Rome - Pungent early whiffs of a hung Conclave have seen America's thirteen cardinals secretly hire heavyweight lawyers for their respective corners amid fears of a Vatican dirty tricks department coup.
A hanging chad scenario of dodgy ballot papers was always in the frame during the 2005 Papal runoff when Joseph Ratzinger narrowly defeated rival contender Chicago's Cardinal Buffy 'Vampire Slayer' Gorgonzola.
The two-whorse grand finale was erased from voting records, giving an eventual impression of a Ratzinger landslide.
"The last thing we want is a repeat performance;" paralegal sources close to New York's Cardinal Egan commented, "we're monitoring discreetly to stymie a standoff."
This morning Vatican officials seized Papal contenders' cell phones, iPads and other hand held devices** as litigation fears mounted behind St Peter's Basilica locked doors.
Also banned is non-electronic communication equipment 'including LA Cardinal Roger Mahony's prizewinning homing pigeon', suspected of ferrying messages to and from ecclesiastical attorneys on board a luxury cruiser anchored close by on the Med.
Rigid secrecy will be enforced until all 115 Papal electors 'come to their senses' and pick Papa Ratzi's successor from an Opus Dei-approved list.
The Dalai Llama is 69.
** excluding traditional, Curia-approved virgin lambskin toss-off mitts, permitted in an official Amendments to the Conclave's offside rule