Prologue

A Thursday in November

`Yes, I agree, the implications are enormous.  Goodbye, Archbishop.`

The Bishop replaced the telephone in its holder and reclined in his office chair.  A smile of both satisfaction and relief filled his youthful-looking face.

`I have been taken seriously,` he whispered, stunned.  His secretary sat opposite him, across the other side of a desk covered in papers.  `I have an appointment with him next Friday,` he told her.  `I`d like you to cancel anything that I have already got booked for then and the following two days.`

 Sybil scribbled a note on the pad she was holding.  `Do you literally mean anything?` she asked, for clarification.

 `Yes, anything.  Nothing could be more important than this.`

 He studied the letters that lay before him; he had read them over and over again, for they had become the dominating preoccupation of his life; almost an obsession.  All other subjects of his work had slid into the shadows of non-priority.

 With reverence, he handled each letter, one by one, and placed them in a single pile, ensuring they sat neatly upon each other, and then returned them to the white card folder in which they had been safely stored.  He was about to pass it back to Sybil when he paused to consider the situation.

`I think,` he spoke softly, as if fearing to be overheard, `I will hold on to this folder.  If you need it, just let me know.`

`That`s only what I expected,` Sybil replied with a knowing smile. `I will see you tomorrow morning.`  She left the office, closing the door gently behind her.

`Goodnight, Sybil. Thank you.` he called after her.

He was alone, again.  After a few minutes of deep, prayerful thought, he lovingly picked the folder up in his arms, like a mother caressing her newborn baby.  He heard the familiar sound of the Clio leaving the driveway.  Now he was really alone.

He took the folder to another room – almost empty of furniture, except for a large table at the far end.  Here he carefully placed it, quietly spoke some appropriate words, then turned and left the room, extinguishing the light.  He walked to the lobby, whereupon he collected his black overcoat and left the house under the watchful rays of the external security lights.

Soon, he was in total darkness, but, quite quickly, his eyes became accustomed to the absence of the light on November evenings.   He walked to the nearby parkland where the night sky would be vast, and he would feel totally insignificant.

There, he would be able to think.  No distractions. No unwanted `phone calls.  Nothing.  He could plan his meeting with the Archbishop – making sure he wouldn’t forget to say all he needed to say.  He stopped, and corrected himself – all that God wanted him to say.