The Holy Bullet

1

I am writing a book in which I will tell the whole truth. Until now I’ve told fifty different stories, all of which are false.

—MEHMET ALI AGĞCA, the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II, Anno Domini MMVII

Everything has a beginning.

The start, the departure point, the zero, Sunday, the starting gun, the sprouting seed pushing through the earth for light, the splash into water, the earliest heartbeat, the first word, the first stone of a village, villa, city, wall, house, palace, church, building. Of this building in an unnamed city. A luxury restaurant occupies the ground floor and basement, as indicated by the menu displayed at the side of the door. Its status is not openly announced to the world at large, but suggested by the tinted-glass doors, always closed, and by the haughtiness of the doorman, impeccably dressed in a burgundy uniform. The absence of prices on the menu and the many phrases in French are also a sign of its exclusiveness, even if the city is located on French soil, which is neither confirmed nor denied. What is certain is that this restaurant does not need to advertise any of its services, which, in itself, presupposes an exclusive clientele.

Any diner who wishes to enjoy the favors of this establishment must first seek approval; without such authorization he will never pass through the tinted-glass doors. Usually this can be obtained through the recommendation of a frequent client, a member of sorts, who has influence with management, or by a formal request that involves a long process of investigation into the private life of the applicant. A large bank account is useful, but not enough, since some pretentious newly rich are frequently rejected, although many members of old families are turned down also. Such rejection, and bear in mind the word “rejection” is never used, is communicated by a letter in a white envelope with no return address. Once this decision is made, it can never be revoked. In the case of acceptance there will be a long list of rules. There is, for example, a provision in the statutes for the expulsion of a member in the case of serious offenses, even if such expulsion has never happened.

Acceptance happens differently: a telephone call at home inviting him to dinner. Upon arrival, the uniformed doorman compliments him and opens the tinted-glass doors. Inside, he is treated with a deference that is never excessive. Another employee relieves him of his coat. Immediately he is led to a table that, from that day on, will be his alone, no matter the hour or day of the week. He can bring any guests he desires, as long as he informs the manager of their names five days in advance. The morality of the guests is not important. This is the privilege of the selected clients, who can share whatever with whomever they desire—favors, business negotiations, intrigues, blackmail, purchases, the destiny of others, their own—without anyone pointing a recriminating finger, accompanied by food for the refined palate, breast of chicken stuffed with pâté of bacon and mushroom sauce, wine, and brandy. No financial transactions take place here, except those discussed at the table, which are many. Members pay a monthly fee by bank transfer of 12,000 euros that covers the privileges of having the kitchen available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Thus this restaurant functions in every city of major political and economic influence in the world, as it does in this unnamed city.

Today, at noon, the restaurant is half empty. The clients of the empty tables are occupied with their personal