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Authors: Magdalen Nabb

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Some Bitter Taste

BOOK: Some Bitter Taste
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BY THE SAME AUTHOR

Property of Blood

The Monster of Florence

The Marshal at the Villa Torrini

The Marshal Makes His Report

The Marshal’s Own Case

The Marshal and the Madwoman

The Marshal and the Murderer

Death in Autumn

Death in Springtime

Death of a Dutchman

Death of an Englishman

with Paolo Vagheggi

The Prosecutor

Copyright © 2002 by Magdelen Nabb and
Diogenes Verlag AG Zurich

Published in the United States in 2002
by Soho Press, Inc.

853 Broadway

New York, NY 10003

All rights reserved.

The characters and events in this story are fictional. No reference is
intended to any real person either living or dead.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Nabb, Magdalen, 1947–2007

Some bitter taste / Magdalen Nabb.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-56947-339-9

eISBN 978-1-56947-828-8

1. Guarnaccia, Marshal (Ficticious character)—Fiction.

2. Police—Italy—Florence—Fiction.

3. Florence (Italy)—Fiction.

I. Title.

PR6064.A18 S66 2002

823’.914—dc21                                    2002070579

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

For invaluable help, as always,
on matters regarding the Carabinieri
the author wishes to thank
Generate Nicolino D’Angelo.

One

T
he young man, Gjergj, just disappeared. From one day to the next his few possessions vanished from the little room in the villa and that was it. The marshal often had occasion to wonder what became of him. But the Albanian problem … you could only do your best. At least Dori was off the streets. In a sense, you could say that was more important because there was a child involved. It would be … what? About three months old by now. Coming back to his carabinieri station in the Pitti Palace after a fine spring afternoon in the country, the marshal hoped to goodness this coming summer wouldn’t be as hot as the last. He still remembered the day they returned from their holidays back home in Syracuse to be hit by the suffocating heat and the crush of tourists. Florence in July …

The Pitti Palace dominates the neighbourhood of Oltrarno, the left bank of die river Arno; it stands just a stone’s throw from Ponte Vecchio and its huge bulk, spread out horizontally, is like a stone barrier that, from the square, closes off the view of the Boboli hill behind it … It is difficult to imagine, behind the severe, rusticated facade, rhythmically spanned by arcades, the hidden garden rising up the hillside which the visitor discovers only after crossing the threshold of the palace, as the large courtyard opens up before him…

Marshal Guarnaccia flipped the pages of the guidebook. Pretty pictures. Cost a pretty penny, too. He was willing to bet that the woman who had left it behind when she came in to report her lost or stolen wallet had left that on the counter when she bought the guide. Once you started forgetting things in this heat…

He leaned back in his leather chair with a sigh.You come back from holiday, fresh and hopeful, and you think everything will be different. Then you walk back into your office and everything’s the same.

A young carabiniere knocked and peered in at Marshal Guarnaccia’s door. He looked up.'Has that woman come back for this book?’

‘No, she hasn’t. Can I send in the next one?’

‘How many more of them are out there?’

‘Just four in the waiting room but there’s that prostitute—I told her to come in this morning.’

‘Oh.’

‘Did I do wrong? She won’t talk to anybody but you, and Lorenzini said—’

‘You did quite right. And if she turns up I want to see her straight away.’

‘Yes, Marshal. So shall I…?’

‘Just give me two minutes, son, will you?’

What good would two minutes do? Well, he could take his jacket off, for a start. Only nine-thirty and it was sweltering. It was true that down home in Syracuse the temperature often reached one hundred and two, one hundred and four, even one hundred and five degrees, but there was always a breeze from the sea. Florence in July … He flipped through the rest of the brighdy coloured guidebook.

The slope leading up to the fountain of Neptune from which one has one of the most beautiful panoramas of the city.

It was true and what’s more, here he was inside the Pitti Palace and that view was right outside his window. Only he couldn’t open the window or even the shutters because it was too hot. There were no words to describe Florence in July. If only the Arno valley weren’t so stagnant. Breathing the same soup of evaporating river, car fumes, sweat, and drains day after day made you long to stay indoors where it was cool and clean. Every evening on the news they told you that children, invalids, asthmatics, and the elderly should avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day. Marshals of carabinieri were not a protected species, it seemed.

‘Poof!’ He hung his uniform jacket behind the door beside his hat and holster. In his shirtsleeves he felt a little better and, with any luck, he would have no cause to go out today at all. It crossed his mind, as he slid his bulk back between desk and chair, that it might be easier to bear the suffocating heat of Florence if he weighed less. Thinking about it, part of that unreasoning postholiday buoyancy was a vision, after the overeating excused by the visit home, of a renewed and lighter self, to be achieved by wishful thinking alone.

‘No, no … That’s not it, at all.’ He knew now what that after-the-holidays feeling came from. From school days. Cooling weather, new shoes, new teacher, new start. Satisfied that he had pinned it down, and reminding himself that each new school year had resulted in nothing but dismay and confusion for himself and irritation for his teachers, he addressed himself to the present. He was overweight, overheated, and overworked, and there were two more months of heat to get through. But at least he was behind the big desk now and no one these days accused him of not paying attention. Except his wife.

‘Marshal?’

‘What?’

‘It’s her, Marshal. That prostitute…’

‘Bring her straight in and tell the rest they might as well go home and come back this afternoon. Anybody who insists on waiting can wait but this is going to take a long time.’ It had already taken the marshal two months of patiently whittling away at the Albanian girl’s natural diffidence in the face of uniformed authority to reach this crucial moment and he didn’t intend to lose her now, for her sake more than his own. Arrest and convict one pimp and a dozen others are ready to take his place, but for the girl the story could have a happy ending.

‘Sit down, Dori.’ She was a fabulously good-looking girl, tall with lovely long legs; short, very blond hair; blue eyes; wide, painted lips. The face of a porcelain doll. She could surely have been a successful model if she’d had the luck to be born somewhere other than Albania. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘I’m all right.’

‘No more nausea?’

‘Not much. In any case, I’m working. Might as well keep earning as long as I can.’

‘In another month it’ll be showing.’

‘So what? Some men go for that. It’s happened to plenty of the other girls. You know what men are like. There’s plenty of them want you when you’re menstruating. Being pregnant’s not that big a problem.’

‘Who’s running things now Ilir’s inside?’

‘His cousin, Lek.’

‘I thought as much.’

‘Makes no difference to me, does it? He’s okay …’

‘But?’

‘Nothing … that friend of mine—you know, the letter and money you found—well, he made me give him her address.’

‘I see. It doesn’t surprise me. I suppose he thinks she’s as good-looking as you, and Ilir’s inside.’

“You’re wrong. He’s not trying to pull one over on Ilir. He’s his cousin. That’s why Ilir trusted his girls to Lek instead of the rest of his gang. He’s looking after Ilir’s interests, that’s all. He’s not interested in running girls, anyway. He’s got a building firm. He’s making plenty.’

The marshal knew all about the man and his building firm but he didn’t say so. He only said, ‘Does she know what she’s getting into?’

‘She knows what she’s getting away from. D’you know what they say about women in that arsehole end of the earth where she comes from? “Women should do more work than donkeys because donkeys live on hay and women eat bread."’

‘All right, Dori. Just remember that not all these girls have your luck. So, what about this man Mario? You can’t keep him waiting indefinitely. I thought you were here because you’d made your mind up.’

She opened her bag and fished out cigarettes and an orange plastic lighter, then hesitated. He pushed a big glass ashtray towards her.'So what’s it to be? Have you made your mind up?’

‘D’you mean about Mario or that other business?’

‘It’s all one, Dori. Marriage or prison, that’s what it comes down to. If you shop Ilir you’ll have to disappear from the streets. If you don’t shop him, you go down. We may need you for proof against him but we’ve already got proof against you. Do you want your baby to be born in prison? There’s another person to think about besides yourself.’

He could see that this child had no reality for her yet but once it was born she’d have to come to her senses, and though a girl as good-looking as she was might pick up more than one client willing to marry her, a man who’d take on a child too might not be so easy to come by.

Ilir Pictri, her protector, had been caught collecting money from her, which he did at intervals during her night’s work, afraid of her stashing a bit away for herself or being robbed. She could make two million lire in a night with no trouble at all. He had her go into a phone box at the entrance to the Cascine Park, pretend to make a call, and slip the money under the phone book. Ilir would go in after her, pretend to make a call in his turn, and pick up the money. It had been easy enough for a couple of carabinieri in plain clothes to work this manoeuvre out. They arrested him during a ‘phone call’. Ilir was inside now, awaiting trial, and they needed Dori’s testimony to convict him of pimping. When they’d searched the flat after Pictri’s arrest, they’d found a letter written by Dori to a friend of hers back in Albania. A translation revealed that she was encouraging the girl to join her, telling her what she could earn and enclosing money for the journey with details and contacts for a clandestine passage. This letter made her guilty of pimping along with Ilir and she’d been offered a deal. Testify against him and charges would be dropped against her. Now a regular client of Dori’s, Mario B., had offered to marry her. The marshal had called him in and had a quiet talk with him and it seemed that he was willing to go through with the marriage even though the girl was pregnant. He had even said, You never know, it could be mine. Besides, she told me herself, you know. It’s not as though she tried to hide it from me like some girls would have done. She’s a good girl who’s had a bad time.’

BOOK: Some Bitter Taste
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