It was sometime after the Tagliere that Emily finally just couldn’t stand it. “Dreyfus, you look ridiculous.”
Dreyfus, who was actually the only one of the three of them who had extra clothes, had chosen to wear the red “Italia” sweatshirt he’d bought on the first day in Florence.
“I’m a tourist” he said, pulling the Italia logo. “And don’t throw stones. You and your girlfriend look like a couple of cougars from Blackpool.”
Emily’s face registered the surprise insult. “It’s not as if anybody would let us go shopping.”
But then the Tagliatelle fungi came with another bottle of wine and Emily dismissed him with a chop of her hand.
Dreyfus had gathered Emily and Janet from the hotel. Now, as night fell, they were sitting at an outside table in a nearly deserted restaurant (a couple of Swedish boys, Gerry and Laurie from Ohio, and a tour group of five who were eager to get the bill before dark) on the Piazza Something-Or-Other, across from a dance club (ironically one of the Ciampi’s) that was just cranking up the music. Long-day tired, they were relaxed and relieved and feeling the days of tension slipping away. The wine helped and the food helped, and the music was just tough enough to suggest a party. Then the music stopped and waited and started again and …
“Oh. My. God! Jans! Listen!”
“Call him Mr. Wr …” Boom! Boom! Boom!
“Remember?” Emily’s eyes were bright with excitement as the techno music beat across the Piazza. There was a studied look and suddenly Ms. Miller grabbed a spoon and, with a makeshift microphone, was singing along, karaoke style.
“I know what I wa …” Boom! Boom! Boom!
And Emily was singing too, pushing her face forward to share the microphone spoon. And the beat changed to Rap and the two women pushed their chairs back and, hair flying, they Shuffle danced into the piazza. Dreyfus laughed and pushed his own chair back, but he was too late: the Swedish boys — who were clearly interested in two cougars from Blackpool — had already jumped into the dance. Then Brittany, walking by, thought “Swedish boys!” dropped her knapsack and stepped in, as well. Not to be outdone, Dreyfus caught Laurie from Ohio’s eye and gestured. She feigned reluctance but … a quick glance at Gerry, and she was on her feet. She was of an age to remember the song and although a little rusty (she hadn’t danced in years) had some moves. Gerry wasn’t sure what to do, so he sat there. And the music played and the three of them danced — like primitive warriors sharing their victory with strangers. Boom! Boom! Boom!
And, at about the same time, a couple of streets away and here and there all over Firenze, Albanian hard boys were being attacked, beaten and, in a couple of cases, killed. Sometimes, the carabinieri intervened, but mostly they didn’t. This was Martina Ciampi’s dish – eaten cold. And the two men who could have (and would have) organized retaliation were driving hard for the coast. They’d run with two cars, a small bag of weapons and a smaller bag of money. They’d left the lawyers, the wives and the mistresses to deal with the mess and were headed for Ancona and an anonymous ship across the Adriatic to Durres. The hope was the cars would pay for the passage — and if they didn’t, one of the two bags would. But the real hope was they could disappear into the Albanian countryside before Martina Ciampi, the Italian Federal police, the British Secret Service or that madman Dreyfus Sinclair caught up with them.
The music faded, grew — Boom! Boom! Boom! — faded again and stopped. Emily and Janet jumped at each other and hugged — and in the general chaos – people, tables and chairs – they were suddenly all together like old friends when the chef showed up with the biggest, rawest Bistecca alla Fiorentina any of them had ever seen. There was general oohing and approval and then just confusion as everybody talked to everyone else.
“Are you two together?” Laurie asked, almost hopefully, “That’s okay. I don’t judge.”
“No, Mr. Bad Taste is mine. Jans and I are just old friends. We used to dance to that song when we were teenagers.”
“Yes, we are from Lund, but we are going to school in Malmo. And you live in London.”
“Not anymore. The Midlands”
“We are going to London.”
“So, insurance eh? Well, let me stop you right there. I’ve got Whole Life – a million, five,” Gerry nodded, knowingly. “And we got Laurie Term — saves us a bit of money – but we’re pretty well taken care of.”
“No price on peace of mind, Gerry.” Dreyfus said kindly.
And then the steaks came and Brittany, realizing the Swedish boys were occupied and no one else was interested in her adventures, grabbed her knapsack and said goodbye. Ms. Miller fed most of her steak to Lars (or was it Gars?) And they poured her more wine, a lot more wine. Gerry explained his position in the Lions Club and suggested Dreyfus join a local branch while Laurie talked about her kids and was a little too touchy for Emily’s taste. And the evening went on – through to the cantuccini with vin santo — until finally Emily caught Dreyfus’ eye, and the unexpected party in an ordinary piazza in Florence was over.
Later, with Gerry and Laurie safely back at their B and B and the somewhat destructible Ms. Miller gently snoring on their bed, Emily and Dreyfus sat together alone in the rooftop garden of their hotel. Emily had her shoes off and her feet up on a chair. Dreyfus slouched and stretched out with his ankles crossed. They were tired, weary tired, with no ambition to move, and the last glasses of wine were nearly gone.
“I thought Ms. Miller was going to grab the Swedish boys and teach them the ways of the English countryside.”
Emily smiled, “Men have it easy. A little heat, a little friction. Girls need a lot more heat and a lot more fiction. Besides, it’s the wrong phase of the moon.”
“Oh. Still leaves the question, where are we going to sleep?”
Emily chuckled, “I don’t know about you, but this cougar’s going to kick Jans over to her side of the bed and I’m done.” There was a pause. “Are we done?”
“Yeah. It’s over.” Dreyfus said solemnly, “The brothers Kovaci are probably back in Albania by now.”
“Is that who? No, I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. I just want them gone.”
“They’re gone. And they’re going to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders. It’s not going to take them too long to find out what frightened feels like.”
“Good,” Emily said, with a touch of acid. She reached over and touched Dreyfus’ fingers. “Thank you.”
Dreyfus shook the solemn out of his face and smiled. “But I still get the sofa.”
Emily picked up her glass and drank the last swallow of wine. “Yes, you still get the sofa.”