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Marsha lifts up an irregular floor tile in the Cathedral of San Giovanni in Frappiana Italy and finds diamonds. She and Grant are then slugged, mugged, drugged and put in a sham hospital before they escape to chase and seek revenge for their mistreatment. Oh, and to return about fifty million euros worth of diamonds. Or not.

Submitted: June 20, 2017

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Submitted: June 20, 2017




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Nine


Antonio joined Maria and Rocco in cursing. The three stood, two very unsteadily, staring at the bald patch of grass where once had stood Maria’s red Alpha.

“When did the sons-of-bitches take off?” Antonio directed his question to Rocco. 

His uncle shrugged. “I was damned near unconscious that whole goddamned time, Tony. Ask Maria.”

He turned to his wife and assumed an accusatory strategy. He could feel himself turning into the monster he had despised in his brothers; the wife-hating, wife-abusing bastards that haunted his siblings. He gritted his teeth, fighting back the impulse to strike Maria or at least kick her wounded legs while berating her over her sexual fantasies about Umberto. However, he bit his lip and waited for his nephew to begin his interrogation of Maria.

“Okay, Auntie, how long ago?”

Maria blinked into the stinging sun, and tried to think of some acceptable curses to pepper her remarks about the complete assholes who had shot her, taken her car, and stolen their diamonds.

“About an hour or so ago. Maybe longer. I was battling the injuries and humiliation heaped upon me by both those assholes as well as my asshole husband; your asshole uncle.”

Antonio absorbed the vibes and nodded. “Good. They couldn’t have gotten far. Where did they say they were going?”

Both answered in unison. “They didn’t.”

Then Rocco remembered his discussion with Grant about the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

“They—he and I—discussed the Scrovegni Chapel. He seemed to be very keen on going there; but I can’t remember if he said they were definitely going or not. Can you Maria?”

Maria scowled and spat. “I don’t remember a goddamned thing about any fucking chapel.”

Once again, Antonio realized that this particular topic of discussion had been canned.

“All right, let’s think logically. First, were they bright enough to remember discussing the chapel with you, Uncle?”

“Absolutely,” affirmed Rocco without either hesitation or a glance at his wife, “in fact, they’re very damned smart. Both of them. And as I told them while they were firing guns at me and beating my head against the floor, they were too goddamned smart to get caught up in goddamned diamond thefts. I told your aunt and Umberto the same thing: these kids had nothing to do with stealing any diamonds. Nothing. Anyway, other than mentioning Padua and the chapel, the guy said nothing else. I think they’re both too smart to go to Padua. Even to stop there. Maybe drive all the way to Venice.”

“What about Naples?” mused Antonio.

“Better thought, Tony," gushed Maria, wanting to do anything or suggest anything that would contradict her husband’s ideas., “they were firing shots all around and threatening to kill us and I gave them Umberto’s name and number. I think they went there.” She virtually collapsed onto the fender of Rocco’s car and bent over. Antonio thought she was about to retch. Rocco secretly hoped she would.

An errant breeze cooled their skin, while lifting Maria’s skirt and ruffling her nephew’s hair.

“I agree, Auntie, I can’t believe they would drive a red car along the route to Venice. Mainly, because they can’t take it into the city, which means they would have to stash it somewhere along the way and it would be a marker—a blazing red marker—that they had gone that way. Even if I did find it, I’d think they had left it there for me to find and believe that they were on their way to Venice when in fact they had taken a train going to Rome--and then to Naples.”

Antonio shifted his weight while he rubbed his chin and thought about his best move.

Maria continued to hang her head and groan while Rocco remained silent, still wishing Maria would puke—and worse; perhaps that her wounds would open up, all the blood would flow out, she’d die, and he could go and shack up with that young waitress from the Milano Café.

“I’ll do a fast run to Padua and the chapel, check the parking lot and around the chapel, and see if they’ve been there. If I find the car, I can put my scooter in the back seat—or tie it down in the trunk and bring back your car, Auntie.” He paused and knit his brows. “If I don’t see it, I guess we can assume they kept going to Venice, or they never went that way and are on their way toNaples. Hmmmm. Back where we started.”

He  sighed. “Well, I need to look for your car, Auntie. And if they are on their way to Naples either by train or in your car, then they have too much of a head start anyway. Our only chance is that they at least left your car in Padua.” 

He sighed again while he stepped to place his arm around his aunt’s shoulders. This elicited heavy sobs from Maria who suddenly clutched her nephew’s arms and wept the tears of frustration with her husband, her injuries, her situation, her life. Rocco looked on while thinking somewhat better thoughts of his wife. Somewhat.

Antonio’s kindnesses were interrupted by the tune of his cell phone. It was his friend Raphael.
Antonio paled to such a degree that his uncle believed that medical intervention might be necessary.

“But they can’t be . . . I mean, when? . . .  Jesus Christ Raphael. Goddamn it, man, the goddamned car’s been stolen.”

He whirled about, still holding his phone, but looking as though he was about to crunch it, hurl it, or drop it and crush it with his motorcycle boot. “Jesus Christ Raphael; we’re ruined. The goddamned car’s been stolen. We may never get it back. Oh Christ.” He lowered his head and held it with both hands, including his cell phone. “Oh, Jesus.” he moaned.

Rocco and Maria simply stared at this whirling figure suffering such obvious turmoil and found it difficult to believe  that he was their dear, calm, intellectual, stable, Antonio.

*  * *

“You know, Grant, I just grabbed that pile of clothes and stuff and whatever and threw it in the trash bag. I can’t even remember if I saw out wallets and passports. Or our Eurail passes.” She leaned away from her seat in the booth of the restaurant and dove into the huge black plastic container holding all their available worldly possessions. Her head and most of her shoulders disappeared into the aperture.

From within. “Whew. Jesus, man. They’re all here, tangled up in your underwater and my PJs. But they’re here.” There was a pause. “And so are those goddamned diamonds. Jesus Christ,Grant, what are we going to do?” Grant stared in stunned and silent appreciation of the cursing from his ‘no-cursing’ lover.

She withdrew her indigo hair and paled face to look into Grant’s sympathetic eyes.

“Play it cool, hon. No worries. I’ve got this covered. Now, let’s finish this glorious meal and get our strength back; get some juice into our grey matter as well. I always trip better when I’m stoked with good food. You too?”

Marsha grimaced at the kind and not so subtle ways employed by her lover to both calm her nerves and soothe her soul. She shrugged in agreement while he tickled her waist, eliciting girlish giggles and subdued shrieks of playful laughter.

"Yes, of course," she managed through her ripples of merriment, continuing to marvel at the number of ways that Grant could make her feel warm and safe, even though her mind told her it was all bullshit, but it was happy bullshit and she loved him the more for that, “but then we have to have a serious talk about what we’re going to do with these bloody stones—and where we’re going next; or even right after dinner.”

Their repast was a Paduan pean to gastronomic ecstasy. From the antipasti through the four traditional courses of the fine Italian meal, the chef and sous chefs delivered ambrosia on various sized plates and in changing shapes and depths of bowls.

“My God, Marsha, this has been one of the finest of our travels. You continue to be the champion dowser, my darling: non pareil.”

Grant suppressed a number of eructation’s but allowed an occasional burp to escape his sufficiently satisfied stomach. Marsha, in a dream world of savory delights, continued to eat gelato to the point where Grant thought that perhaps she was chasing some personal best in the Desserts Devoured Event.

“Glad to oblige, sweets, as always. This has been spectacular, hasn’t it? I hate to leave.”

“Too late for the Scrovegni; tomorrow; or on our next visit. Back to the dowsing  front. So what have you done for us lately, like conjuring a hotel?”

“Easy game, darling, I’ll ask the maître d.”

“Isn’t that some form of cheating? I mean for a world class dowser, isn’t that, well—taking steroids; or just wimping out?”

“Not at all. It’s called, ‘being smart’.” She lifted her chin and smiled. Grant laughed,. They both laughed.

Following liqueurs and coffee, they paid and took time to thank the entire staff. Marsha upsed to the maitre d, Lorenzo, and in aPadua minute, she had his recommendation for the best hotel in the city, the Crowne Plaza, located around the corner and two blocks on the left. Marsha gave Lorenzo a serious hug before joining Grant at the side entrance. Precaution. (Security and Surveillance. ­­­­­­­­­­­Marine Academy, Harlingen, Texas) To Lorenzo and the crew, “avoiding creditors and tour members”.

Their room at the Plaza exuded romance, adventure, abandon. Marsha and Grant were overcome by the ambience and enjoyed both the aura and each other for a couple of hours.

**  *

Giulio Angotti worked his right hand through his thinning black hair until it reached a tiny bald spot, where it paused while Giulio wondered if he would quickly go completely bald as a result of worrying about Alonzo.

With the aid of not only his own resources but also those of the university’s where he taught English Language and Literature, he managed to contact every hospital and morgue in Northern Italy. No Alonzo.

Giulio scratched an eyebrow and thought maybe he was coming down with some strange skin disease spawned by his worry. He felt a creeping fear that something terrible had happened in the chain of delivery. Sometimes he thought he was experiencing premonitions of Alonzo's death. 

For the past eight years, Giulio Angotti had been assisting his meager income by dealing in diamonds from Africa through a contact made thirty years before when he had taught English in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the Rwanda border. 

Over a period of three years, Giulio had endeared himself to three families in the area who vowed to thank him in a major manner for assisting their children to learn and obtain sufficient marks to attend college, where they had excelled.

Twelve children from the three families were embedded in the professions and arts throughout the country. Some were household names.

The mothers—and a few of the fathers—kept in touch with Giulio over the years, as if waiting for the opportunity to return his kindness and patience with a gift of their own. The gift became plural as in diamonds, hundreds of them. They assured Giulio that they were not blood diamonds but ones that one of the children had discovered while on a summer survey with her engineering class during her second year of university. 

Aminata kept her secret over the years, not even divulging the area to her parents. Despite their large age difference, she had loved Giulio when she was a child, through her teens, and as an adult. She wanted to marry him but could never find the right time or words to express her love. Nevertheless, she was determined to act as a lover and shower him with whatever kindnesses and gifts she could manage. Then she discovered the diamond area. Only her mother knew of her find. Aminata swore her to silence.


End of Chapter Nine

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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