Authors: Maurizio de Giovanni,Antony Shugaar
214 West 29th St., Suite 1003
New York NY 10001
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.
Copyright Â© 2013 by Giulio Einaudi Editore SpA, Torino
Published in arrangement with Thesis Contents srl and [email protected] literary agency
First publication 2015 by Europa Editions
Translation by Antony Shugaar
I bastardi di Pizzofalcone
Translation copyright Â© 2015 by Europa Editions
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Cover Art by Emanuele Ragnisco
detail from the 2014 Bicentennial edition of the Historical Calendar of the Carabinieri.
Maurizio de Giovanni
THE BASTARDS OF PIZZOFALCONE
Translated from the Italian
by Antony Shugaar
To Severino Cesari.
Brother of every word.
The sea in the air. The sea in the street.
The sea in the sky, all the way up to the windows shut tight on the highest floors.
The sea in your ears, muffling the whistling of the wind.
The sea on the rocks, shattering itself against them and bellowing hoarsely.
The sea, drop by drop, flying. The sea whirling.
It's not unlike that damned snow of yours, you know. The way it kicks up, blurs your sight, and for a moment keeps you from seeing the landscape, only to settle again at the bottom.
Not always at the bottom, come to think of it. Sometimes, to one side. This time, to one side. Standing there, watching, as it settled slowly on the side. On the far side.
Only one person, on the street. Me. For that matter, at this time of night and in this weather, who'd be here? Who would risk being swept far away by the wind, onto who knows what island?
I can't believe it, that I actually did it. But it's true, I really did. I didn't want to, I wasn't planning it. I thought we'd talk. I thought we'd talk, and that you'd come around. That you'd say: all right, I understand. That you'd say: okay, you're right, you win. We'll end this, and then I'll leave.
I thought that maybe it wouldn't even be that hard, to make you see reason. But instead, instead: no. You're a stubborn woman.
Or you were.
God, all this sea in the air. All this noise. Deafening me. Confusing me.
I had to do it, you know that, right? It was necessary.
Because that's the way love is. You can hide it as long as you like, you can conceal it behind the gazes and gestures of everyday life. You can leave it in silence, tend to it like a plant; but the day you decide to bring it out into the light of day, from that day forward you're no longer in charge. Now love is in charge. It decides for you, it unfolds like a beautiful blossom, it wants to take up as much room as possible.
But you? Not a chance. You refused to make room for love. You were unwilling to take that step. Too bad for you.
You should have read what was there in my eyes. You ought to have understood. You had all the time you needed to figure out that I wouldn't take no for an answer. That I was bound to lose my head. It was there, clear as day, in my eyes.
The snow. Your goddamned fake snow. It's just like this sea, soaking me now like rain, filling my head with wind and water.
I don't see them, your closed windows. Too much wind, too much sea in the air.
Just like your snow, that you liked to watch as it whirled in the glass, concealing the landscape. Could you ever have imagined, that that very blizzard would be your last?
And it kicked up, in fact. For the last time, before starting to come back down. On the side opposite the blood.
By the time the snow settled, you were already a memory.
iuseppe Lojacono was sitting in the squad car, in the passenger seat, back straight, hands motionless on his thighs. He really did look Chinese, which is why his colleagues had given him that nickname; not that they'd told him about it, of course: he wasn't the kind of guy you could kid around with. High cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes that, when he concentrated, narrowed until they were just a pair of slits; black hair, slick but rumpled; a bony physique, perennially tense, as if he might lunge forward at any second. A few creases at the corners of his mouth made it clear that he'd made it past forty, though not by much.
He was thinking. About how easy it had been to lose everything that, with dedication and hard work, he had managed to build. And he was thinking about how, back home, at that very moment, in late March, the almond trees were blossoming and the sun was already hot enough that you could lie on the beach and think as you looked out to sea; here, on the other hand, it might as well have been the middle of winter, with wind giving way to showers and women chasing tattered umbrellas down the sidewalk, while the stopped cars trumpeted their frustration with frequent blasts from irritated horns.
But home was far away, very far away in both space and time. Maybe it was actually impossible to reach, by now. And anyway, no one there wanted him back. He was too much trouble: trouble as a friend, as a relative, and as a colleague.
He thought back to his conversation with Commissario Di Vincenzo, to whom he'd been assigned. Not that they'd ever liked each other, but after everything had happened with the Crocodile, it all had become too much to bear.
The Crocodile. The nondescript, grieving old man who had murdered four kids. And Lojacono, investigating even though he hadn't been assigned to the case, had tracked him down; he'd identified him and uncovered his motive. While the city's entire police force was rummaging through the usual closetsâCamorra, corruption, drugsâand coming up empty-handed.
That case had worked to restore his reputation, at least in part, but it had made the other cops like him even less. A guy who doesn't know his way around, who isn't in contact with any informants, and who solves a complicated series of murders using nothing but logic. Pulling feet out of the fire at police headquarters, while his superiors struggled to cope with an increasingly angry press and public.
At that point, something had to be done with him. He couldn't be left manning the criminal complaints desk at a police station in a precinct seething with crime. No, now he needed a real post: otherwise some newspaper would wonder, as soon as they ran out of events to slap on the front page, what had become of the man who found the Crocodile.
For a while, Di Vincenzo had resisted, only to finally gave in and reluctantly assign Lojacono to cold cases, cases no one had made any progress on for years. No one, in any event, was going to tell the commissario what jobs he could or couldn't assign his men to.
Then Di Vincenzo had sent for him, just a few days ago.
And he'd told him about the precinct of Pizzofalcone.
This, Lojacono mused, might be the best solution, which is what you always think as you're tumbling out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The young officer driving had already tried twice to engage him in conversation, but his attempts at small talk had been met with silence. And so for the last few minutes he'd steered the car and kept his mouth shut, darting rapid glances at his passenger.
He found the Sicilian's profile unsettling. The driver, too, had heard all sorts of stories about the lieutenant, who'd been tossed off the Agrigento mobile squad because a state's witness had reported that Lojacono was passing information to the Mafia. From what the driver'd heard, no solid evidence had surfaced against him but, as always in these cases, it had been thought wise to station the suspect elsewhere.
The driver had already crossed paths with Lojacono a number of times when he found himself on duty at the police station's front desk, and of course he knew all about the Crocodile case. For a time, the city had talked of nothing else. And gone on talking for days and days, even after the case was over; until something newâmore blood, more deathâcould take its place on the front pages of the newspapers and on TV. As for what had actually happened, he had no way of knowing. Still, sitting next to that man of so few words, he felt uneasy.
He asked: “Should I put on the siren, lieutenant? This traffic's locked up solid, as soon as there's a drop of rain in this city everyone hops in their cars.”
Lojacono replied without taking his eyes off the line of cars ahead of them.“No, don't bother. We're in no hurry.”
The traffic seemed to stir, but then it ground to a halt again: maybe a traffic light, a mile or so ahead of them, had just turned red again.
The wind was firing gusts of briny rain straight from the sea onto the windshield. A scirocco wind.
Without taking his eyes off his desk, Di Vincenzo pointed Lojacono to a chair.
“Please, come right in. Have a seat.”
He rummaged through his papers. Then he took off his glasses and leaned back in his chair.
“Well, well, Lojacono: so you're going through some old files, are you? Who knows, with your instincts, we might be able to make some progress. Old stuff, I realize that. But if you're good, really good, you can see things that other men might miss.”
The lieutenant said nothing, just sat there, expressionless.
Di Vincenzo drummed his fingers on his desktop, and then went on: “It's not that simple. People on the outside think the work we do is like some American TV show, that we leap from bridges onto rumbling motorcycles and have shoot-outs with criminals in the middle of the street. Instead, it's just paper, paper, and more paper. Aside from the occasional piece of sheer dumb luck, of course. That can happen too, sometimes.”
The incompetent, Lojacono thought to himself, always attribute the success of others to luck. He wished he had a penny for every time he'd seen it happen.
“Commissario, did you need me? I'm at your service.”
Di Vincenzo nodded, without bothering to conceal the dislike that shone through his gaze.
“No more beating about the bush, Loja': I'm pretty sure that the song and dance you've concocted, with this story of the Crocodile, is a mixture of playacting and good luck. Seasoned with the strange confidential relationship you seem to have established with Dottoressa Piras, which I'm not interested in delving into.”
That vulgar reference to Piras, the prosecuting magistrate who had insisted on having Lojacono assigned to the Crocodile investigation, was meant to wound; but the lieutenant let it slide off his back. He could guess what was being said about him and Laura: attractive and not particularly interested in winning any popularity contents, she'd also made no secret of her fondness for him.
“Commissario, I don't like you and you don't like me. For both of our sakes, why don't we limit our conversation to what's strictly necessary. So let me ask again: was there something you needed?”
A muscle twitched in Di Vincenzo's jaw and a shadow of rage darkened his eyes, but he managed to keep a lid on it.
“You have a point, Lojacono: I don't like you. And that is exactly why I'm so happy to be able to tell you the following. I've been asked to reassign an investigative asset, for a period of time that remains at the moment indeterminate, to another precinct. I can prove that, of all my assets, the only one not currently committed to an investigation is, in fact, you.”
Lojacono shrugged his shoulders; he didn't want to make this easy for him.
“Still, it's a voluntary reassignment, I would imagine. Which means you need my consent. My written consent. So if you want to get rid of me, you need to talk me into it. Is that about right?”