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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Marsha and Grant discover diamonds under a tile of a cathedral floor in Italy. They are knocked out, held captive by an odd couple of medical types, and escape. Unfortunately their escape vehicle contains over a hundred diamonds.
Meanwhile, Umberto Gianni is sunning in Naples while he tries to make a deal for some diamonds. At this point there is the question of whether or not everyone involved in this thriller are talking about the same hoard.
Who knows?

Submitted: March 01, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 01, 2017




A Short Story in Chapters 

Nicholas Cochran 

Chapter Eight


Antonio Belli eased off his Vespa while both hands were busy removing helmet, goggles, scarf, and gloves. Absent his helmet, he remained tall. He wore his dark hair short. His deep-set black eyes were perfectly spaced from his classic Roman nose, that which, in profile, adorns ancient Roman coins.

His eyes radiated a dreamy quality, a factor which accounted for several young Italian women—as well as a number of Americans—finding Antonio’s esprit a welcome relief from the wet moody breed, always moaning about the loss of Italian life, culture, and respect in the world. 

Antonio rewarded his significant athletic challenges on the soccer field, with plenty of Peronis as well as the occasional cigarette. At twenty-four Antonio lived alone. His parents lived in Florence with his two younger sisters, Ginaand Claudia.

Living with his Aunt and Uncle over the past three years, provided him with the sense of freedom from the family which all young men crave after a certain age, as well as an opportunity to learn, to study, and to save some money from his part-time job at the University computer lab.

A slight crease crossed his brow as he registered the fact that his aunt’s red Alfa was missing. Her husband’s green Fiat stood on its accustomed plot of dusty grass bordering the road and the sidewalk in front of his Aunt and Uncle’s pseudo clinic.

Antonio Belli was a direct descendant of the famous man whose statue graces the south bank of the Tiber in Trastevere. Antonio could proudly trace his extraordinary intelligence and most of his wit to this singular ancestor. 
Antonio extracted his file from a Vespa pouch. For no reason he could tag, he realized that he was conducting a three hundred and sixty degree scan of the immediate neighborhood.


Taking his file firmly in his right hand, he approached the wooden gate to his Aunt Maria’s house, seeing almost immediately that it stood ajar. He quickened his pace as he put himself on full alert. He was leery about taking in the two Americans from the start, particularly the man, who Antonio correctly surmised to be as proficient at martial arts as he was at investigative journalism. 

Antonio possessed pages of proof that the two ‘captives’ were precisely what they claimed to be. Of course the pages of records about Grant’s grade seven through post-graduate work in all things military led Antonio to some other sites where any subversive actions by Marlowe would be chronicled. 

Antonio added the deep net to his searches, again finding no record to indicate that Marlowe was more than an extremely well- educated man as well as a talented one. Antonio rehearsed his upcoming remarks to his Aunt and Uncle while he rode from the last library.

When Antonio  saw that the main door to the building was also wide open, he ran along the walk, up the steps, and into the main hall, all the while calling Maria’s and Rocco’s name as he made quick checks of the rooms on both sides of the hall. 

When he reached the coffee room, the pattern of the objects usually present was all wrong. He spun, turned, and ran down the side hall to Marlowe’s room.

There they were, Aunt, Uncle, and Enrico, tied several times around with a rope ending in an ingenious killer knot that prevented all of them from moving any appreciable amount before commencing the strangulation of the other two.


Both men sat with their heads on their chests. Blood oozed from several small cuts as well as two gashes around the eyes and noses.  

Maria sat with her head lolling to one side, away from Antonio gaze. His first thought was that Aunt Maria was dead. However, when she heard his first steps, she turned toward him and began to cry.

Her nephew dove to her side, where he promised aid and comfort once he unraveled both the ropes and the secret to the strangulating pattern; a maze in hemp.

The two men raised their blood spattered faces to Antonio once they heard him talking to Maria.

“Who did this? Marlowe, I bet,” hissed Antonio as he answered his own question.

“Those two thieving Americans” moaned his Uncle. Aunt Maria failed to launch a remark as she continued to weep.

Enrico remained dazed; his beady eyes appearing to revolve—often in opposite directions; rather like Ben Turpin on speed. 

Although his appearance was amusing, the poor man was a wreck. One eye socket was obviously smashed. His nose was essentially flattened against his already-plain face. A few teeth were loosened, causing his lower lip to sag. When he spoke, he could not help lisping.

Antonio took a deep breath as he experimented with the ends of the rope, then slowly began to solve and undo the death knot securing the three unfortunates.

Once free of their binding, all three began to swear and yell at once. Soon each was blaming one or the other for the entire fiasco.

Rocco reiterated his firm belief that that the Americans were not diamond thieves.

 Maria chose to disagree by pointing out that if they were so innocent why were they shooting shots into the ceiling and past their ears, as well as yelling and pushing them around. Maria pointed to her own injuries as proof of guilt on the part of their former captives.

Antonio had much more than both hands full of problems to solve. Nevertheless, eventually, all three were in the coffee room drinking espressos and complaining that the two Americans had robbed them all of anything to eat.

Antonio opened the small refrigerator to reveal shelves packed with several foods, but this display of a reasonable attitude did nothing to stem the invective all three former captors spewed regarding their former captives.

Maria clearly required qualified medical care. Antonio insisted on driving her to a real hospital. Despite her pain as well as her anger, Maria eventually agreed.

“We’ll take my car Antonio, it’s faster. Here; the keys."

As she was handing the keys to her nephew, Antonio thought that the Alfa must be parked around a corner. Not until he arrived at the street with his Aunt hanging on his shoulder did they both realize that the Alfa was gone.

“Stolen,” screamed Maria, “Stolen.”

Antonio felt as angered but also as baffled as his Aunt did. Their first thought was that the former captives stole the car.

“But they left me the keys. They even said I should get to a hospital right away. Yes, that son-of-a-bitch big guy tossed the keys to me and said those words. Why would he do that if he was going to take the car anyway?”

“Do you have another key, Auntie?” asked Antonio, expecting yes as the answer.
“Yes. But Rocco has them. I gave them to him—we talked about it a few days ago. He said he had them. Go and ask him.”

Antonio ran back to ask his Uncle, who then slapped his pockets; checked his jacket pockets—inside and out; found his long coat which he patted down very thoroughly, and ended up shrugging his shoulders as he produced some fine Italian curses.

“I’ll come out, Antonio. It’s not your deal; I’ll just tell her and maybe between the two of us we can figure out where they are,” halting, “ but what the hell does it matter if her car’s gone?”

He wheezed out a sigh, grimaced, cursed, and hobbled out along the path to the cracked sidewalk next to the fringe of dusty grass where he conferred with his wife.

Enrico sat next to the espresso machine from which he exacted several cups of stiff brew while he wondered how he would get his nose and eye fixed with no insurance and no ready money.

He would ask for money from his part-time employers, just to keep things on the right track.

While he sighed about his fate, he made a mental note to kill Marlowe after raping and killing his girlfriend.

* **

The voice on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat familiar toUmberto Gianni. However, at the same time, the accent—the dialect—of the speaker was very difficult for Umberto to place. In fact, he quickly decided that he was positive he had never heard such an accent.

He determined that the speaker was foreign. At the last moment, before cementing this opinion into his mind, Umberto thought that perhaps the speaker was attempting to disguise his identity with some unique manner of speaking the Italian language.

“I told you on the last call,” repeated the speaker, “that your offer was ridiculously low. However, I understand your reluctance; dealing with an unknown. But you do have the samples I sent you as proof of concept, as it were—my bona fides.”

Umberto immediately changed his mind about the speaker; again. He thought that the man must be employed somewhere in the educational system, which would account for his rather formal language.

“I did receive your bona fides. They are presently worn by a very dear friend of mine. She is thrilled. But, my friend, I have to be assured that the rest of your offerings are of as good or better quality than your samples. You see the woman wearing your samples stated rather emphatically that she has seen better. So have I.

"I need either reassurance in the form of a couple of further samples or a meeting where I can have my appraiser—not the young lady—but a professional appraiser examine your stock and give me his report. You, of course, could bring your appraiser and the two gentlemen could have a long lunch, plenty of our best wines, and then sit in the unique suniness of Naples while they discuss value.”

There was a a pause at the speaker’s end. Umberto wasn’t sure which part of the proposal drove the hesitation. 

Perhaps it was the suniness. 

He, Umberto, would live nowhere else. Despite offers of rich territories, richer returns, and endless perks, Umberto declined all offers from anywhere north of Naples to recruit his knowledge, his experience, and his efficient security staff. No, Umberto was a happy man; mostly.

“I shall think on your proposal, Umberto, for a day or so. Perhaps a meeting is the proper vehicle to resolve this to both our satisfaction. Yes, you and I sit in the sunshine on a terrace enjoying the superior cuisine of Naples, while our hired appraisers lunch, drink, appraise, and agree—or not,” laughing,” and you and I are sure not to let them dine or talk too long in case they get some funny ideas about working with each other and cutting us out.”

Umberto did not join the speaker’s laughter. The possibility of Salvatore DiMaggio cheating—stealing—had never entered his thoughts. This speaker was wiser than first thought.

And I wonder what nationality he is. He sounds smart enough to disguise his location as well as his origin. I’ll keep that in mind. Good care and caution must be taken.

Umberto took a deep breath before asking the speaker to call as soon as he had an answer.

Umberto found himself wishing that the speaker and his appraiser would come to Naples. There were so many beautiful treasures to see; to show a visitor.

From somewhere came the accented realization that he, Umberto Gianni, was lonely.

* **

Grant swept all the diamonds back under the carpet, smoothed the carpet around the junction with the console, and ducked his head as he stood back from car. He took another pace from the Alfa.

A few misty moments passed in both his and Marsha’s mind; moments suspended on the periphery of fear and wonder.

Neither had ever experienced such an odd emotional cocktail.

Marsha was standing holding the open door for support. The opening of her mouth was almost back to default position. However, her eyes seemed unable to lose their bulge. Marsha had the bizarre feeling that her eyes were outside her body and about to bulge away into the air.

Grant’s expression of similar emotional feelings presented as raised eyebrows, a squinting left eye, and a slow mantra of ‘holy shit’ which he repeated until he looked up to see the remarkable sight of Marsha’s otherwise glamorous eyes, looking like two white rimmed brown marbles about to disengage from their moorings.

“Marsha—honey; you okay?”

“Maybe; yeah, yes, well, maybe; I guess so.” Her speech pattern resembled a musical score for a munchkin aria.

Wah. Honey, just wah.” After another few seconds, “I think we really need a drink and some good food while we decide what to do, don’t you think?”

Marsha remained silent. She was processing all the possible combinations and permutations of finding a diamond hoard in the car of a person who had recently been holding her and Grant in custody—for hiding diamonds.

Automatically, “Yes—yes Grant. Drink—and a lot of food. She closed the door while Grant figured out some way to secure the car. Thinking of none, he ducked his head back into the car, uncovered the cache, swept them all up in his hands, and put them in their black trash bag.

They joined up at the front of the Alfa, locked fingers, and set out to find an early dinner.


End of Chapter Eight

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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