The unmarked Fiat sedan departing Castel Gandolfo snaked downward through the Alban Hills into the valley below. In the back seat, Bishop Aringarosa smiled, feeling the weight of the bearer bonds in the briefcase on his lap and wondering how long it would be before he and the Teacher could make the exchange.
Twenty million euro.
The sum would buy Aringarosa power far more valuable than that.
As his car sped back toward Rome, Aringarosa again found himself wondering why the Teacher had not yet contacted him. Pulling his cell phone from his cassock pocket, he checked the carrier signal. Extremely faint.
“Cell service is intermittent up here,” the driver said, glancing at him in the rearview mirror. “In about five minutes, we’ll be out of the mountains, and service improves.”
“Thank you.” Aringarosa felt a sudden surge of concern. No service in the mountains? Maybe the Teacher had been trying to reach him all this time. Maybe something had gone terribly wrong.
Quickly, Aringarosa checked the phone’s voice mail. Nothing. Then again, he realized, the Teacher never would have left a recorded message; he was a man who took enormous care with his communications. Nobody understood better than the Teacher the perils of speaking openly in this modern world. Electronic eavesdropping had played a major role in how he had gathered his astonishing array of secret knowledge.
For this reason, he takes extra precautions.
Unfortunately, the Teacher’s protocols for caution included a refusal to give Aringarosa any kind of contact number. I alone will initiate contact, the Teacher had informed him. So keep your phone close. Now that Aringarosa realized his phone might not have been working properly, he feared what the Teacher might think if he had been repeatedly phoning with no answer.
He’ll think something is wrong. Or that I failed to get the bonds. The bishop broke a light sweat.
Or worse … that I took the money and ran!