So here we are in Rome, standing like obvious tourists on a street corner, map open---concentrating---just ripe for the picking.
Our goal is to complete the self-guided tour of The Path of Illumination as laid out by author Dan Brown in his thriller book, Angels and Demons. We are looking for the Santa Maria della Vittoria Church tucked away in a more remote area of Rome wherein lies a clue in one of its famous statues, Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa.
You are lost? Can I help with directions puhleeze? He speaks English in thickly accented Italian. Good looking. Well-dressed. Someone who might prove more interesting in a different scenario.
Looking for a certain church, I reply.
Show me the map lovely peeples. Where you from? Americano?
He whoops with delight. My wife she works at the Canadian Embassy! On my way to see her now. Before gaz goze empty. Almos no gaz...sooo embarrassing! A beaming smile flits across his face. Where you from in your beeyoutiful country...Vancouver?
Shouldn’t seasoned travellers catch on at this point? Alas, we are too absorbed in finding this out of the way church, a landmark clue in Brown’s best-seller. Besides, this guy looks like any harassed businessman who simply forgot his gas tank is almost dry.
You want I should help you?
No, thank you, we reply politely, firmly.
But maybeez you can help me?
In an instant he reaches behind him and pulls out two jackets from the back seat. He begins his fast sales pitch and we are too absorbed, too gullible to read the obvious signs.
These jackets are ver-r-y expensive, made of the finest Italian leather. I hate to part
with them but.... you look like lovely peeples and you are Canadian like my wife. Me and my wife, we go to Toronto lots...we take you to dinner there? Yes?
He churns out another charming smile, then turns earnest, his voice low, conspiratorial. The cost of these jackets...he holds them close as if they are his children. He sighs loudly.... I hate to let them go but you are such special Canadian peeples.. Breathing in their fragrance as if breathing in the bouquet of an expensive wine, he piously hands us his exquisite jackets.
The transaction has taken mere minutes.
Grazie! Grazie! See you in Toronto?!
Whoosh! He takes off in a cloud of dust. We stand there, look at each other, and only then are suspicious.
Still on the street corner, we carefully fold our map and, feeling a little sick and stupid, take time to study our fine jackets. They are nothing but phony synthetics and would disintegrate in the first rain.
Humiliated at being such easy marks, we decide to ditch the evidence in the driveway of a nearby home hoping no-one notices.
Burned, but more determined than ever, we forge on and finally find that elusive little church with the St. Teresa statue inside, left of the altar.
And we never revealed this withering tale to anyone----until now.