Read The Seville Communion Online

Authors: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction - Mystery, #Detective, #Literary, #Clergy, #Catholics, #Seville (Spain), #Catholic church buildings

The Seville Communion


Arturo Perez-Reverte was born in Cartagena in 1951. He has been a journalist and television reporter specialising in covering the world's trouble-spots. Since the publication of his first novel,
The Fencing Master,
Perez-Reverte has become one of Spain's best-selling authors.
The Flanders Panel
was awarded the Grand Prix Annuel de Litterature Policiere.
The Dumas Club
has been made into a film entitled
The Ninth Gate,
directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp.

Sonia Soto is half Spanish and was educated at the French Lycee in London and at the University of Cambridge. She is a translator from Spanish, French and Russian and is the translator of
The Ages of Lulu
by Almudena Grandes.


The Fencing Master

The Flanders Panel

The Dumas Club

Arturo Perez-Reverte


Sonia Soto


Published by Vintage 2003

2468 10 9753

Copyright © Arturo Perez-Reverte, 1995 English translation © Sonia Soto, 1997

Arturo Perez-Reverte has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

First published with the title
La piel del tambor
by Alfaguara S.A., Madrid in 1995

First published in Great Britain in 1998 by The Harvill Press


Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA

The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 0 09 945396 7

Papers used by Random House are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Bookmarque Ltd, Croydon, Surrey

To Amaya, for her friendship, To Juan, for keeping at me, And to Rodolfo, for doing his bit

Clerics, bankers, computer hackers, duchesses, and scoundrels - the characters in this novel are all imaginary. And any resemblance to real events is entirely coincidental. Only the setting is true. Nobody could invent a city like Seville.



The Man from Rome



Three Villains



Eleven Bars in Triana



Seville Oranges and Blossom



Captain Xaloc's Twenty Pearls



Lorenzo Quart's Tie



The Bottle of Anis del Mono



An Andalusian Lady



It's a Small World



In Ictu Oculi



Carlota Bruner's Trunk



The Wrath of God






Eight O'Clock Mass





The hacker broke into the central Vatican system eleven minutes before midnight. Thirty-five seconds later, one of the computers triggered the alarm. Rapid changes on the screen tracked the progress of the automatic security protocols. The letters HK appeared in a corner, and the duty officer, a Jesuit inputting data from the latest census of the Papal State, picked up the telephone to inform his superior. "We've got a hacker," he said:

Father Ignacio Arregui, also a Jesuit, came out into the hallway buttoning his cassock and walked the fifty metres to the computer room. He was thin and bony, with shoes that squeaked as he passed the frescoes in the dimly lit corridor. He glanced out of the windows at the deserted Via della Tipografia and the dark facade of the belvedere Palace, muttering to himself. Being woken bothered him more than hackers in the system. They got in quite often but their forays were usually harmless. Generally they kept to the outer security perimeters, leaving only slight traces of their presence - a message or small virus. Hackers liked attention. They were mostly teenage boys surfing the Net for ever harder systems to crack. Microchip junkies, tech addicts, getting their kicks trying to break into Cliasc Manhattan Bank, the Pentagon, or the Vatican.

The priest on duty was Father Cooey, a plump young Irish Jesuit with glasses. Bent over his keyboard, he frowned as he followed the hacker. He looked up, relieved, when Father Arregui came in.

"You don't know how glad I am to see you, Father."

His superior stood beside him, hands on the table, watching the blue and red icons blinking on the screen. The automatic search system was keeping in constant contact with the intruder.

"Is it serious?"

"It might be."

In the past two years there had been only one serious case, when a hacker had managed to slip in a worm program that multiplied inside the system until it crashed. Decontaminating and repairing the network had cost half a million dollars. The hacker was tracked down after a long and complicated search. He turned out to be a sixteen-year-old boy from a small village in Holland. Other serious attempts to corrupt the system with killer viruses - by a Mormon from Salt Lake City, a fundamentalist Islamic organisation based in Istanbul, and a mad priest who opposed celibacy - had all been stopped before they could do too much damage. The priest, a Frenchman, working from the computer of his lunatic asylum by night, had pestered them for six weeks and managed to infect forty-two files with a virus that filled the screens with Latin insults.

Father Arregui pointed at the cursor, now flashing red:

"Is this our hacker?"


"What have you called him ?"

They always gave them a name - it made identifying and following them easier. Some were'like old friends. Father Cooey pointed to a line on the screen:

"'Vespers' " he said, "because of the time he appeared. It was the first name that came into my head."

On the screen, files appeared and disappeared. Father Cooey watched them intently. He moved the cursor to one of them and clicked twice. Now that his superior was there to take responsibility, he was more relaxed, expectant even. Any hacker was a challenge to his expertise.

"He's been inside for ten minutes," he said, and Father Arregui thought he heard a tone of admiration. "At first he just looked at the different entry points. Then he suddenly slipped in. He already knew the way. He must have visited us before." "What do you think he's up to?"

Cooey shrugged. "I don't know. But he's pretty good, and he's quick. He's using a three-pronged approach to get past our defences. He starts by trying simple permutations of names of known users, then tries names from our own Dictionary and finally a list of four hundred and thirty-two passwords." As he said this, the Jesuit twisted his mouth slightly, as if suppressing a smile. "Now he's probing the entrances to INMA VAT."

Father Arregui drummed his fingers anxiously on one of the computer manuals littering the table. INMA VA T was a confidential list of the high-ranking members of the Roman Curia. Access was possible only with a secret personal code.

"Signal tracker?" he suggested.

Cooey jerked his chin towards the monitor at the neighbouring table, as if to say, "I've already thought of that". Connected to the police and to the Vatican's telephone network, the system recorded all information on an intruder's signal. It even contained a trap, a series of paths that slowed intruders long enough for them to be located and identified.

"This won't get us very far," said Cooey after a few moments. "Vespers has hidden his entry point by jumping between different telephone networks. Every time he makes a loop through one of them, we have to trace him right back to the exchange. He'd have to be here a long time before we could do anything about him. And he'd still be able to do some damage, if that's what he wants."

"What else could he want?"

"I don't know," the younger man answered, looking both intrigued and amused. He went on, his face serious again. "Sometimes they just want to have a look around, or leave a message - 'Captain Zap was here', that kind of thing." He paused, watching the screen. "But this one's going to a lot of trouble just for a saunter around the system."

Father Arregui nodded twice, still absorbed in what was happening on the screen, but then he seemed to come to. He glanced at the telephone inside the cone of lamplight. He reached for it, but stopped midway.

"Do you think he'll get into INMA VA T?"

"He just has."

"Dear God." Now the red cursor was flickering rapidly, moving down the long list of files on the screen.

"He's good,"said Cooey, no longer hiding his admiration. "God forgive me, but this hacker is very good." He paused and smiled. "Diabolically good."

He'd given up on the keyboard and was now simply watching, his elbows on the table. The restricted-access list was there on the screen, in full view. Eighty-four cardinals and high-ranking officials, each given with a corresponding code. The cursor moved up and down the list, twice, then stopped with a flicker beside VoiA.

"Swine," muttered Father Arregui.

The data transfer log was registering a tiny decrease in free memory. The intruder had cracked the security lock and was transferring a file into the system. "Who's VoiA?" asked Father Cooey.

Father Arregui didn't answer immediately. He unfastened the collar of his cassock and passed his band over his head. He looked at the screen again in disbelief. Then he picked up the telephone receiver slowly and, after another moment's hesitation, he dialled the emergency number of the Vatican palace secretariat. It rang seven times before a voice answered in Italian. Father Arregui cleared his throat and announced that an intruder had broken into the Holy Father's personal computer.

The Man from Rome

He carries a sword for a reason.

He is God's agent,

Bernard dc Clairvaux,

Eulogy of the Templar Militia

At the beginning of May, Lorenzo Quart received the order that would take him to Seville. An area of low pressure was moving towards the eastern Mediterranean and that morning it was raining on St. Peter's Square, so Quart had to skirt the square, taking shelter under Bernini's colonnade. As he walked up to the Portone di Bronzo, he saw the sentry standing with his halberd in the gloomy marble-and-granite corridor and preparing to ask for his identification. The man, tall and strong with a crew cut, was wearing the red, yellow, and blue-striped Renaissance uniform and black beret of the Swiss Guard. He stared at Quart's well-cut suit, matching black silk shirt with a Roman collar, and his fine, handmade leather shoes. Definitely not, the guard seemed to be thinking, one of the grey bagarozzi - the officials of the complex Vatican bureaucracy who passed through every day. But neither was the visitor a high-ranking member of the Curia, a prelate or monsignor. They wore a cross, a purple trim or a ring at the very least, and they definitely didn't arrive on foot in the rain. They entered the Vatican palace by another gate, St. Anne's, in comfortable chauffeur-driven cars. Anyway, despite grey hair cut short like a soldier's, the man looked too young to be a prelate. He stood politely before the guard and searched amongst the various credit cards in his wallet for his ID card. Very tall, slim, sure of himself, he looked calmly at the guard. His nails were well kept, and he wore an elegant watch and simple silver cufflinks. He couldn't have been over forty.
Guten Morgen. Wie ist der Dienst gewesen ?v

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