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Authors: Daniel Silva

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31
Via della Paglia, Trastevere

Alessandro Ricci began
by reminding Donati that during the final year of the Wojtyla papacy, he had published a best-selling book on the Order of
St. Helena that, the state of his apartment notwithstanding, had made him a wealthy man. Not hedge-fund wealthy, he hastened
to add, but enough money to look after his mother and a brother who had never worked a day in his life. The Pole had not liked
the book. Neither had Bishop Hans Richter, who had agreed to be interviewed for the project. It was the last time he would
ever submit to questioning by a journalist.

Donati granted himself the luxury of a smile at Bishop Richter's expense. “You
were
rather unkind to him.”

“You read it?”

Donati deliberately removed another cigarette from his case. “Go on.”

The book, explained Ricci, shone a harsh light on the Order's close relationship with Hitler and the Nazis during World War
II. It also explored the Order's finances. It was not always so wealthy. Indeed, during the depression of the 1930s, the Order's
founder, Father Ulrich Schiller, was forced to wander Europe, hat in hand, seeking donations from wealthy patrons. But as
the continent drifted toward war, Father Schiller developed a far more lucrative method of filling his coffers. He extorted
cash and valuables from wealthy Jews in exchange for promises of protection.

“One of Father Schiller's victims lived here in Trastevere. He owned several factories up north. In exchange for false baptismal
records for himself and his family, he gave the Order several hundred thousand lire in cash, along with numerous Italian Old
Master paintings and a collection of rare books.”

“Do you happen to remember his name?” asked Gabriel.

“Why do you ask?” replied Ricci, displaying the sharp ear of a seasoned journalist.

“I'm just curious, that's all. Stories about art intrigue me.”

“It's all in my book.”

“You wouldn't have a copy lying around, would you?”

Ricci inclined his head toward a wall of books. “It's called
The Order
.”

“Catchy.” Gabriel wandered over to the shelves and craned his neck sideways.

“Second shelf, near the end.”

Gabriel took down the book and reclaimed his seat.

“Chapter four,” said Ricci. “Or maybe it's five.”

“Which is it?”

“Five. Definitely five.”

Gabriel leafed through the pages of the book while its author resumed his lecture on the finances of the Order of St. Helena.
By the end of the war, he said, it had burned through its cash reserves. Its fortunes changed with the outbreak of the Cold
War, when Pope Pius XII, an anti-Communist crusader, showered Father Schiller and his right-wing priests with money. Pope
John XXIII put the Order on a tight budget. But by the early 1980s it was not only financially independent, it was fabulously
rich. Alessandro Ricci had not been able to pinpoint the source of the Order's financial turnaround—at least not to the satisfaction
of his risk-averse publisher, who feared a lawsuit. But Ricci was now confident he knew the identity of the Order's main benefactor.
He was a reclusive German billionaire named Jonas Wolf.

“Wolf is a traditionalist Catholic who celebrates the Tridentine Latin Mass daily in his private chapel. He's also the owner
of a German conglomerate known as the Wolf Group. The company is opaque, to put it mildly. But in my opinion, it's nothing
more than the Order of St. Helena Incorporated. Jonas Wolf is the one who supplied the money to buy the papacy.”

“And you're sure it's Emmerich?” asked Donati.

“I've got it cold. By next Saturday evening at the latest, Franz von Emmerich will be standing on the balcony of St. Peter's dressed in white. The real pope, however, will be Bishop Hans Richter.” Ricci shook his head with disgust. “It seems the
Church hasn't changed so much, after all. Remind me, Excellency. How much did Rodrigo Borgia give Sforza to secure the papacy in 1492?”

“If memory serves, it was four mule-loads of silver.”

“That's a pittance compared to what Wolf and Richter paid.”

Donati closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “How much did it cost him?”

“The rich Italians didn't come cheap. The poorer prelates from the Third World fetched a few hundred thousand each. Most were
more than happy to take the Order's money. But a few were blackmailed into accepting it.”

“How?”

“As
prefetto
of the Secret Archives, Cardinal Albanese had access to a great deal of dirt, most of it sexual in nature. I'm told Bishop
Richter used it quite ruthlessly.”

“How were the bribes paid?”

“The Order considers them donations, Excellency. Not bribes. Which means it's all perfectly permissible as far as the Church
is concerned. In fact, it happens all the time. Do you remember that American cardinal who got caught up in the sexual abuse
scandal? He was spreading money around the Curia like chicken feed in a bid to save his career. It wasn't his personal money,
of course. It was donated by the parishioners of his archdiocese.”

“Who's your source?” asked Donati. “And don't try to hide behind some gallant front of journalistic integrity.”

“Let's just say that my source has firsthand knowledge of Richter's scheming.”

“He was offered a payment?”

Ricci nodded.

“Did he show you any proof?”

“The offer was made verbally.”

“Which explains why you haven't gone to print.”

“Print? You're dating yourself, Excellency.”

“I work for the oldest institution on the planet.” Donati crushed out his cigarette as though he were vowing never to smoke
again. “And now you think I'm going to tell you everything I know so you can write your story and throw the conclave into
turmoil?”

“If I don't report what I know, Bishop Richter and his friend Jonas Wolf will be in control of the Church. Is that what you
want?”

“Are you even a practicing Catholic?”

“I haven't been to Mass in twenty years.”

“Then please spare me the sanctimony.” Donati reached for his cigarette case but stopped. “Give me until Thursday night.”

“It won't hold that long. I have to publish by tomorrow at the latest.”

“If you do, you'll be making the biggest mistake of your career.”

Ricci glanced at his watch. “I have to get back to the Vatican for my appearance on CNN. Are you sure you don't have anything
for me?”

“The Holy Spirit will determine the identity of the next Roman pontiff.”

“Hardly.” Ricci turned to Gabriel, who had yet to look up from the book. “Did you find what you were looking for, Mr. Allon?”

“Yes,” said Gabriel. “I believe I have.” He held up the book. “Is there any chance I can keep this?”

“I'm afraid it's my last copy. But it's still in print.”

“Lucky you.” Gabriel returned the book to Ricci. “I have a feeling it's going to be a bestseller again.”

32
Trastevere, Rome

For a long time
after leaving Alessandro Ricci's apartment, Gabriel and Donati wandered the streets of Trastevere—Regio XIV, as Pilate would
have known it—seemingly without direction or destination. Donati's mood was as black as his cassock. This was the Luigi Donati,
thought Gabriel, who had made so many enemies inside the Roman Curia. The pope's ruthless son of a bitch, a hard man in black
with a whip and a chair. But he was also a man of enormous faith who, like Gabriel, was cursed with an unyielding sense of
right and wrong. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty. Nor did he often turn the other cheek. In fact, given the opportunity,
he usually preferred to return the favor.

A rectangular piazza opened before them. On one side was
a gelateria. On the other was the church of Santa Maria della Scala. Despite the lateness of the hour, the doors were open. Several young Romans, men and women in their twenties, were sitting on the steps, smiling, laughing. They seemed to temporarily lift Donati's spirits.

“There's something I need to do.”

They entered the church. The nave was ablaze with candlelight and filled with perhaps a hundred more young Catholics, most
of whom were engaged in animated discussions. Two folk singers were strumming guitars at the foot of the altar, and in the
side aisles a half-dozen priests were sitting on folding chairs, offering spiritual guidance and hearing confessions.

Donati surveyed the scene with obvious approval. “It's a program Lucchesi and I created a few years ago. Once or twice a week,
we open one of the historic churches and offer young people a place to spend an hour or two free from the distractions of
the outside world. As you can see, there aren't a lot of rules. Light a candle, say a prayer, find a new friend. Someone who's
interested in more than posting pictures of themselves on social media. That said, we don't discourage them from sharing their
experiences online if the spirit moves them.” He lowered his voice. “Even the Church has to adapt.”

“It's extraordinary.”

“We're not quite as dead as our critics like to think. This is my Church in action. This is the Church of the future.” Donati
gestured toward an empty pew. “Make yourself comfortable. I won't be long.”

“Where are you going?”

“When I lost Lucchesi, I lost my confessor.”

Donati went to the side aisle and sat down before a startled young priest. Once the initial awkwardness of the encounter faded, the young priest adopted a serious expression as he listened to the former papal private secretary unburdening his soul. Gabriel could only wonder what transgressions his old friend might have committed while cloistered in the Apostolic Palace. He had always been somewhat envious of the Catholic sacrament of confession. It was far less cumbersome than the daylong ordeal of hunger and atonement that the Jews had inflicted upon themselves.

Donati was leaning forward, elbows on his knees. Gabriel gazed straight ahead, toward the small golden cross, the instrument
of Roman brutality, atop the baldachin. The emperor Constantine claimed to have seen it in the sky above the Milvian Bridge,
and he had made it the symbol of the new faith. For the Jews of medieval Europe, however, the cross had been something to
fear. It had been emblazoned in red on the tunics of the Crusaders who massacred Gabriel's ancestors in the Rhineland on their
way to Jerusalem. And it had hung round the necks of many of the murderers who fed millions into the flames at Treblinka,
Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec, Majdanek, and Birkenau, actions for which they received not a single word of rebuke from their spiritual
leader in Rome.

His blood shall be on us and our children . . .

After accepting the young priest's absolution, Donati crossed the nave and knelt at Gabriel's side, head bowed in prayer.
Eventually, he made the sign of the cross and, rising from his knees, sat down on the pew.

“I said one for you as well. I figured it couldn't hurt.”

“It's good to know you still have a sense of humor.”

“Trust me, it's hanging by a thread.” Donati looked at the two folk singers. “What
is
that song they're playing?”

“You're asking me?”

Donati laughed quietly.

“You know,” said Gabriel, “I'm supposed to be on holiday with my wife and children.”

“You can always take a holiday.”

“I can't, actually.”

Donati made no reply.

“There
is
a relatively easy way out of this,” said Gabriel. “Be the second source for Ricci's article. Tell him everything. Let it
blow up in the press. There's no way the Order will go forward under those circumstances.”

“You underestimate Bishop Richter.” Donati cast his eyes around the nave. “And what about this? How will these young people
feel about their Church then?”

“Better a temporary scandal than His Holiness Pope Emmerich.”

“Perhaps. But it would deprive us of a valuable opportunity to make sure the next pope finishes the job my master started.”
Donati gave Gabriel a sideways glance. “You don't really believe that nonsense about the Holy Spirit choosing the pope, do
you?”

“I don't even know what the Holy Spirit is.”

“Don't worry, you're not alone.”

“Do you have a candidate in mind?” asked Gabriel.

“My master and I gave red hats to several men who would make fine popes. All I need is access to the cardinal-electors before
they enter the Sistine Chapel to cast their first vote.”

“On Friday afternoon?”

Donati shook his head. “Friday is too late. It would have to be Thursday evening at the latest. That's when the cardinals are locked into the Casa Santa Marta.”

“Won't they be sequestered?”

“In theory. But in reality, it's rather porous. That said, there's no guarantee the dean of the Sacred College will allow
me to speak to them. Not unless I have ironclad, undeniable proof of the Order's conspiracy.” Donati patted Gabriel's shoulder.
“I wouldn't think that would be too difficult for a man in your position.”

“That's exactly what you said about Niklaus Janson.”

“Is it?” Donati smiled. “I'd also like you to bring me proof that the Order murdered my master. And the book, of course. We
mustn't forget the Gospel of Pilate.”

Gabriel stared at the golden cross atop the baldachin. “Don't worry, Excellency. We haven't.”

33
Israeli Embassy, Rome

Gabriel dropped Donati
at the Jesuit Curia, then headed to the Israeli Embassy. Downstairs, he locked the first page of the Gospel of Pilate in an
Office safe and rang Yuval Gershon of Unit 8200 on a secure phone in the Holy of Holies. It was past midnight in Tel Aviv.
Gershon was in bed.

“What now?” he asked warily.

“A German conglomerate called the Wolf Group.”

“Anyone specific?”

“Herr Wolf.”

“How deep?”

“Proctological.”

Gershon exhaled into the mouthpiece of his phone. “And I thought it was going to be something unreasonable.”

“I'll get to the unreasonable request in a minute.”

“Are you looking for something in particular?”

Gabriel recited several keywords and names. One of the names was his own. Another was the name of the Roman military officer
who had served as the prefect of Judea from approximately 26
c.e.
to December of 36.


The
Pontius Pilate?” asked Gershon.

“How many Pontius Pilates do you know, Yuval?”

“I assume this has something to do with our visit to the Secret Archives.”

Gabriel indicated it did. He also insinuated that while inside the Archives, he had been given the first page of a rather
interesting document.

“By whom?”

“A priest named Father Joshua.”

“That's strange.”

“Why?”

“Because you and Archbishop Donati were the only ones in the Manuscript Depository.”

“We spoke to him.”

“If you say so. What else?”

“The Institute for Works of Religion, better known as the Vatican Bank. I just e-mailed you a list of names. I want to know
whether any of them received large payments lately.”

“Define large.”

“Six figures or more.”

“How many names are we talking about?”

“One hundred and sixteen.”

Gershon swore softly. “Are you forgetting that I have pictures of you dressed as a priest?”

“I'll make it up to you, Yuval.”

“Who are these guys?”

“The cardinals who will elect the next pope.”

Gabriel killed the connection and dialed Yossi Gavish, the chief of the Office's analytical division. Born in Golder's Green,
educated at Oxford, he still spoke Hebrew with a pronounced British accent.

“Father Gabriel, I presume?”

“Check your in-box, my son.”

A moment passed. “It's lovely, boss. But who is he?”

“He's a lay member of something called the Order of St. Helena, but I have a feeling he might be one of us. Show it around
the building, and send it to Berlin Station.”

“Why Berlin?”

“He speaks German with a Bavarian accent.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.”

Gabriel hung up the phone and placed one more call. Chiara answered, her voice heavy with sleep.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“Somewhere safe.”

“When are you coming home?”

“Soon.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I have to find something first.”

“Is it good?”

“Do you remember when Eli and I found the ruins of Solomon's Temple?”

“How could I forget?”

“This might be better.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Close your eyes,” said Gabriel. “Let me listen to you sleep.”

 

Gabriel spent the night
on a cot inside the station and at half past seven the next morning rang General Cesare Ferrari. He informed the general
that he needed to borrow the Art Squad's formidable laboratory to test a document. He did not say what the document was or
where he had found it.

“Why do you need our labs? Yours are the best in the world.”

“I don't have time to send it to Israel.”

“What sort of tests are we talking about?”

“Analysis of the paper and ink. I'd also like you to establish the age.”

“It's old, this document?”

“Several centuries,” said Gabriel.

“You're sure it's paper and not vellum?”

“So I've been told.”

“I have a staff meeting at the palazzo at half past ten.” The palazzo was the Art Squad's elegant cream-colored headquarters
in the Piazza di Sant'Ignazio. “If, however, you were to wander into the back room of Caffè Greco at nine fifteen, you might
find me enjoying a cappuccino and a cornetto. And by the way,” he said before ringing off, “I have something to show you as
well.”

Gabriel arrived a few minutes early. General Ferrari had the back room to himself. From his old leather briefcase he removed
a manila folder, and from the folder eight large photographs, which he arrayed on the table. The last depicted Gabriel removing
the wallet from Niklaus Janson's pocket.

“Since when does the commander of the Art Squad get to see surveillance photos from a murder investigation?”

“The chief of the Polizia wanted you to have a look at them. He was hoping you might be able to identify the assassin.”

The general laid another photograph on the table. A man in a motorcycle helmet and leather jacket, right arm extended, a gun
in his hand. A woman nearby had noticed the weapon and had opened her mouth to scream. Gabriel only wished he had seen it,
too. Niklaus Janson might still be alive.

Gabriel examined the gunman's clothing. “I don't suppose you have one without the helmet.”

“I'm afraid not.” Ferrari returned the photographs to the manila folder. “Perhaps you should show me this document of yours.”

It was locked inside a stainless-steel attaché case. Gabriel removed it and handed it wordlessly across the table. The general
scrutinized it through the protective plastic cover.

“The Gospel of Pilate?” He looked up at Gabriel. “Where did you get this?”

“The Vatican Secret Archives.”

“They
gave
it to you?”

“Not exactly.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means Luigi and I broke into the Archives and took it.”

General Ferrari looked down at the document again. “I assume this has something to do with the Holy Father's death.”

“Murder,” said Gabriel quietly.

General Ferrari's expression remained unchanged.

“You don't seem terribly surprised by the news, Cesare.”

“I assumed that Archbishop Donati was suspicious about the
circumstances of the Holy Father's death when he asked me to make contact with you in Venice.”

“Did he mention a missing Swiss Guard?”

“He might have. And a missing letter, too.” The general held the page aloft. “Is this the document Lucchesi wanted you to
see?”

Gabriel nodded.

“In that case, there's no need to test it. The Holy Father wouldn't have tried to give it to you if it wasn't genuine.”

“I'd feel better if I knew when it was written and where the paper and ink came from.”

The general raised it to the light of an overhead chandelier. “You're right, it's definitely paper.”

“How old could it be?”

“The first mills in Italy were established in Fabriano in the late thirteenth century, and during the fifteenth century paper
gradually replaced vellum in bookbinding. There were mills in Florence, Treviso, Milan, Bologna, Parma, and your beloved Venice.
We should be able to determine if this was produced in one of them. But it's not something that can be done quickly.”

“How long will it take?”

“To do the job right . . . several weeks.”

“I'm going to need the results a bit sooner than that.”

The general sighed.

“If it wasn't for you,” said Gabriel, “I'd still be in Venice with my family.”

“Me?” The general shook his head. “I was only the messenger. It was Pietro Lucchesi who summoned you.” He glanced at the manila folder. “Those photos are yours to keep. A small
souvenir of your brief visit to our country. Don't worry about the Polizia. I'll think of something to say to them. I always do.”

With that, the general departed. Gabriel checked his phone and saw that he had received a text message from Christoph Bittel,
his friend from the Swiss security service.

Call me as quickly as you can. It's important.

Gabriel dialed.

Bittel answered instantly. “For God's sake, what the hell took you so long?”

“Please tell me she's all right.”

“Stefani Hoffmann? She's fine. I'm calling about the man in that sketch of yours.”

“What about him?”

“It's not something we should discuss on the phone. How quickly can you get to Zurich?”

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