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Authors: Mary Jane Maffini

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BOOK: The Dead Don't Get Out Much
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“Sons. I hadn't thought of that. They might have something to lose if there was something fishy.”

“Yeah, but they're middle-aged respectable business people. They wouldn't run off and start killing old people on two continents because of a few rumours.”

For once Alvin was being sensible, and I had to agree. “You're right. These days it takes a lot of hanky-panky to have any impact. Even major firms like Christie's and Sotheby's have weathered scandals. I seem to remember smuggling charges in one case. I don't remember against which firm, which sort of proves my point. Anyway, it was serious stuff, but no one ran around killing people.”

“It's true. Even if people do get convicted and go to jail, they still come out and get back to business. Some of them go on
TV
and make some more money.” I could tell this was a sore point.

“Right again, Alvin. It would have to be something huge and awful. Nothing that Guy Prendergast alluded to would do more than keep the legal counsel busy. Hard to prove complicity. Face it, no one will arrest old Harry Jones if he's dying. And the Jones sons wouldn't even have been born until after the war. They couldn't have been looting anything. I'll keep thinking about what this all might mean. See what else you can find out. And don't forget to check in on Betty and call Hazel's step-daughter.”

“I'm on it. I think we're getting somewhere.”

* * *

I met up with Ray outside the internet café.

“Hey, I see you managed to stay out of trouble for twenty minutes,” he said. “Good going.”

I let that slide. After all, the man had many excellent points. I liked the way his sandy hair ruffled in the breeze, and I loved that grin. I filled him in on Harry Jones and his sons, and the situation with Hazel.

Ray nodded. “I think we should find out a bit more about these people, without making too many waves. The cops have access to stuff that Alvin won't. I'll make some calls. I know a few guys with international connections too. It's a bit early to call Canada now. Let's give people time to get to work. Hey, you look pretty upset.”

“Now I'm worried about Betty as well as Mrs. P. and Hazel.”

“Let's go sit somewhere. We'll work on our plan.” Ray put his arm around me as we crossed the piazza yet again. I was damned glad of that arm.

The midday sun was flooding the piazza, and people spilled out of homes and businesses. Tourists and locals alike took advantage of the good weather after the rain and fog. Everyone was sporting sunglasses. Ray stared in the window at some T-shirts his girls might like, and I took advantage of a small boutique to buy a pair of ridiculously pricy sunglasses for myself and a pair for Ray. I figured we had to bring something back from Italy in addition to Mrs. Parnell. We found an inviting
trattoria
. The waiter was setting up patio tables for lunch, and it was warm enough to park ourselves and soak up the November sun. We snagged a table with a good view of the bustling square and ordered lunch. Ray suggested a glass of Chianti was what I needed. He decided he'd have one too. The wine arrived almost immediately. Despite the weather, the presence of Ray, and the prospect of food and drink, I was not in the mood to waste time. I hauled out the poster of Mrs. Parnell and showed them first to the waiter and then to the other diners. While the poster was making the rounds, I studied the images that Ray had printed out from Alvin's e-mail.

I stared at a male face, late twenties perhaps, with dark thinning hair, slim build and beautiful chiselled bones. It was definitely the man with the box in the corridor near Mrs. Parnell's place. That must have been why he seemed familiar. Was there something else? A scrap of memory wiggled tantalizingly, yet refused to emerge fully. Alvin had sent three photos of him, once in the stairwell, once entering the front door and once in the elevator.

“He's wearing different clothing in each of these,” Ray said. “Must have been there several times.”

“Yes, Alvin said he'd been back three times. He was looking for something all right. There's something about him, I don't know what.”

“Could he be the same man in the Mercedes? The one who was supposed to be Mrs. Parnell's son.”

I shook my head. “I didn't see him. Anyway, this guy's in Canada, so that's not likely.”

“Don't forget we were both in Canada a few days ago, and now, we're in Italy. It can be done. Plus the clothes that guy's wearing look kind of foreign to me. The cut of the jacket.”

I stared at the pictures. All men's clothing looks alike to me. “Do you think they're Italian designs?”

Ray shrugged. “I don't know what they are, but I'm betting he didn't get them back home.”

“That's a good point. Maybe he
is
Italian, and when he lucked out with Mrs. P.'s place, he followed her over here. I don't think he's the guy in the Mercedes. I got the impression he was an older man. They thought he might be Mrs. Parnell's son, so my father or uncle.”

“I suppose it was a stretch anyway,” Ray said. “How would he know she came here?”

“It could be because she began to contact people, and maybe one of them couldn't be trusted.”

“I'll take these with me when I go to the police station. I'll also forward them to a colleague at home to see if he can get a lead on the guy.”

“Very efficient. I might have to keep you on staff, Sgt. Deveau,” I said. “Okay, I could take them to Dario. He could show them to the old guys in the village, and maybe Orianna, or someone else in Berli, might have seen him. That would help.”

Ray studied his glass of Chianti. “Don't forget Guy Prendergast back at the Villa.”

“Good point. Let me see, who else? That boy Fabrizio might be able to identify him as the person who bribed him about signor Falcone's whereabouts. If his mother would let me near him.”

Ray leaned back as the waiter delivered two plates of tortellini with butter and sage, a dish that really should be revered the world over. He said, “But…”

“I know, I know, these people are all in different towns, and that will mean a lot of driving. Still, it has to be done. No choice.”

“There's an easier way. We just forward them to anyone who has e-mail. That might cut down the travel.”

“I should have thought of that. Pays to have a cop around,” I said. “I'll call Dario and Orianna. Dario will have e-mail for sure. He's a modern guy.”

“Great. Do me a favour. Drink your wine, finish your tortellini and then do it.” Ray raised his nearly empty glass and smiled. “Five minutes more won't make any difference. I don't get that much of your time, and you won't be getting food like this back home.”

I hesitated. What if five minutes did make a difference? “How about I make the calls first, then we can relax?”

“I realize there's no point in arguing.” He signalled to the waiter for a refill. I like a man who takes things in his stride.

“Good. The phones are right over there,” I pointed. “I'll be back in a flash.”

I never made it. We were distracted by a flurry of activity. We had a bite on the
nonna
poster.

“Si. Si. Si. Si!”
a girl squealed.

No question about it, our Mrs. P. had hit town. Several people had seen her. I listened to at least four exuberant Italian conversations at once. I had trouble following and Ray sat baffled.
“Restaurazione”
was the key phrase. That fit well with what Guy Prendergast had told us.

“A restaurant?” Ray said.

“Restoration.” I asked the girl and her companions, “Is there a Sergio here? A restorer? And someone named Annalisa?”

A couple of lively conversations followed. I caught every tenth word or so. Sergio and
restauro
figured prominently.

I saw people shaking their heads when they spoke of Annalisa.

“Aspetti, signora! Aspetti,”
someone said.
“Aspetti qui.”

“They're telling us to wait here,” I explained to Ray.

“Good. Eat your lunch while you're waiting.”

We worked our way through the tortellini and the Chianti while someone else worked to track down Sergio, and, with luck, Mrs. P. Whatever they did would be faster than anything I could.

Ray was getting keen on
dolce
when a young woman arrived, escorted by two of the people who had been sitting in the
trattoria
. She was barely five feet, with wild corkscrew curls and jeans that must have been spray-painted on. Her fashionable square glasses would have looked hideous on most people. She was thin as a whippet. It was hard to imagine she had ever eaten a plate of pasta.

She held out her hand and smiled luminously. “I am Lucia Giansante. I understand you want to speak to my father.”

“Is he Sergio the restorer?”

“Yes. Sergio Giansante of Giansante e Figlia Restauro.”

“Giansante and daughter, that's nice. A family business.”

“Third generation. My grandfather started it. It was an unusual occupation then. Now as you can see, Alcielo is a centre for restoration of all kinds. It is because of the special history of this town.”

“I take it business is good.”

“Si
, restoration is a big business all over Italy now. We are starting to realize what we have and how we must preserve and protect our heritage. We are learning to be more respectful. What we have been as a society is reflected in our buildings and our artifacts, our art. We have lost so much.”

Interesting enough, but I didn't need another digression. I pushed the picture of Mrs. Parnell toward Lucia. “I'm told you may have seen my grandmother.”

She hesitated.

I nodded in Ray's direction. “Sergeant Deveau here is a police officer.”

She paled slightly. “Earlier today, she came by.”

I jumped to my feet, “Is she there now?”

“She did not have an appointment, and my father has gone to Milano to meet suppliers.”

“Where did my grandmother go?”

She stared at me, her eyes huge behind the square glasses. “I told her he would be back tomorrow morning, and she could see him after lunch.”

“And?”

Lucia continued to stare. “She said she would return.”

“We have to be there too. She needs to be seen by a doctor. She has a heart condition, very serious,” I said. “Do you know where she's staying?”

The curls flew as she shook her head. “Alcielo is a small place. Someone will know.”

I didn't want to let go of this fluent English speaker. “Do you know someone named Annalisa? Perhaps also in restoration?”

Was it my imagination, or did she curl her lip slightly? “Of course. Annalisa Franchini lives in the village, in the upper part. Everyone knows her.” Lucia gestured toward the top of the hill. “She isn't a restorer, though. Far from it. I haven't seen her for quite a while. They say she has been very sick for a long time. She may be away visiting her family in the mountains. Your grandmother asked about her too. Perhaps one of her neighbours will know.”

Ray said, “We'd like to be there when Mrs. Parnell shows up.”

Lucia shrugged. “No problem.”

I said, “And we'd like to talk to your father too. Before she does. If you see my grandmother, don't mention that we're coming. I wouldn't want her to think we were alarmed. She's very independent.”

Lucia gave me strange look number two. “I must get back and unlock the shop before I lose out on any business.” With her wild curls blowing in the breeze, she hurried up the hill, made a sharp right turn and disappeared.

Ray said, “See, everybody lies.”

“Did she lie? How do you know?”

“You did. Don't want your grandmother to think you're alarmed. Cute. So we've got time to kill.”

The waistband of my jeans felt smaller than before lunch. “Not really. I need to move a bit to burn off this meal. We might as well explore the town. Maybe we'll learn where Mrs. Parnell's staying and find out about Annalisa while we're at it. First, I've got to call people about the e-mail.”

I reached Orianna in Berli. She didn't have e-mail. She was keen to learn about what I'd found out. I took the time to fill her in. Vittorio didn't answer his phone, nor did Maria Martello. I felt a shiver when I thought today might even be signor Falcone's funeral. Signor Braccio's son, the police officer, would most likely have e-mail. I called the daughter and worked hard at the ensuing Italian conversation. Yes, she thought her brother had a computer, but she didn't know anything more than that. She suggested her father would love to hear from me, because he was very bored and unhappy. She was sending meals for him, even though her sister-in-law was going to be very offended by that. What else could she do? She gave me the telephone number. No one answered. I saved Dario for last.

“Ah, Camilla,
bella,”
he said. “How are you? Are you coming back to see me? What's happening? Did you find your
nonna, la poverina?”

I told Dario what I'd been up to. “No luck so far. Do you have e-mail? I have a photo attachment for you to show the people in your village.”

“E-mail,
si, certamente
. Why don't you bring the picture yourself? I'd like to see you. Everyone would like to see you again.” He dropped his voice to a husky whisper. “Or maybe I can come there.”

Somehow I didn't think that would go down well with Ray.

“I don't know how long we'll be in Alcielo. E-mail's best. I'll see you another time.”

“Sure,
bella
. Send it, send it. I will ask zio Domenico and everyone else,” he said. He gave me the address slowly and carefully. I'd never heard anyone make an e-mail address sound sexy before. Some people just have the knack.

Ray handled the forwarding of the photo. As soon as the e-mail was dispatched, Ray and I left the piazza and began a labyrinthine trip through the centre of Alcielo, during which I could have sworn we doubled back on ourselves three times. There was no concept of a block, no space between buildings which all seemed to be three stories high, at least. Some structures seemed to have other buildings constructed on top of them. I wasn't sure I was seeing that right.

BOOK: The Dead Don't Get Out Much
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