Franco had to take a deep breath himself for his mind was speeding ahead like a formula one racecar.
“Do you know how the victim was killed? Good God…” Franco breathed in genuine dismay. “Okay, then there will be a large pool of blood congealing around the victim. Make sure no one has tracked through it! Check everyone’s shoes inside the Basilica and if anyone has anything that even remotely strikes you as being blood, have the shoes removed and bagged and then place that person, even if it is one of your fellow Police Officers, in custody. If there are any members of the media present when you arrive, confiscate their video, tape recorders and film, even if they insist they have recorded nothing and similarly anyone else who has been filming or taking pictures of anything in or outside of the church. Those who refuse you, have them arrested for obstruction of justice! Inside the church, segregate any witnesses from everyone else, and they are to speak to no one but you. Lastly, after you have done all of that, I want you to begin the intake process of potential witness/culprits. Names, addresses, times they arrived and what they saw. That means the responding Officers too; everyone! Note your time of arrival as well. I will be there as soon as I can.”
Franco replaced the telephone in its cradle. In the distance thunder rolled across the low oppressive sky. He looked up and saw Graziella standing in the doorway, her apron bunched up in her hand.
“Amore,” he said, “there has been an incident. It is very serious and I must leave at once. I may not return this evening.”
There was a look of calculated resignation on her face. Graziella was married to a Policeman and had come to expect such calls but from the instructions she had heard her husband give Antonio, and from the sound of his voice, she knew there was something about this that was very different and very grave.
“Si Franco.” She answered as he walked calmly past her to the stairs.
She turned and watched her husband, worried for him and marveling at him at the same time. She had seen this before. The fellow she had married all those years ago was a gentle soft spoken bear of a man who could no more cause injury to an insect than he could cause injury to a human being but his demeanor inexplicably changed in these moments to something that she only vaguely recognized. Franco referred to it as a game face, coining the term that athletes used to describe the psychological state of mind prior to an important match, but it was more than that. Athletes rarely dealt with life and death and the resolve and dogged determination that crawled across her husband’s face was truly unsettling. It was at these moments she realized that her kind and gentle spouse was capable of great cruelty, of taking a life. She was reminded of a line from the Robert Frost poem, “Mending Wall”; an American poet whose work she had come to love as a school girl, “like an old-stone savage armed…” Yes, that was what he became, ‘an old-stone savage’ bent on justice. She knew when the calls came to stay out of his way. She did not know him now. He was another man and alien to her. More than that, she did not want to know the professional nature of her man, for she imagined that those who encountered the feral side of Sergeant Franco Pietro Nunzio Perer, came to regret having done so, and probably even came to regret the day they were born.
Franco stood at the bottom of the stairs and shrugged on his shoulder holster. It was something he rarely wore, yet another portent. After adjusting the straps, he retrieved the nine-millimeter pistol from its scabbard, cleared the chamber, inserted a magazine into the handle and released the slide. It slammed home with a menacing clack, sounding for all the world like the toothsome jaws of a great, dangerous beast. Graziella jumped as if a round had been fired. He caught her form in his peripheral vision and brought his menacing hooded eyes to meet hers. She searched them for a glimpse of the man she slept with, but he was not there; “…an old-stone savage…” Tonight someone’s life, either literally or figuratively, would come to an end, and her husband would be responsible in one way or another for taking it. She shivered. It was alarming to see the transformation that enveloped him but she also knew that it was necessary, for her husband and those like him made the world, the cities, towns and the streets where they lived, safe. It was that part of him that she sacrificed to the world; that part of him she shared sometimes unwillingly with society. She never begrudged the debt she owed, never completely despised the calculating savage her husband became but she was glad too, when it was over and he came home to her bed the same gentle, fumbling bear he was before the inevitable telephone calls. He slipped the weapon back into the holster, put on his overcoat and then turned to her.
“Lock the doors when I am gone, and do not open them for anyone you do not know.”
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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