Wittenberg Returns

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:35 AM

Before the semester became too hectic, I had started a little short story (or, if I'm motivated enough, maybe we'll be able to call it a online novella before I am done) involving Pastor Doug, Father Thomas, and Agents Cassandra Myers and Mark Douglas. I thought I would pick up the story where I left off. If you are new to asisaid since February, or you'd like to refresh yourself on the story line, you should probably check out the first three parts (they aren't that long) before continuing: one, two and three.

Father Thomas opened the lid of his laptop and clicked on his web browser. Myers and Douglas had walked outside and were now pacing back and forth under the covered entrance to the chapel. Myers was speaking rapidly to whoever was on the other end of her cell phone connection. He went to Google. Thomas was not a detective, but he was an avid reader and spent many of his quiet evenings researching a manuscript he had only unwittingly stumbled on the existence of on a trip to the Vatican twenty years before. That manuscript came to mind afresh as he contemplated the crime scene that was the front of his little church.

The Skotia Thelossa had fallen off a shelf in the archives when he had been doing research for an archdiocese commission. The commission was interested in some communications between itself and the Vatican from the time of the archdiocese's founding in the early nineteenth century, and he had gotten turned around. A book entitled the Writings of John Eck: An Orthodox and Complete Response to the Heretical Martin Luther in Accord with the Intentions of the Holy See, Concerning His Heinous 95 Theses and Putrid Other Miscellaneous Writings and Remarks up to the Present Day, had caught his attention partially for its long title — such that many books from the early years of the printing press seemed to obtain — and more so as an ironic twist as he stood there as a priest who participated in Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

He had reached for the book when Skotia Thelossa had fallen out on the floor. It was a modest looking little book that appeared as if it had not been touched for ages. Unlike most of the old books surrounding him, Skotia Thelossa looked to be an original manuscript, beautifully handwritten in German. It contained a date at the beginning of January 6, 1521, which placed it just days after the excommunication of Martin Luther. With his minute knowledge of German, he had no idea what the manuscript talked about, but he wondered if it had to do with the Reformation, given its date and proximity to the book by Eck.

A note was attached inside, however, that would insure the manuscript would become a project of his for the next two decades: “Stom, this text will either save you or kill you. Ignore it at your own peril, but whatever you do, do not leave it here and do not show it to anyone. Yours, M.J.J.” Only his sister, who had died at age five, had ever called him “Stom.” Whoever had written this, clearly knew far too much. But dare he steal an artifact from the Vatican Archive? The words of the short note spun around in his head. He tucked the manuscript under his jacket and swiftly left the building.

Agent Mark Douglas watched his partner Cassandra Myers as she continued to hold a lively conversation with the department's chief investigative officer. He smiled a sad, melancholy smile. If he let his eyes close part way, as they were apt to do this time of night, the blurred figure of Myers reminded him of Jess Hudgins. Hudgins had been his best friend through college, often prodding him to finish assignments when he did not feel like it and spending time talking about whatever caught their fancy, as they sat on a bench in the quad. She was, in his estimation, absolutely perfect and he had fallen deeply for her, but though he was apt to offer a compliment, he never volunteered that much too her. She was his dear friend and, well, that he was just fearful to say anything that might wreck that.

Myers had slapped her phone closed at some point, but Douglas was off into the past. Cassandra sighed, why was Douglas always sitting there with a stupid look on his face while she dealt with the idiots back at the office? He was going to have to talk to them next time. She called out his name, but he was oblivious. A little sharper — “Mark!”

He finally came to. “Oh, yes, sorry Cassie, I was just thinking.”

“Yes, I know, thinking, thinking. There's too much of that going on around here! You know who thinks this case isn't really worth having an investigative team on — he wants to chalk it up to small time vandalism! Is he insane?”

“Small time vandalism does seem a bit of a lightweight accusation against someone going from church to church and hacking off their doors. I'm not sure how bad this is, but it is at least odd enough to warrant a little investigation.”

“That's what I told him. He said we'd discuss it in the morning, but we could stay on it for at least a few hours.”

Thomas looked outside from his laptop and noticed that the agents were no longer on the phone. He closed the lid of his laptop and walked out side.

“Wouldn't you too liked to come back in? It is such a nasty night out there,” he said, gesturing towards the glowing light of his kitchen. The agents shrugged and started to walk toward him when a small clicking sound just loud enough to be noticeable came from somewhere near where the front of the church had been vandalized. All three turned and looked toward the gaping hole where the door had been just in time to see a bright flash of light and here a sickening boom. The three were knocked to the ground.

Skotia Thelossa,” Thomas muttered to himself. “It is going to kill me.”

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