Ombra del vampiro

Salvo wolfed down the proffered Arancina ball, marvelling at how Maria had managed to blend the simple ingredients, wine, saffron sand rice to produce something that simply melted in the mouth.

“Hey Salvo, game of Bocche?” Marco, the wizened old watchmaker from the corner store, shouts to him with a twinkle in his eye. “Friendly odds?”

“Your an old shark Marco, I think I’ll keep my pension for more of the excellent wine and seafood.” He poured himself a deep red wine, from the 1919 Etna Rosso. Seeing how the wine caught the gaslight, the light swirling over the ripples from the pour, his mind travelled back to a fortnight earlier.

The worn chart, crease running to fit being folded into a work suit pocket lay over the table beside the jetty. Running his hand across it, finger moving back and forth, like eddies in a river. Tracing the current of excitement that lapped over the markings from its owner.

Pressing suddenly down, on a small cove, “something’s there”. The unremarkable cove draws raised eyebrows round the table. “Our excitable friend used this place as a supply point, he saw odd lights there last few runs.” Salvo contemplated whether they’d have gone for this quicker if he was wearing a pointy hat and muttering, “If nothing else, it eliminates one group in the swamps”.

Returning to the present, Marco shrugs amiably, moves on and lights on Gennaro. The grocer nods towards De Luca, one of his regular customers, and heartily swats Marco on the back as they pad over to the court.

Maria’s tables were a payment in kind from a carpenter. Along with De Luca and a few others from the area he’d gathered older woods from the swamps. He’d fashioned the tables & seats in return for Maria feeding his family when he couldn’t find work. Thinking on it, the walnut for this table couldn’t have come far from where Duchamp had taken her bath.

Unlike there, this table washed with pride and pleasure. The pride of the craftsman able to feed his family and keep his dignity. Family dinners around the table, safety and security, warmth above all else.

“Don’t ask, your still not getting the recipe” a plate of spaghetti al scoglia is placed in front of him. De Luca breathes deep, taking in the scent of the seafood and – what the “you’ve changed it! Why mess with perfection?”

“Don’t like, don’t try it then” muttering a request to St Lawrence and St Neot to protect him from temperamental cooks, his protestation dies after the first bite. “St Lawrence and all the angels should protect me from stubborn detectives who think they can cook!” Maria winks at him and returns to the kitchen.

Food, he’s moved more to eating seafood and vegetable dishes lately. Tommy joked that he was avoiding food with eyes, there might be some truth to that. It’s the eyes of like those Tomasso had when he saw him at the still that haunt him.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, the group stood at the split in the path. Regis shrugged as he set off down the spur that wasn’t leading to the front door, “and I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”

Had Regis said that, or had his memories filled in that snippet, did the powers that granted him the ability to see beyond seeing, filter those results to give an impression? Was it possible that in associating with the mad he had caught some of it?

The group had separated, despite protestation, Benedict happy to go with the idea once it looked like his plan, ‘Lord, what fools these Ventrue be’. Still he’d been capable enough.

He wondered briefly if Caitlin would be surprised by his use of Shakespeare, or the immortal bard as she insisted in calling him, or annoyed he’d used the wrong play. No doubt she’d suggest Louise falling in the water conjured ‘one foot in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never’. Caitlin’s quick wit would enjoy the juxtaposition of a woman’s campaigner falling foul of Beatrice own line. At least he hoped it would make her frown a little less.

Clearly his mood had darkened, as Maria drops a cannoli in front of him. “Is someone getting married?”

“No, but neither is anyone being buried. So brighten up” Maria moves back into the kitchen.

He wonders about that. Yes, four lives saved, re-established at cost to himself. Regis and Benedict confirmed two kindred dead. Attributed to the Sabbat, that would save others from their predation. But still it knawed at him.

There was nothing from their description that suggested Sabbat, other than cruelty, which was not unique to them. The 23 corpses at the still testify to that.

Arguing against it, the subtlety of the attack, the fact the Ventrue had moved so quickly to quieten the story and capitalise. Efficiency was one thing, but this smelt that someone had been looking to place a story.

The fact weaponry had been added to the boat, surprising Benedict, was probably testament to his aide, but had Benedict checked that? It was convenient that the destruction was total before anyone could investigate further. He doubted anything would now be gained by returning to that place, either by means fair or foul.

Also the fact that the attack specifically stopped Ventrue supplies as Regis confirmed, not Brujah or Toreador.

Mitnick had said the Sabbat were said to hunt as a pack. If this was true, where were the others, only two had been seen at the still.

Whilst Rocky’s story was embroidered, and a few kindred could easily have handled the ghouls, two seemed a low number to have established this setup.

The last question related to the Gangrel. He suspected that Fox had watched them at the jetty, as one of the creatures. If so, why had he taken no action, that suggested apathy at best, or that he was in league with others.

Still these thoughts could only be filed for the moment. Perhaps he should be grateful the hill was safe, that a small victory had been obtained. Perhaps the candle to Saint Jude Thaddeus had not been to lost causes, but instead to start Tomasso’s career as a carpenter.

Salvo left his payment, leaving more to cover the cost of Alphosina’s meal. The old woman had recovered from illness recently, and her pension did not always stretch to feeding herself well.

Whilst he knew Maria would never have charged the old woman the full cost, it meant her generosity could be extended to others who needed it.

“Marco, about that friendly game…”

Ombra del vampiro

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