Book III: Chapter 23
At the revelation of my rescue attempt, a newfound hope was evident on the faces of my friends – therefore I repeated my earlier question, “Are they safe? Do you still have The Nails?”
At that point the smiles fell from Alan and Miriam, and I didn’t need to hear them answer to know that it wasn’t good.
Even still, Alan advised, “After we left you, we went to Rome. We found Miriam’s Letter from La Papessa. Unfortunately Cardinalate Marrollo found us.”
“He forced us to see Benedict.” Miriam took up the tale. “We thought Marrollo gave The Pope La Papessa’s letter and that Marrollo was working for Benedict.”
“The good news – at the time anyway,” Alan added, “was that Benedict convinced us that he was NOT The Second Helper and that all of his overtures to support Ma’bus in the world spotlight were just a ruse – meant to allow him to keep tabs on Ma’bus. Sort of a keep your friends close and your enemies closer type of a deal.”
“Well, given what went on out there tonight, I’m not sure we can trust Benedict anymore.” I replied. “This is a VERY private meeting and he would have had no reason to show his support for Ma’bus… unless he really meant it.”
“That’s what we feared.” Miriam agreed. “We could hear all the shouting when they were sentencing us.”
“OK. OK. But what happened with you and Benedict?” I tried to change the subject.
“Naturally he wanted our Nails.” Alan answered. “We told him we would go get them and bring them back, but after we left him we chased after Marrollo instead. For although I could do nothing to stop him, I realized that Marrollo never gave La Papessa’s letter to Benedict but instead used a slight of hand to slip him a worthless re-creation.”
“So you noticed that ruse too, eh?” I smiled. But when he didn’t understand how I could have know about the trick, I added, “Never mind, please continue.”
“So anyway, when we learned that he did not in fact give La Papessa’s letter to Benedict, we surmised that Marrollo was actually in league with Ma’bus.”
“And we reasoned that if Benedict was not the Second Helper, then Marrollo must be!” Miriam added.
“So we chased Marrollo to Baghdad.” Alan continued. “Miriam used her mind tricks to help us to infiltrate Ma’bus’ palace. She tracked down both of our villains and then we stormed in upon them in one of Ma’bus’ private chambers — ready to send The Beast and his Helper back to the Fiery Pits! But then…”
A long pause.
“And then?” I prompted (now regretting the fact that my power of Sight had been taken from me!)
“To this day, I still am not sure what was really was going on there.” Miriam eyes were distant. But it was a scene I will never forget…”
“Well, did you find Ma’bus in there or not?” I asked urgently.
“Oh, we found Ma’bus…” Alan explained, “And Marrollo… and they were indeed in the Chairman’s chambers. Furthermore, they were quite… distracted – which allowed us to sneak in on them. But they were not in fact alone – Mystery was there too.”
“Mystery, but why?” I asked.
“Because Marrollo was crucifying her to an upside down cross right there within Ma’bus’ bedroom!” Miriam blurted. “And all the while, Ma’bus was looking on… and laughing.”
“Oh how Mystery writhed in agony upon that cross.” Alan closed his eyes tight against the image. “Regardless of the fact that she was an evil wench, the sight itself was horrible. The blood… the screaming… her eyes…”
“Yes. Yes. I get the picture.” I replied anxiously. Then, running back to the door to listen, I urged my friends, “We’re running out of time here. What happened next?”
“This is where it gets confusing.” Miriam answered. “As we barged in, Ma’bus was handing Marrollo the case that held Alan’s Nail. Marrollo was wearing some sort of glove that apparently allowed him to pick up The Nail and he grabbed it just as Ma’bus turned around to face us. And then it was as if we all got caught up in a sea of… er… emotional mystery.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It’s hard to explain.” Alan said. “Mystery was barely alive and when she saw us barge in, for a brief moment, a ray of hope crossed her face. But when she recognized us, and especially when she laid eyes on Miriam, she knew we would NOT be saving her from her fate.” Here I noticed that Miriam couldn’t help but smile even as Alan spoke on. “As for Ma’bus, he stopped laughing and instead began to rain down curses upon us.”
“But none of this sounds too surprising to me.” I interrupted. “They reacted just as I would have expected.”
“Let me finish. You are correct — Mystery and Ma’bus didn’t do anything that surprised us.”
“It was Marrollo!” Miriam couldn’t resist. “As he was holding The Nail, and while Ma’bus was facing us — with his back towards Marrollo – I caught hold of the cardinal’s eyes – if only for a moment. And… I caught a glimpse into his mind… and the <thought> I saw there was amazing!”
Nobody said a word as Miriam took a moment to collect herself, “I would swear on my life that, in that moment, Marrollo was contemplating using The Nail… to stab Ghaz al Ridwan Ma’bus!”