“Il Diavolo Fa le Pentole Ma Non i Coperchi”
By Helen H.
her in soft, Mr. McNally. Sorry,
Admiral, I didn’t catch that.”
were picking up a stiff breeze coming off the shore, and Lee Crane
hadn’t heard the comment Admiral Nelson murmured as they stood
together on the flying bridge of Seaview.
Then again, based on the admiral’s languid smile, maybe nobody
was supposed to hear it. The
closer they got to their destination the more the admiral’s face lost
the tension lines it had carried over the last few days.
Lee fervently hoped this meant the crew was going to get a
respite from whatever was bugging the OOM.
their arrival was Lieutenant McNally, the Officer of the Day, doing a
good job of it so far. The
XO, Chip Morton, was checking that the deck crew was in place.
Lee moved around the OOD to make sure he’d hear Nelson’s
words this time.
The admiral lowered his binoculars and leaned over the top of the flying bridge. A sudden gust of wind almost lifted his cover off his head, and he clamped a hand down on the crown to keep it tethered.
“I was just saying how beautiful the Italian coastline is. See the ruins of the temple on the mountain above the town? The Romans knew a good thing when they saw it, too. Wouldn’t you agree, Lee?”
a usual destination for the Seaview,
Admiral,” the submarine’s commanding officer said.
“But I definitely agree.”
His thoughts about the wisdom of this visit were disappearing.
the starboard side was the city of Pendio, a coastal commune south of
Rome. Somehow the local
authorities had found out that Seaview
was making a transit of the Mediterranean and invited Nelson and his
crew to make a port call, going so far as to truck in a temporary dock,
which now squatted in the middle of the small harbor.
To everyone’s great surprise the admiral had accepted.
was one of those cities made for a picture postcard.
A crescent of white sand formed a barrier to the sea, outlined by
soaring sentinel palms along the raised boardwalk.
Olive trees dotted the hills behind the town.
Multi-storied apartment buildings and houses ranged upward from
the beach, clusters of flowers in boxes and pots at every window.
Fishing boats painted in many colors bobbed at their moorings
next to the small jetty jutting into the water.
A quickening wind coming down from the north was bringing the
scent of freesia and orange tree flowers.
It was the middle of the afternoon and the sand and the houses
glistened in the sun. The
marigold light cast a glow on the rooftops, a landscape for a
you been here before, sir?” Nelson
turned in Lee’s direction but it was obvious he hadn’t heard the
question. Lee waited for a
few seconds and tried again. “Sir?
Have you been here before?”
a small laugh, Nelson said, “Sorry, lad.
Not this particular town, no.
I was thinking back to a visit I made to Naples not long after
the end of the war. They
used submarine officers for a little bit of everything in those days,
and I was not happy to be assigned, even temporarily, to AMG
Headquarters, especially since it was almost impossible to get around.
The damage from the Allied bombing raids had reduced most of the
area to rubble. So since I
was billeted not very far away I took to walking back and forth to HQ.
My estimation of the place and its people rose considerably as
every day brought order out of chaos.
Didn’t matter if half the side of a house was gone, the
inhabitants shored it up and planted climbing roses.
There were pocket-sized gardens on every corner, filled with the
most amazing flowers, and tended to
by Italians of all ages. Just
now, it was coming back to me, memories of the place.
The first thing visitors noticed was the heat and humidity.
that was followed by the wonderful
this particular town got beaten up during the war, they’ve done a
great job of rebuilding, sir.”
quite the transformation. I’m
pleased to see it. Life
triumphing through the ruins. Good
thing I’m not nostalgic.”
busied himself with the binoculars.
Easier to hide a smile behind a pair of field glasses.
joined them. Lee glanced at
the young lieutenant giving orders and then spoke to his XO.
“McNally’s doing just fine, I’d say.”
make it without taking off a layer of paint,” Chip responded, feigning
a swipe across his brow.
smile got wider as the view in his binoculars got closer.
“I already like our welcoming committee,” he said, grinning
at the cluster of young women greeting the arrival of the submarine.
Besides the women the mayor -- for he must have been
the mayor, with the huge sash and rosette covering his chest --
and other burgesses of the city stood
in front of a substantial crowd. The
townspeople were waving handkerchiefs, hats,
and American flags.
gotta love a welcoming committee,” Chip echoed, his eyebrows drawing
together. “Especially one
with a bunch of civilians standing on a floating 2x4.”
might want to say something to them, Lee,” Nelson said.
the binoculars fall on his chest Lee leaned over and yelled, “Indietro, per
favore!” accompanied with a pushing motion of his hands.
mayor acknowledged the request with a wave.
Spinning around he made pushing motions of his own, and everyone
shuffled down the pier and away from where Seaview
would need to come to rest. The
submarine edged past the line of people like a subway car, barely making
headway. The deck
crew threw the heavy lines overboard and men on the dock made the lines
fast to the bollards. Seaview
shuddered, rolled a few yards forward and then was still.
done, Mr. McNally.”
turned away to allow the young lieutenant’s color to come back into
his face and caught Chip’s attention.
“Chip, I’d like to see the liberty list before we let the
sir, I have it on the charting table,” Chip said, heading below.
instant the brow slapped on the deck the mayor and his party came
aboard. There hadn’t been
time to come off the sail, so the mayor squinted up into the sun while
everyone else stared down.
Who do I have the honor of addressing?”
pointed to the admiral. “Admiral
Harriman Nelson, Eccellenza.
And I am Captain Crane.”
mayor bowed to each in turn. “Ammiraglio, Capitano, benvenuti
in Pendio! I welcome you
and your very large submarine to our ‘umble city!”
looked at the admiral, who indicated he should take charge.
With your permission I’d like to send our crew on liberty.”
course, of course. Admiral,
Captain, you will honor us with your own visit?
I have a car waiting!”
will join you shortly, after the men go ashore.
But first, the liberty list,” Lee said in an undertone as he
turned to head below. He was
stopped by the admiral’s staying hand.
do the honors, you and Chip, lad. I’ve
got work to do in my lab, can’t take the time off.”
admiral’s face flushed and for a second Lee thought he’d get another
blast of the famous Nelson temper. Then
Nelson seemed to catch himself up, and the moment passed.
Lee, you know how much I hate these things.
Explain to the mayor and the rest of them I’m indisposed or
suspected he knew why Admiral Nelson was in a funk lately.
But to reveal his personal life Nelson would have to admit he had
want something in return -- a visit to the boat.”
You can show him around
tomorrow.” He hesitated,
then added, “I wouldn’t be good company, Lee.”
he was aware of the mood he’d been in, too.
“Alright, sir. I’ll
take care of it, Admiral.”
entered the control room past crewmen hurrying to change out of their
dungarees. Chip presented
the clipboard to him with the mimeographed list.
A quick look at the names and Lee frowned.
and Patterson… together. And
Curley sick in quarters. Let’s
talk to this section before they go anywhere.”
* * * *
objects of this attention were busy in their own way.
I swear, if you don’t stop messing with your hair we’re not gonna
make it to Liberty!”
Patterson, it’s gotta be just right.” The
comb went forward with a little twist just at the end.
take much longer getting it ‘just right’ and Chief Jones will find a
way to keep us on board! I
still can’t figure out how we’re not in the duty section.
When the Chief slipped and wrecked his ankle he must not of been
feelin’ right when he made up the chit.
How lucky can a guy get?”
mind about him. I ain’t
afraid of Jonesy.”
hears you say that and you’ll be pulling kitchen duty for a month!”
swept his hand over his hair one more time, watching himself in the
mirror. Satisfied, he stuck
the comb in the pocket of his bellbottoms and leaned backward, throwing
out his arms.
worse than any woman I’ve ever seen,” Patterson said.
“You’re wearing your Dixie Cup anyway, so what’s the
hair won’t dare get messed up under that bucket.
Besides, it’s because of the ladies I gotta look my best,
you say. You done yet?”
tugged on his neckerchief and straightened the square knot.
“Uniform, check, hair, check.
Let’s hit the beach. Italy
liberty, Pat! Italian
dreamy look came into Patterson’s eyes.
“Yeah... Italian women....”
The look was replaced by one of confusion.
“Wait... I don’t
rounded on him, shaking his head. “If
we needed to speak the local lingo we’d be in big trouble.
Look, here’s all you need to know.
Just keep saying Bellissima
over and over. They’ll eat
it? ‘Ski, you’re a
I know it. Geez, Pat,
you’re a mess as usual.” Kowalski
swung Patterson around and brushed off the back of his jumper, then
thumped him between the shoulder blades, practically knocking him out of
the hatch. “C’mon,
can’t be late for muster. I’ll
teach you some more Italian on the way!”
made it to the missile room with seconds to spare, the captain and XO
turning the corner just as the two best friends stepped through the
hatch and came to attention with the rest of the section going ashore.
Captain Crane strode to the front of the space and turned to face
the men, his eyes looking over each one of them in turn.
won’t keep you long. I
just want all of you to remember that this is our first visit to Pendio,
and we want it to be memorable -- for all the right
reasons. Chief Jones is on
limited duty because of his accident and won’t be going ashore.
I doubt he’s very happy about that.
I would hate like hell to send him after any one of you.
And I’m very sure none of you would like it much either.”
His eyes made one more sweep and seemed
to linger infinitesimally on the two friends then he said,
and Patterson wasted no time in heading for the hatch, Kowalski’s long
strides leading the way. Struggling
to keep up, Patterson said, “’Ski, how come every time we get the
chance to hit the beach the Skipper always seems to be talkin’ right
“He knows somebody has to keep you in line, Patterson. Hurry up, will ya?”
over his microscope, the sudden ache in his back forced Nelson to the
realization he’d been looking at the same slide for the last five
minutes. He drew an
exasperated sigh and sat back in his chair, running a hand through his
hair. Lately he’d been out
of sorts, the limits of his patience at an all-time low, so much so he
was convinced that whenever he was on the move the crew in his path were
alerted to his near arrival and as many of them as possible had made
themselves scarce. Lee and
Chip were left to take the brunt of his anger and frustration.
The men needed a break from him, and he’d found the perfect
solution in the invitation to visit Pendio.
His feelings of goodwill didn’t extend to enjoying the small
talk from Pendio’s government officials, however.
Best to leave it to Lee and Chip.
would be a chance to sit at one of the sidewalk cafes on the boardwalk,
drink a Campari and soak up the Italian sunshine.
Then a walk around the town.
Maybe even look for gardens and climbing roses.
The only thing that could make the time better would be a visit
from Galené. One of the
things angering him the most was how easily his mind could stray to
thoughts of the goddess. She
had infiltrated his heart and he missed her presence. With
Seaview quiet there was nothing to call her to his side.
Not that he wanted
trouble, of course. That
there was even a miniscule thought that a little trouble was better than
no trouble at all made the situation even more frustrating for
his intelligent mind.
had known long absences would be necessary, she
had made that very clear from the start.
He just didn’t like it. And,
he admitted, not liking something was what made him crotchety sometimes!
There was no use
trying to get any work done. He
closed up his notebook and set the equipment aside.
life had been easier before she’d entered it.
left the lab and started for his cabin.
He passed only one person, a man walking his duty station.
as a mouse, Admiral.”
laughed, patted him on the shoulder and walked on.
It wasn’t until he’d walked around the corner that he thought
about what he’d done. Patting
a rating. Life aboard the Seaview
had changed him, indeed. It
was a revelation long overdue. Being
around Lee and Chip had shown him one could be in command and human at
the same time. Not for the
first time did he appreciate what the two men brought to the submarine
and to him.
a drink, he put his feet up on the desk, pulled out a well-thumbed copy
of Macaulay’s History of England
and settled in for another chapter.
He found himself at the place in the book where Lord Macaulay
recorded that, ill and angry with both Tories and Whigs, King William
determined upon a secret plan to return to Holland.
He was dissuaded from this drastic remedy by the support of his
ministers and the ministrations of his Queen.
Nelson chuckled as he compared the story to his own
circumstances. He could
always use a little of both.
eyelids were getting heavy. Changing
into his bedclothes, Nelson slipped into his rack for some well-deserved
was pounding on his brain….
came awake. The fog lifted
and the pounding resolved itself into sharp raps on his cabin door.
Nelson rolled out of bed, growling, and wrenched the door open.
khaki-clad young man started and took a step back.
“Begging the Admiral’s pardon, sir!
You have an urgent message from shore, sir.”
the hell’s going on, Mr. -- what’s your name, Ensign?”
sir, Ensign Paul. Not sure,
sir. Topside, we've got some Italian police. They
want to see you, sir.”
glanced at the wall clock. “This
better be good, Ensign.”
sure it is, sir. Uh, that
is, I mean I hope it’s nothing serious.”
and me both, mister. Get
back up there and tell them I’ll be along shortly.”
Mr. Paul’s muffled ‘aye aye, sir’ came as Nelson shut the
door and turned for the closet.
out of the hatch with the ensign by his side -- who was standing just
out of arm’s reach -- Nelson took a few seconds to allow his eyes to
adjust to the pinkish light. The
early morning’s wind was muted, the only sound the insistent barking
of a very large dog coming from the direction of town.
Whatever was happening where the dog was, he wasn’t very happy
not the only one.
zipped up his jacket against the cold and walked forward to greet the
two men standing on the dock.
me again you know where we are.”
know where we are.”
You have no clue. Geez,
we are so lost.”
just what gives you that idea, XO?”
because this is the second time we’ve passed this same fountain, Signore
Morton, are you questioning my navigational abilities?
I’ll have you know--”
held up both hands. “Stow
it. I know all about your
good grades in Navigation. God
knows I’ve heard you mention them often enough.
You might be able to find your way around the Severn River but
your abilities in this Italian town leave a lot to be desired.”
friend’s mock scowl forced an admission, accompanied by a reluctant
you’ve got me there.”
Lee slumped against the fountain’s stone foundation, avoiding the wet spots where the water splashed over the sides. He put a hand to his head. With Admiral Nelson absent it was up to the boat’s CO and XO to carry on the time-honored naval traditions of fostering good will and friendly relations among allies. The evening had been one long night of eating, and drinking, and speeches. Lots of speeches. And lots of the local vino. It was past midnight when he and Chip headed for the door, handshakes all around, pleased with how the visit was already going. Lee had even indulged in visions of hitching a ride to Rome and visiting a girl he knew who was teaching at St. George’s.
good mood soon soured. Turning
down the townsmen’s offer of a ride back proved to be a very bad idea.
After a few minutes of taking a road they thought led to town
(they had been escorted to a large villa high on a hill in a hearse-like
car belonging to one of the local bigwigs, and neither paid too much
attention to their surroundings) both men owned up to the fact they were
lost. Lee wasn’t sure they
had even come off the hill in the right direction, for the short and
twisty streets they’d reached were unfamiliar.
After this last time of Chip complaining, “We’ve crossed this
intersection before,” Lee agreed it was time to look for help.
The carload of Pendio police showed up shortly thereafter.
Siamo contenti di vederti!”
Lee cried. He was
glad to see them; that he received nothing but angry glares in return
didn’t set in right away. “Can
you point us in the direction of the Seaview?”
that’s when things went very wrong....
Lee, slow down! I didn’t
catch but a word or two from what they said in the car to you.
What are we supposed to have done?”
the attempt by one of the Italian officers to get his attention for
another round of arguing, Lee rounded on Chip, hands clinched.
He could feel the heat in his face.
accusing us of stealing a statue from one of the local churches!”
When did we have time to go into a church?
We were too busy tramping up and down half the streets in town to
go into a church! And where
are we supposed to be hiding this statue?
Neither you or I have anything stuck down our pants!”
telling me, Chip. All I know
is they think we stole it. I’m
trying to remember how to say ‘pig headed’ in Italian.
It’ll come to me. This
estimable gentleman” -- he indicated the uniformed police officer
seated at the desk in front of them -- “intends to make this an
international incident, apparently.”
had been hustled into a car and driven to what Lee determined was the
main police station of the town. Along
the way he silently thanked the ONI directive to become conversant in as
many foreign languages as possible.
Whatever this was about, and he still wasn’t at all sure, he
was giving as good as he got.
police officer finally stood up from his desk and faced outwards,
fingertips on the desktop. He
was almost as tall as Lee. The
dark suit he wore was one of expensive design.
The cut was exceptional, and only by knowing where to look could
Lee see the slight bulge where a shoulder holster hung underneath the
coat. No amateur, then.
It was going to be harder to talk their way out of this one, even
if what they were telling was the truth.
finger went into the air, came
down and ran across the neat mustache.
name is Lorenzo Masella. I
have just been appointed a senior ispettore
for Pendio, and yours is the first case I have been given the charge of.
I intend to make a very good job of it.
As a guest of the Italian Government, Captain Crane, I trust you
are ashamed of yourself at this moment.”
His English was excellent.
The new guy. Lee
fixed the detective with the steeliest gaze he could manage.
“All my XO and I have done is drink a lot of your wine and talk
too loudly on our way back to the boat.
And get lost,” Lee added with a grimace.
“If a crime has been committed, it sure as hell wasn’t us! Ask the Mayor! Fine
hospitality you’ve shown!”
shook his head from side to side. “I do not need the interference of our esteemed Mayor!
As senior ispettore,”
he drew himself up, “I have complete authority in this matter.
We will accept your word you were playing a prank, if you
will tell me what you did with the statue.
Such a stupid trick, stealing from a church!
I would have expected better from the captain of the
WAIT A MINUTE!” Lee and
Chip yelled in unison.
outburst caused several of the officers in the room to move a hand to
the weapons at their side. Grabbing
hold of Chip, who had taken a step forward, Lee got his emotions under
don’t you run this past me again?
It didn’t make any sense the first time, but I’m willing to
frown deepened before Lee stopped talking.
“Your sarcasm is out of place, signore.
But no matter. Perhaps
too much to drink, eh? I
will talk slower.” Lee’s
face flushed, but he kept silent. “The
door of La Chiesa di San Francesco is always open. The
many candles we light keep the interior very bright, and the statue of
the Blessed Virgin can be seen from the doorway.
She was there earlier this evening, we have the word of Father
Fermi. She is gone now.”
a load of --
stopped, realizing he was starting to shout again.
He didn’t want to aggravate the situation.
“That may be,” he began again, modulating his voice, “but
it wasn’t us who stole it!”
you say, but who else? The
citizens of Pendio are law abiding, they would not commit such a
means it could only be a visitor to your town.
It doesn’t matter that we were too
busy trying to figure out where we were to go into any kind of church.
And unless we’re magicians and know the art of making something
disappear, neither myself or Mr. Morton here were carrying anything when
your men stopped us. And
most of all, it won’t matter that we are United States naval officers
and doing anything like you’ve described brings dishonor down on us
and our country.”
eyes had gone hard. “It
will not matter, sir, because no one else has been observed in a part of
town where they should not be. I
would advise you to say nothing further, Captain.
Your admiral has been sent for.”
that we need his help, but it’s about time you sent for the admiral,
we’ve been here for hours. He’ll
have something to say about all this,” Lee retorted.
have not been here for -- never mind.
You should not have done what you did.
It will go very badly for you.
You are in my country now, Signore.
I am in charge and will
show everyone that Lorenzo Masella is a most capable
I think that is what this is all about.
Some beef you’ve got with somebody else, not us.”
turned away and sat behind his desk, ignoring Lee’s exasperated sigh.
Lee flopped down on one of the hard wooden chairs littering the
place, folded his arms and confronted Chip, face flushed.
Chip sat down opposite him, forearms on his thighs, their heads
had time to steal anything?” Chip
whispered between clenched lips. He
had his cover in his hands, and with nervous energy was twirling it
between his fingers.
eyes went to the clock on the wall above the inspector’s head.
The hand ticking off the seconds was making its inevitable
journey from point to point. He
was tempted to reach out and snatch it away.
He wanted to throw it across the room, grab up his hat from where
it sat on Masella’s desk and walk out.
There wasn’t much chance of that right at the moment, not if
the expression on the Italian officers’ faces was any indication.
tried that tack, but he’s not buying it, Chip.
I think we may have
gotten involved in a little internal politics here.
The Inspector seems to be at odds with his worship the
mayor. I didn't see Masella
at the reception tonight, did you?”
I'd have remembered if we'd met this guy.”
too. Maybe he didn't get an
invite or refused to attend, either way he's determined to make us pay
for it. He's flexing his
judicial muscles and not willing to contemplate an alternative
just have to wait it out
and see what Admiral Nelson has to say about all this when he gets
if I make sure I’m standing behind you when he does?”
couldn’t help it. Much as
Lee wanted to keep his lips clamped together, seeing Masella’s dark
look, they refused to cooperate. The
chuckle started down in his throat and soon he was laughing aloud, and
after a few moments, Chip joined in.
find something funny about all this, do you?”
left his laughter die down naturally and then spoke.
“Yes, I do, Inspector. When
you figure out your mistake the laugh will be on you, and not on us.”
anger at being chastised so blatantly was palpable and he relieved it by
issuing barking orders to the assembled cohort of officers who
immediately straightened up and concentrated their attention on the two
Lee,” Chip said quietly.
I know, but this guy is getting my goat,” Lee whispered back.
take it easy until Admiral Nelson gets here, okay?”
gave a couple of quick nods.
sighed and stretched out on the uncomfortable chair.
“I thought about making
you stop and ask somebody for directions, but everything looked pretty
closed up to me. And I know
how you feel about asking for help.
No, don’t make that face, you know what I’m talking about.
What I didn’t know was we’d eventually need a witness.
I was too busy trying to figure out where the hell we were!”
heard that, signori,”
Masella said, his head coming up. “That
is what your capitano has been
telling us, he has said it many times already.
We Italians have a saying. I
will translate: ‘He who
talks the most says the least.’ So
it is with you, I think.”
Italians don’t have any such saying.
You just made that up.”
grunted and looked like he’d been caught at something.
“Perhaps I did, Captain. In
any event, the fact is the statue is missing and only your crew has come
everybody living in Pendio is guaranteed to be above suspicion.
Inspector Masella, I say again:
No man in my crew is in the habit of stealing religious artifacts
from churches, especially us.”
inspector shrugged and went back to his papers while the police officers
around them muttered under their breath, every so often throwing dark
looks at the two Americans. It
was obvious where their sympathies lay.
This from the same men who greeted the submarine so happily
earlier in the day.
glared at the uniformed men and declared, “Non
essere troppo rapido giudicare!”
The muttering policemen scowled back but moved away.
Chip's inquiring look, Lee translated.
“I just told them not to be too quick to judge.”
was all the reply Chip thought necessary.
felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
the admiral trailed a good baker’s dozen of the Seaview’s
crew. Behind them,
shepherding the men as if they were a herd of cattle ranged a small
contingent of policemen. Nelson
had found the men in various stages of dishevelment, looking
them over as they emerged from side streets along the route
they were taking to what he assumed was the police station.
Kowalski and Patterson seemed to be in the worst shape, each
supporting the other with an arm over the shoulder.
Kowalski’s jumper was torn at the neck and his nose was
bloodied. Patterson sported
a black eye and, minus a shoe, he was limping along.
light streaming from the door of Police Headquarters was bright enough
to outline the familiar form of Chip Morton as
Nelson approached the building. Chip
was pacing up and down in front of the doorway, hands rubbing his upper
arms; for all the warmth of Italian summers, the early mornings were
naturally cool. Nelson was
glad he was wearing a jacket.
soon as Chip spotted the admiral, he straightened, shook away the
policeman trying to stop him and met them about halfway down the block.
this all about, Chip?” Nelson
Admiral, from what we’ve been told there’s a missing religious
statue, and the police think Lee and I stole it, sir!”
can’t be true, Mr. Morton,” a voice from behind Nelson spoke up.
“These goons think Patterson and me stole it!”
was a chorus of “Same here, sir!”
stopped, and the whole procession came to an abrupt halt.
“Say that again, Kowalski!”
what they said when they grabbed us, Admiral.
Some statue’s missing from a church.
I know the Italian word for stolen” -- Admiral Nelson didn’t
ask him how he knew -- “and statua’s
pretty easy to figure out. We
didn’t take too good to what they were telling us,” he said,
grimacing. “So -- here we
readjusted Patterson’s arm and continued.
“Admiral, Mr. Morton, me and Patterson were, uh, just taking in
some of the local color, sirs.” That
the local color included a raven-eyed beauty and her sister stayed
bet, sir! Honest, we were
just about to head for the boat, it being close to the end of liberty
and all. We could see the
water, so figured we were heading in the right direction.
We came around a corner, and, well, sir,” he said as he
straightened up, his jumper not cooperating, “that’s when they
jumped us, Admiral!”
began telling his story, emphasizing that it had not been an even fight.
The rating quickly explained how the policemen had confronted
them just after coming out from one of the local bars, or osteria,
was what it was called. The
instant the men hidden in the shadows grabbed them they put up a flaying
flight, he related, all arms and legs and language their mothers
hadn’t taught them. But
their assailants’ blows were better directed, and in a few minutes the
confrontation was over. Now
he was sore from what he was sure was some well-placed kicks to his ribs
and his friend Pat was sporting the blossoming black eye.
Kowalski had gotten in some good shots of his own, he remembered,
but in the end, both were heaps in the middle of the street.
Hauled to their feet, they were at the head of the procession
following the admiral.
Kowalski said, his voice now low and earnest, “we never even saw
anything that looked like a church, never mind stealing anything from
see. You go along with this,
combination of alcohol and the fighting had taken their toll.
Patterson murmured, before falling against Kowalski’s shoulder again.
face reddened. Propping his
friend up once he more, he said hurriedly, “Ah, he ain’t feeling so
good, sir. Patterson’s a
good man, sir, but he’s not much of a drinker, sir.”
that we were all so blissfully unaware,” Nelson muttered.
“And this is the same thing you
much, Admiral. We were on
our way back to the boat, and got lost.”
Chip’s sheepish look filled his face.
“I swear it was only about twenty minutes when we gave up and
started looking for help. That’s
when the long arm of the law showed up.
We thought they were coming to check on us.
Boy, were we wrong. We’re
dealing with a policeman named Masella who likes to throw his weight
he figured he’d send for you, since giving
us the third degree wasn’t working.”
face darkened. “Well,
we’re just going to see about this, aren’t we?”
He started up the steps while the crew, Chip and Ensign Paul (who
was regretting his unfortunate turn as the OOD for some time now) fell
in charge?” Nelson
bellowed, catching sight of Lee, whose face broke into a satisfied grin
when he saw the admiral.
rose up from his desk. “I
am, Admiral Nelson. Senior
Ispettore Lorenzo Masella.
Please, sit down,” he
said, indicating the closest chair.
just yet, thank you! Just
explain to me what’s going on around here.”
fleeting shadow of annoyance rippled through the officious officer’s
expression but Masella
shrugged and wasted no time going through the circumstances again.
When he’d finished the admiral’s face was a darker red, his
ear well and thoroughly rubbed and he was standing with his hands on his
is no way my men did this, Inspector Masella.
You have my personal guarantee!”
thought about that for a long time.
“I appreciate what you say, Admiral Nelson, but this is now a
matter for your Embassy. It
is not quite time to call them, but we will have to report this.”
Lord, man, this is ridiculous! Your
own mayor will vouch that we are here on a goodwill visit.
Why should we besmirch our name and that of our country by
stealing a religious artifact none of us knew even existed?”
am in charge, not the mayor! And
the facts do not lie. You
and your men arrive in our peaceful town and within hours our statue is
taken. It is clear there
must be some connection. Therefore,
it is for me to contact your Embassy.
The matter is closed!” Masella shouted in accented English as
he firmed his lips and glared fiercely at Nelson.
grabbed the closest chair and sat down, thrusting his hands down into
the pockets of his jacket and stretching out his legs.
“If you won’t take my word this never happened, I’ll just
sit here and wait until you get hold of the Consul.
All of us will wait. Captain
Crane, don’t say another word,” he ordered as Lee’s mouth opened,
hung there for a moment, and then snapped shut.
“It’ll give us all a chance to settle down and wait for this
statue to turn up. And
believe me, Inspector, it will.”
in a silent movie farce, Masella grabbed a chair and settled down on it,
mimicking Nelson’s pose. They
remained this way for several minutes while everyone grew restless.
tension was broken by a rustle at the door, followed soon after by a
jumped and rounded on the doorway. An
apparition stood in the opening, holding onto the arm of a squirming
of the Italian policeman exclaimed, “Corzo!”
figure did look like a crow. Draped
in black from head to toe, in a style not seen in Italy in a hundred
years, her head covered with an elaborate headpiece, the woman glared
towards them. Only the
prominent wrinkles of someone very old were visible around her eyes,
nose and mouth. It was
therefore a surprise when she spoke and her voice was light and
I understand Father Fermi is missing a statue.
And these men have been
accused of the theft?” She
let go of the young man’s arm and came forward into the room.
“Signorina Campi?” Masella
course it’s me! Ah, sorry.
I did not bother to change after the performance tonight.”
She whipped off the lacey construction on her head, revealing a
mass of auburn hair. Grabbing
a handkerchief out of her pocket, she rubbed at her face and the years
melted away, the wrinkles disappearing into the folds of the lace-edged
hankie. What emerged from
the heavy makeup was the face of a beautiful Italian woman, all dark
eyes and brows and full, red lips.
up, Masella offered her his chair. She
good thing I went straight home after the theater, or I might never have
found out what happened.” She
pulled on the young man’s arm again.
“My brother thought that making a personal intercession to the
Virgin Mary to approve his latest scheme would ensure its success.
He didn’t think anyone would notice it was missing so soon.
I take it Father Fermi stayed up to go to the welcoming
reception? And realized the
statue was gone when he returned to the church?”
Receiving affirmation from the inspector, she turned to the men
of the Seaview.
“The timing was in all ways unfortunate, gentlemen.
You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
brother pulled away from his sister, wincing as his arm came free.
“I just wanted to borrow it for a while, Sophie!
I never thought the sailors would be accused!
I meant no harm.” He
looked pleadingly in their direction, addressing all of them.
“I apologize, signori.”
Emilio. One of these
days…. Well, Inspector, what do you say?”
that is what the Signorina says
happened, I will accept it.” The
look on Masella’s face was a study in respect as he bowed slightly.
eyes opened wide at the change in the man’s attitude.
It was clear this
woman exercised an enormous influence in the town, judging from
Masella’s body language.
is the statue, Emilio?”
the garage at the villa, Ispettore.”
inspector snapped his fingers and flung a furious series of words out at
his men. Grabbing the
hapless Emilio on the way, they hurried out the door and disappeared.
Campi, you are a very welcome sight,” Lee said, picking up her hand
and kissing it. Her face lit
up in pleasure. What had on
first look appeared as the signs of maturity had been wiped away.
Her olive-colored skin was clear and wrinkle-free, the black eyes
surrounded by thick lashes rather than the heavy age lines of an old
just glad I could help sort this all out.
And please, call me Sophie.”
The smile disappeared as she
turned to Masella.
“This is no way to treat distinguished visitors.
You should be ashamed of yourself.”
inspector raised his shoulders up to his ears.
“There was a report, Signorina
Campi, and the evidence--”
caught them red-handed with the statue there was no evidence,” she
spat at him. “This is all
about the animosity between
yourself and Mayor Bennici.
The whole town knows about it, Lorenzo,” she added when he
looked about to protest. “Perhaps
this is a lesson for you.”
By the look on his face, this would be a lesson hard
turned her attention back to Lee. “I
am Sophia Campi. My family
owns the Campi Olive Oil Company among many other things here in Pendio.
I actually live in Massachusetts.
I’m just visiting for the summer and having a little fun
playing a part in the local theater company.”
She did a little side step and held out her hand to Admiral
Nelson. “It’s a pleasure
to see you again, Admiral.”
admiral, caught off guard, first looked down at the hand and then up to
her face. “You said
Massachusetts. You’re not
Dr. Sophia Campi, from Woods Hole, by chance?”
turned the magnificent smile onto him.
“The same, Admiral. I
didn’t think you recognized me in this getup.”
apologize for not doing so right away.
Lee, let me introduce you. Dr.
Campi is a marine biologist at Woods Hole.
I first met her at that C&GS seminar last July.”
He took her hand and shook it gently.
“What a surprise, seeing you here!”
imagine it must be,” she said, laughing.
“I would have been along sooner, but it took me a while to find
out why Emilio was acting so strangely.
My foolish brother is opening a new business, and with all the
rules and regulations in Italy, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help in the
form of divine intervention. As
usual, he has gone about it the wrong way.”
ours, your timing was perfect.” Lee smiled warmly before turning to his XO.
“Chip, let’s get everyone out of here.” Lee
thrust himself in front of the official.
“So we’re free to leave, right?”
made an expansive gesture with his hand but his cold eyes were hooded and he had more the look of a
predator than a friendly cat.
course. I apologize.
Please wait and I will provide transporta-”
thanks!” said Lee and Chip simultaneously. Lee
declared, “We’ll walk - with the Admiral leading the way, of course.
Uh, you can find our
way back, right, Admiral?”
indicated the door. “Follow
me, gentlemen. Dr. Campi,
are you free sometime this weekend?
I’d like to have you come aboard Seaview
and give me your opinion on a research paper I’m preparing.”
good, we’ll make the arrangements later today.”
He took her hands in his. “It’s
wonderful to see you again,
Doctor. Let’s go home,
fast as we can,” Lee asserted.
Chip said set the admiral to laughing, and they went out the door still
Lee smiled gratefully; with a visiting scientist
aboard, the admiral was going to be better company for a while.
turned back to the woman, a wide smile on his lips.
“Thank you again, Sophie.”
was happy to help. Please,
come tomorrow --- or perhaps I should say later today -- to my
family’s restaurant on the boardwalk.
I would like to make it up to you for your embarrassing
treatment.” She held up
her hand again, a hint of naughty humor in her eyes.
“You will be very welcome, Captain.
And your men, too, of course.”
her hand again, Lee said, “I appreciate the invitation, signorina.
And will be sure to
accept. I’d escort you
home, but getting lost again would not be a good idea.”
she said, “Thank you for the thought, Captain, but my car is just
let his touch on her fingers linger a moment longer before turning to
his departing crew. “Here,
let me give you a hand, Kowalski.”
He took hold of Patterson’s right arm while ‘Ski smiled his
raised his head, squinting through unfocused eyes.
He looked at Lee first, who almost laughed aloud at the startled
expression on the man’s face.
to see you’re still among the living, Patterson.”
turned to Kowalski next. “Did
we have a good time, ‘Ski?”
tell ya all about it later, Pat.”
“Il diavolo fa le pentole ma non i
devil makes the pots but not the lids.”
that sooner or later the truth will prevail, for if you
in a pot with no lid, people will see what you're cooking!
Thanks go to The Smiling Eggplant blog for the title…