Raven stopped. “Are you hurt?”
“Not really. When I had Clare, I had an epidural. I’ve had nerve issues in my right leg and foot ever since. It’s acting up today.” She forced a smile, but appeared distressed.
Raven moved closer, noticing that Julia was wearing flat, comfortable shoes.
“Should I get a wheelchair?”
“It isn’t that bad. Today my foot is numb so I’m having trouble walking.”
“I’m sorry.” Raven’s expression was sympathetic. “I broke my leg once. There was nerve damage. Whenever the weather changes, I have pain.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Julia started walking again, slowly. “I’m lucky my leg only acts up periodically. I’m told the numbness will go away eventually.”
“We’ll take the elevator.” Raven gestured to the far end of the hall.
“I know it’s short notice, but I wanted to see the restoration work before we left.” Julia spoke in low tones as they passed a few people in the hallway.
“No problem.” Raven watched her from the corner of her eye. “I thought you were staying in Florence for a week.”
“Our plans have changed.” Julia’s expression grew grave. “We’re checking out of the hotel this afternoon and going to Umbria.”
“Umbria is beautiful.”
Raven was distracted, thinking about what had occurred in the archives. It was possible the security guards hadn’t noticed what she’d done. Maybe she’d implicated Patrick for no reason. She’d have to warn him.
“Have you heard any rumors about the Gallery Hotel Art being haunted?” Julia’s voice intruded on Raven’s thoughts.
She turned her head to meet Julia’s eyes. “Haunted? No. I always thought it was peculiar their restaurant served Japanese food, but I haven’t heard anything about the hotel being haunted. Why do you ask?”
Julia fidgeted with her purse strap. “This is going to sound strange, but my husband thinks there’s a ghost in the hotel. That’s why we’re leaving.”
Raven’s eyebrows shot up. “A ghost? Why does he think that?”
“He woke up last night convinced someone was in our room. He couldn’t see anything but he felt a . . . dark presence.”
Raven’s heart began to speed.
“Did someone break in?”
“I don’t think so. Nothing was missing and he didn’t see anyone. But he felt like someone was there and the doors to the terrace were open.” Julia smoothed her long hair behind her ears. “If it were anyone other than Gabriel, I’d dismiss it. But he’s seen—and felt—strange things before.”
Raven bit her tongue. She desperately wanted to ask Julia what strange things she was referring to, but she was an important donor and barely an acquaintance. Raven didn’t want to seem nosy.
“I don’t believe in ghosts. But it’s possible someone broke into your hotel room. Petty thefts are common in the city and, as you know, that hotel attracts wealthy guests.”
“I suppose that’s possible.”
“I hate to say it, but I’m wondering if the Uffizi robbery is connected to what happened in your room.”
Julia eyed Raven as they entered the elevator. “Why would you say that?”
“Your names are connected with the gallery. If someone found out you were staying in the city, they might think you’re carrying expensive jewelery or artifacts.”
“That makes sense. I’m not in a hurry to stay in the same hotel room, even if it was a burglar. This makes me sad because we stayed in that room before.” Julia appeared wistful.
“Did your husband mention the break-in to Vitali?”
“Yes. He didn’t mention the ghost to anyone. He simply said he had security concerns about the hotel, and he cited some recent reports in the newspaper about missing people and bodies being found downriver.” Julia shivered. “I wish he hadn’t told me.”
Raven toyed with the security card around her neck, resisting the urge to touch the relic she was wearing under her shirt.
“I hadn’t heard about the bodies.”
“There was an article in La Nazione yesterday. Several bodies were found on the banks of the Arno. The police aren’t releasing any details.”
“Men or women?” Raven’s mind went immediately to Angelo.
“Men.” Julia took a step closer. “Are you all right? You’ve gone pale.”
“I’m fine. I hate to mention it, but since you’re leaving anyway, I’ll say that Florence had a serial killer for decades. I hope he hasn’t returned.” She exited the elevator, holding the door open for Julia.
“I thought they caught him.” Julia followed her into the hall.
“I thought so, too.”
Julia sighed. “Our trip to Umbria has poor timing. We’re thinking about adopting a little girl from the Franciscan orphanage and we were supposed to be spending time with her.”
Raven stopped. “I volunteer there. Which girl?”
Julia smiled widely. “Maria. She’s five.”
Raven’s heart leapt. “I know Maria. You’re going to adopt her?”
“We’re thinking about it. We can’t apply to adopt her until we’ve been married for three years and that isn’t until January. But we want to get to know her and have her know us. When we first met her two years ago, she didn’t speak. But she’s been seeing a therapist and is talking now.”
“I help the younger children learn their letters and their numbers. I work with her.”
Julia placed a hand on Raven’s arm. “Then thank you. She’s very different from the girl we met two years ago.”
Raven found herself unable to respond. She swallowed, trying to rid herself of the lump she felt in her throat.
“You’re welcome,” she managed to say.
Julianne gave her a wide smile and followed her down the long corridor that led to the large restoration lab.
Before they entered, Raven paused.
She felt like she should mention the intruder who broke into her apartment, but she was worried about the repercussions. Nevertheless, Julia had a baby. What if the intruder broke in where they were staying in Umbria, and they were hurt?
She cleared her throat. “I hope there isn’t a connection between what happened at the hotel and the robbery here. But you should be cautious, even in Umbria. Whoever stole the illustrations did so without leaving evidence. As far as I know, the police don’t have any suspects. Please be careful.”Source: www.StudyNovels.com