Making sure I recognized the target
It was mid-afternoon and a half hour before her plane touched down when I arrived at the airport by water taxi. It was not a trip I made often, but that final run from the city across the open water was at times invigorating, sometimes quite pleasant.
Today the water had a chop, and the ride was less smooth than usual. The driver also seemed to be in a hurry, just about leaving the dock before I’d got off the boat. It was one of the more interesting ways of arriving at an airport.
It was a leisurely walk to the terminal building, and just as I passed the first of the arrival boards, I saw her plane had landed, about ten minutes early.
I headed to the gate where as I arrived the first of the passengers were coming through the door. She was not at the front of the plane, and it is a full flight, it might be a while before she appeared.
I checked to see if there was anyone who seemed out of place, expecting that Larry would not be that trusting to allow her any freedom, but there were no suspicious others, except if you counted me in that category, lurking within eyesight, but masked from the exiting passenger’s view.
It was several minutes before she appeared, casually dressed as a tourist might, in a bright coloured floral dress with a denim jacket, and travelling with a cabin bag she wheeled in front of her.
She looked different again than the photograph, not as gaunt in the face, as if she had recovered from a serious illness. I could not see the expression on her face, but one thing was clear, she was not happy.
Then I saw why.
A man came up to her just as she left the lounge area, appearing suddenly which meant he had been hidden from me, and she looked surprised, then angry, angry enough that airport security started walking towards them.
The man, seeing the police approaching said something to her, then quickly walked away. I took a photograph and looking at it realised it wouldn’t be difficult to remember him if I needed to.
Alfie would no doubt tell me who he was in due course. In the meantime, Juliet had waited for the police and then spoke to them briefly before heading towards the water taxi terminal.
I was closer to that exit and got there before her, checking to see if the man who had accosted her was waiting outside, as he had left in that direction, and had passed quite close to me. Most noticeable about him, the tattoo of a snake wrapped around his neck.
It gave him that fearsome look that he no doubt used in his profession.
I couldn’t see him, so I headed towards the terminal, this time with the intention of getting the public water bus otherwise known as a Vaporetto. She followed more casually, taking in the sights as if it was her first time in Venice.
It also gave rise to the thought again of how she was going to ‘run into me’ in a city full of alleyways and hidden passageways, making it easy for even the most experienced traveller to get lost at least once during their visit. The only possibility was in St marks square or the promenade along the Canal that led off the square from the Doges Palace.
Then I saw him, waiting by a water taxi, or perhaps a private motorboat. She saw him too and headed straight for the Vaporetto, boarding just before it departed, giving him no chance to catch her. It was an amusing charade, and an act of defiance she would probably pay for later.
It provided an opportunity to follow him, and when he left, I asked the driver of my water taxi to follow him, coming up with a suitable excuse why I would want to do so, but not sure the driver believed me. One thing was certain, with a captive passenger, he could charge a premium fare knowing I’d have to pay it.
Keeping a suitable distance between us, he followed the boat to Murano, the island of glass-blowing factories. He waited until the driver of the boat left the dock and then took his place for me to disembark, and then I gave him a head start before following discreetly, or as discretely as I could in the circumstances. There were not many visitors about, so I could hardly lose myself in the crowd.
We passed several glass showrooms on the way alongside the Canal until he reached a bridge and crossed it. On the other side, I could see a basilica, yet another of the many churches in the city, each as old and ornate as the next, and one of the many I’d visited over time and many visits to the city.
But this was not one I’d been to before.
On the other side of the bridge, not far from the church, he stopped and turned around. It was as if he knew he was being followed, and fortunately, just at that moment I was all but hidden behind the base of the bridge on the opposite side of the Canal.
A long hard stare at each of those he could see, including those crossing the bridge, then he shrugged and walked towards another man, similarly dressed, waiting outside the church.
I managed to get a better photograph of him and one of his new companions too, just before they met and walked into the church. I was not going to follow them in. I was hoping Alfie would find out who they were, and where to find them, though I had a feeling I was going to meet them again, but not in similar circumstances.
Another question popped into my head as I walked back to the Vaporetto station. Where was Larry right now? On his way to Venice? Or would he wait until Juliet made contact? I knew which hotel she was staying in, a rather small but interesting one I’d stayed at the first time I came to Venice, do I could find her any time I wanted to.
© Charles Heath 2022