“Four Tickets to Paradise”
FBI Inspector Joe Giralo sat impatiently behind his oak desk in his eight floor Arch St. office scanning the above-the-fold front-page headlines in the Thursday, June 27th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The prominent sleuth was wondering why his normally reliable trio of crack agents consisting of Sal Velardi, Arthur Orsi and Dan Blachford had been fifteen minutes late for their scheduled noon appointment.
Then at a quarter past twelve the three government men cautiously ambled into the Chief's walnut-paneled office, their guilty heads crestfallen for being a full quarter hour tardy. Demonstrating noteworthy integrity, Agent Sal Velardi promptly volunteered taking full responsibility for the obvious conference delay.
“Boss, I've contracted this miserable sinus congestion and felt it necessary to visit Dr. Nurkiewicz this morning for him to prescribe some antibiotics to alleviate my totally terribly distressful symptoms,” Agent Velardi prefaced his excusable explanation. “And since the three of us daily commute together from Hammonton to Philly' via the Lindenwold High Speed Train, Arty and Dan were also regrettably detained because I was feeling ill and listless!”
“And we just missed by two minutes the next train leaving out of the Lindenwold Station,” Agent Orsi constructively added to the believable account, “so we had to wait a full half hour for the next one to depart. To tell you the truth Boss, the whole wicked experience was really pretty frustrating!”
“And then there was a ten minute delay with track maintenance work going on at the Ferry Avenue Station platform over in Camden, otherwise Boss,” Agent Dan Blachford frankly stated, “we would've only been five minutes late, considering that we still had to walk several crowded blocks from the Eighth and Market Subway Station over here to 600 Arch Street.”
Accepting his men's genuine narrative, Chief Giralo smiled, indicating his fond approbation for his three loyal subordinates' general honesty. And as was their usual American habit, picayune smalltalk had to precede the important FBI business at hand.
“Ah yes Salvatore, you had mentioned Dr. Stephen Nurkiewicz,” Chief Giralo recollected and declared before slowly scratching his left ear. “He's a fine family physician and actually also a personal friend of mine. His wife Marian loves horses, so the affable doctor recently purchased quality pastureland five miles west of Hammonton over in Waterford Township, and now my medical friend has seven stallions and four mares to feed, groom and stable. How the energetic fellow is able to accomplishment practicing his demanding profession while simultaneously accommodating the needs of a thriving horse farm is rather remarkable indeed.”
“Yes Boss, and this morning during my examination I learned that Dr. Nurkiewicz also has a tremendous fascination with Tuscany over there in Italy,” Agent Velardi further contributed to the academic dialogue. “All the guy talked about while he took my blood pressure and viewed my irritated throat was Pisa, along with and its famous Leaning Tower, Siena, Florence, Tuscany's beautiful rolling hills' landscape and a majestic medieval town called San Gimi...”
“San Gimignano,” Inspector Giralo impressively finished, deftly retrieving the tidbit of knowledge from his brain's extensive memory base. “San Gimignano is known as the Manhattan of Tuscany because of its many towers that remotely resemble modern skyscrapers. I've been to that wonderful hilltop paradise twice and plan to return a third time with Gina and my two daughters. On a good day you could look-down from above the clouds and see the verdant valley below. It's really a small high-walled town going back to the Middle Ages when wars between city states and various regions were quite commonplace, but if you were to go to San Gimignano today,” Joe Giralo informed and emphasized, “it's just like exiting a time machine and being thrust six hundred years into the past. You'd think you were back in the Italian pre-Renaissance days from the archaic appearance of the buildings along with the narrow cobblestone street environment.”
Growing bored with Chief Giralo's exceptional comprehension of Tuscany and of Dr. Stephen Nurkiewicz's ongoing Waterford Township equestrian enterprise, Agent Arthur Orsi had the profound audacity to ask his scholarly mentor the true purpose for the day's hastily-arranged noontime meeting. Equally as curious as their courageous partner, Agents Velardi and Blachford stared at their distinguished superior comfortably seated upon his black swivel-chair behind his splendid solid oak desk.
“Well my lugubrious-looking Disciples, I suppose it's time to get down to brass tacks, so to speak,” Chief Giralo admitted before methodically scratching his right ear. “Matt Riley's veteran team down in DC recently intercepted an interesting e-mail that might surreptitiously contain some dastardly terrorist plot elements. On the surface, everything described might appear to be quite innocent and fairly innocuous, but I challenge you three relatively competent Fellas' to search for anything suspicious that might be suggesting tricky embedded code language. Now here's three separate copies of the original e-mail that I've myself comprehensively read at least a half-dozen times. Incidentally Gentlemen,” Chief Joe Giralo editorialized, “the original letter has been keenly translated from Arabic into standard English by Riley's crackerjack armchair research guys down there in Washington. Please notice that the initial e-mail is dated Monday, June 6th, 2013.”
With the dreaded idea of international terrorism in mind, the three astute FBI agents silently read the language of the dispatch as their Boss carefully observed the candid expressions exhibited upon their individual faces.
May the spirit of the Profit bless and keep you! As you well know, I'll be busy touring Italy in July and early August, and I'm spending the first two weeks visiting friends and relatives in Rome, where I'm rather looking forward to marveling at the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Appian Way and the Colosseum. And if I have time dear Jamal, I wish to appreciate seeing the barren grassy site where the Circus Maximus races had once taken place, which is now (I understand) an open field situated next to the Colosseum, the present empty land being an oval gravel track showing where the exciting chariot contests had been conducted.
“And during those first two weeks, I hope that I might have time to tour Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Drive too down near Naples, the city where wonderful pizza had been invented. My uncle has a motorbike that I can borrow and use to speed from Rome down to Naples and then Pompeii, and I hope I'll arrive there long before sleeping Mt. Vesuvius decides to explode its top again.
And then dear Jamal, I next plan to travel to Florence and enjoy a relaxing week or so there. As you might know, Florence is on the Arno River in the Tuscany Region, and I have a kind cousin living there who has offered me free room and board during my intended stay.
And next on my private itinerary I'll be zipping-off to scenic Venice to tour the Doge Palace, the Grand Canal, to walk the Rialto and next meander around the resort known as Lido Island. An aunt on my father's side has generously offered to give me lodging and food, so how could I resist or complain about such fantastic Arab hospitality? And as a side trip, if I lose interest in Venice, I might even shoot over to the La Scala Opera House in Milan.
And finally my dear Jamal, at the designated witching hour on Friday, August 9th, with the benevolent grace of Allah, I hope to meet-up with you, Malik and Abdul in Sicily at the same hotel we had stayed when we were mere kids.
And so Jamal, the four of us will again rendezvous in Sicily early on Friday, August 9th to joyfully reminisce old times and achievements and especially to honor the serious intentions of the glorious Profit.
In Allah's Great Name,
After closely scrutinizing and attempting to logically interpret and decipher any hidden meanings, the three perplexed agents raised their eyes and peered incredulously at the countenance of their very stellar First-in-Command.
“Now Men, I hate to break some negative news to you but you'll have to abandon your extended Independence Day Holiday by meeting again in this office at 9 a.m. sharp on Friday, July 5th. I want to review any further meaningful developments that might have occurred in regard to this intercepted e-mail between now and then.”
“Any more pertinent instructions Chief?” a now-rejuvenated Sal Velardi conscientiously asked. “I've always known you to be admirably thorough and efficient.”
“Well Sal, yes, I do have several specific elementary assignments to convey,” Inspector Giralo judiciously expressed. “Sal, I'd like you to study the Rome references that were evident in the translated e-mail. And Arty. you're to report on the Florence terminology. And finally Dan,” Joe Giralo continued with his dissemination of definite assignments, “I want you to look into the various Venice allusions. I don't expect you three amateur interrogators to become notorious lexicographers or etymologists overnight, but perhaps one of you three Dick Tracy imitators will ingeniously come-up with some amazing viable hypothesis.”
“Italy? Isn't that domain more CIA territory than an FBI frontier?” Sal Velardi deductively inquired.
“Yes Salvatore, but some of the obscure nomenclature represented in that strange sugarcoated e-mail might incidentally pertain to targeted locations existing right here in the good old USA,” Chief Giralo sagely clarified. “When dealing with repugnant, unscrupulous anonymous jihadists, we have to stay at least three paces ahead of them or otherwise risk putting ourselves or our unwary patriotic citizens in life-or-death jeopardy!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
At 9 a.m. on Friday, July 5th Inspector Joe Giralo was deeply immersed in introspective thought upon his perceptive eyes recognizing the entrance of his three loyal agents into his all-too-familiar Arch Street office. As usual, a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer's early morning edition had been spread open upon the Chief's enormous oak-wood desk.
“Let's cut right to the chase Fellas',” the FBI official imperatively declared. “I think that we're gradually latching onto something huge and bizarre in terms of potential consequences, a rather grave matter that requires our full attention and utmost scrutiny. Now Sal, without you being too sanctimonious or professorial, what cursory details have you diligently learned, or should I say 'discovered' about the Eternal City, Rome?”
“Well Chief, I regret relating that my intensive research could only glean the regular commonplace stuff,” Agent Velardi reluctantly admitted. “In every Internet website I had the opportunity to explore, the Circus Maximus had been the scene of thrilling chariot races explicitly held for the amusement of Rome's citizens back then, and the chariot race scene in the classic movie Ben Hur was actually based on the dimensions of the Roman Circus Maximus, even though that fictional contest between benevolent Ben Hur and the dastardly Messala depicted in the 1955 film was happening in Antioch, then a part of the former Persian Empire.”
“Well Sal, what about the Pantheon and the Forum?” Inspector Giralo replied without a moment's hesitation. “What did you dig-up about those special sightseeing traps?”
“The magnificent Pantheon is a large circular structure and it's probably the only building from the halcyon days of the Roman Empire whose architecture remains virtually intact and not in partial ruins. It originally was the Empire's official temple to all of the Roman gods like Jupiter, Mars, Neptune and Mercury, but now the splendid edifice is also a functioning Catholic church, even though the marble statues of the Roman pagan gods still stand inside.”
“Isn't there something rather unique about the Pantheon's ceiling?” Agent Art Orsi chimed-in. “If my faulty memory serves me correctly, I think there's a giant hole in the center allowing amounts of rainwater to drop inside.”
“You're right Art, and your faulty memory has been temporarily exonerated,” Agent Velardi politely-but-satirically answered. “The fresh rainwater falls through the ornate ceiling down upon the marble slates and then flows into holes bored into the floor and finally cascades down to a cistern below. And the ceiling itself is an engineering masterpiece because its several feet in thickness at the bottom of the dome and then narrows-down to only inches wide towards the top. If not intelligently designed in such a mathematical fashion,” Salvatore Velardi seriously stressed, “then the entire roof would collapse from too much weight!”
“Very fascinating and intriguing description indeed,” Inspector Giralo commended, “but still Sal, your generic report has nothing to do with a suspected terror crime being cunningly planned or perhaps being boldly perpetrated. Now Gentlemen, I had neglected to mention to you that Gina and I have often stayed at the Visconti Palace on four distinct visits to Rome, the stellar hotel being conveniently located only several blocks from the Tiber River. Now Sal, please resume your almost irrelevant academic presentation. I'll persevere and listen to your unsophisticated drivel only because I value minuscule trivia almost as much as I place a high premium on macro-management strategies!”
Next, momentarily befuddled Agent Velardi proceeded to explain to his audience of three that the ancient Forum had been the principal market place where citizens gathered to watch military parades to commemorate major triumphs and conquests and that the Forum also had many small temples for worshiping purposes and in addition, the historic area had been the location of the Roman Senate where Julius Caesar was savagely assassinated by Brutus and his political colleagues. “And by the Appian way Guys,” Agent Velardi awkwardly joked, “the historic road was...”
“The first important cobblestone highway south of Rome where the proud legions ostentatiously and victoriously marched into the city,” Inspector Giralo vociferated, showing a rare degree of petulance and intolerance in his strong tone of voice. “And naturally Sal, the Colosseum obviously was the site of brutal gladiator fights to the death along with Nero mercilessly having early Christians confronted and attacked by vicious hungry lions. And if you carefully examine the characteristic bricks appearing inside the wall facades of the Colosseum and inside other Roman constructions like the aqueducts, for example,” the Boss impressively elaborated, “the bricks utilized back then are a little longer and about half as wide as the ones we use today, and those same building blocks employed by the Roman legions became the architectural standard for arches and for large buildings erected throughout the entire Empire!”
“Gee Boss! You know just as much about Italy as Dr. Stephen Nurkiewicz does!” Agent Velardi praised, much to the Chief's ever-mounting chagrin. “No wonder why you two bookworms are close buddies!”
After a moment of strained silence, Inspector Giralo gradually diminished the excessive frown fixed upon his visage, and soon the FBI guru requested that Agent Arthur Orsi expound upon what basic information he had assiduously gathered about the cultural capital of Italy, Florence.
“Well Boss, Florence is situated on the Arno River, and the city's regarded as the political capital of Tuscany,” Orsi gingerly commented. “A very famous colossal-sized church with an orange-tiled rounded dome is obviously called the Duomo, and Florentine art abounds everywhere, along with Michelangelo statues including the fifteen-foot-tall David that's on exhibit there in a museum called the, I have it here in my notes,” Agent Orsi indicated, anxiously fumbling through several typed sheets, “yes, the museum is called the...”
“The Degli Uffizi, which is only several short blocks from the medieval Ponte Vecchio, a truly archaic bridge crossing the Arno River, the exquisite span having retail shops and several stories of homes situated across its entire breadth. The Degli Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio are landmark attractions for the burgeoning Florentine tourist trade,” Joe Giralo lectured. “In fact Arty, my wife has frequently shopped for incomparable leather goods and apparel at the Misuri Boutique in beautiful Santa Croce Piazza, the square situated midway between the enormous Duomo and the Hotel Mediterraneo where we had been staying.”
The three dumbfounded agents stood still as marble pillars with their mouths agape, entirely overwhelmed with their erudite Boss's comprehensive acquaintance with the emblematic intricacies of both Rome and Florence. After a tense moment featuring complete quiet, the on-a-mission FBI leader insisted that Agent Dan Blachford reveal his accumulative data about picturesque Venice.
“Well Chief, the extraordinary Doge Palace in St. Mark's Square is an absolute must see for eager tourists, and of course, the Doge was the all-powerful Duke of Venice,” Blachford cautiously disclosed. “And if you walk beneath the mammoth arch in St. Mark's Square, the one with the large overhead blueish-tinted clock, the path leads directly to a series of maze-like slate-laden alleys with dozens-upon-dozens of swanky retail shops, the intertwining trails zigzagging all the way to the Rialto, which is....”
“About a mile and a half phenomenal stroll from St. Mark's Square to the Rialto Pier where water taxis transport visitors to their various hotel destinations,” Chief Giralo adroitly finished Dan Blachford's statement. “Gina and I have trekked the labyrinth of slate alleys from the Doge Palace and the tall bell-tower known as the Campanile all the way to the Rialto Pier, and if it weren't for certain sign shingles with arrows reading “Rialto Pier” tacked onto various buildings at critical intersections, a visitor could spend hours trying to find his or her way out of the series of bewildering connecting alley ways. Incidentally,” Giralo personally informed, “my wife and I have stayed at the Hotel Bellini on the Grand Canal on three separate occasions, and truthfully, we positively loved Venice for its lack of cars, trucks and motorbikes polluting the atmosphere. Mobility is done by passenger water taxi transportation!”
After Agent Blachford next monotonously spoke about the Lido Island resort and about the world-famous Murano Glass Factory, Chief Joe Giralo expressed that it was finally time for him to exercise his inimitable detective skills. The distinguished Department Head then read an excerpt from that morning's Philadelphia Inquirer edition, the brief recitation being very deliberately delivered to give his dedicated proteges a vital clue that would help them to easily unravel the sinister criminal/terrorist mystery currently being meticulously investigated by the FBI's Washington Bureau.
“Fellas, it describes in this inconspicuous Page 47 news article that the Trevi Cinema near Rome's famed Trevi Fountain has experienced a minor bomb detonation just yesterday, July 4th, our Independence Day. Fortunately, no one had been killed or injured in the small theater explosion.”
“What does the theater explosion have to do with the simple e-mail letter that DC had intercepted?” Sal Velardi impetuously asked. “Oh, now I get it! The Trevi Fountain had been cited in the commonplace e-mail along with Rome's Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Colosseum and the Appian Way!”
“Exactly Salvatore!” confirmed and verified Joe Giralo. “When I was a kid my parents often visited relatives in Baltimore. My cousins and I once saw that movie Ben Hur at the Hippodrome Theater on Bel-Air Road, and for argument's sake, a Hippodrome is another name for a type-of Circus Maximus. Therefore Men,” Giralo quite methodically prattled-on, “I maintain that any theater or venue bearing the appellation Circus, Hippodrome, Forum, Appian Way, Pantheon or Colosseum as part of its business name is now vulnerable to subsequent terrorist bomb attacks much more potent than the minor one that went-off yesterday at the Trevi Cinema.”
“That means that anything with 'Palace' in its name like Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas or the Emperors' Ancient Palace ruins in Rome might be possible terrorist targets!” Agent Velardi marveled and exclaimed. “But tell me Boss, without verbally eviscerating or excoriating me in my kind friends' presence, what about the Pantheon and the Appian Way?”
“Well Sal, I want you to understand that I've now delved pretty deep into the complicated matter,” the Boss artfully divulged to his now-incredulous trio of listeners. “The Pantheon was once a three-thousand seat movie theater in Detroit that had been demolished back in 1962, but there are many soft-target venues around the world bearing the name 'Pantheon'. And as far as the Colosseum is concerned,” Giralo rationally continued with his creative exposition, “numerous auditoriums have that particular popular designation on their marquees. And there's even a spectacular Appian Way entertainment center in Lexington, Kentucky too! Now naturally Fellas', the FBI can't possibly protect all of the myriad 'name scenarios' that have been selected and identified in the acquired e-mail that might be subjected to dangerous terrorist activity!”
And then Agent Orsi realized and orally shared that the names Florentine, Tuscany and Arno were theater venues he had been familiar with in his non-sensational youth, and next, Agent Dan Blachford contributed that the representations Palace, Rialto, Lido and the Grand (Canal) were common names often chosen for assorted movie theaters and arenas to have. The intensifying discussion was more-than-adequately summarized by additional impeccable comments originating from the lips of the Philly' team's extremely capable leader, Chief Joe Inspector.
“And Guys, let's not forget including other theater titles like the Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi, Sorrento and last-but-not-least, the La Scala. I mean, there's even a well-patronized La Scala movie theater in Bangkok, Thailand!”
“But Boss,” a now totally addled Agent Velardi impulsively interrupted, “other than the minor explosion yesterday at the Trevi Cinema, how do you know that the intercepted e-mail is genuine jihadist chatter? It might be a diversionary ruse or canard too?”
“Well Sal,” Joe Giralo answered rather dramatically, “anyone who goes to Rome would first want to visit the Vatican and the nearby Vatican Museum, wouldn't they? And furthermore Arty,” the FBI Chieftain eloquently pontificated, “anyone touring Florence would naturally desire visiting and stating in a personal e-mail all about the Duomo and the very excellent Santa Croce Church too, wouldn't they?” And before Agent Orsi could ever render an oral response, the Boss then extended his very lucid narrative. “And also Dan, the intercepted and translated e-mail fails to mention St. Mark's Square and St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice! Why?” the determined speaker rhetorically asked. “Because jihadists are still conducting an ongoing crusade against Christianity and against Western Civilization seven hundred years after the fact, that's precisely why! There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and if only one percent are militant radicals, then that's over ten million of them putting Western Civilization in jeopardy, not counting the millions and millions of volatile sympathizers in their midst!”
After a lengthy interval of four-way mutual contemplation, an emotionally beleaguered Agent Velardi felt compelled to ask a rather necessary question, which he nervously addressed to his FBI superior. “When do you suppose the next attack will occur?”
“I believe that the July 4th Trevi Cinema incident was deliberately designed to be a minor explosion, a sort of Page 47 news story that would be a definite signal for individual terror cells around the world to be ready for upcoming planned violent action! But now I think that we still have until August 8th to tediously figure-out and remedy this rather difficult conundrum, and we must use that essential month-long time-span to adequately protect our vulnerable American citizens from imminent harm!”
“How can you be so confident that nothing significant will be developing between now and August 8th?” Agent Blachford skeptically wanted to know. “That part of your strange theory seems mostly illogical to me!”
“Because Dan, the Muslim blessed month of Ramadan occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar where Arabs all over the world abstain from food, drink and physical pleasures during the daylight hours. During Ramadan, Muslims must practice self-sacrifice, and they generally do not engage in random acts of aggression while being individually penitent,” Chief Joe Giralo convincingly maintained. “And this year being 2013, Ramadan will be celebrated between Monday, July 8th and Wednesday, August 7th. That's the basic reason why I've hypothesized that we're probably safe until August 8th.”
“And the Trevi Cinema small bomb is reported as a trivial event in the newspapers today, Friday, July 5th, just three days before the commencement of Holy Ramadan!” a now-enlightened Agent Arthur Orsi acknowledged. “There's much merit in your fantastic theory Boss, and it's no longer totally incredible conjecture! We have a full month to successfully identify and thwart these nefarious diabolical instigators, whoever and wherever they may be!” Orsi concurred. “I too now believe that the Trevi Cinema occurrence was a mere test or perhaps a tacit signal devised to activate dormant terror cells mendaciously networked around the world, the evil scheme having the sadistic intention of destroying soft venues like the targeted entertainment facilities with familiar names like Rialto and Colosseum! But why?”
“Because militant conservative Muslims absolutely loathe the entertainment industry,” authoritatively replied Inspector Joe Giralo. “Arab terrorists think that American and European movies display things that their narrow-minded religious beliefs regard as being reprehensible and evil: sex, alcohol, women's liberation and finally, an excess of freedom!”
“Wow Boss!” Sal Velardi exuberantly complimented. “Honestly now, my sensitive brain's about to explode from absorbing too much overloaded information! Listening to you is worse than hearing Dr. Stephen Nurkiewicz relentlessly articulating about Tuscany!”
“Now Men, we'll meet again on Thursday, August 8th in my office at noon,” grim-faced Chief Joe Giralo very seriously and sternly communicated while totally ignoring Agent Velardi's heartfelt unsolicited testimony. “By then Fellas', I'm quite optimistic that Matt Riley and I should have this entire terrorist mess entirely analyzed, resolved and permanently eradicated! Until then, go about exploring your regular FBI cases.”
“Any final instructions before we leave Boss?” Agent Velardi curiously asked. “My damaged cerebrum can tolerate approximately one more devastating paragraph!”
“Yes Salvatore!” Joe Giralo confidently replied. “I want you three well-trained geniuses to do some preliminary Greek mythology background checks into the topics of Scylla and Charybdis, Circe on the Island of Calypso, and finally, obtain some rudimentary knowledge on the minor Olympian god Prometheus, who incidentally was one of the deposed Titans, just like Atlas was!”
The three pallid-faced recipients of the rather peculiar instructions stared blankly at each other, raised their eyebrows in mutual astonishment and then slowly exited the walnut-paneled 8th floor FBI office in single file.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Noontime on Thursday, August 8th had eventually arrived on the 2013 calendar, the anticipated date signifying that Ramadan had been concluded and fortunately for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no major national or international catastrophes had occurred in the interim. Inspector Joe Giralo routinely folded and placed his copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer upon his oak desk and the wily sleuth shrewdly peered at his three somewhat-bewildered agents.
“Well Sal, have you found-out anything noteworthy concerning the dual dangers of Scylla and Charybdis?” Giralo asked with evident concern. “It's terribly paramount and crucial to the conclusion of this jihadist terror ring investigation. And please Sal, there's a clear difference between being trite and contrite.”
“Yes Boss. In Homer's epic poem the Odyssey the legendary hero Odysseus had to navigate his ship between Scylla, a horrible carnivorous monster who stood on a rock and feasted on ancient sailors trying to vigorously row through the narrow channel, the gruesome deed being implemented after the lawless creature reached-down and mercilessly plucked the frightened mariners from their sitting positions. The reason that the boat had been sailing that close to Scylla was because of the existence on the opposite side of the strait of Charybdis, a giant maelstrom that would swiftly and easily suck the entire ship and crew down to the bottom of the sea.”
“And so Sal, in our English vernacular, the cliché, or should I say 'the idiomatic expression' 'to go between Scylla and Charybdis' actually means to choose the lesser of two dangers or two evils, and in Odysseus's circumstance, 'the lesser' peril was the dreadful man-eating monster Scylla.”
Then the inspired Inspector's focus instantly switched to Arthur Orsi, the Boss's primary purpose being to quiz the conscientious agent on the mythological character Circe. Much to the Chief's satisfaction, the new-found mythology student was well-prepared to accurately answer his teacher's entreaties.
“Well Boss, again in Homer's Odyssey,” Agent Orsi began his prepared response, “Circe lived on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean or Ionian Sea that's identified simply as Calypso. The deceitful goddess was in reality a heinous witch who coyly offered Odysseus the gift of immortality, but only if he were to abandon his crew and live with her forever on Calypso. Odysseus valiantly refused the gorgeous witch's tempting proposition, so to keep the itinerant Greek king stationary on the island with her, Circe then wickedly transformed his crewmen into squealing pigs.”
“Very good assessment!” Inspector Giralo promptly commended, giving Agent Orsi a sarcastic mock applause. “And now courteously inform me Agent Blachford, what about the minor Greek god Prometheus. How did he lose being regarded as fully accepted by Zeus and the other Olympians!”
“According to what specific mythology passages I had read,” Dan Blachford diplomatically answered, “the Titans had ruled Heaven and Earth in the beginning of time. Then there was a wild rebellion led by Zeus, and soon the Olympians overthrew the yoke of the Titans and banished each of them to different hideous places, some of the deposed giants being assigned to perform very repetitious tasks. For example, the Titan known as Atlas had to hold the heavy sky on his shoulders to keep it permanently separated from the Earth for all eternity.”
“Excellent!” congratulated Inspector Giralo with an element of cynicism drenching his gravelly inflection. “And Dan, was the minor god, Prometheus immediately banished from grace like sentenced Atlas had been.”
“Not exactly!” Blachford reflexively replied. “The Titan had been a favorite of the Olympians and was allowed to live on top of Mt. Olympus with Zeus and his divine family. But then Prometheus felt sorry for mankind and compassionately taught humans how to make and control fire. Since the art of fire-making was a precious secret of the gods,” the FBI agent verbally indicated, “Prometheus had obviously committed an unforgivable taboo. As a draconian-type punishment, vindictive Zeus had the noble Prometheus chained to the summit of volcanic Mt. Etna, which as we all know, is in Sicily near the coast. Every morning a huge eagle would land on Prometheus's chest and the famished vulture would voraciously peck-away at Prometheus's pure heart.”
Sal Velardi was growing increasingly aggravated with the abundance of remote encyclopedia information being reviewed and the agent bravely demanded knowing why Scylla and Charybdis, Circe and Prometheus were so weirdly connected to an ongoing 2013 FBI terror plot investigation. Inspector Giralo was more-than-willing to oblige his restive questioner and quickly commenced thoroughly explaining the integral rudiments of the combination FBI/CIA international probe.
“First of all Men, we aren't dealing with a bunch of Arab weasels or pinheads here. We're involved with ruthless, repulsive, pernicious and fanatical scumbag vermin. Now Guys, the coded e-mail we've all read countless times stated that entertainment places like a Colosseum, a Rialto, an Arno Theater, a Lido Cinema and a Forum Arena might soon become designated terrorist bombing targets. But after studying the letter's content again and again,” Giralo esoterically revealed, “I've managed to uncover another vital clue in the e-mail that's fundamentally cracked this bizarre case wide open.”
“And exactly what enigmatic clue was that?” Agent Orsi wondered and asked. “I mean Boss, we've all read the seemingly harmless e-mail document dozens of times!”
“The sly e-mail author Tariq had informed his comrade Jamal that the pair would meet-up with Malik and Abdul at the 'witching hour' on August 8th in Sicily. Don't you Men see the grave veracity cunningly disguised in those particular words? Thank goodness I was forced to read the Odyssey for an oral book report when I had been an ordinary nondescript junior attending Hammonton High School,” Joe Giralo disclosed. “Just as you had academically shared Arty, in Greek Mythology Circe had been a lonely goddess/witch living on the Island of Calypso. And Scylla and Charybdis were reputed in ancient times to be geographically situated between the boot of Italy and the island of Sicily where large sea whirlpools are still known to occur today. And the Titan Prometheus was believed to be shackled to the top of Mt. Etna, a huge volcanic mountain located near Taormina, Sicily, which is often referred to in modern times as the Riviera of Sicily.”
Heightened consternation still governed the baffled minds of the three listening agents. Then intrigued Salvatore Velardi garnished sufficient audacity to inquire further into the Chief Inspector's ever-challenging mental riddle. Joe Giralo then completely unraveled the entire easy-to-fathom scenario.
“Now Men, I've had the pleasure of vacationing at the Hotel Villa Schuler with my wife and daughters several times in semi-tropical Taormina, Sicily, and consequently, I'm quite familiar with the general area. There's a Greek amphitheater still intact there, surviving from ancient times, and the brazen terrorists may have been egregiously plotting to eliminate some unsuspecting tourists at the treasured amphitheater site should we, that is, the FBI and the CIA had not directly intervened into their devious plan.”
“What does staying at an exotic Sicilian hotel have to do with solving this complex e-mail message and then systematically capturing and taking the principal malicious characters to justice?” inquisitive Agent Orsi demanded. “And please Boss, kindly cease being so darned vague, nebulous elusive and evasive!”
“Okay Arty,” chuckled the now good-humored Chief. “Thirty-three granite steps up from the elegant Hotel Villa Schuler is Umberto Street, a narrow slated lane having a variety of gelati, fancy pastry and various pizza establishments, along with some ritzy and exclusive clothing emporiums and some cheap souvenir stores with overpriced merchandise. Anyway Men, in the center of the ever-crowded Umberto Street pedestrian walk is the classic Hotel Circe, and that's precisely where I reckoned the four radicalized Arabs would be staying before initiating their terror cell havoc all over the world, just after the termination of Ramadan.”
“Truly amazing and astounding!” Dan Blachford exclaimed. “Boss, you're as smart as Eliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover put together. I'll never again question or defy your supreme sagacity!”
Not being quite as enamored with the Chief Inspector's enviable acumen as his two comrades had been, Sal Velardi begged for additional clarification. “But Boss, how can we apprehend these four adamant terrorists and catch the vile villains in the act?”
“Don't worry or panic Sal. That's already been achieved and taken care of, thanks to the collaboration of Matt Riley, the CIA, the Mafia and the U.S. Government along with the always-dependable aid of Uncle Sam's all-too-generous taxpayers.”
“Could you elaborate on that sophomoric commentary before I need to swallow-down a dozen heavy-duty aspirins?” Art Orsi stubbornly insisted. “My expanding headache feels like it's now becoming watermelon-sized!”
Joe Giralo then related to his overzealous subordinates that a good percentage of the Italian population of the town of Hammonton, New Jersey had originated from three mountain villages not far from the cities of Messina and Taormina, the singular places being Gesso, Serro and Calvaruso, the site of a famous Catholic Church shrine, Ecce Homo. “My grandfather originated from Calvaruso, Sicily and....”
“My ancestors came from Gesso,” Sal Velardi recalled and enthusiastically interrupted. “But how do the Mafia and the U.S. Government and its overburdened taxpayers get included as factors in your oddball equation?”
Joe Giralo cleared his raspy-voiced throat and then step-by-step explained that numerous Mafia families also live in the Hammonton-Vineland-Philadelphia geographic triangle and that ironically, they're often genetically related to ordinary Sicilian clans living in those exact same three U.S. East Coast areas. But the Boss's forthcoming concluding remarks were so outrageous that their mere utterance almost completely floored his three already-shocked listeners.
“The Arabs have a saying: 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend!' Well Men, I was forced to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, and naturally, I chose the lesser of the two evils, the Mafia over the Arab terrorists. Under my calculated advice and persuasion, the FBI then agreed to team-up with the local and Sicilian Mafia dons and make the despicable terrorists the ruthless mob's main adversary. The Hammonton thugs knew the Cosa Nostra goons over in Philly', who then soon contacted their bloodthirsty greedy counterparts over in Palermo, Sicily. Needing American cash,” Chief Giralo continued, “the Palermo hit-men quickly hired a huge helicopter, stayed at the Hotel Circe on Umberto Street, immediately kidnapped Jamal, Tariq, Malik and Abdul and then coincidentally, just when Mt. Etna was violently erupting, our hired Sicilian Mafia help tied the four hostages up and flew the four villains over the active volcano. The screaming terrorist creeps were then individually tossed alive into the center of the boiling lava pit, their naked bodies probably vaporizing in mere seconds. No expensive trial, no costly prison time, and no relentless extravagant Justice Department court appeals either.”
“Holy smokes!” Sal Velardi inadvertently hollered in utter exhilaration. “And what did the fantastic operation cost in terms of dollars and cents?”
“Well, it seems that much of the Hammonton, Vineland and Philly' Mafia families had immigrated to the USA in the early 1900s from the now-impoverished Sicilian towns of Gesso, Serro and Calvaruso. Just like our indigent ancestors had. So as a special favor to the Sicilian Mafia for their indispensable services as demonstrated in this truly exceptional case,” Chief Giralo informatively expressed, “five million bucks was immediately wired to the efficient Palermo thugs while coincidentally, thirty million greenbacks would be shared and equally distributed to rehabilitate the dilapidated decaying infrastructures of Gesso, Serro and Calvaruso, whose water and sewer systems are in dire need of repair and renewal and whose streets and municipal buildings urgently require renovation!”
“And Jimmy Hoffa's body will be discovered long before anyone ever finds a trace of Tariq, Jamal, Abdul and Mali,” comprehended and uttered Agent Velardi. “But Boss, please tell me, what about the network of until-now dormant terror cells that are still operating out there?”
“The hired Mafia guys beat the living-daylights out of the four captives before climbing aboard the massive rented helicopter, and the abused Arab punks eventually coughed-up the names of all of their contacts in the U.S. and in Europe. Other associated names have been carefully obtained from the fours' confiscated laptop computers, and multiple search warrant arrests are currently being made all over the globe as I speak.”
“Anything else remaining to this incredibly exceptional tale Boss?” Agent Dan Blachford asked. “Your staggering revelations have made me pretty hungry and I could swallow-down a few delicious burgers along with a large cold Coke right now without feeling any nagging guilt whatsoever!”
Inspector Joe Giralo adroitly ignored Agent Dan Blachford's meaningless drivel. “Say Fellas', did you Guys know that the word 'volcano' is actually derived from the Roman god Vulcan, the fearsome deity who had been assigned by Jupiter (Zeus) to chain poor Prometheus to the top of snow-clad Mt. Etna? And just remember Men,” Chief Giralo finished his summary with a very apparent eye-wink, “it was the avaricious witch Circe who had instructed Odysseus that he had to sail his ravaged warship between the formidable obstacles of Scylla and Charybdis in order to return to his wife and son on the Greek island of Ithaca!”
“Until now,” Agent Velardi answered in a semi-defiant voice, “I neither knew nor cared one iota about either Greek or Roman Mythology! Now Boss, because of your strong influence, I intend to read as much as I possibly can on the wholly fascinating subject!”
“Chief, sometimes I think you're psychic the way you almost-miraculously come-up with what seems to be preposterous solutions to challenging problems!” Agent Orsi decided and praised. “Are you clairvoyant or what?”
“What on the surface seems to be astounding psychic ability is really the capacity for me to conscientiously cobble-together seemingly unrelated facts into what results in an acceptable and workable method of plausible resolution,” Inspector Joe Giralo brilliantly remarked. “That's about the best that I can express to you Guys the whole 'ordinary' theory-development process that to you initially seems 'extraordinary'! Each isolated fact is a separate dot, and I somehow just have a certain uncanny knack which enables me to skillfully connect the formerly unrelated dots.”
“Well anyway Chief,” garrulous Sal Velardi uttered with a broad grin, “Tariq, Jamal, Abdul and Malik have gotten themselves four quick tickets to Paradise. Say Boss, was your close friend Colonel Bob Bauers of Delta Force involved in supervising the imaginative-and-expensive Mt. Etna terrorist disposal caper?”
Inspector Joe Giralo snickered, casually shook his head and next overtly laughed to fully exhibit his spontaneous high spirits. “No Salvatore; actually and ironically, my good pal Colonel Bob is in Hammonton today playing golf at Frog Rock Country Club with our very good mutual friend, Dr. Stephen Nurkiewicz!”
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