by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Chapter 4, part 1
Chapter 4, part 2
appears in this issue.
Chapter 5: Rome, Italy
While Salvatore had been brushing his teeth with unusual care and attention, very early on that bright Venetian Monday morning, Lucia had already been out and widely about.
In fact, in the blink of a radimote’s repositioning, she had stationed herself, un-made and unseen, on Rome’s Via Veneto, outside the luxurious apartment whose co-ordinates were already well known to the Mater as the town home of the redoubtable Don Giuseppe Marco Terleone.
And when the dapper senior civil servant had emerged into the bright morning sunshine, to travel to that day’s place of work — the capital’s central Parliament office buildings in the Palazzo Montecitorio — she had carefully tracked him, still unseen, and established for the Mater the precise location of his very private office.
Fully prepared now for an unannounced engagement with him there a little later, she had then re-located to Venice in plenty of time for her first appointment, the brief encounter with Pasquale Costa.
* * *
That session in Venice had, of course, gone exactly as the Mater had hoped. Salvatore’s leave pass had been secured, and all he needed now was his meal ticket.
So Lucia was back in Rome, with Signor Terleone firmly in her sights, and ready to give him the surprise of his life for the second time in a month ...
Giuseppe started, and looked up from his desk. Seated demurely in a corner chair, and humming his own favourite operatic aria, was a charmingly smiling woman — the spitting image in clothes, figure and face of the one who had so entranced him in that chic little café on the Via Frattina, a few weeks before.
And though, on the Mater’s later instructions, he had since forgotten everything about that encounter and those few crazy days spent in support of Toni and Carla, the siren’s image did its devilish trick once more.
Instead of pressing the security button at his fingertips, Terleone smiled broadly in return, stood up, and moved across the room with firm intent to embrace.
But Lucia got there first.
Buongiorno, Giuseppe. We meet again, though you will not yet recall it. My name is Quo, and I need first to remind you of a few forgotten details of your recent past. Please bear with me.
A rapid partial transferral updated the Mater’s systems with all of Terleone’s most recent experiences. And then a quick and even smaller refresh of his own memory brought things nicely back into line.
It was the first time Quo had worked with Lucia in live mode. She was doing a fine job of imitating Carla’s style, to maximise their influence on this particular target. But no two Domans are quite alike ...
There, Giuseppe. We are fully back in touch. I trust you are well — indeed I see clearly that you are!
‘Yes, Quo, I remain in fine health. Careful attention to mind and body, you know ...’
Quite so, quite so. Now, time is pressing on us today. So you will kindly pay very close attention, on this occasion, to what I am about to say.
‘Quo, one small question please, before you begin. The lovely Carla, whom I now recall so well, and who at this moment appears, but only to my sense of sight, to be kissing me ... well, it simply does not feel the same. I am a little perturbed ...’
Everyone has their off-days, signore. Please do not be concerned, or allow yourself to be distracted as before. We cannot afford such inefficiencies again.
‘But Quo ...’
No, Giuseppe, I insist!!
Terleone fell at once into a very stunned silence. And on board the Mater, Lucia the Handler raised her eyes from her demanding work for one short moment, and gave her normally polite and patient superior a surprised and rather quizzical look.
Quo got both messages, nodded to Lucia in sensible acknowledgment, and counted slowly to ten.
So, caro Giuseppe, let me fulsomely welcome you back to our little enterprise.
You now understand, just as you did before, how great and tangible a contribution you are able to make to the well-being of your fellow citizens. I am certain that it must feel very good, to such a pillar of your country’s several establishments, to be able to “give back” in this way once again.
We need you make a further selfless gesture: to support our re-enlisted colleague Salvatore Pirone — you will recall that it was none other than you who nominated him into our service, last month — by providing him with more than sufficient financial provision for a new and extended tour of duty with us.
I am sure your very adequate and somewhat dubious sources of funds will easily cope with such modest demands, and that you will accept this opportunity with quiet relish.
‘Quo, I believe you may not fully appreciate exactly whom or what you are dealing with, here. I may possibly have been rather accommodating during our earlier meetings, as I now recollect them — I cannot put my finger on it, but the memory of the “old” Carla keeps coming to mind — but my business associates and I are simply not accustomed to being treated in this peremptory manner by virtual strangers!’
My dear Signor Terleone, it is in fact you who understand the present situation least. But that is by-the-by. Perhaps we may come to some immediate compromise in our positions, to allow us to proceed with haste.
I hereby promise to furnish you, at some future time, with a small reward in exchange for your immediate grace and favour. And I trust this offer will strongly discourage any further hint of refusal ...
With no commitment from Quo on the what, where, when or how of her offer, the venerable Giuseppe, always most alert in the superiority stakes, quite meekly and silently concurred.
Molto bene, signore. Now, we have already supplied you with all the technical information you will need for your task, so please proceed at once. Your deadline for initiating both required activities is 1030 hours today, precisely. And at that moment, you will once again forget what has taken place here today, and all your recollections of our previous association.
‘May I at least say farewell to Carla ... even though she is not quite the Carla I remember?’
Consider it done already, Giuseppe. In an ideal world, sentiment may well be more than skill, but today, time and effectiveness are of the essence.
By the time Terleone found himself back in his normal reality, his ever-illusive Carla had once again evaporated — and, he feared once again, perhaps forever.
He sat pensively for several long minutes, then opened a drawer, selected yet another of his brand-new, unattributable mobile phones, left the building by an anonymous side door, strolled down onto the busy Via del Corso, and made two discreet calls.
Even as Giuseppe was walking back towards his office, a very accommodating bank manager in Rome was already ensuring that Salvatore Pirone’s personal account would receive an immediate and substantial credit transfer, and that the balance would, until further notice, never fall below a very comfortable level.
And Giuseppe’s most reliable man in Venice was dropping everything and setting out for a local and rather less regulated repository of funds. He would then proceed to meet up with Salvatore at Marco Polo Airport. The young, tousle-haired traveller would be easily recognised by that experienced courier: he would be wearing his favourite short, black leather jacket, with a yellow rose pinned to the lapel ...
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd