15 August 1997
"Father Genovese and I tracked down the cult, like we were asked. We thought we had been careful, but somehow, they...I don't know how they found us, but as we entered the building, I just remember everything going black.
I woke up with a splitting headache and quickly realized I was bound. We were in a damp basement, poorly lit, and Genovese was only barely starting to wake up. He looked...God, he looked terrible. Cuts and bruises, a black eye, his clothes were torn. I don't know what happened to him. I just hope he took some of them down before they got him.
Before I could ask him what he knew, a young man stepped into the light. He had a strange blotch, a large discolored area, on the left side of his face. And his eyes...they were slit, like a snake's. The room felt colder and darker with him in it, and I felt myself shudder as he drew close.
He called himself the Barzai. He seemed to think he had already encountered the Church, once before, and was amused that we were still interested in him. But he promised me it didn't matter. I tried demanding to know what was going on, where we were, what his plans were, but he had no interest in explaining much to me.
'You're going to be a message,' he finally explained. 'I was born in fire your precious church brought to me,' he said, with a sneer. He sounded disgusted at the very thought of us, Cardinal. It was...it was sinister, hateful. He told me, 'You will be a message. You will go to your church, so blind to the real needs of this world, to the bondage they endure and spread. You will show them what they are, and you will tell them their end.' I asked what he meant, but he just turned and looked at Genovese, who was trying to look at him. I could tell he could barely open his eyes.
This Barzai, he just...he just waved his hand, he just looked at Genovese and waved his hand and suddenly Genovese was on fire. The screams. Oh God, the screaming, the sound of him burning, I...
'The last thing you ever see,' he said, 'will be the last thing your church ever knows.' Then he turned to the darkness, and I cried out, I don't know what I thought it would do, but I tried desperately to offer Genovese some kind of comfort, some kind of help, but he wasn't...
'Take his eyes,' he said, and I turned and saw two men emerge with knives."
At this point, witness breaks down sobbing. Cardinal decided he had enough and ended interview.
I set the transcript down and looked across the desk at the Cardinal. His face betrayed nothing.
"It's the kid. I saw this kid, in North Carolina," I said.
"I remember your report, de Monte."
"This...this priest. Is he--"
"Short of a miracle, he will never see again. I don't know whether or not he will ever be mentally prepared to return to duty, but if so, it will be some time." He steepled his fingers on the desk and leaned forward. "Look, Benedict. After what you did, burning down that island, we had a lot of backpedaling and a lot of work to do to keep it from becoming an incident. We recognized that your report showed them to be a greater concern than we expected, but we thought we could take a more...nuanced approach."
"You were wrong."
"Let's not get prideful, Father." I nodded.
"But you're right. Whatever this cult is, it's too much of a risk to send another mission like this one." He tapped the folder from which he had pulled the transcript. "It is now officially your duty to find, assess, and eliminate this threat." He slid the folder over to me. "I expect you to return, and I expect you to bring me results. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," I said, taking the folder and standing. He sighed and leaned back in his chair.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.