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CHAPTER 75

The chartered turboprop was just passing over the twinkling lights of Monaco when Aringarosa hung up on Fache for the second time. He reached for the airsickness bag again but felt too drained even to be sick.

Just let it be over!

Fache’s newest update seemed unfathomable, and yet almost nothing tonight made sense anymore. What is going on? Everything had spiraled wildly out of control. What have I gotten Silas into? What have I gotten myself into!

On shaky legs, Aringarosa walked to the cockpit. «I need to change destinations.» The pilot glanced over his shoulder and laughed. «You’re joking, right?» «No. I have to get to London immediately.» «Father, this is a charter flight, not a taxi.»

«I will pay you extra, of course. How much? London is only one hour farther north and requires almost no change of direction, so –»

«It’s not a question of money, Father, there are other issues.» «Ten thousand euro. Right now.» The pilot turned, his eyes wide with shock. «How much? What kind of priest carries that kind of cash?»

Aringarosa walked back to his black briefcase, opened it, and removed one of the bearer bonds. He handed it to the pilot.

«What is this?» the pilot demanded.

«A ten-thousand-euro bearer bond drawn on the Vatican Bank.» The pilot looked dubious.» It’s the same as cash.»

«Only cash is cash,» the pilot said, handing the bond back.

Aringarosa felt weak as he steadied himself against the cockpit door. «This is a matter of life or death. You must help me. I need to get to London.»

The pilot eyed the bishop’s gold ring. «Real diamonds?»

Aringarosa looked at the ring. «I could not possibly part with this.» The pilot shrugged, turning and focusing back out the windshield. Aringarosa felt a deepening sadness. He looked at the ring. Everything it represented was about to be lost to the bishop anyway. After a long moment, he slid the ring from his finger and placed it gently on the instrument panel.

Aringarosa slunk out of the cockpit and sat back down. Fifteen seconds later, he could feel the pilot banking a few more degrees to the north.

Even so, Aringarosa’s moment of glory was in shambles.

It had all begun as a holy cause. A brilliantly crafted scheme. Now, like a house of cards, it was collapsing in on itself… and the end was nowhere in sight.

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