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Authors: Massimo Carlotto,Antony Shugaar

For All the Gold in the World

BOOK: For All the Gold in the World
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ALSO BY
MASSIMO CARLOTTO

The Goodbye Kiss

Death's Dark Abyss

The Fugitive

Poisonville
(with Marco Videtta)

Bandit Love

At the End of a Dull Day

Gang of Lovers

Europa Editions
214 West 29th St., Suite 1003
New York NY 10001
[email protected]
www.europaeditions.com
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2016 by Edizioni E/O
First publication 2016 by Europa Editions
Translation by Antony Shugaar
Original Title:
Per tutto l'oro del mondo
Translation copyright © 2016 by Europa Editions
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Cover Art by Emanuele Ragnisco
www.mekkanografici.com
Cover illustration by Emanuele Ragnisco
ISBN 9781609453435

Massimo Carlotto

FOR ALL THE GOLD
IN THE WORLD

Translated from the Italian
by Antony Shugaar

I look at the moon,
I look at the stars,
I see Cain and he's smoking cigars.
I see the table set for a meal,
I see Cain frying the veal.
I see St. Peter with a bottle of wine,
And he and Cain are playing at nines.
(N
URSERY RHYME
)

P
ROLOGUE
 

J
azz woman. When she pressed her red lips to the microphone to sing
Good Morning Kiss,
I'd hold my breath so I could savor every single moment. She was imitating Carmen Lundy's voice and style, but you had to strain to notice it. She'd never make it big, not even in the small-town clubs. She sang jazz songs because they were the one thing that kept her clinging to a life she could barely stand.

Her husband was certain she had a lover. He'd given me five hundred euros fresh from the ATM to find out the man's name. The husband was a good man, still in love, no plans to divorce. All he wanted was to understand why the love of his life had pulled away from him, from their life, for some other man. Some stranger, most likely.

An apparently simple case for an unlicensed private investigator who, for a moderate fee, was happy to stick his nose into married couples' personal business, where it really didn't belong, and who forgot everything he'd found out the minute he was paid.

A couple days was all I'd needed to find out the woman was pretending to go to the hospital, where she worked as a nurse, for a nonexistent night shift, and was actually slipping into a basement spot known as Pico's Club. She'd put on a short, emerald-green dress with a low neckline and a matching pair of shoes, very high-heeled, and she'd get lost in her jazz. She was a generous singer and she gave the songs her all. I knew the piano player who backed her up by sight; he was good but always short on cash so he'd take any gig he was offered. He told me that “Cora” had just showed up one day and asked him for an audition. They performed two nights a week, but she refused to consider taking on any more bookings.

The musician had decided that the woman thought a little too much of herself and had no intention of following his sage advice. A judgment both harsh and uncalled for. She needed to play the star in a hideaway where, for a few hours, reality couldn't get at her. I could have wrapped the case up then and there. But that's not what I did. I violated my bond of trust with my client. I had no intention of cheating him out of his retainer, but it had been two months, and I still hadn't been able to tear myself away from the jazz woman. I'd fallen in love. I liked her. I wanted to be her lover. But I didn't know how to approach her. I certainly couldn't admit that I'd been tailing her on her husband's behalf, and that I knew all about her double life. I didn't want to scare her, much less piss her off. I wanted to love her.

When she was onstage, she sometimes fiddled with the hem of her skirt, and I dreamed of reaching up and stroking her thighs. They were nice, shapely thighs. Cora was in her mid-forties, tall and slender, and her body testified to the effects of a dedicated workout regime—her tits especially. A cascade of curly black hair framed a delicate-featured oval face.

In order to avoid crossing paths with her spouse, who left home to head for work, she'd stop in a café on the outskirts of town for a breakfast she ate slowly. I'd sit nearby and peek at her, admiring the creases at the sides of that mouth I so yearned to kiss.

When I spied on her in the dark at Pico's Club, where she wore that heavy makeup that stood out under the honey-yellow stage lights, she was Cora. Once she changed out of her stage clothes, she went back to being Marilena. Marilena Dal Corso.

That morning, too, I watched her as she bit hungrily into a croissant and read the paper. Suddenly she glanced up and looked me straight in the eye. I smiled at her. She remained expressionless. For a second I was afraid she'd recognized me and connected me to the club. Instead, she went back to her breakfast and paid me no further mind.

I followed her to where she lived, an apartment building on the outskirts of the city. It was practically the countryside. Padua was several miles away. I got out of my car and smoked a cigarette, fantasizing about ringing the doorbell and slipping into the shower with her.

There'd been other times in my life when the desire for a woman's love had literally overwhelmed me, but I was finding this especially hard to handle. I felt an urgent need for her because I was struggling to hold a past filled with old wounds, wounds that had never completely healed, at bay; a past that threatened, every day, to invade. And destroy.

I had no intention of coming to terms with those old skeletons; I knew I'd only emerge a beaten man. I wanted to live in a dignified present. Nothing but love or the stress of a dangerous investigation could guarantee me that. But I wasn't planning to get myself in trouble. I wanted to give and receive tenderness and affection. Kisses and caresses.

I got back in my car and drove to the big-box home appliance store where her husband worked. I waited for him to finish with a customer who wanted to know all about the latest dishwasher models; then I told him that Marilena wasn't cheating on him and gave him back his retainer.

At first he pretended to refuse the money but I cut him off, reminding him of his monthly salary.

“But I'm sure there's another man, she's lying to me, inventing shifts at the hospital,” the man said; he was working himself up, his voice growing slightly louder.

I laid my hand on his chest to reassure him. “Your wife is a singer,” I told him. “In a shitty club, a place filled with solitary drinkers and older women whose voices are hoarse from too many cigarettes. It's her island of freedom, her harmless little secret. If you take even that away from her, you'll lose her for good.”

“I don't understand,” he stammered.

“We're men, and there are things beyond our capacity for comprehension. Take my advice: Let her live in peace.”

I shook his hand and left the store feeling relieved. The case was solved. Maybe I'd manage to keep my distance from her, as common sense demanded. Maybe. My outlaw heart had other thoughts on the matter.

I rummaged through the CDs I kept in the car and immediately found the one with the piece I wanted to hear:
Dengue Woman Blues
by the great Jimmie Vaughan, brother of the late, lamented Stevie Ray.

 

I had a hard time finding a parking place near my home and I spent a good fifteen minutes creeping along at walking speed, hunting the adjoining streets for a spot. Then I stopped in at my usual café-tobacconist to stock up on cigarettes. Sometimes I used the place as my general delivery. If someone wanted to get a message to me, they could just leave it there.

Some guy who'd been feeding euro after euro into one of the slot machines lined up across from the bar left his stool and came over. I knew him well. In Padua's organized crime circles he was known as the Bulldozer because his specialty was stealing heavy machinery and fencing it in Eastern Europe.

“Siro Ballan wants to see you,” he said softly. “Tonight, if possible. What should I tell him?”

“That I'll pay a call.”

He nodded, satisfied. “I'll let him know.”

“Can I get you something?” I asked. It was a formality; I was hoping he'd say no.

He pointed at the slot machine that was sucking money out of his pockets like a vacuum cleaner. “I can't leave this thing,” he explained. “I have to punish it.”

In the elevator I ran into the tenant who lived on the floor below me, Signorina Suello, an energetic seventy-year-old. “I sleep lightly and you always play the music too loud,” she complained resignedly.

“Marijuana,” I whispered. “Smoke some before going to bed and the blues will sound like a lullaby.”

She laughed, flattered by my audacious provocation. It was a little skit we'd been doing for a while now. “Tonight I'm making eggplant parmesan,” she announced, “which I know your friend Max really likes. If I happen to make a little too much . . .”

“I sure hope you do.”

Max the Memory was my partner. And a true friend. We shared a large apartment with plenty of light, tastefully furnished, in the center of Padua. It had been a gift from a Swiss client who had more money than she knew what to do with. She'd bought the a place as a hideout: There she could have, in blessed peace, a happy and extremely secret love affair with a man who wasn't the husband who paid for her upkeep. A cruel and perverse criminal had tried to exploit the situation to his own advantage, demanding a sizable sum in exchange for not revealing her illicit tryst. The whole story had ended in the worst possible way and the woman had gotten rid of her love nest with a gesture both elegant and generous.

This morning, like every morning, Max was reading the papers in search of information for his archive. He'd started doing it in the seventies and had never given up keeping tabs on local criminals and notables. Information that he'd always processed with remarkable acumen.

Not too long ago, he'd taken a bullet to his flab in order to protect me. The doctors had discovered that his cardiac and metabolic conditions weren't exactly topflight and had ordered him to avoid excess. Food and alcohol only as prescribed. He was forbidden to smoke. And so, in fact, Max now only smoked my cigarettes.

“This evening you've got a pan of eggplant parmesan coming to you,” I announced as I handed him my pack and my lighter.

He shook his shaggy head decisively. “Not a chance,” he retorted. “I have an appointment in one hour with a nutritionist. I'm changing my life, Marco.”

I sighed. This was the umpteenth specialist since he'd been released from the hospital. I'd lost count. “And how did you find this one?”

“At a pastry shop. I happened to be eavesdropping on a conversation between two women and finally I asked for more information.”

Of course, at a pastry shop. “You know how it's going to end, don't you?”

He fell silent, pretended to focus on his reading. Then he burst out, “It isn't easy to find the right doctor, who can help you achieve appreciable results.”

“Which, translated into actual weight, means forty-five pounds,” I specified in a flat voice. “You need to check yourself into a clinic for rich people where, between a massage and a sauna, they'll offer you salads, smoothies, and transparent slices of pineapple. And, when you fall off the wagon, they punish you elegantly.”

He didn't dignify my observations with a reply. He tapped another cigarette out of my pack and smoked it, nervously.

I told him about the jazz woman and the conversation I'd had with her husband. He threw his arms wide, feigning exasperation. “You fire judgments about my diet decisions left and right, and then you behave like a schoolboy.”

BOOK: For All the Gold in the World
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