Goddess Murder, 35: Enter Dante Gabriel Rossini

XXXIX. Dante

Abstinence sows sand all over

The ruddy limbs and flaming hair,

But Desire Gratified

Plants fruits of life and beauty there.

William Blake

 Sunlight filled the cabin when we awoke. I felt at peace, a peace more profound than any I could remember. I knew that, no matter what the appearances might be, all is well, all is well.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning to you,” she replied, stretching lazily.

“What say we go down and mooch some breakfast off Ariel?”

“Oh, breakfast isn’t at the top of my agenda,” she said.

“”What’s more important than breakfast?”

“This!” she cried, flinging herself on top of me and kissing me all over.

Soon we lay exhausted again. I felt happy and fulfilled.

“Now it’s time for breakfast,” she said.

We got up and dressed. Soon we were walking down the hill, hand in hand. As I looked about, the day jumped up a notch in intensity. The sun was my friend. The wind, the trees, the birds were blessings.

If I could somehow listen harder, I might hear angels singing.

“Andy, my senses have become more acute. There’s more color in all the colors, more music in all the sounds.”

“That’s right,” she said. “Your filters haven’t gone back to normal yet. This gives you another glimpse of how much the conditioning hides from you.”

“Andy, I don’t know if I should say this . . . though there’s no reason why I shouldn’t . . . I remember what falling in love felt like . . . it’s confusing that my feelings are so completely different from that . . . but I think I’m in love with you.”

She laughed with delight. “There’s no need to label your feelings yet, Eddie. There are good reasons why they are new territory. I’m in love with you too. I’m probably more sure about this than you are. I’ve been in love enough that I know exactly how it feels.”

I was about to ask more questions when a man in a ski mask leaped out of the bushes in front of us, landing in a crouch. He was holding a huge black gun in both hands, pointing it straight at my face.

“Edwards,” he screamed, “I want those papers!”

There was a shot. I jumped in front of Andy, thinking he had shot at us. Instead the gun flew out of his hands, and he screamed.

Another man appeared out of the shrubbery. He was a dapper, European-looking fellow, wearing a leather hat with a broad brim, a long leather coat, an embroidered pink shirt, and tight black pants. With his gun in his right hand, he yanked the ski mask off the gunman with his left, and said, in a disgusted tone, “Marcello!”

He began yelling at Marcello in Italian. Marcello yelled back in Italian. I got the impression from the gestures and body English (or maybe it was body Italian) that Marcello was saying that there had been no reason to shoot him.

The man in the hat made Marcello take his shirt off and used it to bandage the wounded hand, which had been bleeding freely. During this operation, Andy began yelling at them in Italian. Then all three yelled at each other in Italian, with much waving of hands and dramatic gestures.

Finally Andy demanded, “Speak English!”

Marcello blurted out, “I had no intention of harming you. Never!”

“But you were going to harm my friend!” she retorted.

Marcello shook his head. “No, I didn’t know you were with him. I wouldn’t have hurt him either.”

“Then why do you have a gun?” Andy demanded.

Marcello looked astonished. “I would have looked pretty stupid trying to get those papers if I didn’t even have a gun, wouldn’t I?”

“What about those guys who came after us yesterday?” she continued. “They weren’t suffering from any scruples.”

“I don’t know who they were. I thought this was my assignment. They must have been working for somebody else. Nobody’s checking with anyone. You have no idea how many people you’ve pissed off, Edwards. The sooner you surrender those papers, the better off you’ll be,” Marcello said.

The man in the hat asked, “Who are you working for, Marcello?”

Marcello shrugged. “I can’t tell you. You know that. But you can probably guess.”

The man in the hat grunted, pulled out a cell phone and called the local police. Putting away his phone, he straightened his clothes and stepped up to me and Andy. He pulled out his wallet and showed us a badge and an Italian card in his wallet, which Andy read with close attention.

“Permit me to finally introduce myself,” he said. “I am Dante Gabriel Rossini, named after three famous artists and an angel. I’m a detective with the Roman municipal police, seconded . . . no, that’s British . . . assigned to Interpol to investigate the death of your friend Bob Marlowe, among several other matters. You’re Professor Eddie Edwards. You must be the renowned Andrea Peregrino. It is an honor and a pleasure to meet you.”

“How do you know who she is, Officer?” I asked.

“The other side of my family is very political in Italy,” Andy said. “How on Earth did you find us here?”

“That was easy,” Dante said. “The big question is, how did Marcello find you? Our informants in Rome told us that an assassin had been sent to intercept you. When I hit Santa Theresa, I contacted your PD, routinely, and your friend Kennedy told me how to find you. But who gave directions to Marcello? Hey, scumbag, you want to tell me how you got here?”

Marcello looked bored. “I just went with my feelings.”

Dante looked irritated and thought for a moment.

“Where do you keep your car?” he asked me.

“In a locked garage. I walk to my office.”

“Not foolproof, but safe enough. Where have you gone lately.”

“I drove to the Aquinas Institute yesterday.”

“What’s that?” Dante asked.

“Extreme right-wing Catholic think tank, allied with the CDF, the CUF, and every other reactionary force in the church.”

“It makes sense they’d be working with the Roman factions I suspect,” Dante said. “Did you park outside?”

“Yes.”

“That’s probably it. While you were there, someone bugged your car, so that scumbag here could follow you.”

“Did Fonzarelli have anything to do with this?” I asked Marcello.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “That’s not the name I was given.”

Rossini looked at Marcello with undisguised contempt.

“Fonzarelli said he had sent a priest to steal the package when it first arrived, but he also said that he was the least of my problems. He seemed to know more than he could admit and definitely more than he approved of,” I said. “He gave me the same advice about returning the papers.”

We walked down to the ranch house. Ariel glanced at Marcello’s hand and said, “Let me bandage this. I’m still a nurse.”

“Suit yourself,” said Rossini. “That will save your local constables some bother.”

Ariel soon had a professional looking bandage on Marcello’s wound and then fed us, including Marcello, a hearty vegetarian lunch. Soon a pair of deputy sheriffs arrived in a squad car to transport Marcello to a semblance of justice. As they were inserting him into their car, he called out, “Farewell, Signora. It was an honor to meet you, even briefly.”

“Thank you,” Andy said. “I’ll testify that you meant us no harm.”

“Thank you, Signora,” he replied, as the deputies finished shoving him into the car.

Why are these two Italians treating Andy as if she were royalty?

Dante said, “You won’t have to testify. I’ll be surprised if his patron can’t get him extradited , even if he’s charged with attempted murder.” Turning to me, he asked, “Now where are these damned papers?”

“They’re safe,” I said.

“Please let me be the judge of that,” he said. “I have a better idea of who you’re up against than you do. With all this going on, they’re not as safe as you think.”

“I gave them to my mentor, Harry Bowman. They’re in a secret drawer in an antique desk.”

“Who else knows about this?” Dante demanded.

“Only Bill Kennedy. He took me to Harry’s the night the GESW safe was cracked.”

“The official STPD story is that the safecracker got them.”

“Bill and I decided to let that be the story, figuring it might throw some of them off the trail,” I said.

“Your enemies know that’s bull, so they won’t quit.” Dante looked thoughtful. “Who might guess that you could have given the papers to Bowman?”

“Almost any of my colleagues. They all know how much I trust Harry. And we do seem to have a leak. Everyone I gave a copy of the papers to had their office burglarized. I can’t see how the burglars could have known who to hit without inside information.”

“In that case neither Harry nor the papers are safe. You need to check on him now.”

“Lend me your cell phone.”

Dante handed it to me. I dialed Harry’s number. It rang five, six, eight times. I clicked it off.

“No answer,” I said. “Harry’s usually just getting up about now. If he goes out at all, it tends to be in the evening, when it’s cooler. His not answering isn’t definitive, but I don’t like it.”

“We need to get going. Your car must be bugged; leave it here. We’ll go in my rental car,” Dante said firmly.

“Works for me,” I said.

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