Inigo de Loyola stood on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the wrought iron fence surrounding the White House. He remained there long enough to get on the nerves of the uniformed Secret Service officers watching him. Twilight on that mild April day was about to yield to night and, though the grounds of the Executive Mansion were well lighted, the men and women charged with protecting the president knew that crazies always felt more empowered by the onset of darkness. Adding to the tension, the man outside the perimeter had his hands steepled, his head bowed and his eyes closed as if he were praying. The question was, praying for what?
Faith was a wonderful thing, but too many people who claimed to be the Almighty’s personal confidants forgot all about his sixth commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
Two uniformed officers were about to head outside the fence and interview the pious figure in his hand-me-down clothes when SAC Elspeth Kendry appeared. The special agent in charge of the White House Security Detail had noticed the man while doing a routine inspection of the grounds from the roof of the mansion.
She told the uniformed captain on duty, “I’ll handle this one.”
While following her order without quibble, the captain still positioned his two best marksmen to take the man outside the fence down, should his intentions prove more diabolical than divine. SAC Kendry was smart enough to give them a clear field of fire.
She stopped ten feet away from the man. She looked at his face. Having grown up in Beirut during dangerous times, she’d looked into the eyes of more than a few fanatics. The religiously inflamed, the politically fanatic and the mentally unhinged. She didn’t get any of those vibes from this man.
As if he was not only aware of her presence — with his eyes still closed — but also knew what she was thinking, he told her, “I mean no harm. I came only to pray for the president, for her well being and for all those who live and work here.”
The man opened his eyes, looked at Elspeth and introduced himself by name.
His English carried an accent. Spanish she thought, but with an overlay of Italian. It was an attractive combination when grafted onto a gentle baritone voice. The rest of him wasn’t hard to take either. His hair and beard could have used barbering, but both were silver and full. His brows were as dark brown as his eyes. His nose and mouth were large but well formed.
Elspeth had also seen any number of attractive men whose souls were as vile as vomit.
She said, “I was going to say you’ve been here for quite a while, but if you’ve been praying for everyone at the White House, that’s a big job.”
“I have years of practice,” de Loyola said.
“You’re a priest?”
“I’m a Jesuit, currently without a formal assignment.”
Elspeth looked at the man’s clothes. Resale shop, if that. Not pressed, but still clean. No holes.
“What do you do informally, Father?”
“I minister to the poor.”
“Trying to save their souls?”
“Trying to fill their bellies.”
Elspeth had attended a Catholic school in Beirut.
She remembered the beatitudes.
“Blessed are the merciful,” she said.
“For they will be shown mercy,” de Loyola replied.
“Is there somewhere you’d like to be taken, Father?”
“Heaven, borne on the wings of angels, but I doubt that will be my fate.”
He gave Elspeth a smile. Had nice teeth, too, she saw. Not common among street people.
“I am free to go?” he asked.
“Of course, Father. Go with God.”
He might have taken offense, and that would have told Elspeth something.
Namely, the guy should be marked as a potential threat.
Scheduled for a more serious discussion should he make a return appearance.
But Inigo de Loyola only expanded his smile and nodded at Elspeth.
As if to say, “Good one.”