When the Lion Smiles

Chapt. 4- Part 21 “The Lion”

     “Amore,” He chided, “what are you doing up?  Did I wake you?”

Graziella regarded her husband carefully, searching to see if the ‘old stone savage’ had accompanied him home.  She found, instead, her great gentle bear of a husband in his wrinkled pajamas with a saucepan of milk in his hand.

      “No…” She crooned sleepily, “sit down and I will heat it for you.”  Inwardly she smiled.  Franco was so predictable.


Bruno turned the light off and crawled into bed.  Tonight’s events had discomfited his stomach and uncharacteristically he had poured and drank a generous snifter of brandy.  The American should not be hard to find and that was the problem, to find him before the Polizia!  Even the blundering Carabinieri could find one American wandering around the streets and even easier still if he came to them.  Americans were such sheep that it was entirely possible that he would do just that.  But how much harm could that come to?  The Straniero did not know of Cofau… did he?  Even if Ciccio had stupidly told everything he knew, the American would still know nothing.  Besides, the Polizia would never believe an accusation against Cofau from an American they thought guilty of murder!  He had seen Bruno’s face but Bruno had no Police record and therefore they would have no photographs to show the man that would enable him to identify him.  It was possible that the Polizia would hold him, but it should be obvious even to them, that he had not killed Ciccio.  That they might consider detaining him for his own protection was a possibility as well, but Bruno did not think that the Carabinieri were that smart.  They would probably turn him loose and ask him to stay in Venice for a few days longer, which would mean that he would go back to his hotel.  He did not know where that was, but it was probable that the shopkeeper Morucchio knew.  He might pay a visit to the boutique, careful always of the Police, but that would have to wait until Monday since all the shops would be closed the following day.  It was evident to him that a chapter of his life and of those around him may very well be coming to a close but he would not choose to alter it.  His destiny would be one of his own volition and he would control the events even if they took him to hell!


Antonio was more than an hour late the following morning when he finally burst through the door looking as if he had been out on an all night drunk.  Franco did not look up from his desk.  He knew that it would be Antonio.  No else one would dare enter his office without knocking first.

     “So, you thought to join me after all?”  He asked pointedly.

     “Mi dispiace, Franco.  I did not sleep well.  I could not close my mind from this case!  It will not happen again.”

     “I know.”  Franco said as he turned to regard him.  He had to chuckle to himself.  This Antonio reminded him of himself somewhat.  Franco never slept well when a case weighed on him and his inexperienced charge already had the harried air about him that had stubbornly stalked Franco for years.  It would not be long before warm milk in the middle of the night, sweets and food would be employed to soothe the anxieties of his job, and then his waistline would begin to suffer even as Franco’s had.  A pity really because Antonio was a fine looking and slender young man.  Ah well, the life you choose shapes the way you look, Franco thought.

     “Antonio,” he began, “I have come to a decision.  What you said last night was right, of course; you are not experienced enough to lead this investigation.  I am, but you are right in another thing, there are too many aspects of this case for one man to oversee, so I have delegated all of the work except for Interviews of possible witness, and others,” He said darkly, “to other Officers and they will report their findings to you and me.  We will postulate our theories from what they report to us.  Va bene?”

A look of relief ran across Antonio’s face.

     “Bene.”  He responded.

     “And tell me what you have come up with while not sleeping…” Franco asked as he busied himself making Antonio a coffee.

Antonio either did not hear or he ignored him altogether.  “Have we received the Inquirente’s report?  What about Interpol and central records?  What have we received on the victim?  Do we know who he is?  Do we know if the American remains in Venice?”

Franco looked at him over the top of his reading glasses.

     “In due time Antonio.  First tell me what your impressions of this case are.” 

He shoved the espresso pot onto the hotplate, set out a small cup and some sugar and then snuggled his round backside against the steam radiator to warm as he waited for Antonio’s answer.

Antonio stood next to the giant timeline on the wall that they had begun the night before.  He spoke as he stared at it.

     “We have a witness who said she thinks she saw the victim enter the church just before six PM.  But she can’t be sure and would not recognize him even if she saw him again, because she did not see his face.  She thinks it was an uomo nero- a black man- but she is not sure.  We have another witness, a street sweeper who says that he is sure that he saw a Marocchino go in the church at five fifty, give or take, and since our victim is a black man, we can safely assume that the two witness accounts corroborate and that the man both witnesses say they saw is one and the same…”

     “For now that is a safe assumption but we can not dismiss the fact that it could also be two different men.”  Franco corrected.

Antonio sighed and made a notation on the timeline.  He had never thought of that.  Franco saw the doubt shadow his face.

     “Three dimensional thought; remember?”  Franco reminded him.

Antonio nodded thoughtfully.  “Va bene; we may have two black men, that would change everything!”

The coffee began to gurgle in the pot.  “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”  Franco corrected.  “The assumption is a safe one.  I merely suggested that it is not the only one and to keep other possibilities alive, and in mind against a different eventuality.  Continue…”

Antonio stepped over to the coffeepot and poured himself an espresso.  He sprinkled in two spoons of sugar and stirred it vigorously.

     “We have another witness who saw someone; they cannot say whether or not it was a black man, come out of the door at the North Transept about six ten: I can’t think of the name of the door…”

     “The one with the two Leoncini on the Procuratie Vecchie side; yes, I know the one and I can’t think of the name either…” Franco interjected.

     “… anyway, this person walked away very quickly careful to keep his head down, and to stay away from the light.  So, these persons our witnesses say they saw probably represent the victim and the murderer or murderers; Justo?”  Antonio asked?

     “Probably, but not necessarily.”  Franco affirmed as he produced a sheaf of papers.  “This is the Inquirente’s report and it states that the victim died somewhere between four and eight PM.  Since we have statements from several other priests that claim they were in and about the sanctuary until five forty and saw no one that would match even these scant descriptions, we can say, for the immediate, that the crime occurred somewhere between five forty five and six thirty when the Questura received the first call.”

Franco stepped over and made several notations on the time line.

      “Then there is the old Priest” Antonio continued, “dozing in the confessional who heard the three voices.  He said that one was clearly Venetian and that of the other two; one spoke both English and Italian but was not either American or Italian and that the third was definitely an American.  That would mean that there were at least three people present during the time that the victim was murdered, although there could have been more, except that they said nothing.  Can we trust the statement of the Priest?”

      “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  Franco offered.  “But we should remember that he has made a lifetime practice, much the same as I have, of observing not merely what is said but how and therefore probably a fair judge of voices, since in the confessional he would rarely see a recognizable face.  Don’t forget, he also saw a man and called for him to stop before he saw the body.”

     “Yes, but only from behind and in the dark.  Let us not forget that he was asleep before all this happened.  That makes his recollections suspect doesn’t it?”

     “At least, not entirely reliable.”  Franco agreed.

     “And the rest?”  Antonio asked as he sipped his coffee.

     “We know nothing of the victim yet, and have nothing that we do not already know from Interpol; records confirm that the passaporto belongs to an American tourist named Martin Shaw who is registered in the Bel Sito at the Santa Maria Del Giglio.”

     “And?”  Antonio asked excitedly.

     “And, since early this morning I have had two Police Officers watching the hotel and as soon as you are done sucking on your coffee cup, we will go and see if this American can explain why his passaporto was found with a dead man!”


Martin awoke to the sound of thumping and voices.  Had the Police or worse, the killer discovered him?  He lay as still as he could in the bludgeoning light and listened.  He could not understand the words but from the tone of the voices, it was morning banter.  There were several boats moored to the canal wall just outside the abandoned building.  It sounded as if their owners were preparing them for travel.

     “God dammit!”  He silently cursed.

Why hadn’t he thought of that last night?  There were boats!  He could have stolen one to make his escape.  Now it was daylight and too late.  He would be seen if he tried to walk about now.  He would have to spend the day here in the cavernous remains of this ruin with no roof.  He was terribly cold.  Even though he had crawled under an overhang, the rainwater had still managed to soak him through.  He had his lighter and could scrounge enough wood to make a small fire but the smoke from that would surely be seen.  He couldn’t be sure how safe he might be within the walls of the building.  If the Italian Police employed helicopters or airplanes they would be able to spot him from the air.  He decided he would move about as little as possible until dark.  Then, when there was no one on the street he would see if he could steal a boat.  In the meantime he prayed that no one would find him.


Franco held the door open for Antonio and the two of them stepped into the marbled foyer of the Bel Sito Hotel.  It was just a little after eight in the morning.

     Smiling warmly, Franco stepped forward and called to the concierge’, “Buon Di!”

For his part the concierge glowered at them.  Franco walked up to the desk and produced a small leather case that held his Police Identification.  There was no need for Antonio to identify himself since he was wearing his uniform.  Franco had decided that he would have to speak to Antonio about that.


When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.

Available now, in Paperback, Hardcover and e-Reader editions from, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, PublishAmerica.com.

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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.

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