The city of Florence was packed with tourists, with
Germans and French
and Japanese, talking loudly and flaunting their currencies.
Trotti cursed under his breath. It was another week to Easter and yet
every reasonably priced hotel in the city was full. There had been no
reason to expect this sudden drop in the temperature; nor had Trotti
been expecting the main railway station to close for the night.
Foolishly, he had lingered in a restaurant and now he was shivering in
the street. He did not even have a coat. Half past two and the train
for Empoli would not leave for another couple of hours. There was no
escape from the cold and Trotti was cursing his own stupidity when he
noticed the girl. She had been standing there for some time but he had
assumed she was just another African whore. He looked at her from
behind; the overhead neon highlighted her hair and for a moment Trotti
thought it was Eva. There was a lurch in his belly but as the girl
moved towards the main entrance of the Stazione Santa Maria Novella,
Piero Trotti realised she was a lot younger than the prostitute from
A couple of barefoot children were begging in front of a mobile bar.
The bar - probably the only place open in Florence at half past three
in the morning - was selling hot drinks on the far side of the road.
Trotti scraped money from the bottom of his flimsy pocket and bought
two cups of steaming chocolate. He gave the change to one of the
He went back across the road.
"For you, Signorina."
She turned and the plucked eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Hot chocolate to warm you against this chill," Trotti smiled.
Her lips were almost white in the feeble glow of the station lights.
"My mother told me not to take presents from strangers."
"Just a retired policeman."
"Men like you she warned me about." Without taking her eyes from his,
she put the styrofoam to her lips and drank.
She must have been in her early twenties. The girl was almost as tall
as Trotti and the appearance of height was accentuated by curly hair,
combed outwards. A blue ribbon ran through the curls and was tied into
a knot above her neck. She held the cup between her hands - dark hands
She did not have any luggage other than a small bag at her feet and the
clothes she was wearing - cotton skirt, blue tights, a sweater and a
"You missed your train?"
Her scuffed tennis shoes were no protection against the Siberian cold.
"You missed it or you didn't?"
The eyes appraised him from behind the rim of the paper cup. Widely
set, brown eyes and Trotti realised why she reminded him of Eva. He
felt the pinch of nostalgia.
She blew across the surface of her drink before taking another sip. "I
have nowhere to sleep."
"You're not Italian, signorina?"
"Just one of my problems," the girl said in a lilting accent and then
she started to cry.
"In 1987 Gracchi was invited to TRTP in Trapani.
The local television
station - a very amateur setup, no bigger than a couple of filing
cabinets, a typewriter and a second-hand TV camera - wanted him on a
programme. This was just before some elections and Gracchi was invited
along for a debate on local politics. It should've been your typical
political broadcast - the sort of thing most local stations put out
between some American sitcom and an old TotÚ film. According to Chiara
Gracchi, her husband didn't want to go. Gracchi'd become a recluse."
"What about Guerra?"
"What about her?"
"Screwing her didn't keep him happy?"
Spadano ignored the question and Trotti's smile. "On television Gracchi
rediscovered his old self. He regained all the charisma of Trento and
those heady years in Lotta Continua. That night in Trapani Gracchi
mesmerised everybody. Brilliant - people were expecting another dull
talking-head, another lump of furniture on the sound set, another
double-breasted suit. They got this brash Northerner asking the kind of
straightforward questions nobody else would ever've dared ask -
questions nobody in his right mind'd ask aloud in Trapani province.
This was 1987, the high summer of CAF - Craxi, Andreotti and Forlani.
The days of endless rivers of verbosity, jargon and obfuscation. It was
before the demise of the Christian Democrats, before Bossi and the
Lombard League started using straightforward Italian to talk to the
Italian people. Before Clean Hands. That night, Gracchi spoke simple,
honest Italian. Asked embarrassing questions about bribes, about
politicians on the take, about Mafia protection in Trapani, about the
pizzo, about the clans."
"A bit dangerous?"
"Very dangerous." Spadano nodded, "The phones were jammed with
wanting to know who this Northerner was. Asking for more of the same.
The manager who'd been shitting bricks suddenly realised he could
afford to be delighted."
"Gracchi was asked to stay on?"
"Gracchi'd been one of the editors back in the late sixties with Lotta
continua but he knew this would be different. Trapani wasn't Milan or
Turin. In western Sicily other rules apply. Being an intellectual and
an outsider'd never be protection from the lupara."
"You mean the kalashnikov, Spadano."
"From the mattanza."
"Years ago, when there were still fish in the sea, the Trapani
fishermen would sail out and slaughter the tunny in their nets. The
sea'd turn red with blood. The mattanza - the slaughter. Gracchi knew
what he was taking on."
"And was scared?"
"He knew he'd talk too much."
"Yet he accepted?"
"Limelight was a drug for him."
"Even if it killed him?"
"Giovanni Verga asked Gracchi to stay on at TRTP."
"Giovanni Verga was his associate at BRAMAN. The place belonged to
Verga's family. Any good publicity for BRAMAN was welcome, indeed was
necessary. In the mid-eighties, when Craxi became prime minister,
Verga'd started getting into bed with his Socialist chums. Unlike the
Christian Democrats, the Socialists hadn't married into the Mafia so it
wasn't as if there was a major conflict of interest. It suited Verga -
and through him, Bettino Craxi - to be seen fighting the Mafia in
Trapani. Giovanni Verga was delighted to let Gracchi get on with it."
"Giovanni Verga was concerned about the Mafia?"
"Couldn't give a shit." Spadano smiled cold amusement. "Verga was
Trapani where his father had been postmaster. He knew all about the
Mafia and he knew Gracchi was setting himself up."
"Gracchi became a television journalist just for the sake of Craxi and
Spadano shook his head slowly, "Gracchi was an honest man. Honest and
middle class - and though you refused to see it, essentially decent. He
hated the Mafia - and the Trapani Mafia in particular. Gracchi's real
weakness was loving the limelight. He joined TRTP because he fell in
love with the studio lights - ineluctably attracted towards them like
an insect." The general paused, "There were times when Gracchi would
stick his tongue out at the viewers. "No hairs on my tongue," he'd say
to the camera. Gracchi talked plainly and he wanted the viewers to
"A Northerner unafraid to speak the truth about things that everybody
knew but nobody dared mention? Can you imagine? Telling everybody the
emperor had no clothes. It was wonderfully inebriating - and totally
reckless. Gracchi even had priests warning him off, advising him to be
careful. Gracchi continued to stick out his tongue, figuratively and
literally, and he did some good work - for over a year. Corruption in
the hospital, the eternal problem of no running water, lethargy in the
town hall. Something quite unheard of in that conservative, prissy
backwater of provincialism, where the Mafia's just as prissy and
conservative. Gracchi brought his innocence and his righteous anger to
Trapani. But also he brought his experience as a journalist from Lotta
Continua. Over the months he worked there, Gracchi trained a group of
ex-addicts from BRAMAN and turned them into competent newsmen and TV
Spadano gave a thin smile.
"A year - and lucky to survive for as long as he did, the stupid
47 Lombard League
They stuck adhesive tape across his mouth. His hands
were held by
plastic cuffs behind his back and a bag was pulled over Trotti's head.
Coming down the stairs, his feet scarcely touched the ground and then
one of the men, possibly the man in the beret and bulletproof jacket,
jabbed him in the small of the back. As his shins met hard metal, Piero
Trotti fell headlong.
Unable to protect himself with his elbows, he tumbled forward, landing
on soft fabric.
Trotti realized it was a car seat.
His head was spinning. He had been struck with a butt to the side of
his head and now there was a painful ringing in his ears.
He would never see his grandchildren again.
Trotti was in pain, in dreadful pain. He felt old. He wanted to die. He
did not want to be hurt. He did not want any more pain. Blood was
trickling down his cheek.
(Crab-like, the man had stepped sideways through the door onto the
terrace, a finger on the trigger of his weapon. With the other hand, he
had gestured for Trotti and Pisanelli to lie down.
The man's face was immobile.
For a long moment no-one had moved; just the slightest movement of the
muzzle. Then without turning his glance, the Carabiniere had kicked
Pisanelli's aluminium crutch and sent it clattering noisily across the
Lia Guerra started to scream before the other man silenced her.)
People clambered into the car, pushing Trotti into an upright position.
Vomit rising in his throat.
The exhaust pipe reverberated distantly as the car pulled out into the
traffic along the Tiber.
Trotti heard the whine of the siren. It came from another world.
"Friends of yours?"
"Bastard says he's a policeman. Commissario from Milan or somewhere."
"Let's hope he doesn't arrest us." The man beside Trotti rocked with
laughter and he jabbed something into Trotti's bruised ribs. "They
don't like us southerners up in the North. "