The Trevi piazza still held a bunch of tourists who didn’t care about the soccer match. Maggie pushed through them, and then I took the lead, dodging past one beautiful church after another and eventually heading down the Corso.
“Where are we going?” Maggie asked.
“I remembered something Elena said. I know where she might be.”
“The gallery where she works? It’s closed.”
“She keeps a private office there that she said she uses when she needs to escape or to think. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier.”
When we reached the gallery, the tiny side street was mostly dark except for a caf'e up the street, its outside tables empty.
I buzzed at the door of the Palazzo Colonna. No one answered. I looked up at the windows. There were three windows that I figured would have been in the anteroom just before the galleria, then a few high windows in the galleria itself, and finally two others at the tail end. All were dark.
“Doesn’t look like she’s here,” Maggie said.
“Maybe not, but there’s a chance. If I could just figure out…” In my mind, I followed Elena through the galleria, into Princess Isabelle’s apartment, to the far side of the room-twisting and then pushing the pink dress-and into Elena’s office, a hidden one, just like my father’s. I heard Elena saying, This is where I come to escape, to think.
I led Maggie down the tiny street, explaining about the location of the office. “I think once you get through the galleria and the apartment, the office is on this side…” I pointed up at the stretch of building. “There were two windows. They were high up in the room and small.”
I followed the direction Maggie was pointing. There, two stories above, were rectangular windows lit up orange.
“Try to call her again.”
I did. No answer. “Elena, we’re outside,” I said to her voice mail. “Please let us in.” I thought about my first few days in Rome, when I called her over and over. She hadn’t called me back until I texted her.
I picked up my phone and wrote her a text. I’m outside the galleria. Please let me help, whatever is going on. I will stay out here until you are ready to see me.
I showed it to Maggie and hit Send. We stood on the street, waiting. Soon, another ring of shouts burst into the city. Apparently, the soccer match had been won. People streamed into the street, singing soccer songs, chanting and cheering. A crowd of young boys rushed up to Maggie and me, trying to make us dance with them. It made me feel ancient. I could remember a time when I would have found fun in such a scene. I would have linked arms with one of the young boys and let him twirl me around the street. Now, though, it only made me anxious. I wanted to shove them away and yell Basta! the single Italian word that meant, essentially, Enough! Stop it. Get the hell away from me. But I stopped myself. It would have been rude, I knew. I had no right to rain on the parade of these young boys. Finally, they left us. Other people pushed through the streets, clapping and cheering. Still, the two lights upstairs in the galleria remained on.
“Maybe she’s not there,” Maggie said.
“Maybe. I guess I don’t know her well enough to know what she’d be doing right now. It’s the only thing I can think of. It’s the only thing I know to do. It’s the only thing…” My voice rose, taking on a note of panic. I closed my mouth, then looked at Maggie. “Mags, what should I do?”
Maggie furrowed her brow. “Okay, you’re right. We have to do something. Something else.” She stared back up at the two rectangular windows shining into the night. “There’s got to be a fire escape, don’t you think?”
I shrugged. “This is Italy. There’s no rhyme or reason to these buildings, and they don’t have codes like we do. Or, at least, they don’t always pay attention to them.”
“What about that?” Maggie pointed to a small garden terrace one floor up from the street and below the lit windows of Elena’s office. “If we climb over that-” she pointed at a stone wall to the right “-we could get to the stairway that leads up to that garden.”
“They must have a security system.”
Maggie raised her eyebrows. “Which would bring anyone inside the palazzo outside.”
“And which would also bring the police.”
“Not if we do it fast enough to trigger the alarm, but just be standing here like we have no idea what happened.”
“Don’t be crazy, you-”
But before I could finish, she was lifting her self onto the fence like a gymnast onto a beam and swinging her legs over it. She landed on the other side. “So far so good.”
“Mags, don’t be deranged. This is my mess. My family. You don’t need to get yourself in trouble.”
She stared up at the terrace and at Elena’s windows, then she turned to me. “Iz, we’re best friends. I know Sam took that spot for a while, and he should have. He was your fianc'e. But following you around for the last hour, seeing you go through this hell, it reminds me that the best friend spot is my job again. And so your mess is my mess.” She turned away.
“Wasn’t it my mess when I wanted to call the police a few hours ago? Now you’re going to try and get arrested?”
“I’m not going to get arrested. I just want to trip an alarm. Let me just look around.”
She walked up to a French door on the ground floor and cupped her hands around her eyes, peering inside. The moment her hands touched the glass, a shriek screamed through the night, louder than any cheering shouts from the soccer fans.
“Maggie!” I yelled.
She leapt back over the wall and trotted down the street to me, an Oh, shit, did I just do that? look on her face.
I peered up and down the street as the alarm screeched. “Should we go?” I yelled at Maggie, who looked as if she might have changed her mind.
But she only shook her head. “What thieves would stand here and wait for the cops?” she shouted back at me. “And we’re not going to tell them about your dad.”
An image of him lying in that blood hit me, made not just my stomach but my whole internal body constrict with pain.
A police car zipped up the street and parked outside the palazzo. Two carabinieri got out. They didn’t look particularly alarmed by the alarm. Maybe they were used to false ones.
Maggie and I tried speaking to them in the little Italian we knew, but it was useless. One of them said something into his radio, squinting at me above it, and something in his look made me nervous. I’d had more than enough experience lately with suspicious cops, and the reminder sent a shot of terror to my brain.
But just then the front door of the palazzo opened. Elena stood there. One of the carabinieri approached her. They had a quick conversation in italiano. From what I could make out, she was saying, “They are fine. They are with the galleria.”
She gave me a long look and spoke a few more words to the police. The one who seemed to be in charge finally shrugged, nodded and gestured for the other officer to leave with him.
Elena waited until they got in the car. She waited until they pulled away. She gave me a stern, sad look. Her eyes were red, and there were swaths of dark skin below them.
She glanced at Maggie, then back to me. “Come,” she said. “Come in.”