Theyre dead! Sister Sandrine stammered into the telephone in her Saint‑Sulpice residence. She was leaving a message on an answering machine. Please pick up! Theyre all dead!
The first three phone numbers on the list had produced terrifying resultsa hysterical widow, a detective working late at a murder scene, and a somber priest consoling a bereaved family. All three contacts were dead. And now, as she called the fourth and final numberthe number she was not supposed to call unless the first three could not be reachedshe got an answering machine. The outgoing message offered no name but simply asked the caller to leave a message.
The floor panel has been broken! she pleaded as she left the message. The other three are dead!
Sister Sandrine did not know the identities of the four men she protected, but the private phone numbers stashed beneath her bed were for use on only one condition.
If that floor panel is ever broken, the faceless messenger had told her, it means the upper echelon has been breached. One of us has been mortally threatened and been forced to tell a desperate lie. Call the numbers. Warn the others. Do not fail us in this.
It was a silent alarm. Foolproof in its simplicity. The plan had amazed her when she first heard it. If the identity of one brother was compromised, he could tell a lie that would start in motion a mechanism to warn the others. Tonight, however, it seemed that more than one had been compromised.
Please answer, she whispered in fear. Where are you?
Hang up the phone, a deep voice said from the doorway.
Turning in terror, she saw the massive monk. He was clutching the heavy iron candle stand. Shaking, she set the phone back in the cradle.
They are dead, the monk said. All four of them. And they have played me for a fool. Tell me where the keystone is.
I dont know! Sister Sandrine said truthfully. That secret is guarded by others. Others who are dead!
The man advanced, his white fists gripping the iron stand. You are a sister of the Church, and yet you serve them?
Jesus had but one true message, Sister Sandrine said defiantly. I cannot see that message in Opus Dei.
A sudden explosion of rage erupted behind the monks eyes. He lunged, lashing out with the candle stand like a club. As Sister Sandrine fell, her last feeling was an overwhelming sense of foreboding.
All four are dead.
The precious truth is lost forever.