Page 17 of 41
2) Martina wasn’t stupid after all. Far from it. She was a genius. She had sweet-talked the policeman brilliantly. The way things were going, the cops would end up escorting them home.
3) He hadn’t been fined. His father would have made him pay back every last lira, not to mention the fact that he’d taken his new car …
But Max was wrong to be jubilant, for at that very moment Bruno Miele’s half hour began.
When he had seen that peach of a car pull in, officer Miele had shot out of the police car as if there had been a swarm of wasps inside it.
A 650 TX. The finest car in the world, according to the American magazine Motors & Cars.
He switched on his torch and shone it on the car.
Cobalt blue. Yes, the only colour for a 650 TX.
‘You in the Mercedes, pull right in,’ he said to the two of them and turned to Bacci. ‘Leave this to me. I’ll deal with it.’
The powerful beam of the torch made the drops of rain glitter as they fell, dense and regular. Behind them was the face of a squinting, dazzled girl.
Miele peered at her.
She had blue hair, a ring in her lip and another in her eyebrow.
A punk? What the hell’s a punk doing in a 650 TX?
Miele couldn’t stand the idea of punks in a Panda, let alone in the flagship of the German firm.
He hated their dyed hair, their tattoos, their rings, their sweaty armpits and all their other anarcho-communist crap.
Once Lorena Santini, his girlfriend, had told him she fancied putting a ring in her navel like Naomi Campbell and Pietro Mura. ‘You do that and we’re through,’ he had snapped. And the whim, as quickly as it had appeared, had vanished from Lorena’s mind. If she’d had a boyfriend with less balls, she’d probably have rings in her pussy by now.
A worrying thought struck him. What if Michela Guadagni has rings in her pussy?
They’d suit her. Michela Guadagni isn’t like Lorena. She can do that kind of thing.
‘Your partner told us we could go,’ said the punk girl, shielding her eyes with her arm, in a hoarse Roman croak.
‘Well, I say you’ve got to stay. Pull in.’
The car parked in the lay-by.
‘It’s true. I told them they could go,’ protested Bacci in an undertone.
Miele didn’t lower his volume by one decibel. ‘I heard. And you were wrong. They failed to stop at a road block. That’s a serious offence …’
‘Let them go,’ Bacci interrupted him.
‘No. No way.’ Miele stepped towards the Mercedes, but Bacci grabbed him by the arm.
‘What the hell are you doing? I stopped them. It’s none of your business.’
‘Let go of my arm.’ Miele shook him off.
Bacci started jumping up and down with rage and breathing in and out through the corners of his mouth. His cheeks swelled and deflated like a pair of bagpipes.
Miele looked at him, shaking his head. Poor guy. What a pathetic sight. He’s gone completely off his head. I’ll have to report that he’s in a serious mental state. He’s not responsible for his own actions any more. He’s dangerous. He doesn’t realise how sick he is.
If those two were students, he was a merengue dancer. And that imbecile wanted to let them go …
They were car thieves.
How did a punk bitch come to be in a car like that? It was obvious. They were taking the Mercedes to a fence. But if they thought they could pull the wool over Bruno Miele’s eyes, they were making a big mistake.
‘Listen, get into the car. Dry yourself, you’re soaked through. I’ll deal with this. It’s my turn now. Half an hour each. Go on, Antonio, get in, please.’ He tried to make his tone as conciliatory as possible.
‘They came back. I’d flagged them down and they came back. Why? Do you reckon they would have come back if they’d been thieves?’ Bacci now seemed exhausted. As if he’d just given three litres of blood.
‘So what? Get into the car, go on.’ Miele opened the door of the police car. ‘You’ve had a hard day. I’ll check their papers and let them go.’ He pushed him in.
‘Hurry up, and let’s go home,’ said Bacci, completely drained.
Miele closed the door and released the safety catch on his pistol.
He straightened his cap and strode towards the stolen Merc.
Bruno Miele’s role models were early Clint Eastwood – Dirty Harry – and Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Tough guys. Cool customers who’d shoot you in the mouth without turning a hair. Short on chat, long on action.
Miele intended to become like them. But he had realised that in order to achieve this you had to have a mission, and he had found one. Reclaiming the area from urban blight and crime. And if he had to use force, so much the better.
The trouble was, he hated the uniform he wore. It made him sick. It was awful, pathetic. Lousy cut. Shoddy cloth. Like something made for the Polish police force. He would look at himself in the mirror and feel like throwing up. With that uniform on he would never be able to give of his best. Even Dirty Harry, in an Italian police uniform, would have been a nonentity, not for nothing did he wear tweed jackets and hip-hugging trousers. One more year and he’d be able to request a transfer to the special branch. If he was accepted he’d wear plain clothes and then he would feel at ease. A P38 in his shoulder holster. And that smooth white trenchcoat he’d bought at Orbano in the summer sales.
Miele knocked on the driver’s window with his torch.
The window came down.
At the wheel was a boy.
He sized him up without showing any emotion (another distinctive feature of early Clint).
He was very ugly.
About twenty years old.
In five, maybe six years at the most, he would be bald. Miele could spot a baldy a mile off. Although this guy’s hair was long and tied in a pony tail, above his forehead it was as sparse as the trees in a burnt-out forest. And his ears were as big as doughnuts, the left one sticking out more than the right. As if the deformity weren’t obvious enough, five silver rings dangled from the lobe. The punk probably thought he looked like Bob Marley or some other fucking junkie rock star, but he looked more like Stan Laurel dressed up as the Wizard Zurlì.
The little turquoise-haired tart looked straight ahead with her jaw set. She had headphones over her ears. She wasn’t that bad looking. Without that hardware on her face and that dye in her hair she would have been passable. Nothing to write home about even then, but okay for a blow job or a quickie with the lights turned off.
Miele leaned into the window. ‘Good evening, sir. Can I see your papers, please?’
A strong aroma, as distinctive as that of cow dung, stimulated his receptors, creating a flow of ions which rose through his cranial nerves into his encephalon, where it discharged neuromediators onto the synapses of his memory centre. And Bruno Miele remembered.
He was sixteen and sitting on the beach at Castrone singing Blowing in the Wind with some kids from the Albano Laziale branch of Communion and Liberation who were camping nearby. Suddenly some hipsters had come along and started rolling cigarettes. They had offered him one and he, to impress a Catholic brunette, had accepted. One inhale and he had started coughing and spluttering and when he had asked what the hell it was, the hipsters had burst out laughing. Then someone had explained to him that the cigarette was filled with marijuana. He’d felt terrible for the rest of the week, because he thought this had made him a junkie.
In this Mercedes there was the same smell.
Stan Laurel and Pretty Hair had smoked a lot of joints. He aimed his torch at the ashtray.
Bingo. And that fool Bacci wanted to let them go …
Not just a lot, heaps of the damn things. The stubs were overflowing from the ashtray. They hadn’t even bothered to get rid of them. Either they were two mental retards or they were too high to carry out even such a simple o
Stan Laurel opened the drawer in the dashboard and gave him his road tax booklet and insurance form.
‘And your licence?’
Stan Laurel’s real name was Massimiliano Franzini. He had been born on 25 July 1975 and his residence was in Rome, in Via Monti Parioli, 128.
His licence was in order.
‘Who does the car belong to?’
He checked the registration documents. The car was registered in the name of Mariano Franzini, resident in Via Monti Parioli, 128.
‘And your father can afford a car like this?’
Miele reached out and with the tip of the torch touched the girl’s thigh. ‘Take off those headphones. Let’s see your papers.’
Pretty Hair shifted one earphone, made a face as if she’d swallowed a dead rat, took her identity card out of her bag and handed it to him with a truculent gesture.
Her name was Martina Trevisan. She, too, was Roman and her address was Via Palenco, 34. Miele wasn’t very expert in the place names of the capital, but he seemed to remember that Via Palenco was near Piazza Euclide. Parioli.
He handed back the documents and looked the two of them over.
Two snotty little Parioli kids playing at being punks.
Worse than car thieves. Much worse. At least thieves risked their own arses. These didn’t. These were spoiled brats dressed up as tearaways. Born with silver spoons in their mouths and brought up on hundred-thousand-lire handouts and with parents who told them that they were the lords of the universe, that life is a bowl of cherries and that if they wanted to smoke pot it was fine and if they wanted to dress like bums it was no problem.
A broad grin spread across Miele’s face, revealing a full set of yellow teeth.
That ‘A’ for anarchy written with marker pens on their jeans was an affront to someone who slaves away in the icy cold rain to uphold the rule of law, those joints chucked in the ashtray were a slap in the face to someone who once inadvertently took a drag from a joint and spent a whole week of his life in mortal dread of being a drug addict, those Coca-Cola cans contemptuously thrown under the seats of a car that no normal human being could afford even if he scrimped and saved all his life were an insult to someone who owns an Alfa 33 Twin Spark and washes it on Sundays at the drinking fountain and scratches around for second-hand spare parts. Everything those two represented, in short, was a raised middle finger to him and the entire police force.
Those sons of bitches were taking the piss out of him.
‘Does your father know you’ve taken his car?’
Making a show of checking the insurance form, Miele went on in a casual tone: ‘Do you like smoking?’ He glanced up and saw Stan Laurel nearly have a fit.
This galvanised him.
The cold had vanished. The rain no longer made him wet. He felt good. At peace with the world.
It’s a thousand times better being a cop than a footballer.
He had them in the palm of his hand.
‘Do you like smoking?’ he repeated in the same casual tone.
‘Sorry, officer, I didn’t quite catch that,’ stammered Stan Laurel.
‘Do you like smoking?’
‘What do you mean, what?’
‘What do you like smoking?’
‘No.’ Stan’s voice, however, quivered like a violin string.
‘No? Why are you trembling, then?’
‘I’m not trembling.’
‘Oh, I see. You’re not trembling, I do apologise.’ He smiled contentedly and shone the light in Pretty Hair’s face.
‘The young man says you don’t like hash. Is that so?’
Martina, shielding her eyes with her hand, shook her head.
‘What’s up, are you too strung out to talk?’
‘We smoked a couple of joints, so what?’ replied Pretty Hair in a voice as shrill and grating as a fingernail on a blackboard.
Ah … so you’re a tough one! Not a little wimp like Flappy-Ears.
‘So what? You may not be aware of the fact, but in Italy that constitutes an offence.’
‘It’s for personal use,’ retorted the little bitch in a schoolmistressy tone.
‘Oh, for personal use, is it? Well, just watch. Watch this.’
Max found himself in the water.
Flat on his face, arms outstretched, like a lion skin.
He hadn’t had time to react, defend himself, do anything.
The door had opened and that bastard had grabbed his ponytail with both hands and yanked him out. For a moment he had feared he meant to tear his hair out by the roots, but the son of a bitch had swung him out into the middle of the lay-by as if he were a weight tied to a rope. And Max had flown forward, head down, and fallen nose down in a puddle.
He couldn’t breathe.
He pulled himself up to his knees. The impact on the asphalt had compressed his sternum, making his lungs collapse. He opened his mouth and emitted some guttural sounds. Nothing. He tried to breathe, but couldn’t suck air. He gasped, bending forward in the rain, and around him everything evaporated and became darkness. Black and yellow. Yellow flowers blossomed in their hundreds before his eyes. In his ears he heard a low throbbing buzz like the distant engine of an oil tanker.
I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying. Shit, I’m dying.
Then, when he was sure he was a goner, something opened in his chest, a valve perhaps, something relaxed, anyway, and a thin stream of air was sucked voraciously into his thirsty lungs. Max breathed. And breathed and breathed again. His face turned from puce to scarlet. Then he started coughing and spluttering and was again aware of the rainwater running down his neck and drenching his hair.
‘Get up. Come on.’
A hand seized him by the collar. He found himself on his feet.
‘Are you all right?’
Max shook his head.
‘Of course you are. I’ve cleared away that haze that had descended over you. Now I bet you understand me better.’
Max looked up.
That piece of shit was standing in the middle of the lay-by, soaking wet, and opening his arms like a crazed preacher or something. His face concealed in the darkness.
Martina was there, too. Standing. Legs spread apart. Hands against the door of the Mercedes.
‘Even though what you people have consumed was, as the young lady quite rightly informs us, for personal use, we must now make quite certain that there aren’t any drugs hidden somewhere, because then it would be more serious, much more serious, do you want to know why? Because then it would be illegal possession of drugs for the purpose of dealing.’
‘Max, is everything all right? Are you okay?’ Martina, without turning, called to him anxiously.
‘Yes. How about you?’
‘I’m okay …’ Her voice was broken. She was on the point of tears.
‘Wonderful. I’m okay too. That makes three of us who are all okay. So now we can devote our attention to more serious problems,’ said the policeman in the middle of the lay-by.
He’s mad. Raving mad, Max said to himself.
Maybe he wasn’t even a policeman. Maybe he was a dangerous psychopath disguised as a policeman. Like in Maniac Cop. What had happened to the other one, the officer they’d seen before, the one with the gun? Had he killed him? The light inside the police car was on, but the rain on the windows made it impossible to see in.
He was dazzled by the policeman’s torch.
‘Where’s the stuff?’
‘What stuff? There isn’t a … ny … stuff.’ Oh shit, I’m starting to cry too. He felt the emotion wrapping its merciless coils round his Adam’s apple and windpipe. And an uncontrollable tremor shook him from head to foot.
‘What do you mean, strip?’
��Strip! I’ve got to search you.’
‘I haven’t got anything on me.’
‘Prove it.’ The policeman had raised his voice. And he was losing his temper.
‘No buts. You have to obey. I represent the established order and you represent anarchy, and you have been caught in the act of violating the law, so if I order you to strip you strip, do you understand? Do I have to draw my gun and insert it between your tonsils? Is that what you want me to do?’ He had regained that calm tone, that tone which presaged disasters and violence.
Max took off his checked shirt and laid it on the ground. Then he took off his fleece and his T-shirt. The policeman watched him with folded arms. He nodded to him to continue. He undid his belt and his three-sizes-too-big trousers, which slipped down like a torn curtain, leaving him in his underpants. His legs were hairless, white and twig-thin.
‘Take everything off. You might have hid …’
‘Here! Here it is! He hasn’t got it, I have,’ shouted Martina, who was still standing with her hands against the car. Max couldn’t see her face.
‘What have you got?’ The policeman went over to her.
‘Here! Look.’ Martina opened her bag and took out some pot. A tiny amount. A couple of grams at most. ‘Here it is.’
It was all they had.
Only half an hour earlier, on a planet light-years away from there, a planet with adjustable heating, the music of REM and leather seats, Martina was talking. ‘I tried to buy some more. I rang Pinocchio’ (and Max had thought to himself, pushers always have the same corny nicknames) ‘but he wasn’t in. It’s not much, but never mind. We’ll make do. Besides, if we get smashed we won’t be able to study …’
‘Give it here.’ The policeman took the piece of hashish and held it to his nose. ‘Don’t make me laugh. These are the crumbs, where’s the main stash? In the car? Or has one of you got it on you?’
‘I swear, I swear to God it’s all we’ve got. There isn’t any more. It’s the truth. Fuck you. You son of a bitch. It’s the tru …’ Martina stopped talking and began to cry.