The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 04

Betta nodded as if she had expected as much. May wasn’t sure what answer she would give if Betta persisted with her line of questioning. She still had no idea why her mother had been invited to Sr Lombardi’s party or why she would never talk about her time in Italy.

“You said Sr Lombardi was alone now?” May risked another question.

“Auguste had one son, Hector. Hector was a playboy like his father had been before his marriage.”

“I see.”

“Auguste liked to mix with a glamorous set then he met the beautiful Giovanna Lago – La Principessa.”

“She was royalty?” May gulped.

“She was not a princess, but it was what Auguste called her. She was the love of his life. Her family crest is displayed on the flag at the villa. You have seen it?”

“The fire-breathing dragon?”

Betta nodded.

“Giovanna was aristocracy, but she was also delicate. The summer heat was too much for her constitution. She was rarely seen in the village, especially after Hector was born.”

“What happened?”

“She faded away and Auguste was never the same again. He was overcome with grief and for a while he shut himself away too. Young Hector ran wild. There was no-one to stop him. Without his mother’s love and a father’s protection he did as he pleased.”

“What a sad story,” May said.

“More coffee?” Betta asked.

May shook her head but helped herself to another doughnut, uncertain where her next meal would be coming from.

“You are a friend of Sr Lombardi?” Betta asked the question May had been dreading.

“The birthday invitation was sent to a relation.” May decided to stick to as much of the truth as she dared. “I am here as family representative but as my name was not on the official list of
guests . . . ” She paused.

“They don’t let you in.”

May nodded as if it was what she would have expected.

“It is a pity. The gardens are beautiful this time of year and I believe there will be a week of celebrations.”

“Do you know Florence Amaria?” May asked.

“Everyone knows everyone in Bella Acqua.” Betta didn’t meet May’s eyes. “It is a small community,” she added.

“What is Ms Amaria’s connection to Sr Lombardi?”

“It is personal,” Betta said, the expression on her face indicating further questions on the subject weren’t welcome. “Now I must get on.”

“What happened to Hector?” May persisted.

“It is not something I like to talk about.”

May held out her coffee cup.

“I think I will have a refill after all,” she said.

“You have a healthy appetite.” Betta eyed up the empty plate of doughnuts. “My granddaughter – she eat nothing except salad leaves.”

“I should eat a few more salad leaves,” May replied.

“That is not true.” Betta bridled, looking down at her own ample figure. “Food is there for us to enjoy. You like my doughnuts because they give you


“Hector Lombardi?” May coaxed, hoping now she was back in Betta’s good books she would get an answer.

Betta paused.

“The mountain roads here can be dangerous,” she said. “It happened at the height of the summer season. It was a warm day and Hector was out in his car. No-one knows where he was going. The story was he took one bend too fast and lost control. There was big trouble but the affair was hushed up. Of course there were rumours. Hector was said to be racing another car and that was the reason for the crash.”

“But I thought Sr Lombardi had a granddaughter called Rebecca,” May said, remembering the slender girl whose taxi she had taken back to the village.

“Betta,” Salvadore called through from the kitchen, “phone.”

Betta scrambled to her feet, as if fearing she had said too much, and left May alone on the terrace with her thoughts.

What had her mother been doing in Italy? May been born in Milan but Tish would never explain why.

Her grandparents were from the West Country. They liked to live quietly and never travelled far from home. It didn’t make sense. The questions went round and round May’s head until a buzz from her mobile broke into her thoughts. A text from Coco brought a smile to her face.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!