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Part Three
Extra Omnes
48
Jesuit Curia, Rome

Luigi Donati was
a man of many virtues and admirable traits, but patience was not one of them. He was by nature a pacer and a twirler of pens
who did not suffer fools or even minor delays gladly. Rome tested him daily. So had life behind the walls of the Vatican,
where nearly every encounter with the backbiting bureaucrats of the Curia had driven him to utter distraction. All conversations
within the Apostolic Palace were coded and cautious and laden with ambition and fear of a misstep that could doom an otherwise
promising career. One seldom said what one was really thinking, and one never,
never
, put it in writing. It was far too dangerous. The Curia did not reward boldness or creativity. Inertia was its sacred calling.

But at least Donati had never been bored. And with the exception of the six weeks he had spent in the Gemelli Clinic
recovering from a bullet wound, he had never been powerless. At present, however, he was both. When combined with his aforementioned lack of forbearance, it was a lethal combination.

His old friend Gabriel Allon was to blame. In the three days since he had left Rome, Donati had heard from him only once,
at 5:20 that morning. “I have everything you need,” Gabriel had promised. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell Donati what
it was he had discovered. Only that it was a twelve on the Bishop Richter scale—a rather clever pun, Donati had to admit—and
that there was an additional complication involving someone close to the previous pope. A complication that could not be discussed
over the phone.

For the subsequent eleven hours, Donati had heard not so much as a ping from his old friend. Hence, he had passed a thoroughly
unpleasant day behind the walls of the Jesuit Curia. The news from Germany, while shocking, at least provided a distraction.
Donati watched it with a few of his colleagues on the television in the common room. The German police had prevented a truck
bombing targeting Cologne Cathedral. The purported terrorists were not from the Islamic State but a shadowy neo-Nazi organization
with links to the far-right politician Axel Brünner. One member of the cell, an Austrian national, had been arrested, as had
Brünner himself. At four thirty Germany's interior minister announced that two other men implicated in the scandal had been
found dead at an estate in the Obersalzberg. Both had been killed by the same handgun in what appeared to be a case of murder-suicide.
The murder victim was a former German intelligence officer named Andreas Estermann. The suicide was the reclusive billionaire
Jonas Wolf.

“Dear God,” whispered Donati.

Just then, his Nokia shivered with an incoming call. He tapped
answer
and raised the device to his ear.

“Sorry,” said Gabriel. “The traffic in this town is a nightmare.”

“Have you seen the news from Germany?”

“Wonderful, isn't it?”

“Is that what you meant by tying up one or two loose ends?”

“You know what they say about idle hands.”

“Please tell me you—”

“I didn't pull the trigger, if that's what you're asking.”

Donati sighed. “Where are you?”

“Waiting for you to let me in.”

 

Gabriel stood in the entrance, framed by the doorway. The last three days had been unkind to his appearance. Truth be told,
he looked like something the cat had dragged in. Donati led him upstairs to his rooms and chained the door. He checked the
time. It was 4:39.

“You mentioned something about a twelve on the Bishop Richter scale. Perhaps you can be a bit more specific.”

Gabriel delivered his briefing while peering through the blinds into the street. It was swift but thorough and only lightly redacted. It detailed the Order's plan to erase Islam from Western Europe, the circumstances surrounding the murder of His Holiness Pope Paul VII, and the macabre room in which Jonas Wolf, the son of a Nazi war criminal, burned the last copy of the Gospel of Pilate. Central to the Order's sweeping political ambitions was control of the papacy. Forty-two cardinal-electors had
accepted money in exchange for their votes at the conclave. Another eighteen were secret members of the Order who planned to cast their ballots for Bishop Richter's proxy supreme pontiff: Cardinal Franz von Emmerich, the archbishop of Vienna.

“And the best part is that I have it all on video.” Gabriel glanced over his shoulder. “Is that specific enough for you?”

“That's only sixty votes. They need seventy-eight to secure the papacy.”

“They're counting on momentum to carry Emmerich over the top.”

“Do you know the names of all forty-two cardinals?”

“I can list them alphabetically if you like. I also know how much each was paid and where the money was deposited.” Gabriel
released the blind and turned. “And I'm afraid it only gets worse.”

He tapped the touchscreen of his phone. A moment later it emitted the sound of two men speaking German.

He has two million reasons to keep his mouth shut.

Two million and one . . .

He paused the recording.

“Bishop Richter and Jonas Wolf, I presume?”

Gabriel nodded.

“What are the two million reasons why I shouldn't tell the conclave what I know about the Order's plot?”

“It's the amount of money Wolf and Richter put in your account at the Vatican Bank.”

“They want to make it appear as though I'm as corrupt as they are?”

“Obviously.”

“And the
one
?”

“I'm still working on that.”

Donati's eyes flashed with anger. “And to think they wasted two million dollars on such an obvious ploy.”

“Perhaps you can put it to good use.”

“Don't worry, I will.”

Donati dialed Angelo Francona, dean of the College of Cardinals. There was no answer.

He checked the time again. It was 4:45.

“I suppose you should give me the names.”

“Azevedo of Tegucigalpa,” said Gabriel. “One million. Bank of Panama.”

“Next?”

“Ballantine of Philadelphia. One million. Vatican Bank.”

“Next?”

 

At that same moment,
Cardinal Angelo Francona was standing like a sentinel near the reception desk of the Casa Santa Marta. Resting on the white
marble floor at his feet was a large aluminum case filled with several dozen mobile phones, tablets, and notebook computers,
all carefully labeled with the owners' names. For security reasons, the switchboard of the clerical guesthouse remained operative,
but the phones, televisions, and radios had been removed from its 128 rooms and suites. Francona's
telefonino
was in the pocket of his cassock, silenced but still functioning. He planned to switch it off the instant the last cardinal
walked through the door. At that point, the men who would select the next supreme Roman pontiff would effectively be cut off
from the outside world.

At present, 112 of the 116 voting-eligible cardinals were safely
beneath the Casa Santa Marta's roof. Several were milling about the lobby, including Navarro and Gaubert, the two leading contenders to succeed Lucchesi. At last check, Cardinal Camerlengo Domenico Albanese was upstairs in his suite. A migraine. Or so he claimed.

Francona felt a pre-conclave headache coming on as well. Only once before had he taken part in the election of a pope. It
was the conclave that had shocked the Catholic world by choosing a diminutive, little-known patriarch from Venice to succeed
Wojtyla the Great. Francona had been among the group of liberals who had tipped the conclave in Lucchesi's favor. Regrettably,
Lucchesi's papacy would be remembered for the terrorist attack on the basilica and the sexual abuse scandal that had left
the Church on the brink of moral and financial collapse.

Therefore, the conclave that would commence the following afternoon had to be utterly above reproach. Already a cloud was
hanging over it. It had been placed there by the murder of that poor Swiss Guard in Florence. There was more to the story,
Francona was sure of it. His task now was to preside over a scandal-free conclave, one that would produce a pontiff who could
heal the Church's wounds, unite its factions, and lead it into the future. He wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible.
Secretly, he feared it was spinning out of control and that anything could happen.

The double glass doors of the guesthouse opened, and Cardinal Franz von Emmerich, the doctrinaire archbishop of Vienna, flowed into the lobby as though propelled by a private conveyor belt. The suitcase he was towing was the size of a steamer trunk.
At the reception desk, he collected a room key from the nuns and then reluctantly surrendered his iPhone to Francona.

“I don't suppose I was lucky enough to be assigned to one of the suites.”

“I'm afraid not, Cardinal Emmerich.”

“In that case, I hope we reach a decision quickly.”

The Austrian made for the elevators. Alone again, Francona checked his phone and was surprised to see he had three missed
calls. All were from the same person. There were no messages, which was not his typical style.

Francona hesitated, forefinger floating above the touchscreen. It was unorthodox, but strictly speaking it was not a violation
of the rules governing the conduct of the conclave, as laid out in
Universi Dominici Gregis
.

Francona dithered for another precious minute before finally dialing the number and lifting the phone to his ear. A few seconds
later he closed his eyes. It was spinning out of control, he thought. Anything could happen.
Anything . . .

 

The conversation lasted three minutes and forty-seven seconds. Donati was selective in what he revealed. Indeed, he focused
only on the immediate matter at hand, which was the plot by the reactionary Order of St. Helena to seize the papacy and drag
Western Europe into the dark ages of its fascist past.

“Emmerich?” Francona was incredulous. “But you and Lucchesi were the ones who gave him his red hat.”

“In retrospect, a mistake.”

“How many cardinal-electors are involved?”

Donati answered.

“Dear God! Can you prove any of it?”

“Twelve of the cardinals asked the Order to deposit the money in the Vatican Bank.”

“You've been snooping through the accounts, have you?”

“The information was given to me.”

“By your Israeli friend?”

“Angelo, please! We haven't time.”

Francona sounded suddenly short of breath.

“Are you all right, Eminence?”

“The news comes as quite a shock, that's all.”

“I'm sure it does. The question is, what are we going to do about it?”

There was a silence. At last, Francona said, “Give me the names of the cardinals. I'll discuss it with them privately.”

“You are a good and decent man, Cardinal Francona.” Donati paused. “Too decent for something like this.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Let
me
talk to the cardinals. All of them. At the same time.”

“The Casa Santa Marta is closed to everyone but the cardinal-electors and the staff.”

“I'm afraid you're going to make an exception. Otherwise, I'll have no choice but to seek a public forum.”

“The media? You wouldn't dare.”

“Watch me.”

Donati could practically hear Francona trying to steel himself. “Give me a few minutes to think it over. I'll call you when
I've made my decision.”

Which is when the connection went dead, at 4:52 p.m. It was ten minutes past five when Donati's phone finally rang again.

“I've asked the cardinals to come to the chapel before dinner. Be sure to mind your manners. Remember, you're not the private secretary anymore. You'll be a titular archbishop in a roomful of red. They will be under no obligation to listen. In fact, I would expect a rather hostile reception.”

“When?”

“I'll meet you in the Piazza Santa Marta at five twenty-five. If you are so much as a minute—”

“Wait!”

“What is it now, Luigi?”

“I no longer have a Vatican pass.”

“Then I suppose you'll have to find some other way of getting past the Swiss Guards at the Arch of Bells.”

Francona rang off without another word. Donati opened his contacts, scrolled to the letter M, and dialed. “Answer your phone,”
he whispered. “Answer your damn phone.”

49
Villa Giulia, Rome

Since taking control
of Italy's Museo Nazionale Etrusco, Veronica Marchese had labored tirelessly to increase the museum's flagging attendance numbers. In a city such as Rome, it was no easy task. The sweating, backpacked hordes who flocked to the Colosseo and the Fontana di Trevi rarely found their way to the Villa Giulia, the elegant sixteenth-century palazzo on the northern fringes of the Borghese Gardens that housed the world's finest collection of Etruscan art and artifacts, including several notable pieces from the personal collection of the director's late husband. Carlo had posthumously contributed to the museum in other ways. A small portion of his ill-gotten fortune had financed a redesign of the museum's antiquated website. He had also paid for a costly global print advertising campaign and a splashy gala attended by numerous Italian sports and en
tertainment celebrities. The star of the evening, however, had been Archbishop Luigi Donati, the strikingly handsome papal private secretary and subject of a recent fawning profile in
Vanity Fair
magazine. Veronica had greeted him that night as though he were a stranger, and had pretended not to notice the impossibly
pretty young women hanging on his every word.

If only they had seen the version of Luigi Donati who had wandered into an archaeological dig in Umbria one soft afternoon
in the spring of 1992—the tall, bearded man in torn jeans, worn-out sandals, and a Georgetown University sweatshirt. He wore
it often, the sweatshirt, for he owned little else, save for a collection of tattered paperbacks. They were piled on the bare
floor next to the bed they shared in a little villa in the hills near Perugia. For a few glorious months, he was entirely
hers. They forged a plan. He would leave the priesthood and become a civilian lawyer, a fighter of lost causes. They would
marry, have many children. All that changed when he met Pietro Lucchesi. Heartbroken, Veronica gave herself to Carlo Marchese,
and the tragedy was complete.

Carlo's fall from the dome of St. Peter's had allowed Veronica and Luigi to rekindle a small part of their relationship. Secretly, she had hoped that with Lucchesi's passing, she might reclaim the rest. She realized now it had been nothing more than a silly fantasy, one that was entirely unbecoming for a woman of her age and station in life. Fate and circumstances had conspired to keep them apart. They were doomed to dine politely each Thursday evening, like characters in a Victorian novel. They would grow old, but not together. So lonely, she thought. So terribly sad and lonely. But it was the punishment she deserved for losing her heart to a priest. Luigi had sworn a vow long
before he wandered into that dig in Monte Cucco. The other woman in his life was the Bride of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church.

They had spoken only once since the night they had dinner with Gabriel Allon and his wife, Chiara. The conversation had taken
place that morning, as Veronica was driving to work. Luigi had spoken with his usual curial opacity. Even so, his words had
shocked her. Pietro Lucchesi had been murdered in the papal apartments. The reactionary Order of St. Helena was behind it.
They were planning to seize control of the Church at the next conclave.

“Were you in Florence when—”

“Yes. And you were right. Janson was involved with Father Graf.”

“Maybe next time you'll listen.”

“Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.”

“I don't suppose I'll see you this evening?”

“I'm afraid I have plans.”

“Be careful, Archbishop Donati.”

“And you as well, Signora Marchese.”

As part of her campaign to drive up attendance at the museum, Veronica had extended its hours. The Museo Nazionale Etrusco
was now open until eight p.m. But at five o'clock on a cold and dreary Thursday in December, its exhibition rooms were as
silent as tombs. The administrative and curatorial staffs had left for the night, as had Veronica's secretary. She had only
Maurizio Pollini for company—Schubert's Piano Sonata in C Minor, the sublime second movement. She and Luigi used to listen
to it over and over again at the villa near Perugia.

At five fifteen she packed her bag and pulled on her overcoat.
She was meeting a friend for a drink on the Via Veneto. A girlfriend. The only kind of friend she had these days. Afterward, they were having dinner at an out-of-the-way osteria, the kind of place known only to Romans. They served
cacio e pepe
in the bowl in which it was prepared. Veronica intended to eat every delectable strand, then clean the inside of the bowl
with a piece of crusty bread. If only Luigi were sitting at the opposite side of the table.

Downstairs, she paused in front of the Euphronios krater. The museum's star attraction, it was widely regarded as one of the
most beautiful pieces of art ever created. Gabriel, she remembered, had thought otherwise.

You don't care for Greek vases?

I don't believe I said that.

It was no wonder Luigi liked him so much. They shared the same fatalistic sense of humor.

She bade the security guards a pleasant evening and, declining their offer of an escort, went into the chill evening. Her
car was parked a few meters from the entrance in her reserved space, a flashy Mercedes convertible, metallic gray. One day
she would manage to convince Luigi to actually get into it. She would drive him against his will to a little villa in the
hills near Perugia. They would share a bottle of wine and listen to Schubert. Or perhaps Mendelssohn's Piano Trio no. 1 in
D Minor.
The key of repressed passion . . .
It was lying just beneath the surface, dormant but not extinct, the terrible craving. A touch of her hand was all it would take. They would be young again. The same plan, thirty years delayed. Luigi would leave the priesthood, they would marry. But no children. Veronica was far too old, and she didn't want to share him with anyone. There would
be a scandal, of course. Her name would be dragged through the mud. They would have no choice but to go into seclusion. A Caribbean island, perhaps. Thanks to Carlo, money was not an issue.

It was unbecoming, Veronica reminded herself as she unlocked the Mercedes with the remote. Still, there was no harm in merely
thinking
about it. Unless, of course, she became so distracted that she failed to notice the man walking toward her car. He was in
his mid-thirties, with neat blond hair. Veronica relaxed when she saw the white square of a Roman collar beneath his chin.

“Signora Marchese?”

“Yes?” she replied automatically.

He drew a gun from beneath his coat and smiled beautifully. It was no wonder Niklaus Janson had fallen for him.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I want you to drop your bag and your keys.”

Veronica hesitated, then allowed the key and the bag to fall from her hand.

“Very good.” Father Graf's smile vanished. “Now get in the car.”

BOOK: The Order
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