“Andrea?” Gianna called, “but where have you been all day? I called the boutique several times and got no answer!”
He looked at her in mock consternation. “I have a girlfriend! And we have spent the afternoon rolling around in her bed!” He growled as he stepped into the kitchen and buried his lips on her neck as well.
Gianna shrugged her shoulders and pulled away from his offending beard stubble. “Yes, yes and I have a boyfriend as well and so does young Angelina who should not hear such things from her father. Go and wash your hands!” Andrea did as he was told.
During dinner he related the day’s events. He told her the story of the hapless American, even of Signor Colluso’s crudity. She was not pleased. A whole day’s business gone, or nearly and she did not approve of Colluso regardless if he was the best tailor in all of Venice. But she knew better than to correct her husband and anyway, she trusted him… well, after a fashion.
It had been a long day and Martin was tired. It took some walking, more than a few wrong turns and one boat in the wrong direction but he finally made his way back to the Hotel Bel Sito. He stepped in the warm softly lit foyer and was greeted by Maria and her dazzling smile. He asked her if she would be so kind as to fix him another of the wonderful toasts and a coffee. After that he decided he would go to bed. Tomorrow promised another day of adventure and he was still suffering from jet lag. He followed the young woman into the bar and for a few paces allowed himself the sinful, if fleeting, pleasure of admiring her round and shapely ass.
“Ah, Venice…” he mumbled.
Ciccio had managed to prosper even for the rain. The day was fast drawing to a close and he had in attendance two middle-aged matriarchs in full-length furs and so weighted down with gold jewelry that it made him wonder how they stood at all! They were grumbling loudly about the prices and though he smiled, inwardly he despised them for their sanctimony. The counterfeit purses and bags were of such quality that an inspector from the Louis Vuitton factory would have difficulty culling them from the genuine and yet they still complained that half price was too much! A man spoke and Ciccio turned to find Bruno Trevisani standing off to the far side.
“Buona sera Signor.” He said as his heart quickened.
“Buona sera, Signor Marocchino.” Bruno said. “I am looking for a purse for my wife.”
The two oldsters stiffened with displeasure. “Young man,” the ugly one cackled, “we were here first!”
Ciccio shook his head impatiently. Perhaps he no longer needed to suffer these arrogant streghe any longer. He was going home a wealthy man, no more to return to Venice, no more to leave his own lovely wife and children for months at a time, to stand in the cold and rain waiting on these repugnant ill mannered old battle-axes.
“Yes, yes” He snapped in his pidgin Italian, “you have been ‘here first’ for the better part of an hour wasting my time and bawling like ripe old milk cows about my prices. Purchase something from me or leave but spare me your indignations!
Bruno unsuccessfully stifled a surprised smirk. The two frowsy housewives in all their finery looked as if someone had just shot them!
“How dare you!” The other one gasped with dour contempt.
The ugly one was so aghast she was actually speechless and looked as if she might keel over dead of a heart attack right there. Having no suitable retort, no earth shattering insult to serve Ciccio, the women simply turned and arm in fur covered arm and stalked haughtily down the street, high stepping as if to avoid great piles of stinking shit.
Bruno chuckled heartily. It wasn’t often that one of the Marocchino gave him any real pleasure and even less often that they acted as something other than bleating sheep.
“You will have to find another corner at which to stand you know.” He said as he continued to chuckle. “Those two will insure that no other buys from you now.”
Ciccio dismissed the remark with a wave of his hand.
“I don’t care. I am going home at the end of the season and I may not return. I think I have made enough money.”
“That is good for you.” Bruno said passively. “Now then, you have my purse?” He asked pointedly.
“Si… it is here.” Ciccio said as he looked to his right.
He did not immediately see the yellow tag. Perhaps one of the other purses overlapped it. He reached down and shuffled some of them to the side; still no tag. He turned several of them over, nothing. He looked up at Bruno and smiled weakly. Bruno simply stood expressionless with his hands crossed in front of him. Ciccio turned over several other bags and still saw no telling yellow tag. Suddenly his chest grew tight and his breath came in short gulps. The special purse was nowhere to be found. But how? Who could have… where could it? Ciccio’s mind raced and his stomach rolled over.
“You do not have my bag?” Bruno asked patiently.
“Yes, it has to be here!” Ciccio said desperately as he rummaged frantically through his wares.
“I do not see it Ciccio.” Bruno stated.
“But… but it has to… I did not… it was here!” Ciccio was genuinely terrified now.
Bruno reached out and stayed him with a dangerously gentle hand.
“Ciccio,” He asked as he thoughtfully pursed his lips, “did you sell my bag?”
“Signor Trevisani,” Ciccio begged as his lower lips quivered…
“Just tell me. Did you sell my bag?”
“I… I don’t know… maybe.” Ciccio admitted fearfully for he knew what might happen to him.
“To whom? Can you remember?” Bruno sighed stoically.
Ciccio’s eyes snapped in rapid-fire succession back and forth as he searched his memory… “Yes!” He cried, “to an American! He picked it up but I took it from him. He must have taken it anyway!”
“There are almost three hundred million Americans.” Bruno pointed out dryly. “Is there one in particular to which you refer or shall we get a telephone directory and search?”
More than anything, it was Bruno’s calm detachment that frightened Ciccio the most. He had been told that this man would beat another into senselessness without so much as a frown or smile. To be beaten was bad enough. To be assaulted by a man who lacked any compassion at all was truly the stuff of nightmares!
“It was an American, a tourist I think, who went off with Sg. Morucchio. I’m sure that I can find him again… please Signor…”
Bruno held up a hand.
“Ciccio this is displeasing and my employer has little patience for inconvenience. Do you see the bruises on my hand? Your friend Bepi was in to visit earlier and he will not recover for several days even though he is not severely injured. His misdeed was far less serious than yours. What shall I do with you?”
Ciccio steeled his unsteady eyes onto Bruno’s. “I will get the bag back, I swear!”
Bruno rubbed a single finger across his forehead. He had no desire to beat another of the Marocchini so soon. He sighed.
“How will you accomplish this? Tell me and if I am satisfied then I may go away without injuring you.”
“The American went with Morucchio and he is sure to know where he stays and how I can get in touch with him. I will be here early tomorrow and I will beg Morucchio to tell the American to meet me in the Church of San Marco at six in the evening. Even a tourist will be able to find the Basilica! I will offer him any bag free of charge to bring me that one. I swear it! I will get it back!”
“Then do so, and Ciccio,” Bruno cautioned, “if you want to return to your family, do not fail me.”
“Si, Signor Trevisani, si!”
Bruno turned and walked calmly away. Whether he got the purse back or not, Ciccio would be killed. He had made a choice, surreptitiously perhaps but a choice all the same. It was not Bruno’s choice, his doing, and in fact, he would rather not kill Ciccio but rules were rules; consequence begat consequence, and Ciccio knew as well as any that his employ was a dangerous one and required vigilance at the very least. He had chosen to participate. No one had forced him. The rewards were great, as was the responsibility. The hazards had been explained clearly to him, to all of them. Failure would not be tolerated and Ciccio had been a witness, as had all the Marocchini, to the end result of failure. Bruno would make sure that he was in the Basilica the following night to insure that the purse was retrieved. Signor Cofau would accept nothing less. He would have to explain to Mirko what had happened. Cofau would rail and scream like a petulant child. Bruno would listen calmly and then he would leave to resume his business. It was all rather direct. Like a chain of cascading dominoes, Ciccio had set into motion events that would cost Cofau an inconvenience; a tongue lashing and maybe something as severe as a slap in the face for Bruno, of which he had no fear and the life of the Marocchino who, sought only to feed his children. Their lives and that of their mother would be forever changed by one moment of unmindful carelessness. At each successive plane, the repercussion of choice carried a greater weight, propelled ahead by the smaller until their inertia finally claimed the greater prize… the life of a man! Bruno had no regret, would offer no defense. His life was a study in the acceptance of perpetuity. What one wanted all depended on what one did, what he was willing or not willing to do and in that there was no pretense. Errors were not made and there were no accidents. It was not a question of right and wrong or one of morality. There was only cause and effect. He had come to accept that the condition of his life and his place in it were relative to his actions. Other men, Cofau and Ciccio had yet to learn. Whether Mirko would ultimately come to understand or not, didn’t concern Bruno in the least but Ciccio would; his last earthly illumination would be a costly one!
Andrea arrived to open his shop just before 8:00 A.M. in the morning. Ciccio stepped from the shadows and called to him,
“Signor Morucchio, I must speak with you!” He said as he hurried to stand next to Andrea.
Andrea was unpleasantly surprised, as Ciccio approached him. Now what did this man want? How dare he rush up to him out of the dark and frighten him half to death?
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
Available now, in Paperback, Hardcover and e-Reader editions from, PublishAmerica, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced. Stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
This is a work of fiction. Names Characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, event, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input.
PUBLISHED BY PUBLISHAMERIC, LLLP