Cardinal Spencer brushed cigarette ash off his sleeve; another stain removed. He watched the police hold back the crowds, while the paramedics worked futilely to punch life into the Pope’s chest. The white choir dress began to stain red, this taint beyond his powers. Forty years serving five Popes and it had come this.
The shadows from the Coliseum gave him both shade and brief anonymity. Working in the background was his real skill. Cleaning up the Papal messes: the high profile –the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano and Calvi’s suicide; the abuse of children and the subsequent cover ups – and the mundane. God’s Janitor. But now the dirt was too ingrained.
He tapped the nearest policeman on the sleeve. The officer stepped back to let the Cardinal through. He moved confidently to the man clearly in charge. “I think you will want this.” He held out the handgun.
He looked at the dead Pontiff’s unseeing eyes and prayed. He had willingly dirtied his hands. He had done all that they asked; every crisis, every problem he had been there to cauterise, sanitise, pacify. But not this, this treachery, this undermining of everything Holy. He knew he had to act when they had come and said, ‘We want to modernise’.