The Order (Gabriel Allon #20) - Daniel Silva Page 0,1

a word and went inside. Thursday, he was thinking. Why did it have to be a Thursday?

EIGHTEEN YEARS, THOUGHT DONATI AS he surveyed the Holy Father’s private study, and nothing had changed. Only the telephone. Donati had finally managed to convince the Holy Father to replace Wojtyla’s ancient rotary contraption with a modern multiline device. Otherwise, the room was exactly the way the Pole had left it. The same austere wooden desk. The same beige chair. The same worn Oriental rug. The same golden clock and crucifix. Even the blotter and pen set had belonged to Wojtyla the Great. For all the early promise of his papacy—the promise of a kinder, less repressive Church—Pietro Lucchesi had never fully escaped the long shadow of his predecessor.

Donati, by some instinct, marked the time on his wristwatch. It was 12:07 a.m. The Holy Father had retired to the study that evening at half past eight for ninety minutes of reading and writing. Ordinarily, Donati remained at his master’s side or just down the hall in his office. But because it was a Thursday, the one night of the week he had to himself, he had stayed only until nine o’clock.

Do me a favor before you leave, Luigi …

Lucchesi had asked Donati to open the heavy curtains covering the study’s window. It was the same window from which the Holy Father prayed the Angelus each Sunday at noon. Donati had complied with his master’s wishes. He had even opened the shutters so His Holiness could gaze upon St. Peter’s Square while he slaved over his curial paperwork. Now the curtains were tightly drawn. Donati moved them aside. The shutters were closed, too.

The desk was tidy, not Lucchesi’s usual clutter. There was a cup of tea, half empty, a spoon resting on the saucer, that had not been there when Donati departed. Several documents in manila folders were stacked neatly beneath the old retractable lamp. A report from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia regarding the financial fallout of the abuse scandal. Remarks for next Wednesday’s General Audience. The first draft of a homily for a forthcoming papal visit to Brazil. Notes for an encyclical on the subject of immigration that was sure to rile Saviano and his fellow travelers in the Italian far right.

One item, however, was missing.

You’ll see that he gets it, won’t you, Luigi?

Donati checked the wastebasket. It was empty. Not so much as a scrap of paper.

“Looking for something, Excellency?”

Donati glanced up and saw Cardinal Domenico Albanese eyeing him from the doorway. Albanese was a Calabrian by birth and by profession a creature of the Curia. He held several senior positions in the Holy See, including president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church. None of that, however, explained his presence in the papal apartments at seven minutes past midnight. Domenico Albanese was the camerlengo. It was his responsibility alone to issue the formal declaration that the throne of St. Peter was vacant.

“Where is he?” asked Donati.

“In the kingdom of heaven,” intoned the cardinal.

“And the body?”

Had Albanese not heard the sacred calling, he might have moved slabs of marble for his living or hurled carcasses in a Calabrian abattoir. Donati followed him along a brief corridor, into the bedroom. Three more cardinals waited in the half-light: Marcel Gaubert, José Maria Navarro, and Angelo Francona. Gaubert was the secretary of state, effectively the prime minister and chief diplomat of the world’s smallest country. Navarro was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, guardian of Catholic orthodoxy, defender against heresy. Francona, the oldest of the three, was the dean of the College of Cardinals. As such, he would preside over the next conclave.

It was Navarro, a Spaniard of noble stock, who addressed Donati first. Though he had lived and worked in Rome for nearly a quarter century, he still spoke Italian with a pronounced Castilian accent. “Luigi, I know how painful this must be for you. We were his faithful servants, but you were the one he loved the most.”

Cardinal Gaubert, a thin Parisian with a feline face, nodded profoundly at the Spaniard’s curial bromide, as did the three laymen standing in the shadow at the edge of the room: Dr. Octavio Gallo, the Holy Father’s personal physician; Lorenzo Vitale, chief of the Corpo della Gendarmeria; and Colonel Alois Metzler, commandant of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Donati, it seemed, was the last to arrive. It was he, the private secretary, who should have