The Villa in Tuscany

Two men were dead, lying in spreading crimson pools, and the third was wheezing scarlet bubbles out of a couple of large calibre chest wounds.  Dreyfus smoothly took the empty clip out of the Beretta, put it in his pocket, and replaced it with a new one.  He slid the chamber back to load it and, trying to keep the fierce out of his voice, said, “Breathe, Emily.  Slowly.  It’s over.  Breathe.”

Emily, who was cowered half-hidden by a lounge chair with her arms covering her head was shaking so badly she thought she’d never breathe again.

Dreyfus waited.  There shouldn’t be anyone else in the house, but he wasn’t ready to take that on faith.  Just in case, he held the gun loosely on his arm for that nanosecond reaction time advantage.  The truth was Dreyfus Sinclair was not a very good shot.  On a static range, he could hit what he was aiming at – most times – but he was never going to win any prizes.  The reason he always walked away (so far) from deadly altercations is he didn’t hesitate.  And when you empty a 14 shot clip into anything that moves in a confined space, you’re not only going to hit something, you’re going to hit everything.  The three men on the floor were testament to that.

He kept his eyes on the far entryway, avoiding the big afternoon sunlight that slanted through the terrace windows.  The place was nice — wine and bread nostalgic Italian, probably built for a Mussolini grandee and, 80 years later, rented by the week or the month to rich tourists, minor film stars and, apparently, Albanian gangsters.  They were never going to get the blood stains off that lamp shade or out of the rugs.  It was an idle thought.  The man on the floor gurgled and died.  Dreyfus didn’t look down.

On the edge of his peripheral vision, he caught Emily unfolding and putting herself against the wall.  She pulled her knees up in front of her.  Her eyes were closed, and she was heave breathing against the rush of adrenaline sickness.  “Slowly,” he reminded her calmly.  “Deep breaths.”  Dreyfus glanced back to the terrace, but it really was over.  They needed to go.  It was always best to leave the scene of the crime quickly before the unexpected happened.  But they needed to wait — at least until Emily put some strength back into her trembling knees.  It wouldn’t take long.  Lady Perry-Turner was stiff upper lip resilient.  Dreyfus had seen this before and he knew enough to let her handle it.  They had time – not much – but time enough.  Dreyfus vaguely wondered why all Tuscan landscapes looked the same.  He had a vision of an army of paint-by-number artists turning them out in a warehouse west of Rome.  Was this one paint or a print?

“Did you kill them all?”

Emily wasn’t particularly bloodthirsty, but these men had been scaring the life out of her for the last three days.  No, they hadn’t touched her.  In fact, they’d been utter professionals and had barely even looked at her really, but Emily had been attacked by a group of men once before and she was under no illusion that she could effectively defend herself if they decided to be nasty.  And now that that unrelenting fear and tension had been released, it felt good to get a kick in.

“No, the two at the gate ran.  They’re halfway back to Florence by now.”

“Are we in trouble?”  Emily stretched her legs out.

With three men dead on the floor, it was a strange question.

“Not really.”  Dreyfus had already warned the Albanians, and he knew from experience that–as long as you didn’t start murdering family members — they were businessmen.  They would tally up their losses and get on with it.  Eight dead, two running and a burning truckload of transplantable organs and unfertilized eggs was a considerable loss.  They’d played their hand with Emily, but now that she was off the table, they were likely to want a truce.  Dreyfus wasn’t actually willing to let them off that easily, but he also knew his boss, Jonathan McCormick, was not going to let him beat on a potential client indefinitely.  So he’d already decided to give his information to the Italians and let them do the dirty work.

“But we need to go,” he said.


“Soon.  Grab whatever you don’t want to lose, and let’s go.”

“All I want is my jewelry.”

Dreyfus shrugged and put the Beretta back in its holster.  Emily slid up the wall.  She was still a little shaky but managed to navigate down the hall to the bedroom.  She opened her luggage, pulled out a couple of leather cases and put them in a shoulder bag.  She turned away, thought about it, turned back and found some underwear.  She balled them up and stuffed them into her bag. “With Sinclair, soon could mean anything,” she thought, and hurried back down the hallway.  

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