The red 32 oz. plastic cup, with all of it’s contents still in it, flew through the air with remarkable accuracy, hitting Fiver Dean, the world’s foremost and sought after, art thief, square in his Hollywood, handsome face.
BAM!
Oh, that hurt.
He stumbled in the water and felt a wave of dizziness. He was about to pass out. The cup had some force to it. He looked up.
That split moment was when the black browed albatross, being extremely hungry, and hurtling down in a power dive for the red, 32 oz. plastic cup, thinking it was a bit parcel of hotel food… unfortunately misjudged his descent by distance and angle, due to light and shadow, contrast and windspeed… because the old bird was ninety percent blind… and dived straight into Fiver Dean’s face with a violent impact that was terrifying to see and hear. It was with enough force to knock the wading man back into the water with a crash.

Fiver Dean

by 
sannablue baker
 
 
The intense heat caused Fiver to squeeze his eyes shut.
As bright light fought to enter the crevices of his eyelashes, a disturbing thought came to him.
I never thought I would die like this. Not in an oven…
 
He had wondered how his last day would be. Would specific scenes of his life be highlighted, and plastered on neon billboards? Would they spin around in his head? There was something intriguing about moving on to the unknown. It would certainly release him from the pain he was in. 
 
Fiver Dean relaxed his shoulders and decided to accept his fate without any whimper. Die like a man, he thought, Pop would be proud.
He started to feel his chest constrict. It was getting hard to breathe.
The heat was becoming unbearable.
He thought about his sister.
 
He had another thought. 
Belmond Hotel Splendido would not like it if someone died at their hotel, and left the faucets on to boot.
He was conscious enough to realize, he was having strange thoughts for someone dying in an oven.
 
Must be thinking of Paris and George, or something… that’s it! Fiver suddenly realized the origin of the thought. 
 
Joyce, or ‘George’ as he called his younger sister, had gone off for three months one time, and left her bathtub faucet dripping in her Paris apartment. She returned to a flood and unhappy  French neighbors, who didn’t appreciate the hole in their ceiling. The middle age husband didn’t have a lot to say directly to Joyce about the incident.  He had previously trapped her in the  building elevator when she was returning home late one night.  The balding, married man had made an improper move toward the long hair beauty, and had ended up with a broken thumb and a black eye. Joyce apologized profusely for the leak to his long suffering, wife, and took care of all the damages to both apartments. Everybody ended up happy. Especially the husband, when Joyce moved to Greece two months later.
 
Fiver felt the sweat run from his brow down to his shoulder. It was fitting he would think about his younger sister as he was dying. He and she were closer to each other than the other kids in their family. There was only a year difference in age between them. 
He would miss George. She would not take his death well.
 
Fiver forced air down into his lungs to breathe.
The heat was killing him.
 
Fiver was the youngest boy amongst six children. His father, Axel, had a great sense of humor when it came to naming his children. Fiver’s older siblings, sister Una, brothers Dual, Trey and Quad, took after their Mother, Dorothy, with fair complexions, red hair and quiet dispositions.  
 
Fiver and his younger sister, Joyce had dark hair, were dark complexioned, and had charismatic,  outgoing personalities. They never met a stranger anywhere they went.  ‘The Duo of Doom’, as their older siblings use to call them, brought fun and laughter to whatever the event or occasion might be. Fiver and his younger sister, were extremely clever, when it came to pranks and practical jokes on the older children. As they grew older, they excelled in school and were offered scholarships to colleges and universities all over the world.
 
Joyce’s name wasn’t chosen the normal way Axel Dean had named his other five children. Fiver had learned from his Mother, when Joyce was  born, their father was away as a guest of the Tennessee penal system. Axel Dean was at one time, one of the most prolific forgers in the lower southeastern states. He had, on one occasion, been lax in judgement  in trusting the wrong person and it hadn’t ended well. A message he would later preach and harp  about constantly to his children on a daily basis. Know who you are dealing with, he would say.
When Joyce was born, Dorothy Dean, chose her name, while her husband was serving his time. Axel claimed he didn’t even know his wife was pregnant, but thanked the Lord for the addition to his family anyhow.  Upon his release, Axel had made a big deal about Joyce’s name and proclaimed to the world the new baby would be nicknamed, ‘Seis’. It sounded like he was calling her ‘Sis’, due to his refined southern drawl. 
 
Fiver’s own personal nickname for her, was ‘George’, because when he was a toddler he could not pronounce ‘Joyce’, and it came out sounding like George. So, it stuck. 
 
Joyce ‘George’ Dean was a small framed, cute little girl, who worshiped the ground Fiver walked on.  She would take Fiver’s side immediately if there was any argument that couldn’t be settled peacefully amongst the older siblings or the neighborhood kids.  Fiver could take care of himself, but during the few times he was outnumbered by two or three adversaries, Joyce would protect his back and charge into the fray, screaming a ferocious battle cry. She was a whirlwind of fists and kicks that always evened the odds. None of the other boys, who were involved in those scrapes, wanted to deal with the little female hellion. She was as protective of Fiver as a mother lion.
 
Must be thinking about George and her Paris apartment. The thought repeated in his head.
 
Fiver laughed out loud at the memory, but immediately felt loneliness and sadness at the thought of not seeing his sister again. They had come a long way together. From a poor farm in Middle Tennessee, Fiver and George had used education and travel as the way to seek a different life. Fiver had left home, gone to Europe to find himself, and ended up joining the French Foreign Legion.  After a tour in the Middle East, the seasoned soldier, enrolled into the University of Cambridge, in England. 
George had graduated from the University of Chicago with an Art Degree, and moved to Paris to be closer to a more art driven culture. It was a lot of hard work and sacrifices for both of them. They made time to see each other on a regular basis, despite the distance and their hectic schedules. Ironically, it was while visiting George, at the University of Chicago, Fiver became interested in art… in a matter of speaking.
 
The heat had become unbearable.
This is it. He thought. 
That was my last breath.
 
“Are you ready to do it or is it going to take more heat to change your stubborn mind?  Are you going in or just lay over there and ignore me?”
 
The voice came from the darkness he had imposed on himself.  It was a pleasant voice with an Italian accent. 
Sweet. Soothing. Dangerous.
 
He cracked his right eye and turned his head to the side.
Uh-oh. Big mistake.
Before his right pupil immediately shutdown, from the blinding sunlight, the image of a beautiful woman in a red bikini, was burnt onto his retina. 
 
Belmond Hotel Splendido pool, and wow… what kind of dream was that?  
Dangerous thing to do in this heat. Drinking margaritas for lunch, on an empty stomach. Uh-oh…no, he was a grown man. He knew better than that. Sunburn is no fun. Dying in an oven? Really?
 
  His eyes were taking a few seconds to adjust. The blurry, colorful, shapes in his retina started to evolve into the defined images of soft curves, blonde hair and a wicked grin., His eyes were adapting quickly, but the bright light was still uncomfortable for the moment. He put his arm above his face to block out the Italian sun.
 
‘If you insist, let’s do it,” he said, with a hint of southern USA, creeping into his vowels. It was one of the things about  Fiver that had endeared him to the hotel staff, restaurant employees and bartenders of the Belmond Hotel Splendido.  The way he spoke Italian was incredible. His smooth, southern draw, spoken to the Italian rhythm, would make all the female employees start to tingle, and then try to engage him in a conversation. The fact, Fiver was one heck of a tipper also, didn’t bother them either.
 
“Go on,” she said, ‘I just want to dab my face and admire your backside”
The tanned woman, with her long blonde hair, wrapped into a bun on her head, slowly eased back into her lounge chair, crossed one leg gracefully over the other, and picked up a small facecloth.
“Go on”, she said again, “I’ll be right behind you.”
 
 
Fiver, threw a mock frown at one of Europe’s most elegant, and most discreet, criminals. Bianca Pericoloso was the art fence to go to, for that specially desired painting. Bianca only dealt in six figure deals. Don’t waste her time for less.
 
Bianca Pericoloso, and Fiver, had had done business with each other for three years. When the time called for it, Fiver would contact Bianca for her services. They were now lounging by the pool, celebrating the amount of money both would be making that evening in a mutual business transaction. 
 
“Bianca, my sweet, you are a dirty young vixen and the Pope is going to send you straight to hell when you die,” Fiver said.
The distinct Welsh, Sean Connery, accent, from the tall man lying in the deck chair,  was crisp and musical ,when he spoke to the young woman beside him.
Fiver had many talents. Speaking four languages made it easy for him to impersonate many foreign accents, when the occasion or job, called for it.
 
Bianca Pericoloso, pushed strands of blond hair from the woven bun on her head away from her violet, blue eyes. 
She smiled. Only her mouth smiled. Her eyes didn’t.
She had striking eyes, separate from her beauty. Hypnotic.  Piercing. When Bianca would blink…her eyes always seem to slow in closing, and then remained shut for a second. For that brief moment, sweet innocence would capture  her face and frame it in aura of loveliness… and then…her eyes would reopen. Her looks would change. A coldness would return to her features. But… she was still a beautiful woman.
 
“If they have asini like yours, I’m ready to go now,” Bianca coyly said, with that killer grin again. Her eyes flashed toward him, wanting appreciation for her joke.
 
Fiver, fully awake, looked over at the tanned curves of Bianca’s skin, held together by her red bikini, and forgot all about the way her eyes looked.
 
He chuckled, swung his long legs from his deck chair and stood up.
 
Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, as if one person, turned their heads and eyes toward him.
 
Fiver Dean was a handsome man. Movie handsome. Walking down the street, bump into a street light, handsome.   He did not go anywhere people did not immediately notice him. His dark hair, tall frame, and chiseled looks, were like a coastal lighthouse, with an ‘All You Can Eat’ Buffet, Restaurant, below the flashing light,  throwing out a welcome to any storm tossed ship, packed full of hungry, modern, starving women. It could get crazy if you hung  around him.
He had an amazing knowledge on a great deal of subjects, and  never had a problem carrying on a conversation with anyone, regardless of their station in life. From busboys to business leaders, maids to models, Fiver Dean was comfortable in everyone’s company. They liked him instantly.
 
Fiver took the towel off his mid section and stood up.
 
A collective sigh, rose in the throats of the poolside women, watching him.
 
When you are one of the most professionally recognized, Art Dealers in France, and one of the most sought after art thieves in the world… Fiver had to admit… it hadn’t been all brains that had opened doors for him. Mother Nature had something to do with it, sure, but his  intelligence, his background, the ability to speak multiple languages, and his sense of grace and style, probably shouldn’t be left off the list. Of course, Fiver would say, with his southern grace and humility, his partners in crime, the ones who helped him… they were the reason for his success. He took care of them and they took care of him. Some of his English friends told him they should call him, the Scarlett Pimpernel, after the famous story. His companions and accomplices, were a tight knit family of thieves.
 
Fiver stretched his arm muscles behind his back and twisted side to side to limber up.
 
A few of the older women, sitting above and behind him in the upper deck, shifted sitting positions in their deck chairs, trying to get a better look.
 
 
Fiver Dean, at one time, one of the most athletic and coordinated students at the University of Cambridge, formerly a well trained, fighting machine with the French Foreign Legion Special Forces, and at the top of his present profession, as one of the most notorious art thieves in the world… finished stretching his back and his shoulders… took three steps toward the pool… and BAM!
 
What happened next, was the start of the most remarkable chain of events, accurately and duly reported in the Interpol Historical Records, and the day Fiver Dean would never forget… for the rest of his life.
 
Trying to slide his foot into one of his imported, Grecian sandals, being somewhat new and stiff, it caught on his heel and tripped him, causing him to fall, and then slip… and then bounce, his head off a poolside table… before tumbling  into the water butt first… throwing his plastic glass of Bloody Marys, into the startled group of world traveling soccer moms, who milliseconds before, had wanted to have his baby.
 
It was such a hilarious, comedy scene of a ‘good looking, cool guy’ … furniture, arms, legs and alcohol flying through the air, and then crashing in the water, even Special Agent, Aurora Aria Romana, had to stop and step back from the balcony rail.  It was impossible for her to laugh and breathe… and hold the binoculars steady… all at the same time.
 
She managed to control her laughter for a second, and looked back over the balcony railing, through the binoculars, just in time to see the dark image of Fiver Dean, sinking to the bottom of the pool.
 
After she hurriedly got the high powered, lenses, refocused on the pool below, she noticed Fiver Dean’s dark image in the water… wasn’t moving.
 
 
 
 
Chapter Two
‘When A Black Browed Albatross Tries To Kill You’
 
 
black-browed mollymawk, gliding in the sky above, flapped it’s wings downward to lower its altitude and circled the tiny figures below. If the bird had the gift of thought, it  was probably wondering what all those ant size creatures were doing, flailing around in the funny looking pond below. Black-brow Albatrosses live up to seventy years old, and this particular bird was five years past that, with failing eyesight, age-worn wings and a bad back from long flights on Saturday nights. 
Besides the Albatross, there were different types of birds, flying high above the hotel roof. They were diving for food, thrown by hotel guests from their balconies. It was fun to watch the birds dive at incredible speeds, to retrieve the food thrown into the air. Large birds would snatch whatever was offered in midair, and then catch an updraft to take them high into the sky. The hotel had signs posted in each room, instructing the guests to NOT feed the birds, but the message was normally ignored.
The old, single albatross, had to bide his time because of the competition for the food. He was much slower than the other birds and the timing had to be perfect for him. He circled the sky, intently watching for any movement along the hotel balconies. He would be ready when his time came.
 
Bianca Pericoloso, startled as Fiver Dean fell into the pool, choked on the Greyhound cocktail she was sipping. Holding her head back and gasping for air, she burst out laughing.  Echoes of giggles and laughter from the crowd, who had witnessed Fiver’s ungraceful entrance into the water, reverberated around the pool.
It seems Bianca had been laughing, ever since she had been introduced to Fiver. He had become one of her best contacts in France, because of his uncanny ability to acquire certain collectables, that her specialized clients desired. His sense of humor and personality, made him fun to do business with.  And now, this unflappable and GQ looking man’s fall, had looked like a clip from ‘The Best of The Benny Hill Show’, flopping into the water amongst the other swimmers.
She stood up, eager to see how her charming business associate, would react after making a fool of himself. Her sides were still shaking from laughter.
 
In her balcony room, Agent Aurora Aria Romana, had stopped her giggling. She watched the pool water through the binoculars.
The water in the pool swirled as the crowd of people waited for Fiver to resurface. The sound of laughter had subsided to a hum of anticipation of what the good-looking gentleman would do, and what he would say, after coming back up from his Three Stooges fall.
 
Nothing happened. 
There was no movement from the blurry image on the bottom of the pool.
 
The sloshing, white-capped  pool water, violently awakened by Fiver,  was starting to calm,  an unwitting partner to the building suspense.
Bianca took a step closer to the pool. She unconsciously put her hand to her throat.
 
Aurora Romana did not hear her partner re-enter the room with the take out food he had gone for. She eased her body further over the flat top balcony rail, and turned the knob to refocus the binoculars toward her view of the pool and the dark shape in the water.
 
Polizia di Stato. He set two bags on a small table by the sliding glass door. The short, stocky man had  been Aurora’s liaison with the Italian police for almost 1 month.  
“Anything happening with our boy?”
 
Aurora waved him off impatiently. “Shuuuus,” she said, “ somethings going on here.” She continued to stare through the high powered lenses.
 
“Aww, he’s ok,” said an old woman on vacation from West Virginia, USA. Mildred Worthmore, heiress to the Worthmore Mining Company fortune, was sitting in an electric wheelchair, by the upper deck table, with a large drink in front of her. She didn’t seem to notice or care, she was the only one still laughing at the clumsy fall of the cute boy, she had put on her glasses to get a better look at. She had a quarter inch of sun block, on her face, with brief areas  of bare skin, showing thick painted-on eyelashes, arched below a deep wrinkled brow. It was such an outlandish look, it was hard for people not to stare at the old lady, especially the kids, who thought the old woman was a clown. She had not been born into wealth. Her father had made his fortune when Mildred was in her early twenties. She knew what it was like to work for a living. She also knew how it was to be rich. She was old and senile and an alcoholic. She didn’t give a damn about anything.
“I’ve fallen harder than that off the toilet,” the old woman said, slowly maneuvering a huge glass of Jack and Coke to her mouth, with shaking hands, and after touching her lips to the rim, taking several huge sips of the south’s finest.  
A noticeably embarrassed younger woman and man were sitting beside her and seemed to be her caretakers. The woman reached out and put her hand on the elderly lady’s arm. She said quickly, “Granny, please. Your voice is too loud, people are looking .”
“Screw em and the mule they rode in on,” the old woman said, putting the drink down and waving her arms indignantly. “this is a great show!”
The younger man turned to his wife beside the old woman. “Unbelievable,  we should have left her in West Virginia”, he said, “the doctor warned us traveling might  make her worse”. 
Mildred Worthmore’s granddaughter’s husband, Bruce Killoy had not complained at first, when the couple was asked to accompany the old woman on a trip to visit her mother’s birthplace, somewhere in Italy. He thought the trip would kill the old woman. With his wife’s name securely in Mildred Worthmore’s will, he really didn’t care if she made the return trip with them in a First Class airplane seat, or down in a box in the cargo area.
 
The old woman slammed her empty glass into Bruce’s chest. “Here”, she said,” Get them to fill this back up…chump.” She tilted her head back and laughed at her rhyme. She didn’t like Bruce and didn’t try to hide it. She turned back to the pool area.
 
Bianca Pericoloso knelt down by the pool. She thought she saw Fiver move. He was deep, near the pool drain.
She called out, “Fiver, Fiver… quit playing. Come up from there!”
 
The young, blond, teenage lifeguard, sitting on the chair perched above the pool, had been watching the scene unfold. She stood up, slowly, and took off her loose cover-up, revealing a bright orange bikini. She was not quick to respond to men this age. She had been taken in before by these middle-age perverts who would fake a problem, just to get a free feel when she came to their aid. She was going to be sure there was really a problem before entering the water. She watched the figure at the pool bottom intently.
 
The old albatross flying overhead, caught an updraft and climbed several hundred feet before starting back toward earth. Several guests threw Italian baloney off the balcony and the food fell quickly toward the beach. Before the older bird could react, there was a flurry of wings, and the morsels were retrieved by diving younger birds. The old bird continued to ride the currents and bide his time.
 
Bianca put a hand into the water and made sweeping splashes, to get Fiver’s attention. 
 
“Fiver!” she demanded, “ Get up here now!”
 
A few of the men, standing around the pool, had seen what happened, realized there was stress in the young woman’s voice and moved, as if to assist her. They obviously had read the chapter in the Single Man’s Handbook, which describes the strategy  of offering themselves as a hero to any beautiful woman in need. This strategy has been used down through the generations for young men to put themselves in a position to help a damsel in distress, with the reward being a possible overnight relationship, with any damsel inclined to give that type of reward to the ambitious ‘single man’. It was always worth a try, in their one cell mind, even though there has been no scientific proof or data, that confirmed the ‘Be A Hero’ ploy has ever worked, or would work in the future, for the ’single man’ to actually attain any type of such reward. None of the men, in their zeal, realized Bianca Pericoloso was so far out of their league, they never had a chance.
 
The figure at the bottom of the pool suddenly moved upward as if shot from a cannon.
 
Fiver Dean ejected himself high out of the water and took a huge breath of air. He moved with grace and fluidity in the water. He looked like a trained dolphin at Sea World.
 
“TA DA!” he shouted as he landed, head held high, in deep, but shallower water, waving his hands above his head in the best Broadway, dramatic flair  he could muster. It was the perfect response to such a slap-stick entry into the pool.
 
He pushed his dark hair from his face and turned in circles, acknowledging the round of applause from the people poolside. 
Mildred Worthmore, the old woman at the upper deck bar area, laughed at the sigh of relief from the crowd and said, “See, I knew that faker would be all right. Send him up here, he can change my diaper.” The bartender, standing there, turned away so no one would see him laughing.
“Granny! Please!” the young woman beside her exclaimed, but tried to hide a smile. After all, she WAS Mildred Worthmore’s granddaughter. 
“I’m going outside”, said Bruce, her husband, visibly embarrassed. He was a surly, unpleasant sort of  fellow. He got up and left.
 
Bianca Pericoloso stood up and put her hands on her hips. All the predatory males who had headed her way, disappointingly turned back to their solitary lives on the sidelines. Bianca had not even noticed their existence. She waved her hand at Fiver angrily, and returned to her lounge chair. Removing a towel from her beach bag, she reached down to rearranged the contents inside, making sure the transmitter’s microphone was still connected to the velcro faster inside the bag. She spoke underneath her breath, but loud enough for the receiver to pick up the sound of her voice. “I’ll never get anything out of him if he kills himself,” she said into the microphone.
 
Aurora Romana chuckled as her informant’s voice, crackled over the speaker. She glanced at the video camera beside her to make sure a clear feed was coming through the monitor. She turned back to the athletic man, clowning around below, walking in chest high water toward the pool steps, and waving to the cheering crowd. This guy won’t last a day in prison, she thought. Someone will throw him through a window for fun.
 
The old black-browed albatross, glided through the air above, turning his head side to side. His wings were straight and still as he watched the crowd below him. The prime birds of his species normally weigh around ten pounds. Lack of food and extreme age, had reduced the weight of this bird somewhat, and caused him to be more alert than usual for the possibility of a free and easy meal. Could be a chance for some ripe pickings below, if he was lucky. The bird kept circling in the sky.
 
Detective Felipe Forbeian, of the Polizia di Stato, approached Aurora with a questioning look. “What’s going on?” he said, “Any word or sign of who his accomplices are? That’s why we’re here. Right? We could have clapped cuffs on him two days ago. What’s up?”
 
“No,” the young woman said thoughtfully, without looking at Forbeian, “We’ve got him cold. If anybody can get it out of him, it’s Bianca.  But, she knows better than to rush him. He’s got some kind of antenna when something doesn’t feel right. I’ve chased this guy for two years. I know him. She can’t spook him now. If we can get the other’s names, fine, if not, he is still going down today”.  Aurora turned toward Felipe and looked straight into his eyes. She continued, “He’s not someone to fool with.”
 
She set the binoculars down and started to stand up, chuckling while remembering Fiver’s fall. She had gotten so involved in watching the craziness below, she had forgotten the red, plastic, 32 oz. cup full of ice and diet soda she had previously prepared, and started to drink before the commotion and had left on the balcony rail.   As  she turned toward Felipe, her elbow knocked the cup off into the wind and the Italian landscape below.
“Oh my God,” she whispered, as she desperately reached out to try and catch it.
 
In the past, while in the sky, the old albatross had been occasionally lucky when a tourist would throw food off their balcony, and he would beat the other birds to it.  Now, the bird, even with it’s failing eyesight, was the first to see the red snack, falling toward earth, and saw an opportunity to get the jump on the other birds.
  He turned a wing downward and started his power dive.
 
If there had been no wind that day, the cup and it’s contents would have fallen straight down into an area only inhabited by  plants, flowers and a huge water fountain. No problem.
As it was, there were higher than usual air currents that day, flowing in and above the coast.
Catching the cup, the ice and the drink… a particular high gust of wind, moved the now moving missle's descent, directly toward the pool area. 
 
Seeing the people and children playing below, Aurora instinctively started shouting, ”Look out below, look out, look out!”
 
Detective Felipe rushed to the railing in time to see the red 32 oz. plastic, cup with the soda and ice intact, knuckleball downward. 
“Uh-oh, that doesn’t look good,” he said.
 
Fiver, hearing the warning  from above, turned his face toward the source of the shouting.
 
The red 32 oz. plastic cup, with all of it’s contents still in it, flew through the air  with remarkable accuracy,  hitting Fiver Dean, the world’s foremost and sought after, art thief,  square in his Hollywood, handsome face.
 
BAM!
 
Oh, that hurt. 
 
Fiver cowered and winced from the stinging varieties of pain, in his head and  face, as everything suddenly hit him. He dropped his head and squinted through hesitate eyelids upward, and saw a slim woman, holding what appeared to be binoculars, looking down at him. Even at that distance he could see her short Auburn hair,  and the concerned look on her face. 
 
So, I didn’t die in an oven, he thought. They’re trying to kill me with plastic. 
 
He stumbled in the water and felt a wave of dizziness. He was about to pass out. That plastic glass had some force to it. He looked up.
 
That split moment was when the black browed albatross, being extremely hungry, and hurtling down in a power dive for the red, 32 oz. plastic cup, thinking it was a bit parcel of hotel food… unfortunately misjudged his descent by distance and angle, due to light and shadow, contrast and windspeed… because the old bird was ninety percent blind…   and dived straight into Fiver Dean’s face with a violent impact that was terrifying to see and hear. It was with enough force to knock the wading man back into the water with a crash.
 
The laughter and cheering, coming from the crowd before, suddenly turned into hysterical cries and screams, as bright red, blood and feathers appeared on the top of the waves of water, where the bystander’s children, wives and husbands, had just been enjoying the cooling water.
 
The teenage lifeguard, who had been easing back into her chair, without hesitation,  arched her back  and dived into the water after the sinking man.
 
Felipe Forbeian, Detective Grade of the Polizia di Stato, looked at the flurry below, took a deep hit on his favorite French Vanilla nicotine juice, and somberly said, “Wow, now, that… REALLY doesn’t look good.”
 
“Come on,’ said Interpol Special Agent, Aurora Aria Romana, grabbing her bag and hurriedly patting her side, to check the gun attached there, “We’ve got to get down there now! Let’s Go!”
The two officers ran from the room and toward the elevator.
 
 
 
Chapter Three
‘Don’t Look At The Naked Lifeguard’
 
 
Bianca Pericoloso screamed, and every male, who had turned away in defeat and mediocrity, in their response to her seconds before, now charged the pool and jumped in after the teenage lifeguard, and the sinking man. It was a total circus of bedlam, with people and a wild bird, flopping around in the water. 
 
Fiver Dean was knocked back into the water and thought he heard, as he was falling,  something about somebody should throw the drowning man a life preserver. It was vague. But, that’s what he thought he heard.
He was knocked silly. Dazed. Easing in and out of blackness. Life preserver. Yea. Poor man needs help.
He kept reaching outward. Arms didn’t seem to work. Breath knocked out of him.  He kept trying push out his arms, reaching for the flotation device that never came. 
Throw the damn life preserver already… let’s go, somebody, I’m really dying here.
 
Desperately holding his breath and trying to keep consciousness, Fiver finally saw the  life preservers, somebody had thrown, coming toward him.  He thought, thank God, and reached upward, and grabbed a preserver tightly in each hand… hold on now, Great! Safe! He waited to float back to the surface.
 
The young female, lifeguard, swimming to Fiver’s rescue, screamed and kneed Fiver in the chin, knocking him deeper into the pool and oblivion.  She swam back furiously to the surface, yelling obscenities. She was covering her chest with one arm as she jumped from the pool, and ran to her dressing room, more mortified about her nakedness than the drowning of the pervert she had almost decapitated.
 
Fiver sank to the bottom of the pool with the lifeguard’s orange bikini top, still clasped in his unconscious hands. 
 
Reaching down, more interested in vying for the attention from Bianca Pericoloso, than saving any drowning American,  several of the poolside cowboys, swimming behind the lifeguard, had pulled Fiver up and out of the pool and laid him on the ground by the pool ladder. They walked around his  body, all with great heroics, slapping each other  on the back and shouting hurrahs for each other’s effort.
Several of the soccer Moms, seeing Fiver lying there, seemingly unconscious, moved quickly to his side to perform CPR and mouth to mouth, if provided an opportunity. They had no shame in pushing their way in front of the other women, who were slow in recognizing the possibilities with the handsome man, prone on the ground.
 
Bianca, rushed over, waved the other women off, and knelt down beside Fiver, yelling for somebody to get a doctor.
 
Blood was oozing from his nose, trickling down into his ear. His black hair, dripping water, was pushed back against his head. His eyes were opened. Unfocused. But opened. His breath came in shallow gasps.
 
Bianca, for a second, thought of how peaceful he looked, almost childlike, cradled in her lap. She almost felt guilty about helping to put him in jail.  Better him than me though, she thought. Lover. She bent down to kiss his cheek.
“Talk about crazy stuff happening, wow… they’ve called a doctor for you. That bird almost took your head off.”, she said excitedly in his ear. She started rubbing his chest.
She pulled a handful of feathers sticking from Fiver’s nose and threw them aside.
Fiver started to stir and slowly come around.
 
The old albatross was paddling around in the warm water of the pool, the empty, red 32 oz. plastic cup was in his beak, seemingly not to worse for wear. At the last moment, the old bird had realized his navigational error and tried to pull up out of the dive. Only semi-successful, the bird had managed to prevent full speed contact into the human’s face, but the glancing blow from the bird, had resulted in Fiver’s nose being pushed halfway up the bird’s ass. The old bird jumped out of the pool, waddled to the edge, and flapped into the air before any type of attempted capture could be made. The cup was dangling from the bird’s beak, as he disappeared into the sunlit sky.
 
Fiver lay on the ground, looking up into the concerned faces of Bianca and the crowd gathered around him.
 
A few wispy, white clouds drifted in the blue sky above him.
His eyes turned toward the balcony, where it all started.
The woman, with the short, auburn hair, and binoculars, was gone.
 
Fiver started to struggle to regain his feet. His legs weren’t working properly. Bianca tried to help him up and she slung his arm around her shoulders. Being small, she was having problems getting the heavier man up to her side.
A young woman with a yellow beret, covering her head and dressed in a light blue coverup, stepped from the crowd and  took Fiver’s other hand. She draped Fiver’s arm around her neck, taking weight away from Bianca.
Fiver groggily turned to the women to express his thanks. He had taken a tremendous smack on the head.
The Good Samaritan woman, who had taken the initiative to assist them, waved her hand as a ‘you’re welcome’ sign,  and helped Bianca walk Fiver to the nearest lounge chair. 
 
A medical person on the hotel staff, pushed his way through the crowd, and knelt beside Fiver. “Tell me what happened sir,” he said, “are you in any pain?” He opened a bag he had set on a table beside Fiver.
“You wouldn’t believe me…Doc,” slurred Fiver, “I saw the inside of a bird from the inside…”. He drifted with the blackness, trying to take over his body.
 
Aurora stepped out from the crowd, stopped and confronted the two women and Fiver Dean. Detective Forbian and two other uniformed officers, were standing behind the Interpol agent.
 
“I’m afraid,” she said, ‘this is as far as Mr. Dean goes.” She held out a badge with her credentials. “My name is Special Agent Aurora Ramona, with Interpol and this is Detective Forbian with the Polizia di Stato.”
 
The woman, in the yellow beret and blue coverup, who had helped Bianca with Fiver, stepped back, and faded into the many faces of the crowd of people surrounding them.
 
 Agent Ramona motioned to the police personnel, standing behind her, to move in around Fiver.
Bianca said to Aurora, “Hey, I think he really is hurt…?”
“Thank you, Officer,” Fiver said to  Aurora, moving his head side to side and dropping it in her direction. He started to drift toward total unconsciousness and darkness and said,“ I want that bird arrested and charged with attempted murder.” His head rolled back, as he blacked out.
The two women stood over Fiver Dean, as he laid back onto the lounge chair, locking their eyes together as his head touched a rolled up towel.
“I might have gotten it all, if this hadn’t happened?” Bianca Pericoloso said to the agent, “The deal was for tonight. He hasn’t left my side.  We’ll never know who else is involved, now.”
Aurora hesitated in cuffing the man, who was now breathing deep and regularly into the arm of the lounge chair, 
“He was having a good time,” continued Bianca,”he didn’t seem like he was in a hurry to go anywhere. The paintings are in his room. I saw them wrapped up, inside the clothes closet. The meeting was set for tonight for the money exchange.”
Fiver sounded like he might start snoring at any minute.
‘Too bad,” the Interpol officer said, standing up to face the other woman, “We had to take him down now. I wouldn’t trust him if he was in a full body cast, being fed through a tube. This guy is as slick as they come. Its been two years, but I finally got him. I can’t risk letting him slip away.”
 
“I hope he’s going to be ok,” Bianca said, wistfully stroking Fiver’s hair back from his brow.
The unconscious man seem to smile at her touch.
She continued, “Did you get everything you needed?”
 
“Yes, video and audio in the can. Evidence tight enough to send our boy here away for some time. Ole Fiver Dean has stolen his last art piece and will be headed to a French, concrete gallery full of people just like him. He sure put on a show his last few hours as a free man, didn’t he? That bird was something. YouTube would love that one.”
 
A higher ranking member of the hotel medical staff, appeared and examined Fiver. After a few minutes, he looked at Aurora and said, “ He’ll be ok I think. A busted nose, and looks like a possible concussion. We’ll need to take  him to the hospital to fully check him out. I’ve given him a shot for pain and swelling.”
 
“Fine,” she said, “we’ll send uniformed officers with you.”
 
“Too bad,” Bianca said gently, as she moved aside to let the attendants get closer to Fiver “ I hope you’ll not be to mad at me, handsome.”
She took her hand from Fiver’s face.
 
Aurora looked at her. “Any other info he might have given you? Something we might not have gotten on the wire?  Anything about who else he was working with?” she said, with a tinge of hope in her voice.
“No,” said Bianca, “I couldn’t get any more out of him. We played cat and mouse most of the time. I don’t think he suspected me…but, you never know about Fiver. I’ve never met or seen anybody who worked in his crew. It was always just him and me.”
 
Aurora looked at the beautiful, Italian art fence, she had used in the sting against Fiver Dean. Bianca Pericoloso had been busted in a stolen art sting in Rome in the fall of last year. The Polizia di Stato had asked for Interpol’s assistance in the sting, and after confronting Bianca with the evidence that would have put her in prison, she wanted a deal. Her lawyers  presented the powers that were,  a plea deal where Bianca would get immunity if she  could offer up the most sought after art thief in Europe, the one the ”Gendarmerie nationale”, or French police, called ‘L’Art Fantôme’ or ‘The Art Ghost’. 
 
There had been an added asterisk and star, in Special Agent Romano’s personnel file, the day she was chosen to be the lead investigator, in the investigation of ‘L’Art Fantôme’. Once a mysterious criminal, now,  Aurora thought, we know all about you. There had been no name, no description, no clue, on the art thief, who had been plaguing rich art collectors and museums all over Western Europe. She had been on the case for two years without much, if any progress…and then she got the call about Bianca, a person inside the inner circle, who had actually fenced Fiver Dean’s stolen artwork in the past.  Aurora Romano had been almost giddy to finally be closing in on her prey.
The Interpol agent looked down at the man beside her. It didn’t bother her to send him to jail. He was a crook. He was a good looking crook, but still a crook.
 
The young woman, in blue, who had helped Bianca move Fiver after the bird catastrophe, pulled her yellow beret down on her face and eased out from under the shadows of the overhead deck area. She had been closely watching the law enforcement officers now surrounding Fiver Dean. She moved outside to the hotel entrance, moved through the crowd. and abruptly vanished, into the stream of hotel guests, entering the foyer.
 
Two Medical Personnel rolled Fiver Dean onto a stretcher, strapped him in and started to wheel him from the pool area and outside to an awaiting ambulance. 
Aurora stopped them and handcuffed Fiver’s wrist to the stretcher railing.
“That will hold him,” she said.
The men rolled the stretcher through the lobby and placed Fiver into the back of the ambulance. They locked the stretcher into place and while one EMT stayed to checked the vitals of Fiver, the other EMT closed the backdoor. He stood  waiting for the uniformed officers, who were to guard Fiver Dean on the trip to the hospital. The officers had walked to the other side of the parking area to retrieve some equipment, and then started back toward the ambulance.
That was the plan.
It didn’t happened that way.
If it had, Fiver Dean would be in jail and Bruce Killoy would still be alive.
 
 
Chapter Four
‘Fiver Dean Escapes’
 
The medical attendant, standing by the ambulance door, told authorities later, all he saw was a woman’s face in the side mirror when the vehicle sped off without warning. He thought she might be wearing a yellow hat,  maybe a blue or green, some type of shirt.   He said he couldn’t make out her features too well. It happened too fast.
 
The police, realizing what was happening, when the ambulance squealed out, pulled their weapons and fired as the emergency vehicle turn off the drive, and disappeared around the corner of the hotel. 
 
Bruce Killoy had been standing on the sidewalk, behind the entrance wall in front of the exit door. He was smoking a Salem, just outside the border line limit of a No Smoking sign, and fuming because of the amount of attention his wife was showing to the old lady. His wife and grand-mother-in-law, had left the pool area and were searching for him to get ready to go to supper. The two females came through the handicapped side door which exited right behind Bruce. He was busy watching the police and the ambulance activities in the entrance drive and did not notice or hear, Mildred Worthmore, drive up behind him in the electric wheelchair. Stopping beside Bruce, she wound her arm up and violently slapped him on the back, while she yelled, “Come on Chump, Get ME A Drink!”
 
The sudden force on his back from Mildred’s blow, plus the sudden yell in his ear, pushed, startled and caused Bruce Killoy to jump off the sidewalk, from behind the wall, and into the open drive, right behind and a split second after the ambulance rounded the corner and disappeared.
 
The police stopped firing, after three rounds had been discharged from their weapons, toward the rear of the moving ambulance.
One round hit the bumper, ricocheted off and embedded into the hotel sign.  The other two rounds ended up in  Bruce Killoy. One round hit him in the knee, the other straight through his heart.
Mildred sat, and her granddaughter stood, on the sidewalk…in shock. Frozen. Neither of them moved. Silence.
‘Oops…”, said Mildred.
 
Special Agent, Aurora Aria Romana, had left, after the medical personnel took Fiver away,  and had gone upstairs to his hotel room. She was desperate for evidence and clues about Fiver’s alleged partner or partners, but mainly wanted to retrieve the million dollars worth of stolen art, Fiver was trying to fence. Bianca had confirmed the paintings were in Fiver’s room. Her snitch had seen them. Afterwards her investigation would be finished. Maybe time for a holiday. 
The sense of relief and success for her, were replaced by a burning anger, after she heard gunshots from the hotel entrance and learned of Fiver’s escape. She immediately got on the radio to Polizia di Stato to organize road blocks and to coordinate their assistance. All hell was breaking loose. Suspect escaped! Citizen killed. OMG! There were going to be some heads rolling and butts chewed. The icing on the cake was…she did not find any of the stolen art where Bianca said the paintings would be.
 
 The EMT, in the back of the stolen ambulance, was being thrown side to side, banging his head on a number of pieces of equipment as they sped over potholes and various speed bumps. The ambulance suddenly squealed to a stop in the middle of the road. The EMT was moaning and sprawled out on the floor. He lifted his head up far enough to see the door, leading to the front cab of the ambulance, slide open. A young woman with striking features, was turned around in the driver’s seat, facing him. She motioned with a small gun in her hand, toward the back door. The frightened man nodded, and scrambled out the back.   He fell prone to the road and kept his head down until the ambulance sped off.
 
Fiver Dean, drifting in and out of consciousness, after being tossed around in the ambulance, held his head up, to see his arms strapped down and a wrist in a handcuff, attached to the stretcher.
 
He looked through the sliding cab door.
 
The young woman was driving furiously around corners, and darting down any side street that appeared. She managed to  glance at him occasionally through the rear view mirror.
 
Driving in intense silence, she said nothing for a minute. She looked at him angrily.
 
“You’ve had a busy day, “ the young woman finally said, turning her head sideways to him, “You know Bianca, that bitch, betrayed you… set you up, and the law was there to catch the whole ride in High Def and living color.  I’ve had eyes on you the whole time, you idiot. Got the paintings from your room, too boot. Now, that was a trick, I tell you, with all those Federals hanging around. What were you thinking? That witch of a woman? Remember our meeting tonight, probably not? How’s the head? ”
The barrage of words and emotions from the young woman came like a southern tornado. Fiver had trouble keeping up with the rapid fire tongue lashing, he was getting from the raging female.
 
He laid his head back on the stretcher and managed a pained laugh. The bird had knocked the senses out him. Concussion maybe? He had forgotten all about the paintings, and the meeting, and the driver, and everything  else that had happened before his encounter with that stupid bird. 
 
“So, I’ve gotten you to thank for being slammed around in this four wheel hospital’ he said, with reluctant recognition, but an appreciative tone.
 
“Yes, you do,” the driver said,‘at least you’re not in the pokey. I may kill you later, but that remains to be seen…”
 
“Oh, ok, you win,” said Fiver Dean.
“Thanks, now find me a doctor, my nose and head are killing me. Damn bird.” He put his free hand to his head.
 
 She finally grinned at her accomplice and seemed to enjoy Fiver’s discomfort. There was an Italian doctor, she had used before, who didn’t ask too many questions, and lived in a villa close by. That would be the place to get Fiver back on his feet and then out of the country.
 
The young woman thought about payback for a rat with long blonde, hair. Revenge would be sweet with the satisfaction, she thought.
She tapped the leather holster of the gun beside her leg, with a long, manicured fingernail.

 

If you want to stay healthy, Joyce ‘George’ Dean, thought… Don’t mess with my family.
 
 
The End


Submitted: August 29, 2022

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