the interior).
Jay and his four HRT crew meet up with Nagle and take the forward path with caution as the thermal scan lights up with two more individuals less that fifty feet away behind two concrete columns. Jay takes two of his men with the other staying with Nagle as they attempt to position themselves to the right and left of the hooded assassins to force them to take a middle defensive position. Once in place each team rolls a 7290-2 Flash-Bang canisters toward the two hiding terrorists. This particular device used by the HRT is a non-bursting, non-fragmenting multi-bang device with an intense bright light ideal for distracting suspects during hostage rescue situations. The effects are immediate as the two rush to the middle ground firing indiscriminately with their automatic weapons. Within seconds the HRT team and Nagle return fire with such a deafening sound it actually vibrates the tomb. Both are terminated.
Climbing to the top of the staircase hearing the massive gun fire below Tuscono stops and pears around the corner to be surprised by his view. He is looking down the barrel of a Glock 40 being held by none other than Cardinal Vincenzo Depioro. “Good to see you Mr. Tuscono. Please drop your weapon and have a seat next to your friend, Francesco.” Francesco is seated with a hood over his head.
“You may remove your friends hood because I want Francesco to see his friend killed and I will enjoy putting a few rounds of my Glock into you, and before you make some kind of decision to unarm me know that I’m an excellent shot and you would not become my first,” said by the Cardinal with a wily smile on his face as he continues, “both of you have cause me and my associates trouble over all these years and it’s time for that interference to cease. I control the Vatican and between me and my associates have taken and control all the finances and we will get away with this as well as continuing our years of control over the Papacy. My men below will take your men and both of you will die and we shall look like the heroes of this conspiracy to overtake the Papacy.”
The Cardinal points the Glock at the forehead of Tuscono. Five hundred yards away at the Bridge of the Angels, Maggie looking through the Leica Geovid Binoculars squeezes with the gentle touch of an expert snipper the trigger of the Creedmoor. Blood and brains and skull fragments of the Cardinal spatter on the wall next to the two seated hostages. Francesco and Tuscono hug as Francesco from total exhaustion collapses into Tuscono’s arms in relief.
Six hours later…..after the safe rescue of Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and upon the Pope’s request delivered by Captain Delgros for Tuscono and his team to join the Pope at the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills for dinner and conversation the teams arrive and are escorted to an outside patio overlooking Lake Albano surrounded by a magnificent garden. The Pope graciously greets each and every member involved in this very long day of rescue.
The Pope has Francesco, Captain Delgros, Tuscono, Nagle, Maggie and Jay join him at one of the round tables decorated in white linen, beautiful flowers and century old cutlery. The Pope starts the conversation by thanking all of us for the return of Stephenson and especially Francesco. He continues by looking at Tuscono, and to somewhat of a surprise to Tuscono, “thank you and your men for the soon to be returned millions of dollars in Papacy Art as well as relics stolen but never admitted by this office as well as your teams work with Skyler.” The last point about Skylar was the surprise point unexpected by Tuscono almost wishing to continue that point but out of respect held back any comments.
The Pope continued “the Vatican is a very large company with an immense responsibility and a banking system, Istituto per lo Opere di Religione and Autorita di informazione Finanziaria that has evolved over many years and unfortunately much corruption. My friend and protector, Francesco, Captain with the Corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, advised me years ago that the Cardinal should have been prosecuted but I failed to do that and simply removed him to an insignificant role.”
And continued with, “my apology to all here for that shrug of duty in that matter however you will shortly know that I’m about to raise thirteen new cardinals to the highest rank in the Catholic hierarchy and will warn them not to use their titles for corrupt, personal gain just because they have a new title, ‘Eminence’, doesn’t mean they should drift from their people.”
“Furthermore, I’m giving the Vatican secretariat of state three months to transfer all of its financial holdings to another Vatican office following its bungled management of hundreds of millions of euros in donations and investments that are now the subject of a soon corruption investigation that will be headed by Francesco.”
Francesco having regained his composure since the kidnapping almost lost all the blood in his face with the unexpected announcement of his new position. The people on the veranda all stood and clapped approval for all of the Pontiff’s remark. Food was then forthcoming including Fried tempura zucchini patties drizzled with velvety crab remoulade, and shrimp dumplings. Citrus-glazed swordfish amandine lamb chip Clemenceau on a garlicky bed of mushrooms, peas and diced potatoes served with century Verdicchio white wine or Sangiovese (Pope’s favorite).
Upon the end of the evening as all were departing the Palace, the Pope walked Tuscono by the arm to a side garden to further a personal discussion. They sat on a couch overlooking a pond. The Pope asked Tuscono to please deliver a message to Skylar wishing her constant safety but more importantly that a certain young priest will shortly be appointed to the Papacy as an undersecretary. The Pope held Tuscono’s hand and said “grazie.”