One terrible day a German man came to the city of Rome.
The man was a priest; he had been an exorcist, a long time ago.
He was met at the airport by a shining white Rolls-Royce with the keys of Peter on the immaculate passenger-side door, and a black cardinal in a black robe waiting by it. “Father Braun”, the cardinal said, opening the door for him.
“Father Braun”, the cardinal said, opening the door when they arrived at an underground garage, under St. Peter’s.
“Father Braun”, he said, completing a trinity, opening a door to a richly, Renaissance-ly decorated room deep within that church of churches.
Two more cardinals were waiting for the German priest; their salutations need not be repeated here.
“So now you come for me”, the German said, sitting down without being asked. “Pardon that I sit without asking, but ministering to a herd of superstitious gobshites in Bavaria, the arse end of the Protestancy-ridden corpse of Germany, does erode your fucking manners a bit. Also Islam blows. What do you want of me, crowpack?”
The cardinals looked at each other in dismay; then the black one spoke. “It is a case of demonic possession.”
The German snorted. “You told me to never speak of possession again.”
“That was the old Pope”, a white-skinned, corpse-faced cardinal interjected, “the German one. We have grown wiser since.” He drummed long fingers on a folder on a table of gold and curlicues; within the folder, twenty years old, was a good reason for the German’s presence, and some facts that very convincingly argued for the side of his absence.
“Not wise enough to recall me until now”, the German growled. His black suit was crumpled by age and travel; his white collar was closer to yellow. “Not wise enough, back then, to believe your own exorcist when I told—”
“No”, the third cardinal, tanned and young for one of that set, admitted with a bland face, “not quite as wise as that. But our decision was wise for its time, as that folder documents. That the two of you, cooped up in that mountain cabin, both of you exorcists of great experience, should start reading each other for signs of possession…”
“And”, the first, the black cardinal continued, “that as the snows piled up and electricity went out and you waited for rescue, irritated and scared and angry at, uh, the organizational infelicity that had trapped you there…”
“That you would”, the third, the white, cardinal concluded, “um, go a bit crazy and one of you would kill the other, well, that would be terribly psychological.“
“So now you believe me?” the German asked, affecting an appearance both sodden and smouldering.
“Well now”, the second cardinal muttered, “as it happens, now a demon of the same name has shown up, and no other exorcist has been able to deal with it. It took us a week to find your file.”
“Fine”, the German sighed. “Show me the cellar you’ve locked the poor bastard in. I’ll help if I can.”
“Oh no”, the third said, “no cellar, obviously there is no cellar; the place is very smart, and you will have all the help, all the personnel and materiel that you require.”
“Everything! But speed, secrecy and safety are paramount!”
“And so”, the first muttered, “shall we proceed to the Papal apartment?”
Maria Claudia Lucrezia Rossi was not a good Catholic, but she was fairly certain there could be no good reason why a trio of cardinals, sweaty and fussy, should rush into her little shop of pornographic films, Vatican credit cards in hand, and leave a minute later, each with a heaping armful of every DVD they could lay their hands on.
No, it did not seem at all proper to her. If nothing else, the cardinals should use civilian clothing, at the very least. She had the reputation of her place to think of.
“Well”, the German said, “that did not work.”
Next to him, the Pope levitated over a smouldering pile of burned DVDs and lecherous magazines. The Pope’s eyes were red, but not from the smoke. The place, capacious enough for the smoking and the floating, was a gallery of St. Peter’s, big enough to admit a 747 sans wings, and at the moment closed to visitors, officially because of restorations, actually because of an exorcism and a floating Pope.
“That’s the demons of lust out, I suppose”, the German declared at the cardinals.
Above them, the old man in a white-and-gold robe gibbered and rolled red eyes; a red shoe dropped off one foot and bounced into a cardinal’s shin; the cardinal grunted “Clogs!” and cast an accusing eye heavenwards.
“I think we’ll try the Big List of Saints next”, the German declared. “Get me the biggest list of saints you can find.”
“No!” the black cardinal said, blanching. “That’s the three-volume list from 1676!”
“Then get a library cart! And reading glasses for each of you, you’ll read while I waft the censer. And pray that works because the idea after that is unpleasant.”
“I think”, Ms. Valmorde, the Vatican librarian of the 17th-century holy names library, said, “that those three are up to no good.”
“Which three?” Ms. Glassvitch, the assistant of the same, asked.
“Those three cardinals. Running around, heaving books… running and books is always a bad combination. Especially running with such big heavy books.”
“They stumble on the power cord too, no?” Glassvitch asked.
“One of three”, Ms. Valmorde said, with a sniff. She would need to position the cord more deviously in the future.
“So”, the German said, while the three cardinals were away, discreetly looking for a discreet dominatrix and seven black cats with white eyebrows, “you amused yet?”
“It is not amusement”, the other said, “but the proper way to conduct a job interview for this position of mine.”
“A pretty terrible live-fire interview if you ask me”, the German snorted.
“Hey, whatever the Boss up there wants”, the Pope said, blinking red eyes and smiling beatifically (though on that account, prematurely). “Want to bet the tan one is the first to go into a crisis of faith? Ten euros says he’ll be lord and mastering Satan before the sun is down, and it’s between the other two.”
“Heck no”, the German said, “you’re tight with the Boss, and he knows too much.”
The Pope hovered in a circle and laughed.