“Seven‑forty‑six and thirty . . . mark.” Even speaking into his walkie‑talkie, Olivetti’s voice never seemed to rise above a whisper.
Langdon felt himself sweating now in his Harris tweed in the backseat of the Alpha Romeo, which was idling in Piazza de la Concorde, three blocks from the Pantheon. Vittoria sat beside him, looking engrossed by Olivetti, who was transmitting his final orders.
“Deployment will be an eight‑point hem,” the commander said. “Full perimeter with a bias on the entry. Target may know you visually, so you will be pas‑visible. Nonmortal force only. We’ll need someone to spot the roof. Target is primary. Asset secondary.”
Jesus, Langdon thought, chilled by the efficiency with which Olivetti had just told his men the cardinal was expendable. Asset secondary.
“I repeat. Nonmortal procurement. We need the target alive. Go.” Olivetti snapped off his walkie‑talkie.
Vittoria looked stunned, almost angry. “Commander, isn’t anyone going inside ?”
Olivetti turned. “Inside?”
“Inside the Pantheon! Where this is supposed to happen?”
“Attento,” Olivetti said, his eyes fossilizing. “If my ranks have been infiltrated, my men may be known by sight. Your colleague has just finished warning me that this will be our sole chance to catch the target. I have no intention of scaring anyone off by marching my men inside.”
“But what if the killer is already inside?”
Olivetti checked his watch. “The target was specific. Eight o’clock. We have fifteen minutes.”
“He said he would kill the cardinal at eight o’clock. But he may already have gotten the victim inside somehow. What if your men see the target come out but don’t know who he is? Someone needs to make sure the inside is clean.”
“Too risky at this point.”
“Not if the person going in was unrecognizable.”
“Disguising operatives is time consuming and—”
“I meant me,” Vittoria said.
Langdon turned and stared at her.
Olivetti shook his head. “Absolutely not.”
“He killed my father.”
“Exactly, so he may know who you are.”
“You heard him on the phone. He had no idea Leonardo Vetra even had a daughter. He sure as hell doesn’t know what I look like. I could walk in like a tourist. If I see anything suspicious, I could walk into the square and signal your men to move in.”
“I’m sorry, I cannot allow that.”
“Comandante? “Olivetti’s receiver crackled. “We’ve got a situation from the north point. The fountain is blocking our line of sight. We can’t see the entrance unless we move into plain view on the piazza. What’s your call? Do you want us blind or vulnerable?”
Vittoria apparently had endured enough. “That’s it. I’m going.” She opened her door and got out.
Olivetti dropped his walkie‑talkie and jumped out of the car, circling in front of Vittoria.
Langdon got out too. What the hell is she doing!
Olivetti blocked Vittoria’s way. “Ms. Vetra, your instincts are good, but I cannot let a civilian interfere.”
“Interfere? You’re flying blind. Let me help.”
“I would love to have a recon point inside, but . . .”
“But what?” Vittoria demanded. “But I’m a woman ?”
Olivetti said nothing.
“That had better not be what you were going to say, Commander, because you know damn well this is a good idea, and if you let some archaic macho bullshit—”
“Let us do our job.”
“Let me help.”
“Too dangerous. We would have no lines of communication with you. I can’t let you carry a walkie‑talkie, it would give you away.”
Vittoria reached in her shirt pocket and produced her cell phone. “Plenty of tourists carry phones.”
Vittoria unsnapped the phone and mimicked a call. “Hi, honey, I’m standing in the Pantheon. You should see this place!” She snapped the phone shut and glared at Olivetti. “Who the hell is going to know? It is a no‑risk situation. Let me be your eyes!” She motioned to the cell phone on Olivetti’s belt. “What’s your number?”
Olivetti did not reply.
The driver had been looking on and seemed to have some thoughts of his own. He got out of the car and took the commander aside. They spoke in hushed tones for ten seconds. Finally Olivetti nodded and returned. “Program this number.” He began dictating digits.
Vittoria programmed her phone.
“Now call the number.”
Vittoria pressed the auto dial. The phone on Olivetti’s belt began ringing. He picked it up and spoke into the receiver. “Go into the building, Ms. Vetra, look around, exit the building, then call and tell me what you see.”
Vittoria snapped the phone shut. “Thank you, sir.”
Langdon felt a sudden, unexpected surge of protective instinct. “Wait a minute,” he said to Olivetti. “You’re sending her in there alone.”
Vittoria scowled at him. “Robert, I’ll be fine.”
The Swiss Guard driver was talking to Olivetti again.
“It’s dangerous,” Langdon said to Vittoria.
“He’s right,” Olivetti said. “Even my best men don’t work alone. My lieutenant has just pointed out that the masquerade will be more convincing with both of you anyway.”
Both of us? Langdon hesitated. Actually, what I meant —
“Both of you entering together,” Olivetti said, “will look like a couple on holiday. You can also back each other up. I’m more comfortable with that.”
Vittoria shrugged. “Fine, but we’ll need to go fast.”
Langdon groaned. Nice move, cowboy.
Olivetti pointed down the street. “First street you hit will be Via degli Orfani. Go left. It takes you directly to the Pantheon. Two‑minute walk, tops. I’ll be here, directing my men and waiting for your call. I’d like you to have protection.” He pulled out his pistol. “Do either of you know how to use a gun?”
Langdon’s heart skipped. We don’t need a gun!
Vittoria held her hand out. “I can tag a breaching porpoise from forty meters off the bow of a rocking ship.”
“Good.” Olivetti handed the gun to her. “You’ll have to conceal it.”
Vittoria glanced down at her shorts. Then she looked at Langdon.
Oh no you don’t! Langdon thought, but Vittoria was too fast. She opened his jacket, and inserted the weapon into one of his breast pockets. It felt like a rock dropping into his coat, his only consolation being that Diagramma was in the other pocket.
“We look harmless,” Vittoria said. “We’re leaving.” She took Langdon’s arm and headed down the street.
The driver called out, “Arm in arm is good. Remember, you’re tourists. Newlyweds even. Perhaps if you held hands?”
As they turned the corner Langdon could have sworn he saw on Vittoria’s face the hint of a smile.