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by John A. Broussard

To my lord, the most reverend and divinely beloved Innocent, Bishop of Rome;

John, Bishop of Carthage, sends greeting in the Lord.

We are hesitant to approach Your Grace regarding yesterday's mundane events, yet they may serve as guidance in the shepherding of your own flock.

As you know, our diocese of Carthage has been severely afflicted with the pestilential sectarians of Novatus who-in defiance of all sense and logic, and despite their blasphemies against our Redeemer-call themselves Christians.

Following your excellent advice, we approached one of their number whose wife is a devout and faithful member of our congregation. Since he was guardian of the scrolls which encompass the beliefs of this perfidious cult, it was a simple matter to persuade him-through the good offices of that holy woman-to deliver these heretical documents to our care.

Unfortunately, the heretics, led by one Maximus Corsa, immediately petitioned the proconsul to force us to return the said documents, and we were informed of this petition by the proconsul himself.

You may well imagine our consternation when the proconsul's message also contained a warning that a Roman legion and a large troop of Numidian auxiliaries have encamped outside the city walls. They were sent here under direct orders from the Emperor to take action against Christians. The reason, as relayed by the proconsul, is to punish the members of our flock who were involved in the recent disturbances here in the city, when Jewish buildings were destroyed and several of those perverters of the scriptures were slain.

Needless to say, we expected little consideration from the military force and were prepared for the worst. Fortunately, in this instance, our long-standing good relationship with the proconsul, upon whom we have showered many gifts, bore priceless fruit. He assured us that he had personally interceded on our behalf with the military and that no harm would come to us, providing we cooperated fully with them.

Shortly before midday our personal slave reported that a small group of legionnaires was approaching our domicile. Rather than allowing them to spread the dung of the camp across our marble floors, we ourselves went out to meet them in the gardens.

What we were confronted with discloses the tragic state of the Empire. There was not a Roman face to be found among the dozen soldiers, and all appeared to have newly sprung from the depths of the northern forests. Their spokesman, a centurion whose name we cannot even pronounce and who sputtered incredibly atrocious Latin, was the most barbaric appearing member of the crew. Pale of face, blue eyed, of gigantic stature and with a neckless head sitting on enormous shoulders, he immediately demanded that we turn over all of our sacred writings-which he claimed defamed the Emperor.

It was at that moment that God himself inspired us. We told our slaves to bring out the Novatian documents we had confiscated. There were several arms full of scrolls, and these we delivered to the barbarian, who we were quite certain was virtually illiterate. As we suspected, he barely glanced at them and then turned them over to a legionnaire who struck a flint. Within moments the flames consumed the vile documents.

The action was not sufficient to satisfy the barbarian, however. He also insisted on obtaining the names of the members of our congregation, and it was then we truly felt the hand of God guiding us. We gave the insolent creature the complete list of Novatians, and we included their meeting place for good measure.

That this finally satisfied him was fully revealed this forenoon.

The legionnaires apprehended virtually every member of that contumacious sect, and today a special event is being planned on the campgrounds. Sewn up in sacks, the heretics are to be strewn across the open field to be trampled upon by the war elephants of the auxiliaries.

So you see, your grace, divine intervention can be the only explanation for this fortuitous arrival of the military that will achieve the final solution to the nagging problem of this atheistic sect.

Rest assured that this humble sinner will continue to do all in our power to encourage the flourishing of the True Church.

We remain, faithfully, your brother and colleague in Christ.

also by John Broussard: The Shadow Cabinet

About John A. Broussard...
Born in Cambridge Mass in 1924. AB Harvard '49. MA and Ph.D. University of Washington. College teacher for 20 years. Reviewer: non-fiction for Bibliophilos; mystery/suspense books for I Love a Mystery; books and videotapes for The American Association for The Advancement of Science. Over a hundred short stories recently sold. Books: "MANA" ( Pulsar Books. ISBN 1-58697-206-5 (print) and ISBN 1-58697-892-4-2. (electronic) "DEATH OF THE TIN MAN'S WIFE" ( ISBN 0-9713660-2-0. "THE LEFT HAND OF DEATH" ( to be published in July

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