24

Sunday, April 8th, 2012 | Uncategorized

Editor’s note:  the new one’s coming along but very slowly.  I finally got over the hump that was holding me back only to have Creative send it back for major rewrites a couple of weeks ago and now there’s this fierce debate as to the direction the whole series should go.  Some think that this thing has pretty much reached the end of the line, others don’t.  So in the interim, here’s the last one that took me a whole bunch of time to eventually polish off.

A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past.

It was my greatest case.  And it was the longest day of my life.

The following takes place between 9:00 PM and 2:00 AM.

9:00 PM – Did you know that having a kid can be exhausting? It’s true. That particular day was a rough one. Nicky had just started to get Paul ready for bed while I collapsed on the couch with what I assumed would be my last bourbon-and-soda of the evening.

Then the doorbell rang. Since Nicky held the baby, I got up to answer the door, fighting back the urge to scream at whoever was on my doorstep. Whatever this was couldn’t wait until morning? But when I opened the door, five men burst shouting into the mansion, all flashing guns and badges.

Poor Paul was terrified and began crying at the top of his lungs. As Nicky tried to comfort him, I grabbed the man who seemed to be in charge, dragged him out on to the porch and shut the door behind me. “What the hell is going on here?!!” I angrily demanded.

“We’re sorry about this, Mr. Johnson,” he said. “I’m from the FBI. There’s a national emergency situation and we’re going to need you to come with us.”

“The nature of which is?!!”

“I can’t divulge that at the present time. Please come with us, sir.”

I glared at the man. “ID, dumbass!! Now!!”

He flashed his badge again and I studied it for a very long time. It was obviously not a fake. So I went back into the house, looked at Nicky, who now looked pretty scared herself, and said, “Something’s come up, sweetie. I’ve got to head out. You know what to do.”

Nicky silently nodded and then said, “Be careful, baby. I love you.”

“I love you more than the English language gives me the power to describe.”

I turned and walked outside. “Don’t worry, Mr. Johnson,” said the agent. “These four officers will stay here and others are on their way to join them. There will be a 24-hour guard placed around your house.”

Nicky and Paul watched me from one of the windows. With Nicky’s help, Paul made a “bye-bye” motion. Then Nicky raised her hand. I made a thumbs-up sign, forced a smile, blinked back tears and got into a windowless van.

We drove in silence for about 20 minutes before we stopped. I could hear a garage door opening and then the van drove into a building.

When we got out, I was accompanied to a room and asked to go inside. As soon as I did, I saw Dale Price. “What the hell is going on, C?!” he demanded.

“Damned if I know. How long have you been here?”

”I just got here a couple minutes ago.”

“Are they guarding your place?”

“Yeah. Yours?”

“So they tell me.”

The door opened and a tall, muscular young man entered. “Gentlemen, I’m sorry we had to do it this way but…”

”Who the hell are you?!!” I snapped.

“My name is Greg Griffith, I’m with the Counter Ecclesiastical Terrorism Unit and let me just say that…”

“Mr. Griffith,” Dale interrupted. “Several hours ago, I was getting ready to be formally received into the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta in a lavish ceremony at the Cathedral in the presence of the Grand Master and the Papal nuncio to this country. The Pope himself would have been there but he’s been a little under the weather of late.

“I was going to follow that up with an equally lavish dinner with Barbara Nicolosi to discuss the movie rights to God’s Wolverine, my best-selling autobiography which will be out in paperback and on Kindle shortly, by the way, on fine book sites everywhere. Except for the fact that I got hustled on to a helicopter with no windows and flown here, wherever here is, so let’s just say that this had better be good.”

“You’re probably in Missouri, D. I think we went west. And Greg?” I added. “I really don’t appreciate people bursting into my house and scaring my wife and my son when they could have picked up the damned telephone. So yeah, this had better a whole lot more than a consulting job.”

“I’m sorry about all that,” said Griffith. “But it was necessary. You guys are the only Christian investigators we could find. Everyone else was missing. We had to make sure we got you two under our control because we need your help and we need it desperately.”

“Why?!!”

“Some time in the next 24 hours, a coalition of liberal Catholics and liberal Episcopalians intends to detonate a copper neutrino pulse bomb.”

Dale and I looked at each other. Dale’s face was pale and I could feel my heart begin to pound. “How…how good is the intel?” I whispered.

“Best possible,” said Greg.

“Who’s involved?” inquired Dale

“We’re fairly certain that the Catholic group is the Maryknoll Order and we’re positive that the other is the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. There may be more. The thing we’re having a hard time with is why. Neutrinos can’t hurt anybody or anything.”

“But they can destroy the Hunthausen-Gumbleton Nexis,” said Price. “And that will release a devastatingly powerful entity into the world.”

Griffith was alarmed. “What?! Spong’s ego?!”

“No, that’s the Chane-Griswold Vortex,” I replied. “And we should be so lucky. Spong’s ego can be stopped. This one can’t. Ever.”

“What is it?!”

“The Spirit of Vatican II.”

10:00 PM – Griffith was silent for a long time. “Okay. What is this Nexis thing anyway?”

“In the late 70’s, early 80’s, somewhere in there,” said Dale. “Archbishops Hunthausen and Gumbleton wanted to know why the reforms of Vatican II didn’t have a wider impact in the Church. After a good bit of research, they eventually determined that some kind of force was holding the reforms back.

“They also disovered that this force could be measured. Using a complicated algorithm involving National Catholic Reporter articles, when and where guitar masses took place, op-ed pieces by liberal Jesuits, the number of times the phrase ‘I was raised Catholic’ appeared in newspapers and magazines, things like that, they discovered that the Nexis fluctuates, growing stronger and weaker.”

“The difference between Spong’s ego and the Spirit of Vatican II,” I said, “is that Spong’s ego can’t affect anything while it’s not in the world. But the Spirit of Vatican II can. Whenever the Nexis is weakest, the Spirit’s influence grows.

“Ten years ago, Professors Richard McBrien and Charles Curran postulated that a copper neutrino pulse detonated at its strongest point would destroy the Nexis completely. My guess is that liberal Catholics and Episcopalians have been working on it ever since.”

“What will happen if they pull this off?” asked Greg.

“Think guitar masses as the rule, rather than the exception,” Price said. “Think the only Latin in Catholic churches being the E Pluribus Unum on your pocket change. Think convents and monasteries all over the world dumping Gregorian chant in favor of the St. Louis Jesuits.

“Think Archbishop Matthew Fox. Think female TEC bishops saying Mass in Catholic cathedrals. And think that a whole lot of Catholics in this country and all around the world, including many now perfectly orthodox and/or very close to you, will believe those to be really good ideas.”

Griffith stood up and began to pace. “But why is EPF mixed up in this?”

“Liberal Catholics and liberal Episcopalians are two sides of the same coin,” I said. “Both claim to uphold a tradition they privately despise. And if the Spirit of Vatican II is permanently broken loose, TEC bishops, male and female, will preach in Catholic churches.

“Liberal Anglicans and American Catholics will get close. Currently orthodox Catholics will suddenly see the issue of women’s ordination very differently. Most important of all, the Episcopal Church goes from minor sect of Unitarians who dress funny to the top of the heap.”

Quid pro quo,” said Greg.

“And that’s not all,” said Dale. “Suddenly, the media looks at the Catholic Church and mainline Christians in general much differently. If the Church starts telling the media what the media wants to hear, expect a renewed respect for the Christian religion in the secular media and the secular elite.

“Expect that this new church, for that’s what it will be, will be much more assertive about what is correct Christianity and what is not. Expect Korans in Bibles. Expect that the media will back it up.

“Expect orthodox Christians in whatever part of the Body of Christ that they happen to find themselves, to be labeled heretics. Then fundamentalists. Then extremists against whom it is every government’s and every person’s ’Christian’ duty to fight.”

“I need a drink,” said Griffith who went to a liquor cabinet and poured himself a stiff vodka. I joined him, making two bourbon-and-sodas and handing one to Dale. Greg asked, “What do we do?”

“How long have you known this?” I asked.

“Three days.”

“First thing we have to do is lock up the copper. Did you put up a guard at the Mint?”

“Why would he need to do that?” asked Dale “They stopped making 90-10 pennies a long time ago. And they’d have to hit coin stores from one end of this country to the other to find enough pennies to make even one bomb.”

“The Mint hasn’t stopped making these,” I replied, taking out my Ronald Reagan presidential medal and tossing it on the table with a loud clang, “90% copper, 10% zinc.”

“Weapons-grade. And sitting right there in Washington.”

“Don’t worry,” said Griffith. “We asked the FBI to post guards as soon as we determined the nature of the threat.”

“If you don’t mind,” I said, “I’d like to check something.” As Greg and Dale finished their drinks, I turned on a laptop on the table, accessed the Internet, called up Google News and typed in US and Mint. “Uh…Greg? You said you posted a guard at the Mint.”

“We did. Why?”

“Then how do you account for this?”

11:00 PM – I turned the laptop around and Greg and Dale read:

THEFT AT US MINT Washington Post – 12 minutes ago

Materials were reported stolen from the US Mint this evening. Authorities would not say what was taken. FBI Director Allen Lewis said that a statement would be released in the morning. The theft was believed to have occurred…

“I don’t,” whispered Greg. “That’s not possible!”

I pulled out my phone and dialed Lewis. “Allen? Chris. Did I wake you?”

“I was just about to turn in. It’s been a long day. What can I do for you, big man?”

“Are you handling the Mint theft?”

“Not directly. Colleen’s the field agent in charge. She’s still at the site. Want to talk to her?”

“Yeah, switch me over.”

Colleen answered a few moments later. “Chris! Great to hear from you. How’s Paul?”

“He couldn’t be better,” I said. “Bit of a tough day today but those’ll happen. Listen, what can you tell me about that Mint theft?”

”Not much of anything. The President’s put a lid on this.”

“I’m working with CETU so let me see if I can tell you something. The thieves didn’t touch the gold or the silver. But they took every bronze mint medal, every bronze medal blank and every sheet of bronze they could get their hands on. Is that how it went down?”

Colleen inhaled sharply. “Who…who told you?! Chris, what’s going on?!”

“I don’t know yet. Did the guards you posted notice anything?”

“There were no guards,” Colleen said, sounding puzzled.

“What do you mean there were no guards? CETU says they asked you to post some.”

“CETU asked us to pull them off last night. They said the threat level had significantly lowered and that the Mint didn’t need them anymore.”

“When did you get this request?”

“10:00 PM. Got a secure e-mail from a CETU guy named Greg Griffith.”

“Did the security codes check?”

“Perfectly.”

“Do you still have it?”

“Of course.”

“Can you forward a copy to my free account? Full headers.”

“I’ll do it right now.”

“Thanks. And keep me posted.”

I looked at Griffith. “Greg? I’m going to need the CETU exit logs from last night.”

Griffith hurriedly called them up. Dale and I scanned them and discovered that Greg had left at 7:00 PM yesterday evening, confirmed by a time-stamped video.

12:00 AM – I logged on to the Internet, accessed my free e-mail account and read the note Colleen sent me. Then I turned the laptop around and showed Dale and Greg. “Is that your account?” I asked Griffith.

“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s not possible. I wasn’t here, you saw it yourselves.”

I shut my eyes. “It was possible,” I said in a low voice. “Your system’s been compromised.”

“Compromised?” said Dale. “If their system’s been compromised, that means that…” He pulled out his phone and speed-dialed his home. Price listened for a while, shouted, “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!!” and threw his phone against the wall.

I took out my phone and stared at it. I didn’t want to make the call but I had to. I dialed my home and an oleaginous male voice answered. “First of all, Mr. Johnson, rest assured that your wife and your son are quite safe and comfortable.

“They’re here with many of your friends and associates. Ms. Shaidle, Mr. Binky, Ms. Welborn, Mr. Shea, Mr. Yips, Mr. (Newbie)Anglican, Ms. Janjan, Ms. Eden, Ms. Dallstream and a good many others.

“All of their families and many of their friends are here as well along with hundreds of others on your side. How safe and comfortable all these remain depends on you, Mr. Johnson. Terminate your association with this affair immediately.”

I snapped the phone shut. I don’t know how long the three of us sat there silently, staring at nothing in particular. My chest was tight, my heart was racing and my left hand trembled a bit. Finally, Griffith whispered, “Guys, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Dale said quietly. He sighed and sipped more bourbon. “These things happen. These people are very good and it’s one of the risks of a job like Chris’s and mine.”

“So let’s focus,” I said. ”And do what we came here to do.”

Dale looked at me. ”Damn right.”

“Thing is, I just took a double hit. Besides being the woman I love more than anything, Nicky’s also the finest computer professional in the entire world. She can get into any computer system in the world and her research skills are off the charts.

“She’s been my eyes more times than I can count. Without her, we’re flying blind, bro.” Price gulped down the last of his bourbon and shut his eyes.

1:00 AM – I printed the e-mail Colleen had sent me and looked at one of CETU’s computer technicians. “Do you think you can track this down?”

“No problem,” he said.

“Here’s what I want you to do. Don’t use CETU’s system. Until we find out just how it was compromised, use an off-site server.”

The technician quickly found the answer. “I found out where that e-mail came from,” he said. “I traced it to a server registered to Christ Church Cathedral here in town.”

“Step two. Can you hack into their main server and see if the e-mail was sent from it?”

“No sweat but it’ll take a while. An hour, give or take.”

“Okay. Greg? Get hold of your family and tell ’em to take a vacation. Pull your kids out of school and tell your wife to get away. Far away.

“Get your people on something for me. I want to know every place in the country where Maryknoll and the EPF intersect. That might give us a clue when and where this thing’s going down.”

“We’ve got to get out of Dodge, man,” said Dale.

“Why?” asked Greg.

“They know where those calls came from. And they’ll be hitting this place. So scatter your people as much as possible.”

“We’ll need a car,” I said.

“No problem,” Griffith said. “Just walk through that door. I’ll be right back.”

As Griffith walked away, Dale and I picked up two laptops, walked into a garage and got into a blue Toyota Camry with the keys inside. “Any idea where we’re going?” Price asked. “Hotels would be risky. As much as they seem to know about computers, they could track us down easily. They’re probably doing it right now.”

“I’ve got one possibility. As soon as I find out where we are.”

We sat in that car a full five minutes. “Where the hell is Griffith?” I angrily asked. I got out and went back inside.

There was no one there and all the computers had been shut down. I walked through another door and saw Greg sitting at a desk. As soon as I saw his eyes, my guts dropped out of me.

He could barely get the words out. “They got ’em, Chris,” Greg said, his voice shaking. “All of them. My…my…wife. I could hear my daughter…my…my…baby girl…yelling…for…Daddy.”

“I’m really sorry, man. Get your gun and let’s get out of here.”

We walked out and got into the Toyota. Price took one look at Greg, grimaced and looked away.

“So where are we anyway?” I asked.

“Ballwin, Missouri,” Griffith said. “A temporary location we set up.”

We left the garage and drove in silence toward Webster Groves. Then Greg spoke up. “Chris? Dale? Do you think we can pull this off?”

Dale and I glanced at each other but said nothing.

Next week – Part Two

6 Comments to 24

Fuinseoig
April 9, 2012

Ah, this is great, Christopher. Please don’t hang up your holster just yet – there will always be yet another group trying to impose their will on the universal church, and if you’re tired of investigating Anglican affairs, you can always take a punt at – for example – this particular group in Austria that the Pope smacked over the knuckles with a ruler in his Chrism Mass homily.

:-)

Michael D
April 9, 2012

This is good! Send more soon.

The Little Myrmidon
April 9, 2012

Hooray – another CJAI episode.

Katherine
April 9, 2012

Maybe, like Stand Firm, you could expand your horizons beyond Anglican insanity and into the larger insane universe?

Christopher Johnson
April 9, 2012

Thinking along that line, Katherine. Which is why the new one may be a lot darker than any of them have been before.

Elaine S.
April 9, 2012

I think Fr. Z and his merry band of bloggers/commenters would really appreciate this one:

“Using a complicated algorithm involving National Catholic Reporter articles, when and where guitar masses took place, op-ed pieces by liberal Jesuits, the number of times the phrase ‘I was raised Catholic’ appeared in newspapers and magazines, things like that, they discovered that the Nexis fluctuates, growing stronger and weaker….

“Ten years ago, Professors Richard McBrien and Charles Curran postulated that a copper neutrino pulse detonated at its strongest point would destroy the Nexis completely. My guess is that liberal Catholics and Episcopalians have been working on it ever since.”

“What will happen if they pull this off?” asked Greg.

“Think guitar masses as the rule, rather than the exception,” Price said. “Think the only Latin in Catholic churches being the E Pluribus Unum on your pocket change. Think convents and monasteries all over the world dumping Gregorian chant in favor of the St. Louis Jesuits.”

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