The flat square object was perfectly wrapped in a black velvet cloth. Father Johnson gently laid it down on the conference table then moved the satchel out of the way. Emily and Chase walk around the table standing on each side of the young padre in anticipation to see what was in the velvet cloth. He carefully unfolded the cloth from the flat object.
“Oh my God!” Emily said as her mouth opened in disbelief.
“This can’t be real, no way this is real the vernicle,” said Chase.
The rabbi said, “It is The Veil of Veronica.”
The veil sat inside the walnut frame between two sheets of glass.
“This is incredible!” said Chase Brooks, a history professor at Birmingham Southern College and very educated in relics, Emily’s husband.
Chase leaned in close studying every inch of the relic as he spoke, “The story goes that Saint Veronica encountered Jesus bearing the cross in Jerusalem on to Calvary. It’s said Veronica stepped forward from the crowd and wiped the blood and sweat off his face with her handkerchief. The handkerchief was left with the clear and miraculous imprint of his face.”
The priest followed, “Her name was not Veronica, her name was Hadassah, she was a pious woman that lived in Jerusalem. After the Lord’s Passion, she went to Rome, taking this veil with her. Hadassah arrived in Italy, or I will say Saint Veronica, she went before the Roman emperor Tiberius; when she had him touch that holy image, he was cured from an illness. She lived in the capital of the empire until her death. On occasion, she spoke with apostles Peter and Paul. It was said that she left the relic of the ‘True Image’ to Pope Clement I. That’s not true, she gave it to the apostle Paul which gave it to Hadassah’s daughter.”
Chase followed, “To the world, the history of Veronica’s Veil is unclear after the Holy Year of 1600. I thought the relic is housed in the Basilica of St. Peter.” He stood straight upright.
“It’s authentic, the original was kept in the Capuchin monastery in the tiny village of Manoppello, Italy,” Father Johnson looked up and continued, “This belongs to my family.”
Emily spoke, “Kyle, why did you never tell us this while we were in college?”
“I just found out about it from my dad,” Chase answered.
“We knew your family was loaded but not that loaded, said Emily. She was the Curator of the Birmingham Museum and a decorated archeologist, so this artifact had caught her attention.
With the bright sunlight pouring in through Emily’s office window, filling the room with its bright rays, the couple was looking at the over 2000-year-old relic. Kyle, now a young priest and former college mate and very good friend of Chase and Emily, walked over and stood in front of the large floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the north side of the city looking at the movement of people. Emily nodded her head to the side signaling Chase to come over to the windows. Emily stood on one side of their old college friend and Chase the other.
Chase spoke, “What is our buddy Father Kyle Johnson of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral doing here from New York besides showing us a relic wonder?”
The rabbi began speaking without taking his eyes off the city scene, “You know in the bible the books of Mathew, Mark, and Luke mention the woman Jesus cured that had the issue of blood, she was my ancestor and she is the woman that wiped the face of the Christ.”
The couple looked at each other and then across to their friend.
“Chase and Emily, I need help from both of you to find a place on earth,” the priest spoke.
“What place Kyle?” asked Chase.
“Have either of you heard of the book of Vitus?” he answered.
Emily replied, “Yes, I remember while on an archeological dig in Nairobi, some of the African archaeologists were talking about this book. They said it speaks of a heaven on earth. It’s said the book was found in 1965 and disappeared.”
Instantly, the couple looked at Kyle, and Chase asked, “Does your father have this book?”
“Yes,” Kyle replied.
Before she could fully process the information, Emily spoke, “This is getting more interesting by the minute.”
“I read the book and it indeed speaks of heaven on earth,” said Kyle.
“Do you believe it?” Chase asked.
“Yes, I believe it exists,” Kyle replied.
Emily asked, “How can it be found, if this heaven really exists?”
Kyle replied, “There are three pieces of the map. I have one of them.” Kyle turned and walked back over to the conference table. Emily and Chase followed. Kyle went into his suit pocket pulling out a tube about the width of a piece of bamboo. The tube was the size of a standard test tube but made of light-colored wood. The rabbi pulled the cork and turned the tube upside down causing a rolled piece of paper to fall out. He laid the wooden tube and cork on the table and unrolled the paper.
Once it was flattened Emily said, “It’s a map. Oh, my goodness…”
“Yes, it’s a map but only a third of it,” said Kyle.
Chase asked, “Where are the other two-thirds of the map?”
“One of the pieces is in the wood frame of the veil. Emily, you are the only person I trust to open and get it out Kyle spoke quietly.
Emily gave an exhale. Chase asked, “Where’s the third piece of the map then?”
Kyle swallowed hard then answered, “The other piece of the map is located in a picture you have in your museum.”
Emily asked, “Which picture?”
“In the Dead Christ picture by Mantegna,” the priest replied.
“This is getting more interesting by the minute,” Chase said. He turned to Kyle and asked, “Why do you want to find this place? I know your family does treasure hunting but why a place that probably doesn’t exist?”
“Chase, my father spent his life looking for this heaven on earth which is said to have the tree of life,” said Kyle.
Emily responded, “So the book of Vitus confirms this place exists?”
Kyle looked at her and spoke, “Yes. The book says a perfectly spherical island stands about ten yards out in the middle of a teal-blue lake. The water in the lake appeared to be no more than two feet deep, and it lapped around the base of the plush, deep-green island. The island is barely a quarter of a mile around, it teemed with lush beauty and vibrant life. Directly in the center of this island is a beautiful flowering tree that stands about 10 feet tall and was perfectly symmetrical. The trunk of the tree was not gray, or black, or white, or even green—it was purple—dark purple. The leaves on this tree were so white, whiter than any white the man had ever seen. The veins in the leaves are dark purple, like the veins in a human body. I need your help to find this place.”
Emily and Chase looked at each other and then back at Kyle. “This just keeps getting more interesting,” Emily spoke.
“We’ll have to consider your plan before we can decide,” Chase said, glancing back towards Emily.