“So, Mr. Shaw,” Mary said. “Janet called and said you were going to take a vacation and that I should help you decide where you wanted to go. What would you like to do on your vacation?”
Martin fidgeted nervously in his chair. How the hell was he supposed to know? She was the travel agent. Martin had no idea where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. Hell, he didn’t want to go and that was the point! This vacation wasn’t his idea. He’d rather just go home!
“Well, I don’t know where I want to go.” He lied.
“Do you have anyplace that you’ve always wanted to see, some country that you’ve always wanted to travel to? That would help narrow it down some.” Mary stated.
Martin sighed heavily. “No, not really.”
Mary reached to the travel guide that sat at the upper left-hand corner of her desk and began to flip through it.
“Well, do you want to stay in California? Do you want to stay in the United States? You know, most Americans have never even seen a fraction of the United States. Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?” Martin groaned inwardly. A tooth extraction from an abscessed jaw by an evil and twisted dentist would have been less painful
Bruno poured a third coffee into his tazzina. He drank too much coffee but he neither smoked nor drank alcohol.
“A man should have at least one vice if for no other reason than to prove he is human.” He laughed to himself.
His right hand was nearly numb from the bowl of salted ice water
“Damn Bepi!” Hesilently cursed.
He was becoming more and more unsatisfied working for Cofau. Whealing his hands on these men was becoming a source of boredom, and Mirko was not the man he had once imagined him to be. His power was merely a disguise for his impotence as a man who had little else than money and position. He was clever, yes, even bright, but he was not intelligent. Bruno was beginning to tire of taking orders from him, but he would not exchange his loyalty to Mirko for a position with someone else. He had sworn an oath, not to Cofau, but to himself, and he would continue to keep the promise and the faith that he had entered into, regardless of how distasteful it may become.
“Men,” He thought as he rotated his hand and inspected his swollen knuckle, “are measured by their loyalties, their promises and their actions; their strength of character.”
Ciccio shivered in the morning cold. There would be no substantial business for a couple hours yet, still he had to set up early in order to keep others from taking his spot in the small campo outside Andrea’s shop. Other Marocchini knew to stay way but unfortunately, the Marocchini weren’t the only such vendors in the city.
He knew that Bepi had been summoned to Trevisani and he shivered again. That man Bruno, he was a beast! Bepi would be a mess, if he were not killed, if he came back at all. He had instructed the others to watch for him and to care for him as best they could. He looked over his wares and satisfied that they were properly displayed, settled in to wait for business to come to him.
Andrea was not attacked this morning. His little Angelina had slept heavily. He smiled, so had his wife for that matter.
“I am a God!” He thought to himself as he shaved. “I can please two women at once and even manage to remain an honorable man in my shop working next to a morsel so fine as to make the mouth of any man water!”
Two more strokes across his cheek with the razor and he was finished. As he surveyed his face, thoughtfully rubbing the freshly exfoliated skin, the door to the bathroom was opened and his daughter peeked in. Her hair was askew and her little face clouded. She rubbed at her eyes and whimpered.
“Vieni qui amore…” he cooed.
She took a couple steps toward him and he picked her up and kissed her forehead. She was slightly warm. Maybe she had a small fever.
“Gianna,” he called, “vieni una momento…”
Martin opened the sliding doors to the large double walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Since he was going to be leaving the following morning, he needed to pack. The travel agent had told him that the weather in the first of October would be mild; warm and tepid during the days and a medium chill at the night. It could rain, but she said she didn’t think it would. She said he should pack light and not worry about being too cold.
“Do yourself a favor, Mr. Shaw and pack sparingly…” Mary had told him. “The biggest mistake most virgin vacationers make, especially international travelers, is packing too much- too many clothes and too many incidentals that then must be hauled, towed and dragged around from stop to stop; from planes to trains, to taxis…”
Martin surveyed his clothes. Most of them were suits. He didn’t have a lot of casual clothes, and he certainly had no jeans and T-shirts. Not that one would wear them in Venice anyway. He didn’t know anything about Venice specifically, but he did know that Italy was one of the world’s fashion centers, and he assumed that one of the world’s most unique cities would also be a center of fashionably dressed people. Of all the destinations in the States and the world, they had decided on Venice because, as Mary so cryptically said
“Janet told me you needed to go someplace quiet to get some rest and relaxation…”
He had precious few casual clothes, but most of his suits could double as casual wear. Simply leave the jacket and vest at home. Wear the slacks, a white shirt, a blue shirt, a pink shirt, a turtleneck sweater or a V-neck sweater; and you have casual wear.
He looked at his raincoat. He considered briefly taking it. After all, it might rain. But then the travel agent said she didn’t think it would. What did he know? He would leave it. The less he took, like the agent had said, the better. Unlike Elizabeth, who had to pack her suitcase for every contingency and never left the house, even for a three-day weekend with less than four pieces of luggage, Martin decided to take his travel agents advice and pack light. He would take three suits; a couple odd pair of slacks from two others; seven shirts of assorted colors, whites, blues, mostly suit shirts, one for each day of the week that he could launder when needed; assorted underwear; socks; and his shaving kit.
He would stop at the duty-free airport concessionaire and pick up a paperback to read on the long flight. Other than that, he felt no need to pack any other items.
He knew he would need money. Well, he had his charge cards. He would take some cash; he habitually kept between eight and a thousand dollars in his pocket. That would not be enough, of course, but he could use his debit cards. And aside from that, he could always go to a bank and have money wired to him.
All that was left was to call the San Jose Taxi Service and reserve a cab for the morning to get him to the airport on time.
“Your flight is No. 1357. It will leave at 7:05 a.m. from San Jose Airport and it will arrive at Chicago O’Hara’s Airport at about 2:15. You will leave Chicago O’Hare Airport at 3:00, and you will arrive at Malpensa Airport at approximately 11:00 a.m. their time, depending on the jet stream. From there you will need to catch a train to Venice. Depending on which train you take and I would suggest you take the direct or what they call the Diretto, it will take approximately three and a half-hours to get to Venice. You should arrive at Venice somewhere around three, three thirty. Now then, what about hotels?” Mary had asked
She had booked him into a middle of the road expensive hotel at the Santa Del Maria Giglio, whatever that was, called the Bel Sito and assured him that it was within twenty minutes walking of San Marco’s square. Since there are no cars in Venice, he wanted to be within easy walking distance of everything.
“Mr. Shaw,” Mary had said as she smiled, “nearly everything important in Venice is accessible within a half an hour’s boat ride or thirty minutes walk unless, of course, you choose a hotel on one of the outer islands such as Lido. The Excelsior is where all the movie stars stay but it is quite expensive. If you want a four star hotel in Venice, there’s the Ciprianni, The Gritti Palace or The Danielli, but all of these are quite expensive.”
Since his flight left at 7:05 in the morning, he would want to make sure that he was there no later than 6:00. That meant he would have to get up at about 4:45 and make sure that the cab picked him up somewhere around 5:15. Forty-five minutes was enough time. He would grab a cup of coffee on the way or while he waited in the airport for his flight. He fingered his brand new passport and wondered what his vacation would bring him?
What had begun as a day like any other, almost boring in its predictability, was drawing out like a knife. Antonio’s progress was slow. He understood nothing as it was explained to him; even the most simple classroom examples eluded him. But Franco knew that all it would take was the one illuminating experience to open his understanding and to propel him forward as if he had a rocket strapped to his ass.
“But when will that happen and what will it take?” Franco thought to himself.
He recognized almost immediately that his young protégé was very bright- which was why he had been chosen- and that it would be a very short time, relatively speaking, before Officer Mengasi would surpass even his learned instruction and that, where Franco to stay on past his retirement date, he would eventually be junior in knowledge to his disciple, but how to whet the young man’s intellect and appetite? What piece of the puzzle needed to fall into place? For everyone it was different. For Franco, it had been chess, but the game was leaving young Antonio floundering.
If he were successful, Antonio would eventually acquire a disturbing swagger and confidence that only a spectacular failure would cure and that would come, invariably. Franco would not try to insulate him from it. It would become one of the last lessons for Antonio to learn, and a tool, an opportunity cruel enough in its disposition, for Franco to gain and keep his student’s attention probably for the last time, before he finally, inexorably struck out on his own, where he would learn to succeed and fail alike without the help of anyone, much less a fat broken down old cop who was as close to death as he was to pension! He wasn’t sure if he should be pleased with his success or not. Every father, including a surrogate eventually realizes that the growth and success of a child is the harbinger of their own mortality and Franco would come to see Antonio’s achievements as a necessary messenger bearing ill tidings of the end of his career. Could he walk away just like that? He stole a glance at Antonio sitting in a chair on the other side of his office, studying a psychological text. He was deeply engrossed in his reading and by the intense look on his face, was lost in complete comprehension. Franco studied him with the same critical eye he normally reserved for I&I. Yes, he finally decided, he could walk away and leave his job and all its responsibility in the hands of this capable young man! It was barely noon but Franco was suddenly very tired.
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson
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