Change of Heart

I went back to sitting on the couch and staring at the ceiling for what felt like another hour before I heard the three come out of the office, not bothering to look behind me as they chatted excitedly.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Amadeo smiled, buttoning his blazer. “We do not mean to be so rude. But what we do is very complicated, needing much attenzione ai dettagli, uh…”

“’Attention to detail,’” I interjected, my face saying much with its blankness.

Clemente went to sit at the bar as Raffaele made him an espresso.

“We are ready for it to happen,” Clemente beamed, sipping the extremely hot coffee.

“But you can’t go before the Signoria dressed like that,” he laughed.

#

The drive into the city, where a tailor would fit me for the special suit that any man (no women were allowed) setting foot inside the meeting hall of the Signoria had to wear, would take about half an hour. Clemente accompanied me, with Raffaele driving, as Amadeo had more business he couldn’t discuss with me. The car was deep burgundy in color, modern but with the Art Deco styling of a 1930s model, with seats of nut-brown leather, a silver hood ornament depicting a dragon run through with a vertical sword and a plaque reading “San Giorgio Fabbrica Automobili, Repubblica di Genova” on the back.

“I am very sorry for keeping you waiting. I imagine you are very bored,” Clemente told me, turning his head to me as he finished his sentence. I briefly turned to acknowledge him as I alternated between staring out the window at the sparkling Adriatic and the windshield, finding brief amusement in noticing that the hood ornament rotated as the car drove.

“But we are very happy to have you here. It is good that Amadeo was able to go and get you before they could find you.”

It took a moment for my mind to process his words before I fully understood them. I opened my mouth to try and speak a least two or three times before I could get words out.

“I thought he was exiled and sent to kill me for some gossip column he wrote,” I finally blurted out.

“You are serious?” Clemente doubled over laughing, and I could even see Raffaele grinning in the rear-view mirror. “Keeping the Darsas from killing you, more like.”

“And what gossip column?” Clemente snickered, shaking his head with a smile. “He is head of sales. I can’t think of what he could do to have to go into exile. There’s nothing controversial about him.”

“It’s why I sent him to get you with the means to come back and will appoint him as my deputy.”

I didn’t say anything as I recalled Amadeo suggesting it was he who would be Rector.

We drove through gritty streets similar to the ones I saw on my arrival before entering a section of Ragusa that looked cleaner and more prosperous. The tailor’s shop was in a building that looked like it dated back to the 17th century, with a dark wood interior and dark green carpeting. Clemente spoke in Dalmatian to the tailor and uttered a few things about the Signoria before he and Raffaele sat on a leather sofa.

As the tailor, thin and of medium height, with a white mustache and ring of white hair around his bald head, took my measurements, Amadeo walked in and sat next to Clemente while Raffaele got up to bring a bottle of red wine and glasses from a cabinet.

I stood with my arms outstretched while the tailor quietly went over them with his tape measure.

“What’s wrong? You look, uh, how to say, turbato,” Amadeo smiled as a sip of wine stained his upper lip.

“Why did you lie to me? About everything?” I would have grabbed him by the collar were I not the tailor’s prisoner.

Amadeo exhaled loudly and put his glass down on the table next to the sofa as Clemente and Raffaele looked on, neither of them looking particularly turbato. “It made it easier to persuade you to come with me. I am sorry. But you have nothing to worry about, all right?”

“And what were you planning in the office, with that map?” The tailor propped my arms back up as I let them down without thinking.

“Everything we must do very carefully,” Amadeo explained with another sip.

The tailor began measuring my midsection before letting me relax my arms. I kept glaring at the three men, who looked at each other nervously.

When the tailor was finished, Amadeo told me to come along with him to the square.

A large crowd had gathered in front of the church and the 10 black metal poles bolted to the ground in front of it, ranging from locals and reporters to what appeared to be tourists armed with cameras. They began cheering as the bells rang three times. Five of the best-dressed police officers I had ever seen – black uniforms with navy blue piping, black leather belts and shoulder straps, black peaked caps and navy blue capes – came out of an adjacent building, each leading a man or woman in chains and loose-fitting linen gown in drab green.

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