Our knowledge of the early people of the Marche is hazy and often draws from the unreliable writings of later Roman historians. The most important of the tribes who first inhabited the region in any numbers were the Piceni, who lived on the eastern seaboard of the Marche. Up in the mountains their place was taken by the Umbri tribes who also dwelt in the neighbouring region now known as Umbria. Both tribes have left us few relics of their passage.
The inland mountainous zones are mostly limestone and are noted for bare peaks, rushing torrents, dramatic gorges and many complexes of caves. In contrast, the areas nearer the coastal plain are celebrated for their fertile rounded hills topped by ancient fortified towns. All goes to make a green and pleasant land!
The highest point in the Marche is Monte Vettore in the Sibillini Mountains at 2,476 metres. The coast itself boasts long sandy strands; apart from the limestone Conero peninsula, it is virtually flat. An area of great contrasts and wonderful scenery along with the food and I know I am going to enjoy working in the Marche although the actual ‘work’ might temper that a little.
I also found out that the administrative capital is Ancona and that there is an airport nearby. Ok so that is my way into the region I suppose. I will have to wait and see. Nothing else to do but follow my instructions!
The next couple of days were spent studying the little known area of Italy and the places within it that I may have to be familiar with. The coastal plain was so flat and densely populated it would be difficult to carry out my tasks there undetected. I couldn’t imagine that beach umbrellas and tourists would surround the stronghold of a powerful family! I knew that a little research of the area might well prove useful in days to come.
In preparation I went out and bought some suitable clothes. I aimed for quality and style rather than my old shopping habits of looking for serviceability and economy. I shopped at top quality stores and went for shirts, trousers and suits as well as deck wear and ‘holiday gear’.
I also bought some more quality luggage. It was while I was doing that I had a thought that could prove to be a major obstacle. I would not be able to take any of my weaponry so when I next heard from Sumisu that would have to be addressed.
I went to the dojo each evening and practised and studied. I also visited the property I was considering buying. I was very much in favour of the one that was closest although it wasn’t the cheapest. It was unoccupied and had almost everything that I need. The accommodation inside wasn’t adequate but I could soon have that sorted. I went to the estate agent and solicitors and set things in motion. I put a deposit down to hold the property. It would need to be finalised when I got back, but that was no surprise. These things never happen quickly! It would take about six weeks I was assured. Ok that would have to do. I asked for access before completion and was told that would not be a problem as it was no longer owned but in the hands of the Official Receiver. I collected the keys and went straight there. I parked outside and opened the small access door. I had been in a couple of times before but it is always different when you are the owner rather than a potential buyer. The air was warm because the sun had been out and the top half of the building was mostly steel. I guessed it would cool down considerably at night. It was just a big empty space with a prefab office in one corner. That would have to go and something more permanent put in its place. I wanted to partition a part off next to the office across the back wall for a dojo/ fitness suite. There was no need for living accommodation but a bathroom and somewhere to sleep if necessary and facilities for making a drink would be useful. I wanted to be able to park vehicles and store weapons so a safe would have to be installed to full police regulations. That would do for now. I needed to find a builder but there would be time to do that before I went to The Marche.
The Aikido was coming on. My tendency to go at obstacles like a ‘bull at a gate’ I realised was under my control and could be managed at a conscious level. Sometimes, looking back, like the guy in the pub toilet, I chose to attack. That was not the assertive way. Not the Aikido way. I had not really been attacked but was responding to the adrenaline in my body from the target practice earlier in the day on Torino. Now I was thinking that what I had really needed to do was exercise down like you do when you have been involved in a long period of sustained exercise. Like my ‘warming down’ techniques when I had completed a run! I hadn’t thought about the chemical imbalance in my body and mind as well as the needs of my muscles. That is ok but it still felt good to give the dickhead a lesson in manners! I did feel slightly different in that I am more detached from situations and observe people more without interacting. It was probably there all the time but the discipline of the art was raising my awareness of its usefulness.
Also, although I am physically fit anyway, my body is more flexible and my reactions faster with the kind of exercise that Aikido requires. A thoroughly dangerous individual! Vince was also teaching me how to strike which is the final resort in defending oneself. The idea being that to practice the art effectively each protagonist must receive ‘honest’ attacks. Therefore a style of attacking has evolved that resembles knife attacks and punching and kicking. This simulates a real attack and prepares the student for defence. There are also some weapons training that Sensei Vince says I will find useful. It feels good to be involved with the dojo.
Getting to Marche could be a bit tedious. Flights are daily but only from Stansted to Ancona, which is fairly central to the area. The drive to Stansted I always find a bit of a nightmare. The inland region looks beautiful, with small villages perched on hilltops and approached by snaking roads. They are red roofed and white walled and surrounded by wooded hillsides and bathed in hot sun. Well in the summer! Like most mountainous regions it will probably rain cats and dogs at times. Still I could imagine myself sitting at a table outside a local café sipping Chianti and enjoying the views - fabulous. However, I am still waiting to hear from Sumisu san. It would seem I needed to hire a car to get around effectively. There is a good public transport system between resorts but it becomes patchier going inland. I need to contact my car insurance people and arrange for continental coverage. I have driven in France often enough for that not to be an issue. I need to be prepared. My passport is up-to-date but I need to get some euros and travellers cheques. I try not to use my credit card, as it is so traceable. So the only sticking points are precisely where, when, who and how long. In other words I have nothing as yet.
I resolved to train and keep fit until I was required to move. I would be relieved once I could start moving and knew what my tasks were. I also kept an eye on Jim Thompson’s accounts to ensure he was not back to his old tricks. On the face of it everything seemed fine but he could be just getting more careful! It would be curtains for him if I caught him screwing the system again. He needs a course in Aikido – help him get a grip. I reckon it’s boredom that takes a family man and tempts him to try something for a laugh. Gambling, illicit sex, drugs, it doesn’t matter it’s something different, something to get the adrenalin going again. It is also self-destructive to which the records of broken families attests. Must be some aspect of the human psyche! The bottom line is the relationship between what we, as humans know to be right or wrong, and our concept of what we feel we can get away with!
So how would my boss, because that’s how I thought of Sumisu, contact me? Would it be a text or a visit? Well it turned out to be a meeting! At my soon to be new project!
Sitting in the quite comfortable, it is still aeroplane seating (!), first class chair in the plane heading to Italy I have time to reflect on how I arrived at this point. Sumisu appeared behind me in the warehouse. I nearly jumped out of my skin! The first I knew was when he asked,
“What are you going to do with this Patrick san?”
I walked him through the building describing my plans and the reasoning behind them. All I got from him was a series of nods and smiles. There was nowhere to sit so when he had looked round he took me out to his car and we sat in the back where he gave me a large brown envelope. In it were cash, flight tickets, hotel reservation and car hire information. There was also a list of names. We spent the next half an hour discussing the way I was to proceed when I arrived in Italy and, from the list, which of the family were likely to be targets. The purpose was not to massacre an entire organisation, but to remove players that would create the most significant outcome. Also, to ensure that the Italians knew who was responsible! There would be little point in the Japanese taking credit for booting an Italian family out of England. The English have to take the plaudits. I was told that we would discuss that later.
“You must retain total anonymity in Italy Patrick san. There will be a couple of eliminations but mostly disruption to their organisation. We need them to contract inward and then they will think twice about extending their family outside their own country!” he instructed.
“Yes Sumisu san!” I agreed.
“You will not fly directly to Ancona but make your way into The Marche from Pescara. If all goes well you should be able to return that way. It could take some time but I feel that maximum effect will be achieved by two or three days of concerted action giving no opportunity for them to regroup. You will then return and ensure evidence is supplied to the authorities in the North East so that they can ‘clean out’ the remaining canker in their midst.”
Again my response was simple agreement. I was being given unquestionable instructions. It was certainly not my place to start a discussion. Sumisu smiled and said that he hoped that I would have a successful trip and that he would be in touch.
Sitting here looking out of the window, travelling at 500mph 30,000 feet above the earth, sipping the cheap champagne they give away on scheduled flights, I felt a little at sea with the arrangements. I was to use my own name and passport, fewer complications; I had a ‘genuine appointment’ with a high value client in Pescara; and, I was to spend a few days holidaying in The Marche. All feasible! So the car hire was logical and the hotel suitable for a financial advisor with high value clients. I was going to collect a medium size Alfa Romeo from the hire firm. I would sort a room out in The Marche when I got to Pescara.
Then there was the ‘equipment’ for the job. Sumisu had arranged for someone from the Gurentai to meet me within the next day or so. How easy could this be? I had to do the job of course!
That was something else. First target was the head of the Torino organisation. I need to find out what the organisation is like and where it works. Would it be the organisational head or the family patriarch, or matriarch? How did today’s Italian families work?
The ‘FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS’ sign, flashed on above my seat. We were on our final approach and would be landing in 10 minutes. I collected the few things I had taken out of my hand luggage and got ready for this next adventure. The landing was all of that! We came down with a thump that made everyone gasp and bounced, then the runway felt like a switchback full of ruts and potholes. Thanks very much Captain Jasper, our pilot! We did not leave the plane through a rubber tunnel and straight into the terminal, but down the steps and across the runway into a single storey, glass and concrete panel construction. The grass was growing between the concrete slabs that made up the runway, hence the bumps! The weather was good. Beginning of May and the early spring rain should have dissipated and the sun would have more warmth to it. As was the case! It was a beautiful late afternoon. The sun was bright and the sky a steely blue, the temperature was warm and comforting but not too hot that I needed to carry my blazer. As a group we meandered towards the airport building following an Alitalia stewardess who was decoratively leading the way. What a fine sight from the rear! Already the pace of life had slowed and was looking good. We were the only flight to have arrived so no pressure on baggage reclaim and there was only a similar sized group waiting to get on the plane from which we had so recently disembarked. The building was pleasantly cool, and uncluttered but, once I had gone through passport control; I was only interested in the hire car desk and the keys for my Alfa. I was like an excited schoolboy. I had never driven one before. Once formalities were complete I was shown a silver Alfa 147 with a 1.6 diesel engine rated at 105 bhp. Inside it was well finished and included climate control and adjustable everything!! It would take me an hour to get the seat and steering column adjusted correctly! It also had GPS that would, hopefully, guide me into the town and eventually the hotel I was to stay in. It was a bit strange driving in a left hand drive car. Still after a very steady start I found the way towards Pescara. The car was very responsive but not overpowered. By the time I had driven the half an hour into the town I had become quite familiar with the vehicle.
The Hotel Esplanade was built in an early 20th-century style, with a rooftop restaurant. It turns out it is the classiest in Pescara, with suites, well appointed public rooms and its own stretch of beach. I parked in the underground garage that the concierge gave me directions to, and set off to walk round the town and get my bearings. As you would expect, the seaside town had plentiful supply of bars and bistros serving a predominence of seafood. It was quite busy as the tourist season had obviously just got into first gear, in 2 months you would have to walk on the road to make progress through the thronged streets. I hate crowds. Matches my chosen profession!
I walked into the hub of the town and viewed the town’s two main squares, the piazza Rinascita and piazza Prima Maggio, which lie on either side of the boutique-lined Corso Umberto. Beyond these twin social hubs it’s a short stroll back to the very long promenade - very impressive.
I returned to the hotel and went up to the suite. I needed to study the envelope Sumisu had given me. There were some type written pages, photographs and a cd. I never go anywhere without my laptop and one of the facilities in the room was wireless broadband, so I loaded the cd immediately. It was like a tourist guide around the area about an hours drive north from Pescara. It showed more of the splendid coastline and then moved in to the mountainous interior of The Marche. All-in-all a very impressive area of the world. I am going to enjoy being here. The climate is good, scenery excellent and hotel more than adequate. Now for my targets.
Unsurprisingly the family name is Torino, I wonder how Jacomo is doing! There are an elderly couple who are probably the titular heads of the family, they are described as being in their seventies. That’s not to say they were not capable of running the show but it also said that they were semi-retired. There are a number of brothers and sisters as is common in Catholic families. Jacomo seems to be one of those. That is the families’ representative in England. He was not the eldest, that is Antonio in his late forties, and I had him as favourite for the top job and therefore the main target. He was described as the family farm manager and the others had various jobs - that could mean anything. Julia is described as a – solicitor – family conciglieri maybe!!!! It was beginning to become clear how the family is organised. There are two more significant names of brothers who seem to be involved and they are Pietro and Gianni. So there is a cross against Antonio’s name. He is the only target for sanctioning to begin with. The cd then had ‘pen pictures’ of the family which was nothing more than expected really. The important information was about location, routines and habits of each of the family members.
The family live in a magnificent villa on the outskirts of Jesi, there were photographs, a walled town up river from Ancona. Julia Torino has a legal practice in the town and various businesses linked to the family are also situated in Jesi. So what I need now is to formulate a plan and I still didn’t have a toolkit! I am not tied to a timetable but I need to get the job done. I decided to turn in for the night and see what tomorrow brings.
I slept well. It was warm without being uncomfortable and the crisp white sheets made the flesh tingle. I was well rested and went down to the hotel gym to see what it had to offer. There was no one else there, which was hardly surprising. It was only 07:30 and early in the season. I took advantage of the treadmill, cross trainer and rowing machine, finishing off with a wind down on a bike. A good 45 minutes to set me up for the day. I returned to my room, dressed and showered and went down to breakfast. Being a classy hotel the style was buffet and there were a variety of types intended to cater for all European tastes. I chose slices of meat and cheese with crusty Italian bread and coffee served by a delightful waitress. These dark haired petite Italian girls could make a waitress uniform look spectacular! Afterwards I went upstairs to complete my morning preparations and was surprised by what I found.
I opened the brief case that was by the bedside table. Inside there was a Glock 17 and knife similar to my equipment at home. How thoughtful of Sumisu! There was also a block of C4 and detonators! It is years since I had used explosives but I’m sure I can remember what to do! The question intriguing me was how did it get into my room? It must have been someone with a key, so logic would suggest a staff member or a crook! Almost certainly one of the Gurentai! More than likely not Japanese as they would be rather obvious in an area of Italy not renowned for immigrants, let alone those from the Far East. On the other hand I couldn’t see Sumisu trusting one of the locals.
I familiarised myself with the gear in the case and thought about the options I had. I decided I would walk into the main square have a coffee at one of the many pavement cafes and then head off to Jesi to reconnoitre the Torino home turf. While I drank a thick sweet cup of java I studied the route I would take. It was about 120 miles North and the most direct route was the A14, the Autostrada Adriatica. It would take a good couple of hours. The weather was perfect so I set off back to the hotel car park and after buying a bottle of mineral water from the bar I got into the Alfa and headed north. The vehicle came with satellite navigation so I set that up to take me into the centre of Jesi.
Once I had left the narrow streets of Pescara and got on to the Autostrada the views were spectacular. The sparkling blue Adriatic on my right and the land rising up inland towards the distant mountains! Fantastic! The car was smooth and driving was effortless. The traffic was light away from the town so I made good time. I checked my mirror frequently but noticed nothing unusual which is not surprising because I am an unknown with a secret mission in what is to me a strange country. A country I have had no previous connection with. Still it pays to be careful so I checked again. Nothing!
By noon I had reached the outskirts of Ancona and the route was taking me round what I assume is the ring road and westwards into the valley of the river Esino. Jesi is about 11 miles from the coast.
As I approached the town I was thinking of how long it would take me to survey the region before I could get rid of the target. I had a couple of weeks before I needed to leave. It isn’t good to stay in a place for too long! People start to recognise you. I saw the town from the other side of the river. Very impressive! A walled town, which was dazzling in the midday sun! I crossed the road bridge into the main square and found a parking place. I did the tourist thing and strolled round the town with my jacket over my arm until I settled on a restaurant for lunch. I chose a glass of the house red and lasagne. It was slow in coming as I expected, but sat outside in the warmth of the sun reading travel brochures while surreptitiously observing the people, I didn’t mind. Looking round the square there was the usual collection of shops catering for both the local population and tourists. There were also anonymous looking buildings with brass plaques by the doors announcing the type of offices contained therein. One of them would belong to Julia Torino. I just needed to find that and do a little breaking and entering, and that is why I had the C4! However the timing is crucial. The office needs to be destroyed at around the same time that Antonio was meeting his maker. I could then leave during the confusion.
I reckon a telephone book would give me the addresses I needed to find. There would be a post office or the equivalent where I could collect the necessary information. The waiter was very helpful. After getting over the initial language problems he indicated a building in the shaded corner of the square. It would be open after the siesta at around 2pm. So I sat back and watched the world go by and enjoyed an Italian ice cream and coffee.
At the appropriate time I paid my bill and strolled across to the post office. Inside it was quite dingy after the reflected glare of the sun on the cobbles and walls of the square. There was a row of telephones against the wall on my left so I went to the nearest unoccupied one and sat on the stool and opened the huge book to the ‘T’ section and soon found Torino. There were several. How stupid can I be! The family probably own the town! I looked for J Torino and something that looked like lawyer or solicitor. L’Avvocato – advocate, that has something to do with the law. I wrote down the address. I would find the place from the GPS system in the car.
I looked for A Torino and there were a few but only one that had a house named Villa Torino. How arrogant! Well he didn’t know it yet but he is about to be cut down to size. Although in his line of business he must suspect that someone will take a pot at him at some time, if it had not already happened. I checked the other Torino entries and decided that I had what I was looking for and headed back to the car. The lawyer’s office could wait. I loaded up the GPS and typed in the location of the Villa Torino. It would seem to be on the road to the Castelrosino in a higher tributary valley. I decided that there was not enough time left in the day so I re-programmed for returning to the hotel. I would be back for dinner. I need the time to formulate the plan of attack as well.
The journey back took a couple of hours and was trouble free. It was dusk when I pulled into the hotel car park. I headed for the bar. Thirsty work driving and strolling around in the spring sunshine! I went down to dinner in the Esplanade restaurant. Everything seemed normal until my waitress came to deliver the starter I had ordered. I wasn’t aware that I was being approached until I heard,
In a soft oriental voice!
I nearly fell off the beautifully upholstered dining carver I was languishing on. Looking into the smooth, creamy face I must have looked incredibly stupid with my mouth gaping and eyebrows trying to climb up into my hairline. I stammered,
She giggled and hurried away. I watched her trim behind retreating towards the kitchen and thought of what sort of an impression I had given. How not to behave in an inconspicuous manner! Fortunately the restaurant was quiet and those tables that were occupied were interested only in their own activities of eating and conversing quietly. Then I got to thinking at a rate of knots. She had probably left my equipment in the room! Then – what level of risk was Sumisu taking having an oriental operative in a country not renowned for its Japanese population? And yet my sponsor is usually so well prepared. I ate my food thoughtfully! She was coming back with my main course.
“Arigahto. Watashi no namae wa ….”
“Steele san!” she interrupted, “Watashi no namae wa Misaki Kawamura desu. Your main course Steele san,”
Her almond shaped eyes smiled at me. I could feel myself melting. She was about 5 feet 2 inches tall, slim build and with jet-black hair cut quite short. The most stunning feature was her skin. It was clear and glowed with the lustre of moonlight even though we were in a brightly lit restaurant. It was as smooth as silk and I bet just as soft and warm to touch.
“Enjoy your meal Mr Steele,” and with that she turned and went back to her work.
The rest of the meal passed in a haze. Misaki didn’t come back with the tiramisu! I was gutted. How stupid is that. I went to my room and slept.