@copyright 2005 Jean G. Hontz
When Darius heard I would be going to Firenze, he tried to make me promise I would take no action against the Medicis. But I can be stubborn when I so choose and so I chose. He threatened to come after me. I told him not to be a fool. He must stay in Venezia and I would be back in three months. I promised. He swore. I cried. We made love as if we would never see one another again.
The trip back to Firenze was not nearly as long as the trip Darius and I took leaving there. A Doge’s family travels in comfort and stays at inns or sometimes at private homes. We made a colourful parade and there was much light heartedness when the weather was good, but all tempers were stretched when the rains came and drenched us. We stayed in one small town for three days at one point waiting for the weather to let up.
The children were very good. I had taken to rough-housing with my own particular charge. Giovanni loved it. His older sister, all of six years old, would watch with eyes wide and serious. But she was reassured when her brother would giggle when I tossed him into the air and caught him. I almost dropped him once when I caught sight of Signora Foscari watching me toss her son in the air. I put him down and came to attention. She walked over and examined me.
“Carmine, you have turned into a handsome young man.”
She patted my arm. “I’ll make sure you have much free time in Firenze. You need to do what young men do.”
I held my breath as she walked away. Free to roam Firenze…
We’d been in Firenze for two weeks. I’d gotten time off but what I did with it wasn’t exactly what Signora Foscari might have thought of as what young men do.
I’d listened and learned the gossip. I’d identified the head of the Medici family and found out his routine. I’d watched the family villa and gotten a pretty good idea of the guards’ schedule. I’d watched the great Medici leave for meetings and watched him arrive at the centre of the city on business. I was ready.
I’d managed to arrange a morning off, which was unusual. Giovanni was a morning person, the little wretch. But I fabricated a story that I’d met a girl… Giovanni was fascinated at the idea and agreed he would not raise a ruckus if I were not there. Signora Foscari was surprised when her son asked her to give me time off, but she acquiesced.
I had acquired (best not to ask) the clothes which marked me as a law clerk and, so dressed, I stood outside of the Courts building where I knew Fabio di Medici would arrive. I’d slicked back my hair, and shaved carefully. If you look like one of _them_ you do not arouse so much suspicion.
To my great glee there were many people milling around near the main entrance; excellent for my purposes. I saw the Medici carriage coming down the street, so had time to situate myself without hurrying. My heart was pounding. I said a quick prayer, sent love to Darius and swallowed that heart.
I waited until a group of petitioners approached, forcing themselves through the family retainers, shouting at Signore di Medici, begging favours. Guards swarmed around Fabio but they were trying their best not to encourage violence. The great man looked as if this were an entirely common thing. I’m sure it was.
Someone shouted from my left and all eyes turned that way. I took that opportunity and stepped forward. I thrust the stiletto I had hidden under my coat into Fabio and pulled up and twisted. I was able to make it all one movement.
There was a scuffle off to the left and the crowd surged forward. I allowed myself to be drawn forward with that movement, and did not look back.
There was a curse, a scream, guards began yelling, and Fabio di Medici was sliding to the ground blood staining his rich tunic a brilliant red.
The guards reached for him, first, before they moved to try to quell the crowd.
The crowd, knowing full well there would be retribution, panicked and people began running away in all directions. I did not run, but was caught up in the panic, so my movements were hard to pick out. I cut myself out of the crowd at an alleyway and turned down it. A few others had done the same, looking pale and frightened. I expect I looked just the same. I walked with purpose, running no longer. I admit I was unsure what was happening around me, my heart pounding so loudly I could hear nothing. My eyes focused only on the roadway before me, terrified I would miss a step and fall. I was counting every step, every step away from the murder I’d just done.
Every moment I expected someone to come up behind me and capture me, or murder me. Yet the alleyway was silent behind me, although I could still hear screams and shouts from the main street. I took two different turnings at random and then came to a stop.
I leaned weakly against a wall and looked down at myself for the first time.. There was a narrow line of drying blood on my tunic, and one of my sandals was splattered bloodily. My heart was still pounding so hard I felt light-headed. I looked around and did not recognize this street or the area. I walked on. The streets were narrow and dark here, smelling of the usual city smells. I heard a cat yowl and jumped.
How long I walked I’ve no idea. I was in a sort of fugue state. I felt apart from my body; I felt as if I walked through a fog, my vision that cloudy. Time was at a standstill. Silence seemed to envelop me. Not a breeze stirred the world around me.
Finally the alleyway opened out into a piazza and across it was small park-like area. There was a pond there. Dirty smelly water, but water nonetheless. I cleaned my sandal in the pond. The bloody stiletto was in my hidden pocket. I dare not take it out in public. The blood on my coat was visible but since my coat was brown as it dried it was no longer all that noticeable.
Guards suddenly rushed by, shouting something. I thought they’d come for me. I stood, from where I’d been sitting by the pond. I would die proudly.
But they passed me by. I lost sight of them quickly enough as they rounded a corner, but I could still hear them for some time until finally the sounds of their passage and cries died out.
The city seemed eerily quiet. Everyone knew to stay out of sight, to remain in the shadows. I thought that a good idea and retreated to yet another alleyway where I could blend into the deeper shadows. How long I remained there I’ve no idea.
But finally I moved on. Somehow I made my way back to where I’d hidden my own clothes. With shaking hands I changed into my own fancy surcoat. I dropped the tunic I’d worn into the water near the rocks were local women washed clothes. With luck someone would be delighted to find such a nice piece of clothing and make no comment regarding it.
I never could remember much of the journey back to the house where Signora Foscari and her children were staying. The guards knew me and let me in, despite their nervous demeanor. Security was much much tighter than normal. Everyone was tense and unhappy. We were vulnerable here.
“Get inside,” the guard captain hissed. “There’s been murder in the street. It could start riots or feuding. No one is to leave the estate. Go to your duties.”
“What? I don’t understand,” I replied. I didn’t have to pretend to be confused.
“Idiot!” the guard captain said, as he towed me into the gated courtyard. “Firenze and Venezia have been at each others throats in the past. We will probably be again. They may take advantage of the upset and anger to attack us. They may blame us for this murder. Get inside!” He shoved me toward the servants quarters. I stumbled on my way.
It had never occurred to me that others might think this a political assassination. It had been personal for me, so I’d never wasted a moment to think what it might look like to others, nor what it might mean to the safety of the Signora Foscari and her children, not to mention those of us charged to protect her.
I made it up to my room, stumbling up the stairs, breathing as if I’d run for miles. I sat on the edge of my bed, trying to breathe. In and out.. In and out… I’d murdered the head of the Medici family… I’d managed it. One down…. One murder, that would be the first of hundreds.
Our visit to Firenze was cut short due to the political situation the murder of a major merchant prince caused. We servants rushed about packing. The Doge would want his wife and family safe from any possible political hostage situation, or attempted reprisals.
We were, amazingly enough, on the road the next morning. The trip home was quiet and subdued compared to the trip to Firenze. The Signora’s face was white and tight with worry. Even the children were quiet.
When we arrived at Venezia it was nearly dark. The Lady had not wanted to spend even one more night away from the safety of her husband’s stronghold. As we entered the gates of the villa I saw Darius standing guard on the wall. Our eyes met. I nodded minutely. Word, of course, had arrived long before we did. Fast couriers had told the Doge the situation. He himself stood on the steps of the villa to welcome his wife and children home.
I did not have a chance to see Darius for several nights. There were double watches and no time off as yet. But finally, we had at least a moment to talk.
“How are you,” were the first words Darius said. I know he wanted to hold me to him, but we were in the stables and there was much danger of being seen, so we dare not touch.
“Well,” I said.
“Liar,” he breathed. “I am off tomorrow night. Meet me at our usual place.” Then he was gone.
When we met that night, it was the first time I allowed myself to react. I sobbed and I trembled. I like to think it was merely the relief of finally feeling safe. Darius just held me.
I was promoted as a reward for my care of the children on the trip to Firenze. I became more than just a guardian to Giovanni. Now I was the main security guard for the Doge’s children. Thus I was ordered to report to the chief of security, and he arranged for me to receive extra weapons training.
I was to learn all the techniques used to provide security for the Doge and his family. This was exactly what I’d wanted. I was to learn all the inside tricks and plans and schemes. It would help me plan meticulously in the future. I could better understand how to arrange for further assassinations of Medici.
Darius grew more and more restive as I became more and more obsessed with learning everything I could to help me murder Medicis. He begged me to let it go. He begged me to leave Venezia with him. He wanted to get me away from the whole situation, to get assassination off my mind.
I resisted. I was no longer his ‘little mouse.’ I’d tasted blood.
We were with the Doge of Venezia another year before Darius informed me he was leaving. He asked me to go with him.
“If you are going back to Firenze I will be glad to,” I said. I’d been yearning to return there and avenge myself on another Medici. I felt much more confident now.
“No,” he said heavily. “I am going to Switzerland. I wish to stay with friends there.”
“Vampires?” I asked.
“Yes, some are, some not,” he replied steadily. ‘You would be welcome there.”
I looked away. “If you leave here, I will go to Firenze.”
“Carmine.,” he pleaded …
“Firenze,” I replied stubbornly.
I cried for days after he’d left me. Then I informed the Doge that I was moving on. I thanked him for his kindness and then made my way to Firenze . I was alone. But I had a plan.
I was a comely lad. I don’t say this to brag, but to explain that it was fairly easy to work my way into society. I found a dissipate young man and became his lover. This got me admission to places I’d only dreamt of reaching otherwise. I attended the fancy balls and soirees where the wealthy and powerful of Firenze frolicked.
Santo, ai, such a name for this one, made it his business to drive his family mad. He was dissolute, dishonest and dumb. He owed many florins to the money-lenders. He got away with this because his father constantly bailed him out. Of course his father did not know about me, or I expect Santo would have been dragged home in disgrace and married off immediately, rather than his father hoping against hope that his son would somehow find himself. Oh, Santo had found himself all right. He was cruel to me, and made love to hurt.
But I bore it because it got me what I needed. He gave me presents, expensive ones, which I sold for good florins. I would need them one day. I decided that the day I murdered my next Medici I would also murder Santo.
Through Santo I began to make connections with the underworld of Firenze. There were many good reasons to do so. You learned who to avoid, who could help you and who to trust. None of them respected Santo, and they laughed at me for allowing his cruelty toward me. But I wished to appear helpless. No one would think me an assassin.
And finally my putting up with Santo paid off. I walked into a private salon late one night and trod on Isabella’s toe. She was notorious in Santo’s circles. A beauty who lived by her wits, she had lovers who could buy her the moon.
She reached up to slap me, but as our eyes met she dropped her hand.
“Ah, the little mouse who allows Santo to …do things,” she said it in such a way that those around us easily overheard and they laughed cruelly.
I said nothing aloud, other than begging her pardon, and made my way past her. Later that evening she found me on the terrace and walked over to speak to me.
“I’m sorry, Carmine,” she said. “I ought not be cruel to someone who merely does what I do.”
“Do you allow your lovers to be cruel to you?” I asked it before I even thought about it.
She seemed surprised that I would be so forward and then she slapped my face. Hard. She spun on her heel and walked away.
We were lovers within the week.