The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 22

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

You’re not serious.” May stared at Vin in disbelief.

“These things happen.” Vin’s voice echoed May’s disbelief. “I should have checked the gauge before we set off but I was running late.”

“You don’t expect me to fall for such an old trick?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Vin replied through gritted teeth. “The mechanics frequently use the cars. Any one of them could have forgotten to refill the tank.”

“Don’t blame the mechanics.”

“Wait here.” Vin yanked open his door.

“Where are you going?” May demanded.

“To get petrol.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“As you wish.”

They trudged down the hill in taut silence.

“There’s a garage.” May pointed to a run-down building at the side of the road. She peered at a notice dangling off a padlock. “Does chiuso mean what I think it means?”

“It means closed,” Vin responded in a tight voice.

“Hadn’t you better telephone one of your mechanics and ask them to come and rescue us or are you too ashamed to admit you got it wrong?” May grinned.

“Auguste has given everyone a day’s holiday. They will all be at the garden party.”

“Surely someone is on duty.”

“There will be a guard at the gate but he can’t leave his post.”

“Can’t you get him to pass on a message saying we are stranded and that it’s an emergency?” May was losing patience with Vin. It sounded as though he was making excuses for not calling for help. “May I borrow your mobile?”

“Where’s yours?”

“I don’t know,” Vin admitted. “I might have left it in the office. I told you I left in a hurry.”

“And my bag is in the car,” May replied. “How long would it take us to walk back?”

“Half an hour?” Vin hazarded a guess.

Still fuming, May marched over to the garage and banged loudly on the door. There was no response. An advert attached to a grubby window caught her attention.

Pensione,” she read out loud. “Do you think La Villa Della Pesca is far from here?” Vin stood beside May and read the details of the holiday accommodation.

“It will probably be closed up.”

“Surely it’s worth a try,” May insisted, “and we know they have a landline.” She pointed to the contact number.

Vin nodded agreement.

“Let’s give it a go,” he said.

“We are not open,” an unfriendly voice informed them over the speaker attached to the entry gates.

A rapid conversation followed as Vin explained their predicament. Unable to catch all they were saying, May moved away and bumped into an elderly lady standing behind her.

“Problem?” she asked.

“With our car,” May agreed.

“And you need help?”

“The garage is closed and we saw an advert for accommodation.” May’s voice trailed away as she was subjected to an intense inspection.

“This is where I live,” the elderly lady explained. With a regal gesture she nudged Vin out of the way. “Open the gates at once, Alba,” she ordered, “and admit our guests.”

“Thank you, signora,” May said.

“You may address me as Contessa.”

“I’m sorry – Contessa,” May corrected.

“At once,” she repeated her command to the unfortunate Alba who was still issuing a vigorous protest.

“We wouldn’t want to put you to any bother.” Vin stepped forward.

“And you are?”

“Vincenzo Piace.”

“I am the Contessa Novelli,” she announced. “And this,” she waved one of her spaniel’s paws at them, “is Drago. We have been for a walk and now we are tired.”

“We’re not looking for a room,” Vin insisted. “If we could make one telephone call?”

“We’d be prepared to pay,” May added, “or if we give you the number, you could make the call for us.”

The Contessa’s scathing look suggested such an idea was preposterous.

“We don’t open to guests until next month,” she explained.

“We understand,” Vin said.

“But in this case I am prepared to make an exception,” the Contessa responded, the tone of her voice suggesting that her word was law. “We will have an enjoyable supper together after which you can test our facilities for our paying guests, then in the morning you may make your telephone call.

Where have you come from?”

“Bella Acqua,” Vin replied.

“But you are English, I think?” She turned to May. “What is your name?”

“May Maxwell.”

“And you are from Bella Acqua also?”

“I am staying there.”

“Do you know Auguste Lombardi?”

“Vin is his chief mechanic and we’ve run out of petrol,” May replied. “That’s why we need to use your telephone.”

The Contessa burst into a peal of laughter. “The old excuses are the best, aren’t they? Has that one come back into fashion?”

“It wasn’t deliberate,” a red-faced Vin protested.

“No matter, you are here now and you must call me Rosamunde,” the Contessa insisted.

They began walking down the path leading to the villa.

“I was sorry not to make Auguste’s party.” She sighed. “But these days I find social occasions tiring. Please give him my regards when next you see him.”

“You know Sr Lombardi?” Vin enquired.

“He’s an old friend.”


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!