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.  

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.”

Firenze

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.