Firenze — Later

A few streets over, the next dance club was upscale, on a wider avenue with more lighting.  The neon silver Onion sign was red, outlined in yellow, and it didn’t flicker or buzz.  There was a waist-high line of stanchions along the curb, connected by coiled velvet ropes.  Nobody was waiting – it was early.  The two doormen were smaller and better dressed.  Dreyfus put on the baseball cap he’d bought earlier and adjusted the sunglasses so they sat on the peak.  He held the Beretta low against his leg as he got out of the car.  He took three long, sharp steps to cross the street and, without pausing, raised the gun and shot the larger man in the head.  The cobblestones were uneven and the shot was a little low, catching the man just under the chin.  But it was still fatal, and the bullet furrowed through the man’s brain before he had time to do anything but look surprised.  Dreyfus swung the gun to the second man.

“Open your jacket.  Two fingers.”

No Inglese.”  The man didn’t shake his head.

He was clearly no stranger to gun violence.  But he wasn’t a professional, or he wouldn’t be working the door.  Still, he was quite likely armed and was probably calculating his chances.  Dreyfus lowered the Beretta to waist high.

“Open you jacket slowly, or I’ll blow your balls off.”  For a quick glance nanosecond, Dreyfus shifted his eyes to the dead man.  The second man didn’t move.  (Gotcha!)   “I won’t ask you again.” Dreyfus added almost casually, his eyes firmly on the man’s face.  There was no hesitation.  The man opened his jacket.

“Wider.”

He had a gun on his belt.  Dreyfus stepped forward, his eyes still on the man’s face and his gun level with the man’s crotch.  He plucked the gun out of its holster and stepped back.  It was a fashionable Glock (Death by Ikea) and Dreyfus put it in his pocket.

“On your knees.  Hands on your head.  Cross your ankles.”

The man was clumsy but complied.  He was beginning to understand he wasn’t going to die.

”My name is Dreyfus Sinclair.  Tell your boss he should have left me alone.  And you should go back to Albania.  Next time, I’ll kill you.”

Dreyfus took one step backwards, turned, went back to the car and they drove away.  It had been a couple of seconds short of three minutes.

The next address was further away from the tourist area on a quiet, unassuming street.  There was a restaurant on the corner with a few early eaters, a couple of shops that were closed and a storefront grocery.  They parked across from a narrow double door with a small metal video intercom cut into the stone.  There was a CCTV camera on a pole over the door.

“Brothel?” Dreyfus asked the driver.

“Card room.  Midsized tables.  House take maybe one million Euro on a good night.  No entry unless they recognize you.”

Dreyfus put his hat back on and steadied the sunglasses.

“When I get out, back it up about five metres, wait until I quit shooting, then pull forward so I can get in.”

Dreyfus stepped into the street, took a step forward as the car reversed behind him, and pulled the Glock out of his pocket.  He put two bullets into the double doors, right at their handles, turned just slightly and shot at the intercom.  The first bullet hit the screen in a flurry of sparks, but the next two missed and ricocheted wickedly off the stone.  Not a good plan.  He turned the gun back to the doors and emptied the rest of the clip in a straight line across where the handles used to be.  Then he turned around and got back in the car which was already going forward.  It had been less than a minute, but Dreyfus had the effect he wanted — and anyone behind the doors was dead or seriously dying.

Dreyfus held the Glock in the air.

“Souvenir or should we toss it?”

“Souvenir.”

Dreyfus dropped it forward onto the passenger seat. “That’s enough for tonight,” he said.  He reached into his side pocket, pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to the driver.  “Do you know this place?”

The driver looked at the paper, “Yeah, I know it.  North-west from here, by the airport.”

“We need to go there.  No rush.  I want to watch it for a while.  And can you get me some Semtex?”

“Semtex?”

“Uh?” Dreyfus pushed his tongue against his bottom teeth and looked out the window, “C-4.”

“Right.  No, I’m just the driver.  Did they give you a telephone?”

Dreyfus reached into his left jacket pocket and brought out a cheap flip phone.

“Call the number.”  There was a pause.  “Why did you make me reverse back there?”

Dreyfus chuckled.  “You went just out of range of the CCTV.  Cops hate anomalies.  They’ll think you were doing something and waste a lot of time trying to figure out what.”

“Aah,” the driver said and nodded his head.  He liked this guy.  

We Need National Names

As the 21st century evolves, nationalism is becoming a dirty word.  Pride in one’s country is considered déclassé at best and downright racist at worst.  What a crock of crap!  Since when did self-esteem became synonymous with hostility?  God, we live in useless times!  Yet there are tons of people who want to do away with these “stereotypical labels.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  We’re all God’s children, artificially separated by imaginary political boundaries.  [Heavy sigh!]  The last time I ate that pie-in-the-sky, I was twelve.  Since ancient times, people have identified things by the places they come from — things like Persian carpets, Greek fire and Mongolian barbeque.  It’s jargon.  It gives us tons of information.  It’s doesn’t carry a judgement call.  Let me demonstrate.

When I was a kid, there was a cool joke that swept the neighbourhood.
“How do you make a Venetian Blind?”
“Poke his eyes out!”
This is a funny, but it simply doesn’t work with any other city.  There are all kinds of things like this.  For example:

A German Shepherd is a dog, whereas a Swiss Shepherd is Heidi’s grandfather.

Russian Roulette is a game you don’t really wanna play, but if you have enough money, regular roulette can be kinda fun.

I don’t think the Beatles song Norwegian Wood would have had the same impact if the refrain was “Isn’t it good? / Yugoslavian wood.”

The French are particularly good at just stealing stuff and saying it belongs to them.  Things like French toast, French manicure, French horn, French press, French braids, French beans and, obviously, French fries.  None of these are even French, BTW, but the entire world knows them by that name.  Remember when the Americans tried to change French fries to Freedom fries and came off lookin’ like total idiots?  And, of course, there’s the French kiss which, I can tell you from experience, is probably French, cuz it involves an awful lot more tongue than most people are used to.

Plus, some words are just shorthand.

People drink Scotch, not “a blended malt liquor from the northern part of the British Isles.”

For Christmas dinner, you trot out the good china, not “the very best dinnerware.”

And when you and the boyfriend are off to the beach you wear a Bikini, not an “obscenely skimpy, two-piece swimming costume.”  Meanwhile, he’s wearing Bermuda shorts, not “frumpy dad pants that make his ass look tired.”

A Singapore Sling is a drink.  A Chicago sling is probably what you use when the loan shark breaks your arm.

A Brazilian Wax is a cringe-worthy beauty affectation, but English wax is just what’s left over after the candles burn down.

Turkish Delight is a delicious snack you want to put in your mouth. America cheese? – not so much.

And it goes on

There are animals: Shetland ponies, Labrador retrievers and Bengal tigers.  Drinks: a Manhattan, Long Island Iced Tea and a Moscow Mule.  Foods: Belgium Waffles, Swedish Meatballs, Greek Salad, Baked Alaska and Chicken Kiev.

Did you know the Ebola virus was named for the Ebola River?

This stuff is everywhere.

But here is one example that categorically proves just how important national distinctions are:

American Football is two teams of large men wearing helmets and extensive padding, playing a game with a ball, using a standard set of rules.  Australian Football is a couple of street gangs in short pants, running around a pasture, trying to murder each other.

I rest my case!

Firenze – Shots Fired

From there, even though for the first couple of hours Martina Ciampi was practically trembling with impatience, events moved rather quickly.  Dreyfus learned what he needed to know about the Kovaci brothers and, in theory, decided to destroy their little corner of the world.  However, first he needed to slap these clowns for involving Emily and also remove her value as a bargaining chip. A delicate balance.  Eventually, he ordered coffee and excused himself to make a telephone call.

“Sydney, I need a car and a driver.  A taxi would work perfectly.”

“We don’t actually do taxis in that part of the world.  But I’ll get you what you need.”

“Something nondescript and deposable.”

“At your hotel in an hour – maybe a little longer?”

“That’s perfect.  Thank you, Sydney.  Goodbye.”

Then he finished his coffee, thanked Signora Ciampi for the information and told her he’d walk back to the hotel.  Martina, who had never seen anything like this in her life, said goodbye and sat for several minutes trying to figure out what had just happened.  When she finally stood up, she looked down at the crumbs on his plate and the red tinge at the bottom of his wine glass.  Jonathan McCormick hadn’t told her anything about this man.  She turned, to her left — in a circle — one and a half times and, standing facing away from the table, made the sign of the cross before she walked to the car.

At about the same time, Dreyfus could already see the river. (Florence is a small place.)  He stopped at a tourist kiosk and bought a hat, sunglasses and a red “Italia” shirt.  Then he bought a gelato and fought the crowd across Ponte Vecchio.  Back at the hotel, he found Janet Miller in the bar.

“What the fuck are you two playing at?”  Janet Miller was Janet Miller again.  Her eyes had flavor and spark and a lot of anger.

  Dreyfus was going to say … but decided against it and exhaled seriously. “Tell me what happened.”

“Three men with guns.”  The barman started over, took a look and turned around.  “They came from …

Dreyfus made a gesture with his hand.

“No, they just opened their jackets and showed us.”

“Then what?”

“Em said she wasn’t going anywhere unless they paid the bar bill.”  Janet took a drink, “So one of them went over and paid it.”

Dreyfus smiled.

“Then when she was getting into their car, she said, ‘Tell Dreyfus his damsel is in distress.’ And they just drove away.  James was going to call the Carabinieri, but I talked him out of it.  They think you two are playing some kind of a sick joke.  Is that what you’re doing?  Because …”

“No.  No, it’s not.  Look, Janet, you have to go back to the Montroses.  The Italians are going to release the body of their daughter in two days, and you need to help arrange transportation.”

‘How do you know …?”  Janet looked pained at the mention of her goddaughter, and her face lost most of its life.

“I just know.  But this is serious.  You have to get the Montroses out of the country as soon as.  And you have to make sure they don’t come back until the rest of this gets sorted.”

“They’re coming here later to pick me up.”  The colour was coming back into Janet’s face.  She had a job to do.

“That’ll work.”

“JJ didn’t die of an overdose, did she?”

“No.  That’s what the autopsy is going to say, but no, no she didn’t.”  Dreyfus was definitely not going to give Janet Miller any more information.

A couple of hours later, Dreyfus was sitting in the back seat of a squared-off, four-door some kind of car that he couldn’t name.  He had Emily’s suitcase beside him and a 9mm Beretta in a holster under his left arm.  It was that strange time in the Italian day – too late for sunny afternoon but too early for cool breeze evening – when even the tourist streets were relatively empty.  As if the world was waiting.  Dreyfus was waiting for a gaggle of middle-aged, middle-class couples to get out of the narrow side street he wanted a little privacy on.  He could just see the blue-green neon Salut sign.  It was a one-door Kovaci brothers’ dance club, with two bored doormen waiting for the late night dance ‘til-the-Ecstasy-wears-off rush.  The couples turned the corner, and Dreyfus got out of the car.  He pulled Emily’s suitcase behind him, and in his other hand, hidden by his hip, was the Beretta.  He stopped just short of the two doormen and pulled the suitcase forward.  

“My name is Dreyfus Sinclair.  Tell your boss this is the English woman’s suitcase.  She’s going to …”

The first man stepped forward.

“Fuck o …”

On average, 9 mm bullets travel at 300 mps (metres per second.)  So, at that range, when Dreyfus shot the man in the face, he was dead before he finished the sentence and was already crumpling to the cobblestones when Dreyfus leveled the smoking gun at the second man’s head.

“Open your jacket.  Two fingers.”

The man obeyed, shaking his head.

“My name is Dreyfus Sinclair.  Tell your boss this is the English woman’s suitcase.  She’s going to want to change her clothes.  I’ll be by and collect her in a couple of days.  And you,” Dreyfus gestured with the gun, “Give your boss the message, and go back to Albania.  Because if I see you again, I’m going to kill you.”

Dreyfus let go of the suitcase, turned and casually walked back to the car.  He got into the back seat and said to the driver Sydney had provided for him: “Next.”