The Seville Communion
appearance was as rough as his voice. He was small and thin, and his white hair was poorly cut and untidy. He wore a threadbare cassock covered with stains and a pair of clumpy old shoes that looked as if they hadn't been polished in a long time.
    "I thought it would be a good idea if I took a look round," Quart answered calmly.
    The most disturbing thing about the old priest was his face. It was covered in marks, lines and small scars, which gave him a harsh, tormented look, like an aerial photograph of a desert. And then there were his eyes - black, defiant, deep-set, peering out at the world with little sympathy. He scrutinised Quart, taking in his cufflinks, the cut of his suit, and finally his face. He didn't look pleased by what he saw.
    "You have no right to be here."
    Quart thought of appealing to Gris Marsala, who had been listening to their exchange without a word. He realised immediately that she would be no help.
    "Father Quart was asking for you," she said reluctantly.
    Father Ferro's gaze remained fixed on the visitor. "What for?"
    The envoy from Rome raised his left hand slightly in a placatory gesture. He noticed that Father Ferro was looking disapprovingly at his expensive Hamilton watch. "I'm here to compile a report on the church," he said. He was now almost certain that this first meeting was a disaster, but he decided to try a little longer. It was his job, after all. "We need to have a chat, Father."
    "I have nothing to say to you."
    Quart breathed in and out slowly. His worst fears had been realised, and old, unwelcome memories were returning. In his worn cassock Father Ferro embodied everything Quart hated: the poverty and stubborn wariness of the rough village priest, who was capable only of threatening with the torments of hell, or hearing confession from pious old women from whom he differed only in that he had spent a few years in a seminary and had a smattering of Latin. If Father Ferro was Vespers, he was doing a brilliant job of hiding it. This would not be an easy mission.
    "I'm sorry, but I think we have much to discuss," Quart insisted, taking an envelope showing the tiara and keys of St. Peter from his jacket pocket. "I'm the special envoy from the Institute of External Affairs. You'll find my credentials in this letter from the Secretary of State."
    Father Ferro took the letter and tore it up without even looking at it. The pieces fluttered to the floor.
    "I don't give a damn about your credentials."
    Small and defiant, he glared up at Quart. Sixty-four years old, said the report lying on Quart's desk back at the hotel. Twenty years as a country priest, ten years as a parish priest in Seville. He and the Mastiff would have made a good pair at the Colosseum in Rome. Quart could picture Father Ferro with a trident in one hand and a net over his shoulder, circling his opponent while the spectators cried out for blood. In his work, Quart had learned to tell instantly whom to be wary of. Father Ferro was the character at the end of the bar who drinks quietly while everyone else is shouting, then suddenly shatters a bottle to slit your throat. Or the soldier wading across the lake of Tenochtitlan .holding a cross above his head. Or the Crusader massacring infidels and heretics.
    "And I don't know what all that business about external affairs is," the priest added, not taking his eyes off Quart. "My superior is the archbishop of Seville."
    Who, very obviously, had carefully prepared the reception for this tiresome envoy from Rome. Quart remained calm. He again put his hand inside his jacket and half-pulled out another envelope, identical to the one lying in pieces at his feet.
    "That's precisely the person I see next," he said.
    Father Ferro nodded contemptuously. "Then go and see him," he said. "I obey the archbishop, and if he orders me to speak to you, I will. Until then, forget about me."
    "I was sent specially from Rome. Somebody requested that we intervene. I assume you know about it."

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