The Concierge lowered his eyes to the case and then back to Franco.
“Si, Sergeante?” He asked unimpressed.
Franco smiled. Although the Concierge did not recognize the affect, Antonio did. The Concierge was about to learn a lesson. Antonio fought to keep his face impassive.
“Ah, good, you recognize the Identification of a Police Officer.” Franco said cheerfully as he closed the case and put it back into his pocket. “I wonder if you would be so kind as to tell me if you have and American registered here named,” Franco referred to his notes, though he did not need to, “Signor Martin Shaw?”
The Concierge sniffed dismissively. “That you are a Policeman and have access to that information, that you here and know his name should be evidence enough that he is a guest here.”
Antonio was immediately incensed. He stiffened and opened his mouth to correct the man but before he could utter a syllable, Franco took a half step in front of him and with his right hand took hold of Antonio’s arm and squeezed it so tightly that he nearly cried out.
“It is gratifying to see a citizen who is familiar with the requirements of the Police.” Franco replied. “Tell me; what did you say your name was? Is the American in his room?”
“I did not say and no, the American seems to have stayed out.”
Franco staged writing the information down. “I see, and tell me please where you were last evening?”
The concierge was caught off guard. “Why should you want to know where I was?”
Franco acted as if he were surprised. “It is of no consequence. It is simply that I have the habit of making lists. You see, my mind is not what it was and I must write everything down. I make note of people’s names. I would write yours for instance, if I knew it and then I would write down that you worked in the Bel Sito, the hours you worked, the hours you were home and I would write down also, so that I could remember at a time when it would become very important, whether you had been co-operative or not. During the legal proceedings that will surely follow, Magistrates will enjoy knowing such things…”
They stood there in the silence, as Franco, ever smiling, never let his unblinking eyes waver from the concierge. Antonio, sensing what was happening had the good sense to keep his mouth shut and simply observe.
The man shifted uncomfortably in the silence. He adjusted his tie and looked nervously to the registry book and then back to Franco before speaking.
“My name is Stefano Reali,” he sighed, “and I see no notation that the American came back to the hotel last night and his key is still here.”
Again Franco staged writing the information. He looked up and smiled warmly again.
“Thank you, Stefano.” He said using the familiar. “May I have his room key, please?”
Stefano hesitated. Franco ever so subtly tapped his small notebook with the stub of his pencil. Stefano turned to his left and retrieved the key.
Franco reached out and took the key. “When we return, you will have made a copy of the registry for us?”
Franco made yet another notation. “Bravo! You have been very kind.”
Franco and Antonio turned toward the stairs and began to climb. When they were sure that they were out of earshot, Antonio spoke. “You are a miserable man!” He giggled.
“And you,” Franco sneered pleasantly, “need to stop wearing your uniform. It puts people on their guard against you. You should begin to wear street clothes from now on.”
Antonio regarded Franco cheap suit with some dismay.
“My clothing, my appearance is a carefully calculated affect, young Antonio. You may cultivate your own appearance of course… You of all people should realize that I am not what I appear to be!”
Antonio understood and nodded.
They reached the second floor and turned toward the room number indicated on the key fob. Franco stepped up to the door but before opening it; he turned and spoke sotto voce to Antonio.
“Simply because it is not noted whether he came in or not doesn’t mean that he is not there. We do not know why his passport was with the victim. We know next to nothing about this man. We should assume nothing as to his guilt or innocence but caution, my friend, caution.”
Franco inserted the key slowly and turned it as quietly as he could. He opened the door a crack and peered in. The room was fully lighted because the shades had been left up. Franco stepped in the doorway and immediately to his left and peeked in the bathroom just to make sure. No one was there. Antonio slid past him into the room itself and perused the opposite side of the bed. He looked back to Franco as he stepped out of the bathroom.
“What do you hope to find here?” He asked.
“I could hope to find out who is the murderer!” Franco snorted but he knew that they would not. It was never that easy, unless you were the celebrity of a television crime series where everything was wrapped up in an hour’s time with the criminals in jail and the victims smiling and happy. “Search through everything. Look for that which either does not belong, that which belongs and is not here or that which provides us with more information than we already have.”
For the next hour the two officials went through Martin’s room, his bag and every possession that he had brought with him. They searched his luggage first and then the room itself, behind the two picture frames on the wall and the small bathroom. Then found little to tell them more than they already knew from their examination through central records. They already knew he was an American and his address in California, his passport had provided that and had been confirmed by the registry records that were sent every night to the Questura. To add to that, they found his ticket and Travel plan. They learned the name of his travel agent and that he had flown from San Jose, to Chicago; from Chicago to Milano and then took the train to Venice. They found that he preferred a roll-on to stick deodorant, a fluoride fortified toothpaste, un-waxed dental floss and that his taste in novels ran to cheap detective paperbacks. His clothing seemed to be relatively expensive for an American and he liked to keep a brilliant shine on his shoes. If any of those insignificant facts told them of his guilt or innocence, it escaped them. The only other shred of information found was a sales receipt from the Boutique Morucchio for the purchase of a hat, gloves and scarf.
“So” Antonio stated, “all we know is that he has done some shopping since he has come here. Call out the army!”
Franco grinned. At least Antonio had a sense of humor.
“Well, rarely will you find the one great puzzle piece to make your case for you.” Hesaid as he scrutinized the receipt. “Usually it is all the little puzzle pieces, like this,” He said as he held the slip of paper up, “that when put together with all the other little puzzle pieces, make a complete picture and one, until all the facts are available, we must guess and theorize over. It is those guesses and theories that give us a place from which to start. Let’s go see if our friend Stefano has recovered sufficiently and has made the copies we have requested.”
“We don’t need them. They will only be copies of information we already have.” Antonio pointed out.
“Yes,” Franco agreed, “but Stefano doesn’t know that. ‘Get them talking, or in this case doing, and keep them talking/doing’ remember? It may prove valuable to have Sg. Reali as an ally, even an unwilling one, so we will make him feel important when we get down stairs, va bene?”
“Va bene.” Antonio assured him.
Signor Reali was waiting for them when they returned to the Lobby. He had made copies of the registry and also a copy of Martin Shaw’s passport that he had on file.
“Grazie, Signor Reali.” Franco spoke warmly. “Now then, will you be so kind as to tell me where you were last evening at about six PM?”
Once you had them running, you kept them running, until it served your purpose to have them stop.
Gianna and Angelina were still in bed. Andrea would be able to drink his coffee in relative peace for a change. He loved his wife and daughter as much as was possible for any one man but the two of them caused such a disturbance in the house that it was nearly impossible to enjoy any peace and quiet especially on a Sunday, his only real day of repose. He padded silently to the kitchen and got out the jar of coffee and the small espresso pot. He filled it with water, spooned in the grounds and then thought better of it. No, he decided… he would make the large pot, and if he were very lucky, he would be able to drink the entire container before his wife or daughter got up. Once he had it over the flame on the gas stove, he walked back out to the front door and opened it to retrieve the morning paper. He didn’t know why he read it on Sunday. There was no new financial news to worry over and that was all he cared for anyway. He never even bothered with the box scores of the soccer games. Such things were for men who had no real interests in life but maybe today, just for the hell of it he would scan them while he drank his coffee.
He crept back down the small hallway with his paper and through the swinging door of the kitchen. He tossed the paper onto the table and then stepped over to the stove to turn the flame under the coffeepot off before it boiled over. He set out his cup and the sugar bowl and then took the pot to the small dinette and set it on top of a glass saucer. No use having Gianna scold him over heat rings on the table! He carried his cup and the sugar bowl over and set those down as well. He looked at the arrangement and smiled. He could not remember the last time he had enjoyed a coffee and the morning paper without the constant interruptions that came with his wife and daughter! Suddenly, as if he were guilty for even having the thought, he looked around as Gianna might leap out at him and scold him for being so selfish. She was still in bed. Though it was not allowed, why not have a cigarette with his coffee and paper? Why not, even for a few small moments go back to the bachelor days when he could swill coffee in any amount he desired and smoke cigarette after cigarette in the house without the constant nagging of a woman? He scrutinized the door to the hallway again. He listened. Nothing… then a cigarette it was, and damn the infernal complaints that would surely follow when Gianna arose! He retrieved a pack from the kitchen drawer where Gianna kept them and opened them. He took one out and with a flourish, lit it and inhaled deeply!
“Ah…” he breathed, “God bless Tennessee, or wherever it is in America that they manufacture these horrible things!”
He stirred two packets of sugar into his coffee and sipped it. Oh… nothing so good in the morning as a coffee and a cigarette!
He reached down and picked up the paper. He started to flip it open to the sports section and the previous day’s soccer scores but the screaming block letter headline caught his eye…
“MIO DIO!” He shouted.
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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