Sam Markham’s brain sizzled like a slab of bacon-his thoughts sputtering and popping inside his skull with the panic of what to do next. Cathy had suffered a mild concussion, but would be okay-he knew that deep down. But as he sat beside her hospital bed, his anxiety fired back and forth between his need to go looking for The Michelangelo Killer, and his concern, his gnawing guilt for the woman he loved.
Sullivan’s team would be the ones to scramble on the information he’d gleaned from the DVD, for Markham knew he had to be there when Cathy woke up. He had heard the smack of her head on the hardwood floor when she fainted-a dull thud out in the hallway that could have been prevented had he been there to catch her, had he not been so transfixed by the horrible DVD death of Steve Rogers. But worse for Cathy than the fall was when Markham revived her-the shock at first, then the hysterics that followed when her mind attempted to wrap itself around what she had just witnessed.
“Mother!” she had screamed in the ambulance. “You were right, Mother! You tried to warn me but I didn’t listen! I’m sorry, Steven!”
The EMTs had to strap Cathy to the gurney and administered a sedative on the ride over to the hospital. And as Markham held her hand, as she started to calm, Cathy whispered to him what he already knew.
“The Piet`a, Sam. The breasts. He used Steve for the body of his Piet`a.”
From his reading of Slumbering in the Stone, Sam Markham knew all about the Rome Piet`a-knew that Michelangelo had ingeniously sculpted the Virgin Mary out of proportion to Jesus in order to get the correct visual relationship between the two figures. He also knew right off the bat that the real Rome Piet`a was still on display in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and thus instinctively ordered Sullivan to mobilize the local police forces outside of every church named St. Peter’s in Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts, and northern Connecticut. But deep down Markham knew it wouldn’t be that easy-knew that The Michelangelo Killer wouldn’t tip his hand to Dr. Hildebrant and the FBI just like that.
Perhaps he was even trying to throw them off the trail.
Nonetheless, before climbing into the ambulance with Cathy, Special Agent Sam Markham had the good sense to grab from the Trailblazer his now ragged copy of Slumbering in the Stone. He had pored desperately over the chapters on the Rome Piet`a at Cathy’s bedside while she slept-learned that the statue was originally commissioned as a grave marker by the French cardinal Jean de Billheres. Its first home had been the Chapel of St. Petronilla, a Roman mausoleum located in the south transept of St. Peter’s which the cardinal had chosen for his funerary chapel. There it had lived for a short time until the chapel was demolished. The Piet`a occupied a number of locations around St. Peter’s when finally, in the eighteenth century, it came to rest in its current location in the first chapel on the right of the Basilica. Markham relayed all this information to Sullivan, but her subsequent Internet search came up empty. She could not with any certainty link these details (St. Peter’s, St. Petronilla, funerary chapels, Cardinal Billheres, etc.) to any specific site in Rhode Island-in all of New England for that matter.
And so Sam Markham felt helpless. He felt that he could see the future rolling, unstoppable, toward him in his mind-could see so clearly The Michelangelo Killer’s upcoming Piet`a: a heinous sculpture with a woman’s head and hands and breasts sewn onto Rogers ’s body `a la Frankenstein. As a result of his research into the Plastination process, Sam Markham’s rational side told him that-even if The Michelangelo Killer had already murdered his Mary and his Jesus long ago-the killer would not have had nearly enough time to preserve Rogers ’s body. His gut, however-that intuition that all the best “profilers” learn to follow despite “the facts”-told him otherwise.
Yes, Markham knew in his gut that not only was he missing something very important, but that he was also running out of time.
He needed Cathy-needed her to wake up and to talk to him calmly.
An agent from the Resident Agency poked his head into the room. “Burrell is on his way,” he said, and Markham nodded. There were two Providence agents posted outside the door, and Markham knew Burrell would square the FBI protective custody for Cathy himself. That was good; it would be much better than the surveillance they had placed on her-the depth of which Cathy had no idea. Yes, although the FBI had watched Cathy’s every move now for almost a month, although she was most certainly never in any real danger, Markham felt nonetheless ashamed that Cathy had been used involuntarily as bait.
That couldn’t be avoided.
But now things had to be different; now The Michelangelo Killer had killed for her personally-murdered her ex-husband, used him specifically for his Piet`a in what was undoubtedly a gesture of gratitude to Dr. Hildebrant for all her help. Hence, Markham understood there was no other way now except for Cathy to go into hiding. But for how long? And would Cathy even want to once the reality of what had happened sank in? How many times, Markham wondered, had she secretly wished for Steve Rogers to get run over by a truck or to slip on the ice and split his head open? And now, would she ever be able to forgive herself? Would she ever be able to get over the guilt that she was somehow responsible for her ex-husband’s death?
As Markham studied Cathy’s face in the dim light of the hospital room, he thought of Michelle. He wanted to spare Cathy that pain; he wanted to untie the canvas straps that held her down and just carry her away from it all.
Then Markham thought of Steve Rogers strapped down to his bed-the steel table on which The Michelangelo Killer had most likely operated on him, the steel table on which he filmed Rogers ’s last breath.
The epinephrine, Markham thought. The killer gives them a heart attack while they stare at themselves-at the statue they are about to become, above them on a television screen. It’s important they understand-just like Gabriel Banford had to understand way back when. And through the terror of that understanding, the terror of being born again, they awake from their slumber and are freed from the stone-just as Cathy and I suspected.
Markham ’s mind began to wander.
There were chains running up from the side of the table. Looked as if it was suspended from the ceiling-perhaps so it could be raised and lowered like in those Frankenstein movies. A high ceiling. Yes. A winch system-would have to be hooked on a ceiling too high for a cellar. A garage or a warehouse maybe. Money. The killer has money. Lots and lots of money-twenty-five G to blow on a statue.
“Exactly like the one that was taken three years ago,” he heard the Reverend Robert Bonetti say in his mind. “That one had been donated by a wealthy family a number of years before I arrived here at St. Bart’s.”
A wealthy family…
“We used to have quite an extensive picture gallery on our Web site…One of them, of course, was of our Gambardelli Piet`a. Perhaps your man simply recognized it and targeted us that way.”
Markham looked at his watch: 1:03 A.M. Too late to wake up the old priest on a hunch-not even a hunch. A long shot. And a desperate one at that. And besides, he was running out of time; he knew instinctively that something was going to happen this weekend, maybe even tonight-if it hadn’t happened already. If only he knew where.
Where, where, where!
“Cathy,” he whispered in her ear. “Cathy, I need you now.”
Her eyes fluttered, and Markham ’s heart leapt into his throat.
“Sam?” she said groggily-the sedatives fighting to keep her under.
“Yes, Cathy, it’s me. You’re safe. Everything is going to be all right now.”
“Where am I? I can’t move my-”
“You’re all right, Cathy.” Markham said, untying her wrists. “You’re in the hospital. You bumped your head, but you’re fine. The doctors strapped your hands to the bed so you won’t hurt yourself-because you were hysterical. But there, you see? You’re free now. I’m here, Cathy. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“It was Steve, Sam,” Cathy sobbed. “It’s all my fault-”
“Ssh, Cathy. Stop it now. It’s not true. Don’t think like that.”
“But the Piet`a. He made Steve into the Piet`a for me.”
“Ssh. Cathy, listen to me. You’ve got to stay calm. You’ve got to be strong for me. We don’t have much time. The Michelangelo Killer wouldn’t have sent you that DVD unless he was sure that it wouldn’t hinder his plan, unless he was convinced that it wouldn’t lead us to where he was about to exhibit his Piet`a-at least until it was too late for us to catch him.”
“St. Peter’s,” Cathy said, swallowing hard. “The real Piet`a is in St. Peter’s.”
“I know, Cathy, but that’s too easy. I’ve got those bases covered, yes, but my gut tells me we’re going in the wrong direction. This guy is too smart for that. You’ve got to think of someplace else the killer might want to exhibit his Piet`a.”
Cathy was quiet for a moment, her eyes locked with Markham ’s-the love she saw reflected in them giving her the strength to continue.
“The statue was originally located in the Chapel of St. Petronilla.”
“Yes. St. Petronilla. I read about it in your book-commissioned for the tomb of a French cardinal by the name of Billheres.”
“The chapel itself was initially an old Roman mausoleum that had been converted by the Christians on the first site of St. Peter’s-before the church was redesigned and rebuilt in the early sixteenth century by Donato Bramante, a famous Italian architect. The chapel in its Roman form no longer exists, and there is much debate as to what it originally looked like before Bramante got his hands on it. However, if you take into account how Michelangelo designed his Piet`a for that space specifically, one thing is certain.”
“If the Piet`a is lit by natural light falling from above, as it would have been in the Old St. Peter’s, the Virgin’s face is cast in shadow, while the body of Christ is fully illuminated. The metaphorical implications are obvious-the light, the eternal life in the dying flesh of the Savior, etcetera. But you see, one has to ultimately remember that the statue was originally intended to be a funerary monument, not just a devotional image-although it is that, too. The overall design of the Piet`a-the way the Virgin’s gaze and open arms direct our attention first to her Son, then to the mortal remains buried beneath her-in its original installation, in its original lighting, it demanded that we see the statue as Michelangelo intended, that is, a context in which the viewer not only reflects on Christ the Savior, but also on our own mortality, as well as that of Cardinal de Billheres.”
“So you think then that the light from above is the key to the overall effect of the statue?”
“Yes. If you look again at the pictures in my book, you will notice in the close-ups a fine line inscribed in the Virgin’s forehead. Seen at a distance under light from above, this line creates the illusion of a thin veil-an ingenious device, yes, but one that requires the trick of the light in order to be seen. Otherwise, it looks like just a line in her forehead.”
“So,” said Markham, “it’s not so much about the connection to St. Peter’s as it is to a chapel, perhaps even a mausoleum, where the light would hit the statue from above. That means then that the location itself is very important to the killer in terms of how it relates to the viewer’s overall experience of the sculpture. Like the killer’s Bacchus. Dodd’s topiary garden served as more than just a historical allusion, a re-contextualization of the statue’s original location. Yes, perhaps the killer exhibited his Bacchus in Dodd’s garden because it would subliminally mimic a Renaissance viewer’s experience of Michelangelo’s Bacchus-an experience that The Michelangelo Killer wanted to provide for us just as it was five hundred years ago.”
“I don’t know, Sam,” Cathy sighed, her eyes again welling with tears. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
“Ssh,” said Markham, kissing her forehead. “Know that I care about you, Cathy. Know that I’m going to take care of you, now. I won’t let anything hurt you.”
Cathy felt her heart melt, felt her eyes about to overflow in unexpected streams of joy. She wanted to tell Sam Markham she loved him, but a voice from across the room interrupted her.
Markham and Cathy turned to see Bill Burrell standing in the doorway.
“I have to go now, Cathy,” Markham said, kissing her again. “I’ll call a nurse to see if you need-”
“Don’t leave me, Sam.”
“I have to, Cathy. You’ll be fine. The place is crawling with FBI agents. You just sleep for a while and I’ll be back before you know it.”
Cathy turned away.
“I’m going to catch this guy for you,” Markham said, turning her face back to him with a gentle finger on her chin. “I promise you that, Cathy. It’s personal now.”
Cathy smiled weakly-the sedatives dragging her down again.
“Thank you, Sam,” she whispered.
Markham laid his hand on her cheek. And when he saw that she had fallen back to sleep, he joined Bill Burrell out in the corridor.
“She’s doing all right?” the SAC asked.
“Yes. She’ll be fine.”
“We’ll take care of her now.”
“Where’s the DVD? I want to see it.”
“Forensics has got it-analyzing the paper, the tape for trace evidence-but they won’t find anything, I’m sure. He’s too smart for that. Nonetheless, they’re going to dump it onto the computer to see if we can pick up anything through digital enhancement. They’ll dupe you a copy and you can take a look at it shortly.”
“Good. Now tell me you got something more for me, Sam.”
“Something’s going down this weekend-soon, maybe in the next couple of hours if it already hasn’t.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The DVD. It was meant to confuse us, yes, but it’s also a challenge from the killer-a dare to try and stop him.”
“Yes, I am. But I need to get on the Internet-need to get on a computer right now here in the hospital.”
“I’ll explain it to you on the way. But I’m telling you, Bill, I have a very bad feeling The Michelangelo Killer plans to unveil his next exhibit tonight. And if I can figure out where, we might be able to get there before he does.”