Vitale held Toscanelli’s gaze until the younger man finally looked away.
“The only thing that’s keeping you alive, Toscanelli, is the fact that you’ve had more contact with these two people than anyone else, so we can at least expect you to recognize them if you see them again. The men who survived the encounter in the cave on Cyprus saw them, obviously, but none of them saw them clearly enough to guarantee that they could identify them in the future. Perhaps,” Vitale finished coldly, “they were somewhat distracted by the sight of their comrades being cut in half by the booby traps hidden in those two chests. Booby traps that you weren’t smart enough to guess were there.”
Vitale gave a dismissive gesture, then pointed at the open chest on the floor in front of his desk.
“Get out,” he snapped, “and take that lethal box with you. And just make sure our archivists and researchers find whatever clue is hidden in it or on it.”
“And if they can’t?”
“Don’t tempt me, Toscanelli. If this search stalls, then I don’t have much further use for you. I might just get you to open that chest again, but this time I’ll have you sitting in front of it with a video camera running. As an example to anyone else in the order who offends me or proves to be as incompetent as you apparently are.”
Just over two hours later, Mallory braked his Porsche Cayman to a standstill in an open-air parking lot, purchased a ticket for an hour at the machine near the entrance, placed it on the dashboard where it would be clearly visible, and then strode away down the street. It was lined with shops of various kinds, charity shops being in the majority, as was the case with so many British high streets after the recession, but he ignored them all. He knew exactly where he was going.
On a corner about a quarter of a mile away and fairly close to the city center, he pushed open the door of a café, glanced around, and then walked over to a table by the back wall where a slim, pretty girl with short dark hair was studying something on the screen of a small tablet computer, an empty coffee cup and a small plate in front of her, a scattering of crumbs on it.
He put his computer bag down beside the table, retraced his steps, and bought two coffees at the counter, then pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down.
“You certainly took your time,” she said, lowering the tablet and nodding her thanks for the fresh cup.
“It was Wilson,” Mallory replied. “He’s like a bloody terrier, just wouldn’t let go. He kept on digging and probing, looking out for inconsistencies. I really thought he was going to hold me on suspicion of something, just because he’s got four unsolved murders on his hands, and no halfway believable suspects anywhere in the frame apart from the two of us. In the end, I started insulting him, trying to make him angry, because I thought that might make him a bit less critical of what I was saying.”
“You mean he might miss some of the lies you were telling?” Robin Jessop inquired sweetly.
Mallory grinned at her, and lowered his voice.
“Technically,” he said, “I wasn’t actually telling lies, just not telling the entire truth, which isn’t the same thing at all. The only actual lie I trotted out during that entire final interview was when he asked me what I knew about a dead Italian lying in a wood near Exeter, and I said I knew nothing at all about it. Obviously we both know what happened because we were there when he died, but apart from that our stories have stuck pretty closely to the truth all the way through.”
“Well, it worked, because you walked. And here you are.” A sudden thought struck her. “What about your car? It is still in the police pound?”
“No. It’s in the car park just down the street. As far asI can tell, that Italian thug didn’t damage it while he was driving it, and I even got back the original key, so I guess he just