The Marshal at the Villa Torrini

Free The Marshal at the Villa Torrini by Magdalen Nabb

Book: The Marshal at the Villa Torrini by Magdalen Nabb Read Free Book Online
Authors: Magdalen Nabb
Tags: Suspense
tact and patience the Captain picked up the responses and they wound their way in the correct form with all due curls and ornaments, through-past staffing arrangements, acquaintances now transferred, cases this or that one worked on, until they came upon, after a decent interval, a certain kidnapping case and a certain substitute Prosecutor Virgilio Fusarri, then newly arrived in Florence.
    'And does he still smoke those dreadful little cigars?' asked the Captain after feigning surprise that he was on this case.
    'Chain-smokes. And . . . the owner of the Villa Torrini where it happened, smokes as much as he does. Cigarettes, though. They're old friends . . .'
    'Is that going to be a problem?'
    'I don't know. I don't think so, but you never can tell.'
    'Well, if it isn't, I wouldn't worry about him too much. I know his manner's very strange . . . That way he has of being only half with you, taking an amused interest, like a privileged spectator whose real business is elsewhere. The only time I've seen him really concentrate is on food.'
    'Yes, well.' That didn't strike the Marshal as altogether unreasonable. 'It's more the way he pretends to flatter me that's disturbing. All this "leaving it to me".'
    'Perhaps he means it.'
    'Hmph. And if it all goes badly?'
    'I really don't think you should worry. I confess I felt the same way about him in that respect, but I have to admit that when things got difficult he stood by me.'
    The Marshal stood up. He still looked unhappy.
    'I shouldn't be taking up so much of your time.'
    'I'll walk down with you. I have to go out anyway.' He rang for his adjutant and ordered a car.
    They walked the polished monastic corridor in silence. Below them in the cloister a squad car was revving up. In the old refectory, which ran the length of the opposite wing, off-duty lads were playing table tennis.
    On the stone staircase the Captain said, 'If it makes you feel any better, I remember him telling me that you were a good man, reliable.'
    It didn't make the Marshal feel any better.
    'The only thing that needs watching,' added the Captain, 'is the business of his being so friendly with the Torrini woman. No point in treading on anyone's toes if you can avoid it. There's a reception tomorrow night—the Mayor, the Prefect and so on. My colonel's going. He's the right sort and I'm sure he'll check which way the wind's blowing for me—where's your car?'
    ' I sent it back. Need a breath of fresh air.'
    Walking back up Borgo Ognissanti, the Marshal realized that he did feel better—not about Fusarri, he couldn't do with Fusarri at any price—but about getting this investigation sorted out in normal terms. He was grateful for the advice the Captain had given him. He'd be even more grateful if the Captain had taken the whole business off his hands. You needed an officer, an educated man, to deal with someone like Forbes. Mind you, that was hardly an excuse for him, of all people, not to have thought of the woman being on a diet. Blast this tepid, sickly weather!
    He had reached the Piazza Goldoni which opened on to the river bank and his eyes were streaming. He'd forgotten to put his dark glasses on. Damn! He paused under the statue to fish for them in his greatcoat pockets. He'd never gone and left them . . . No. They were there. The plump playwright looked politely the other way with a little smile on his face as the Marshal gave the glasses a polish with a clean white handkerchief and dabbed his eyes dry before putting them on.
    He set out across the bridge. The Arno was brown and swollen from the recent rains. It wasn't that much of a pleasure, walking with so much traffic streaming past, and as for breathing fresh air—it was ninety per cent exhaust fumes. And the noise . . . someone was shouting above it.
    'Glad to see you taking my advice! Hallo! Hallo!'
    A Tyrolean hat had popped up at the level of his breast pocket, forcing him to back up against the parapet. At once he was surrounded by bobbing,

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