“Oa, there is no need to worry, Signor Morucchio, we shall make many troubles for those two! For this you may trust me. I have wished to make a complaint on them for some months now, and that you will assist me as a witness against them is brilliant, but before that is done, please, help me to help you?”
Andrea shook his head. Better to get it done and quickly.
“Bene, Signor.” He conceded.
Was it his imagination or was it getting very warm in the room?
Sergeant Perer smiled broadly, his fat cheeks disappearing into the wattles on his neck.
“Bravo!” He exclaimed. “Bravo! Now, the time you awakened the morning before last?”
Andrea looked at his wrist for his watch, it wasn’t there. He put his hand back into his lap and said,
“The same as every morning, six.”
“Ah.” Franco nodded as if he had been given the answer to a great riddle, and now, suddenly the entire universe made sense to him. “And then?”
“I ate breakfast.” Andrea answered pedantically. The small room seemed to be getting excessively bright.
“Uhm… Signor,” Franco pointed to the paper. “Please, you are not writing.”
Andrea looked at Franco for a long moment, sighed and then took up the pad and pencil and began to write.
Sergeant Franco Perer smiled again, sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his massive chest. When Andrea finished writing he looked up and set the pencil down. Sergeant Perer looked to the paper and then spoke.
“I am puzzled. Did you not use the bathroom? Did you wash your hands and face; brush your teeth?”
“Yes, of course!” Andrea snorted.
“Ah, good. Write it.”
“What?” It was getting damn hot in the little room!
“Yes, yes write it. Everything must be written.”
Andrea cast a stern glance to the Sergeant and began to speak; Franco interrupted him.
“Signor, you are an important man with important things to do with his time, this I know but help me to help you. Write, please.” Franco insisted.
Andrea put a hand to his forehead, wiped a small bead of sweat as he eyed the Sergeant sideways and then picked the pencil up, turned the erasure to the paper, rubbed out a line and then began to write again. When that was done, he set the pencil down.
Franco looked to the paper and frowned.
“You used the bathroom, yes?”
“You mean you pissed, or you did some other thing?”
“I pissed. For heaven’s sake! What is this?” Andrea squinted in the bright light.
“And then you washed your hands? Did you to have to turn around for this? Was the sink in which your hands were washed behind you, to the left, to the right?”
Andrea scowled in disbelief and tried to shake the purring that had begun to reverberate disturbingly in his ears.
“To my right…”
Franco interrupted him again.
“Did you dry your hands after washing them? Did you use a towel? What color was it? On which side of the sink is the towel or is it under? Where is the door located in the bathroom? Is the room painted or papered? Is the floor tile, parquet? Is there a window? Is there a shower stall or is it that you bathe in the bathtub? It must be precise, Signor!” He pleaded.
Andrea sat up straight in his chair, folded his arms across his chest and stared squarely into Franco’s eyes.
“Sergeant,” he stated stiffly, “If I am to write every small detail as you have instructed, we would be here for hours, days even…”
“It is kind of you to be concerned for me, but it is not a problem, I have nothing better to do for these next several of hours, please write.” Franco replied jovially.
“I will not!” Andrea fairly shouted. “Look, you wish to know of my friend Ciccio, the Marocchino who was killed, yes? Well then ask me these things, not what time I got up, whether I pissed or shat and where the towel in my bathroom is! Madonna mi morte! Gesu Christo, but it is warm in here!” He cursed.
Sergeant Franco Perer leaned forward to the lip of the table his face set and serious. He would have preferred to arrive at this point in a more round about way but since Morucchio had brought it up, better to keep him talking…
“You know the Marocchino’s name then? He is your friend?”
“Yes, yes his name is Ciccio!” Andrea affirmed with casual dismissal.
“He is your friend?”
Andrea hesitated. The room seemed to be a living breathing entity.
“Not exactly my friend, I mean, I know of him…” He began to sweat profusely.
In the other room Antonio smiled. Franco was a master and thoroughly despicable man! There was much to learn from him…
Perer cocked his head to one side and considered his quarry carefully. Andrea did not realize it yet, but he was about to chase his own ass in circles and before Perer was through, he would confess to nearly anything, guilty or not.
“Not exactly a friend…” he replied thoughtfully as he pursed his lips. “What kind of friend is not exactly a friend?”
“He is not a friend.” Andrea whined. “He is…”
“But you said he was your friend.” The Policeman interrupted again. “What kind of friend is he, then?”
“Look,” Andrea answered in exasperation; “you are confusing me and twisting the words as they are spoken. I know of the Marocchino because he has stood outside my shop for some months and for this reason, I also know his name. He is not my friend. It is a manner of speaking only.”
“Ah. Then he is not a friend?” The Sergeant asked.
Again Antonio smiled to himself. “Once you have them running…” he mumbled.
A large sigh escaped Andrea’s lips. “I have said so.” Andrea loosened his tie.
Sergeant Franco stood and stepped to the corner of the room, leaned against the wall and continued.
“It is a funny thing then…”
“What is funny?” Andrea asked hopefully.
“Well, it is only that your colleagues in the campo have said that you greet this man very cheerfully every morning and that you often purchase him cigarettes and sometimes take him a coffee.”
“Well, I am a friend, I mean, for these moments, yes? But you have not offered me a coffee or a cigarette.”
Andrea splayed his hands apart in mock surprise. Perer could see that they shook slightly.
“The shop keepers in the campo are your friends, yes?”
“Yes!” Andrea insisted.
“And you have purchased cigarettes and coffees for them then, yes?”
“No!” Andrea blurted out as he shrugged his shoulders defensively.
“I am confused Signor. Why do you do these things for a friend who is not a friend and not for a friend who is a friend?”
Andrea moaned. “It is only because he is a povero, a poor man and I have felt sorry for him.”
Large stains began to bleed from under his arms through the material of his jacket.
Franco leaned forward to the table and put both his large fists, knuckles down on the top.
“Tell me then of the American. Is he your friend?”
A very large ‘oops’ hung in the air like a foul yellow belch as Andrea realized that the questions were taking a decidedly partisan turn. Then he was right after all, he was a suspect in interrogation and not merely at the station to answer a few innocent questions! But why would they suspect him in this? What could he have done to lead the Police to believe that he had anything other than a passing involvement in this hapless event?
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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