After his father left the room, he finally wondered how safe it was for him to remain there himself. Whatever weapon had slain the Pontiff could be seeking other targets.
But none of it made sense! If his father was right about the shelf life of the ancient ammunition, no gun of their manufacture could have done this. He knew from his studies that in even more ancient times, bullets were missiles flung not by hand cannons, but by peltasts, slingers who hurled their projectiles by the use of muscle alone.
But try as he might, he could not make himself believe in a slinger adept enough to throw his rock or lead pellet miraculously through one of the small holes in the perforated screen his father had examined.. No way. Then, how? Someone had done it – and without 'gun powder'.
The two clerics had exited, jabbering to each other in obvious agitation. After they did so, however, another, calmer personage strode in through the same door. He was, like them, dressed in cardinal red, but seemed much younger, hardly older than Jeffrey himself.
“Please come with me, Excellency,” he said. “We need to talk.”
“We do?” Jeffrey scowled. “Who the hell are you? If you want His Excellency, then you're looking for my father. He's the Honcho, not me.”
“For the moment, that is true,” the stranger agreed. “He is the Honcho, as poor Rodrigo was the Pope. But things change, and I should like to speak to you of such changes.”
“You mean, how such changes might be … facilitated?” Jeffrey's eyes narrowed. “You don't seem to be very surprised by Pope Rodrigo's assassination. Almost as if you expected this change.”
“Indeed. Will you follow me to a more private conference room? In a minute or two this chamber is going to be too busy for reasoned discourse.”
“A man was just killed right before my eyes,” he said. “You must pardon me if I appear a little paranoid at the moment. I'm thinking it might be better to remain here until my father returns.”
The man in red smiled. “Better is a relative term, Excellency. The sooner we confer, the better, for Fate is a fickle mistress, and she gives when our attention is distracted. Your presence here today is a gift, and I for one do not intend to be distracted. Forgive me for pointing this out, but I believe we have much in common.”
He stared at the man. “I'm a soldier. You're a cleric. What could we possibly have in common?”
“We're both younger men, Excellency. Men of frustrated ambition, held back by the longevity of older men with power. You are Jeffrey Martinez, who will one day become the Honcho, ruler of the Lone Star Empire. I am Enrique Cardinal Esperanza, and soon I shall be Pope, ruler of the Texan Catholic Church. It is my hope that we will work together on matters of mutual benefit.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish