Andrea’s wait in the interrogation room was a short one. Franco came through the door with a studious and intent look slathered to his round face. He turned a chair backwards and sat down.
“I spoke with a Marocchino named Salah today. He told me that you went to him and he related to me an interesting story. Do you know a man named Bruno Trevisani?” Franco asked without perfunctory wrangling.
Andrea shrugged. “Yes, from Salah.” That Franco knew he went to the Marocchini was of no harm now.
Franco saw, for what it was worth, that he told the truth.
“And he told you a story did he not?” Franco asked watching Andrea’s body language closely.
“Yes. A wild story but one I believe.”
Franco leaned in. “Have you held anything back from me? Anything?”
Andrea was beyond proclaiming his innocence. He simply said, “No.”
Franco sat in silence. He thought. He looked at Andrea. He thought some more.
“If you spoke with the Capo di Strada, you know I am innocent of any involvement in this thing.” Andrea pointed out.
“No, I do not.” Franco corrected. “You may yet be an accomplice, but one that the man Salah does not know of.”
“Sergeant…” Andrea began.
“Silence! You must have a God that loves you Morucchio!” He exclaimed. “My superiors have told me to send you home even though I have spoken against such a measure. You know, I do not think that this American is alive anymore.”
“If you spoke to Salah, as you have said, then you would know about the thing they fear more than this Bruno…”
“Yes,” Franco repeated the phrase enigmatically, “La gamba del mare. Do you know what this means?”
Andrea shook his head. “No, but if I did know, then I’m sure I would know what has happened to Martin.”
Franco stood. “You may go home now, Morucchio, but go home. Make no more side trips. Come to work tomorrow on time, straight to work. You are yet a suspect and if you cause my investigation any more inconvenience then I will arrest you and worry for your possible innocence in a later date. A much later date.”
After Andrea left, Antonio came into the Interrogation room and sat down at a chair across from Franco. He looked at him questioningly… “He was truthful, you know.”
“Yes.” Franco answered absent-mindedly.
“Where did you learn the names you asked him and what have they to do with all of this?” Antonio asked.
Franco looked up. “Antonio, I’m going to tell you what the man Salah told me but I don’t think you will believe it.”
Martin drifted in an out of consciousness all day. He was in severe pain. The darkness afforded him no reference for time. He could have hung there for an hour or for a year. He had no way to tell. There were sounds, creaking, groaning, metallic scraping. Maybe rats, maybe worse. He was glad that he could not see when he heard them. That he was finally warm was his only small blessing but he knew that prolonged exposure to extreme heat would kill him just as surely as would the cold. His arm was swollen and he could not move his fingers anymore. He could feel the flesh straining at the fabric of his coat sleeve, but he had no pain. The circulation was cut off both from the swelling and the twisted coat, but every other part of him was racked with agony. The darkness was disorienting, and he drifted in an out, in and out, in and out. He was nearly mad when Bruno found him in the deserted butchery house, he would surely slip over the edge here, finally inexorably into insanity before death took him. Martin screamed in frustration. It was like screaming in a steam room. The darkness and the oppressive heat muffled the sound and forced it back into his ears and pounding head. There was no more music, no more drip drop… only silence occasionally broken by his hysterical shrieks, pitiful cries and the sound of his metal crypt contracting and expanding.
The sun beat down on the metallic structure and the steel soaked in the heat. Though the temperature was barely forty degrees, the sunlight on the steel heated the columns to a deathly level. When darkness came, the metal would cool and become a freezer, conducting the cold as efficiently as it had the heat. Oven and freezer alike, Martin hung inside, suspended like Christ between heaven and hell for the iniquities of others.
Antonio prepared the espresso pot for two coffees and shoved it on the burner. He and Franco had moved back to their small cramped office made even smaller by the mass of information they had strewn about it.
“Oa, dai Franco you can’t be serious! This is even more preposterous than your computer spy theory!” Antonio laughed. “Mirko Cofau? And tell me, why would he, the richest man in Venice, in the Veneto, in Italy and maybe Europe, be in business with these men, the Marocchini? And what of this absurd place… this, this leg of the sea? It is more than silly, it is ridiculous! It is some childish fairy tale this man Salah told you. Tell me also, why he would speak to you when he would not speak to me?”
“He spoke to me because I am good at what I do, maybe some day you will be good at it as well!” Franco snapped. “So tell me then, if this is not the truth, what is?” Franco gestured to the piles of information that lay about, the statements, the facts, the reports. “What have we learned about the murder from all of this then? I’ll tell you what we have learned! We have learned that a man was killed, as if we could not have determined that ourselves; where he was killed, the approximate time he was murdered, and we know that his throat was cleaved! But do we know who, or why? Do we have the weapon or a motive? No, we only have theories, hearsay, wild accusations and conjecture… but none of the most important facts are known from all our great stacks of papers and documents and reports! We know nothing more than we did the first few moments after our entry into the Basilica!”
“Yes, yes I know, but is the story you have brought from Salah a suitable substitute for the truth? How are we going to arrest this Bruno Trevisani and tell the Tribunal, ‘He put men in the leg of the sea and Signor Mirko Cofau, Benefactor and Patron Saint of Venice, Savior of the world’s most precious city, the very man we honored just last week in the square, made him do it!’ Franco, it is not possible!”
Franco stood and moved to the espresso pot. He poured out two coffees.
“Antonio, every man and woman has in them an innate ability to sense whether something is right or wrong, true or untrue; call it a sixth sense, ESP, your gut… whatever. What does your sixth sense tell you of this?”
“That is not the point and you know it!”
“Humor me.” Franco ordered.
Antonio sighed heavily and put his head down on the desk as he spoke. His muffled voice resonated off the wood.
“The Marocchino was truthful with you?”
“Yes.” Franco answered.
“And Andrea was truthful.”
Silence filled the room.
“Then my gut tells me we have to go looking for a fairy tale…”
Dinnertime was long past and Andrea had touched nothing. Gianna worried for him and for herself. What was to become of her if her husband was taken to jail? What would become of their life together and their daughter? She looked longingly at him. She would take this for him if she could for she knew she was the stronger of the two. Her man was a good man, she knew, but he was a little boy and little boys never faired well in the face of adversity. She stood behind the wingback chair, bent over and slipped her arms around his neck and locked them together, hugging tightly. He brought a hand to hers and squeezed. She kissed him on his head and he leaned into her lips, savoring the tenderness after a day of thorough brutality.
“Husband,” she murmured softly, “what have you not told me? I know that you left very early this morning. Where did you go?”
He shrugged her arms off of him impatiently and sighed, “Amore, there are things that, even if I explained them to you, you would not understand.”
“And so I am stupid now?” She asked.
Andrea sat forward in the chair so that his elbows rested on his knees and cradled his head in between his hands.
“No, you are not stupid, but how would I explain being blind and then having sight given to me?”
“Andrea, you are speaking in riddles! Let me call an Avocato, please!”
“Gianna, please, leave me. Keep the baby quiet for I must think. I will spend the remainder of the evening in my office. Please, do not to disturb me. Do not call after me. I will come to bed when I have settled this in my mind.”
With it said, he grabbed his bottle of bourbon, a glass, kissed his wife and started for his office.
Gianna clasped both hands together and wagged them after him. “Andrea please do not drink! You will find no answers there.” But he did not hear her.
Once inside his office, Andrea poured barely a sip of bourbon into a snifter, lit a cigarette and sat in the chair behind his desk to think. How quickly can a life spin out of control to become something completely unrecognizable? He knew the answer… a few moments, a few hours. Though it wasn’t true, it comforted him for the moment to think his current troubles were the result of simply befriending an errant helpless American. “Roberto, that fool!” He snorted into his glass. He would be in peril too, if Trevisani came to know of him, and there was no reason to believe that he wouldn’t. After all, Salah was convinced that he would know of Andrea’s intrusion into the sanctum where the Marocchini lived, even though he had not been there to see. How Trevisani would come by this information was not clear, for Salah had not explained, and in the chaos, Andrea had not asked. Did it really matter how Trevisani would know? That he would know and it would cost Andrea his life, and that of his wife and daughter, was enough. He would accept it as a truth, for not to do so would be a large gamble, and Andrea was not a gambling man. But Roberto had not listened to him.
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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