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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Grant and Marsha find diamonds under a tile in an Italian cathedral. A phony priest knocks them out before he is gunned down.
When they wake up they are in locked rooms in different locations . . . or are they?

Submitted: September 03, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 03, 2016




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Four


Marsha’s fear lasted for five minutes—until she looked under her bed and saw her purse.

She pulled it out and a quick check told her that everything but her passport and her wallet was there.

As soon as Marsha had her purse and knew what items had been removed, her fear turned to anger and she began to prepare her controlled rant at Ms. Red and Gold Fabric Shoes.

She now knew that she was being held in this make-believe hospital room because she was valuable to the so-called doctor and her husband—or confederate—in whatever game they were playing.

It came to Marsha that all the ‘hospital’ odors had been splashed around to complete the ruse. When Marsha thought about that fact she began to feel much better, simply because she understood that the bogus doctor and little Enrico were anything but formidable foes.

She stood up and began to pace; first to the door and back and then across the room past the bottom of the bed.

Her head began to hurt before she came up with any concrete plan to escape.

She decided to sit on the edge of the bed while she tried to retrieve those minutes in the cathedral.

She clearly recalled her entrance with Grant through the main doors. In fact they had stopped to admire the extremely fine work on both doors; one continuing scene that separated when a door was opened.

She remembered that there had been other people there when they entered and even recalled that there was a confessional booth on their left, across the cathedral floor that had its light on.

All the glorious shapes and colors of the baldachin came rushing across her inner eye. In fact, many details of the magnificent apse as well as the extraordinary ceiling showed up in her consciousness

After they had walked and examined for almost two hours she now recalled that when she bent over to look at the Cosmati tile floor, most of the people had left.

Marsha stood up again and resumed her pacing. Any aches in her head were pushed to the side by the after-images which now came to her with such speed and clarity, that the minutes just before she bent over to look at the tiles suddenly arrived in her consciousness for her examination and review.

She remembered that the light on the confessional booth was still on. And another figure was lurking a few feet away from the confessor’s side.

She closed her eyes and tried to track the scene in slow motion; one still frame at a time.

This was a technique that she had read about, but never had the occasion to try. She stopped her first vision of the booth and the lurking figure.

One detail did impact her observation; the lurking figure was very short; possibly a child.

She moved her single still-shot inner camera to the next image. The booth door was now slightly open. She moved to the next shot. The short figure was at the opening door of the confessional booth and holding out its hand.

The next shot was vague, blurry. Marsha shook her head and tried to concentrate on the last still shot.

After a few minutes of attempting to see a clear picture of what had been happening she gave a heavy sigh and decided that she was left with that blurry image for that part of her recollection.


She took a few minutes to clear her head. She sat on the bed again and concentrated on the next image or images that she could resurrect. One last one came to her before her spotting of the irregular tile. She had to bring every part of her being to the task.

There it was. She remembered and drew up the still shot onto her inner screen and saw . . . yes, the tall and quite wide shadow that stood behind a column.

The column was near the second chapel down from the transept on her right. 

She closed her eyes as tightly as she could and drew all her energy into that inner observation. No hat, tallish, holding something down his side.

Yes, some light from the overhead chandelier, although turned down to a reverential level, skipped off the toe of one shoe reflected from a very shiny black toe. Patent leather.

Yes; patent leather; dress shoes for most, but could be everyday wear.

Marsha rose, and instead of pacing, she began a slow, deliberate walk while she conjured the minutes with Grant and the tiles; the diamonds; her replacing them. Then there was the faux priest with the gun.

She stopped halfway to the door and concentrated on those last images before she was struck. She nodded her head in a negative while her memory ground to a halt. She clearly remembered finding the diamonds and showing them to Grant; then putting them back,

 just before that bogus priest pulled a gun on us. Then he hit me.

She returned to the bed and sat down to review all these meager facts once more, in an effort to find ‘the’ reason—or reasons why she was being held. Her inner her head was sending shooting pains trying to find a reason why they were holding her here

Now pains began crashing around her inner skull. She removed her European version of Excedrin and went to the bare sink for water. She had to cup her hand and flip her head backward to get them down, but she immediately felt better despite the fact that she knew they hadn’t yet taken effect. Nevertheless, the placebo effect had begun immediately and now she felt her spirits rising.

 And I guess they’re holding Grant as well . . .

She sat and thought of the possibility of him really being . . .

Marsha suddenly plucked a great idea out of the air, and then out of her purse.


Grant too, had discovered that his wallet and passport were missing, along with his clothes. His discovery also brought the realization that he was being held here for some reason that eluded him.

He shook his head from side to side while he pursed his lips and attempted to fathom any reason why he was a prisoner.

We didn’t take the diamonds; Marsha put them all back. I watched her. Then that bogus priest knocked us on the head and then . . .

He struggled to retrieve some memories of the time period before he passed out. He drew a blank—as well as a headache. The man in the white smock had left him some pills and Grant smartly downed two and tried once more to imagine why he was being held here by these . .

Whoever they are.

 What do we have; or what is it that they think we hid . . . or something like that.

Or is it . . .? . . .aah, that has to be it. They have everything we had on us, so no clues there; yeah; that’s it.

Grant sat on the bed and began to rehearse his explanation to the bogus doctor that they were not what they appeared to be but rather . . .

Then he smelled it.

His face relaxed, and a smile drifted onto his lips. Then he began a soft but telling laugh.

*  *  *

“Well there’s nothing in her clothing. I tore out all the seams and more or less destroyed her coat; all the lining; nothing.” The woman opened her palms to her husband in a show of her unsuccessful search.

They were seated in modern leather chairs surrounded by bare green walls and a chipping white ceiling. Their otherwise empty room contained only a sideboard with an espresso machine and package of cookies and some tired pastries, a worn oak desk and chair with a goose-neck lamp, and a small table that squatted between them bearing a plate of pastries and their coffee cups.

The room was not heated and the woman wore a heavy coat of navy blue with epaulets bearing the fashionable three gold cords. Her otherwise extremely attractive face held a  grayish-green hue cast by the flickering fluorescent lights that hung forlornly from their peeling support.

“And I looked everywhere in his clothes as well; and the cuffs. I also tore his coat to pieces; nothing.”

He reached for his coffee and took up two cookies with his other hand. His face bore the facade of a man who would do his job but constantly wished he had a different one.

A nervous tick caused each side of his mouth to alternately twitch while he clamped his jaw.

The woman removed her red and gold fabric shoes and gave a heavy sigh. “Do you think they have them in their anus?”

The man finished one cookie and took a large swallow of coffee.

“Well, Maria, these two; I mean . . . no. I don’t think they’ve inserted them anywhere; they just don’t fit the pattern; the type. To me they seem to be what they claim to be; students; academics . . . no, I don’t think they have them.”

“All right then, Rocco; who do you think they gave them to?”

Sniffling and taking another sip, “Ah Maria: now that is an entirely different matter,” pausing, and raising his shoulders as he sighed, “but here too, I can’t see anything about them that tells me that they are a part of a jewel theft ring. I’m, counting on Antonio to come up with something about them off the net.

He pecked at his second cookie and drained his cup.

“He’ll check their learning credentials too. He has their wallets and passports and their wallets have a lot of stuff that Antonio can run about them. So we’ll wait.”

Maria rose and went to he sideboard, turning, “More coffee?”

“Yes dear, thank you,” a quiet groan, “but I don’t . . . well, we can only wait; I guess.”

Maria with her back to him while she worked the espresso machine, “what did Umberto tell you?”

Rocco was clearly disturbed about his forthcoming answer. “He just told me to search them, and if there’s nothing, to start trying more persuasive measures; to torture the truth out of them.”

Maria fixed her husband with an icy stare before she spoke. “I think you’re softening a bit, my Rocco—are you? You seem to be favoring them. Is it the woman? She is very pretty in a round way, I guess.”

“Don’t be ridiculous my pet; she is a young chubby American air—I was going to say it as they do, ‘airhead’, but I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think either of them are in this at all. “There; I’ve said it; and when Umberto calls, I’ll tell him too.

“Those kids said there was no one else around the cathedral when they found these two and they swear no one went in or out except them. Of course, they were playing and there are some hills there; they could have missed them coming out; but that would mean they were knocked out after they left the cathedral; somewhere near the field. Now I ask you, how much sense is that, Maria?”

Maria carried back the coffee container and poured Rocco a full cup.

“Very well; they didn’t come out the front door of the cathedral; there are back doors. We have also talked to the cleaner. He comes in after the cathedral has closed.”

“And then what, Maria; they hit themselves on the head with a rock or something? Please, Maria, be sensible.”

“Well, Rocco, they must have given them to someone.”

“And then who supposedly hit them on the head; and why?” Rocco threw his hands in the air in a gesture of frustrated resignation.

His phone rang. “Hello, Rocco. Yes Umberto; we were just talking about you; talking over the case. I can tell you, they do not have the diamonds. Absolutely.”

Rocco, listening, “ unhuh; yes; no; well, if you insist Umberto, we can do that,” taking a breath, “but I personally think they have nothing to do with this whole thing . . . unuhuh., well because who hit them on the head? . . . . Of course there were. He had triple vision; now to double; but he shows all the signs. And a very big lump on his head; her’s is not so big, but she was still sleeping at four o’clock . . .  yes; soundly, sixteen or more hours . . . .yes, Umberto; well, we can look, okay, but . . . no, not at all, I’m not at all on their side . . . no; absolutely not. She is very round and not very tall. Definitely not. And I told Maria the same thing. So . . . Yes she is. Certainly,” handing his phone to Maria, “he wants to talk to you.”


Rocco resumed his seat by the window overlooking the vineyards and the mountains beyond and didn’t bother to listen to Maria’s side of the conversation with Umberto. He knew what she would say and how she would say it. She had the hots for Umberto. She hoped to land him and dump Rocco; but Rocco wasn’t worried. Umberto lived in Naples and had many girlfriends already. 

End of Chapter Four

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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