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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. The Rozabal Line - Ashwin Sanghi. Jannu Sasidhar. Even though it was only three in the afternoon, it felt like nightfall. Icy winter winds, having wafted through the numerous apple and cherry orchards of the area, sent a spicy and refreshing aromatic chill to the man's nostrils.

Waziristan, Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Waziristan was no-man's-land, a rocky and hilly area on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and a law unto itself. Even though Waziristan was officially part of Pakistan, it was actually self-administered by Waziri tribal chiefs, who were feared warriors, as well as being completely indomitable and conservative. The presence of the lanky, olive-skinned man wearing a simple white turban, camouflage jacket and holding a walking cane in his left hand was a little out of place in this region.

The man was extremely soft-spoken and gentle in his ways.

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His overall demeanour was that of an ascetic, not a warrior. So what was he doing in this harsh land where swords and bullets did most of the talking? He was sitting inside a cave on a beautiful Afghan rug.

His few trusted followers sat around him drinking tea.

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He was talking to them. It wasn't a school! It wasn't someone's home. And the accepted view would be that most of the people inside were responsible for backing a terrible financial power that excels in spreading worldwide mischief! Those who kill our women and our innocent, we kill their women and innocent until they desist. What else is left to achieve? We then destroyed their security through attacks on their soil.

We shall now attackthe only thing that is left--their faith. I have a secret weapon,' said the Sheikh in his usual hushed voice. Vatican City, Popes had ruled most of the Italian peninsula, Rome included, for over a millennium, until It instantly became the world's smallest state, with an area of just 0.

His Eminence Alberto Cardinal Valerio was just one among other national citizens of the Holy See but was extremely important among the cardinals. He now sat in his office wearing his black simar with scarlet piping and scarlet sash around his waist. The bright scarlet symbolised the cardinal's willingness to die for his faith.

To die or to kill, thought His Eminence. The young woman who entered his office had delicate features and flawless skin. It was evident that she possessed a beautiful blend of European and Oriental features. Her bright eyes shone with fervent devotion and she knelt before His Eminence. It has been a year since my last confession.

He motioned for her to talk by waving his podgy hand. On his ring finger sat a pigeon-blood-red Burmese ruby of Swakilki began. He deserved it for his blasphemy. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mail sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae.

Swakilki looked up at the cardinal. He was seated on a large leather sofa in the luxurious office. Now listen carefully. The hotel would soon become one of the most luxurious hotels of Zurich, the Baur au Lac. He was quite obviously a very valued regular patron. Why else would the hotel specifically stock Brunello di Montalcino, his favourite Tuscanwine? There was a discreetknock at the door. The brother commanded in fluent German, ' Kommen sie herein!

The visitor was a thin, spectacled man. Mr Egloff was the investment advisor from Bank Leu, the oldest Swiss bank in the world. Unknown to the outside world, the strange sounding offshore trusts managed by Herr Egloff for his clients had anagrams as the beneficiaries. Brother Manning chuckled to himself. After all, the beneficiary of the Oedipus trust was Opus Dei and the primary beneficiary of the Isabel Madonna trust was Osama-bin-Laden. The onward trek to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and thereon to Hemis had sapped all his energy.

To make matters worse, he had injured his right leg as a result of a fall from the mule that was carrying him. Hemis was one of the most respected Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh, and their visitor was welcomed as an honoured guest.

The monks quickly carried him into their simple quarters and began tending to his injury. He had not expected such a forthright approach. The wise Lama smiled quizzically at Dmitriy and then quietly continued, 'The soul of Buddha certainly was incarnate in the great Issa who, without resorting to war, was able to spread the wisdom of our beautiful religion through many parts of the world. Issa is an honoured prophet, who took birth after twenty-two earlier Buddhas.

His name, his life and his deeds are noted in the texts that you refer to. But first you must rest and allow yourself to heal. The Buddhist monks applied a wide assortment of herbal remedies and packs, but they were of little help.

He attempted to ignore the pain and continue his animated conversation with the Lama. The Lama was turning his prayer-wheel when he stopped and said, 'The Muslims and Buddhists do not share common-alities. The Muslims used violence and battles to convert Buddhists to Islam. This was never the case with the Christians.

They could be considered honorary Buddhists! It's truly sad to seethat Christians decided to forget their roots and wander further and further away from Buddhism! The Lama's words seemed to be questioning years of conventional wisdom. He realised how momentous his discovery was, but he also knew the danger of exposing his knowledge to the Western world. He would be branded a traitor and a liar. His words would be considered blasphemous.

He would need to proceed carefully. Dmitriy quickly asked again whether he would be able to see the sacred writings that the Lama was referring to. The Lama looked at him and smiled. He waited for several days to see the writings that the Lama had spoken of, the ones about Issa. It was difficult to conceal his anticipation and he had been sorely tempted to ask for the manuscripts without further delay. Today his patience had finally paid dividend. The Lama brought him a number of ancient scrolls written in Tibetan by Buddhist historians.

An interpreter was called for and began to translate the scrolls while Dmitriy attempted to make copies of them. The scrolls told the story of a boy called Issa, born in Judea.

The story went on to explain that sometime during the fourteenth year of his life, the boy arrived in India to study the teachings of the Buddhists. His travels through the country took him through Sindh, the Punjab and eventually to Maghada, the ancient kingdom of Ashoka, where he studied the Vedas, the Hindu texts of knowledge. However, Issa was forced to leave when he began to teach those whom the Hindu Brahmins considered 'untouchables' under the rigid caste system of Hinduism.

Issa then took refuge in Buddhist monasteries and began learning the Buddhist scriptures in Pali, the language of the Buddha. In Persia he made himself unpopular with the Zoroastrian priests.

They expelled him into the jungles, hoping he would be eaten alive by wild animals. He finally reached Judea at the age of twenty-nine. Because he had been away for so long,no one seemed to know him.

They asked, 'Who art thou, and from what country hast thou come into our own? We have never heard of thee, and do not even know thy name. While yet a child, I left my father's house to go among other nations. But hearing that my brothers were enduring still greater tortures, I have returned to the land in which my parents dwelt, that I might recall to my brothers the faith of their ancestors. As for Moses's laws, I have striven to re-establish them in the hearts of men, and I say to you that you are in ignorance of their true meaning, for it is not vengeance, but forgiveness, that they teach.

Then petrified. He knew there was no going back on his discovery. He now knew that he held in his hands one of the most stunning revelations in two millennia. His wife, Nasira, had just delivered a baby boy. The proud father had announced that he would feed all the poor and homeless in the city for a week. Large vats filled with lamb biryani, a spicy and aromatic rice pilaf, overflowed into the streets as beggars and street children flocked to Rashid's home to feast.

Rashid cradled his firstborn in his arms as he recited the Islamic prayers, Adhan in the right ear and Iqaamah in the left ear of the child, as he awaited the Khittaan, the ritual circumcision. Father and son appeared on the balcony a few moments later as cheers erupted from the throngs in the street. By the will and grace of Allah, he will be great. His name shall be Ghalib, the Victorious One! He pleaded his innocence, but his cries and protestations were to no avail. He was quickly handcuffed and dragged away to prison, where he was punched and kicked till he could barely see, hear, talk, or walk.

The next day he was found hanging in his cell; he had used his own clothes to fashion the noose around his neck. The family had been allowed to take away his body to give him a burial.

As per Islamic custom, in preparation for burial, the family was expected to wash and shroud the body. Rashid-bin-Isar was going to be buried in the clothes he had died in. He was no less than a martyr. The mourners carried his body to the burial ground where the Imam began reciting the funeral prayers, the Salat-i-Janazah. Prayers over, the men carried the body to the gravesite. Rashid's body was laid in the grave without a coffin, as per custom, on his right side, facing Mecca. Standing by the grave was little ten-year-old Ghalib, tears streaming down his cheeks.

The Imam placed his hands on Ghalib's shoulders and said, 'Son, you should not cry. You are the son of a hero. Your father's death was not in vain. You will avenge his death. Henceforth, you shall not shed tears. You shall shed blood!

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How could he possibly take revenge? He was merely a ten-year-old boy. Here the boy was enrolled into the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Madrasah, an Islamic school of learning. The lanky, olive-skinned Imam wearing a simple white turban bid him goodbye.

Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, During the next few years in Pakistan, Ghalib would go through two separate courses of study. In the Hifz course, he would memorise the holy Qur'an. In the 'Aalim course he would study the Arabic language, Qur'anic interpretation, Islamic law, the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, logic and Islamic history. At the end of his study, he would be awarded the title of 'Aalim, meaning scholar.

One day, when he was in his Islamic history class, his teacher told them about the Islamic conquests of India. This was followed by the eleventh-century incursions of Muhammad of Ghazni. Ghazni was followed by Mohammed Ghori, who left India to be ruled by his Turkish generals. Then came the attacks by the Mongol hordes of Chenghiz Khan. Then, in A. They were mostly interested in looting rather than ruling. The cane was swift on his palm.

In fact, it was God's will that India be ruled by Muslims. Till then, Hindus had continued to indulge in idolatry. The Muslim invasions made them realise the greatness of Islam! Fight a jihad to restore Islamic rule over Kashmir and then over the whole of India! Waziristan, Pakistan-Afghanistan border, The lanky, olive-skinned Imam wearing the simple white turban who had escorted the ten-year-old was now Ghalib's controller.

Everyone simply called him 'Sheikh'. He was sitting on an intricately woven rug inside his cave in Waziristan, located on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

On his right sat Ghalib-bin-Isar, the thirty-five-year-old leader of the Lashkar-e-Talatashar. He was here with his army of the dirty dozen. The host first looked at Ghalib. Each of these veterans had crossed the Khyber Pass from different parts of the world and had enrolled in the Khalden Camp run by Al-Qaeda as fresh recruits, who were now toughened and battle-ready.

Khalden was a mishmash of tents and rough stone buildings. It used to take in about a hundred recruits at a time. Each morning at Khalden, the group would be called to parade and then asked to pray. After the morning meal, they would go through endurance training followed by strength training. They would also be taught hand-to-hand combat using a variety of knives, alternative forms of garrottes and other weapons. They would learn to use small firearms, deadly assault rifles and even grenade-launchers.

The science of explosives and landmines was also part of their study. Representatives of Islamic terror groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad would regularly visit the camp in order to teach the recruits more about the practical applications of their knowledge. The Sheikh was happy with the output. These men would help the Sheikh's Master teach the whole world of infidels a lesson that they would not forget.

The Sheikh's Master was convinced that it was time to re-establish the supremacy of the Islamic Caliphate. The Sheikh wondered how it would affect the Crux Decussata Permuta.

Among those in the audience was a pretty young woman, Aki Herai. She had a job in the large Daimaru store in the Shinsaibashi district of the city but was now on leave because she was eight months pregnant.

The concert tickets were a present from her friends at the store. The delicate subject of the child's father was never discussed. The show was reaching its finale when Aki felt her water break. Her friends rushed her to Osaka National Hospital, where the doctors performed an emergency caesarean section. Her daughter, Swakilki, arrived six weeks short of a normal forty-week pregnancy. Luckily she weighed five pounds, was On Swakilki's sixth birthday, her mother threw a party.

Aki entertained the guests inside the cramped shoebox home while one of her friends took little Swakilki to the garden for some fresh air. As the womancuddled the little girl in her arms, she felt the shock from the hot blast that ripped through Aki Herai's home. The cause of the explosion would later be diagnosed as an accident--a gas leak. It was a gas leak; an accident, it was not. Yes, Swakilki was indeed a survivor--born without a father, and alive without a mother.

Tokyo, Japan, Orphaned at the age of six, Swakilki had been transferred to the Holy Family Home, an Osaka orphanage run by kind, gentle and caring nuns.

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She would spend the next six years here. During these six years she would eagerly await the monthly arrival of one of the jovial and rotund Fathers from Rome. His name was Alberto Valerio, and he would always bring her candy. For Swakilki, he was her Santa Claus. She was one of the 'lucky' ones to get adopted at the age of twelve by a fairly well-off couple in Tokyo.

What she could not have known was that the adoption would come at a price. Little Swakilki was abused and raped by her adoptive father at the age of fourteen; he told her it was their 'special little secret'. Scared and confused, she ran away a year later to take up a job in an oppaipabu, one of the sleazy establishments on the outskirts of Tokyo where customers were allowed to fondle the female staff to their hearts' content.

It was at the oppaipabu that she met an older man, Takuya. She shared his bed on the first night they met, and he shared with her his knowledge of anandamides. Anandamides are naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain whose chemical make-up is very similar to cannabis. Swakilki learnt how to enjoy the rush of anandamides within her brain when she killed. She then learnt how to make men experience the same rush when she had sex with them. Takuya trained her well over the next few years.

First came the techniques of killing--suffocation, strangulation, drowning, garrotting, poisoning, explosion, shooting, stabbing, castration and ritual disembowelment.

Next were the techniques of seduction. Tantric sex and the Kama Sutra became her daily study rituals. Self-grooming, dressing, conversation, cuisine and wine selection were next on the menu. The friendship between Takuya and Swakilki was one of mutual dependence. Takuya was closely linked to Aum Shinrikyo, a lethal religious cult.

He was member of a small group that carried out assassinations of important and influential people who were considered enemies of Aum Shinrikyo. Swakilki was an ideal recruit.

She was gorgeous, ruthless and, most importantly, emotionally barren. The final product was sexy, seductive, sultry, silent, and sharp. Her first assignment would be Murakami-san, one of the most outspoken critics of Aum Shinrikyo.

Tokyo, Japan, Swakilki and Murakami-san had dined at a very expensive Kaiseki restaurant. Kaiseki cuisine was historically vegetarian owing to its Zen origin, though not anymore.

Only the freshest seasonal ingredients were utilised, and these were cooked in a delicate style aimed at enhancing their original flavours. Each dish was exquisitely prepared and carefully presented along with elaborate garnishes of leaves and flowers. They were now in his penthouse on the top floor of a skyscraper in the neon-filled district of Shunjuku in northwest Tokyo. They lay entirely naked on the king-sized bed; she had worn him out completely.

Swakilki knew some of the finest techniques in the art of pleasuring a man. Her petite frame, perfectly rounded breasts and delicate features only accentuated her oozing sex appeal. She had taken Murakami through several waves of near orgasm using different styles of stroking and stimulation. She knew that after coming close to orgasm a few times, without releasing themselves,most men experienced very strong and sometimes very lengthy orgasms. The art of Tantra had taught her that it was possible for a man to experience the feeling of orgasm without actually ejaculating.

She had made Murakami experience several of these 'dry' orgasms in a row. When she allowed him a final release, the actual orgasm was so intense that it was a full body tremor lasting over a minute. It was thus no surprise to Swakilki that the ancient Indian sex treatise, the Kama Sutra, was still a bestseller even though its author, Vatsyayana, had written it way back in A.

She looked at Murakami-san, who was gently snoring, and sleeping like a contented baby. Quietly, she lifted her pillow and brought it down on his face. It was time for Murakami-san to sleep deeper. Swakilki had just given Seishu a hot, sensual mineral bath in the luxurious sunken marble tub of the Imperial Suite. The legendary grande dame of Tokyo, the Imperial Hotel, had 1, rooms, including 64 suites, which were mostly reserved for statesmen, royalty and celebrities.

Seishu Takemasa was all of the above. He was also close to the political establishment, including three successive prime ministers--Tsutomu Hata, Tomiichi Murayama and Ryutaro Hashimoto. The media empire he owned was second only to that of Rupert Murdoch and he had used it to launch a frontal attack on Aum Shinrikyo.

Over the years, Swakilki had grown even more attractive. She was built like a beautiful and graceful Japanese doll. Her pale ivory skin was flawless. Her dark black hair had just a hint of auburn and cascaded down all the way to the curve of her hips.

Her face was exquisite, with deep pools for eyes, an aquiline nose and delicate but full lips. She looked every inch a princess. After giving Seishu hisbath, she began to massage him. Her intention was to tune him inward while deepening his awareness. Her knowledge of Tantra allowed her to focus on all the seven chakras, the nerve centres, starting from the base of his spine, to his genitals, onward to his belly, upward to his heart, further on to his throat, northward to his forehead--the mystical third eye--and finally to the top of his head.

Her pampering ministrations had turned him into soft clay that she could mould in any way she wanted. Her present focus was on his prostate gland.

This was purportedly one of the access points for Kundalini energy, which was supposed to lead to enlightenment. As she massaged him, he began to experience a deep emotional release.

Tears ran down his cheeks. He was laughing. Then crying. It was wave after wave of immense pleasure. He looked up at her gentle smiling face to express his gratitude for her incredible skills.

He barely noticed the flash of the extremely sharp razor as it swiftly slit his throat. Osaka, Japan, On 20 March , during the morning rush hour, ten members belonging to the Aum Shinrikyo cult boarded five trains at different stations. At a predetermined time, they punctured bags of sarin gas. Twelve people died and thousands were incapacitated.

The Japanese police thought that the attack had been perpetrated by ten members of the gang. It had actually been twelve. Osaka, Japan's third largest city, with a population of 2. Higashi-Osaka, or East Osaka, was a residential suburb and its industrial district produced electric appliances, machinery, clothing fibre and paper. It had also produced Swakilki and Takuya. Like Asahara, he had failed the entrance exam at Tokyo University and had turned to studying acupuncture.

Both Asahara and Takuya had joined Agonshu, a new religion that stressed liberation from 'bad karma' via meditation. Asahara had visited India in and upon his return to Japan had claimed to have attained enlightenment in the Himalayas. He had named his new group Aum Shinrikyo. As a result, members of the cult were free to justify the abuse of other members.

As Asahara's cult grew, so did his power and wealth. All new entrants had to sever ties with their families and contribute their wealth to the cult. Aum Shinrikyo became infamous for bloody initiations, involuntary donations, threats and extortion.

Takuya was the brains and muscle behind many of these activities, although purely for commercial motivations. As Asahara became crazier, he felt the need to convince the world that an apocalypse was about to happen and that he was the world's only salvation. In he ordered clouds of sarin gas to be released in the Kita-Fukashi district of Matsumoto. This was soon followed by the horrible train attack. Asahara was eventually found hiding in a secret room in the village of Kamikuishiki.

He had in his possession a huge amount of cash and gold bars. Many of his followers were also found--comatose, under the influence of pentobarbital, an anaesthetic. Asahara and followers were indicted. Two were not. Unlike the others, Swakilki and Takuya had been with Asahara for commercial reasons alone. They had no emotional or spiritual ties to Asahara or to Aum Shinrikyo, and they were now free to do as they pleased. The popularly accepted version of the killing was that the assassin had felt betrayed by Rabin's signing of the Oslo Accord, which prompted him to take Rabin's life.

Madrid, Spain, Lopez Tomas, president of the Spanish Constitutional Court, was in his office at Madrid Autonomous University when a gunman rushed into his office and shot him at point-blank range. The commonly accepted view was that the Basque separatist group, ETA, was behind his murder.

The camera-slung Asian couple that had arrived in Frankfurt on Lufthansa's flight from Tokyo had not bothered to shoot any photographs in Germany. Instead, they had taken the connecting Spanair flight to Madrid the very same day. There had been much more to shoot in Madrid. The same day a Japanese woman had entered the capital, Dushanbe, wearing an Afghan burqa. He had been a likely candidate for President. A Japanese woman had been visiting all the tourist spots, including Asuncion, for a week around the same time.

Athens, Greece, On 16 June, David Roberts, a British military attache in Athens, was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles who belonged to N17, the Marxist revolutionary organisation. A honeymooning couple from Japan had been on a cruise of the Greek islands at that time. Manila, Philippines, On 26 February, Filemon Montinola, an upcoming left-leaning politician in the Philippines, was assassinated.

A young Japanese woman visited the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, more commonly known as the Manila Cathedral, in order to light a candle the next day. Belgrade, Serbia, On 9 May, Draginja Djindjic, the foreign minister of Serbia, was shot twice in the chest at His assassin, Vojislav Jovanoviae, had fired the bullets from another building in the area. The same building had been visited by a Japanese woman that morning. Yes, business was good for Swakilki and Takuya.

They could now work entirely for themselves, given the fact that Asahara and Aum Shinrikyo were history. It also seemed that no one was really looking for them. Actually, someone was. Swakilki's Santa Claus. His name was Alberto Valerio. The good doctor had built up a cogent case to prove that Jesus Christ had not died on the cross at all.

Alberto Cardinal Valerio took a sip of his Valpolicella, and continued reading: If the vested interests of the temple Jews had wanted to kill Jesus, they had the power to do so by stoning him to death without taking any permission from Rome.

Why did this not happen? Instead, Jesus was punished by the Romans under Roman law and then crucified--a punishment meted out to enemies of the Roman Empire. Why punish a man under Roman law if he had no political agenda, only a religious one? Under Roman law, he would have first been flogged, causing a significant loss of blood.

In this weakened state, his arms would have been fastened by thongs or nails to a solid wooden beam placed across his shoulders and neck. He would then have been made to walk to the final place of crucifixion while continuing to bear the weight of this beam.

Thus suspended, the victim would have been able to survive for a couple of days provided that his feet remained fixed to the cross. His feet remaining fixed would have enabled him to keep breathing by reducing the pressure on his chest.

Eventually, the victim would have died from exhaustion, thirst or blood poisoning caused by the nails. The victim's protracted agony could have been brought to an end by breaking his knees, causing the entire pressure to shift to the victim's chest, resulting in immediate asphyxiation.

Thus, contrary to popular opinion, the breaking of the knees was not malicious--in fact, it was an act of mercy. Jesus's knees were never broken, yet he died within a few hours on the cross. During his suspension from the cross, Jesus said that he was thirsty. Popular opinion tells us that he was sadistically offered a sponge soaked in vinegar instead of one soaked in water.

It is worthwhile to note that vinegar was used to revive exhausted slaves on ships. In fact, the vinegar should have revived him temporarily. Instead, he spoke his final words and died immediately upon inhaling the vinegar fumes. Why did it have this opposite effect on him? There is one possible explanation.

The sponge might not have contained vinegar. Instead, it may have contained a compound of belladonna and opium. This would have made Jesus pass out completely, only making it appear that he was dead. This would have prevented the guards from carrying out the final act of breaking his knees, leading to death from actual asphyxiation. Roman law specifically prohibited bodies of crucified victims being given back to the family.

Bodies were meant to remain on the cross to decay or to be consumed by birds of prey. Why did Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, decide to ignore Roman law and allow Jesus's body to be handed over for burial to Joseph of Arimathea? It was time to send another heretic to burn in hell! Alberto Cardinal Valerio was a jovial, rotund and gregarious individual.

His smiling eyes, his pink face and his Buddha-belly gave him the demeanour and appearance of a jolly Santa Claus. The position that he occupied, however, was sombre and serious. The Vatican Secret Archives were the central repository for all documents that had been accumulated by the Roman Catholic Church over many ages.

The Archives, containing thirty miles of bookshelves, had been closed to outsiders by Pope Paul V in the seventeenth century and they had remained closed till the nineteenth.

Alberto Valerio had been born in in Turin. Ordained in , he had soon been offered his first appointment in the Roman Curia and had rapidly risen through various positions in the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities till he had eventually become its undersecretary in He had held several positions within the Curia till he was given charge of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, a position he relished immensely. What was common knowledge was his membership in the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, an association of the clergy who were completely supportive of Opus Dei and its activities.

What was not common knowledge was Valerio's membership of the Crux Decussata Permuta. It had a rather curious design. After a few rings a female voice answered at the other end. His Eminence began 'Ohaya gozaimasu. Can you meet me in London sometime in the next two days? We'll meet in my suite. She absentmindedly ran her fingers over the strange tattoo on her left forearm. The tattoo had been placed there by her mother, Aki, when Swakilki had turned five.

It was identical to the one that Aki had also possessed on her own arm. Swakilki remembered the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul who had taken such good care of her during her six years at the Holy Family orphanage in Osaka. She also remembered the jovial Santa Claus who had brought candy for all the kids in the orphanage in those years.

She had always thought of him as Santa Clausever since; his real name of course had been Alberto Valerio. He had taken special interest in her due to his personal friendship with Swakilki's late mother, Aki. After her adoption she had continued to receive postcards from him for the next two years, but she had lost contact with him after she ran away from her abusive adoptive father. He had somehow managed to track her down several years later.

She had confessed her plight to him, revealing the most intimate details of her life. He had then said to her, 'I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Henceforth she would no longer kill for Aum Shinrikyo.

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Only for Christ. London, UK, Virgin Atlantic's flight from Tokyo's Narita airport took off on the dot at 11am and landed at London Heathrow a few minutes before the scheduled arrival of 3: On board in Virgin's Upper Class cabin was a Japanese couple who had spent the entire twelve-and-a-half-hour flight sleeping soundly. When the elaborate dinner consisting of shrimp with fish roe, zucchini in miso paste, egg yolk crabmeat rolls, buckwheat noodles and green tea, had been served, they had continued to sleep.

They were certainly the freshest passengers to emerge from the Airbus aircraft in London. Just another camera-slung Japanese tourist couple, the immigration officer thought of Mr and Mrs Yamamoto while cursorily checking their passports.

The landing cards they had filled in on the flight indicated that they were staying for a week at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane. He stamped their passports matter-of-factly and waved them through. They had no checked-in luggage, only onboard strollers, so they did not need to wait at the conveyor belts that were being crowded by hundreds of bleary-eyed passengers.

Instead, they passed through the green channel at Heathrow's Terminal Three and walked straight through the arrival area to the taxi departure point without raising any suspicion. There were four London cabs waiting and they got into the first one in line. Not the Grosvenor House. At the reception desk of the London Hilton, the uninterested receptionist required their passports and a credit card.

Takuya was happy to give her two false passports, one belonging to him and one to his wife, along with a Visa card. Upon reaching their room on the Executive Floor, Swakilki took off her curly wig and Takuya removed his clear-glass spectacles and his neat little moustache. They got out of their casual travelling clothes and showered vigorously before putting on fresh formals. Swakilki then put the curly wig back on her head while Takuya once again put on his clear-glass spectacles and moustache.

They then took the elevator to the lobby and walked out of the hotel onto Park Lane, turned right, and walked from the Hilton at 22 Park Lane, to 54 Park Lane, which housed The Dorchester Hotel, just a few blocks away.

Matthew Sinclair sat riveted on a well-worn sofa and watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. Also watching the incredible spectacle was his wife Julia, along with their three-week-old baby boy, Vincent Matthew Sinclair.

Another important event had taken place a year before Neil Armstrong's arrival on the moon and little Vincent's arrival on earth. Terence Cardinal Cooke had become the archbishop of New York.

On the day of Cooke's installation, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, leading to bloody riots in many American cities.

Between and the number of diocesan priests in New York would decline by around 30 per cent, infant baptisms would fall by around 40 per cent, and church weddings would decline by around 50 per cent. It seemed that Catholicism was quickly going out of fashion in New York.

In the midst of this turmoil within the archdiocese of New York, the Sinclairs, who were extremely religious, hoped that their son would eventually make them proud by entering Saint Joseph's Seminary. Vincent's demeanour, even as a child, was one of piety, and the priesthood seemed preordained. Thus it was preordained by God and ordained by his parents that Vincent would become one of the rapidly shrinking minority groups--that of diocesan priests. He was playing with Kate, the neighbour's daughter, in the backyard.

They were on a swing that his father, Matthew, had rigged to a sturdy branch of a strong tree in the yard. Vincent had already had a go at sitting on the swing and being pushed by Kate; it was now her turn to sit and be pushed.

Boys will be boys. A mischievous glow was on Vincent's face as he began pushing the swing for Kate. As the momentum increased, he found that he could send her higher and higher into the air with less and less effort. The resultant effect was a look of panic on Kate's innocent face. Pushing was certainly more fun than being pushed. Then the inevitable happened. The final push was too strong and Kate lost her balance.

Poor little Kate fell to the ground and grazed her knee. Vincent's mother, Julia, and his aunt, Martha, ran out to apply an anti-bacterial ointment on the little girl, who was lying on the ground with tears streaming down her rosy cheeks. Vincent was standing next to her, feeling apologetic and offering his hand to help her up. While holding out his hand, he was repeating the words, 'Talitha koum.

Talitha koum. When he had entered in, he said to them, 'Why do you make an uproar and weep? The child is not dead, but is asleep. But he, having put them all out, took the father of the child, her mother, and those who were with him, and went in where the child was lying. Taking the child by the hand, he said to her, 'Talitha koum!

Construction of St Patrick's Cathedral, located on 50th Street and 5th Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, had been completed in However, it was only in that the cathedral received a new amplification system as well as modernised lighting.

Due to this technology upgrade, Father Vincent Sinclair's ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood was seen and heard clearly by all who were present. Present among the crowd were two very proud parents, Julia and Matthew Sinclair, as well as a bored but dutifully present aunt, Martha Sinclair. His duties included celebrating Mass on Sundays and other days, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, baptising newborns, marrying the marriageable and burying the dead.

Besides his church duties, Vincent also began teaching history to a class of Catholic boys at the nearby Archbishop Stepinac High School. On Vincent's first day at school, Ted had cornered him in the schoolyard. Without waiting for an answer, Ted plodded on, 'You see, the Bible's Leviticus Problem is, how do I tell?

I have tried asking, but most women take offence! Ted, blowing an ugly puff of acrid smoke from a cheap cigar, continued with his 'serious' issues. What do you think would be a fair price? Pretty much oblivious to Vincent's reactions, Ted went on, 'Leviticus Do you think this applies to both Mexicans and Canadians?

Ted paused for effect and then continued, 'I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus Am I morally obliged to kill him? Vincent couldn't help doubling up with laughter. From that day onwards, Ted and Vincent were firm friends. However, things were about to change.

We tend to forget that he was unsuccessful in many of his pursuits. He lost several law cases, failed in his effort to become the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee, and lost again when he ran against Stephen Douglas for the US Senate. The important thing to remember is that he didn't let these defeats stop him. He ran for President in and won,' concluded Vincent.

       

The bell announcing lunch break had sounded a full thirty seconds earlier, but Vincent's concluding remarks had overrun. He hastily picked up his books and headed to the staff lounge, where stale coffee awaited him.

The lousy coffee was a small price to pay for a job that he now loved. There was nothing more refreshing than opening up young minds. Moreover, he was passionate about his subject. This passion allowed him to transport his young audience into times bygone with flair. It was no wonder that Vincent had become one of the most admired teachers at Stepinac High.

Vincent had been able to settle down in Westchester quite easily. His parishioners at the church were decent people and his flock continued to grow along with his own stature within the diocese.

His casual and comfortable style had immediately put people at ease within the first months of his arrival. After one of his Sunday sermons, one of the middle-aged male attendees had come up to him and had congratulated him for a 'short and sweet sermon, so unlike the long and boring ones' delivered by his predecessor.

Vincent had quickly retorted that a sermon was meant to be like a woman's skirt, long enough to cover the essentials and short enough to keep one interested! The word had soon got around that the new boy was actually quite a lot of fun, in spite of being celibate! The coffee that greeted him was stale but hot.

He had just settled down in one of the armchairs in the lounge and opened his newspaper, when janitor-of-the-year Ted Callaghan walked in. Vincent looked up and asked, 'Who's calling? Probably some chick that you blessed with holy water,' chuckled Ted. He picked up the receiver and spoke, 'Hello? Who's calling? I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. He knew that something was seriously wrong. He pressed on, 'Please do go on.

Your father died on the spot, I'm afraid. Your mother suffered head wounds but by the time she arrived here, it was too late. She was dead, too. Manhattanites could be born in Manhattan, could study or work in Manhattan, could get married in Manhattan, could die in Manhattan, but could not be buried in Manhattan.

Both Matthew and Julia Sinclair were to be buried in St John Cemetery in Queens County, where they would join Vincent's paternal grandparents, who had also been buried there. The presence of Vincent's aunt, Martha, was of great comfort to him. Martha was the significantly younger sister of Vincent's father, Matthew, and had been more of a friend than an aunt to Vincent. Martha Sinclair had remained a spinster. At the age of thirty-two, she had given up a career in interior design so she could pursue her study of Iyengar Yoga in India.

Her travels in India and Nepal had lasted for three whole years and she had grown fond of the subcontinent. This had been followed by a few years in England, where she had become a practitioner of past-life healing, working in the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain. After spending another year back in India, she had returned rather reluctantly to New York to set up her own yoga academy. Her tryst with India had opened up her mind to philosophy, religion, meditation and spirituality; this fact made her seem eccentric to most men.

She now stood next to Vincent, trying to be the best comfort possible in his grief. Vincent stood silently in prayer with folded hands, ignoring the rain pouring down his face as his friend and colleague, Father Thomas Manning, read from Psalm Everyone was holding umbrellas and trying as best as possible to stay dry. The light showers were becoming ugly and there were occasional flashes of lightning in the skies above the cemetery. The coffins were being lowered into the ground.

Vincent's eyes were tightly shut. He was merely following the words being recited by Father Thomas. On the contrary, weep for yourselves and for your children!

These words were totally out of place for a funeral. The words were not from Father Thomas. His Bible was closed and his lips were not moving. The prayer was already over. Who had said that? He felt a camera flash bulb go off inside his head. Was he hearing things? Was he going mad? Why was he holding a wooden cross? Wailing women. Impale him! Vincent stood pale and frozen.

He then bent over while standing and drew both his arms close to his right shoulder. He resembled a man carrying a heavy wooden object on his right shoulder. What were these names? Vincent fell awkwardly to the ground. Sympathetic friends assumed that grief had overtaken the young man and attempted to help him up and comfort him. Vincent had passed out. The Biblical passage of Mark And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? He first saw the anxious face of Father Thomas Manning.

He then saw a nurse standing with his Aunt Martha. Next he saw the white light fixture on the ceiling. An intravenous line was attached to his arm.

Patches were attached to his torso to monitor his heart rate, blood pressure and lung function. Vincent was mumbling incoherently. Father Thomas put his ear close to Vincent's face to understand what he was trying to say. He was uttering a few words sporadically. Since Jesus had become physically too weak after the trauma that he had endured, the Romans had ordered a man called Simon to help him bear the burden of the cross.

The passage that Vincent seemed to be muttering was: You have been subjected to trauma, shock and exhaustion. You need rest. You collapsed at the cemetery and we had to bring you here to recuperate,' began Father Thomas. Vincent couldn't care less. His shoulder was hurting. His arms were aching. He could hear screams and jeers. He was sweating.

He was walking on blood! He was carrying a cross! The doctor had prescribed Dalmane shots to ensure that he slept calmly. It was around eleven in the morning. Even though she had been up all night, Martha still looked fresh. The years of yoga and meditation had obviously helped her; she certainly did not look to be in her mid-forties. Her youthful skin, auburn hair, pert nose and her well-toned figure ensured that she did not look a day over thirty-five. Flag for inappropriate content.

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