It all started in Venice – Episode 4

Meeting with the enemy

I woke with what one might call metaphorical clouds hanging over my head.

The day before, everything was as normal as it could be, I had plans and was intending to get on with my life, realizing that Violetta would be disappointed if she knew how moribund I’d become.

That was before Alfie had appeared out of nowhere, on a mission for a man I never wanted to see or work for again.

Never say never.

Now I had a target on my back and found myself in a very strange situation.  Normally random events were exactly that, random.  But it would not be when the time came for Juliet to accidentally see me, a coincidence surely.

But not.

For a long time, before I fell into a light, fitful sleep, I went through a variety of scenarios when I imagined we would run into each other, and concluded it would most likely be somewhere in St Marks square.

Then it was a matter of whether on not I would make it easy for her, and was still undecided when sleep came.  Now, in the cold hard light of dawn, I decided it would be better to get it over with as quickly as possible.

I’d also decided that I was not going to give Larry any chance of success, as I had the element of surprise on my side.

I’d also forgotten about those pre-mission nerves, that mixture of fear and excitement when starting out, usually not knowing what was going to happen.  Of course, I was a lot older now, and the world I once lived in had no doubt changed considerably, but not the people in it.  They were the one constant, and most were predictable.

Larry certainly would be.  Juliet would be less so, but knowing her end game would tip the scales in my favour.  How I would deal with her would be dictated on that first meeting.

That too was the fuel for a different sort of feeling.  I knew, back when I first met her, my judgement was impaired by a lot of different drugs, and I wasn’t quite thinking straight, but there had been a spark, and in different circumstances, the outcome might have been different.  I was not sure what I felt right then.

But, I’d soon find out.

I took a water taxi to St Mark’s square, or just a short distance from it, where the statue of xxx greeted all those who disembarked.  From there it was a short walk on the promenade, and instead of heading towards the square, I went in the opposite direction, towards the hotel Juliet was staying.

Getting there early, I was hoping to see her leave the hotel and follow discreetly, waiting for the opportunity to ‘discover’ her.  It was not a surprise to discover her ‘friend’ who greeted her at the airport had the same idea. 

It was evident that Larry didn’t trust her to keep him informed, or the tail was insurance.  Either way, it was a complication.

I found a 0lace to sit, one of many cafes along the promenade, in sight of the hotel entrance and her minder.  Judging by the blank expression, it was possible he didn’t know me by sight, which could be useful.

My phone decided to announce an incoming message, and it was from Alfie.  The identity of one of the men, muscle for a local crime boss, no doubt lent as a favour to Larry, was Giuseppe, last name irrelevant.  The other, one of Larry’s lieutenants here to smooth the path for Larry’s arrival.

Giuseppe’s resume was short, mostly petty crimes, having graduated from peddling knock off’s to the tourists.  Judging by his body language, he was unimpressed with being a minder.  And restless, because over the next half hour he was up and down, pacing, and not happy, having exchanged words with several people who seemingly had walked in front of him.

Perhaps if I provoked him…

No time, Juliet chose that moment to emerge from the hotel.  He was straight out of his seat and walked over to her.  She was not pleased to see him, and I watched them engage in a heated exchange over the next five minutes, drawing attention to themselves, and odd glances from a few tourists.  At what seemed the end of the argument I saw her shrug, and both headed towards the square together.

It was obvious Giuseppe’s instructions were to stay with her, which I imagine would make her job of a chance meeting all that harder.

I followed, discreetly, behind them.

She ambled, taking the time to look around, much like a tourist would, and basically, she was a tourist.  I wondered if she had been to Venice before, and concluded she hadn’t, using her phone camera to take photos of the gondolas, the Canal, the colonnade, the bridge of sighs, and Doges palace; frequently stopping much to Giuseppe’s annoyance.

It took nearly an hour to cover a very short distance, ending up at a Cafe, one of those that jutted out into the square.  She sat at one table, and Giuseppe sat at another, not far from her.

When his attention was elsewhere, watching a group of young female American tourists, I came up from behind and sat beside him, so engrossed in the girls he neither saw nor heard me arrive.

And the reason he almost jumped out of his seat when I said, in his language, “So, Giuseppe, what are you up to now?”

When he recovered, he glared at me.  “Who are you?”  It was not a polite tone.

“Trouble, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“I’m minding my own business.  You should too.”

There was an undertone and implied threat.

“Or what?”

I saw him glance over in Juliet’s direction.  A waiter just delivered coffee and what looked like a cake.

“Who is she?” I asked.

He turned to look at me.  “That’s none of your business.”

It was clear he didn’t know what I looked like and was relying on Juliet to identify me.

“It is if you’re point man of a kidnap team.  Is that what this is about.”

Giuseppe laughed.  “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  But I’m going over yo that woman you’ve been watching and tell that she has an unwanted admirer, and then if I can find a policeman, I’m going to tell him you’re acting suspiciously.”

His expression told me that was the last thing he needed.  I suspect his track record with the police along with a complaint involving a female tourist might just get him into enough trouble to make him think twice about hanging around.

On the other hand, it might not.  I could see him hesitating, orders to stay versus trouble with the police.  Trouble with the police won out.

He stood.  “You have made yourself some difficulties, this isn’t over.”

I shrugged.  “It will be if I see you loitering near her again.”

He had his phone in his hand as he left and was making a call before he’d taken 20 paces.  The next person wasn’t going to be so easy to spot.

© Charles Heath 2022

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