I do not know why I am here, really not.
Why am I halfway up a mountain in a storm?
It is a potato fest. It is a Saturday night in July. It is a disaster. The live music was washed out. The food another disaster, the only thing that will grow in this damned village is potatoes. Why eat potatoes? One of my colleagues could listen to the dialect and name the village.
But I am alone, I do not know where I am, how I got here and why I am here.
I come from the flatlands, many hundreds of miles from here, a happy place where everything grows, wine, tomatoes, rice and even potatoes. But I know why I am here; I work in the big town at the top end of the lake; I keep the big people in order.
I'm a policeman. The big people are the rich people, the celebrities and the politicians who you know and the others, the powerful and the organised crime who don't want you to know.
I don't look like a policeman. The government wants the big people to be kept quiet, everything softly, softly. No trouble, stop trouble before it starts.
I do not know why I am here. I am in a big tent with everyone from the village. I can't see anything and I can't hear anything. The generator has failed and it is a new moon. It is very loud, the rain is beating down on the roof of the tent, the thunder rolls around the valleys and everybody is shouting.
I can smell potatoes, in a fraction of a second I see my plate of... No, I must be honest, it looks like wall filler, some sort of plaster mixture.
But what is that? I hear English voices. I look around. Another blitz of lightning. I see three women and two men at the table behind me. Two of the women and the two men are shouting English at each other. The third women looks at the others and hears them or perhaps not.
I swing myself round on the bench to face the third woman and use my best English “Hello, sorry, but the weather is a disaster.”
She laughs “That's not the only disaster here.”
Another blitz. She is everything I never wanted in a woman.
A petite woman, black hair, big brown eyes, a small mouth, delicate limbs, high heels to emphasise... Well, you know what I mean. She has none of these.
Another blitz. She is everything I ever wanted in a woman.
A large woman, long blond hair, probably blue eyes, pale skin, a typical north European, I want her.
Another blitz. There is a plate of wall filler in front of her.
I can't say that I understand all that she shouts, it is so loud. Her name is Merrilee and mine is Johko. They are waiting for the rain to stop and then run to their car. “You do want to come with us!” is not a question.
Big surprise, she has legs, legs that reach down to the ground. She is as tall as me, without heels, but still shapely.
The car is large with three rows of seats, I sit in the back row with Merrilee. I do not ask where we going. She says that she and her friends are on holiday; they have a small business, they do renovations.
We drive down into the valley to the little town at the bottom end of the lake and stop outside a bar. Funny, it hasn't rained here. We walk into the bar, Merrilee talks to the owner in the local dialect, they are old friends, we walk out of the bar on the other side.
I don't know the little town well, the big people don't come here. We sit at a table on a wooden landing on the lake. The waiter brings drinks and lights a candle. The view from the little town over the lake is just as pretty as by the big town. I know why I like the lake, it is flat and so is the little town, it is built on the sediment at the bottom end of the lake.
The conversation is flat, is everybody tired? “Let's go for a walk.” Merrilee and I stroll along the wooden walkway above the water to the other end of the town. We don't say much, we just gaze over the water. We walk back through the town.
“I've never noticed that before.” The Hotel Bristol stands on the other side of the plaza, not a very original name, but lots of stars. We go to her room, or rather suite.
There is a large window overlooking the lake, a bottle of white wine in a cooler and two glasses on the table. Who drinks white wine in this country? I open the bottle, pour a little to taste, it is very good, and fill the two glasses.
We toast this, we toast that, we sing “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you”, we talk about this, we talk about that, we fall asleep.
It is five o'clock in the morning, she is still asleep at the table, I write a note with my phone number and leave.
The street is not empty, it is full of the little people, they walk one way to the factory making furniture and the factory making toothbrushes. They walk the other way to the buses for the big town at the other end of the lake where they work as waiters, cooks and cleaners for the big people.
I buy a ticket from a machine and get into a bus, but I am not one of the little people. No, I am not at home here.
I sit in my office in the big town and look out of the window, it is too early to see the big people. I am not one of the big people. No, I am not at home here.
Aha, no great surprise, Merrilee and friends are in the database, the three women are seriously rich, they are very big people. So why do they stay in the little town at the wrong end of the lake? The Hotel Bristol is not in the database, I decide to check the hotel over and enter the details into the database.
I take two of my people and make an official inspection of the hotel, it is not very secure and what is that big green ledge on the side of that mountain? Could be useful for a guy with a gun.
“Oh, that's where they take the cows in the summer. It's easy to get to. You just drive five miles up the road to the village that does the potato fest, drive back down the other road to the point with the view over the little town and there it is.”
Half an hour later I stand on the edge of the mountain looking at the Hotel Bristol with binoculars – a pretty easy shot. I say so out loud.
“Good morning, Commander Lercaro. You need some rifle practice, perhaps?”
I do not turn round, I say nothing.
“Giacomo, I have a job for you. Pays well. I want you to be my security officer and personal assistant.”
I was not the only person checking the database this morning.
“Johko, meet me at five in the private bar on the top of the hotel.”
I do not turn round, I say nothing.
We drink coffee on the roof of the hotel. There is of course a great view over the lake. Merrilee tells me about Fifteen Sisters Finance.
“The three of us shared an apartment when we were at college, we got on very good together, we were all doing MBAs. So we set up a business together. We buy companies that are failing, possibly bankrupt, but have potential. We fix them and sell them for a profit.”
“No, there aren't fifteen of us, just us three girls. Theresa does the money stuff, I do the people stuff and Megla is the boss, her word is final.”
“What about the two guys? Jim and Georgie?”
“Oh, Megla knows Jim since they were both at kindergarten, childhood sweethearts. Jim does logistics, driving and things.”
“Georgie is Theresa's current, Theresa has a new one every few months, she just does, she finds one, I write a contract for him and pay off the old one.”
Merrilee laughs, she is staring at me, I am staring at her. “I know something you don't know, you see something you have never seen before. Those funny orange blotches on my cheeks, they're called freckles, I've been in the sun.” Lovely!
We watch the sun go down and leave. Merrilee opens the bar in her room and finds a bottle of vermouth. “Here's to a good evening!”
“Is that real? I've never seen a man with one of those before.”
“Yes, it's real, I know how to use a gun and unfortunately I've had to.” Merrilee is delicious.
“I was never lucky. Megla has her Jim. Theresa can pick up any man she wants. Me? I never had any success with men. Yes, I tried women, a complete disaster. Johko, you are the first real man in my life. You be good to me.”