Chapter 12 Summary
Bo stops in the middle of Saint Mark’s Square to look at a group of massive horse statues above the gates of the Basilica. Prosper urges him onward, but Bo balks. He wants to see if the horses will leap down. He has heard from Hornet that they were stolen long ago, so he thinks they must be angry. Prosper grabs Bo’s hand and drags him to a fountain by the side entrance, where Scipio and the others are waiting.
Scipio announces that only Prosper and Mosca are coming inside the Basilica for the meeting with the Conte. Riccio and Bo protest at being excluded. Hornet tells them angrily that the Thief Lord is too arrogant to be seen with little kids and girls. Scipio does not contradict her; he just turns and walks toward the entrance. Prosper stops to comfort Bo for a moment before he follows with Mosca.
Inside, the three boys nervously enter the confession box. The Thief Lord kneels, and the others stand behind him like bodyguards. Just as they begin to wonder if they are too early, the curtain opens, and a face peeks through. The Conte is in shadow, and the boys can see little of him except the gleaming lenses of his glasses. He considers them for a moment and says that the Thief Lord seems quite young. Scipio replies:
Indeed. And you are very old, judging by your voice. Does age matter in this transaction?
This polished response impresses Prosper and Mosca, and it makes the old man laugh. He agrees that the age of the thief does not matter as long as he, the Conte, gets what he wants. He explains that he wants an object stolen from a certain house and that he will give the boys a floor plan and a photograph of the thing they are to steal as well as a means of contacting him when they have it.
Scipio asks about payment, and the Conte says he will pay five million lire when he receives what he wants. This sum is so large that Scipio almost loses his composure. In a shaking voice, he says that it “sounds like a fair price.” The Conte explains that the object does not appear valuable. It would not be worth money to anyone else, but it is extremely important to him. He has been pursuing it his whole life. He says he hopes that the Thief Lord will steal it very soon.
The Conte leaves the boys with an envelope full of information and a basket. After he leaves, they peek inside the basket and are surprised to see that it contains a live pigeon.