And if Emerson had learned of William York from Vitali, why was Vitali denying it?
Raven grew very nervous. If there were such a person as William York and he’d taken care to protect his identity, how would he feel about her showing up and asking about him? What if he was connected with the robbery at the Uffizi?
She took a few careful steps backward, looking to see if anyone suspicious was nearby. For the moment, at least, she appeared to be alone.
She decided it would be safer if she left and left quickly. As she moved, she caught sight of a small black camera, located at the top of the stone arch and pointing in her direction.
Great. Now they know what I look like.
Static emerged from the speaker again and Raven started.
“There’s no one here by that name. Leave now.” Someone else was speaking. His voice was more melodic, it was true, but it was also hostile.
She moved in the direction of the speaker. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you and—”
Raven was swiftly interrupted. “It’s time for you to leave.”
She didn’t need to be asked twice. She began running in the direction of the Duomo, as fast as her legs could carry her. A black Vespa took off from where it had been idling around the corner, driving in the opposite direction.
Raven was too anxious to notice the man and his machine, or the fact that, by the time she passed the Duomo, he was following her.
Of course, she didn’t realize she’d captured the attention of the decidedly nonhuman being standing on top of the building across the street as well.
By the time Raven returned to her building, her heart was beating furiously. Something momentous had occurred, she was sure of it, and she was fearful of the consequences.
She opened the door to her apartment and pressed the light switch on the wall.
Cursing, she closed the door behind her and blindly locked it, dropping her knapsack to the floor. She groped along the wall to the bathroom, reaching in to press the other light switch.
Muttering to herself about what she was going to say to the landlord the next time she saw him, she felt her way to the bedroom. She was just about to step through the doorway when she stumbled over something; something that felt suspiciously like a pair of feet. She flailed as she fell but before she hit the floor, a pair of strong arms came around her waist, catching her.
As soon as the intruder made contact with her body, she screamed and pulled away, falling on her backside. In the dim light that shone from outside the bedroom windows, she could almost see the outline of a figure lurking in the doorway. She scrambled backward like a crab, heading toward the only exit.
She felt the figure speed past her. Her hands collided with his feet as she approached the apartment door.
“If you scream again, I’ll silence you.” An angry voice, soft as silk, sliced through the darkness.
“What do you want?” Raven attempted to keep her voice steady. But she failed.
“I want you to answer some questions. Sit here.”
Raven heard a chair scrape across the floor and felt one of its legs press against her hip.
She could try to crawl to her knapsack and retrieve her cell phone. The chance of success seemed remote. He’d probably grab her.
Her heart stuttered. “Did you shut off the electricity?”
“Don’t give me a reason to hurt you.” He thumped the chair on the floor, as if for emphasis.
She could scream for help but her closest neighbor, Lidia, was hard of hearing and probably asleep. There was usually so much noise emanating from the Vespa traffic in and around the piazza, she wasn’t sure her cries would be heard by anyone else.
“I am waiting,” he growled.
Whoever the man was, he sounded young, but his fluid Italian was decidedly old-fashioned.
She moved slowly, placing a tentative hand on the chair and pulling herself up. She slid onto the seat.
“I don’t have any money.”
“A better question is whether you have any sense.” He moved behind her.
She twisted, following the sound of his voice. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“I’m asking the questions. What were you doing at the Palazzo Riccardi?”
Raven’s stomach dropped. Perhaps he’d followed her or perhaps he’d seen her at the palazzo. In either case he must be fleet of foot or he’d driven in order to arrive before her.
She wondered why he was hiding his appearance.
“You’ve been a stupid, stupid girl. Don’t magnify your stupidity by trying my patience.” His tone grew menacing.
She drew a deep breath, forcing the tension out of her voice. “It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have gone there.”
“What were you looking for?”
“Someone who works at the palazzo. I thought I’d stop by.”
“At night? After hours?” the man said, pressing.
She forced a laugh, which sounded more like a strangled cough.
“Silly, right? It was a mistake.”
“Who were you looking for?”
She hesitated and the man brought his face to within inches of hers. She could smell him—a scent of citrus and the woods. It was not unpleasant.
If the intruder recognized the name or was surprised by it, he gave no indication.
“That’s an odd name for an Italian.” The man’s tone grew conversational. “Is he a friend of yours?”
“No. I’ve never met him.”
“Then why were you looking for him?”
A heavy hand rested on her shoulder. “That is not an acceptable answer.”
The hand flexed minutely and Raven clamped her mouth shut to keep from screaming.
A myriad of old anxieties and fears swirled in her mind. She was terrified that the intruder was going to rape or kill her once he’d secured the information he sought.
She thought about her younger sister, Carolyn, and not being able to tell her one last time that she loved her.
The hand flexed again.
“Um, I work at the Uffizi and—”
“I know that,” the intruder said, interrupting.
“You know that?” she repeated.
“I know a great many things. Continue.”
She shifted in the darkness, wondering why, all of a sudden, his voice seemed familiar. He wasn’t Agent Savola or Ispettor Batelli, she was sure. But somewhere in the recesses of her memory, she knew she’d heard his voice before. She couldn’t remember when.