An excerpt from “Holy Predator” by Deborah Stevens
Luciano Bonelli, superior general of the Jesuits, couldn’t put his finger on the exact moment he traded in his soul. He’d run away from the life of wealth and privilege he’d been brought up in and the accompanying greed that came along with it. Oddly enough, the same two entitlements came with the office he now held as superior general of the Jesuits. However, unprepared for the relentless assault by the devil, he had succumbed to temptation, returning to the life he had grown to despise, but he had learned that money wasn’t the root of all evil—it was the love of money and the power that came with it.
The Jesuits were never Sicily’s most important monastic order. That honor went to the Benedictines and Dominicans, but they left behind a distinctive legacy in the Church of Casa Professa, designed by the Jesuit architect Giovanni Tristano, considered to be one of the most remarkable examples of baroque architecture of its kind south of Rome.
Luciano arrived in Palermo around two o’clock. He’d been asked to officiate over a special Mass to bless the recently installed, commissioned stained glass window. The church had been nearly reduced to rubble during the Allied bombing of 1943, and after decades of restoration it reopened in 2009. The Black Pope, a nickname given to the head of the Jesuits but never spoken in front of him, was using the visit as a cover to meet with Michael Gagini Zenetti who was essential to carrying out his plan.
Looking nothing like his father, Luciano was slim, about six feet, with a receding hairline and a nose a little too large for his face. He’d inherited his grandfather’s pointy chin and had grown a mustache and beard to cover up what he considered a weakness for someone of his importance.
Even though he was nothing to look at, everyone who met him was captivated, and he used that to his advantage. Being articulate and charismatic, he’d gotten used to the power that came along with his position. In fact, as a young boy, he had observed the same qualities in his father and had hated the way he used them to control and manipulate the people around him.
The Mass for the newly commissioned window was an elaborate ruse, the real purpose being to set up a meeting with the man who had just left. As the head of the Sicilian Mafia, Michael Zenetti could have easily been mistaken for any out of work male in Palermo, in need of a shave and dressed in worn and wrinkled old clothes. No one would have ever suspected the Capo di tutti Capri of the Cosa Nostra to be the person beneath the disguise. Luciano was familiar with hearing Italians say Sicilians were waiting for a political “messiah” who would bring money and jobs. With unemployment at 14 percent, it wouldn’t be odd to see one of them passing time inside a church looking for spiritual consolation.
Anyone walking into Casa Professa and seeing the man sitting alone, wearing the Y-Cross white, silk damask, collared chasuble with the embroidered gold IHS design, would immediately assume he was someone of importance.
The cardinal was going over his conversation with Zenetti while his admonitor, equivalent to a consigliere in the Mafia, and two assistants stood at the back of the church. Luciano wondered why the window had been commissioned. The colored glass would hardly be a distraction from the ornate ornamentation of the church’s interior. The baroque style was linked to a movement within the Catholic Church, its architecture and embellishments a visible statement of the wealth and power the church possessed. Even the picture frames were ostentatious, commanding as much attention as the paintings in the church. With three naves and ten chapels, the head of the Jesuits had never seen so many cherubs in one place. Everywhere you looked there were hundreds of them… on the ceiling, on the walls, hanging from frames, some praying and some carrying pitchforks.
It was hard to grapple with the reasoning behind a collection basket being passed around at every Mass asking people attending to please give generously to the church when surrounded by statues, carvings and gold everywhere they looked.
Aware that the plane was waiting to take him back to Rome, Luciano knew the three men were probably wondering why he was still sitting there, but he wanted to bask in the opulence for a while longer. Glancing at the faces of the thousands of cherubs, one in particular caught his attention, reminding him of a child he had once known. Memories came flooding back; he was a young boy peering out the window from the west wing of his family’s estate, looking on in wonder at the festivities of one of the many lavish parties his parents were known for throwing. As he got older, he had grown tired of the parties. Finally, the day came… college and his escape from the world he had come to loathe. Wanting to put as much distance as possible between him and his family, he applied to Georgetown University in Washington DC, the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the United States. Upon learning he was accepted, he informed his parents that’s where he wanted to go. It was one of the best decisions he’d ever made. His father was against it, but his mother supported him in his decision.
Even though he had grown up Catholic, he knew very little about the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. During his four years there, he had grown to appreciate the teachings of the religious order, opening up a completely new world to him. In his senior year, he made the decision to become a novice and took his first vows as a Jesuit. Many years later, he was superior general.
“Excuse me, Superior,” whispered one of the assistants. “The plane is waiting, and the pilot will have to file a new flight plan if we do not leave soon.”
“Yes, thank you for reminding me,” said Luciano.
Glancing up at the altar one last time, he was aware his secrets were not hidden from all eyes.
Upon exiting Cass Professa, the stench from the garbage piled up along the street was a stark contrast to the world of money and power that he lived in. He knew there was little that wasn’t corrupt in Sicily, with public money from the European Union squandered by overpaid bureaucrats and others in the back pocket of the Mafia. One flagrant example of the corruption was the unrelenting piles of trash that lined the streets of Palermo.
As Luciano descended the steps in front of the church and walked through the black iron gate that safeguarded it, he couldn’t help wonder what his brother would think of the life he had chosen as he slid into the plush, leather back seat of the limo.
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FACT: They represent two powerful all-male organizations.
While there…Enter: (October’s Give-a-way Drawing”).
Have you ever thought about what you can learn about someone by their favorite book genre? I’ve listed a few below and what they say about you as a person. Have fun!
If you like fantasy, you probably have a huge imagination. You might want to travel, to escape to somewhere other than the world we live in. The magic and impossibility of fantasy novels, while still holding a reason behind how and why this world exists in its own way, gives a thrilling feeling of adventure.
Science fiction is very similar to fantasy in that it’s equally realistic and fantastical, but the primary difference lies in how it’s laid out. Science Fiction is technically possible, because it is based on science and fact. If you like these, you probably enjoy understanding how and why things work, while still honing your imagination.
If your favorite genre is nonfiction, you are very grounded into this world. You love to learn new things and you constantly gain new knowledge from the experiences in your books. While you may still like adventure and suspense, you receive comfort knowing that what you’re reading is true.
If you crave love stories in your life, whether realistic or not, you might wish something like that upon yourself. And you’re not alone. Who wouldn’t want the classic love at first sight thing to happen to them, especially with how much pressure pop culture puts on us to want it? It can be comforting to know that love is possible for anyone, and you never know when to expect it.
This quite often falls into the realm of nonfiction, but is slightly different because it took place long ago and isn’t necessarily entirely true. Some may have been embellished for story purposes. If this is your favorite genre, you like to learn, but it’s also possible that you like other eras. You would rather have been born in another century, and some people might not understand that, but your books do.
Poetry is a genre based more off of how words fit together than what they mean. A single poem can be analyzed in many different ways, and the freedom of how you want to interpret it is likely what you find appealing. You like to think and analyze for yourself, while finding meaning. This might extend to your life. As you search for a meaning in your life and the world around you, you want to make it out to be beautiful in its own way.
If mystery is your genre of choice, then you like answering questions and figuring things out. You’re always guessing what’s going to happen next in books and in life. This makes you incredible to be around because you’re always up for a sudden twist of plans.
8. All Genres
If you don’t have a favorite genre, but will read anything equally willingly, you are an incredibly well-rounded person. You aren’t picky and you’re easy to be around. Your willingness to read anything might transfer into what food you like, where you’d rather go on a date, and this gives the people around you the ability to make decisions without worrying too much about what you think.
Give-a-way Drawing: July, August and September for a Book Themed Mug to celebrate the release of “Holy Predator” in October. Enter by going to my Facebook Page.
So let’s start with Propaganda Due also known as P2. Did they really exist? Yes “Propaganda” was founded in 1877, in Turin, as “Propaganda Massonica” frequented by politicians and government officials from across Italy. Later in 1945 following World War II the name was changed to “Propaganda Due”. The increasing influence of the left at the end of the 1960s had the Masons of Italy deeply worried, however by the 1960’s the lodge was all but inactive. Grand Master Lino Salvini of the Grand Orient of Italy—one of
Italy’s largest Masonic lodges—assigned Licio Gelli the task of reorganizing the lodge. Gelli took a list of “sleeping members”—members who were not invited to take part in masonic rituals anymore. From these initial connections, Gelli was able to extend his network throughout the echelons of the Italian establishment. In 1974 it was proposed that P2 be erased from the list of lodges by the Grand Orient of Italy. By the time its Masonic charter was withdrawn in 1976 it had been transformed into a clandestine, pseudo-Masonic, ultra-right organization operating in contravention of Article 18 of the Constitution of Italy that banned secret associations.
Some see the P2 as a reactionary, shadow government ready to preempt a takeover of power in case of an electoral victory of the Italian Communist Party. Nevertheless, P2 was implicated in numerous Italian scandals and mysteries. P2 became the target of considerable attention in the wake of the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano (owned in part by the Vatican Bank), and money laundering that was going on and the suspicious 1982 death of its president Roberto Calvi head of the Vatican Bank. Initially ruled a suicide but later prosecuted as a murder all part of the conspiracy plot found in The Serpent’s Disciple.
On 17 March 1981, a list composed by Licio Gelli was found in his country house speculation to be a combination of P2 members and the contents of his Rolodex and it is not known to what extent the list includes members who were formally initiated into the lodge. Some of the names on the list have demonstrated their distance from P2 to the satisfaction of the Italian legal system.
On 21 May 1981, the Italian government released the list. It contained 962 names and it has been claimed that at least a thousand names may still be secret, as the membership numbers begin with number 1,600, which suggests that the complete list has not yet been found. The list included all of the heads of the secret services, 195 officers of the different armed forces, 12 generals of the Carabinieri, 5 of the financial police Guardia di Finanza, 22 of the army, 4 of the air force and 8 admirals, as well as 44 members of parliament, 3 ministers and a secretary of a political party, leading magistrates, a few prefects and heads of police, bankers and businessmen, civil servants, journalists and broadcasters. Also included were a top official of the Banco di Roma, Italy’s third largest bank at the time, and a former director-general of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), the country’s largest. Although, the book is fiction it’s centered on real events, places and people.
The owl has a significant role in the sequel “Holy Predator”
You can find my novel The Serpent’s Disciple on Amazon
The Sequel “The Holy Predator” will be released in October
When trying to pull ideas together to write THE SERPENT’S DISCIPLE, my first thought was to have it take place in Pompeii. Visiting there a few years ago, I imagined endless possibilities choosing that for the setting of the book. My next task was to find a group that was up to no good to spin a story around and eventually, discovering the group Propaganda Due. I’d never heard of the Secret Society and what ’s more, they were out of Rome, Italy. Voila, I found exactly what I was looking for, coincidence or providence.
Pompeii got bumped and Rome and the Vatican were now the location but, my intention was always to include my father’s birth place of Pesaro as one of the places my characters travel in the story. Little did I know how significant that would be!
After, writing several chapters thought it would be fun to come up with a title for the book. So, I made a list and whittled it down to five names and asked people to vote. Since, I was writing about a group whispered to be involved in murder, I thought it appropriate to include the word serpent in at least one of the titles. Guess what, that was the one receiving the most votes! Again, as I look back was this coincidence or providence.
Now, back to writing the book. Art History being one of my favorite subjects in college, I began researching places I would have my characters visit. It became a mission of mine to educate the reader on the places and art, I wrote about in the story even making sure to use the real name of the streets.
Allowing, the reader, to tag along with the characters and experience everything as if they were there with them in Italy. As, I continued developing the plot, it was very mysterious to find out there was a link between my father’s birthplace and the group Propaganda Due. There was no way for me to know how the two would intertwine with one another, coincidence or providence.
I won’t give away the story but, if you read the book know that for some unknown reason I was guided to include Pesaro in the story and to end up stumbling on the group Propaganda Due! Coincidence to Providence, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Always feel free to visit my website or “Like” my Facebook page or write a review of the book on Amazon.
I would like to start with a quote from Nobel Prize Winner of Literature Nadine Gordimer.
– “Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.”
SO WHY READ FICTION when there is so much to learn from history, studying human behavior or uncharted territories of science. Nonfiction consists of facts, facts that are limited. Fiction has none of these limitations. Moreover, certain kinds of facts simply do not exist. What are the facts for fear? Heartbreak? Loneliness? The facts on what it’s like to be a soldier or teenager or maybe a serial killer. What it’s like to fall in love or commit a murder.
First, let me talk to those who think you should only read nonfiction, and who think reading fiction is a waste of their time. Here are some of the benefits of reading fiction.
- Creates Empathy for others
- Among the very best way to relieve stress
- Reading fiction before bed, you will sleep better
- Helps you understand others mental states, crucial skill in developing relationships
- Reading fiction makes us more inclusive, tolerant an open-minded.
- It builds the readers vocabulary.
Now, back to fiction, it has a power no other form of communication does, the power to insert you fully and completely in someone else’s mind and good fiction runs deep into the realms of psychology and philosophy.
In my case, as a writer, I found a way to combine the benefits of both non-fiction and fiction, because I chose to write fiction based on fact. In The Serpent’s Disciple, accept for the characters and plot everything else is based on fact.
In doing research for the next book, I came across a group I’d never heard of and decided it was perfect to develop a story around and wasn’t disappointed as I continued to read more. It seemed impossible that what I was learning wasn’t made up and a world of untapped knowledge of things I never knew were being revealed to me.
It’s important to realize, we need to read a mix of fiction and nonfiction. So back to the discussion, why waste your time reading fiction. I think it’s evident; no one can exist only on facts that describes a robot. We are human beings with a mind for learning and an imagination for creating and without both, we can never truly understand life.
So the next time you see somebody reading a book of fiction realize they are learning things you can never be taught by only reading non-fiction. The definition of Fiction: Something made up, but ultimately deals in truth.
Getting the next book ready for publication and again it is fiction based on fact. Some of the same characters return and the plot once again is fictional, but the events, places and groups mentioned in the book do exist.
I already have the idea for the third book, but before that I seem to have this little voice telling me to write a book of non-fiction about a topic many people would be interested in learning a little more about. But, the little voice inside my head hasn’t told me yet what the topic should be. I know it will come to me, but I’m open for suggestions!
You can find my novel The Serpent’s Disciple on Amazon here
Look forward to your comments and until the next blog post.
September 28, 1978 The Papal Palace
Cardinal Jean Villot, Vatican secretary of state, had gotten hold of the list of appointments, resignations to be asked for, and transfers Pope John Paul I planned on putting into motion the next morning. There was one common denominator that linked each of the men about to be replaced … it was Freemasonry.
Villot was aware of each man’s affiliation to the Masons; more important, so was the Pope. It was the reason the Pope would strip these men of their power. Pope John Paul I had evidence indicating that within the Vatican City State, there were over one hundred Masons ranging from priests to cardinals. The Pope was further preoccupied with an illegal Masonic Lodge called Propaganda Due (P2), which had infiltrated far beyond even the Vatican in its search for wealth and power.
The fact that it had penetrated the Vatican walls and had converted priests, bishops, and even cardinals made P2 anathema, a formal ecclesiastical curse accompanied by excommunication.
The changes the Pope was intending on making would create, by any standards a dramatic reshuffle within the Vatican. It would set the church in a new direction, directions that Villot and others on the list considered dangerous for their movement.
On the morning of September 29, 1978 at 4:45 a.m., Sister Vicenza entered the papal apartments to bring the Holy Father his morning tea, only to find the lifeless body of the Pope. Fifteen minutes later at 5:00 a.m. it was reported that Cardinal Villot confirmed the death of the Pope. Only thirty-three days after his election, Pope John Paul I was dead.
Sister Vicenza gave two conflicting reports concerning the state in which she first found Pope John Paul I. According to a group of French priests that same morning, it was “in his bathroom” that she found the Holy Father dead, still in his papal robes. Later, after Cardinal Villot was present, she reported that upon entering the room she found the Pope sitting up in bed “with an expression of agony” before he died.
This small detail is significant. If it was true that Sister Vicenza found the Holy Father dead in the bathroom still in his papal robes, it could be construed that he died shortly after his “toast” with Cardinal Villot, the night of September 28, 1978.
That evening Villot hastily arranged for the embalming to be performed, a procedure as unusual as it was illegal, Villot also insisted that no blood was to be drained from the body, and neither were any of the organs to be removed. No official death certificate has ever been issued. No autopsy ever performed. Cause of death: Unknown.
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