The Thief Lord - Chapter 66
Scipio shrugged. “I’ll need a new name anyway. You don’t really think I’m going to run around Venice as Scipio Massimo?”
“Fine. Here’s one last condition.” Victor fished a mint out of his desk drawer and popped it into his mouth. “You will tell your father.”
Scipio’s face darkened. “What am I going to write to him?”
Victor shrugged. “That you’re all right. That you’re going to go traveling. That you’ll look in on them in ten years or so. You’ll think of something.”
“Darn!” Scipio spluttered. “OK, I’ll do it. If you teach me how to be a detective.”
Sighing, Victor folded his hands behind his head. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather take over Barbarossa’s shop?” he asked hopefully. “Ida and I are looking for someone. You would get half of the earnings. The other half you would have to send to Barbarossa in his new home. That’s what we agreed.”
Scipio wrinkled his nose at the prospect.
“What? Stand around in a shop all day and sell Barbarossa’s junk? No, thanks! I like my idea much better. I’m going to be a detective, a famous detective, and you’re going to help me become one.”
What could Victor say? “Fine. Then you’ll start tomorrow morning, while I’m off having breakfast with Ida.”
53 And Then…
Half a year later, Victor did put Scipio’s name on his door, although he put it in slightly smaller letters.
Nobody, not even Prosper, ever asked Scipio whether he regretted having gone on the merry-go-round. However, maybe the new name he had given himself, the one he put on Victor’s door, already gave the answer: Scipio Fortunato, the fortunate one.
Just as he had promised Victor, Scipio wrote a postcard to his father. Signor Massimo never suspected that his son was living only a few alleys away from him in a flat that was hardly bigger than his own study, and where Scipio was happier than he had ever been in the Casa Massimo. Sometimes he visited Riccio and Mosca in their new hideout. He usually gave them some money, although they seemed to be coping quite well by themselves. They wouldn’t tell Scipio how much was left of the counterfeit cash since, as Riccio put it, “You’re a detective now, after all.” Mosca had found work with a fisherman on the lagoon. Riccio, however — well, Scipio suspected that he had gone back to pickpocketing.
Scipio saw Hornet, Prosper, and Bo more often. He and Victor visited Ida at least twice a week.
One night, as autumn approached again, Scipio and Prosper decided to go back to the Isola Segreta. Ida lent them her boat and this time Scipio found his way immediately. The island looked unchanged. The angels were still standing watch up on the wall. But this time there was no boat at the jetty and no dogs barked as Prosper and Scipio vaulted over the gate. They called out in vain for Renzo and Morosina in the stables and in the old house. Even the pigeons seemed to have disappeared. When the two had finally fought their way through the labyrinth of brambles and reached the clearing beyond, they found nothing but a small stone lion, almost hidden beneath the fallen autumn leaves.
Prosper and Scipio never found out whether Renzo and his sister disappeared the same night the merry-go-round was ruined. During the following years they would keep asking themselves if perhaps Renzo did find a way to repair the merry-go-round and if, somewhere, they were doing their rounds again: the lion, the merman, the mermaid, the sea horse, and the unicorn.
Anything else? Ah, yes — Barbarossa…
Esther carried on believing for quite a while that he was the most wonderful child she had ever met — until she caught him stuffing her most precious earrings into his pants pockets and then discovered in his room an entire collection of valuable items that had mysteriously disappeared. Tearfully Esther sent him off to an expensive boarding school where Ernesto became the terror of his teachers and fellow pupils. Dreadful things were said about him: that he forced other children to do his homework and to clean his shoes, that he even encouraged them to steal things, and that he had given himself a name that everyone had to call him.
It was “The Thief Lord.”