On the Fifth Day
probably take him to the ancient town of Herculaneum, should this blind search seem worth pursuing elsewhere. At the moment, with no idea what he was looking for and deeply skeptical that there was anything valuable to be found, Thomas thought that unlikely. He had a vague sense of mission that served only to make him anxious and uncertain, but to all in
    tents and purposes, he was no different from the tourists. The idea depressed him.
    But it was only after the train left him at the Pompeii station 76
    A. J. Hartley
    and he got his first glimpse of the site that the enormity of his problem truly registered. This was no huddle of stone frag
    ments dotted with statues, no cluster of columns on an acre or two of patchy mosaic. The place was huge. It was, in fact, a town, vast and breathtaking, its streets radiating out for what seemed like miles in all directions.
    What the hell am I supposed to do now?
    He began by buying a glossy guidebook and spending ten long minutes under the shade of a palm tree studying a map of the remains, marking every site he could find listed in Ed's notebook.
    "It's a bit daunting, isn't it?" said a voice. Thomas looked up, shading his eyes against the light. It was the nun from the train.
    "It is a bit, yes," he said, getting to his feet. "We're here, right?" he said, prodding the map with one finger.
    "No," said the nun. "We're at the Marine Gate, here."
    "Christ," muttered Thomas, hastily adding, "sorry. No of
    "None taken. I realize that for most people such words don't really mean what they say."
    "No," said Thomas, relaxing a little. "You're right."
    She smiled back. She was perhaps thirty, maybe a little more, though it was hard to tell with the habit and headdress that revealed only her face and hands. She wore a silver cruci
    fix around her neck, a white rope belt around her waist, and heavy, buckled sandals on her feet. If she was Italian, her En
    glish was flawless.
    "I didn't mean to interrupt you," she said, smiling and tak
    ing a step backward as if ready to leave. "I just thought you were looking lost. You seem slightly familiar too, but I expect I'm thinking of someone else."
    "Probably," said Thomas. "I just arrived from the States. Chicago."
    The nun frowned and shook her head.
    "I'm from Wisconsin," she said. "Here for a retreat."
    O n t h e F i f t h D a y
    He could just about hear it now that she said it, that slightly Nordic inflection and the flat, open vowels of the upper Mid
    "Wait a minute," said Thomas, the light going on. "Are you a Franciscan?"
    "What gave it away?" said the nun, with a comic glance at the floor-length habit.
    "You're at the retreat house in Naples? Santa Maria . . . something."
    "Delle Grazie!" the nun completed, her smile broadening.
    "That's right. I saw you there, didn't I?"
    "Briefly," said Thomas.
    "Are you a priest?"
    "God, no," said Thomas. "Again, no offense. I was just . . . visiting. I'm staying at the hotel around the corner."
    "I'd say it was a coincidence, but since this is the major tourist attraction in the area, I guess it's not that surprising,"
    said the nun. "I've been here since Wednesday but I was so jet-lagged at first that I haven't seen much yet. My retreat doesn't start for another few days so I thought I'd better get some sight-seeing in. I came here yesterday for a few hours, but it was just too much to process. I figure you really need a week to see the place properly."
    "A week?" echoed Thomas, crestfallen. "I thought I'd get it covered today."
    "Well, you've only got a couple of hours left today," said the nun. "The site closes at six. Was there something special you wanted to see this afternoon?"
    "Not really," said Thomas. "I hadn't expected it to be so . . . enormous. "
    "Best to do it in bits," she said. "I was going to look at the theaters today. Join me if you like."
    Thomas glanced at the map and chose one of the places he had circled at random, glad he didn't have to produce Ed's notebook.

Similar Books

The Black Opal

Victoria Holt

The Eager Elephant

Amelia Cobb

Jump Shot

Paul Mantell Ronde Barber Tiki Barber

Split Infinity

Thalia Kalkipsakis

A Family Kind of Guy

Lisa Jackson

Virginia Henley

The Raven, the Rose

Smoldering Nights

Lisa Carlisle