The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 3

They no’ let you in?” Salvadore was all commiseration. “I ask Betta to prepare some special doughnuts. You need sugar for the shock.” He bustled off in search of his wife.

May sank into one of the cushioned cane chairs on the terrace of the pensione and inhaled the honeysuckle fragrance of the trailing bougainvillea as she tried to come to terms with the happenings of the morning.

She needed to think. If she was careful she had enough money to last for a month or so but in the meantime how was she going to gain access to Sr Lombardi?

She tried to recall the exact wording on her mother’s invitation. Someone called Florence Amaria had invited Tish Delacourt to Auguste Lombardi’s eightieth birthday party celebrations and had added a handwritten plea suggesting one last gig.

Who was Florence Amaria, May mused and Tish Delacourt – what was all that about? Her mother’s name was Tish Maxwell. If May hadn’t dropped her invitation she would have had another go at gaining access to the villa. It was the sole link she had to her past and with her mother on the high seas and not able to interfere she knew she wouldn’t get another chance like this.

It was going to be a challenge as it was. Tish would soon start getting suspicious and demand to know why May hadn’t Skyped her and there was no way she could disguise her room at the Pensione Betta to look like her bedsit in Limester. May was going to have to work fast if she wanted results.

Her conscience told her she should have ignored the invitation but Tish had a secret and May was determined to find out about it. Her father was the one subject Tish absolutely refused to discuss with her, even though May kept insisting she had a right to know. She had tried asking her grandparents but they were none the wiser.

“I don’t like to see Tish upset.” Coco had delivered a rare reprimand when one of her and May’s exchanges had grown more heated than usual. “And your raised voices are disturbing your grandfather.”

After their last clash, May had been reluctant to raise the matter again.

She leaned back against her cushion and closed her eyes. She could hear the market stallholders calling to each other as they closed up for the day. The smell of freshly percolated coffee alerted her to Betta’s presence as the older woman appeared on the terrace, carrying a loaded tray.

“Salvadore, tell me what happened.” Her face was red from talking and holding the tray at the same time. She raised her shoulders in a gesture of despair. “It does not surprise me.”

“Let me.” May leaped to her feet and helped her unload doughnuts and coffee.

“You know the Lombardis?” she asked when they had both settled down.

“We do not mix socially. They are society people.”

“Can you tell me anything about them?”

A pensive look crossed Betta’s face.

“There is no-one left but Auguste now,” she said, a trace of compassion in her voice.

May raised a questioning eyebrow. She sensed Betta liked to gossip and that it wouldn’t take much persuasion to get her to talk about the Lombardi family.

“I do not discuss people behind their back,” Betta insisted.

“I understand.” May went along with her unconvincing response and waited for Betta to continue.

“I don’t know where to start.” The older woman wriggled into a more comfortable position in her seat opposite May. “Auguste Lombardi is a very elegant man – sophisticated, too.”

“Have you met him?”

“Several times in the past, but recently he has been unwell and now rarely ventures far from the villa.”

“I am sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be. The family is tainted with scandal. You are better off without them.” May’s heart sank.

“But I do not like to gossip,” Betta repeated.

“Then you cannot tell me anything?” To cover her disappointment, May bit into a pastry.

Betta appeared to battle with her conscience before rising to the bait.

“The family were big in racing cars. That’s where the money came from.”

“Racing cars?” May repeated.

“Your family are big in racing cars, too?”

May shook her head. Tish had no absolutely no interest in anything mechanical and her grandfather had been a carpenter.

“I’m afraid not.”


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!