She scrolled through the texts she’d been sent during the past week, noting that both Patrick and Gina had sent several messages, escalating in concern. She’d missed several e-mails and phone messages as well.
With a sigh she took one last, sad look at the empty cases and exited the room. Down the corridor, she saw Patrick striding toward her.
“How did it go with the police?” His face was creased with worry.
He took her hand and led her to one of the back staircases. They climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked to a quiet corner.
He released her hand and crossed his arms over his chest, standing close to her.
“What did they say?”
“They asked me a bunch of questions. They’re suspicious, obviously, and my inability to answer their questions makes me look guilty.” She rubbed at her eyes. “I have no idea where I was last week. My memory is all screwed up.”
“You don’t remember last week at all?” He sounded concerned.
“Nothing since Gina’s party. Maybe somebody slipped me something.” She avoided his eyes, examining her feet.
“No way.” Patrick’s tone was firm. “I was pouring drinks, remember? I know everyone who was there. No one would have slipped you something.”
“Then why can’t I remember?”
“I don’t know.” His expression grew even more tense. “Dottor Vitali wants to see you.”
Patrick nodded in the direction of the director’s office. “He’s keeping tabs on everything having to do with the investigation, including your interview. And the Emersons just arrived. I saw the police escort them inside.”
Raven groaned. Of course the Emersons would be upset about the theft. And Professor Gabriel Emerson had a reputation for being a trifle . . . mercurial.
Patrick continued. “I told Professor Urbano you were back, but I didn’t mention the police. He wants to see you after Vitali is done with you.”
“I liked it better when no one noticed me.”
Patrick frowned. “Hey. That’s the second time you’ve said something like that. Look around. I’m worried about you and so is Urbano. We’ve been stressed for a week wondering where you were.”
She chewed at the inside of her mouth. “Maybe you should be suspicious of me. I’m suspicious of me.”
Patrick took a step closer, leaning down so he was at eye level. “Don’t start with that shit. Remember what happened to Amanda Knox?”
Raven shivered. “Yeah.”
“She says she’s innocent. Maybe she is. But she was caught up in an Italian police investigation. By the time they were finished, everyone thought she was guilty. The American consulate can’t help you if you’re charged with a crime. Don’t give the police any ammunition.” Patrick squeezed her arm sympathetically. “You’d better get going. Vitali wants to see you right away.”
“He’s going to suspend me, isn’t he?”
Patrick squeezed her arm again. “I don’t know. But there has to be a reasonable explanation for what happened. We’ll find out, I promise.”
She gave him a wan smile before walking the few steps to Dottor Vitali’s office.
She knocked twice and waited.
The door was opened by a tall, handsome man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He was dressed in a white shirt and jeans, his feet clad in brown leather shoes.
His posture was anything but casual.
“Yes?” His expression, like his tone, was decidedly unfriendly.
“Good morning. Dottor Vitali asked to see me,” Raven replied in polite Italian.
The man opened the door wider, and Raven saw beyond him that Vitali was seated behind his desk, talking to a young woman who was holding a baby on her lap.
“What do you mean there aren’t any fucking fingerprints?” The man, who Raven surmised was Professor Emerson, brushed past her to stand in front of the desk.
“Gabriel.” The woman, who Raven assumed was his wife, glanced from the professor to the child in her arms.
“I’m sorry, darling.” Professor Emerson sounded contrite. He placed a hand on the baby’s head. “I meant fracking fingerprints.”
“That’s not really an improvement.” Mrs. Emerson gave him a half smile.
The child started fussing and tugging at her mother’s dress. She balled up a chubby fist and began chewing on it, but not before making a noise that sounded to Raven like a squawk.
“I think she’s hungry.” Mrs. Emerson gave an apologetic look to their host.
“Vitali, can we have a quiet room somewhere so Julianne can feed Clare?” Professor Emerson placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder.
“Of course.” Vitali smiled, motioning to Raven to come forward. “And you are . . . ?”
Raven paused, embarrassed. “Raven Wood, dottore.”
Dottor Vitali took in her appearance with a look of incredulity.
Vitali glanced at his guests, appearing to recover from his shock.
“Miss Wood.” He began speaking English. “Bring Mrs. Emerson to the conference room. Then return here. I’d like to speak to you.”
“Of course.” Raven forced a smile, for the director’s tone and posture were noticeably cold.
“Thank you.” Mrs. Emerson stood, holding the baby in one hand and attempting to lift a purse and a large Coach messenger bag with the other.
Raven gestured to the hallway. “This way, please.”
The professor lifted the purse and bag, placing them over his wife’s shoulder, before stroking the baby’s head and kissing her.
Raven looked away as he embraced his wife, before stepping aside to let her pass.
“Come back when you’re ready, darling.” The professor smiled.
Mrs. Emerson nodded before addressing Raven in English. “Thank you. I tried to give Clare her breakfast at the hotel but she wouldn’t eat. I’m afraid we’re all jet-lagged.”
“No problem. The conference room is private and it’s just down the hall.” Raven gestured to their right as they exited the office, responding in English.
Mrs. Emerson was dressed in a simple black shirtdress, with black espadrilles that tied in wide bands around her ankles and shapely lower legs. She had shoulder-length brown hair, highlighted with gold, and big brown eyes. She was petite and young looking, with a very gentle way about her.