She’d always kept the windows locked when she wasn’t home. In her distracted state that morning, she must have forgotten. She wouldn’t make that mistake again.

If she closed her eyes, she could hear the intruder’s voice. Although it was familiar, she couldn’t identify him. She could recall his scent, however.

A lot of good that will do. What would I say to the police? Arrest a suspect and let me sniff him?

She opened her eyes and looked over at the dresser. The sketch she’d completed the previous evening was missing, which meant he must have taken it. But why?

Her laptop and simple pieces of jewelry were left behind, as if he couldn’t be bothered to steal them.

The reason could be pedestrian. Perhaps he’d stolen the sketch so he could dust it for fingerprints. He’d find her prints of little use. Patrick had told her that morning the investigators hadn’t found any fingerprints in the exhibition hall.

Her cane was leaning against the wall, by her dresser. She didn’t remember it being there earlier in the evening, but it was possible she hadn’t noticed it. Why would the intruder move her cane?

In addition to these anomalies, he’d left gifts.

He’d placed a stack of money on her kitchen table. When she’d composed herself enough to count them, she discovered he’d left several thousand euros.

And he’d given her something else.

Raven lifted the crucifix from her chest. It appeared to be made of gold; the metal was thin and had been hammered from the underside in order to form the raised figure of Jesus. The design was primitive, the facial features of Christ barely distinguishable, which led her to believe the piece was pre-Renaissance and probably medieval.

Each point of the cross had two round loops on it, as if it had been made to affix to something. The gold chain on which it was suspended looked much newer than the crucifix, and it also appeared to be made of gold.

She knew a little about relics. She’d had a Catholic education at Barry University, as an undergraduate. And there was Father Kavanaugh, the priest who’d intervened to help her and Carolyn when they were in trouble. Her love and respect for him didn’t extend to his beliefs and she certainly didn’t think there was anything efficacious about a piece of metal, no matter what shape had been hammered into it.

She couldn’t imagine why the intruder would believe that a hunk of gold would protect her against “the others,” whoever they were.

It won’t hurt to wear the cross, just in case. Perhaps it works because the others fear it, not because it has magical powers.

But I’m not leaving Florence, not after I’ve worked so hard to build a life here. I don’t care what he says.

She pulled her quilt around her shoulders.

The intruder was frightening and strangely strong. His command to leave the city was unambiguous, but she didn’t know why the two-week mark was so important.

Maybe he has a source in the police force and knows what’s happening with the investigation.

He’d recognized Dottor Vitali’s name, although he seemed surprised to hear it. But it seemed to be the person of William York that he was most interested in. Raven found that puzzling.

And there was his speech. He’d called the Franciscans Ordo Fratrum Minorum, which, she’d discovered through the Internet, was their Latin title. And he’d warned her about going out after dark.

Raven couldn’t imagine what the warning meant, or why, if he wanted her to leave, he’d given her the relic. His gift was strange enough. Then his disposition had changed and he’d touched her gently.

More puzzling, he’d called her Jane.

Raven’s legal name was found only on her passport, work visa, and permesso di soggiorno, or “permission to stay” form, all of which were still in her backpack. However the intruder had discovered her legal name, it wasn’t by searching her apartment.

Her legal name appeared in her employment file, so it was possible he’d learned it through the Uffizi. Raven dismissed that possibility, since everyone at the gallery called her by her chosen name, which was displayed on her security card. She hadn’t been known as Jane since she was twelve.

So he’s connected with either the gallery or the police.

Batelli and Savola knew her legal name. But they’d seen her Uffizi identification card and knew she was called Raven.

The intruder seemed to want to steer clear of the police, for whatever reason. He certainly hadn’t learned her legal name through someone who knew her. At least, not someone who knew her in Italy. In Florida, it would be a different story.

Horror stabbed through her.

What if he talked to . . .

She couldn’t finish the thought.

No, there was no point in entertaining the possibility. Florida was far away and so was any trace of her former life. Even her diplomas displayed her chosen name. If he’d opened the bottom drawer to her dresser, he would have found them, still encased in protective sleeves.

Putting the pillow and quilt aside, she stood in the center of the bedroom and took stock of her surroundings. The drawers to her dresser were closed, as was the door to her closet. Nothing seemed amiss, with the exception of the missing sketch and . . .

Her gaze alighted on the nightstand, on which were stacked several of her favorite books. She noticed the volume of the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe had been moved from the bottom of the stack to the top. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had been demoted to second place.

Once again, she wondered if, in a moment of distraction, she’d moved the C. S. Lewis book herself. It didn’t occur to her to ask what, if anything, the intruder had against lions, witches, and/or wardrobes.

Raven rubbed her eyes in frustration. She had to report to work in a few hours, but she was too upset to go back to sleep.

With a sigh of resignation, she sat at her desk and opened her laptop. She’d catch up on her e-mail, which she’d been ignoring. When she logged in, she found a number of new messages, including one from her sister.

Hi Rave,

I tried calling you through FaceTime, but you never answer. Are you avoiding me?

Mom’s wedding was beautiful. It’s too bad you missed it.

Stephen is really nice. He was a plastic surgeon before he retired. He and Mom just moved into a big house on the ocean.

Raven paused her reading to roll her eyes.

Since you won’t respond to Mom’s e-mails, she asked me to ask you to come home for your birthday. She’ll pay for your ticket and you can stay with me and Dan. Did I mention that we moved in together? I can’t remember.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com