But Vitali’s mind was susceptible to influence and so his memory of parts of the exhibit opening had been erased easily. The Prince saw no reason to take his life, despite his involvement with the Emersons. Having the director of the Uffizi in his control had clear advantages.
The problem of the Emersons, however, remained. The name William York needed to be erased from their memories and from any connection with the Uffizi Gallery and the theft of the illustrations. But Emerson’s mind would not be controlled, nor would that of his wife.
Emerson would have to be killed and his wife would have to be traumatized into losing her memory.
The door that separated the terrace from their hotel room was ajar, in deference perhaps to their desire for fresh air. The Prince slipped into the darkened room.
The bed was only a few short steps from the door. Emerson was lying on his side, his back toward the Prince.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
Emerson’s scent was distinctive and yet, somehow, it had changed since their last encounter. Certainly he was far more desirable now than before.
The Prince wondered idly what had precipitated the improvement.
At that moment, two other human scents assailed his nostrils, one new and pleasant and one familiar and unpleasant. Mrs. Emerson’s scent had changed since he’d last been in her presence. Her aroma was noticeably sweeter, but there was still the undertone of disease. Whatever health problems she’d had before were still present. She gave the appearance of health, however. He could see her body visible in bed, curved into her husband’s embrace.
The Prince reflected on the fact that he’d never enjoyed such a position, which seemed to embody the quiet trust that came from intimacy and love. He’d never wanted such closeness with Aoibhe. As for the others . . .
He felt his anger rise as jealousy overtook him. There was a time when he would have done anything to have a wife and a child. That possibility had been stolen from him.
He bared his teeth, a growl escaping his chest. Emerson had riches enough. Why did he have to steal?
The Prince approached the bed and was surprised to see a small structure standing next to it on the far side. In it, a baby was sleeping beneath a pink blanket. This was the source of the new, pleasant scent.
The Prince recoiled, the way some humans recoil from eating veal.
Standing at the foot of the bed, he regarded the parents. Emerson’s wife had a light, floral scent that nearly masked the smell of her disease. Though he admired the virtues that gave rise to her fragrance, he found it cloying.
He craved the raven-haired beauty’s blood. Or rather, what her blood was before he’d polluted it. She smelled of old arrogance and darkness now; her true scent, masked.
What he craved most, however, was a lively mind and a noble soul. Someone with whom he could talk about art and beauty. A companion and lover.
He bristled as he recalled Aoibhe’s words. He’d been alone far too long. And he’d just persuaded the woman he wanted to flee the city, ensuring he would always be alone.
“Justice and mercy,” he whispered.
Gabriel stirred and the Prince fled to the terrace.
He watched Emerson sit up and look around the room. He saw him reach for the lamp next to the bed.
The Prince moved so that he could not be seen.
For several moments, the Prince waited while Emerson walked about the room. With a muttered curse, he closed the terrace doors, locking them from the inside.
Strictly speaking, locked doors would not keep the Prince out. But the existence and presence of the child had changed his calculus.
As he stood in the shadows, he thought back to the first time he’d met the Emersons. He’d been impressed with the wife’s virtues and decided not to kill her. Emerson, on the other hand, could be executed without misgivings. The fact that he’d procured stolen property meant a death sentence.
The Prince tried to persuade his feet to move in the direction of the door, but they wouldn’t.
He was stunned to discover he couldn’t kill Emerson in front of his child, even though the girl was an infant.
Something had happened to him. Something had changed.
Perhaps Jane had done it. She’d entered his life like a Trojan horse and brought mercy with her. He hated mercy, for it bespoke weakness.
What other explanation was there for his sudden change of heart? Just as he couldn’t bear the thought of killing the baby or her ill mother, now he seemed unable to take the few steps necessary to kill the baby’s father.
Emerson deserved it. He deserved death, if not for the sin of theft, then for the sin of pride, which still made his blood acrid and stark. And there was the small matter of William York . . .
The Prince would not tolerate weakness in himself. Neither would he pardon Gabriel Emerson.
As he dropped to the ground, he told himself he would spare the life of Emerson’s wife and child, concealing his identity through some other means. He would wait and kill Emerson after Cassita left the city, when he no longer feared to see revulsion in her green eyes.
Mercy be damned.
Just before sunrise, Raven sat on her bed, clutching a pillow to her mid-section. The entirety of her apartment was bathed in electric light. The door and windows were locked, as were the shutters that covered her windows. An old plush moose she’d had since childhood sat next to her, as if it were a sentry.
She’d slept, but not for long. Fear and anxiety crowded her mind, haunting her dreams.
When she’d recovered from her shock the night before, she’d considered contacting the police. A glance across the piazza had changed her mind. She’d seen the man who lurked nearby, just as the intruder said.
She wasn’t sure who the man who sat outside her apartment was. It was possible he was the intruder’s accomplice. She wasn’t going to court his attention by inviting a police visit.
The intruder, whoever he was, seemed to know her, or at least he’d spent the day following her. He knew she worked at the Uffizi. He knew she’d been interviewed by the Carabinieri. He knew she’d visited the orphanage and the Franciscan mission.
Somehow he knew about her visit to the palazzo. Whether he’d seen her or simply been told she’d been there, she didn’t know. In either case, he must have raced to her apartment in a car or on a Vespa, gaining precious minutes in order to break into her apartment, cut off the electricity, and wait for her.
He’d exited her second-floor apartment through one of her bedroom windows. She assumed he’d entered the same way. Perhaps he was a rock climber—that would explain how he was able to scale the building and climb to the ground without injury.