It all started in Venice – Episode 6

Eavesdropping on Juliet

I was heading back to the Vaporetto station just a short distance from St Marks square when my phone vibrated, an incoming message.

Alfie requesting a meeting.

I had suspected he might be somewhere in the square keeping an eye on proceedings. I had that itch at the back of my neck, that one you couldn’t scratch, an old but reliable indicator I was under observation. 

My old mentor was anything but a trusting soul, and he no doubt was giving Alfie enough rope, much the same as he did to me early on, until he learned the errors of his mistrusting nature.

People like Rodby never changed, and it was one of many reasons I walked away.  He was going to have to do better if he wanted me back.

Alfie sent instructions as to where he was, a small park further along the promenade, not far from where a huge cruise ship had docked.  Even from where I was standing, it was impressive, but only one of about five I’d see in the last day or so.

Oddly, I never had the inclination to get on one.

It took about fifteen minutes, maybe more because of the tourists and general foot traffic, to reach the park, then locate Alfie looking very anonymous on a bench overlooking the water.

In another corner what looked to be a television crew was setting up or cleaning up an open set, involving about a dozen or more people all looking harassed.

He saw me coming but made no visible acknowledgment until I sat at the other end of the bench, purposely not looking in his direction.

“Nice view,” I said.

Well, it would be if the day was not overcast, and with the definite prospect of rain.

“Your friend made a call not long after you left.”

OK.  Straight down to business.  “How do you know that?”

“We put a small app on the phone we gave you that clones other phones.”

Without telling me.  Yes, welcome back to the lies and subterfuge.  I just shook my head.  What else weren’t they telling me?

He put his phone on the bench between us and played the conversation.

It was obvious that Larry had called her, and that Giuseppe wasn’t happy about being discovered.  And it was proof that Larry was monitoring her movements and conversations.  Another mistrusting soul.

“What just happened?”  I recognized Larry’s voice immediately, and the tone suggested he was far from happy.

“What do you mean?”  Her surprise was genuine.  It meant she didn’t know he was listening in, but that might not be for much longer.

“Your first meeting.”

Silence.  Then, after a long minute, she said, “it was my phone, the one you gave me, that was relaying our conversation.  It would be nice if you told me what you were intending to do.”

He brushed that comment aside with, “It’s a matter of trust, and, quite frankly, I don’t trust you.”

It was not exactly how I would have spoken to her.  Any normal person would react indignantly to that response.

There was a telling moment of silence while she digested that piece of information.

Her response, “Then you will not be surprised if I don’t respond, as you say, immediately, because now I know you have the phone,  So long, of course, I decide to take it with me.”

“You will…”

She cut him off, not by yelling, but in what could only be described as a very icy tone.  “You make demands, you make threats.  I gave you my word that I would do this for you.  My way.  Instead, you overplay your hand and you’ve sent him to ground.  If he is who you think he is, then he knows now something is wrong.  You can thank you’re own insecurity and that fool Giuseppe for that.”

“That’s…”

“Don’t interrupt, that’s just rude.  If you want me to continue, which by the way, I think is going to be a waste of time, I will, but you have made it almost impossible by taking away the advantage we had.  And if that is the case, then no more of your idiotic antics.  A simple yes or no will suffice.”

“If you think…”

The call was disconnected.

I looked at Alfie.  “Does she know she’s dicing with death?”

“There’s more.”

Twice, an incoming call to her phone went to the voice message.  The third time she answered.

“A simple yes or no will suffice.”

“Yes.”  A tone bristling with anger.

“Good.  You listen in, and I will call you when there is news.”

The call was disconnected.

“She has gumption,” Alfie said.

“Or a death wish.  You know he’s not going to sit around and wait for her.”

“No.  He’s replaced Giuseppe with someone with a little more talent to keep an eye on her, so she won’t be so obvious next time you run into her.”  He slid a grainy but recognizable photo of a woman who could easily be mistaken for a tourist.

“You have a plan.”

“We have her tour itinerary, courtesy of the hotel.”

“A little convenient, don’t you think.  I take it you have an idea where Larry is right now?”

“Of course, Sorrento, visiting his wife’s sister.”

“Perhaps we might pre-empt all this nonsense, and pay him a visit.  I might be able to convince him he’s barking up the wrong tree.”

“Wouldn’t that alert him to the fact we have him under surveillance?”

“I think he knows that’s the case anyway, and not only by us, but by any number of law enforcement agencies.  Maybe I should just drop a hint that I have to make a trip to Sorrento, and take Juliet with me.  But I would like a jamming app installed on this device,” I held up the phone he’d given me, “first.”

“Rodby said you were a wild card operative.”

“Did he?  I always thought he was the wild card, and I was the voice of reason.”

“He says a lot of stuff, how things were different in the old days.”

“A lot of people died needlessly in those so-called old days, and I’m only here now because I retired before I got killed.  And because I believed him when he said I could disappear.  Obviously, he was lying.”

“You can’t disappear these days, not with the means of tracking everyone via the digital network available.   20 years ago, maybe.  Not now.  No one can truly disappear.”

No, probably not.  For that to happen, I would have had to go live on a desert island and have had no contact with anyone for at least a generation.  A new name, identity, and, and minor changes to my persona had made me invisible for long enough to have had a normal life, and, at the very least, Larry had waited until then.

How many others were there, out in the world, also seeking revenge?  I had taken down a number of so-called ‘bad’ people, but their families somehow never quite saw it the same as we had.  No matter how legitimate the reasons.

“Give me a day to fix the phone, and then you can make the first move.  Try not to make it too hard to keep eyes on you, if only for your own safety.”

“Say hello to the boss, and tell him I didn’t miss him for one moment.”

Alfie stood.  “Try and keep out of trouble, and keep me informed if anything out of the ordinary happens.  Just create a draft message in the email app, save it, but don’t send it.  I’ll let you know if Larry makes any unpredictable moves.”

I watched him take a look around, then walk off, all as if he hadn’t realized there was someone else on the same seat.  It wouldn’t fool anyone, especially the woman pretending to minister a child in a pram, three seats along from us.

How many mothers of babies had earplugs?

Or was I just being paranoid?  It didn’t take long to slip back into that dark and murky world I tried so hard to get away from.

© Charles Heath 2022

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