Ghost Image (Sophie Medina Series #2)

Ghost Image (Sophie Medina Series #2)

by Ellen Crosby

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Overview

Ghost Image (Sophie Medina Series #2) by Ellen Crosby

From the author of Multiple Exposure, an “assured tale of love, loss, and secret agendas” (Publishers Weekly), comes the second novel in the thrilling Sophie Medina series, following a photojournalist as she races to find an international treasure before a murderer finds her.

When freelance photojournalist Sophie Medina finds Brother Kevin Boyle, a Franciscan friar and controversial environmentalist, dead in the magnificent gardens of a Washington, DC monastery, she is sure her friend was murdered. Shortly before he died, Kevin told Sophie he was being stalked, possibly because he uncovered a botanic discovery potentially worth millions of dollars. Left with few clues to his secret, Sophie is determined to figure out who killed Kevin.

Beginning with a key that leads to a priceless original seventeenth-century encyclopedia of plants, Sophie leaps into an international treasure hunt following a trail that begins in the US Capitol and eventually leads to London and the English countryside. Before long Sophie suspects Kevin’s murderer may have been someone who knew him well. With time running out and a suspect list that includes the world’s leading botanical experts and political royalty from both sides of the Atlantic, can Sophie solve the two-hundred-year-old mystery before Kevin’s killer finds her?

A tale of greed and betrayal involving politicians, diplomats, European royalty, and a century-old monastery, Ghost Image is filled with political intrigue, history, and an international high-stakes race against a killer that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451659375
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 04/21/2015
Series: Sophie Medina Series , #2
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Ellen Crosby is the author of Multiple Exposure, the first book in a series featuring photojournalist Sophie Medina. She has also written six books in the Virginia wine country mystery series. A former freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News, and an economist at the US Senate, Crosby lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at EllenCrosby.com.

Read an Excerpt

Ghost Image

1

“When the old prince dies they’re going to cut out his heart and bury it in a monastery in Hungary. They’ll bury his body in the family vault in Austria.” The elderly woman who’d spoken helped herself to a glass of Grüner Veltliner from a silver tray held by a white-jacketed waiter.

She sipped her wine, the enormous diamond ring on her finger like a sparkling star in the light of a crystal chandelier that dominated the drawing room of the Austrian ambassador’s residence. “It’s a royal tradition, something to do with the Holy Roman Empire,” she said to the stooped man standing next to her.

He took a stein of pale gold beer from the same tray. “The Holy Roman Empire?”

She frowned. “That can’t be right. I think the wine’s going to my head. I meant the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That way he can be buried in the two countries his family used to rule. Ursula told me about it.”

“Ursula would know something like that. She said both of Victor’s parents are still in Europe because his father isn’t well.” He leaned in closer to the woman, but his voice carried anyway. “What do you bet she’s sticking pins in a doll, hoping the old man pops off before the wedding? Then her future son-in-law gets a bunch of new titles, plus an art collection and a library worth a fortune.”

The woman laughed. The string quartet that had been playing in the foyer all evening ended Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik and, with perfect timing, slid into The Merry Widow Waltz by Franz Lehár. The elderly couple turned as if they were going to leave the room and froze when they saw me standing there holding a professional-looking camera with a large lens attached to it. She turned red, and he said, “You’re not the photographer from the Washington Post, are you?”

If I hadn’t been working, I would have told them I was the gossip columnist and asked them to spell their names. Instead I kept a poker face and said, “No, sir. I’m the wedding photographer.” I held up my camera. “May I?”

They posed stiff-necked with embarrassment and forced smiles, knowing I’d overheard their unkind remarks. Afterward, the man leaned in and squeezed my arm. “We’re neighbors of the mother of the bride, honey. We’ve known Senator Gilberti and her daughter for years. And let me tell you, we love Ursula and Yasmin like they were our own family.”

I let “honey” go by and nodded. Sure they did. Across the room a dark-haired man caught my eye and gave me a long, slow wink. He was too far away to have overheard anything, especially over the buzz of voices and the music that floated above the din, but he was still smiling as though he’d figured out exactly what had just happened.

Tonight many of the men, including Archduke Victor Haupt-von Véssey, the future groom, and his host, the Austrian ambassador, were wearing loden jackets, the boiled wool collarless coats that were the traditional dress of their country. Among the sober-suited men who kissed women’s hands with Old World charm, this guy stood out, too flashy in a black suit, black shirt, black tie, and fashionably long wavy hair that brushed his collar. He was still staring.

The crowd between us shifted as if a curtain were closing, and he disappeared.

A waiter touched my arm. “Ms. Medina, Senator Gilberti would like to see you in the dining room.”

Ursula Gilberti had given me a list of the one hundred and twenty guests expected at tonight’s engagement party, along with detailed instructions of the pictures she required me to take. In a previous job with an international news agency, I photographed world leaders, two popes, and peace talks where neither country trusted the other that hadn’t required this much stage managing. I pulled Ursula’s list out of the pocket of my black silk evening pants. Before I saw it, I hadn’t realized how many exiled members of royal families—including kings and queens—lived in Washington. A few were here this evening, and everyone else was either friends of the engaged couple, coworkers from the Smithsonian where Yasmin worked, or from Global Shield, the international refugee relief nonprofit whose Washington office Victor ran, and Capitol Hill staff and colleagues of Ursula’s.

I followed the waiter into the dining room. What did Ursula want now?

She stood in the middle of a small knot of people that included the ambassador and his wife, gesturing expansively with her glass of wine as she recounted a story. She had probably chosen her floor-length gown, which was the color of amethysts, not only because it looked so perfect against her fair skin and auburn hair but also because it was the color of royalty. Ursula was attractive, but with no softness or girly femininity, and in the Senate she was known as a tough, competent deal maker, which was why her party had chosen her as their whip. Tonight she seemed to be running this engagement celebration with the same capable efficiency she used to deliver votes.

Across the room, her animated, chattering daughter was also the center of attention, provoking eruptions of laughter like little explosions from the mostly male group surrounding her. Yasmin Gilberti looked stunning in a vivid green satin halter dress that matched her emerald-and-diamond engagement ring. She was tall and athletically built, and with her flaming red hair done up in a mass of curls that framed her face, alabaster skin, and enormous green eyes, she had already become the subject of European media interest, the fairy tale wedding of the beautiful American who had captivated the plain, solid-looking archduke.

This evening she and Victor hadn’t spent much time together, apparently deciding to circulate separately among their guests. I had seen Victor in the drawing room just now, looking happy and animated as he clapped an arm around the shoulders of the men and, in his courtly way, kissed the women’s hands with a small click of his heels. A few times he’d caught my eye as I moved around taking pictures and flashed his warm, charming smile. Royal titles had been banned in Austria when the monarchy was abolished, but other countries didn’t respect that edict and there were enough old royalists and members of the aristocracy here tonight that I’d overheard him referred to as Archduke Victor or, if someone spoke to him directly, Your Royal Highness.

Ursula finished delivering the punch line of her story and excused herself to join me. “Yasmin and Victor are going to cut the cake after the champagne toast. I suspect people will start leaving after that. Did you get everyone’s photo?” Her eyes roved over the crowded room as if she were looking for someone.

“Except those who aren’t here, of course,” I said.

“Who’s not here?”

“Among the people you wanted to be photographed, only Edward Jaine and the king and queen of Ethiopia. Also, Brother Kevin Boyle hasn’t arrived yet.”

She turned her gaze on me. “Their Majesties were always iffy, but Brother Kevin ought to be here by now. And I know about Edward. He said he might just drop by, but he promised to come.”

She could have told me about the iffy king and queen, but that was Ursula. And I was curious about her relationship with Edward Jaine, though I figured she was probably courting him as a political donor. I’d never met him, but he was in the press so often I knew plenty about him—that he’d dropped out of ­Harvard after developing what became the gold standard in Internet firewalls, a system so secure it was now used on all U.S. government computers and had made him a multibillionaire. Lately he was better known for his flamboyant and sometimes outrageous lifestyle. Less publicized was his habit of stopping by a soup kitchen or a shelter for battered women or another small charity and writing a large check. But in the past few weeks, unflattering stories had surfaced about a series of disastrous investments he’d made in companies that manufactured computer components. Jaine’s Jinx, it was called.

“Pardon me, Senator.” Father Jack O’Hara, the man indirectly responsible for my presence at this party, stood behind Ursula and me. “I overheard you mentioning Brother Kevin Boyle. He told me this afternoon that there was a chance he might be late to the party.”

Ursula’s smile was pinched. “Well, he is.”

“I’m sure he’ll be here any minute.”

“Victor wants him to say a blessing before the toast, and the waiters are about to start passing out the champagne.” She gave Jack a pointed look. “Perhaps you could call him?”

I avoided eye contact with Jack because I knew what he was going to say. “Unfortunately Kevin doesn’t carry a mobile, or I would have already done that.”

It was said about Ursula that she was chosen as her party’s whip because she made the trains run on time. Kevin’s train wasn’t on time. “Then I think you should say the blessing yourself, Father O’Hara. We don’t want to keep our guests waiting.” Her smile broadened but it didn’t do much to soften what had been an order, not a request.

Jack and I had known each other since we were teenagers, and he was as close to me as a brother. We’d even dated briefly in high school in the days before he realized he had a vocation and left for Rome to study with the Jesuits. Now he taught ethics at Georgetown Law School and had introduced me to Victor, one of his former students, after Victor saw photographs I’d taken a few years ago at a refugee camp in Somalia. Six weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, he asked Yasmin to marry him. Shortly afterward he wrote me a charming letter asking if I would take the pictures at their June wedding at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington. Though I’d never professionally photographed a wedding, let alone a royal wedding, I said yes. Later I discovered I would be dealing almost exclusively with Ursula, who was paying my fee.

I nudged Jack. Through the wide arched doorway we could see a butler greeting Kevin in the foyer. “I don’t think that will be necessary, Senator,” Jack said. “Brother Kevin just arrived.”

Heads swiveled as Kevin entered the dining room dressed in the plain brown tunic of a Franciscan, a knotted rope cincture tied around his waist, and sandals with thick socks on his feet. His salt-and-pepper hair was windblown, and his glasses, as usual, were halfway down his nose.

“Why isn’t he wearing a Roman collar and a suit?” Ursula said under her breath. “This is a dressy affair.”

“Franciscans always wear their habits,” Jack said. “Even to dressy affairs.”

Kevin came directly to the three of us and held out his hand to Ursula. “I apologize for being late, Senator. I was unavoidably detained or I would have been here sooner.”

She took his hand but didn’t shake it. “May I ask why? We’ve been waiting for you so we could begin the toast. The party’s almost over.”

Kevin cleared his throat, and I knew this wasn’t going to go well. Ursula already didn’t get along with him and she’d been hoping for a European wedding at the magnificent Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, with all the pomp and pageantry that would have accompanied it. But over the years Victor’s family, who had been exiled from their homeland when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved in 1918, had developed a close relationship with the Franciscans, as the guardians of the Holy Land, the protectors of Catholic sacred sites. Eventually, after Victor’s grandfather renounced any claim to the Austro-­Hungarian throne, the family had returned to Austria, where Victor grew up. But the bond between the Franciscans and the Haupt-von Véssey family was still important to Victor, and it was the reason the wedding was going to take place at the monastery in Washington.

“The majority leader called this afternoon and asked if I could drop by his office to go over talking points for your party’s all-night floor session tonight on climate change,” Kevin said. “By the time I left the Hill, it was later than I expected.”

Ursula looked as if she’d just been slapped. “Obviously I’m aware of what’s going on in the Senate,” she said in a chilly voice. “Yasmin and Victor’s party was planned long before that session came up, and I can’t be in two places at the same time. My constituents know I’m a single parent and this is the marriage of my only child. Family always comes first with me.” Her glare took in all three of us. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to find the head waiter and ask him to give us a moment before they serve the champagne.”

After she strode off, Kevin said, “That went well, don’t you think?”

Jack grinned. “She was too defensive. You really got under her skin.”

“I think she’s still ticked off about Alaska,” I said.

Two years ago, Kevin, an internationally known environmentalist with a PhD in botany, wrote Reaping What We Have Sown: The Catastrophic Consequences of Plundering Sister Earth, a controversial manifesto that was still on the New York Times bestseller list. When the book came out, he had been invited to testify before a Senate environmental subcommittee, where Ursula Gilberti made an unfortunate comment about the states that bordered Alaska.

“I think you mean Canada, Senator,” Kevin had said. “No states border Alaska.”

The geographic faux pas had been fodder for late-night talk shows, and Ursula had never lived it down. Now Kevin looked pained. “Don’t remind me about Alaska. Look, she had no intention of attending that session tonight, party or no party. She’s from a coal-mining state and her primary is right before the wedding. She might not win this time, so there’s no way she’s going to be part of a conversation about how humans are responsible for global warming and the need for clean energy. It’s political suicide for her.”

Across the room, a white-haired woman in a teal suit was threading her way through the crowd toward the three of us. She was looking right at Kevin. “There’s an attractive woman making a beeline for you,” I said to him. “Probably one of your many admirers.”

“Or someone else I ticked off with my politics.”

“Nope. She’s smiling. Definitely a female admirer,” Jack said. “You know the old saying, Soph? ‘Never trust your wife with a Franciscan or a Dominican.’”

Kevin gave him a friendly dig in the ribs. “The very old saying from the sixteenth century. Along with ‘Don’t trust your wallet with a Jesuit.’ That one’s still true.”

Jack and I laughed. “Peace be unto both of you,” I said. “Here she comes.”

She sailed over to us, slipping her arm through Kevin’s. “In a sea of Austrian loden, a Franciscan friar is not hard to pick out of the crowd. I thought I would see you here, Kevin.” She nodded at Jack and me. “Do introduce me to your friends. Good evening, Father.”

“Thea Stavros, meet Father Jack O’Hara, an old friend who’s now at Georgetown Law School and a friend of the groom’s, and Sophie Medina, the very talented wedding photographer,” Kevin said. To Jack and me he added, “Thea is the director of the science division of the Science, Technology and Business Library at the Library of Congress. If I need a reference book anywhere in the world, she knows how to get it. And every so often she invites me over to dig in the dirt of her magnificent garden.”

I’d heard Kevin talk of Thea Stavros. With her snow-white hair, I would have guessed her age to be late fifties or early sixties, except that her fine-boned face, as delicate as porcelain, was unlined and youthful looking. The teal suit was old-fashioned, but it had the look of couture, with a low-cut neckline that showed off a glittering crystal-and-gold webbed necklace.

Thea smiled at the mention of her garden and dropped Kevin’s arm to shake hands with Jack and me. “My garden is a never-ending work in progress,” she said. “I’m always begging friends to help and Kevin is kind enough to oblige.”

“Your necklace is lovely,” I said. “Is it antique?”

She fingered it. “I wish. It’s a knockoff, though it is Swarovski crystal. Austrian, in honor of tonight.” She added in a conspiratorial whisper, “Don’t tell. I’m hoping everyone thinks it’s diamonds.”

We laughed, and Kevin said, “We’ll keep your secret, Thea.”

She gave him a sly look. “Speaking of secrets, you’ve got one, haven’t you?”

“I’m in the business of keeping secrets,” he said with a bland smile. “I’ve got loads of them.”

Thea wagged a finger. “You know what I’m talking about. Your secret. The new project you’re working on. By the way, the latest bundle of documents you ordered is waiting for you on the hall bookshelf outside your study room.”

“Thanks. I’ll come by the library for it tomorrow.”

“Are you writing another book?” she asked. “One hears rumors, you know.”

“Never listen to rumors,” Kevin said with flat finality. “Half the time they’re wrong.”

Thea ignored the rebuff. “Based on the information you’ve been requesting, it’s obviously something to do with gardening in colonial America. A history book would be a real departure for you, my dear.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about it.”

“Oh, come on, you’re among friends. No one here is going to say anything, are we?”

In the awkward silence that followed, Jack’s face was politely blank and I pasted on a smile.

Finally Kevin said, “Please keep this under your hats. I honestly don’t want word to get out . . . my agent is still working out a few things with the publisher. But you’re right, Thea. It is a history book, a botanical history on gardening and agriculture in colonial America.” He looked at her over the top of his glasses. “And that’s all I can say.”

“Well, if you’re planning to use illustrations, you will come to me for help, won’t you?”

“Of course,” he said, adding to Jack and me, “I forgot to mention that Thea is the leading historical scholar in the country on American botanical prints. She also has a fabulous private collection in her home that could give a few museums a run for their money.”

Thea waved a hand and said with a rueful smile, “Not all of them were considered rare or antique when I acquired them. By the way, Kevin, you must peek into the ambassador’s private study. He has two original hand-colored botanicals from the Hortus Eystettensis. They must be worth a fortune since the colored plates are so rare. I’d give anything to own something like that.”

“What is the Hortus Eystettensis?” I asked.

Thea’s hand fluttered to her necklace. “An extremely famous book of botanical illustrations from 1613. The name is Latin for ‘Garden of Eichstätt,’ and it’s a massive compilation of flowers from all over the world that were in a very beautiful garden in Germany belonging to the bishop of Eichstätt. The complete book is worth well over a quarter of a million dollars, but many copies were cannibalized and the prints sold separately. Even the prints are still worth thousands of dollars . . . do have a look at them, Kevin.”

“I will.” He shifted his gaze and scanned the room. “It looks like the waiters are starting to serve the champagne. I believe I’m saying a blessing, and I haven’t even said hello to Victor and Yasmin. Will you all excuse me?”

“And me, as well,” Jack said. “I’m going to be taking off soon, papers to grade. I need to have a quick word with someone before I go. Sophie, I’ll call you, okay? Nice to meet you, Thea.”

Jack left and Thea gave me a sideways glance. “So tell me, how do you know Brother Kevin? And the dashing Father O’Hara?”

“Jack and I went to high school together and I met Kevin through Jack. At Jack’s ordination, in fact.” I left out the part about the dashing Father O’Hara being an ex-boyfriend and changed the subject. “Do you know many people here tonight?”

“The ones from the Smithsonian, Yasmin’s friends and colleagues.”

“What about that man over there?”

The dark-haired man who’d been watching me earlier had entered the dining room and positioned himself so he had a clear view of Yasmin Gilberti. She seemed aware that he was staring at her because she abruptly swung around to face the opposite direction and nearly spilled her glass of wine on her beautiful dress. Kevin caught the glass just in time and cut a look at the man, who turned away. He said something in Yasmin’s ear and she blushed, shaking her head.

“The one in black who’s ogling Yasmin?” Thea had been watching the little drama as well. She gave me a coy smile. “That’s David Arista. Gorgeous, isn’t he?”

“I . . . well. I just wondered who he was, that’s all.”

“Get in line, darling.”

“I’m happily married. Why is he ogling Yasmin, if you don’t mind saying?”

“David flirts with all the women he works with. Even me.” Her laugh was rich. “It’s part of his charm.”

“What’s he doing here tonight? Besides flirting, that is?”

“He owns C-Cubed. A marketing and media strategy company. I believe it stands for ‘create, catalyze, and connect.’ He’s been working with Yasmin on the Smithsonian Creativity Council.”

“The Smithsonian Creativity Council?”

“A group of young creative types—to me, they’re practically children—who founded companies in their dorm rooms or their parents’ garages and then made a billion dollars. They’re supposed to come up with innovative solutions for making the museum’s collections accessible to the public, particularly the hundreds of thousands of items in storage.” She gave me a droll look and said, “David calls it ‘interacting with the physical and the digital worlds simultaneously.’”

So David Arista’s relationship with Yasmin was professional, not personal.

“Sounds like you need to be a contortionist.”

Thea laughed again. “Yes, maybe. There’s a rumor going around that Ursula Gilberti’s reelection campaign manager just hired David as well.”

Thea Stavros seemed well versed in all the rumors floating around tonight. She took a glass of champagne from a waiter holding a tray and said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. David knows where all the bodies are buried . . . a useful skill in this town.”

“No champagne for you, miss?” the waiter said to me.

“Thank you, but I’m working.” I pointed to my camera. To Thea I said, “I need to have a word with Yasmin and Victor before the toast. Will you excuse me?”

“Of course.” Thea lifted her glass. “Perhaps we’ll meet again before the wedding.”

The string quartet had stopped playing, and someone tapped the bowl of a wineglass to signal the guests assembled around the large dining room table to quiet down. In the silence that followed, Ursula Gilberti’s voice, mingled with a man’s light baritone, carried from the foyer into the dining room. Edward Jaine had arrived.

Ursula walked in with him on her arm as though she’d just won Jaine as a prize at the county fair. I raised my camera and fired off half a dozen pictures. He was shorter than I expected, dark skinned with jet-black hair, dark eyes, and a cocky, bantam swagger. He was underdressed compared to the other guests in a cashmere camel blazer, open-neck shirt with a cream and camel paisley scarf wound around his neck, worn jeans, and bright turquoise cowboy boots.

“Victor, Yasmin,” Ursula said. “Look who’s here.”

Victor gave Edward Jaine a polite nod and shook his hand. But Yasmin’s face lit up as he took her hands in his and kissed her on both cheeks. He leaned in and whispered something that made her laugh, caressing one of her curls with his finger and giving her a conspiratorial grin.

I heard Ursula murmur Kevin’s name as she continued making introductions around the small circle. Jaine held out his hand and said to Ursula, “We know each other. Brother Kevin, nice to see you here.”

Kevin pretended not to see his outstretched hand. “Good evening, Edward.”

A muscle twitched in Edward Jaine’s jaw and Ursula took his arm, as though the little slight hadn’t occurred. “Edward, you must meet our hosts,” she said, turning to the ambassador and his wife.

Someone touched my arm. Victor stood there holding a glass of champagne. “I saw you turn down the champagne a moment ago, Sophie. Yasmin and I insist that you drink the engagement toast.”

I looked away from Kevin, who was now talking earnestly to Yasmin, and said, “I’d be honored.”

“Victor, Brother Kevin’s going to say the blessing,” Yasmin said. “I need you.”

He smiled. “I’m being summoned.”

He returned to Yasmin’s side, slipping an arm around her waist. She smiled, but I still thought she looked tense. I took more pictures, though Edward Jaine had moved away and was no longer standing next to Ursula. Before I could look around for him, the ambassador introduced Kevin, and everyone grew quiet again.

“Heavenly Father,” Kevin said, “you have gathered us this evening in joy to celebrate the love of Yasmin and Victor. Strengthen their hearts to keep faith with each other on their journey toward marriage and give them wisdom, guidance, and wise counsel to learn truths that will help them in their life together. May all of us here tonight be witnesses to their love for each other. And may they look forward with joy and anticipation to the day when, in the words of St. Matthew, the two shall be one. Amen.”

I wondered if Kevin had inserted the line about keeping faith with each other after watching Yasmin’s reaction to David Arista or her flirty exchange with Edward Jaine. But the ambassador had begun talking, a lighthearted and gently humorous toast in English and German that ended with everyone clinking glasses and saying “Prost.”

Then Yasmin and Victor cut an enormous Sacher torte, which had been flown in that afternoon from Vienna. By the time I finished taking pictures, Kevin was gone as well.

I made a tour of all the rooms looking for him until I heard voices, his and Edward Jaine’s, coming from a darkened corridor that led back to the kitchen. I couldn’t catch what they were saying because they were speaking so quietly, but it seemed like an argument.

Someone called my name and I spun around. Yasmin Gilberti stood there with a nearly empty glass of wine. I’d lost count of how many she’d drunk. She gave me a lopsided smile. “Have you got a minute? Mom wants a word.”

“Sure.”

I followed her and she wobbled a little tipsily as she walked. A few days ago she’d turned twenty-four. Victor was forty-one. He was crazy about her, as anyone could tell, but each time I saw them together I couldn’t help wondering whether she was really in love with Victor or with the idea of becoming an archduchess with a glamorous European life where she would be known as Her Serene and Royal Highness. Tonight had been no exception.

Ursula said goodbye to another guest in the foyer and joined us in the now-empty drawing room.

“How soon before we have these pictures, do you think, Sophie?” she asked.

“In the next few days. I’ll edit them and send you a link like I did with the photos for the engagement picture.”

She nodded. “All right, and now I think it’s time to start talking about the wedding. Yasmin and I are meeting the florist next week, and we still have to choose the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. It would be helpful to have some venue photos to work with. I’d like the three of us to meet tomorrow at the monastery and do a walk-through of the church and gardens.”

Venue photos. Either one of them could take pictures with a camera phone and they’d have what they needed, but if Ursula wanted to hire me for an extra session at the monastery, then fine.

I glanced over at Yasmin. It was her wedding. “What do you think?” I asked, though by now I knew she didn’t fight city hall.

“Pictures would help.”

“Okay,” I said. “What time?”

“Five,” Ursula said.

“The monastery and the gardens are closed then.”

“I know. We’ll have the place to ourselves. Don’t worry, my office will call and straighten it out. They’ll let us in.”

“I think Kevin’s still here,” I said. “Why don’t I find him and we can ask him now?”

And then maybe afterward I could corner him and ask what was going on between him and Edward Jaine.

“No need. Speak of the devil,” Ursula said as Kevin walked into the room. “We were just talking about you, Brother Kevin. I presume it won’t be a problem if Sophie, Yasmin, and I drop by the monastery tomorrow at five after it closes to go over a few things?”

“You’ll need to talk to our guardian. I’m sure Father Navarro can accommodate you.” Kevin’s smile was strained. “Yasmin, Senator Gilberti, thank you for a lovely evening. Sophie, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at ten thirty at the Tidal Basin, right?” I nodded, and he added, “Good night, everyone.”

After he left, Ursula raised an eyebrow at me, and I said, “Kevin’s helping me with a photography project.”

“If we’re done here, I’m going to get another glass of wine,” Yasmin said in a hard, flat voice. “Excuse me.”

She nearly walked into the doorframe, and Ursula, who had watched her daughter leave, pressed her hands together and said, “I’d better have a word with her. We’ll see you tomorrow, Sophie.”

I gathered up my equipment and left. When I got home, I downloaded the photos from the party and began editing them, but after an hour I quit and looked up the Scripture passage from St. Matthew that Kevin had used to end his blessing this evening—the two shall be one—because something had bothered me about it all evening.

He’d used only half of it. The rest was language from the marriage ceremony: Therefore what God has joined, let no man separate.

I wondered why Kevin had chosen it tonight and if no man was David Arista or possibly Edward Jaine. And then there was this: Why would a peaceful man of God who often quoted St. Francis of Assisi, that no one is to be called an enemy and no one does you harm, be arguing with one of the richest men in America?

Tomorrow at the Tidal Basin we’d have a lot to talk about.

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