When the Lion Smiles

Chapt. 6- Part 3 “Cowardice”

Andrea turned to stare out of the window as he thought.

He and Martin had an interaction with the Marocchino, Masu’ud and Martin had bought a purse.  It was one of the special purses which Salah had spoken of, that was supposed to have been given over to Bruno Trevisani, but in the commotion, as he and Masu’ud were bickering over a pittance, the difference of a few Lire, Martin had taken the wrong bag.  How ironic!  The money was not worth a life, and still, that trifling amount was exactly the cost of several lives that were either already gone, suspect or would cease to exist shortly if he were not able to come to some positive result and very quickly!  After the interaction with Masu’ud, he and Martin had continued on to Roberto’s shop to have Martin’s overcoat properly fitted.  From there, they had gone to lunch and then parted company toward the end of the day.  What was he missing?

In the corner, behind the umbrella stand of Roberto’s stylish boutique, a Louis Vuitton shoulder bag laid on the floor and festered like an open wound, like a bleeding ulcer and went unnoticed by all who passed.

Masu’ud had come to him the next day asking if Andrea knew what hotel the American stayed in.  How could he have known that Masu’ud was not out of breath from hurrying through the streets so much as he was terrified?  How could he have known that not telling him where Martin stayed would have cost him his life?  He had been rude to the poor man!  And then, after that, Andrea learned of his murder in the Church of Saint Mark.  No wonder Salah had become so enraged when Andrea had asked him if he would kill him in the house of God.  Hadn’t Masu’ud been killed in the sanctuary of the great church of the lion?

He poured another small sip of bourbon into his glass and held it to his lips.

It was after reading of the murder in the morning paper that he had been approached by the police and Sergeant Perer, and now he was in trouble at every turn.  If he could somehow escape the suspicions of the police and avoid jail, if he could somehow escape the seeming omnipresence of this murderer Trevisani, how would he reconcile his life to become what it was?  Would he want to?  He was an honorable man, or at least he tried to be, and in the custody of his marriage were a wife and child that he had sworn a holy oath to love and adore, to provide for and protect.  Would he find it in himself to shun this duty now because he found the truth to be distasteful?  How would he explain to his wife that he was too great a coward to save her life, or that of their precious Angelina?  How would he explain to his daughter the fact that he had turned his back and closed his eyes when men were murdered, but that he would always watch over her?  How would he live with himself?  How was he, a shopkeeper and not a policeman, going to find a way to untangle this riddle, and with it, the lives that were wrapped up like flies in a spider’s web?  He looked to his empty glass.  Getting drunk would not help though he couldn’t imagine how it would hurt.  Even a hangover, the champion of all hangovers would be no more agonizing than what he currently faced, for hangovers eventually come to an end; jail would go on and on and death would simply be an endless continuance of nothing.  There was something to be said for the headache that accompanied excess drunkenness; in order to have a headache, one must be free to drink and or be alive.  Death and jail precluded both of those activities.

He supposed that he could go to Cofau himself and try to explain that he was not involved.  “Oa!”  He muttered to himself.  It was a stupid idea and that of a desperate man.  Cofau was a wealthy man and probably an accomplice to more than one murder!  It was certain then, in light of that small fact, that he would take pity on Andrea and maybe even kiss him on the cheek!  Ridiculous!  He could try to run but he would be unsuccessful.  He was not a spy, after all, with instruction on how to escape and evade an enemy who wished to kill him.  Even if he took his wife and child and left the city that very night, how far would they be able to go and then what?  They would have to come back eventually, and when they returned, all of this would still be here!

Andrea reached to turn on the television for background distraction while he continued to turn the problem over in his mind.  While he sat the Rai Uno newscaster read out the evening headlines.

     “Today in the Camera, the present body of Senators began the debate of…”

What was there about the Marocchini that Signor Cofau would have found so indispensable?  It was simple.  They were transient men of no real means, who came and went in Venice and Italy as ghosts, for no one paid them any real attention.  Yes, they were checked at the frontiers but only against Interpol lists of known criminals.  That would be easily remedied… one simply would not hire known criminal elements.  Since they were smuggling nothing of any real value, the bags they spirited into the country were empty; the border agents would give them only a cursory look.  Anything more would be taken care of with a simple bribe.  The reasoning of the Border Guard would be that since there were no drugs or any real contraband to speak of, just the fake purses that they had seen and passed thousands of times, what would be the matter of a few hundreds of lire to line their pockets?

     “From the Vatican, the Pope announced that the church would no longer…”

The Marocchini were a nonentity, they simply did not exist, officially anywhere, except their own countries, whatever and wherever those were; that was the reason that Cofau used them and the very reason that he could abuse them with near impunity, even murder them with complete license.  No one in Venice cared for them.  No one in Venice wanted them.  No one in Venice saw them.  Did they come; did they go, who knew?  Did they live or die, who cared?  So then, if you did not care; if you did not have a need of them, and if you did not see, then there could be no injustice or crime, yes?  They were the frayed edge of a society that looked only inward to themselves.

     “And yet more delays have been reported from the Veneto on the project of the Mosé…”

For the first time, as Andrea looked around the small confines of his office and thought of the rest of his house and the expanse of Mestre, he was not ashamed.  He was Venetian, yes, but he no longer lived there and he no longer thought as the Venetians did.

Somewhere there had to be an answer that Andrea had missed.  Something that stared him in the face that would help him to prove his own innocence and that of the American.  It would be so simple if only he knew where he was!

     “… the contractor for the hydraulics of the Mosé…”

If the other Marocchini disappeared into this gamba del mare, the leg of the sea, then why was the body of Masu’ud left to be found by the Police?  Surely this beast Bruno would have known the trouble that would follow?

     “… has said stability of the legs that rest on the sea bed…”  

He knew that the Police had not caught Martin earlier in the day, or even now, he would be sweating in the interrogation room with Sergeant Perer.  But how long could Martin stay hidden?  He knew that Martin could not hold out.  He would be caught and soon… wait, what was that?  Andrea turned toward the television…

     “… could not be tested without moving the Mosé to the outer lagoon.  Comunque, however, Signor Cofau has said the prototype was not yet ready for a test of this stature and that the legs of the Mosé could not be fastened adequately for such a trial.  No one is certain how long the delay…” 

Andrea stood riveted as he listened.  Something about what he heard was not right.  Something was familiar.  Every Venetian knew of the project of the Mosé to keep the high water from invading the city.  Every Venetian knew the millardi of cost, the billions that were obligated, with no results… something screamed in the back of his mind for attention.

It was Cofau who owned the Mosé and Cofau who owned the Marocchini.  It was Cofau and his man Trevisani who were looking for the American and were responsible for the disappearance and brutality of the men he had met at the Church of Pity.  Cofau and the Mosé, the Mosé… the Mosé and the sea: the Mosé that stood on legs; legs in the sea!  La Gamba Del Mare, The Leg of the sea!

     Andrea dropped his glass of bourbon to the floor.  “Mio Dio!”  He breathed, “My God!”

     Gianna burst into his office.  “Andrea, are you all right?”  She questioned.

      Bring me the phone, immediately!”  He ordered.


The phone rang six times before a sleepy voice answered.

Andrea did not wait for the solicitation to be complete before he made his demand.

     “This is Morucchio, I must speak with Sergeant Franco Perer immediately!”

     “Sergeant Perer has gone home,” the young man whined into the phone, “call back tomorrow.”

     “Stop,” Andrea commanded, “Give me his home number then.”

     “Oa, are you stupid or something?”

     “Do you know who I am?”  Andrea questioned suspiciously.

     “Si, you are the one that Perer is questioning concerning the murder of the Marocchino and that idiot American.”  The officer said lazily.

     “And if,” Andrea countered, “Sergeant Perer was to find out that you failed him, do you not think that the next post you will stand would not be in a claustrophobic toll booth on the alto strada?”  Andrea shouted.


Franco stood at his front door.  His day had been long and frustrating.  He knew instinctively that the case he and Antonio sought to resolve was running ahead of him like a petulant child… a child; he turned the lock and opened the door, no children… Graziella was in the kitchen and he followed the wonderful perfume of her minestra soup.

     “Ciao Amore.”  He said raggedly.

Graziella whirled and saw her husband looking far older than his years.  Every case he worked took a piece of him away but this one threatened to kill him from the way he looked.  His shoulders were stooped; his face held none of its youthful exuberance.  He looked beaten and weary.

     “Ciao vecia.”  She cooed and wrapped her arms around him to give him a warm, inviting kiss.

He squinted at her after she pulled away.

     “What was that for?”  He asked.

      She ignored his question.  “Take your wine and go sit down in the living room.  Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”


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

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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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