A massive inquiry had been made. TOP people from both sides had confirmed they were not involved in Cherry’s death. For all the backdoor dealings and lies that could be told, this was definitely not one of those times. Everyone knew what was at stake if they lied. Everyone wanted to find out what happened.
The car halted in front of St. Pat’s in downtown New York. John knew Perkins shouldn’t just leave his car there but even John wasn’t about to question him now. His stomach groaned. Not another meeting, he hoped. But instead of being dragged into an office or a conference room, they went down a set of stairs into the boiler room. Pat’s was an old building and had even older boilers down there. Auxiliary heat systems had been setup years ago to assist the monster in warming this massive structure, but they still worked and had been maintained.
“Think small, it gets tight through here,” Perkins advised. John could not be more puzzled, his hangover didn’t help. Perkins reached up, through a release switch to drain the boiler and the room filled with steam. John could hear metal creaking and as the steam cleared Perkins had opened the boiler – it had a door on it, hidden in its workings – but still operated as a boiler. Clever. Perkins ducked and stepped into the boiler. A second door opened and they were in a passage way.
It was hot in here, the residual steam killed any mold but it was dark and dank. After 50 feet or so into the passage, which was unlit save a very faint light at the end. Must have been the bottom of a door. Perkins reached up and felt a lever, cranked it and the door opened. The light was still dim inside the room, candles supplying the only luminance.
The room was small. A simple stone platform the only item in the room except the candles. There were very old paintings on the walls. All depicted Bible stories. “So…where are we?” John asked.
“The vault that once held the Ark of the Covenant,” Perkins said coldly. It was the way he said ‘once’ added certainty to the statement.
“You mean the real, the classical, the one from the Bible?” John asked pointing to a painting on the wall depicting the Ark being carried into battle.
“The same.” Perkins said.
He went on to tell John how it had been ‘found’ many years ago in 1936 by an archeologist working under duress of Nazis. Good triumphed then and it was whisked away, hidden here for the last 78 years. Its location was one of the most guarded secrets. Turns out the pontiffs hadn’t even known of it, something the most recent one wasn’t too happy about. This was a secret hard to keep and they needed all the resources the Vatican had to offer now. Supposedly, this place was only known to two men ever through time. Perkins somehow had been one and whoever was head of the parish there at St. Pat’s the other. Even they didn’t know what was in there, just to contact the Vatican if Perkins ever died. Perkins had received his charge many years ago when called to the deathbed of his mentor, Father Francis Galleano. The name didn’t ring any bells with John except that he knew a man by that name had lived here in New York at one time.
Father Francis was the one who came across it in some government warehouse, realized its true nature, and personally moved it to New York – his home. Just a minor priest at the time, and the boiler being down for renovation, he saw an opportunity. He spent two years preparing a place. It wasn’t until the last day when he had to turn the boiler off one night, in the middle of the night, and move the Ark to its resting place that the lead parish priest found him out.
Francis begged the man to not ask questions, to let him seal this up behind the boiler to never been seen again. Something in the younger man’s voice struck a chord with the older. And so it was done. Today was only the second time this door had opened in 78 years. The other, when it was taken. The parish priest had gone missing last week and a special team from the Vatican had come to assist in searching the cathedral for clues. It wasn’t until an extensive search was done of the grounds with a UV light that a small blood trail had been found. It ended at the boiler. No one knew it even opened. Perkins had only heard of the search, which everyone else assumed meant nothing, in passing conversation at a memorial for Father Francis. Even Perkins had never gone in until today.
Standing in the dark and dank room John could see Perkins crying. “So what does this have to do with Cherry’s death?” John asked.
“Everything,” Perkins replied between the tears.
“So let me get this straight, you had THE Ark of the Covenant just tucked away in here for the last 78 years?” John asked cornering Perkins as he hurried out of the hidden room. “My understanding of what I assumed was lost to time and legend is minimal here, so what the HELL does this have to do with Cherry’s death?”
Perkins swung around, much faster than John had expected. He backhanded John across the face and then charged in to him forcing him against the wall. John was too shocked to fight back. “EVERYTHING JOHN! EVERYTHING!!! AND WATCH YOUR MOUTH IN THE HOUSE OF GOD!!!”
For the first time in a long time, John almost felt embarrassed by his actions. He let Perkins have this one. The old priest backed off, releasing John. Then John noticed Perkins pull a gun from inside his jacket and raise it to his temple. “Father forgive me,” he said closing his eyes. John dove at his, jarring his arm enough to alter the aim of the gun and have it miss his temple. A shot fired and the bullet careened around the room a bit burying itself into the wall.
“You do NOT want to do that and I know firsthand,” John exclaimed righting himself on top of the man and grabbing him by his coat lapels.
“I’ll go there anyway after what I’ve let happen,” Perkins replied, sounding dejected.
“Not if we find it. I may not know how to feel about this whole faith thing yet, but someone upstairs gave me a second chance after the whole Spear incident. Maybe ‘He’ can give you one too and forgive Cherry’s death for you,” John said not believing words of wisdom and faith were coming from them. “And anyway,” John continued, standing and pulling Perkins up, “I can’t do this alone.”
(To read Part Two – GO HERE)
(To read Part Four – GO HERE)