I’m sure he dined there often. I would if I lived in Ravenna, even if I were alone. It was a charming trattoria with walls painted to a warm glow accented by white tablecloths and sparkling glasses. The door opened directly into the dining area, and the kitchen was subdued in the rear. There was a group at a table in one corner, a family in another and two or three absorbed couples scattered about. The aromas of sauce, browning meat, linen and rosemary prevailed. The staff’s muffled murmurs flowed along with the aromas over the low tiled wall.
He was across the room sitting alone at a table against the wall. He wore a three-piece blue suit with narrow stripes, a white shirt and a striped tie. His black shoes sparkled. His thinning, perfectly trimmed, white hair was combed straight back. He had an aquiline nose and a noble chin. His thin lips curled at the edges with a smile that whispered, “I am pleased.” The light made his smooth, pink face cherubic. Even with a rounded back, he sat straight. His posture was a statement of his place in life; dignified and elegant. He spoke little. The restaurateurs knew what he wanted, and he nodded when they brought his food. A white napkin, tucked at the neck of his shirt, flared and hung loosely to his belt.
He started with an apperativo, Campari, which he slowly brought to his lips. He awaited his meal with his hands folded in his lap, his right hand moving only to grasp the stem of his glass with his thumb and forefinger. He had minestrone, then thin pasta with red sauce. He twirled a few strands around his fork which he balanced against the side of the shallow bowl and, with not a strand dangling, lifted it to his lips. He dabbed his mouth with the napkin. After the pasta, they brought veal grilled with olive oil. One side dish of string beans and another of roasted potatoes accompanied it. His waiter poured Brunello. Grasping the stem with two fingers, he raised the glass, swirled the wine, watched the legs flow and then sniffed with his nose curled over the rim. He tasted. He looked up and nodded. “Va bene.”
Why was he alone? Did he live alone? How went his life? Was he a bachelor? A widower? If so, did he have children? If married, was his wife lovely, quiet, a partner? Perhaps she was away, in Rome maybe, watching grandchildren. How they must love him. Who makes his coffee, and how does he like it? Does he drink cappuccino? Sugar? With a spot, un macchio, of brandy? Was he retired? What did he do for a living? Maybe he was from nobility and did not need to work. He looked it. A professor? How many grateful students there must be? A physician? How many he must have helped. A banker? He must have loaned to the needy. A judge? How fair he must have been. A librarian? He read every book. A jeweler? He must have carried the best.
What were his days like? Where did he live? Something makes him smile. Does he laugh? Does he walk daily? For caffe’? With a walking stick and a coat draped over his shoulders?
The Alfa Romeo 159 left the Neapolitan northern district of Secondigliano shortly before noon on a bright clear November day. Secondigliano, now famous for having one of the highest murder rates in Western Europe, was once an old farming town. The driver, a dark-eyed, swarthy man with killer looks, put the 159 through its paces, shifting through the six gears as smooth as a hot knife through butter.
Prior to leaving, he plotted a course on his GPS which would take him east of Rome. His plan was to head northeast toward Cassino eventually merging onto A24 in L’Aquila. Less than one hour later he expected to be on A14 in Cesana, following the Adriatic coast north to his eventual destination in Ravenna. The total trip would take a little less than six hours, getting him there during the supper hour.
He received his marching orders late the prior evening from the local Camorra leader. The Camorra, a criminal organization dating back to the 18th century, originated in the region of Campania and its capital Naples. The client, the word associated with the intended victim, had recently been discovered when a relative of a family member killed by the client many years earlier spotted him in Ravenna.
The Camorra began a thorough job of trailing the individual, and in no time they knew where he lived, what he did every day, and where he dined. He was a creature of habit.
The client had a long history of criminal behavior. During the early part of World War II he had been the leader of a clandestine group referred to as “I Segreti,” the secret ones… a group that profited on the misfortunes of the Italian citizenry as the war in Europe spread to Italy. They played the Germans, Americans and Italians against each other and against the Italian people to gain enormous profits in cash and goods. They were adept at causing fellow Italians to lose their wealth, property and lives in order to gain any advantage they felt necessary. Many families were devastated during this period and would have personally tried to eliminate the forces causing their pain but did not understand how to do it.
It was the client who orchestrated it all, and though the period of operation was relatively short, he amassed a fortune by systematically eliminating each member of the group so that no one could identify him. His only mistake was not knowing that young eyes, hiding in a barn, had witnessed him kill his grandfather. The youngster recognized him years later during his bus tour.
The contractor was nearing his destination. It was an uneventful trip along the azure blue Adriatic. The skies were clear and the temperature hovered around 60 degrees. This day, November 11, was the birth date of King Vittorio Emmanuelle III, the inept King who failed to control Mussolini during the early stages of Fascism. It was one of the reasons why I Segreti was able to become so powerful. How ironic that the client would eat his last meal and see the last light of day on the birth day of his King, one who might have prevented his ever being able to be who he was.
For everyone harmed by his actions, the day of reckoning had finally arrived!