Bewildering Stories

Table of Contents
Chapter 9 concludes
in this issue.

Observation One:
Singing of promises ...

by Michael E. Lloyd

Chapter 10: Collection Sphere

Giuseppe Marco Terleone, Quo had earlier established, was the youngest of five brothers and sisters. Born in late 1945, he recalled a childhood spent in a climate of post-war austerity; but his parents had been rich compared with most families for miles around. For his father had taken advantage of the excellent business opportunities offered by the light munitions industry that had flourished in the wooded hills of Umbria for the previous five years, and those opportunities were readily adaptable with the coming of the peace.

So, after a simple but very comfortable childhood, and a sound basic education at the local town schools, where he demonstrated great promise, Giuseppe was sent at the age of ten to an expensive private institution in Rome. Payment of his fees was transacted by his father in both cash and kind.

Doors continued to open smoothly for him with the passing years, and in his early twenties he emerged from the Paris Sorbonne ready to exploit an excellent degree in Economics and Administration, a year before the rest of its students emerged onto the streets of Paris with different intent.

Three years later he married into rich and influential Rome society, and would be well looked after by the dons of that family for as long as he retained their respect and their confidence.

A generation later, his daughter and his son were similarly embraced by notable Roman families. Don Giuseppe now proudly possessed three young grandchildren, who were his greatest simple pleasure in his very complex life.

The urbane Terleone was in excellent health. He ate the finest food Rome could offer, but always chose carefully, with great regard for his regular exercise regime. His clothes were from the best Italian fashion houses. His occasional evenings out were typically spent at the Opera (he favoured the Italian composers, with only rare concessions to others). He had little real interest in the other arts, but ensured that he was a lauded patron of several of Rome’s smaller museums.

And, busy man that he was, he always conducted his confessions by telephone, and at the appropriate level ...

The call which Terleone had most recently received at his town apartment was however in response to the very first of his earlier enquiries. The results seemed very satisfactory, well deserving of a further gracious thank-you to the MEP who had frantically devoted the past five hours to achieving them. Giuseppe’s request for that gentleman’s services had been honoured. Until the next time.

So he now had both the names he was after. Yet he still did not really understand why he needed them. Or for whom. In fact, he had never in his well-ordered life felt so uncertain; almost insecure ...

* * *

Carla found herself safely back and unobservable at the co-ordinates of the front entrance to Terleone’s apartment block.

She passed through into the lobby and consulted the incomplete lists of names and floors on the interior wall. No sign of a Terleone. But then she deduced a pattern in the apartment numbering system, and passed quickly up the lift shaft to the fourth floor.

She soon found herself outside a door with a number corresponding exactly to the one Terleone had written on Toni’s map. But still no name was displayed. A private individual indeed, she thought. Without pausing for breath, since she needed none, she passed through the door and onwards into the living room, and discovered Don Giuseppe standing at his front window, gazing pensively out over the hills of Rome.

She re-made at once, behind him, then whispered engagingly ‘Ciao, Giuseppe.

He turned around, saw her unforgettable smile, and returned it in great surprise — she ought to be on her way to Venice! Then, for no special reason he could think of, he moved straight over to his vintage Linn turntable, selected his favourite recording of La Bohème, and set it playing.

He then turned back to Carla and opened his arms wide to welcome her ...

She did not lose the moment. Although his left brain set off warning bells as his arms passed straight through her, his right brain had already taken over, as previously arranged, and he was quickly and fully engaged. And then Quo was with him again, speaking soundlessly in Italian.

Good evening, Giuseppe ...

The first thing Terleone revealed, in response to Quo’s polite demand, was the single name and personal profile which he had finally received from his primary source.

After much searching, he said, his contacts had come up with a surprisingly short list of names of European MPs whose records were both completely untarnished by any hints, accusations or actual reports of wrongdoing or misdemeanours, and also characterised by a history of willingness to speak out, even when their views conflicted with accepted or encouraged party wisdom.

‘And among that small cluster of stars,’ Terleone was pleased to announce, ‘a certain Mevr. Hilde van Wostraap, native of Amsterdam, Dutch MEP, citizen of Europe, appears to shine out as the brightest by far ...’

Then, in answer to Quo’s request for the results of the second part of his mission, he was indeed able to supply the name, home address, and description of a very capable, computer-skilled research assistant. ‘You told me, Quo, that Carla would need to work with the person I found. Well, after I decided to send Antonio away from Rome, I realised that it would be unhelpful to find you a researcher here. So I then located one for you in Venice ...’

Giuseppe, we are most grateful to you for your efforts. You have collected the information we requested smoothly, ingeniously and effectively. We shall put it to very good use, you may be sure.

‘Thank you, Quo.’

Now, as we implied to you this afternoon, Giuseppe, we had intended to recruit you solidly to our ranks of Empowered Collectors, so that you might serve our cause, both directly and indirectly, in the days to come. That cause being, as we informed you, the continuous improvement of our developing model of the hearts and minds of the human race.

‘I feel I have an inadequate grasp of what you are saying, Quo ...’

Precisely, Giuseppe. And there is the rub. Your young relative Toni provided us with our initial profile of the human condition. Limited perhaps in depth and experience, but high in quality. We had then hoped to make a major enhancement to our model with a full understanding of your own mind, and to make contact, through you, with many other persons of note.

But, unfortunately, that aim has been hindered by the difficulties encountered during your engagement. I can now see clearly that the inadequacy of our transferral and missioning, and your very strong instincts for self-preservation, have left you in a state of highly confused loyalties. I suspect it would be difficult to achieve the purity of engagement we require, without considerable further effort and risk to us all.

‘I am very sorry, Quo.’

However, we are well aware that Toni is somewhat imperilled by recent events, and that you are strongly motivated to assist him and Carla. For this, we are most grateful.

‘Thank you, Quo. Yes, indeed ... in the past half-hour I have in fact been worrying that Antonio might try to draw more cash using his plastic cards. I regret that I failed to warn him specifically not to do so ...’

It is most helpful of you to alert me to this, Giuseppe. You may rest assured that I will attend to your concerns at once ...

But in summary, we fear that it is far too dangerous to continue to use you as an agent for our evolving model. We know that you, more than most, will appreciate our need for great confidence in our level of control! So, from this point onwards, we shall cease to regard you as a Collector. But we encourage you to continue your planned support for Toni, so that he and Carla may successfully pursue their missions. Can we rely on you, Giuseppe ...?

‘Of course, Quo. You have no need to ask for this. Antonio is family. There is no question ...’

Thank you, Giuseppe. In which case ... you will immediately lose all recollection of Carla, and of the tasks you have just completed. You will focus much effort, as you already intend, on securing the passage of Toni to a place of safety. Once that is achieved, you will forget that he was ever here. And, despite your natural inclinations, you will not involve yourself in any dialogue about this with the rest of Toni’s family.

‘As you wish, Quo. I understand very well the benefits of co-operating when encouraged to do so.’

* * *

By the time Terleone became clearly aware that he was once again in his own living room, and nowhere else at the same time, Carla had gone, and was forgotten.

She was, in fact, thanks to the now much-improved accuracy of the Mater’s world co-ordinates, already back in Florence and outside the door of Toni’s hotel room. Entering silently and unseen, she found that he was already sound asleep.

Only then, as in Bilbao on the previous evening, could Carla the Handler pass the watch over to one of her studio assistants, and at last retire gratefully to rest in her own particular Doman way.

* * *

Don Giuseppe sat down purposefully at his desk and thought hard for nearly half an hour, putting the finishing touches to the major rescue plan that he had been building since late afternoon. Finally, he unlocked a drawer, removed yet another brand-new mobile phone, and made the first in a further series of very special requests.

To be continued ...

Copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Lloyd
Lyrics credits and copyrights

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