A gift for Cardinal Ouellet.
It was a dark and rainy night, and I was wondering what other little kindnesses I could render towards my chosen cardinal, when I heard a sharp "Psst!" and saw, skulking in the shadows, an oddly-assorted couple: a large man dressed as a priest, and a smaller smartly-dressed man in glasses. "Austen Ivereigh" said the small man. "No, Ford Prefect," I replied, thinking that he was asking about my car.
Cardinal Cormac issues his instructions.
"The Argentine goose is coming to land in Rome," said the large man, mysteriously. "I hope that we can rely on your support."
"The chemist at the conclave is ready to release white smoke," he went on. "Or, to put it terms that even an idiot would understand: can we rely on you to support Team Bergoglio?"
Don't cross Cormac the Mighty!
"You wouldn't want to wake up with a horse's head in your bed, now, would you?" continued the smaller man. "My friend here can't take part in the conclave himself, but he's decided what result we want, and we need your backing. Old man Kasper's with us. Hummes is signed up. Dolan will stay on board if we keep him well fed. Mahony will do what we tell him. All in all, we're heading for victory here."
"Who is this Bergoglio?" I asked. "What is he likely to do if he becomes pope?"
"If he doesn't want to end up at the bottom of the Tiber in concrete boots, he'll do whatever we tell him," cackled the older man. "For a start, he'll make Vincent Nichols a cardinal - which Benedict would never have done - and then at the next conclave we can push for Vin to take over as pope. Gay masses in the Lateran Basilica! Tina Beattie addressing the College of Cardinals! Can you imagine it? All my dreams come true!"
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor explains his plans.
In the end I owned up that I probably wouldn't be allowed into the conclave to vote: the red biretta was fine, but apparently the security checks were becoming more stringent, and in the end they had no record of a Cardinal Eccles. "Well, remember!" insisted the older man. "If anyone asks, this conversation never took place! You never saw me. I wasn't here..." He drew his fingers across his neck in the liturgically-approved "I'll slit your throat if you betray us" gesture, and the pair of them disappeared into the shadows.
Eccles feels threatened.
It is only now that the truth is coming out: a rival gang, known only as "Team Burke", has provided me with a totally new identity, and I am ready to tell my story.