Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Thirty Three

       Last updated: Thursday, March 11, 2004 01:51 EST



    The funeral which took place the next day was wholly lacking in Venetian pomp, but drew a ceremonial all of its own. The arrangements had been simple enough; Gus had dealt with it. It had turned out to be easy to persuade the nearest church to let them hold the service, and a grave was to be had for ready money. Given the state of the corpse, no one even proposed employing the services of a mortician. The Marines, sharing Gus’ own grim attitude, had taken care of wrapping the body. The casket, of course, was closed.

    Mazzare had not even the beginnings of a notion what religion Buckley had had, if any, and Sharon hadn’t known either despite their being at college together. So it was a requiem mass, by default, since there would have been complications at the very least had Jones, as the only Protestant minister in town, done the service in his own native liturgy.

    He had expected a quiet affair, with just the staff and the ambassadorial party turning out.

    Not a bit of it. Mazzare had stepped out of the sacristy, accompanied by a small squadron of Venetian altar-boys, to see a church packed wall to wall. In the front pews, the embassy party minus the corporal’s guard they’d left behind. Behind them, Mazzare recognized several Venetian dignitaries. None of them of the first rank, and the highest of them would need to puff himself out to make the second rank, but nothing happened by accident in this town. Someone—likely several someones, some number between one and Ten—was sending a message of support.

    Mazzare was not really surprised. Outside, he’d been told by Gus, a small mob from the Arsenal had gathered for the funeral also. Joe Buckley’s articles had been passed around the Arsenal too, in special editions printed by the Venetian Committee of Correspondence. For whatever reason—always hard to know with that mysterious body—the Council of Ten had chosen to turn a blind eye both to Buckley’s activities as well as the propaganda work of the city’s small and oft-derided Committee.

    Heinzerling himself thought it was because the Council of Ten saw Buckley and his popularity in the Arsenal as an asset to Venice. True, the Venetian elite itself had often been the target of Buckley’s muck-raking. Buckley had had the touch, however unpolished he might have been, and the Venetian masses had especially enjoyed one article he’d written on the Council of Ten, which he or some wit of an editor had entitled “A Conspiracy of Harlots.”

    But Venice had not survived for so many centuries in Europe—a republic among monarchies for a thousand years—because its upper crust was given to fits of pique. The real danger they faced was not rebellion on the part of the city’s masses, it was foreign intervention. More than once, Venice’s powers had used the Arsenalotti to drive out an alien presence which, for one reason or another, the Council of Ten had not wanted to confront directly.

    Mazzare wondered if such a maneuver was being undertaken again. And who would be the target?

    The Spanish? Maybe...

    But, if so, Sanchez seemed determined to be the joker in the deck. He’d turned out for the funeral also, and in full hidalgo formal attire. A message from his master, or just here because of Sharon?

    Following the service, Buckley went by boat from the church to his grave, accompanied by a fleet of, not mourners exactly, but people who wanted to be seen to be mourners. It seemed a little unreal to Mazzare as he spoke the words and watched the crowd gather. He had visions of political funerals in South Africa and Northern Ireland, and stumbled over the words of committal as visions of riot crossed his mind.

    But the funeral was wholly lacking in drama as well. The gravediggers stepped forward on cue as the mourners began to file out of the graveyard. Mazzare took off his stole, and looked to the gray sky that threatened rain but had not yet delivered.

    “Larry?” Jones interrupted the reverie that Mazzare always fell into after funerals. “There’s a message from Benjamin.”

    The Jewish lawyer had remained at the embassy to mind the store. “What does he say?” Mazzare asked.

    “The State Inquisition is declining to investigate.”

    Mazzare frowned. He had, naturally, reported the matter to the appropriate authorities as a murder. “Why?” he asked.

    “They think it’s the Spanish or the French, and they can’t arrest any of the diplomats.”

    “What?” Sanchez had heard.

    Jones colored. “Señor Sanchez,” he said, “I’m only repeating what was told to me.”

    Sanchez blew through his moustaches. “Did they have the courage to make this accusation to my face, I should be much tempted to take advantage of my diplomat status.” He smiled in a way that was all the more unnerving coming from a man of almost sixty.

    Mazzare decided to try conciliation. “Now, Señor, I feel sure the accusation was not meant for you personally—”

    Sanchez threw back his head and laughed. “Your Excellency forgets that I was here for the conspiracy. Took part in it, in fact. The Venetians would believe anything of me.”

    A cold wind was idly toying with the clothes of the few mourners who yet remained in the graveyard, but that was not all that made Mazzare shiver. The sheer Latin ferality of the man, when he chose to show it, was quite intimidating. In that moment Mazzare realized he himself could well believe anything of the stocky Spaniard, whom Sharon had once described to him as “Don Quixote on steroids.” It was easy to see him smiling in badly-feigned innocence while a windmill was blown to smithereens by stealthily-planted charges. Tilting he would regard as pointlessly ineffective.

    “Behave, Ruy,” Sharon said.

    “Forgive me, Dona Sharon.” Then, turning back to Mazzare: “And forgive my manner, Excellency. The plain fact of the matter is that our nations are in arms against one another. But neither I nor His Eminence the cardinal would resort to such as this. If nothing else, I am pricked by the suggestion that we should do something so foolish. The man Buckley was an annoyance to us, as I understand he was to you—”

    Sharon had the good grace to look a little embarrassed at having apparently released a little diplomatic communiqué of her own. Mazzare decided he would do no more than issue a word to the wise—later.

    “—but there are other means to deal with annoyances of his kind.”

    “Quite,” Mazzare said. He’d heard rumors of prosecutions for libel and slander, challenges to duels and so forth. It had been only a matter of time before something had descended on Buckley; it was just that the murderer got to him first.

    “Please accept my assurance and my word,” Sanchez continued, speaking very formally now, “Your Excellency, that to my knowledge this matter was not conceived of at the embassy of His Most Catholic Majesty.”

    “Thank you, Sanchez,” Mazzare said.

    Sanchez bid them all good day, and left immediately. That made sense. If the Venetians were casting aspersions of that character, his master the Cardinal Bedmar and the Spanish embassy in general needed to know so as to start protesting immediately. Loudly and in strong terms; Mazzare wondered how Bedmar kept a straight face. The old cardinal was one of the sharpest operators in Venice, for all he played the role of feeble old man in over his head.

    And, at that, he might well have to keep a straight face through all those protests. Sanchez was himself a competent operator, and had not gone so far as to pledge his word absolutely for the clean hands of the whole Spanish presence in Venice. There were, in effect, two missions from His Most Catholic Majesty in town right now, and no firm guarantee that the left hand knew what the right was doing. Mazzare had met Bedmar several times, and the other Spaniards likewise. Never in the same place, and always on neutral ground. The regular mission—the one from Madrid—was polite, reserved and distant, saying nothing and giving away less. Bedmar, on the other hand, seemed to be hinting at a second agenda, a possibility that there was more to discuss than just how little personal rancor there was arising from the fact that their mutual nations were at war. There was, however, nothing of substance in that as yet. It was, at best, frustrating.

    Jones interrupted this rather gloomy train of thought. “Penny for ‘em,” he said.

    Mazzare looked around and saw that he and Jones were the last to leave, apart from the gravediggers, who were settled into a steady rhythm as they buried poor Buckley in Venice’s soggy silt.

    “Poor value for money,” he grunted.

    “Stuck for ideas?” Jones said. “Me too.”

    They began to walk away from the grave, toward the gate, threading through the ornate monuments under which the Venetians buried their dead. “The Venetians say it’s the French or the Spaniards,” Mazzare said, “and Sanchez denies it. The Spanish part.”

    “You believe him?” Jones asked, pulling his coat tighter about him against the chill breeze of early spring.

    “I’d like to.”

    “Larry, don’t get all gloomy on me again. Last time I turned out for one of your funerals, you went all serious on me. Did everything but start another Reformation.”

    Mazzare, suddenly reminded of old Mrs. Flannery’s funeral, bit off the smart answer he’d been assembling practically from the moment Jones had opened his mouth. Irene Flannery, retired schoolteacher, dragon and stalwart of St. Mary’s back in Grantville, had died in a cavalry raid on the town, too stubborn to leave her home for the safety of the downtown buildings where Grantville’s heavily-armed population had ambushed and defeated a horde of Wallenstein’s raiders.

    It had been four days before she’d been brought in for burial, and that sodden, rain-lashed graveside attended by not a single genuine mourner had been the place where Mazzare had suddenly decided to stand up under the weight of his vocation. To finally heed what God had been telling him for over a year since the Ring of Fire.

    He sighed. “No, Simon, it’s not that. It’s just that poor Joe’s been murdered and I don’t know what more we can do.”

    “Find out who did it,” Jones said, simply, as they came to the graveyard gate.

    Mazzare said nothing. He hoped Jones’s irrepressible sense of humor wasn’t taking a turn for the morbid.

    “I’m being serious, Larry,” Jones said. “Even if we can’t take it to a trial and the hanging someone richly deserves, we need to know who’s out to get us.”

    “Everyone.” Mazzare gave a single bark of laughter. “We’re not paranoid, Simon, everyone really is out to get us.”

    Jones chuckled. “We could at least try to identify which of them is prepared to murder us in our beds.”


    “Of course, this isn’t a cliché yet,” Jones added.

    “What?” Mazzare looked askance. Jones was being even more oblique than usual.

    “Oh, you know. Father Whazzisname investigates.” Jones held out his hands in the shape of a frame, to see how Mazzare would look on screen, or possibly in something by Chesterton.

    “Knock it off, Simon.” Mazzare waved to call for a boat back to the embassy. They were busy a few moments getting in and negotiating with the gondolier.

    “Seriously, Larry,” Jones continued as the boat pulled away, “we need to look into this.”

    “Finding the time will be a trick. And how do we do it anyway? I can just see me going to Count d’Avaux and asking him where he was on the night in question.”

    Jones looked at him sharply. “Why’d you think it’s the French?”

    Mazzare gave back his best Poirot impersonation. “I zuzpect evreewahn, and I zuzpect nowhan.” Then he shrugged. “No, the Count was just the first example to spring to mind. Although if I had to draw up a short list of suspects, most of the names on it are French ones.”

    “Figures. Anyway, since you seem to be in the right frame of mind, who are our suspects?”

    Mazzare counted on his fingers. “First, all the countries we’re at war with. France, Spain, England, in that order.”

    “You think Sanchez was lying?”

    “No, it’s that he almost certainly doesn’t know everything. There are really two Spains, these days. He’s with the one we might be able to do business with some day.”

    “Flanders,” Jones said.

    “Quite. Except it’s a lot bigger than Flanders, nowadays. Bedmar’s definitely on that side, I think, if he’s on any side bar his own. We can probably rule him out.”

    “England too, on that basis.”

    “True,” Mazzare said. “Fielding’s as smooth and two-faced a limey as ever I met.”

    “Prejudice, Larry?” Jones clucked his tongue slyly.

    “No, I lived there, remember. I’m not suggesting he’s smooth and two-faced because he’s a limey—and they found that term funny, by the way. No, as I was saying, he’s as smooth and two-faced as they come, but if he’s a schemer then he’s a schemer who’s doing nicely, I hear, out of us being in Venice. And even if he wasn’t, Hider would be sitting on him, and Hider right here has a lot more clout than Charles Stuart at the other end of Europe. So, you’re right, not the English. The Danes? We’ve had hardly a peep out of them here, and I doubt they care what happens all the way over this side of Europe. No, they’ve got more parochial concerns.”

    “The Austrians?” Jones suggested. “Come to that, Wallenstein? Yeah, sure, he’s supposed to be an ally now, but with that man...”

    “Doubt either. Wallenstein’s hardly on the radar. What are we doing in Venice to annoy him that even comes close to matching his need to rely on us where he lives? Undercutting his interest in the copper market? Sure, he sent off a nasty letter or two, but that’s piddly stuff. As for the Austrians, the Empire’s pretty much resigned to us cocking a snook at them.”

    “Really?” Jones raised his eyebrows.

    “I’m sure of it. All the bloviating they’ve been doing has been pretty much for form’s sake. They’ve had to put up with the Venetians for so long they don’t seem to care any more, and we’re not likely to do them any harm here that we’re not doing bigger and better closer to home. Besides, the Spanish Habsburgs regard this as their theater, not for their cousins to dabble in.”

    “Stipulated. For the moment. That leaves us with France and Spain proper, then, and—who else?”

    “Everyone Buckley annoyed,” Mazzare said, with a sigh.

    “That’s me on the list of suspects, then,” Jones said. “You too, actually.”

    “Right. But the first people he annoyed were the French and the last were, at a guess, the Turks.”


    “That was going to be his next piece, as far as Benjamin could tell, and I found some notes to that effect in his room. He’d been making himself a nuisance around Bey Koprulu’s staff. I understand he’d been told his presence wasn’t wanted and would be, ah, reduced if it was detected again.”

    Jones nodded. “Should have remembered the reports. I do recall reading that a couple of days ago.”

    They rode the rest of the way in silence, watching the sights and sounds of Venice slide by. It was, Mazzare thought, living proof that there was such a thing as too beautiful. The palazzi were carefully constructed to be light and airy in their facades, of properly balanced proportion and perfectly tasteful adornment. Even the lack of maintenance was part of the charm. Still and all, he couldn’t help feeling that a little more austerity would improve the place no end, or at least let some of the poorer neighborhoods front onto the canal.

    As they turned onto the narrow canal that led to the embassy, a maneuver that always put Mazzare in mind of sailing into a cave-mouth, they saw an unfamiliar boat tied up in front, slightly ornate despite Venice’s ferocious sumptuary laws that insisted on the same kind of gondola for everyone.

    “Visitor, then,” Jones said as they disembarked and paid the gondolier. He nodded at the new boat. “Someone important, from the looks.”

    “Wonder who?” Mazzare mused.



    Mazarini met them inside the door, chatting with Sharon Nichols. He must have been practically standing sentry. “Your Excellency,” he said, in very solemn tone of voice, “I have a letter for you here. It’s from the Holy Father.”

    Mazzare took the proffered note. It was a very fancy looking thing. He could only stare at the missive, for some moments, while his mind raced over the possible contents. He had a sense that the blood had drained from his face.

    What was most likely, he thought, was that the Pope had decided to firmly and decisively reject Mazzare’s views on the Church’s proper theological and historical perspective and future course. If so, Larry Mazzare would finally find himself in that place he had most wanted to avoid since the Ring of Fire. The place where Martin Luther had once stood—almost half a millennium back, in the world Mazzare had come from, but not much more than a century in this one.

    Or was it, perhaps, the place where Thomas à Becket had once stood, when he made his decision?

    But there was no point in delaying. Very pale, but composed, Mazzare broken the seal and opened the letter.

    It took him some time to read it. The Latin was even more flowery than usual. Mostly, though, it took him some time because the contents were the last thing he had expected. In fact, they didn’t even qualify as “last.” He had never once imagined he might receive such a letter—neither in his dreams nor his nightmares. He had to read it three times over before he finally absorbed it.

    “I am summoned to Rome,” he said harshly. “I must appear before the Inquisition.”



    On the landing above, where he’d been eavesdropping, Gerry Stone pulled his head back and tip-toed away as fast as he could.

    “Michel was right,” he muttered to himself. “Every which way from Sunday. The bastards are pulling out all the stops.”



    Seeing the shock on the face of Simon Jones—Sharon’s too—Mazzare belatedly realized that he’d perhaps chosen his words poorly. Simon was such a close friend that the priest sometimes forgot that the Protestant minister would automatically place a different twist on certain things.

    He cawed a little laugh. “Oh, for Pete’s sake. Simon, to ‘appear before the Inquisition’—which is slang to begin with; the correct term these days is ‘Holy Office’ or ‘Commission of Inquiry’—just means about the same thing as ‘to appear in court.’ In case you’d never noticed, lots of people have to appear in court. The defendant is only one of them. There is also the prosecutor, the witnesses—”

    “They want you to be a witness, then?” Jones’ sigh of relief might have knocked down walls. The thatch walls of the lazy first little piggie, anyway. Maybe even the second.

    Mazzare looked back down at the letter. “No, as a matter of fact. They want me to appear as the attorney—well, that’s not the right term exactly—for the defense. I’m to defend Galileo before the Holy Office.”

    It was all Mazzare could do not to crumple the letter in his fist. Not in anger, but in a sudden and almost uncontrollable surge of triumph.

    Simon Jones might be a Protestant, and thus unfamiliar with the intricate workings of the Roman Catholic church. Not to mention something of a hillbilly naïf. But the Methodist minister had a very good brain, and it didn’t take him more than a few seconds to realize the truth.

    “Lord in Heaven,” he murmured. “It’s cracking, isn’t it? Cracking wide open.”

    With some effort, Mazzare took the time to fold the letter back up in a neat manner. Then, handed it back to Mazarini. “How soon?” he asked.

    “Immediately, Monsignor.” Mazarini smiled. It was a thin smile, but a cheerful one nonetheless. “Not even a man of my modest station is used simply as a courier.”

    Mazzare nodded. “No, of course not. You’re to be my escort and—ah—”

    Mazarini raised a stiff hand. The smile was on the verge of cracking open itself. “Please! I assure you, Father, that no one—certainly not Giulio Mazarini!—has ever once contemplated such crude terms as ‘jailer’ and ‘watchdog.’ The Holy Father has great trust in you.”

    The diplomat cocked his head a bit sideways, narrowing his eyes. “Um. Actually, I think that last bit may even be true. And what a rare wonder that would be, in this odd business we practice.”

    Mazarini now gestured to the door. “I have made all the arrangements, Father. A boat to take us to the mainland. Thereafter, an excellent carriage. We can leave as soon as you are ready.”

    “I’ll just need a half hour to pack some things.” Mazzare turned to Jones. “This is something I have to do, Simon. Must. But... can you come with me? I’d find your company a help and a comfort.”

    Simon didn’t hesitate for more than a second. “Yes, of course. But who’ll hold the fort for us while we’re gone? Stoner’s back up in Padua.”

    “I’ll send word for him to get right back,” said Sharon firmly. “In the meantime, I imagine I can handle whatever needs to be. It can’t be that hard, right? Basically, I just pass the buck until Stoner gets back, and then he passes the buck until you do. Stoner’s a world-class buck-passer and I’m no slouch either, if I say so myself.” She gave Mazzare a dazzling smile.

    Neither statement was actually true at all. Sharon was almost compulsive about doing her duty and, in his own inimitable way, Stoner was even more so. Still...

    Mazzare had other things on his mind, and the fact was that he had a great deal of confidence in Sharon Nichols. Even, for that matter, in Tom Stone. Besides, he understood enough already just in the short time he’d had to think about it to realize that the Pope’s decision to appoint Mazzare to defend Galileo was going to transform Europe’s politics. Whatever real diplomacy would be practiced in Italy for the next period would be practiced in Rome, not Venice.

    “All right, Sharon. Thanks.” He started to turn away to attend to his packing, when a last thought arrested him. “Oh. And—ah—explain it to Mike Stearns as best you can when—”

    He managed not to glance at Mazarini. “—whenever you can send off a letter.”

    Sharon’s smile was really quite dazzling. And Mazzare noted with approval that she didn’t even glance up the stairs toward the radio room. “Yeah, sure, Father. Consider it done. I’ll start writing the letter as soon as you and the Monsignor are gone.”



    “We don’t have any choice, Frank,” insisted Ron. “You heard what Gerry said. I mean, we’re talking about the Inquisition here. They’re not even respecting Father Mazzare’s diplomatic immunity any more. You think they won’t cut our throats—or your girlfriend’s—without blinking an eye? Okay, sure, Antonio’s a little too sure of himself, maybe. But, you ask me, he’s an island of sanity in this crazy place.”

    Frank ran fingers through his hair, glancing at their youngest brother. For once, the sixteen-year-old wasn’t looking in the least bit cocksure. Gerry looked just plain scared.

    Frank didn’t blame him. He was scared himself. Joe Buckley tortured and murdered—the authorities making it clear they were going to look the other way—and Father Mazzare now hauled off to an Inquisition dungeon in Rome. Michel Ducos hiding out from his own French embassy at the Marcolis—they’d tried to kill him, he said. Given how crazy everything had suddenly gotten, Frank had no trouble believing it either. Michel certainly had a nasty-looking defensive wound on his hand

    Worst of all, in some ways, was that their dad wasn’t available to talk to. He and Magda were in Padua. As much as Tom Stone could often drive his sons nuts, at bottom they trusted him more than most kids did their parents. Even his good judgment.

    The thought of his father in Padua did the trick. Frank knew that Antonio Marcoli was planning to travel through Padua on the way to Rome. Frank could at least get Giovanna out of the murder hole that Venice had turned into and maybe keep her safe. And he could ask his dad what he thought about Marcoli’s plan when they reached Padua. Frank had always thought the plan was pretty nutty, but...

    All of Italy looked to be a madhouse. So maybe it wasn’t so crazy after all.

    “All right,” he said, “we’ll do it. As soon as that bastard Mazarini’s gone with the Father.”

    Gerry had drifted over to the window in their rooms as Frank had ruminated. Suddenly, he stiffened. “They’re leaving now. And—damn it, look!—they’re hauling away Reverend Jones too.”

    The look on his face combined indignation and fear. “I thought they couldn’t do that? I mean, he’s not a Catholic to begin with.”

    Ron shrugged. “I’d say they can pretty much do whatever they want to. What’s Mike Stearns gonna do? Send an army across the Alps at the same time we’re fighting everybody else in Europe? Not hardly.”

    Fifteen minutes later, they slipped out of the back door of the embassy and headed for Murano.



    The radio at the embassy wasn’t capable of reaching across the Alps during the daytime, so Sharon would have to wait until the evening window to send a message to Magdeburg bringing Francisco Nasi and the Prime Minister up to date on the most recent developments. In the meantime, she decided she would write a letter.

    In the end, after dillying for a bit, Sharon decided to make it a brief note. That would be enough to bring Sanchez to the embassy, and she found herself unable to write anything more extensive. She needed to be looking him straight in the face when she said what she had to say.

    Whatever that might be. She still wasn’t really sure. She needed to look at him.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image