Monday was spent surreptitiously interviewing the shopkeepers and their employees around the Boutique Morucchio. Antonio and Franco decided that they would send two uniform Police Officers, one of which would be Antonio himself, to the Boutique early Tuesday morning to collect the owner, one Signor Andrea Morucchio for questioning.
“Approach him carefully,” Franco had instructed, “and make a special note of how he behaves. It could be important. Use all I have tried to teach you and observe everything!”
They had yet to discover where the American was, if he were indeed alive and they had also learned that the victim was registered as entering the frontier of Italy as a farmer from Senegal. It appeared on the surface as though he were indeed a Marocchino, and they had learned that he regularly stood outside of Andrea’s shop. How the American and the man who was murdered fit together was still a subject of conjecture, but the unifying fact, aside from the murder itself, centered around the Boutique Morucchio and so that was where they would start. They would need to question the Marocchini at the Church of Pity. Although it was supposed to be a secret that the street vendors were extended the hospitality of the rear courtyard, nearly everyone in Venice knew they stayed there and simply ignored the fact that they knew. These men were poveri, after all, and as long as they were quiet and caused no harm, the authorities and the public turned a blind eye to their presence. Franco had ordered posters to be printed up from the American’s passport picture stating that the police wanted him for questioning, and they were being distributed and pasted to walls throughout the city. If he were alive and still in Venice, he would be found.
The Inquirente’s report was vaguely disturbing. It wasn’t so much, according to the report, that the victim’s throat had been sliced as it had been cleaved. That is to say that the blade of the knife, or whatever object had been used to cut his throat, since they never recovered the actual murder weapon, they could only suppose it was a knife, had been ‘pushed’ with a relatively even pressure along the length of the cutting edge into his neck rather than drawn across from any one direction. It would be a difficult maneuver, one nearly impossible to accomplish from behind. It would almost certainly have to come from the front of the man and then, even still, nearly impossible. They had more of the puzzle but it made very little sense, which made questioning Morucchio that much more important. He seemed to be the only living, or at least available connection, and so they would begin with him on Tuesday morning.
Marco Balastieri, his portly wife and thirteen year old daughter lived in an apartment near the Campo San Stae not far from the Rialto where had a banco for selling fish. Marco was a pescaria originally from Naples. He was short and bigger around than he was tall with a full head of bushy salt gray hair and a deep booming and warm voice. Bruno had to get up very early if he wanted to catch Marco before he went to work. Sometime, just before four in the morning, Bruno rang the bell at the main door on the street. It took a few minutes but the intercom finally crackled to life.
“Si? Chi é!” It was a demand, an accusation more than a question.
Bruno leaned into the intercom and said. “Trevisani.”
There was another moment of silence and the buzzer sounded and the door popped open. He stepped inside the spacious foyer and began the arduous climb to the third floor where the Balastieris lived. The door was already open and Marco was trembling nervously in the entry. No matter the hour, whenever this man Trevisani came to your door it was unfavorable.
Bruno smiled cheerfully. “Ciao, Marco! Come Stai, amico?”
Marco clasped his hands into great fretting balls in front of him and bowed slightly as he stuttered, “Buon giorno Signor Trevisani… but what, why, I mean… please come in!”
Bruno stepped into the entryway and shrugged out of his coat, which he perfunctorily handed to his unwilling host. Marco took it and handed it to his nervous wife. Marta Balastieri handed the coat to her daughter Carmen and then turned to her teenage child standing in the foyer in her nightgown. She cast a sideways and doubtful eye on Trevisani and then snapped at her youngster,
“Go away and take Sg. Trevisani’s coat with you… go, go!”
Marco was clearly unnerved by Bruno’s visit, as was his wife.
“But what do you want with us?” Marta whined.
Marco spun quickly to correct her. “Stai zitta!” He snapped. “Into the kitchen where you belong and make a coffee for Signor Trevisani!”
Bruno feigned transparent shock at Marco’s rudeness.
“Dai, Marco, be cavalieri with your woman! We are old friends, yes?” He said as he reached over and pinched Marco’s cheek gently. “Ask her nicely…” He said as he turned to her and bowing slightly at the waist begged of her, “Signora, ti prego… would you be so kind as to fix a coffee for your husband and myself, and then to bring it into the living room where he and I have a small business to discuss?”
Marta did not answer but hurried into the kitchen to do as he asked. If Bruno Trevisani paid them a visit, in their home, then there was surely a problem of great weight and one that would profit her family nothing but misery!
Bruno extended his hand toward the living room and he and Marco walked in. Marco snapped on a small table lamp and sat down. Bruno, still standing looked evenly toward him. Marco cleared his throat nervously and then stood. Bruno smiled, took his seat and the Marco did the same.
Bruno crossed his legs, leaned back and dropped his hands into his lap.
“How is your family?” He asked.
Bruno searched for the right thing to say. “Good?” He asked.
“And your affairs? Your business?”
“Acceptable…” Marco replied tensely.
“I have had better moments but then, I have had worse as well. Such is life for men of the world like you and I, no?” Bruno asked.
Marco seemed to be close to tears.
“Marco… but why are you so nervous? Should I not pay a friend a visit? Should we not drink a coffee over warm conversation in the comfort of your home with your wife in our attendance?”
“Yes of course but…”
“Ah, you wish to know of my reasons for the hour?”
Marco seemed relieved as he answered. “Si.”
Bruno clasped his hands in front of him and made a steeple with his forefingers.
“I am very inconsiderate to come at this hour, yes, but it was important to me that we share this… this conversation in the bosom of your home, where you might consider those people and possessions around you more important than those things I am about to ask.”
Marta entered the room with a tray of two coffees, some sugar and cream. She set them on the television table that lay between the two men and served Bruno first.
Again Bruno feigned surprise. “Madame, I am but a simple guest… you should serve the man of the house first, yes?”
“Si, Signor.” She replied shyly.
After the coffees had been served, Bruno asked her to sit next to her husband.
“Perhaps it would be better if she left us in private?” Marco asked hopefully.
Bruno smiled benignly. “No… she should sit with you here.”
He sipped his coffee. It was very hot and bitter. He smiled warmly at her, which made her recoil.
“Buono!” He said.
They sat in silence for what seemed an eternity to Marta and Marco.
Bruno rather enjoyed silence, especially when it made those around him nervous. It was an irrevocable indication of his strength and power that they sat there in their own home saying nothing while he drank his coffee with the same leisure and detached aplomb that he would if he were in a bar. He noticed that Marco had not touched his.
“Marco… you do not care for your wife’s compliment?”
Marco Balastieri closed his eyes, took a breath and then said,
“Signor Trevisani please, do not torture me any longer! Why have you come?”
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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