The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 21

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


  • 1. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 21

Acqua Maggiore was a bustling community, full of tourists and day visitors who Vin informed her had come to view the famous marble sculptures in the chapel on the hill.

On more than one occasion, groups coming from the opposite direction jostled against them. It would be easy for someone to dip a hand into a bag or pocket.

They arrived at an artisan café tucked away down a side street leading on to a small square. Tables had been set up outside under a striped awning and the proprietor seemed to know all his customers as he moved from table to table refilling glasses and exchanging gossip.

“Vincenzo!” He extended his arms then, ignoring Vin, embraced an unsuspecting May in a bear hug.

He beamed at her, releasing her from his hold and looking hard at her.

“You are English, I think, but I detect Italian blood. I can see you have the Roman fire in your veins. Now, please, sit down. I will bring you the speciality of the house.” He kissed May on both cheeks.

“Who was that?” May’s eyes were wide with surprise as she tried to recover her composure.

“Tonio. He and his wife have been running their café for many years.”

A young waitress returned with a tray of coffee and pastries oozing apples and almonds and candied peel.

May wiped the last vestige of icing sugar from her lips as she leaned back against her seat with a satisfied sigh. The afternoon sun had changed angle and she could feel it beating on the back of her neck.

“If you’ve finished, I suggest we walk off some of our indulgence.”

Vin stood up and with Tonio’s blessing ringing in their ears as he eyed up their empty plates, Vin led May back down the way they had come.

“There will be fewer people around now,” he explained. “It is the hottest part of the day and the locals like to rest for an hour or two. They keep late hours so an afternoon siesta is a good idea.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Continue our drive around the lake?” Vin suggested.

“Is that the famous chapel?” May pointed up to the hill to where a white building dominated the skyline.

“It is indeed. You know it has a secret passageway down to the lake? It was built apparently so the monks could escape in case of attack.”

“From whom?”

“I’m not too sure but someone was always fighting someone else back then, so take your pick.”

“It seems so peaceful here that it’s hard to imagine a war.”

“We’d better get on,” Vin urged. “I want to show you some of the villas your mother would have visited.”

It wasn’t difficult to identify the properties belonging to the rich and famous, although most of them were shielded from the road by high walls or trees.

“Some are holiday homes and unoccupied a lot of the time,” Vin explained as they drove past another set of padlocked gates, “but in the high season there is entertainment of some sort almost every night.”

“And my mother and her friend Lis would have performed at these parties?”

“I would think so. Florence could probably tell you more about it.”

“Vin.” May turned to him. “You don’t think I am over-reacting, do you? I mean, all this talk about robberies and stolen jewels – it’s like something out of a film and I can’t believe it’s happening to me.”

“It does seem incredible,” he acknowledged, “especially after what I said about your earrings. Where are they, by the way?”

“I didn’t want them going missing so as a precaution I’ve locked them away in the safe in my room.”

“You can’t be too careful,” Vin approved. “Your arrival has stirred things up and I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed them at the party.”

“Do you think someone would try to steal them?”

“I don’t know what to think,” Vin admitted, “but from what you’ve told me I believe your mother was innocent and not involved in all the robberies that were going on.”

“It still doesn’t explain why she would never tell me about my father or why I was born in Milan.”

“Agreed – but not telling you about her past does not make her a criminal.”

May was jolted forward in her seat as the engine stuttered and misfired before the car shuddered to a halt.

“What’s happened?”

“I’m not sure.” Vin leaped out of the driver’s seat and raised the bonnet.

“Can you see anything?”

“You’re not going to believe this . . . ” He stopped, a frown creasing his forehead.

“What?” They were a long way from anywhere and she hadn’t realised quite how remote it was up in the hills. The idea of being stranded here sent an uneasy shiver up her spine.

“We’ve run out of petrol.”



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!