Authors: Vincent Zandri
“Chase, what is it?”
I press an extended index finger to
my lips, like I’m asking her to be quiet.
The footsteps stop. Right outside
Christ, my gun is hanging on the
hat rack outside the door. One doesn’t consider one’s self-protection when in
the midst of making love to one of the most beautiful women he’s ever had the
good fortune to meet in his entire adult life. Because, after all, he’s already
died and gone to heaven.
Whispers outside the wood door,
then the sound of something metal jimmying the lock.
“Security breech,” I bark, bounding
out of bed, just as the door flies open.
There’s only two of them, but they’re both as big as a house.
Tall, thick, bearded. Like the giant
white marble statue of Poseidon that stands guard right outside the Palazzo
Vecchio has come to life … times two. Maybe they’re brothers. They thrust
me back on the bed while shoving Andrea off of it.
She screams, runs to the opposite
end of the room to grab her clothing.
“Who the hell are you?” I shout.
But the two men say nothing. Not as
if they don’t understand English. More like they’ve been ordered not to say a
word. Muscle is their job and that’s what they’re concentrating on entirely.
Poseidon One takes the left side of
the bed near the bedroom door while Poseidon Two man’s the right side by the
windows. My right hand comes suddenly free and I manage to coldcock Poseidon
One. He doesn’t so much as flinch. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve shattered my
I feel the comforter being wrapped
around me, like I’m a helpless pig in a blanket. They’re stuffing it in my
face. In my mouth.
Still, I manage to shout, “Andrea,
are you all right? Have they hurt you?”
Poseidon Two slaps me across the
forehead, his thick hand like a sledgehammer. Stars spin around my head while I
manage to catch sight of my new love as she pulls the turtleneck over her
shoulders and places the beret on her head, making sure the angle is perfect.
“Please don’t hit him.” She pulls a
lipstick from her leather bag, runs it over luscious lips. “He’s not dangerous
and we don’t have the authority to inflict extreme measures.” Shaking her head
in disgust. “Where the hell did you two come from anyway?”
Poseidon One turns to her. “He’s
not cooperating. We can get rough, he don’t cooperate.” His accent is British.
But not the King’s English by any means. More like a common soldier’s, Cockney
“He will,” she says, heading out of
the room, closing the apartment door. “Give him time.”
“We don’t have time, Miss,” the
goon says. “We were supposed to have him there two hours ago.” He stares at her
for a long beat while she returns the glare, unafraid. “We didn’t count on your
little get together with the acquisition.”
“I lost track of time,” she says in
her defense. “Let’s just get him there already. Now. Do you understand?”
Her words … their words … hit
me harder than Poseidon One’s bitch slap. She set me up. The whole thing was a
setup from start to finish. How could I have not seen through the haze earlier?
“Chase Baker, the famous bestselling novelist, I presume?”
Who the hell
talks like that? It’s my own fault. I fell for the oldest trick in the book,
and left the thinking up to my other head.
“I knew you were too good to be true,”
She smiles at me while she pulls a
small roll of duct tape from her purse. Tearing off a piece, she slaps it over
“I had fun, Chase,” she says, her
accent now decidedly as English as the rest of them, but far more educated. It’s
also devoid of anything resembling Italian. “You’re pretty sexy for an old guy.
Sorry for the tape, but it’s a precaution I must take.”
“Who you calling old, bitch?” I say
through the tape. But it comes out sounding like a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo.
While the Poseidons continue to
immobilize me by pressing me into the mattress, she tapes my ankles together
and then does the same to my wrists. She steps back from the bed.
“He’s good to go,” she says. Then,
looking down at me, smiling. “Don’t worry, tough guy, I’ll grab your clothes.”
, I say in my
head. But what I want to say is: I don’t care how beautiful you are, when I get
free of this, I’m gonna shove that purple beret up your tight little ass. At
the same time, I’m now regretting having sent my trusty pit bull, Lulu, across
the big pond to spend time with my pre-teen daughter in New York. He would have
stopped the big Poseidon Brothers at the door and carved up their fuzzy faces
while he was at it.
Andrea opens the door and the
Poseidon Brothers proceed to lift me off the bed, one at the head, the other at
my feet. They carry me down the stairs with surprising efficiency and agility.
I’m five feet nine, one hundred eighty-five pounds. But to these monsters, I
might as well be weightless.
We head out the front door onto a
deserted Via Guelfa. They carry me to the back of a van, the doors to which are
already open, and they shove me inside like I’m a cadaver on its way to the
morgue. Let’s hope I’m not prophesying. As Poseidon One comes around the front of
the van and jumps into the driver’s seat, Andrea opens the passenger side door,
settles herself into the shotgun seat. That leaves Poseidon Two to close the
van doors. He’s just about to accomplish the task when, peaking out of the
blanket, I catch sight of a man. A man standing maybe ten feet away from the
van. He’s wearing sandals and a long hooded robe, like a monk or a friar would
wear. His face is entirely hidden by the robe’s hood. Hidden in total blackness
within the dark night.
“Hey, you,” Poseidon Two barks in
Cockney English. “What do ya think you’re lookin’ at?”
The monk turns then, walks away in
the opposite direction.
Poseidon Two climbs in, slams the
doors closed from the inside.
“Fuckin’ step on it,” he says. “I
wanna catch some sleep tonight.”
Poseidon One shoves the floor-mounted
stick into first, presses his booted foot on the gas. We pull away from the
corner and begin tearing down the cobbled road toward who knows where.
Chase Baker, the famous
bestselling author, I presume?
What a bunch of horse shit.
The Poseidon Brothers carry me down a concrete staircase and
into a windowless four-walled basement room. This is maybe fifteen or twenty
minutes after they’ve kidnapped me, which tells me I can’t be more than ten or
fifteen miles outside of Florence. Which direction they’ve driven me in,
however, I haven’t got a clue. I could be in Prato to the north, or just
outside of Fiesole on the way to wine country to the east. It’s a toss-up, not
that it matters much.
The brothers lay me out on a
carpeted floor, cut away the tape that binds my ankles and wrists. When they
pull the tape from my mouth, it sends a wave of pain shooting through my face.
“You motherfuckers,” I whisper.
“‘Scuse me, mate?” spits Poseidon
One. “You say somethin’?”
Sitting up, I take a good look up
at him. I’m naked as the day I was born, with a few scars and bruises to add a
little flavor to the package. But at this point, my
doesn’t see me right now. She’d think I’d fallen on hard times.”
Poseidon Two tosses my clothing at
me. Including my lace up Chippewas which smack me square on the chest.
“Get dressed,” he says. Then,
smiling. “I were you, I wouldn’t be showing off a teeny tiny joint like that.”
“Glad you noticed,” I say. Sensing
he might have a little something like a crush for Andrea, I add, “Your
colleague didn’t seem to mind giving it a ride all night long. Tell me the
truth, beefcakes, she wasn’t supposed to rock n’ roll me all night long like
that, was she? Or was she just instructed to make it look like she wanted to do
the wild thing with me as hard, and as long, and as wonderfully as she did?”
Even under all that facial hair, I
can see his jaws going taught, his teeth grinding.
“Let it go, Bear,” Poseidon One
says. “He’s just trying to get under your knickers.”
“He’ll get his he will, Jackie,”
Poseidon Bear spits, staring into my eyes while rudely referring to me in the
The two goons leave, slamming the
door closed behind them. That’s when I get my first good look at the place. I’m
inside a room that measures about ten feet by ten feet. The overhead ceiling-mounted
lighting are bright LEDS. The four walls are translucent and, if my gut serves
me right, I can see out but no one can see in. But, that doesn’t really matter
because there’s an audio-video camera system set up in each of the four upper
Knowing I’m being watched, I stand
and start to get dressed as casually as I would if I were in my own bedroom at
home in either Florence or New York on Prince Street above the pizza joint. I
even look directly into the camera when sliding into my beer mug boxers one
pale leg at a time, and paint a big shit-eating grin on my face. What the hell,
sometimes you gotta lighten things up. Chase the optimist.
When I’m dressed, I take a seat at
the long table that fills the center of the room … and I wait. At this
point, I’m mostly waiting for a cup of coffee since it’s going on five o’clock
and I haven’t enjoyed a wink of sleep all night. Maybe I should be yelling,
screaming, and carrying on over having been kidnapped, post coitus. I should be
kicking at the glass walls, hoisting my middle finger at the closed circuit
cameras. Hell, taking an arcing piss on the rug.
But two things come to mind.
First, if these people wanted me
dead, I’d already be sleeping with the anchovies at the bottom of the mud-colored
Arno. And second, why give them the satisfaction of knowing how truly upset I
am? Best to give them calm, cold, and collected. Like James Bond, maybe. Or
Steve McQueen in
The Great Escape
A few more beats pass until the
door opens again and four people enter the room. Rather, two people, and the
Poseidon Brothers following close behind. What’s their names? Bear and Jackie?
Andrea is included in the group.
She’s still dressed in the same cute outfit she wore last night when I met her
pretending to tend bar at The Goose. The other is a man who, by all outward
appearances, is about my own age. He’s a black man. Dignified looking. Tall,
well built, with black hair trimmed close to the scalp. Highly educated, no
doubt. His dark blue suit has been tailored to fit him. Perhaps at Giovanni’s
down on Via della Scala near the river in the Florence center. He’s holding a
manila folder which he sets down on the desk before seating himself.
“Mr. Baker,” he says, his
expression serious and concerned, “you’ll have to excuse the methods by which
we brought you here.”
Andrea takes a seat beside him. I
catch her eyes catching my eyes, and I smile. She offers me just the slightest
“You might have simply called me,”
I say. “But then, that wouldn’t have been dramatic.”
He just looks at me like he doesn’t
understand what I’m saying or why I’m saying it.
“Please accept my apologies for
upsetting your night like this.”
“Don’t apologize to me,” I say,
nodding at Andrea, who is still looking fresh and beautiful in her purple beret
and cotton turtleneck with no bra. “Apologize to the dame.”
He turns to her, gazes at her for a
beat or two, then refocuses on me.
“My associates sometimes get
carried away with their methods, and this was one of those cases.”
I look beyond Andrea at the
Poseidon Brothers. Both of them smile at me in unison. I’m guessing these guys
enjoy their work.
“Tough to find good help these days,
isn’t it?” Then, “And what did you say your name was?”