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Prelude of Allusion

copyright 2001, by Ruth

Disclaimer:    The characters Rinaldo Pazzi and Laura Pazzi (nee Demagistre) were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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Rinaldo Pazzi had a love-hate relationship with his job.

Only hours ago was he hardly able to control his satisfaction in the fact that Vivaldo Demagistre, a wealthy and somewhat troublesome Cosa Nostra associate, had been found murdered. In a seedy motel, no less, with a dead whore and a large bag of dirty lira. Lira with traces of cocaine all over it – money the Questura had been trailing for quite some time since a few underlings in the Colombian mob had arrived in Florence.

Pazzi was also satisfied that he knew where these Colombians were staying and, at that very moment, a team of his men were on their way to bring them in for questioning.

What Rinaldo Pazzi could not be pleased about was the fact that Demagistre’s family had to be told about the incident, and that he himself had apparently been nominated to share the news.

For a moment Pazzi considered calling in one of his subordinates and having them do the job for him. If there was one thing he did not look forward to, it was having to tell a family that their good for nothing patriarch had been found with his mistress, both wearing matching bullet holes in their foreheads. The fact that they were covered in a blanket of coke-coated lira would only add to the trauma.

But to show sympathy for such a man’s family, who knew his occupation and behavior no less, would mean showing weakness, and he would never hear the end of it.

“Pazzi couldn’t even tell Signora Demagistre that her husband was shot!” he could already hear his co-workers snickering behind his back.

And on that thought, office humiliation and softness towards the mob being two of his worst fears, Rinaldo Pazzi finally forced himself to walk up the steps of the beautiful mansion and ring the doorbell.

When the melodic chime rang inside the house, Laura Demagistre looked up from her magazine and waited for the maid to hurry to the door. Scratch that, Laura, she thought to herself, remembering how she had asked the servant to go retrieve some boxes from the attic. She herself would have to be the one to open the door and greet the guest.

The eldest daughter of the Demagistre family was alone in the mansion that evening. Her mother, a compulsive socialite, was out with some lady friends, and her younger sisters had been invited to a dance. And her father… where was he? Oh, out on business again. Laura sighed in frustration. It was business, he called it, and they were never to inquire about it ever. Laura hated the business, and soon learned to hate her father for his feverish devotion towards it. What kind of business prevented Laura Demagistre to ever really get to know the man who was supposed to mean the most to her?

She knew what kind of business, but she tried not to think about it too much.

To avoid guilty thoughts, Laura could easily have moved out – she was a woman now, and had been for years. However, she still stayed in the family house – she felt that, with her parents’ absence, she owed it to her sisters to stay and give them the company she was never able to partake in. Giving the gift of sisterly love far surpassed any guilt she might have felt for living in a family that survived on drug deals, prostitution rings, and generally breaking the law.

Laura pushed herself up from the kitchen counter and sighed. She hoped it was something like a parcel delivery – dealing with the business was not on her favorites list, and her father’s colleagues came by often. Her mother knew enough to at least entertain them or take a message, but she was generally inexperienced in all business dealings and preferred to keep it that way.

Laura walked through the spacious livingroom to the lobby and leaned up against the door. Her hand was on the bolt, and she called out, “Buona notte, chi è esso?”

A beat, and “Polizia,” came the reply.

Laura’s heart jumped. Polizia. Her father had dealings with them before – in the business, who didn’t? He had never seemed to be lacking for connections (“friends” he called them) in la polizia, but she could not take comfort in that. Her father was not here, and she had no idea what to say – no bullshitting, no defenses. No answers to whatever questions they might ask. This was worse than the those of the business arriving themselves.

She closed her eyes and uttered a plea for help, then unbolted the large wooden door and pulled it open.

Upon seeing the beautiful young woman, dark-eyed and dark-haired in a long dress of white cotton gauze, Rinaldo Pazzi felt an immense amount of regret and sympathy thrust upon him. He realized that tonight he would not be breaking the news to an old, embittered mob wife.

Mob women weren’t allowed to know much about their patriarchs’ dealings, but most of them had a good idea of what went on. Rinaldo Pazzi tried to imagine the terror that was running through the girl’s mind as she attempted to put on a nonchalant face. Cops alarmed her and Pazzi did not like the thought of making her feel alarmed. When he allowed himself to empathize with her, he realized that he did not want to do this. Today, he would make someone break down into sobs.

The woman stepped back tentatively and offered a soft “Buona notte, Signore.” He nodded respectfully and for a moment considered pretending like he had reached the wrong residence.

In his mind he cursed himself – That would only work on the telephone, idiot – she already knows you’re a cop, and why else would you announce “polizia” unless that had something to do with your visit? She’s not stupid, she knows what kind of family she’s in. Too late to turn back now.

“This is the Demagistre residence?” he asked, stalling. Rinaldo Pazzi silenced his inner critic and listened as the young woman replied, “Si.” He was then tentatively, but graciously invited in.

“Grazie,” he murmured, stepping up through the entrance and finding himself in an extravagant sitting room.

He turned around and looked at her, the girl – one of the daughters, of course, and she was hardly a girl. In her early twenties, he surmised, watching as her petite frame slowly approached him. She had very nervous, anxious look on her round face. As he thought before, she was only a daughter, and from the way she looked at him without contempt, obviously a very uninvolved one at that. Signora Demagistre would have been difficult with him – this girl was only timid.

He knew that if she were some stuffy, vain matriarch, he wouldn’t be stalling. For that he felt worse.

So now you’re going soft because it’s some pretty woman you have to break the news to, eh? he thought scornfully to himself. I bet you’re just waiting for the moment she breaks down – then you can offer her your shoulder to cry on. You’d just love that, wouldn’t you, Commendatore?

He did not want to do this.

Internally hyperventilating, Laura recognized this man as the chief inspector of the Questura. The Questura, and he was Il Commendatore – not just some common street cop. Her father and some of his colleagues had spoken of him, Rinaldo Pazzi, from time to time – disdainfully. And she always remembered her father telling her that whomever his colleagues hated, they were supposed to hate too. This man was her enemy, and her father’s enemy.

But as she took in the appearance and manner of this man, she realized that she could not hate him. He was imperious looking, but not near so as her father described him. He was older, around her father’s age, and strongly framed, with a determined but approachable look to him – he had expressive dark eyes that looked almost remorseful. And though it might ease someone else, the look he gave her terrified her. Remorse was something cops didn’t show.

“Signorina Demagistre,” he began, in a deep, grave voice. And stopped.

The tone of his voice she did not like. “Si, Commendatore?”

He glanced around quickly, then at her. “Is… your mother here?”

“No, Commendatore,” she said, with concern. “Is there…?”

He sighed again, this time painfully. It was as if he wanted to reach out to her, she thought. And when a cop did that, it meant there was something very, very wrong.

He tried again. “I’m… very sorry, Signorina,” Rinaldo Pazzi began softly. “Your father…”

He did not need to say anything else.


Part 1 of 4

copyright 2001, by Ruth

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