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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Marsha Mason finds diamonds under a loose floor tile in an Italian cathedral. That's just the beginning of an endless round of discoveries and escapes.
Corpses and diamond smugglers are everywhere. Adventure and action abound. And some romance. And the beat goes on.

Submitted: June 30, 2017

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Submitted: June 30, 2017




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Fourteen


Lieutenant Angelina Parducci took the call in the Frappiana Carbinieri Station. She initially wrote “female” on her pad while holding the landline receiver to her left ear. A few moments later, she had the distinct feeling that this caller was really a woman trying to sound like a man. This confused her. The message did not.

“Check the olive grove behind the cathedral. I was out riding and saw a couple of bodies.” And he—she—disconnected.

Angelina yelled to her partner to join her. Lieutenant Leonardo Ferrara broke away from the group of men surrounding a map of the Veneto region and sauntered over to his plump thirty-four year-old divorced mother of three partner in the homicide division.

“Yes, my gorgeous bundle of luscious tiramisu, what have you got besides your glamorous figure and your naughty ways?” Leonardo, twenty-eight, tall, slim, and besotted with Angelina’s bountiful charms, picked up on her expression of surprised confusion. “And was that a phone-sex call?”

Angelina’s face shifted to narrow-eyed reprimand. She loved the Lieutenant with a desperate hunger but she was a tough woman who took no shit from anyone, and especially not from her lover. “Cut the crap, Lenny, and listen up. Some guy—maybe a woman—says there’s a couple of bodies in the olive grove behind the cathedral.”

“Christ, Angie, that’s four in two days. I went to the Stromboli’s house yesterday while you were on the Reggiano case and found a couple of stiff docs; three shots in a perfect line across the forehead. Just like that unidentified corpse in the morgue. The one from last week. Come to think of it, he was in the olive grove too. What the hell?”

Lieutenant Parducci registered the anticipated surprise as well as a touch of something deeper, dread perhaps.

“What do you think, Lenny,” returning her tone to the default husky seduction timbre that came naturally to her since puberty. Some thought her sultry delivery to be the cause of all problems with sexuality and guys who wanted to help her sort it out, “are we dealing with a serial puntura here?”

Leonardo popped his eyebrows in a practiced maneuver while he drew in most of his lower lip. Frowning, “Sure as hell feels like it. Let’s see if our stiffs in the grove have a three-hole line across their foreheads.” He was already moving away from her toward his jacket that hung on a tall stand next to his desk, “grab your jacket and check your weapon.” 

Lieutenant Parducci took her jacket, slipped on her gun belt, fastened it, and met Ferrara at the door. They were outside, into their car, and sirening out of the lot before either had the chance to think what any of this might mean.

After five minutes, they had parked on the edge of the grove and were treading quickly in the direction of the wide-trunked olive tree that marked the overlook. From twenty yards away, they could see two bodies lying at the base of the sentinel tree. Young men. The officers ran the last ten yards and knelt beside the corpses. Both had a line of three holes across their forehead. 

“Looks like we do have a serial stronzo, as you suspected,” murmured Leonardo, “the pattern and the shell size of the holes are exactly the same.” 

He got up and began to roll his shoulders, twist his neck , and shake his hands, something that Lieutenant Parducici had seen him do several times ever since beginning their tenure together three years before.

His actions eventually resulted in him voicing a conclusion about all the available evidence, conclusions that Parducci had found to be extraordinarily accurate. She had repeatedly begged him to tell her how he did this.

She took up her appeals both in and out of bed, but usually after a satisfying session of lust. She had to admit that Leonardo had tried every manner of approach to help her try to do what he did, but so far, she had barely reached the initial stage of seeing all the evidence with her inner eye, flashed up on her cranial screen. Past that, she faltered.

“What is it, Lenny?” She got up, went to his side, and took his elbow in her hand. “What do you see? What have you learned?”

Lieutenant Ferrara completed his last gyrations, gave a huge sigh, and turned to his partner/lover/love.

“Some guy is looking for something. It’s a guy because the only other footprints here are from a man’s shoe. Both kids were cut several times around the throat before they were shot meaning he was asking them questions, which they either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

“The clothes found at the Strombolis were ripped open like someone was searching for something. Looks like some thing or things have gone missing and our happy hunter is thoroughly pissed about it. If the Strombolis were looking in clothing, I doubt it was for drugs. Beside, people only sew drugs into clothing when they’re trying to enter a country or pass a roadblock; something like that. People just don’t hide drugs in their clothes anymore, so it must be gems.

“With all the traffic from Africa, I’m guessing diamonds. There.” He turned to Angelina and smiled.

“Or not.” They both laughed.

Angelina called in the particulars regarding the crime scene and requested the usual personnel.

“Let’s have lunch,” grinned Leonardo, “La Strada.”

  * **

Umberto Gianni couldn’t cut it with the Camorra but he maintained his childhood friendships with four of the bosses as well as two of the underbosses in one of the Naples clans.

Despite his knowledge of all things criminal and illegal, as well as every means of torture, Umberto was rejected from membership, not because he couldn’t be trusted, but solely because of his appearance.

The particular clan housing all his old school chums prided itself on its appearance. This was easily explained.

The Boss, Primo de Lantro, broke away from the traditional areas of Camorra criminality to pursue a more respectable line of extortion and kidnapping. Or, rather, he decided to do all the bedrock Camorra crimes in a respectable stratum of society; the highest stratum. He determined to infiltrate every aspect of the social lives of the top one percent of Naples families. He did this by sending his underbosses as well as every male and female soldier, to everything from parent-teacher school meetings to fundraisers for politicians and the poor. 

One indispensable element; a sine quo non of Primo’s entire undertaking/enterprise/blitzkrieg, was that the members of Primo’s clan—whether male or female—had to be attractive and well-dressed. They had to be able to fit seamlessly into a room of honest socialites; join a yachting party with the legitimate millionaires and their wives; disguise the fact that they had come from backgrounds even more impoverished and deprived than those of the people running the charities for the poor as well as the recipients of their largesse.

Umberto Gianni flunked out on every score. His application for admission to Primo’s clan was DOA.

Gianni was very short, morbidly obese, sweated before he woke up, ate like a pig, dressed like a pimp, and spoke as though he was about to spit up marbles on everyone within ten feet.

As a result of his summary rejection by his old pals, Umberto decided to go solo. In the diamond smuggling business. He established two reliable contacts in Africa, provided the muscle as well as the arms to enforce his strict rules of Camorra origin, and set up his enterprise down the street from Primo. As a manner of speaking.

When Umberto received the call from Pietro Trapani informing him of the Yankee brouhaha in Frappiano, he was disturbed on several fronts. Aside from the business front, there was the matter of Maria Stromboli. He and the doctor had never met but they had conversed for hours by phone.

After their first three-hour conversation, and an emailed photo of Maria in a bikini, Umberto went on a diet and began Pilates classes. He shortly added hot yoga sessions.

He summoned diet doctors, herbalists, longevity specialists, speech therapists, and ED professionals, all in anticipation of meeting this sexy-sounding doctor from the Veneto.

As they conversed further over the ensuing months, Umberto installed Nautilus equipment in his villa, a treadmill, a full complement of free weights, a steam room, a sauna, and a North American Indian sweat lodge.

The pounds came rolling off. His heart rate went down, his member went up. On every front, Umberto Gianni was transforming himself into a lean, mean, stylish Neapolitan gentleman-machine of indeterminate years. 

Umberto’s talks with Maria increased in number and duration. Their meeting date was arranged. She would bring Rocco but was determined to dump him. Umberto was suitably flattered.

Despite the availability of any number of beauties from the sultry south of Italy, Umberto had resolved to can them all in favor of Maria. Arrangements were made. Plans were begun. Anticipation was rife in the halls of Umberto’s villa.

Lieutenant Ferrara in the Carabinieri station in Frappiana called Umberto.

Your name and number were all over Maria Stromboli’s computer and cell phone, Senor Gianni; perhaps you haven’t heard the news

 * **

Grant Marlowe tried to ignore the screaming from the other diners as he rolled even farther to the left while holding Marsha to his side with all the grip he could muster. 

Chairs fell and clattered, crockery split and flew; bits of material from clothing and tablecloths zipped into the clear Venetian air. Grant immediately knew that the shooter was close and closing. 

Grabbing Marsha. “We have to scoot, hon. On three, you’re up and duck-walking behind me to the right as fast as you can; make for the first building behind us. I’ll wait and intercept. Or not. I’ll decide when I see the shooter.”

Marsha maintained a stunned and terrified silence. She nodded and squeezed Grant’s hand.

“One, two three.”

Both of them exploded into rockets of energy. Marsha was amazed at how quickly she could move while walking like a panicked duck. Grant had drilled for this in Harlingen. He slid with practiced grace between chairs and tables, legs and bodies, food and detritus.

Then they were at the rear of the restaurant. He opened the back door and was presented with a narrow alley. Directly across from them was a closed door set in an eight hundred year-old stone wall.

Grant semi-stood while he focused past his left shoulder. He spotted the shooter immediately. Tall, dressed in black, wearing a black large-brimmed hat, black gloves, and patent leather shoes. The figure moved out of Grant’s sight, following Grant and Marsha’s initial escape roll to their left. Grant immediately decided to run.

“Marsh,” he whispered loudly, “he’s going after our move to the left. Let’s go.”

They sped across the alley and pushed on the heavy windowless door. Nothing moved. Grant hammered. Almost at once, the huge portal swung inward and the two lovers fell into a pool of bright light illuminating a warehouse.

A tall, skinny youth of fourteen looked down at them and their Glocks with anxious interest.
Marsha smiled and assured the boy in Italian that they were escaping a hit by the Camorra. The boy’s eyes widened almost as wide as his smile. 
“No shit,” he chuckled in Italian

Marsha smiled with the pleasure of a successful escape. Grant was extremely irritated.

“That’s it, hon. We’re off to see that Trapani bastard ASAP.”

Marsha continued to smile as she nodded.

The boy’s eyes enlarged while his smile retreated.

“Vito Trapani? Wow, I hope you guys have more than yourselves and a couple of Glocks.”

End of Chapter Fourteen

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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