It all started in Venice – Episode 5

A chance meeting with Juliet

I waited until her surveillance disappeared from view, then considered what to do next, or whether I’d created a problem for Juliet.  I had no doubt she would be informed of my intervention, so it would probably be better for me to chance upon her than the other way around and take it from there.

After watching her sip her coffee and take in the passing tourist traffic for a few minutes, I headed toward her.

And, with the right amount of surprise in my tone, I said, as I reached her and she turned to see who it was, “I recognize you, you’re Juliet, the doctor.”

She seemed genuinely shocked to see me, and immediately cast a glance over to the table where Giuseppe had been sitting, then, not seeing him, frantically looked around to see if he had moved.

“If you’re looking for a creepy-looking guy, I sent him packing.  I saw him watching you, so I threatened to get the police onto him.  I’m sure I could convince them he was part of a team of kidnappers.”

“You’re joking.”

She sounded horrified, which was either the result of very good acting, or she was in fact horrified that I’d tackle him.

“May I sit?”  I was starting to feel a little self-conscious standing in full view of everyone.

“Of course.  This is a pleasant and very unexpected surprise.”

I sat.  Clearly, she was not going to say why she was really in Venice, but a few harmless questions were in order, just to see how far she would bend the truth.

A waiter came and I ordered black coffee.  After he left I threw out the opening gambit.  “So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like Venice?”

Her expression changed to one of bewilderment.  “How do you mean?”

“I’ve heard from so many visitors that this place is easy to get lost in, and you appear to be alone.  Just over-active curiosity.”

I realized that she might be offended, whether referring to her as a ‘nice girl’ or that she might get lost.

“I could ask the same.”  A frown, and brittle tone.  Perhaps it was better this way, and she would have to work harder in getting us together, though insulting her, if that was what she thought it was, hadn’t been my intention.

“That’s easy, I’m living here at the present time.”

“Living here?”  Brittle turned to astonishment.

“Yes, I have apartments in a few different cities, and I like to keep moving.  Venice is my current choice of city.”

“Then you’re not likely to get lost.”

Yes, a little dig, probably deserved.  “Not often but I have a few times in the past.”  But, back to the interrogation, “here for a visit, on a cruise ship passing through, or with purpose?”

With a subtle look up and down, and a moment’s silence, I had enough time to think about what she was making of my sudden appearance, and how fortunate, or unfortunate, it might be.

Time enough to throw away the bad thoughts, and move on.

“I’m staying in a quaint hotel overlooking the Canal.”

I bit my tongue before I could say ‘I know’.

“It can be a bit busy along there at times, but you’ll be close to a few good restaurants.  I can recommend a gondola ride if you get the right man.  And if you want to go anywhere, take the Vaporetto, the water taxis are very expensive.”

My coffee arrived, and while I thanked the waitress, she digested the information, and its intent, that I was not going to show her around.

I also took out the phone with the gadgets and put it on the table.  A few seconds later it vibrated, and rippling rings showed on the screen, a sigh there was a transmitter nearby.  Her phone was not far away.

She saw the blue rings.  “That’s an unusual ring tone.”

“Oh, that.  Not a ringtone.  A friend of mine is paranoid his wife’s tracking him, so he’s got all this stuff on his phone to track the trackers.”  I looked around at the others sitting nearby.  “Someone’s got a transmitting device nearby.”

“Wouldn’t a normal microphone set it off?”

She was remarkably calm for someone whose phone was setting it off.  Had Larry given her a phone and not tell her of its significance.  Knowing him, he probably didn’t trust her to report seeing me.  And it would be better if she didn’t know, she could react to any accusation just as she was now.

“I asked him that but apparently if the phone is recording data and relaying it, it will set it off.”

She looked around also.  There were at least five people nearby on their phones, some even with others sitting at the table.  Smartphones literally were conversation killers.

Then she simply shrugged.  “Why would you need to know if someone was relaying information?”

Good question.  There was no indignation in the question, just curiosity.

“That’s my security chief, he is the sort of man who suspects everyone of something until proven innocent.”

“You need a security chief?”  More surprise.

“You never know who’s lurking in the shadows, and I am worth a fair bit, so I can only travel with security.  They’re out there, on the perimeter where even I can’t see them.”

“Wasn’t that what you did once, when I first met you?”

“Me?  No, At that time I was running a desk and made the mistake of going into the field to follow a hunch.  Always in the background, never in the line of fire.  Anyway, after that, I quit and moved into software development.  My family always had money and I had to do something with it, and, luckily, I backed a winner.  Happily married until Violetta died recently, and now, trying to move on.  How about you?”

Another chance for her to tell me the truth, or a version of it.

“A doctor until I wasn’t.  I didn’t cope well with long shifts and a thankless work environment.  I made a few bad choices.  This is the new me, past that chapter.  I thought I’d lose myself in Europe to celebrate my sobriety, and, here I am.”

My phone beeped twice, the result of an alarm I set earlier, to remind me to call Alfie.

She looked at it, and then at me.

I shrugged.  “Business, even when I retired.  I have to go, but maybe we’ll run into each other again.”

I stood.  “Nice seeing you again.”  I gave her no option to join me.

© Charles Heath 2022

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