The Etruscan Net

The Etruscan Net by Michael Gilbert

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Authors: Michael Gilbert
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Doctor’s house, in the Via Marcellina. I am one of the last patients of his evening surgery. By the time I come away, it will be dusk. He has a back door to his surgery, which leads out, through the garden, into the smaller street at the back. Sometimes his patients do not wish all the world to know they are visiting a doctor. Even if the front of the house is watched, the back will not be.’
    ‘Can you not understand,’ said Annunziata, and now she was angry, ‘that these men exist only in your imagination?’
    ‘I have eyes in my head–’
    ‘It is an affliction of old people. They imagine that everyone is watching them, following them, listening to them.’
    ‘It is not my imagination.’ The old man was shaking, with rage and frustration. ‘A dozen times, now, I have seen them.’
    Tina laid a hand on his arm, stroking it gently, as she might have stroked an old dog. ‘Go on with your plan,’ she said, and the look which she gave silenced her mother. ‘Tell us about that. You had left Doctor Goldoni’s house by the back gate. What next?’
    ‘I will walk along to the top of the Via Canina, above the cemetery, where there is a little turning space. Cars stop there, by day, to admire the view. But at ten o’clock at night it will be empty. If Signor Broke would drive there. It would hardly take him five minutes, from his house in the Viale Michelangiolo. We could sit in the car, and talk, without fear.’
    Tina said, ‘Very well, I will ask him.’

7
     
    Friday Afternoon: A Meeting is Arranged
     
    Harfield Moss sat in his hotel room, writing a letter to his associate, Leopold Cranfield, co-director with him of the Moss Artistic Foundation at Pittsburg.
    ‘–I’m as certain as I can be that something big is breaking. Something really big. Every contact I have in this town and in Rome says the same thing. It could be a Regioni-Galassi all over again. When I say that it is breaking, I could, of course, be wrong. It may have broken already. There’s a recently developed technique, which allows the investigator to get an idea of what is inside a tomb, long before he actually reaches it. Exploratory drillings are made, from the surface of the tumulus. It’s not unlike looking for oil. When the drill breaks through the solid rock, or tufa, or packed earth, into an open space, it is taken out and an implement is lowered into the bore-hole which can illuminate and take photographs. That way, a very good idea can be got in advance of what will be discovered when the tomb is opened. In the case of a really big find, there would most likely be two openings, not one. The first, as you can appreciate, would be highly unofficial! The choicest objects would be extracted, particularly the gold and silver, and the jewellery. The opening would then be carefully resealed, and a second, official, break-in take place, with all the hoo-ha of press publicity. Experts from all countries flock to the place. Photographs are taken, and learned papers are written, and the contents of the tomb are deposited in one or other of the museums in this country, with considerable réclame. The really valuable things, extracted at the first opening, will meanwhile have been sold to the dealers, and spirited out of the country, ending up in private collections. This time, I am determined that the best of them shall end up in the Moss Foundation, so don’t be surprised if I requisition a very considerable credit, in the near future, at the Banca Toscana. It’s not going to be easy. I fancy the Rossis and Bernasconis both know what’s cooking, and their agents are already in Florence. So keep your fingers crossed–’
     
    When Broke came home for lunch that day he knew, as soon as he saw her, that Tina had something she wanted to say to him. He knew, also, that her sense of propriety would prevent her from saying it until lunch had been served.
    It came as he was finishing the pasta.
    ‘Would I what ? ’ said Broke.
    ‘It is a great

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