Today I’m posting an excerpt from my novel, Diavolino.
Tom reached the pontoon as an overweight man with a red face jumped off the carabinieri launch. His dark suit seemed to strain at the seams.
“Mr. Lupton, I presume?” he said, offering his hand.
“Yes, and you are Inspector…”
“Ricci. It actually means curly but as you can see…” He raised his eyebrows toward his receding hair.
“Well, thank you for coming so promptly, inspector. I’m extremely worried.”
“No problem, Mr. Lupton. It’s my job. And in any case, it gives me the chance to make your acquaintance.”
“Come, please follow me.” Tom felt he maybe should offer some coffee but his mind was on Sima. The niceties of Italian life would have to wait.
As they rounded the large oak tree the inspector halted and let out a whistle through his teeth. “My, my. I would never have believed it. That’s some temporary accommodation you have there, Mr. Lupton.”
“Um, yes. We are very lucky to have Sir Roger as a client.”
They continued on toward the house. “Tell me about Sir Roger,” Ricci said. “They say he is incredibly rich. I hear he has not one, but two airplanes.”
“He’s done well, let’s say that. We’ve built several properties for him in various countries.” Tom didn’t really want to discuss Roger’s affairs with him. Sima was missing and Ricci wanted to make small talk.
“Don’t you find it strange, Mr. Lupton, that such a man would want to build a house here? On such a small island as well? I mean, it is a simple area. It’s not Los Angeles or London—or even Rome.”
“No, I guess it’s not. But you really ought to be proud of this place. This area is very beautiful and peaceful, rich in history and culture. That’s what attracts us foreigners to it. That, and the friendliness of the people.”
“Ah yes, of course.” The policeman blushed. “I’m sure you will find us local people most interesting.” They’d arrived at a point where they could look down into the hollow, the tubby inspector out of breath and wiping the back of his neck with a handkerchief. “Now, Mr. Lupton. What was it you wanted to see me about. Some missing person, I believe?”
“Look, inspector. I don’t want to raise a false alarm, but as I said, I am very worried. I was working down in the hollow,” he pointed to the place, “together with my assistant, Sima. When I turned round she’d gone.” Tom didn’t mention seeing her shoes disappearing into the unknown. He didn’t want to give the impression that he was some kind of nut.
“When you say gone you mean exactly what?”
“I mean gone. Vanished. Not there.” Tom was rapidly going off at the policeman; already he could tell that he’d wasted time by phoning.
“People don’t just vanish, Mr. Lupton. Not in these parts. She probably went for a walk. Even to the toilet,” said Ricci, grinning stupidly.
“No, I don’t think so at all. I looked everywhere, including her bedroom and bathroom. She wasn’t there. Look, inspector. I know her very well. Sima wouldn’t go off without a word. Something has happened to her. This is just not her behavior.”
“Well, maybe she went to town?”
“But how? She hasn’t taken a boat, and I can’t imagine she swam. No, inspector, Sima is missing.”
Ricci pulled a small notebook from inside his jacket and removed a pencil from his top pocket, licking the tip with the end of his tongue. “Let me take a few details, Mr. Lupton, and maybe you have a recent photograph of your assistant?”
Tom reeled off the standard information as they stepped up into the house. Tom handed Ricci a photograph of Sima. “That’s the one we use in the corporate brochures. I think it’s the best we have.”
Ricci raised his eyebrows. “She is stunning. It will be very hard to lose her in a crowd here.”
“It should make her all the easier to find then, shouldn’t it, inspector?”
“Mr. Lupton. She hasn’t been missing for even a day. In my experience, the chances of her having disappeared are minimal. I am sure that before dinner time she will be back here with a perfectly good explanation.” He put the notebook and pencil in his pocket. “I have the information I need. Should she not turn up by morning, please give me a call.”
“And if I’m not prepared to wait until morning?”
“Mr. Lupton, please. Some may wonder what indeed did happen to your attractive young assistant. I mean, there were only two of you here, all alone on this island. I’m sure none of us wants to jump to conclusions now, do we?”
Tom had to fight the urge to punch him in the face. “I object to your insinuations, inspector.”
Ricci tilted his head to one side. “I can see my own way back to the pontoon. Good day to you Mr. Lupton.”
Tom watched the inspector waddle back toward the launch. He was either incompetent or he was hiding something. The little fuck face.
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