“…there is no American Consulate or Embassy here. The nearest is in Milano. Milano is a great distance and even greater still if you are to languish in jail! There is no privilege to call unless they make you one…”
Martin reeled his eyes back and forth. He had to keep moving. That man who had just killed the street vendor would surely be looking for him. He knew that he was within a few minutes walk from Andrea’s boutique. He would go and ask Andrea what he should do, as long as he was sure that the killer did not follow him. He did not want to put Andrea and his girl into danger as well. Maybe Andrea could tell him what to do. As he walked he tried to look behind him as inconspicuously as he could. There seemed to be no one following him, at least that he could tell.
“…but unlike America, we do not have the crime in the same abundance. Here, you are safe… my friend, I do not wish to alarm you. These things happen only rarely…”
Martin shook his head at the contradiction. Rarely? So the one odd occasion just happened to occur with him in attendance in the middle of the sanctuary of one of the world’s most frequented landmarks? Only no one else happened to be there at the time were they? No one else to see that he had tried to help Ciccio, not kill him! Oh good God! He hadn’t thought of that! Had he killed Ciccio? The other man had the knife but it had been Martin who had initiated the action that had cost Ciccio his life. “Jesus!” Martin breathed to himself as he hurried along. What should he do, what should he do? He rounded the corner only to find that Andrea had closed his shop already. The windows were dark and there was no one inside. Andrea was nowhere in sight.
“SHIT!” Martin snarled and then looked around to see if anyone had taken notice of him.
He heard footsteps. A few yards ahead, walking straight toward him were two Carabinieri, local police. Had it started already? As calmly as he could, Martin turned his face away from them and tried to feign attention at the display in Andrea’s window. As they men drew closer, his heart began to race so that he thought he might collapse right in front of them. He knew they could hear the pounding of his heart! They had to! Martin shoved his bloody hands into his coat and tucked his chin against his chest, trying to shield his face from the reflection of the glass. His thumping heart was about to burst! The two strolled casually by. He exhaled as slowly and deliberately as he dared and sneaked a sideways glance at them as they passed. No… they had not been called to alarm just yet. If there was to be any chance for him at all, any chance of escape, he would need to get to his hotel before the alarm was raised, grab his suitcase and get out of Venice! Once on the mainland he would find a way to get out of Italy and Europe!
Franco was lounging in an oversized wingback chair in his living room, reading the paper. Since it was a blustering afternoon he had decided to indulge himself with a wood fire in the hearth. The lights were turned just low enough to permit him to read, and yet allow the glow of the fire to make dancing shadows across the expanse of the high vaulted ceiling. He had a small glass of port and was puffing studiously away on his pipe, though his wife despised the practice of smoking anywhere in the house except the kitchen. Tough shit! At least for this short moment. Maybe it would not be so bad after all, he mused. Retirement was not the cessation of living! It was only the termination of a lifetime of drudgery, of living at the behest of someone else! He had earned his rest, hadn’t he? Men got up every morning and went to work, not only to provide for and feed their families, but also against the hope of lasting, of living long enough to enjoy the pleasures of childhood idleness once again! He remembered the summers when he was a boy. Those were such carefree days! He could have that again. He could enjoy the leisureliness of afternoons on the lagoon, fishing with nowhere to go and no one to tell him when to go home except the darkness that crept up from the west. Who was he kidding? As if Graziella would allow him to go to seed! Well, one thing at a time he thought. In the distance, far away from his peaceful reverie he heard a persistent ringing. He would eventually be able to convince Graziella that endless travel and home repair was not his idea of a peaceful pensioner’s life. And she would acquiesce just enough to let him have one and maybe even two days a week to drift out on the lagoon in a dinghy not even big enough for two, where he could scratch his ass and belch and generally carry on like a peasant. He laughed. She might even let him grow a beard to complete his grizzled ‘Old man of the Sea’ image. The ringing grew more insistent. Of course, he would have to take a bottle with him to stave off the cold. He preferred American bourbon, Jack Daniel’s to be exact but he could not afford it and certainly a pension check would not come any closer to bearing the cost. He would settle for cheap scotch. Hell, the fish didn’t care anyway and neither would he after the first two or three swallows.
Graziella burst through the living room door with an impatient harried rush of cool air.
“Francesco Pietro Nunzio Perer! Are you deaf!”
“Huh?” She startled him so completely that he spilled his port on the arm of his chair. He leaped from the furniture and began to brush at the cloth angrily. “Che sboro mi! Woman, are you trying to frighten me into an early grave? What is wrong with you?”
“What is wrong with me indeed!” She snapped as she hurried to the telephone on the stand next to the divan. “Don’t you hear the telephone? Shall I do everything in this house?” She snatched up the receiver and put it to her mouth. “Pronto!” She demanded. “Si? Dai, dai Antonio, no problema. Si, un momento.” She held the receiver out for her husband. “Franco, it is for you. As if it would be for me at this hour of the evening…” She continued to grumble as she stalked out of the room.
Franco eyed her with bemusement. She could be a tiger, rip you to shreds and then turn around and kiss you all in the same thirty seconds!
He put the receiver to his ear. “Si Antonio, mi dica…”
Bruno had to wait in the darkness of the sottopassagio for fifteen minutes or so while two lovers consummated their passion in the shadowed niche just beyond his front door. He had managed to arrive at his home within forty minutes and had only needed to traverse the muck of one shallow canal to do it. He was cold and shivering and at times thought the very pounding of his heart was louder than his chattering teeth. Curiously, in the decrepit underpass he felt his heart jump in his chest as the fear he would not surrender to pulled at him. It was a thrilling moment to savor the apprehension, to embrace it, to experience it while not having to own it. He could almost reach and touch it as if it were a real live living thing; as genuine as the two adulterers locked in each other’s coital arms groping clumsily at each others bodies and yet foreign. Love, hate; wealth and poverty, anger, joy were all sides of the same coin. To have one was to have the other whether you wanted it or not. If a man submitted to his desire for a woman, or to another man for that matter, he would forever after be bound by the need. If a man loved, then he only betrayed his craving for the same. If a man lusted, he revealed his compulsion for conquest and submitted himself in turn to subjugation. If he displayed his fear, then he paraded his want for strength and power. Bruno knew, had learned, at an early age, that all of these were chinks in the armor, points of weakness that others would eventually take advantage of. Passivity was the only way, to be bound only by the need of not needing. He was willing to do what others would not, to suffer any indignity any joy with the same face. Those who gave in to their emotions fell victim to them and to the whims of those that could elicit and control them. He was victim to no one, for he was not victim to himself, nor any compulsion. He knew that eventually, there would come someone bigger and stronger, younger and with more physical strength that would take his place. He would not fight against it, to do so would only insure that others would follow and he would be defeated. And yet he would not relinquish himself to them. They could take his place, his life, his possessions but he would still be the passive Bruno who was willing to go where they were not and that made him the more powerful one. That someone would finally overthrow him either figuratively or literally was a reality and one that could not be escaped and so, not to be dreaded or avoided. Certainly the path he had chosen for himself included this as an unequivocal conclusion to his life. Even for all his power to choose, some outcomes were inevitable, insured against the weaker heart and the indecisive by natural consequence and that he would die as surely as he killed, that he would be punished as surely as he had chastised, would be his final epitaph. He would see it to the end and he would not break his own faith, even to save himself, for if he did, then to what end were his convictions? No, he had chosen every step of the way and he would not cry out against an end that would consume him. It was not bravery, strength or courage; it was a pragmatism, a utilitarian system of freedom that no one else would comprehend that gave him the capacity to survive everything because of, instead of and in spite of his choices or those of other men.
He heard the woman moan, could hear the ragged breath of the man as they writhed like animals in the quoin of the buildings hidden from the sight of men and maybe even God. Bruno looked down at his feet. The slime from the canal and the Marocchino’s blood dripped silently to the cobblestone. He would have to remember to hose this into the canal. The Police would have certainly discovered Ciccio’s body by now and they would be looking for the killer. It would only be a matter of time before the streets would be filled with Carabinieri; the Police would be on every boat and searching the streets. He hoped these two lovers fucking in the darkness would not be at it all night!
The fragile October air fissured and began to floe as the lovers reached the end of their serpentine lust. The man grunted and huffed like a Neanderthal, murmuring vague tartar obscenities into the shadows. The woman bucked and swayed against him, gasping air into her heaving breast. Pieces of stucco crumbled and fell to the street beneath them, sounding like the splintered bits of salt crackers cast against polished granite. Even Bruno breathed a sigh of relief as the two collapsed against each other in their moment of stolen ecstasy.
The lovers straightened their clothing as they bussed and kissed and then strolled casually away into the ashen night. Bruno stepped from his place of hiding tenuously, looking from side to side and then to the windows that over looked the passageway to see if anyone saw him. There was no one. There was no one to see him, a killer and no one to see the lovers; there was no one who cared enough to see. Bruno turned the lock and opened the decorative wrought iron and glass door. He stepped into his foyer but did not turn on the light. He eased the door closed and took the few steps necessary to the furnace room to his left. Once inside, he closed the door and only then did he turn on the light. Had his clothing not been ruined buy the mire and filth of the canals, he would still have had to discard them because of the blood. He stripped himself naked and threw every shred of clothing including his shoes into the incinerator. By morning the evidence of his crime would lay in a fine soot across the terra cotta rooftops of Venice.
He needed to shower and to call Cofau. He would need to know of tonight’s events and he would be very angry, of that Bruno was sure. Maybe Signor Mirko Cofau would understand that his anger simply stemmed from his fear of discovery, of losing his life but Bruno doubted it and he would not try to make him understand. Cofau was wealthy and powerful but he did not have the slightest inclination of what real power was or how to wield it. The absurdity struck Bruno like a slap to the face. Wealth eluded him because he did not need it. Wealth flooded to Cofau because he was desperate for it. And yet, it was Bruno who knew how to use that wealth and the power that came with it most efficiently. As he climbed the stairs to his apartment naked, his hideous laughter could be heard into the street.
“Okay… take a deep breath Antonio, and here is what you must do.” Franco spoke sternly into the telephone. “Listen closely for I do not want to repeat myself. Time is critical! Firstly, get as many Officers into the street as you can! They are to look for and arrest anyone who even vaguely strikes them as suspicious! Send two Officers each to the Piazzale Roma, the train station, the Moto Navi at San Marco and the Fondamenta Nuove and then send as many Officers as you can spare to begin riding the boats. Notify the Police in Marghera, Mestre, Treviso and Jesolo that they may well be arresting someone over the next few hours that we will want to talk to. We will want from them a list of all persons they have arrested tonight from this hour on. Also inform the Military Police at Marco Polo Aeroporto and the Dogana. Notify the Harbor Patrol, they should be especially interested in any private craft exiting the lagoon. You will have to do all this on the move for you cannot sit in the office over the next twenty minutes making telephone calls! You will take charge of the scene immediately upon arrival. You are the I&I, and therefore, the principle investigator, and that will give you all the authority you need. First, after you get to the Basilica of San Marco, seal it tight! Tight, do you understand? No one in after you get there, and no one out! Post Officers outside at every door whether such entrance is used or not. What? Because giovanotto, at this hour it will take at least forty minutes for me to get there. No, no do not send a boat, there is no time for that, and besides; you will need every available officer at your disposal until I arrive. Place a call to the Magistrato Inquirente before you leave and have him meet you there but touch nothing until he arrives. Have two of your colleagues bring video cameras from the property room. One should go directly to the promenade and begin to film the entire square in a slow broad pan. No close ups… The other should begin to film the inside of the church in its entirety, in concentric circles from the body outward, but caution the officer to disturb nothing! Next, have as many Officers as are present and those who can come immediately, report to the outside of the church. They are to work their way out from every entry/exit in an ever widening perimeter looking for anything out of the ordinary, and speaking to anyone who may have seen, heard or noticed anything out of the ordinary.
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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