ROUGH DIAMONDS: SS: SEVENTEEN

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Marsha's discovery of diamonds under a Cosmati floor tile in an Italian cathedral ignites an explosion of bullets and bodies; fight and flight; love and hate, all set in the venues of Venice, Rome, and Naples.

Submitted: July 09, 2017

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Submitted: July 09, 2017

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 ROUGH DIAMONDS

A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

  Chapter Seventeen

 

Umberto Gianni inhaled as he reached the sideboard and began the preparations of their libations.

“I hear you are very busy these days, Salvatore, what with your accounting as well as your appraising.”

Sal immediately caught the undertone of the Don’s speech.

“You are correct there Don Gianni, yes indeed. I think I’m getting too old for this double dipping into my available time. I have scarcely a moment to watch my beloved football team or to even pursue the opportunity of marriage, small as my spare time has become,” Salvatore DiMaggio had recently tolerated his forty-ninth birthday, an occasion marked by DiMaggio with more dry tears than wet intoxicants, “although I have met a wonderful younger woman and there is a chance that I might break the bonds of bachelorhood before a half century passes.”

He laughed. He liked to use this type of language, this manner of speech around the Don because he knew it embarrassed Gianni, he of the limited education and the schooling by the Camorra in the alleys on the west side of Naples. However, DiMaggio was being confident today. He had decided to follow through on the planned deceptions and embezzlement as well as the pursuit of his new amor.

Don Gianni approached Salvatore with glasses and handed one to his appraiser. He set his own glass on the coffee table and drew out a Tanfoglio Force pistol.

“Yes, Salvatore, I know all about your recent treacheries as well as your coupling with your new young mistress. But, you see, I am still the Don and you are simply the bumbling appraiser. Now move.” DiMaggio thought the gun barrel would crack his rib. He winced with pain and the anguish of failure, and of imminent death.

***

The first name on Gilberto’s list was the only one needed to arrange a meeting for Grant and Marsha with Don PietroTrapani.

Basilio Giorno, an Uncle of Gilberto, maintained a position in the retinue of the don, his position requiring only that he keep all channels open to the finest seafood in the Veneto.

For some reason unknown to and unimagined by Basilio, the don appeared to deposit more of his passion in the collection and consumption of the fruit of the sea than he did in his workdays moving diamonds. 
“I got a call from my nephew, Gilberto, the kid who works at the warehouse by the station. These two Yanks are damn near insistent that they see you. Gilberto didn’t say why; figured you’d know.”

Don Trapani smiled appreciatively at his soldier, a dependable asset for over twenty-three years.

 “Ah, Basilio, as always, you provide me with good news. If not fish in the sea, why, fish right here on land.” He laughed and turned while waving for Basilio to follow him.

Pietro shuffled to the shuttered walls of his elegantly decorated reception room. Basilio quickly stepped in front of his master and immediately began to tug at the appropriate places necessary to recess the shutters and expose the glamour of the City.

“Thank you, Basilio. Now, tell me everything your nephew told you about these Americans.”
Basilio moved to the Don’s side where he repeated everything from the conversation with his nephew, word for word, as best he could recall.
“Than you Basilio,” purred the Don, “have a meeting set up for tomorrow afternoon. Here. No pistols or other arms. No knives. Nothing. I’ll have them thoroughly searched at the water’s edge anyway, but let’s make it clear that this is a talk, not a confrontation, clear?”

“Clear, Don Trapani. I’ll call Gilberto right away. He has the Yanks’ cell numbers and I’ll have a confirmation for you within the hour, all right?”

"Excellent, Basilio, perfect. Excellent. I think I can find out a hell of a lot more than their past tourist travels with this meeting. In fact, I have a strong feeling that I’m going to discover what the hell is going on in my business affairs. Thank you, Basilio.”

The Don gave the shorter, balding Basilio, a tug around his shoulders, with a grip that Basilio thought extraordinary, considering the fact that the doctors had given his boss only a couple of more months to live.

***

Aminata cocked the Berretta. Giulio winced.

“And you have been dealing with some of the scum of the land to sell my gifts to you, why?” She jammed the Berretta tighter against his skull.

“Gambling, Aminata, gambling.”

Giuilio broke down. The rapid downward movement of his head was a clear indication that he had snapped. He really didn’t give a damn any more. The tension, duplicity, embarrassment, and self-loathing had succeeded in destroying his defenses. He was through. Defeated and demoralized. The gun barrel remained at it’s previous altitude. The hand holding the pistol grip began to tremble.

“Gambling Giulio, are you sure about that? Are you bullshitting me here just to gain time; to get a few seconds to think of something else; or better,” in-haling angrily, “or just to buy a few seconds so you can jump me, get my gun and tell me another pack of lies?”

Giulio looked the part of a miserable man. His secret was out, and yet Aminata was questioning his confession.
“You don’t believe me, Aminata?”

“Not yet, my darling professor, not yet. Where did all this gambling disaster take place?”
Giulio named a few household-name establishments.

“Horses. Always horses. Here—all over the world, but especially America.” He hung his hangdog look. Aminata lowered the Beretta to the level of Giulio’s eyes and pushed it hard into his head once more.

“You know, Giulio, you have caused me a great deal of trouble. Years of careful planning and  preparation. A subterranean organization. A pathway to wealth. Extreme wealth. All this was being set up while I was visiting and telling you about my studies at the various educational places. All bogus. I was setting up and the opening  a very profitable smuggling business. With Alonzo. Then first, he double-crosses me and needs to be . . . well, what should I say, ah, chastised. There’s a good word, professor, chastised. Now I find out that you have not just been giving diamonds to your gambling debt people,but you, my darling Giulio, you’ve been dealing.”

Giulio thought the barrel would snap as Aminata rammed it as hard as she could into his temple.

***

Lieutenants Angelina Parducci and Leonardo Ferrara agreed that it would be wiser—and more romantic—to leave their cars in Frappiana and take a train to Venice, then a vaporetto, and finally a trajeto to their chosen secluded hotel on a back canal off the Grand Canal, a couple of hundred meters from the Rialto Bridge.

Their hotel was a heavenly haven found by Angelina two years before when they were first dating. The staff not only liked them but also proved to be a veritable encyclopedia of the neighborhoods and beyond.Reggio, in particular, appeared to have his finger on the pulses of every legitimate and illegitimate enterprise around the waterways.

He was a middle-aged balding man with a large chest and a black mustache. His grim mien belied a gross sense of humor and a well-stocked storehouse of lurid tales of the City. The lieutenants had employed his services on many occasions for their own investigations. They had also recommended him to the local Carabinieri as well as the Polizia di Stato. Because of his extraordinary understanding of all things legal and illegal happening in the City, Reggio had been a constant consultant on the Donna Leon Brunetti crime series.

Maria, a mid-forties, henna-haired blousy woman, welcomed the lieutenant lovers with a genuine smile accompanied by a wicked wink.

“My lovebirds, here again for a few days of rest and recreation, no?”
Leonardo was about to clarify Maria’s misunderstanding but deferred to his lover.
“All police work this trip, Maria,” frowned Angelina, “but who knows?” and she smiled the smile of the lust-love captive, while Maria laughed and Leonardo blushed.

“We have some questioning to do, Maria,” said Leonardo, with as good a look of a serious police officer that he could manage, “about a couple of Yanks –tourists—we think, but could be more. Maybe you or one of the others—Reggio even—could call around and see if they’re checked in around the City. Okay?”
Maria was finishing the registration forms: two rooms, connecting door, two baths and two excellent views. Price: one and a half a regular room. On Special.

“There we are my lovebirds, just sign and we’re in business, “ turning to the ancient weathered but charming keyboard and selecting two keys, “ here are your keys and because it’s a bit slow right now, I’ll start the calls and see what we can come up with. Give me their description.”

Leonardo removed his notepad and read off the description given by the witness neighbor of the Strombolis. Maria paused while handing the keys to the lieutenants and pursed her lips.

“You know, my dears, it’s a good thing we do this sideline investigation work for the other side as well as you, the Polizia, or we could end up with the fishes; you know what I mean?” She forced a smile and waved them to their rooms while she picked up her cell phone and began her calling.

Once in their rooms , the lieutenants unpacked, undressed, and met in Leonardo’ room for a quickie.

*  *  *

The Merry Gondolier provided Grant and Marsha the perfect victuals to revive both their bodies and their spirits.

“I feel like I’m carbo-loading for a marathon," grinned Marsha between strands of pasta. Grant nodded agreement while vacuuming up his gnocchi as quickly as his mouth and his manners would allow.

“And the wine! My God, this is not your Wisconsin granny’s Chianti; this is pure gold,”  laughed Grant, before downing the remaining contents of his mammoth glass. Marsha could only manage guttural utterings of pure ecstasy, which translated into bell-ringer ‘yeses’.

Between courses, the lovers discussed approaches to the Trapani meeting.

“Well,” grimaced Marsha, “it could be short and deadly. He or one of his henchmen could just shoot us and arrange for us to decorate the bottom of the Grand Canal,” She stopped to visualize this unhappy occurrence in her mind’s eye. Not liking what she saw, she pressed on,“then again, I guess you don’t survive as a don in Venice if you just kill everyone who might pose a problem for you.” She sought refuge in her heaping calamari salad.

Grant rejoined, “But maybe that’s how he’s hung on here in what has to be a rough venue for criminals; I mean the competition. Then there’s the Brunetti types and their speedboats and all,” examining a particularly fine looking piece of Spider Crab, “and then there must be hundreds of petty criminals who are sick and tired of slot machines and prostitutes in Bolzano and want to come to Venice and live the good life while running some racket. Yeah. This has to be a tough town, and kudos to Trapani for lasting into ,what, his sixties said Basilio?”

“I think so,” managed Marsha around a mouthful of Seppia al Nero, “somewhere in there.”

“So,” wheezed Grant, coming up for air, “let’s go on the assumption that he has an itchy trigger finger. I think the first thing to do is to assure him that we are anything and everything other than into diamonds; in any way shape or form, and that this is all a mistake and a misunderstanding. There. How does that sound?”

Marsha laid her fork on the side of her dish and looked across the table to capture Grant’s eyes.

“And he says, ‘you have my diamonds and I want them right now. I’ll decide whether or not to kill you, later’.”

End of Chapter Seventeen


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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