Martina Ciampi delicately chose one of the tomatoes with her fingernails.  Maybe this was the man she needed, but she was too old a bunny to be taken in by a big reputation.  Men were dreadful gossips, all balls and bragging.  Still, if even half of what “they say” about this man was true, the saints had provided him for her at exactly the right moment.  Because men, like this man, were good for one thing (outside the bedroom) – violence. And Signora Ciampi needed a lot of violence right now.  She bit the tomato.  And with a little help, this man could deliver it for her.

Dreyfus did wonder what the woman across from him was thinking, but in all honesty, he didn’t really care.  He’d just been thrown sideways out of an ordinary tit-for-tat revenge story into a sinister business that was probably beyond his power to correct.  He selected another slice of wild boar and some bread and waited.  Now he needed this woman’s information, but it looked as if she was going to tell him the whole long story.

“Two brothers,” she began, “They came to Florence after Kosovo.  At first, no one cared.  Italian cities are full of people no one wants – refugees, migrants, gypsies – and the brothers fed on these throwaways.  And they got fat on the food no one else wanted.  No one complains when the faceless ones disappear or end up floating in the Arno with no kidneys.  And the brothers got rich, and the brothers got bold.  They bought businesses and brought their friends from Albania to run them.  Italians …” Martina wiped her hand through the air, “Don’t work for these men.  Now they think they own the streets.”

“Do they?”  Dreyfus asked offhandedly.

Martina sipped her wine and turned her head.  Should she lie to this man?

“Not all of them.” There was venom. “Not yet.”

Dreyfus chewed a little too deliberately.  This just kept getting worse.  Apparently, he’d stumbled into a turf war as well, but, more importantly, he’d accidently given this woman a primo opportunity to set up a game of lets-you-and-him-fight.  Smart Dreyfus was telling him to finish his wine, make his excuses and run.  But the other Dreyfus was sitting there, eating wild boar salami and wondering how much ammunition was in the package Sydney had left him at the hotel.

“But they think this can be their town, and they want to show everybody they can do what they please in their town.  They reach beyond the faceless ones.”  Martina made a claw with her hand and shook it, “To my people.  People who look at me to protect them.”

“My English girl?”

“She was at a party.  Too much to drink.  It’s happened before.”  It was dismissive, and Martina settled back in her chair and cut another piece of cheese.

Dreyfus swallowed and reached for his wine.  This was taking too long.  He needed information, not a history lesson.

‘How many?”

Should she lie to this man?

“Maybe twenty – uh – twenty hard men.  No more than that.  The rest …” Martina made a sneering face and shifted her eyes over Dreyfus’ shoulder.

He wondered if this woman was lying.  “That’s not very many.  In a place this size, you’ve got to have three times that many, maybe more.”  Dreyfus lifted his shoulder and opened his hand. “Why are you even worried?”

Martina shrugged. “The time when, the Ciampi didn’t worry about anything, but today – puh! — Italian men are soft.  They like their Lamborghini, their Gucci, their Romanian maiala.  Tight pants and no favas.  The days of the Liccasapuni are over.  Now we negotiate.  Talk.  Like bankers.”  Nobody does scorn like an Italian woman who feels she’s been wronged.

Holy hell!  This wasn’t just a turf war: it was an all-in-the-family power struggle.  Clearly, the young stuff wanted to live and let live with the Albanians, but Mamma was more interested in live and let die.  But why was this woman telling him all this?  It didn’t make any sense.  She could have (should have) just shopped the Albanian brothers as heroin dealers and been on her way.  The voice of smart Dreyfus was louder now, practically shouting at him to run … but it was too late.  The trap was already sprung.  Dreyfus felt the movement over his shoulder.  His eyes instinctively searched the table for something sharp.  The cheese knife?  Dreyfus turned just slightly as the driver stepped past.  He leaned down and whispered into Martina Ciampi’s ear.  She looked away, then looked directly at Dreyfus.

“The Albanians have taken the woman Perry-Turner.  They came to the …”

Dreyfus held a finger in the air, and for a nanosecond, his eyes betrayed his absolute fury.  Martina shuddered in surprise, and the driver stepped back and automatically reached inside his coat.

Don’t!” Dreyfus snarled.  There was a second of suspended animation.  Jonathan McCormick had warned him about this.  But he hadn’t listened.  And when he looked, all he saw was what he assumed was already there – a couple of lowlife drug dealers.  He’d been blindsided by his own expectations.  Now what?  There was only one way out.  Quit being played.  Do the unexpected, and put these people on the wrong foot for a while – all of them.  Dreyfus reached for the wine pitcher and poured some into his glass.  He looked back at Martina — measuring her – but only his eyes moved.  There was no anger in his face, just a terrible indifference — and it scared her.

“I’m not going to ask you how they know who we are,” he said evenly.  He cut a piece of cheese and took a slice of capocollo.  He’d had enough wild boar for a while.

“Just so,” Martina thought. “He said he was a deliberate man.”  But this was all wrong.  Suddenly, Signora Ciampi was wary of this man.

Dreyfus looked at the driver.  “You need to go wait in the car.”  He leaned back in his chair and turned to Martina. “And you need to tell me about these Albanian brothers.  We’ve got all afternoon, so I want the details.”  Dreyfus lifted his glass and drank.

2 thoughts on “Firenze

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