Title: Corporate Citizen: Roma Series Book Five
Author: Gabriel Valjan
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
About the Book:
A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder than she thinks.
Excerpt from Corporate Citizen (Roma Series Book 5)
“Is this Mr. DiBello?” said a woman’s voice through the long-distance connection.
“This is he,” Gennaro answered.
Bianca raised her eyes at hearing him speaking in English. She had just come into the room with their afternoon drinks. She was even more concerned that the call had come to Gennaro’s cell phone and not the house phone. They were apartment sitting for their friend Claudio Ferrero,La Stampa’s top investigative journalist, who was on assignment. This call also threatened their afternoon ritual of talks out on the balcony where they enjoyed the sights below of San Salvario, the neighborhood near Turin’s city center. Gennaro was motioning for her to come over and eavesdrop.
“What can I do for you?” he asked the caller.
“Not for me, Mr. DiBello. I’m calling on behalf of your friend, Diego Clemente. He asked me to dial your number for him. It’s not easy dialing Italy from a hospital phone.”
“Hospital?” Gennaro said, alarmed. His eyes flashed his concern to Bianca.
“I’m a nurse at MGH and he’s my patient. MGH is Mass General–”
“Hospital in Boston,” Gennaro stammered. “I know that. Scusi – I mean I’m sorry for interrupting you, but is Diego alright?”
“He took a fall at home and broke his hip,” the woman seemed to sigh, “slip rugs are dangerous, you know. He can tell you the rest himself. There isn’t much time.”
“Wait, please. Much time?” Gennaro asked, confused. “I don’t understand.”
“He’s due for surgery and I’ve started his IV. I’d say that you have about ten minutes before happy hour.”
Gennaro said, not understanding to Bianca. “IV…and ‘happy hour.’”
Bianca bared her forearm and explained in Italian: “Medication; probably anesthesia.”
The voice on the phone said, “I’ll hand over the phone to him so you two can talk.”
“Thank you, Nurse.”
“You’re welcome.” Gennaro heard the phone shuffle and heavy breathing. The connection improved. Gennaro and Bianca heard the pull of the curtain. “Diego?”
Another moment passed, and more ruffling sounds. Gennaro and Bianca huddled closer around the phone as Clemente spoke, “Slip rug, col cazzo.” Clemente had learned some Italian, but only the choice words. “That’s some hell of a story, from Mason Street to MGH and now a hip-replacement. Jesus, I can feel the drug working its way up my arm already.”
“You’re making no sense, Diego.”
“Gennaro, please listen to me, since I don’t know how fast Nurse Ratched’s cocktail will work.”
“Less than ten minutes. I’m listening.”
“Thanks. My head feels light. Damn.”
“Wait — where’s your wife? You shouldn’t be alone in a hospital.”
“My wife passed away. Look, Virgil showed me the apartment, the dead girl, and it’s a real mess, a real setup, and my life is going to hell. To hell, you understand, Gennaro, in a boat, hole in the bottom, and toothpicks for oars.” The voice was Diego irritated, in hyper mode.
“Slow down, Diego. I’m sorry about your wife. Why didn’t you tell me?”
A deep, relaxed sigh. “I didn’t want to trouble you. What could you’ve done? Send me a Mass card? You’ve been through it yourself.”
Gennaro’e eyes turned downward. He remembered Lucia. “But still, Diego. I’m your friend. Friends do something, and I don’t mean send you the latest self-help manual on grief.”
Bianca swatted his arm, “No time for sarcasm,” she said.
“I couldn’t help myself, he told her in Italian.
“Hello? Help me then.” Diego
“First, I need to understand what you’re telling me,” Gennaro said. “Who is Virgil?”
“I wish I knew, Gennaro. I wish I knew. I think Virgil is one of Farese’s people.”
“Farese?” The name, as it came out of Gennaro’s mouth, made Bianca’s eyes widen.
U.S. Attorney Michael Farese was a chameleon of a character, changing colors when he worked for the Department of Justice, when he handled diplomatic requests for the State Department, and when he worked for the CIA, as they thought he might have been after their last run-in with him during their investigation of the Camorra in Naples.
“Diego? Concentrate. Why do you think Farese?”
“That doesn’t matter. She’s dead and he’s dead.”
“Who? Who is she? Who is he?” Gennaro asked. His voice almost cracked.
“Norma Jean. She had such nice lingerie, too, and that son of a bitch was in such a nice bed.” Clemente’s voice was almost singing as he was speaking. The wonders of pharmacology.
Gennaro rubbed his eyebrows. He was frustrated. “Diego, stay with me. Who is Norma Jean? Who was in the bed?”
“Marilyn Monroe was a sad girl.” Diego giggled.
“He’s giggling,” Gennaro said to Bianca.
“Oh, it’s a party line!” Diego almost shouted. “Who else is there?”
“Bianca,” Gennaro announced. “She is staying with me.”
“You naughty boy,” Diego said. “Put her on, please.”
“Here,” Gennaro handed his cell phone to Bianca. “Talk to him. I think the medication has gotten into his brain.”
Bianca seized the phone. “Clemente, this is Bianca,” she said, hoping that using the man’s last name would snap some momentary sense into the man’s head. “Forget about Marilyn Monroe. Who is dead?”
“Marilyn, of course. Somebody murdered her,” Diego answered.
“That’s right, but who is in the bed?”
“James Guild, former special agent, FBI, scourge of my loins.”
Bianca put her hand over the receiver and repeated, “Guild is dead.”
“Porca puttana.” Gennaro stepped in closer to the receiver. “What happened, Diego?”
“Hell if I know. Virgil gave me the tour of hell. I got nice slippers, though. He had a needle in his arm.”
“Virgil had a needle in his arm?” Bianca asked.
Clemente became belligerent. “I just told you Guild had a needle in his arm. He was in that expensive bed. I saw it. No gun, too. Norma was out in the living room. He was in her bedroom. Nice bed, and what a nice view, and did I tell you what a beautiful kitchen she had?”
Gennaro asked, “I couldn’t hear that last part. What did he say?”
“Nice kitchen,” she said in English “He’s getting delirious.”
“I’m not delirious,” Clemente yelled. “I’m serious! Oh, that rhymes.”
“Please focus, Clemente,” Bianca said.
“I saw it. I saw the computer. My life, your life…it all goes to shit.”
Bianca, trying a soothing voice, said, “You saw a computer. What did you see, Clemente?”
“Black, black background,” Diego’s voice was now sputtering.
In a coaxing tone and hoping for more details, Bianca asked, “What else did you see?”
“Big, big.” More sputtering. Bianca closed her eyes.
“Big red R!” Diego said triumphantly.
Bianca and Gennaro understood what they had heard: black background and red R.
She said softly, “Fuck me.”
“Lingerie?” Clemente asked. Bianca handed the phone back to Gennaro. She put her hands to her temples, rubbed them. She thought of Boston, the Sargent case, Nasonia Pharmaceutical, and the body count.
“Diego, this is Gennaro again. We’re coming to Boston.”
“That would be nice. Somebody should feed the floor people. I feel sleepy now,” Clemente said, mewing. Gennaro stared at his phone before he put it to his ear again.
“Get some sleep, Diego. We’ll be there as soon as we can.” Gennaro heard more purring and then the cacophonous drop of the receiver on the floor on the other end. He ended the call on his cell phone.
“Did he say anything else?” Bianca asked.
“He said someone should feed floor people. I think he has cats.”
“How do you know he has cats?” she asked.
“Blame it on hanging around Silvio.” Bianca didn’t question the logic. Silvio was a translator, Farese’s interpreter, their friend, member of the team, and lately, animal whisperer.
“We should go to Boston,” Gennaro said.
“He saw the red R.”
“I know. You should call Dante.”
“Do I really have to?” she asked.
“Yes, and you have to tell him.”
“Which part? Clemente and Guild, or that Clemente saw the red R.”
“Doesn’t matter. Tell him everything,” Gennaro said. “It adds up to the same.”
Red R meant Rendition.
Excerpt published with permission from Winter Goose Publishing