Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Strangers On A Train

If I had known this party was going to end up with everybody snorting cocaine, I never would have come. It’s time to leave, Lucrezia thought.

The April wind howled through the streets of Rome. She wound her rich floor length cape around her. She studied the under-soles of her mustard colored kid leather boots. Cocaine blanketed them. Ugh! These boots were made for walking, says the song. Here’s to adventure. I’ll take the Midnight Express to Florence.

The conductor blew his whistle. A tall young man dashed past Lucrezia, jumped into the last carriage and held the door open. "You have thirty five seconds," he yelled.

She raced towards the stranger. He reached out his hand and quickly pulled her through the door. Her body pressed against his as the train jerked and stared to move.

The train reeked of stale cigarette smoke, urine, and sweat soaked clothes. "My God, what kind of train is this?"

"Bella mia, this is the Midnight Express from deepest Sicily. It winds all the way to Switzerland and stops at every place you never heard of."

"It’s the pits – there aren't even any seats."

"It's not luxurious, but it’s a god send for these hard working people."

He’s right, she thought, these are good people concerned only with a better life for themselves and their families. She remained silent and gazed at the tired bodies of men, women and children sleeping on the floor. This is no time to be squeamish. I am falling asleep on my feet. She removed her safari jacket and used it to cover her Gucci bag. She spread her Saint Laurent cape on the floor and placed her head on top of the bag.

He sat next to her and asked, "what brought you to this fortuitous train?"

He stretched his body next to her and currents of electricity passed between them. "I walked away from a lurid party. I took the first train heading to Florence. Voila!"

She gazed at the tall dark man of great physical beauty stretched out beside her on the floor and her antenna perked up, remembering a tall man leaning against a building as she left the party. "Why are you here?"

"I followed you from Palazzo Belmonte. I know about the drug orgies, so I waited in the loggia to see that nothing happened to you."

"That’s sweet but I have a talent for keeping out of trouble all by myself." What she didn't say, but was thinking is why is he stalking me?

"Don’t be sarcastic. You haven’t asked for my name."

I'm not sure what he is up to, but let’s play the game. "You’re Percival, the Knight."

"In a way you are correct and so let's assume it is. I am on a mission and you are right to be suspicious of me. Don't deny it, I see it in your eyes, but I don't have much time. The Carabinieri will enter this compartment. It’s at the tail of the train. They reason that those on the run come here. Since the kidnapping of Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the Carabinieri have stopped everything on wheels, searching them thoroughly without success. Our train is overflowing with humanity, especially this car. They risk ill will if they board it."

"A bright and street savvy person like you still thinks the authorities care about the people’s wellbeing? Policemen the world over have no imagination. Intelligence is nothing without it."

"Bella, I am packing guns."

Who is this feral soul mate? Is he an infiltrator in the Red Brigades? An expert of Counter Terrorism? A lone assassin? "My Gucci bag holds a Walther P38, money, make-up and masses of jewelry."

They embraced and laughed as they looked into each others eyes.

"Let’s sleep. The train won’t be boarded until Arezzo, Cara mia."

The wheels of the old train creaked loudly as it braked to a full stop. The door swung open and a black-booted officer of the Carabinieri ascended the metal steps. "Good Morning. Documents please."

"She lifted her head from Percival’s chest, unwrapped her jacket, inserted her hand inside it and handed him her passport. He studied her photograph and returned it to her without a word.

"What’s inside the bag?" She opened it and showed him; expensive jewelry, perfume, money and cosmetics. Percival had already removed the gun.

Perceval rose, identity card in hand, the other hand close to wear he had stashed his gun. The Caribinieri glanced at it, but looked at her, "Are you two together?"

"Yes Sir," she said politely.

He turned and looked the man over closely, "Dissuade your lady from traveling on these dangerous trains. Goodnight." A few minutes he was gone, and the train continued.

They both got off in Florence. He took her in his arms and they stood wordlessly in passionate embrace for minutes.

"Arrivederci mio Percival."

"Arrivederci Lucrezia mia."

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