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The Hassassin lay his unconscious trophy in the rear of the van and took a moment to admire her sprawled body. She was not as beautiful as the women he bought, and yet she had an animal strength that excited him. Her body was radiant, dewy with perspiration. She smelled of musk.

As the Hassasin stood there savoring his prize, he ignored the throb in his arm. The bruise from the falling sarcophagus, although painful, was insignificant . . . well worth the compensation that lay before him. He took consolation in knowing the American who had done this to him was probably dead by now.

Gazing down at his incapacitated prisoner, the Hassassin visualized what lay ahead. He ran a palm up beneath her shirt. Her breasts felt perfect beneath her bra. Yes, he smiled. You are more than worthy. Fighting the urge to take her right there, he closed the door and drove off into the night.

There was no need to alert the press about this killing . . . the flames would do that for him.

At CERN, Sylvie sat stunned by the camerlegno’s address. Never before had she felt so proud to be a Catholic and so ashamed to work at CERN. As she left the recreational wing, the mood in every single viewing room was dazed and somber. When she got back to Kohler’s office, all seven phone lines were ringing. Media inquiries were never routed to Kohler’s office, so the incoming calls could only be one thing.

Geld. Money calls.

Antimatter technology already had some takers.

Inside the Vatican, Gunther Glick was walking on air as he followed the camerlegno from the Sistine Chapel. Glick and Macri had just made the live transmission of the decade. And what a transmission it had been. The camerlegno had been spellbinding.

Now out in the hallway, the camerlegno turned to Glick and Macri. “I have asked the Swiss Guard to assemble photos for you—photos of the branded cardinals as well as one of His late Holiness. I must warn you, these are not pleasant pictures. Ghastly burns. Blackened tongues. But I would like you to broadcast them to the world.”

Glick decided it must be perpetual Christmas inside Vatican City. He wants me to broadcast an exclusive photo of the dead Pope? “Are you sure?” Glick asked, trying to keep the excitement from his voice.

The camerlegno nodded. “The Swiss Guard will also provide you a live video feed of the antimatter canister as it counts down.”

Glick stared. Christmas. Christmas. Christmas!

“The Illuminati are about to find out,” the camerlegno declared, “that they have grossly overplayed their hand.”