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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Grant Marlowe and his lover, Marsha, discover diamonds under a loose floor tile in an Italian cathedral.
From then on, corpses and questions follow them from Padua to Venice to Rome and to Naples. In between are interludes of romance and adventure.

Submitted: June 26, 2017

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Submitted: June 26, 2017




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

 Chapter Thirteen



“Here Marsh,” Grant pushed a small American flag into the top of her backpack, “and take your time. Loiter. Look like you’re waiting for someone. For me. I’ll wait here. Now go.” He gently shoved her from behind the colonnade toward the sun-splashed area in front of Santa Lucia Station. The trip was twenty-three minutes. Their carriage was half-empty.

They made their plans while Grant checked the Glocks and reloaded a clip into the 18 C. He put that one inside Marsha’s jacket and stuck the 17 in his waistband behind his back. 

Marsha drifted near the center of the swirl of exiting travelers, most of who flooded toward the Ferrovia vaporetto stop that bobbed gently on the water of the Grand Canal fronting the  Piazzale Roma. She stopped in the middle of a large group of Bosnian refugees where she slowly turned to scan the shifting gaggle for her boyfriend.

Grant’s eyes fanned the shadowed area of the setting, the hiding places, and spotted the man almost immediately. Grant was behind him in seconds, where he pushed the Glock hard into the man’s spine.

“Nod if you understand English.” The man quickly nodded several times. “Just remain calm.” Grant reached into the man’s jacket and withdrew a .38. “Any others?” The man nodded negatively, again several times.

“You’re form Pietro, right?” The man nodded. “Okay, turn around, let’s have a look at you.”

The man turned hesitantly, with hunched shoulders, and a lowered face. Grant grabbed the man’s chin and yanked it up where he could see it. Reluctantly, the man lifted his eyes that filled with terror. Grant stepped back.


Grant stepped out into the piazzale and called to Marsha. She took a moment to locate her lover, then did, smiled, and rushed toward him. When she was ten feet from the two men, she stopped and dropped her chin while jumping her brows. The man tried his best not to look either terrified or incompetent. He didn’t manage either particularly well.


For some peculiar reason, the little man appeared much larger in the sunny piazzale than he did in the faux med center. His head was marred by band-aids, bandages, a black eye, and several areas of scraped skin. His hair was uneven, punctuated with bumps from the floor of Grant’s confinement quarters.

Grant did not believe that any apology was in order but in furtherance of his road to Pietro, he patted Enrico on the shoulder.

“Sorry, old sport, but we were being held prisoner by your employers and needed to get out,” thinking, “and what the hell are you doing here; with Pietro?” Before Enrico could answer, “and who is this Petro guy, anyway; for starters, does he have a last name?”

Marsha could see that Enrico was barely fit to be walking about. His smashed black eye oozed.

“Have you seen a doctor yet, Enrico? About your eye, especially?” Marsha moved toward him in a comforting gesture and put her hand on his forearm.

Enrico nodded. “Yesterday. I have some ointment. He said I should just let it heal on its own, Too dangerous to do surgery. I don’t have the money, but Senor Trapani has promised to pay." He raised his one mournful eye to look from Marsha to Grant. Earlier he had sworn to kill Marlowe and rape Marsha. Now he thought he would postpone that plan and see what they knew, at the same time playing the pitiful person radiated by his demeanor.

“Let’s have some food and a beer,” suggested Grant and took one of Enrico’s arms. Marsha took the other and the three walked to their left along the Piazzale Roma, where they stopped at the first place with outdoor chairs, food, and drink.

Grant seated Enrico not too gently in a chair facing the restaurant because he could not believe that Enrico was the best that Trapani had working for him. One or more of those others could be watching the Americans and their captive, trying to read Enrico’s lips as well as his body language. Marsha sat next to Enrico and Grant placed himself across from the two of them, where he immediately scoured the swarms of people as well as the buildings across the canal for suspicious faces. He decided to postpone the heavy examining of both Enrico and any potential spies of Trapani’s until after victuals and booze.

They ordered before mentioning anything about their circumstances. The waiter sped away and Grant leaned over toward his captive.

“All right Enrico, I notice your English has improved a hundred percent since the kidnap days. So spill. What the hell is going on? You can start by telling us about those idiots in Frappiana and then why you’re here working for Trapani. Have I missed something?” 

Marsha nodded in agreement with the questions and moved closer to Enrico. The latter breathed deeply, as though some superlative answers would come bubbling up with his breath. He leaned forward and after a sidelong look at Marsha, he hunched at Grant and began.

“I’ve always worked for Senor Trapani; for over fifteen years now. The Strombolis—Rocco and Maria—were still in America then while Maria was getting her medical degree. I did odd jobs, made collections, deliveries, that sort of thing.” He leaned back somewhat and looked at Marsha. “I never did anything really bad for Senor Trapani. He had others to do that for him. I was like a butler or a servant. But he treated me really well. Still does.”

The waiter dropped beer and lemonade on the table along with a basket of hot bread and a long dish containing assorted olives. All three took up their drinks, a slice of bread, and olives for their side plates.

“When the Strombolis started into the diamond business, Senor Trapani was not actually mad; more curious. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t just join him; work with him. But he was a little pissed and very curious. So he told me to get a job with the Strombolis and report back what they were up to. So I did.’ That was about a year ago.”

Their waiter appeared once more, this time with small plates of pasta and roasted vegetables. The two men ordered another beer. Enrico was visibly enlivened. Even his battered head looked better, his hair reflected the playful sunlight, giving him a look of fictitious health.

“The Strombolis, it turns out, had made arrangements for their diamond network while they were still in America. I don’t know where or who, but I do know they made a big score; well, they made a great impression, that is, with a Don in Los Angeles. Apparently, he had girls and drugs going in five western states and wanted to get into something less dirty, less punishable.  Is that the right word?” He looked first to Grant, then to Marsha.

Marsha replied immediately. “Less jail time if it went sour.”

“Exactly. I guess this Don is older and maybe wants something less risky at his age. I got the impression form Rocco that this Don wanted to move to Europe, to Italy, become a citizen and live out his days drinking wine and eating olives.”

He smiled. It suited him. Both Grant and Marsha nodded while they smiled back encouragement. Both of them were beginning to believe that maybe this little man was not such a bad sort after all. Perhaps—truly—just following orders.

Enrico took a long swallow of his Peroni, sighed, offered a weak smile, and continued.
“So, anyway, apparently this Don set up everything with some contacts in Italy. I don’t know who or where but both I and Senor Trapani think the center may be in Naples. Senor Trapani has a contact in Naples; I think maybe even two, but he dislikes one of them very much—and doesn’t trust him. Anyway,” leaning back and taking another pull on his beer, “that’s what I found out at the Strombolis. Then you two showed up.”

Enrico leaned back all the way in his chair while he took up a piece of bread, some olives, and his beer, as though he were about to get up and leave. Then he quickly came forward and attacked his pasta and vegetables. 

Grant and Marsha maintained their positions of hunched alertness, managing to eat their pasta while they plumbed their minds for telling questions.

Grant took a couple of quick draws of his beer and leaned back from the table. His eyes picked up a glint of sunlight across the canal. He knew immediately that this flash was from the lenses of binoculars trained on the three of them by a Senor Trapani soldier.

what to do; what to do

“How did we get swept up in all this,” asked Marsha, turning to Enrico, “and more to the point, how do we get out of it?”

Enrico slid his chair forward and hunched at Grant once more. “You two were a complete monkey wrench; is that the term?” Both Grant and Marsha nodded in the affirmative. “The best I can make of it—and the best I think the Strombolis could make of it—was that you two were in the cathedral, there were diamonds somewhere in there—the Strombolis never told me how they knew that—and then you were outside in the grass near the olive grove, unconscious.

"Apparently, one of the Strombolis, or maybe Antonio Belli, the nephew, heard about you or found you. Anyway, somehow you and disappearing diamonds got put together and then it turned out that they might have belonged to some guy called Umberto Lazzeri, in Naples. He’s the man Senor Trapani doesn’t like or trust. Up to then the only man I’d heard about, was told about by Senor Trapani, was Vito Petroni, who also lives in Naples. I never have figured out the connection, if any, between the two Naples men. As I said earlier, all I know is that Senor Trapani really dislikes this Umberto man and again, he  didn’t tell me why.” Enrico stopped to attack his pasta once more, his being the bigoli.

As he dove into the perfect pile of pasta, he lurched forward. At that moment, both Marsha and Grant believed Enrico to be both ravenous and demonstrative in the most Italian of manners. However, Enrico’s head didn’t stop as it approached the pasta but kept on going , knocking the dish off the table, making room for his head that oozed blood from a row of three holes in his forehead. 

Immediately, Grant jumped up, twisting the table into a tilting mess of dishes, food, and spilled beer while he shoved Marsha backwards under the adjoining table as he flattened himself on the floor, snatching the Glock from his waistband.

As soon as he felt the concrete under his body, Grant rolled to his left, where he could cover Marsha, who was writhing in fear as she struggled to reach safety.

“Stay down, Marsha !” Grant peeked around the edge of a table and looked across the canal. The sun glanced off the lenses of binoculars. Grant frowned, unsure how a man could both shoot and observe at the same time. Unless. 

While he was attempting to jibe the situation with his knowledge and training, a flurry of shots lifted napkins, silverware, and shattered dishes on the three surrounding tables. 

Grantinstinctively pressed down on Marsha and rolled father to his left, bringing her along with him. As he twisted, he was able to see the opposite side of the canal. The sun continued to reflect off lenses. Grant got the message.

Someone other than Trapani’s men killed Enrico. Whoever that was, continued to fire at him and Marsha.

End of Chapter Thirteen

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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