Driven to the Edge: Chapter Eleven
By Coral Bale, known on the Forum as Reefgirl
Daniel, Nell and I ran towards the sound of the screams. We found Pietro on the floor of the corridor clutching his arm and Jasmine screaming. Lady Butler-Monkton bustled into the corridor and dragged Jasmine off, berating her about causing a scene and how a lady doesn’t behave like a fishwife, no matter the situation. We took Pietro to our carriage and Nell looked at his wound. Meanwhile, Daniel went looking for the attendant to get first aid supplies. When he returned, Nell started to treat Pietro’s wound, which wasn’t severe, just a flesh wound.
“Did you see who did this?” Daniel asked. Pietro looked at me as if to say, “Who is this?”
“It’s ok, this is Daniel, Father’s chauffeur. I was telling him about what to do when we got to Nice,” I said.
Pietro nodded. “I don’t know, I was saying goodnight to Jasmine, I saw a glint of light on something, I saw the gun and it fired.”
“Sounds familiar,” Daniel whispered. I nodded – just like the shot fired at Johnny Markham, it was.
“Is anyone after you, a wronged suitor maybe? I’ve heard Continental men can get… passionate about such things,” I said.
“Certainly not!” Pietro insisted. “There is a code for these things. He would have challenged me to a duel, not tried to shoot me in cold blood on a train.”
There was a discrete knock on the door; it was the attendant asking if there was anything else he could do and that Miss Jasmine was asking if Signor Fallini was well enough to join her and her mother. Mindful of the altercation between Johnny and Pietro, I asked the attendant if Johnny was on board, and he promised me he’d ask the other attendants if they’d seen anyone matching his description. Pietro then left
our carriage and went to Jasmine and her mother’s.
“Do you want me to stay?” Daniel asked.
“No, no one knows about our true purpose and it seems whoever it was, was after Pietro,” I said.
Daniel nodded. “Ok, but lock the door on this carriage and your sleeping car, and keep your gun under your pillow,” he said as he left.
We finally rolled into Nice with no more incidents. We stood on the steps of the station wondering how easy it would be to hire a car when a car’s hooter sounded.
“Yoo-hoo, Amy darling, over here,” yelled a female voice – it was Aunt Suzanne. I waved and we began to carry our luggage over to her car, a beautiful white Mercedes-Benz. We loaded it up, climbed in and drove off to Aunt Suzanne’s villa. After we’d unpacked, bathed and changed, we met on the terrace.
I’d better tell you about dear Aunt Suzanne, my father’s sister. She’s an artist, designer and bohemian, so the South of France is an ideal place for her. She and my mother were great friends, kindred spirits I suppose. I guess that is why she’s my favourite relative.
“So darlings, tell me all about this wonderful adventure you’re going on. Darling Dougie told me some but obviously not all,” Aunt Suzanne said. She knows all about Daniel and I and our enterprise. I explained all about James Munroe, our suspicions that not all of the deaths in motor races may have been accidents and what had happened on the way to Nice.
“Father said you had some information or gossip that could help us,” I said.
“I’m not so sure what it is I know, but a lot of nefarious Italians have been in Nice all winter, and a lot of drugs have been flooding in all over France, Monaco, Italy and Britain, so my source tells me. Well, he is the local police chief, a very charming young man. He says that the nefarious Italians are the Mafia.”
Daniel nodded. “That figures. The American branch of the Mafia are the biggest drug peddlers in New York and other cities.”
“They used to be the biggest suppliers here too, but not anymore. Someone else is ‘muscling in on their turf,’ that’s the term I believe,” Suzanne said with a sly look at Daniel.
He chuckled and nodded. “That’s the term, my lady” he replied.
Suzanne tutted, “Don’t call me My Lady, I only use that when I want to throw my weight about; please, Suzanne will be fine.”
“In America, the Mafia don’t take kindly to other gangs pushing drugs, taking protection money, running prostitutes and brothels. It’s led to a lot of turf wars, murders and street brawls – it’s not pretty. I’d say the Italian Mafia aren’t happy about someone else supplying drugs to the Socialites here,” Daniel said.
“So, the police chief says the Mafia are here looking for whoever the new suppliers are. The chief thinks it is tied to one of the racing teams. He has contacts in Italy, America and in Britain, and they’ve been looking at all the information. The drugs are flooding in whenever there is a race. The problem is, they don’t have the manpower to search every piece of equipment and every person in all race teams, so it’s just coming in, well hidden,” Suzanne finished.
“And they’ve probably got police, customs men and dockers in their pay too. It’s beginning to sound like whoever ‘They’ are, they are as big and well connected as the Mafia,” Daniel said.
“As fascinating as this is, how does it help us with James Munroe’s murder? Did he find out who was smuggling the drugs, who the head of this smuggling ring is, or was he just an unfortunate bystander, like I was outside Charlie’s office?” I said.
Daniel shrugged. “Could be any of those reasons, but if the police think one of the race teams is involved in drug smuggling, I’m thinking that he could have very well fallen foul of the head of this gang.”
“Do you think Johnny Markham is the Mister Big?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. I can’t see any reason. You said he’s not a drug user, he’s got enough money, he’s a lounge lizard. He may be involved somewhere, but he’s probably a monkey, not the organ grinder, as we say in New York.” Daniel replied.
“And Pietro, he was shot on the train,” Nell interjected.
“Again, I can’t see it, you said Lady Monkton has done her checks, and he really doesn’t seem the type to be involved with the Mafia or this other gang, but maybe he knows something he shouldn’t,” Daniel said.
“That’s a pleasant thought,” Nell said as she stretched and yawned. “So, where shall we eat? The Tower Restaurant is lovely.”
“Yes, the maitre d’ is a friend of mine, he’ll find us a table” Suzanne said.
“What about Daniel? Chauffers aren’t supposed to eat with their Ladies,” I said.
“They do when I’m at the table! If I don’t cause scandal in a restaurant, I’ve wasted a good evening,” she replied.
The next day, we borrowed Suzanne’s Bentley Speed Six and left for the docks and a ferry to Italy and the Mille Maglia.
We arrived in Brescia, the start of the race. The marketplace had been turned into what Nell called the pits, a place where cars were prepared and tuned for the race. Daniel went looking around various teams. Nell took her camera to take photographs for The Tatler, which left me looking for Pietro and his friend Enzo. I spotted Jasmine and Lady Butler-Monkton sitting in a cafe looking bored.
”Good morning Jasmine, Lady Butler-Monkton, I was looking for Pietro, he promised to introduce me to his friend,” I said. Jasmine pointed to a group of men surrounding a red car.
“He’s over there somewhere, can you ask him to hurry up, Mother and I don’t feel safe here,” she said in a bored, whiny voice, I made my way over to the group and spotted Pietro. I waved and he waved back, then ran over and grabbed me by the hand.
“I’m so glad you came, Enzo is looking forward to meeting you.” He pulled me towards a dark haired man with hooded eyes and a broad nose “Enzo, this is the honourable lady I was telling you about. Lady Amy Richmond, may I introduce Enzo Ferrari,” he said.