Tuesday morning I was up long before the sun, checking the Internet religiously for Maggie’s flight. Delayed, it kept saying, but then finally it reported she was in the air. She was hours away, and I could not freaking wait to see her.
That intense desire to see Mags, to talk to her, was something new, something different from the last few years. Going through this roller coaster of a search for my dad-it’s stupid, it’s not, he might be alive, of course he’s not-and not having Sam to talk to, I realized just how much I’d turned to him over the years and how much I’d turned away from Maggie. It was unintentional, of course, the usual fallout from getting into a serious relationship. But now, I wanted to talk to her more about her breakup with Wyatt and how she was feeling. I wanted to tell Maggie everything about my dad. I needed to tell her about Sam, too. I hadn’t talked with anyone about our breakup-what felt like the real one-and the memory was starting to fester and rot in my mind, needing to be dissected, just to make sure I was reading it tragically right before it disintegrated entirely.
I took a shower and dressed, then got back on the computer. In my research the night before, I’d found that there was something called the National Antimafia Directorate in Italy. In fact, the headquarters were in Rome. So I started to do some more in-depth research on the directorate. After half an hour of trying to convert Italian words into English, I finally found an address for the place, apparently not too far from the hotel, the one I’d been to with Aunt Elena, the one Maggie and I would be checking into today.
I went downstairs to the porter and asked for exact directions to the hotel and from there to the directorante. When I mentioned that place was the “antimafia office,” he raised his eyebrows then shook his head in sort of a silent no-no-no kind of way.
“Yes,” I said, “please tell me how to get there.”
Again that shake of his head. “You no want to go there. Go to Colosseum, go to Pantheon.”
“Per favore,” I said pleadingly. Then for good measure, I put my hands together in a prayerlike position, the way I’d seen the Italians do, and said it over and over…Per favore, per favore, per favore.
Finally, he laughed, shrugged. He took my map and circled a location.
I flashed him a smile and tipped him some euros. Tucking the map under my arm, I went upstairs to my dorm room. I looked around once more. It had been wonderful to visit Loyola Rome for a few days. But it was time to go.
In the still, dusty-yellow quiet of the Roman morning, I packed everything into my suitcase and took a cab to the hotel. Once there, I stowed my luggage in the hotel’s lobby, since it was too early to check in, and left. When I reached via Giulia, the street the antimafia office was on, I stopped to consult my map and read about it in my guidebook. It was a wide-laned avenue, much bigger than the usual Italian streets, and it had been created during Renaissance Rome to connect all the major governmental institutions. During the sixteenth century, it had been fashionable to live there, the guidebook said, and I marveled at that one phrase-during the sixteenth century-since very little had been fashionable in the U.S. then. Via Giulia was now a cobbled, shaded street that seemed to house mostly antique and jewelry shops.
After fifteen minutes of strolling and glancing at the map, I found the directorate. The building itself was medieval-looking, brown with steel bars on the windows. A black stone sat near the entrance. On it, written in red, was La Direzione Nazionale Antimafia. There was a bell. I rang it. Once, then again. A few minutes later, a carabiniere stepped outside. He looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows.
“Buongiorno,” I said. “Parla inglese?”
A nod. “S'i.”
“Great. I’d like to speak to someone in the Antimafia Directorate.”
The policeman turned and opened the door, holding it for me. Inside, he led me through a courtyard garden. In Italy, apparently even the government knew how to do a courtyard right.
On the other side we entered another door, and the carabiniere gestured at a desk. No one was behind it. A logbook sat open on top of it, and the man nodded, as if saying, Sign it.
I picked up the pen that sat there, held my hand poised over the book. Should I give my real name? I didn’t see any way around it. If I was going to ask about my father, I’d have to give his name. And they might ask for identification. And if I got anywhere with these people and they found out I had lied, that wouldn’t be good.
I signed the book, then looked at the carabiniere.
“Uno momento,” he said. He stood silently, arms behind his back.
A woman in a suit and a scowl came to the desk. She looked at my name in the book, then rattled off a few Italian words, her tone giving me the impression that she was saying, What in the hell do you want?
“Is there someone I can speak to?” I said.
“I’d like to ask some questions about the Camorra.”
I glanced from the woman to the carabiniere and back. Neither moved a muscle. “I think I might be from a Camorra family,” I said. “Technically anyway. And I’m trying to find my father. He did consulting for the U.S. government. And I know he was involved in the case of the Rizatto Brothers.”
She frowned deeper. “You are americana?”
“Your name, per favore.”
I pointed at the box I’d signed. “Isabel McNeil.”
“Do you understand where you are?” She gestured around the office. It was fairly nondescript, looked like a reception office anywhere.
“The National Antimafia Directorate.”
“Yes. And do you know what is here, what we do?”
I felt the urge to say Mafia hunting? I ignored it, kept quiet.
“We are prosecutors,” she said. “You understand?”
“Yes, I’m a lawyer.”
“Okay, so you understand. We do not answer questions, we prosecute. We do not give out information.”
“Well, where would I get information? I mean, is there…” What was I looking for exactly? A Mafia museum? “…a place to do research about someone from the United States, someone I know who was working on a case involving the Camorra and then-” I was about to say died, but instead said, “-disappeared.”
“Not here.” She gave a brusque shake of her head. “You will not get that information here.”
She gestured at the door. The carabiniere stepped forward, ushering me toward the door and back through the courtyard. Once again, I found myself standing outside the building.
And that, apparently, was that.
I stood another moment, looking at the door. I was about to turn away when it clicked open. I expected to see the carabiniere frowning, telling me to move along or whatever they say in Italian, but instead a young man stepped outside. He looked about my age. He had sandy-brown hair and gleaming blue eyes. Unlike the carabiniere’s and the woman’s, those eyes were smiling.
“You said you were here for what?” he asked.
When I hesitated, he pointed to the camera above the door. “They are everywhere in the building. We see and hear everything.”
“Oh,” I said, a little uncomfortable, “I was just here to ask some questions…”
“Come,” he said, gesturing away from the camera. We took a few steps up the street. He nodded at me, encouraging me to continue.
As I spoke, the man nodded, his eyes gleamed some more. “You are in Roma for how long?” He smiled, showing lots of teeth.
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, come.” He waved an arm up the street. “Let us take a coffee, and we will talk.”