She asked me a load of questions about everything and more, in more than one language. I answered as best I could and she tapped into her laptop. From time to time she bent her head down and kissed me. “This is the first skills assessment that I have done in the horizontal.”
I called him “il professore” and he taught me economics and business in the mornings. In the afternoons I worked on my security concept for the three “sisters”; it needed more than one person. The evenings and nights I shared with Merrilee.
Megla told me “We are not really fifteen sisters, but we have more than fifteen staff scattered across the planet working on various projects. We three are waiting here for the next big adventure, probably in Lisbon. Meanwhile enjoy the holiday.”
What holiday? I was working.
“And by the way, Johko, you be good to Merrilee. She deserves that.”
The master tailor came and measured me up; he also tested my colour sense, I did not understand how he did that. A week later he arrived with boxes full of new clothes for me, very good quality, very good fit and, of course, the right colours.
I thanked Merrilee, but she said that it was part of the contract that I had signed.
I phoned Giuseppe, a friend and ex-colleague of ten years, did he want a new job, a job that had everything. He was a good guy, he was always willing to learn from me. I used to tell him that one day he would be able to do the job better than me.
One afternoon I presented my security concept to the three women, they bought it, Merrilee invited Giuseppe for an interview. All went well until Theresa caught sight of Giuseppe, Megla tried to hold Theresa back; but it was like trying to hold a cat back that had seen an injured bird.
Theresa sank her talons into Giuseppe and we did not see either of them for the next two days. I did see Merrilee paying off Georgie, I never saw him again.
It was Saturday morning, “No, no, we’re not lying in. Get up and have breakfast.” shouted Merrilee. She threw clothes onto the bed, hers and mine. We had breakfast and stepped outside to a waiting limo. Somebody loaded our packed luggage into the car and off we went to Milan-Malpensa Airport.
“Melissa is a great friend of ours, we all met in Durham, and that’s where her wedding will be, at three in the afternoon.” The private jet landed at Newcastle Airport and taxied onto the apron where a limo was waiting to pick us up. But first show our passports – England is different – they drive on the other side of the road. The wedding service in church was different too.
We returned to the hotel where we had changed clothes for the reception. It was a wonderful summer’s day and most of the guests had wandered outside, with a glass in hand, onto the square. It was surrounded by old buildings and bushes. It was quiet and hot, a bit dreamy, a celebration.
What was that? I knew it. The police part of my brain hit max. What was shining in the bushes? A rifle barrel. I circled round some buildings to reach the rifleman. He was aiming at the people on the square. No time to think – I grabbed the barrel and pushed it upwards – the man fired twice – I heard the bullets ricochet against a wall.
I grabbed the man, wrenched the rifle out of his hands, threw it on the ground and stood on it. I held the man in an arm lock and waited.
Who says that the English police are not armed – within minutes I was surrounded by six armed policemen. I released the gun man, stepped back off the rifle and raised my arms. The police patted down the gun man and then me. “My gun is under my arm.”
“Now get this straight! I don’t believe your story. I don’t believe you’re Italian and that you flew here this morning. You don’t work for Fifteen Sisters Finance and you’re not staying at the hotel and you don’t have a gun licence.”
“I’ll tell you what happened. You decided to shoot some people with your old hunting rifle. You fire some shots, then you grab a passing man, who you know is a bit soft in the head. And when we come you tell us that he did it.”
“Come on, tell the truth, sign this statement and it will be better for you.”
I laughed “Great story – really original. But have you got the evidence? No, I thought not.”
Chief Inspector Harris was not happy. “You’re laughing. I can tell you that you’re in trouble big time. Attempted murder is no small crime.”
“I’m laughing because I’ve been in this situation many times before. Your story is a joke. I have a licence for my pistol and a licence to carry a concealed weapon from your interior ministry, I mean the Home Office.”
The chief inspector was angry, very angry. “You’ve been in this situation many times before; you must be a criminal big time.”
“No, just fifteen years in the Italian police force.” This was going to take some time.
It was two in the morning when a well-dressed gentleman entered my cell. “Hello Mr Lercaro, my name is Bentley, I’m your lawyer. The police have examined the rifle and questioned the wedding guests. Your fingerprints and DNA are on the gun barrel only, Mr Unworth’s are all over the rifle. None of the guests saw you walking around with a rifle at the reception.”
“In short, Mr Lercaro, you are a hero. You are free to go. Here is your pistol back.”
He drove me back to the hotel.
She was waiting for me. She stood there. I looked at her. I realised that she was the love of my life. I ran towards her and took her in my arms. She was wet with tears.