the boss

Short Stories / Sunday, July 8th, 2018

She took long, deep strokes in the simmering summer heat. She’d always loved swimming for its robotic and reliable motions, for the space it opened up for thinking the instant her mind went places while her body moved automatically; left arm, right arm, left, breathe; left arm, right arm, left, breathe.
But not even she could enjoy swimming in this godforsaken summer heat. She wasn’t sure how people survived here, in the southernmost tip of Italy where houses were made out of stones and instead of doors there were strings of beads unmoved by the slightest relieving gust of wind, and summer was a never-ending blanket of oppressing heat. She liked the country, principally. She admired the piazzas and the beautiful statues that were to be found in dim churches, half-hidden in small alleyways. She cared for its people; kind and loud and welcoming. But that goddamned heat was a thing she would never get used to.
And while it felt nice to have her body cocooned in water and for once not feel sweaty and sticky, not even the dirty water from the hotel pool managed to cool her off as it was heated up by 11 am already from a morning’s worth of blazing sun.
During her twelfth lapse, she noticed a pair of feet clad in black, godawful Cavalli loafers moving along next to her every time she came up for air. She sighed inwardly. She knew exactly who was staring down at her bare back.
“Luca,” she said as she came to a halt at the far end of the pool, pinching her eyes against the bright sunlight behind him, “I hope you bring good news?”
He smiled at her, a thin smile that did not look like a smile at all, rather some kind of ironic grimacing. A lock of hair fell into his forehead, pearly with sweat.
“If you knew I did, you wouldn’t say it like that.”
“You are very clever.” She hoped her expression indicated that she meant the contrary. He didn’t seem to be catching on.
“There’s been… complications. The Trozzis don’t want to sell.” She narrowed her eyes even more in mock-thinking.
“Hmm, tell me Luca; didn’t we make it abundantly clear to them that this was not a matter of choice?” He shifted uncomfortably in his too-big suit, shoulders too wide and pants sagging by the waist.
“I certainly did.”
“Well then why do they feel like it’s in their competence to sell or not?”
“I… I really don’t know.”
She smiled at him, icily. “Well then I would suggest you check why and pay them another little visit, why don’t you? Now run along and leave me to it.”
But it was no use, Luca’s visit had set her mind in motion and now every time her head was under water, she could not focus on the mechanical movements of her arms anymore. ‘Goddamn Luca,’ she mumbled to herself, water leaking into her mouth. With a sigh, she gave up on the swimming and went to dry herself off with a towel she’d laid on a grubby plastic sun chair beforehand. The sun was burning down with such high intensity now that she begrudged even having paid for the towel at the hotel reception before; with that heat she would have been dry in a matter of minutes, anyhow.
Back in her cool, air-conditioned room, she went to pick up the phone receiver and dialled in a number she knew by heart. Someone picked up after just one ring, then the line went dead.
They had gotten the message.
Now all she had to do was wait for the village to cool down and wait for the shade of night to befall the narrow streets; a small pocket of darkness for her to carry out what she came here to do.

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