Excerpt of The Third Secret by Steve Berry
(Page 2 of 3)
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He re-entered the main hall and stepped back to the reading desk, his
attention still on the room. The floor was a zodiacal diagram oriented
to the sun, its rays able to penetrate thanks to carefully positioned
slits high in the walls. He knew that centuries ago the Gregorian
calendar had been calculated at this precise spot. Yet no sunlight
leaked in today. Outside was cold and wet, a mid-autumn rainstorm
The volumes that had held his attention for the past two hours were
neatly arranged on the lectern. Many had been composed within the past
two decades. Four were much older. Two of the oldest were written in
Italian, one was in Spanish, the other in Portuguese. He could read all
of them with ease another reason Clement XV coveted his employment.
The Spanish and Italian accounts were of little value, both re-hashes of
the Portuguese work: A Comprehensive and Detailed Study of the
Reported Apparitions of the Holy Virgin Mary at Fatima May 13, 1917 to
October 13, 1917.
Pope Benedict XV had ordered the investigation in 1922 as part of the
Church's investigation into what supposedly had occurred in a remote
Portuguese valley. The entire manuscript was handwritten, the ink faded
to a warm yellow so the words appeared as if they were scripted in gold.
The Bishop of Leira had performed a thorough inquiry, spending eight
years in all, and the information later became critical in the 1930
acknowledgment by the Vatican that the Virgin's six earthly appearances
at Fatima were worthy of assent. Three appendices, now attached
to the original, were generated in the 1950s, 60s, and 90s.
Michener had studied them all with the thoroughness of the lawyer he'd
been trained by the Church to be. Seven years at the University of
Munich had earned him his degrees, yet he'd never practiced law
conventionally. His was a world of ecclesiastical pronouncements and
canonical decrees. Precedent spanned two millennia and relied more on an
understanding of the times than on any notion of stare decisis.
His arduous legal training had become invaluable to his Church service,
as the logic of the law had many times become an ally in the confusing
mire of divine politics. More importantly, it had just helped him find
in this labyrinth of forgotten information what Clement XV wanted.
The sound came again.
A soft squeak, like two limbs rubbing together in a breeze, or a mouse
announcing its presence.
He rushed toward the source and glanced both ways.
Fifty feet off to the left, a door led out of the archive. He approached
the portal and tested the lock. It yielded. He strained to open the
heavy slab of carved oak and the iron hinges squealed ever so slightly.
A sound he recognized.
The hallway beyond was empty, but a gleam on the marble floor caught his
The transparent clumps of moisture came with regularity, the droplets
leading off into the corridor, then back through the doorway into the
archive. Suspended within some were remnants of mud, leaves, and grass.
He followed the trail with his gaze which stopped at the end of a row of
shelves. Rain continued to pound the roof.
from The Third Secret by Steve Berry Copyright © 2005 by Steve
Berry. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the