It wasn’t the high pitched voice or even the veins that stood out on his forehead as he screeched like a fairy tale witch at the top of his lungs… it was the absolute terror festering behind his eyes like a cancer that betrayed Cofau’s state. His terror at being found out by the authorities had given way like an avalanche of mud on a hillside and was threatening to sweep him away. Bruno sat in his chair, feet on the floor and his hands in his lap listening to his employer as he studied him. He had once admired this man but could not understand why now. He was weak and terrified, no better than the Marocchini and probably less so, because, were the roles reversed, he was sure that Cofau would become the worst kind of beggar; a slobbering wailing pitiful shadow of a man who would grasp at any straw, any contrivance that would save his own life, and he would swear to any lie, any truth; would sell his mother and his very soul for a moment, a breath more of life.
Mirko leaned into Bruno’s face and as he ground his teeth, sneered, “Are you listening to me you blundering fool!”
“Si.” Came the unaffected reply.
In his uncontrolled rage, Cofau, like Bruno’s confused father in the years before, laid a vicious open hand across his cheek. Bruno was in control and knew it. He smiled, turned his head and spit a small amount of blood to the floor.
Cofau put a finger to his brow and pushed wrinkles into his forehead trying to understand why Bruno did not comprehend that his life was hanging in the balance.
“You will find this American and before the Polizia!” He shouted, “And then you will take him to where the others have gone! After that is done, we will consider your stupidity and whether you will continue your employment with me!” He seethed.
“Si.” He replied simply.
Cofau looked at him in exasperation. “Are you so ignorant or is my threat to your life so veiled that you simply do not understand it?”
Bruno cocked his head to one side in the same manner a serpent might before coiling, strangling and eating his prey. “I understand Signor.”
Cofau collapsed into a chair and after sitting a moment, lit a cigarette and asked, “Those who bring me news, bad or good, tremble in my presence because they know that I am the most powerful man they will ever meet, that I could ruin or make their lives a pleasure at a whim! Have you become so familiar that you no longer fear me?”
“I have never feared you, Signor.” Bruno answered as he stood and walked toward the door to follow his employer’s instructions. Before leaving, he turned and added, “Fear is a tea of comfort to warm those feeble men who tremble against all they do not know or understand… like the superstitious Marocchini, like you.”
Bruno knew that Cofau would not understand what he had just said and might even interpret it as a threat. He did not care. He would serve himself and in so doing serve his master.
Franco took his seat on the boat and looked at his watch. It was six forty in the evening. He pulled out his five W’s notebook and opened it. At the top he put the date and the time and then his name. He didn’t know the exact time that he had received the call from Antonio but he was sure that his colleague had noted it in the log and he would get it from him later. Had he forgotten anything? He retraced the hurried instructions he had given Antonio. He looked around the boat. There were no Police on it yet. If they were not waiting on the dock when the Vaporetto pulled in he would have someone by their balls! He didn’t know what time the murder had occurred but he was sure that they were well into the ‘golden hour’ and he knew that they would miss that altogether. There are three time frames in a criminal investigation that are of primary importance; the first hour, the first twenty-four hours and the first forty-eight. If you have not caught the felon or developed significant leads in those three time frames, the likelihood of catching the criminal at all fell off exponentially.
Crime and criminals were one thing, but a murder in Venice? The concept was nearly foreign! Such things as murder rarely happened in Venice where the most likely crimes committed were burglaries, minor assaults and public drunkenness. During the height of the summer season and at the annual festivals there was the addition of Gypsies and pickpockets but none of these were life threatening, and yet, as it had been reported to him, there was a corpse in the Basilica of San Marco this very moment who had met a violent end. Murder… Franco would have to proceed very deliberately, very carefully, and he would have to counsel Antonio to do the same. After his arrival and initial assessment of the crime scene he would confer with Antonio and he would counsel his young protégé to turn most of the investigative responsibility over to the senior Officers and then he and Antonio would concentrate on developing leads from whatever witnesses there were to question. It would be better if they practiced in their mutual field of expertise.
He looked to the left of the Vaporetto toward San Giorgio and saw a harbor patrol boat slide past them. “Good,” He thought, “Even now the city is beginning to close down.” Ahead in the ever darkening sky, the five domes of the church of Saint Mark loomed ominously against the obscured horizon. Who could do such a thing in a place of prayer? He did not know, but he would, and soon. Of that he was sure.
A throng of Policeman was gathered on the dock while a spit and polish young Corporale barked out orders. Bystanders had begun to gather around the Officers. Franco pushed his way through the small company and touched the Policeman on his sleeve. The young Officer looked down his nose at Franco, and then, recognizing him, stiffened to attention.
“A moment of your time, Corporale?” Franco asked congenially.
“Signor, si!” The man answered quickly.
Franco took him by the arm and led him off a few feet away from the other Officers and the small gathering of people.
“Tell me, Officer…” Franco paused as he searched the man’s uniform blouse for his nameplate.
“Peroni.” The youngster quickly offered.
Franco smiled again as he leaned in. “Peroni,” He repeated, “do you think you are issuing your orders loud enough?” He asked as he tightened his grip on Officer Peroni’s left arm. “I think it is possible that one or two farmers in Sicilia did not hear you clearly!” He snarled under his breath.
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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