The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 20

The Pocket Novel cover for The Lombardi Emeralds with woman in a green dressing, man in a black shirt behind her on a seaside backdrop at sunset

The expression on Florence’s face now convinced May she knew far more than she was saying.

“Do you think they were stolen?” May persisted.

“If you are asking me if they were proceeds of a robbery then I am certain they were not.”

“If they are genuine how did they come into my mother’s possession?”

“Tish was not a thief, neither was Lis.” Florence looked angry. “Of course we had our differences. What group of girls doesn’t? But of one thing I am sure – they were good girls.

“They were honest and I would have known if either of them had done anything underhand. They were usually so tired after their gigs all they wanted to do was relax.

“They had no time to run around stealing jewellery. You must not think such a thing. Nobody ever proved anything against any of us for the simple reason we were innocent.”

“Why the raised voices?” Vin strolled towards them.

“You wouldn’t understand.” Florence looked close to tears as she stood up and pushed him away.

“I think,” Vin watched a stiff backed Florence stalk off, “I haven’t arrived a moment too soon.”

May put her plate down on the table.

“I have to go after her and apologise.” “Leave her alone for a while,” Vin advised.

“Florence doesn’t sulk. I’m sure she is still your friend. She needs time on her own, that’s all. Come on, I’ll take you for that drive.”

*     *     *     *

How many cars do you have?” May eyed up the highly polished black convertible parked outside the villa.

“I have none. There is a pool of vehicles,” Vin explained. “They all belong to the Foundation. We have to sign in and sign out every time we use one and give a good business reason for our journey.”

“Was I a good business reason?”

“You are Sr Lombardi’s guest and that is reason enough. The pool system works well and is rarely abused. There are certain cars the young mechanics are not allowed to


“Because they like to show off?” May thought of her morning driver.

“Young men are young men and Foundation jobs are much sought after. Applicants are subjected to rigorous tests so being seen driving a fast car is like a badge of office.”

“Were you subjected to these rigorous tests?”

Vin cast May a sideways glance as they drove off in the direction of the lake.

“I always loved things mechanical. I went to engineering college and soon realised cars were my first love. I decided I didn’t want to do anything else but work with cars so I wrote to many influential men.

“When Auguste replied I read up on all the work he had done improving road safety and setting up a scholarship for young drivers who might not be able to afford the training. I knew I had to work for him so in answer to your question, yes, I did the tests.”

“How long ago was this?”

“I was twenty-three when I started work at the autodromo. I’m now thirty,” he smiled, “if you were wondering.”

“I’m not, but I am wondering why Sr Lombardi offered you such a responsible job at such a young age.”

“He never really found anyone to replace Andreas. Things had been going downhill at the autodromo. Sr Lombardi had lost heart and was not in the best of health.

“Four years ago he gave me six months to prove I could turn the business round. There was a lot at stake and I worked all day, every day. It was hard work but I loved every moment of it.” He cast May a sideways look.

“I’m still here so I think Sr Lombardi approves of all that I have done.”

The car began a slow descent down to the neighbouring village to Acqua Bella.

“Would you like a coffee?” Vin asked. “An espresso, perhaps? I know the place to go and you didn’t get much lunch, did you?”

Vin parked in a shady corner of the main square.

“You’d better hang on to me,” he held out his hand, “otherwise we might get separated.”

“I can manage,” May insisted.

“I don’t doubt it but one of the less attractive aspects of tourist resorts in this area is pick-pocketing. You’ll be quite safe if you stick with me but if you want to go it alone hang on to your purse.”

“I have nothing worth taking.” May put a hand around her shoulder bag.

“You have credit cards, a passport, money, a mobile phone, don’t you?”

“Yes,” May conceded. “Is it far to the coffee shop?” she asked.

“A ten-minute walk and I am getting hot standing in the sun wasting time on a pointless discussion. Are we in this together?”

May deciding further resistance was futile, nodded. Vin’s hand was firm and warm against hers and she was glad she had chosen not to reject his offer.


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!