Read The Angel of Milan Online
Authors: R. J. Grant
“Adama, forgive me if I speak out of turn, but if Victorio Del Cielo is in any way involved in your business here, you can be assured that he will have his way.”
I felt myself get angry again at the man’s impertinence, but then realized that his intrusion was a sincere attempt to assist me. I stood expressionless, hoping he would say more, which he did.
“Father, the officials of this city, and all the leading business people as far as I know, owe much to Del Cielo. His contributions of both money and influence have been welcomed by all.”
I decided that it might be useful to confirm what the round little man apparently already knew. Bringing him into my confidence would certainly be more productive that playing a game of cat and mouse. I looked him straight in the eye to capture whatever his next expression might tell me.
“Farther Dinard, what interest would Victorio Del Cielo have in the Temple Atonement Lot? Is there anything you are not telling me that you might know about the man?”
Dinard never broke eye contact with his next words, a positive sign that he was not hiding something.
“Adama, there would be no overt interest that I know of. However, I know very little about him personally. Therefore, I cannot say with certainty that the object would not interest him.”
“Thank you, Father.” I decided to change the topic to release the tension of the last few moments. “But now, what are you preparing for supper tonight? It smells delicious.”
“Ah, let me tell you,” he said, smiling again. “Tonight, we will feast on lamb chops with mint pesto, surrounded with roasted herb-seasoned potatos and vegetables. I assure you that you will find it a joy on your pallet.”
“That does sound good, Father. It will be a welcome change from that pitiful lunch someone prepared earlier today. Obviously, they do not share your talents in the kitchen.”
“I must apologize for that, Adama. I did, in fact, prepare lunch. I should have warned you. I steal from the rectory, with the full knowledge of those who live here in order to provide a supper for some of the poor in our neighborhood. Of what value would our charity be if we only depended on the act of government who takes from others than ourselves to provide care?”
The man’s words were profound, and I found myself ashamed. I had not thought in those terms in a very long time. I had been locked away in academia and the bureaucracy of the church for so long that I had forgotten the truth of the matter. Of what worth are our good works if they depend on politicians taking someone else’s goods and distributing them to the poor? It is easy to give away someone else’s property, and soothe our conscience, but what of our own property? So much for cries for social justice extorting other people’s goods.
Dinard did not pursue the topic of the Lot further, as I had expected he might, even though the red in his ample cheeks made it clear that he was busting to do so. He must have known that I told him all that I was going to for the time being. He was smarter than I had originally thought.
“I thank you, Father Dinard, for you insights. I look forward to seeing you, and your lamb chops with mint pesto at dinner. Ciao.”
I left the Rectory early the next morning with plenty of time before my scheduled meeting with Belgerio. I decided that a slow walk over to the Duomo in the pleasant morning air would give me time to think. Even if Belgerio was innocent in this matter, there was still the possibility that he could provide information regarding Crochi’s known associations. The bishop had either been unable or unwilling to provide any information in that regard. My bet was that he was unwilling, given the knowledge I now had of his cover-up for Crochi.
Traffic on the concourse was already heavy, with horns blaring and the sound of shifting engines. Crossing in the middle of the street could be a challenge, and is not recommended unless you are swift of foot. Reaching the far curb at a trot, I heard a loud horn and screeching brakes followed by a choice curse. I turned my head briefly, just in time to see two men attempting to cross further down the concourse. A driver’s arm hung out the window, additional curses emerging from the vehicle.
Not fast enough
, I thought, laughing to myself.
I entered the great Duomo piazza and made my way to the archbishop’s offices. I was sent right in, and found the monsignor already there with Bishop Savica. I could see that it was his intention to remain in the room while I interviewed Belgerio.
That’s one way to assure the man will not divulge anything of importance
I thought. There was no sense in going further unless I could separate the two. This was the archbishop’s turf and we were going to play by his rules. I was going to have to name drop to get anywhere.
The three of us exchanged some pleasantries and hashed over the same old ground regarding treasury access, and the absence of any evidence for a break-in. The bishop’s countenance showed he was pleased with the way he had been able to control the interview. Time to shoot him in the kneecap!
“Your Eminence, I know you must have a busy schedule, and I do not wish to take up anymore of your valuable time.” He was smiling now, ready to successfully conclude the discussion.
“However, I must fulfill Cardinal Burtuchi’s instructions to the letter. You know how exacting he is. If he is not satisfied, I could find myself posted in Africa to some rather unpleasant diocese.”
The smile quickly left his face. This bishop was no fool; he had mentally translated the threat of Burtuchi’s wrath to his own person.
“The cardinal was most emphatic that these interviews be conducted privately to ensure absolute confidentiality. If you would direct the monsignor and I to a private office, I am sure we can conclude this business quickly.”
The air had come out of the bishop’s balloon and a hint of anger crossed his face. Bull’s eye, right in the kneecap!
“Very well, Father Adama. You may stay here in my office for as long as necessary. I have more important matters to attend to elsewhere. Monsignor, please speak to me when you have concluded your…err…interview with Father Adama.”
The man was annoyed, and made no attempt to hide it. Belgerio sat with one eyebrow raised as the bishop hastily left the office with an almost slam of the door behind him.
“Well,” I said, “I don’t think the bishop was pleased. However, monsignor, I assure you that whatever we discuss will be totally private and will not leave this room.”
“Thank you, Father. I understand your position and realize that you cannot disappoint the cardinal.”
I could see that the man was both relieved that the bishop had left the room and at the same time nervous now that his intermediary had deserted him. I saw no point to prolonging his agony, and decided to divulge what I already knew about Crochi. Rectories are a small place, and I was sure that, at the least, he had his suspicions of Crochi. If others in the rectory knew of the man’s transgressions, then it was more than likely he did, also.
“Monsignor, I want to talk about Father Crochi, or to be more precise, I want to talk about his sexual practices.”
The cat was out of the bag, and the monsignor actually let out a sigh of relief. He no longer had to wrestle with what not to say.
“Very well, Father, ask what you will and I will answer to the best of my ability. Obviously you are somehow already aware that he was a pedophile, and I will be breaking no confidences discussing it with you.”
“Yes, I am very aware, and I suspect that his preferences have caused him to be compromised, leading to the theft of the Lot. What I need to learn is who might have used the information to coerce him.
Did he have any close friends in the clergy or a known association with someone outside?”
“Crochi was a very private man. I can’t say that he was close to anyone here in the rectory. We all knew what he was even though no formal allegations had been made. You can’t be friends with someone so despicable.”
“What about on the outside, do you know of anyone he regularly met with?”
“Yes, there must have been someone because he was always out of the rectory on Thursday evenings. However, exactly where he went or who he met with is unknown to me.”
I was not learning anything I didn’t already know, and it seemed the trail was going to go very cold. I could tell that Belgerio’s answers were honest without an attempt to conceal anything from me. There just wasn’t anywhere to go from here with the monsignor.
“Well, I don’t think we have to drag this out any further, monsignor. You have cooperated to my complete satisfaction. You should begin to decide what you want to tell the bishop of our talk. Whatever you decide is entirely up to you. I will not discuss it with him.”
I stood to signal the end of the meeting, and shook his hand in appreciation.
“Please convey my appreciation to the bishop, also. I do not wish to disturb him, knowing how busy he is.”
Belgerio allowed himself a smirk and assured me that he would convey my appreciation. He obviously knew I had little use for the man. Just as he turned to leave, I decided to stir the pot between him and Savica. Call it a malicious intent, if you will, but I wanted to make life a little more difficult for the bishop.
“Monsignor, just one more thing. Why do you think Bishop Savica was covering up for Crochi?”
Belgerio stopped at the door, looking back at me with puzzlement.
“Father, I do not understand what you mean by that statement. The last thing the bishop was doing was covering up for that man. He documented his suspicions to his superiors and made every effort to find a credible witness or accuser. I know this because I also signed the documents in support of the bishop’s suspicion.”