Short Story: Always a Good Boy

“You silly little boy.” Silvia laughed at Antonio as she taunted him into a rage. She had challenged him to prove that he was really the man that he boasted to be. If he took her to a 5- star restaurant for a very expensive dinner and bought her a nice gift, he might convince her that he was more than a bragging child. Well then, she just might show her appreciation. “You will be experiencing a real woman for the first time and not one of those little girls that you are used to.”

Antonio was grinding his teeth as he thought about her. He was going to show her. He might be only seventeen, but he was a man, a real man with far more experience than she could imagine. There had been plenty of them and they weren’t all little girls. One of them had been forty years old; and she didn’t ask for money. She did it, because she enjoyed it. He gave her plenty of pleasure. She shouted when he was in her.

“Watch bitch. You won’t want another man after I’ve had you.” He was reminding himself how good he was as he studied a group of tourists standing around Fontana di Trevi. That month, tourists had been scarce. In spite of staying out hunting longer than usual, he still, wasn’t making very much money. His mother was complaining and demanding more. She was expecting him to bring home cash every day and he was bringing home only half the usual. She had cut his allowance That was forcing him to hide some for his night with that fancy bitch. His mother wouldn’t believe that he just wasn’t making as much because of a little rain. “You have another woman. Your mother isn’t good enough for you,” she shouted at him as she slapped his face. To let him know how angry a mother could be, she stopped making his favorite spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli.

Finally, it was a warm sunny day and he was ready to make a real wad. There was one of the regular tour guides scanning the area for one of the stalking predators. Antonio was sure that the guy hadn’t spotted him and was organizing the tourists like a flock of sheep. Trying to grab a purse or snatch a wallet in a group would be the way to get caught. There was no hurry. Just a little patience an opportunity would come his way. One of the sheep might forget the warnings from the tour guide and drift away from the others.

The group was moving slowly. Cameras were snapping while the tour guide told them the history of the fountain and some other details about the area, but Antonio had lost interest in them. He saw what he wanted. “A score,” he told himself. The woman was alone and was busy photographing everything. What really caught his attention was the sunlight glinting on a heavy gold chain around her neck. Antonio was certain that the chain was real gold and worth a dinner for that fancy bitch. He might even give her the necklace. None of her “so-called real men” ever gave her something like that.

She wasn’t a part of the group and they weren’t paying attention to her. He always liked the lone travellers. They didn’t know where to turn for help. By the time that they figured it out, especially if they didn’t speak Italian, he would have sold whatever he had grabbed and been halfway across Rome.

She put her tour book and camera into her bag and was looking at everything around her, except him. He was ten feet behind her and admiring the way she swung her ass. Spending a night with her might be more interesting than with that other thing with her sneers and mocking, but fantasies couldn’t be turned into cash. His eyes shifted back to the prize around her neck. Her pace had quickened. She seemed to be heading for a nearby building and that was forcing him to make his move. Without her noticing, he had gotten within arm’s reach before she realized that he was behind her. He reached out, snagged the gold chain, snapped the soft metal near the catch and veered off into a narrow alleyway. He knew every street and alleyway that would confuse a stranger with the twists and turns. He could duck into a building, dart out the rear door and return from a different direction with his jacket reversed and wearing glasses as if he couldn’t see a bus on top of him.

The woman started screaming in what he thought was French. A man reading a newspaper on a nearby bench dropped the paper and jumped to his feet. He was wearing track shoes and loose clothes, like Antonio. At first Antonio wasn’t worried about an old man around thirty. Hell, an old man wouldn’t have a chance against him, except the guy was really amazing him. He was moving as if he were a track star. Well, Antonio would show him his stuff and turned into a narrow winding alley where he was sure that he wouldn’t meet anyone. “Good bye old man,” he told himself and turned on the speed.

“Halt, police.” Now, that was a surprise. Antonio hadn’t imagined that the guy was a lousy plain clothes cop. “Halt, police.” He shouted it again and Antonio reached into his gut for his maximum speed. Yeah, he had to give him credit. The guy was good; but he was better. He had no doubt of that. He had outrun a lot of fast people without straining himself.

The man paused, drew a pistol from a shoulder holster, raised his arm and fired. It was a warning shot that struck a stone wall and ricocheted. Antonio heard the echoing sound and felt the blow against the side of his head. It was all that he heard, all that he felt. His momentum carried his corpse several more steps forward and he hit the dirt covered pavement and slid with his face in some abandoned trash. The gold chain fell from his fingers and lay glinting near the pool of blood that was spreading out from his head.

The plain clothes officer stood staring at lifeless Antonio. He was shocked by his action that had been intended to frighten the fleeing street thief to stop. If he had halted and had been arrested, he would have been back on the street robbing more tourists in a couple of days. First, he would have to have faced a judge and to have received some type of punishment to remind him that he was a criminal.

“Murderer,” someone was shouting at the officer who flashed his badge to assure the gathering people that he was a police officer and acting according to the law.

“Murderer,” more were snarling. One had become ten and ten had become an angry mob of fifty. He kept telling them that it had been a horrible accident, but the angry mob wasn’t listening. The avengers were hearing only their accusations and demanding justice.

The officer had been backed into a corner. He was holding his automatic pistol in his hand and considering his possibilities. He could shoot the emerging leader of the mov. What the others would do he couldn’t be sure. That might turn the others into revenge hungry animals that wouldn’t stop until they tore him into bloody pieces.

Who had called them he didn’t know. In the distance, he heard the sound of sirens. Cars were screeching to a stop and running feet were coming along the street. Men were shouting, “Police, everyone get back.”

Men in uniforms broke through the crowd that scattered with the arrival of armed men with angry faces and swinging sticks. Whistles were blowing and voices rose in warnings that the mob obeyed. When the plain clothes officer reported the incident to a superior, he described the scene with the dead body and the stolen chain. Antonio was still there, but the gold chain had vanished and no one had noticed into whose pocket it had gone.

An ambulance took away Antonio’s body. The crowd thinned to a single old woman with her dangling prayer beads and chanting Hale Marys. Sometime in the next hour, a wooden orange crate appeared leaning against a building wall. Soon, a plaster cross with one arm broken and the paint fading was placed on it and flowers piled against what had become Antonio’s funeral altar.

It took four hours before the news reached Antonio’s mother and she was able to travel across Rome to the altar of Saint Antonio. The mother dressed in black stood at the place and wept. “My baby,” she shouted at the few that formed around her to share her grief.

“I will help,” the woman with a kiosk nearby offered and a box with Antonio’s name printed on it was placed on the counter for the sympathetic to deposit their tear stained copper coins.

Antonio’s mother arrived the next day at the kiosk to claim the fortune that she expected. She counted the coins. It wasn’t as much as she had anticipated. Still, it was cash and she could always use cash.

Each day, she returned to claim the shrinking number of coins. On the seventh day, the sanitation department carried away the altar and its wilting crown of flowers. The box had been removed from the counter. “The customers are getting annoyed when I ask them to contribute,” the vender told her.

Antonio’s mother took the empty box and wandered off among the tourists. She stopped a group and showed them the empty box. “The police murdered my Antonio. He was always a good boy and helped his poor mother. Now, I don’t have enough money to give him a good funeral. The police murdered my baby. He was going to be a priest. The undertaker is going to throw him out of his coffin. Please help me send him to God in the right way.”

“What is she talking about?” One of the tourists asked the tour guide in a language that she didn’t recognize.

“Just another beggar with a beggar’s tale. Nothing important. Let’s move to the next place” and they moved along the street to Fontana di Trevi.

The angry mother showered a hundred silent curses over them. Very soon, her Mario would be coming onto the street. He would be filling her hands with Euros, dollars and revenge. He wouldn’t need a greedy woman to please him. He would have his mother’s smile.

Imonti has published the history book, Violent Justice. He has published as well more than a hundred articles in the fields of international politics and economics. He has lived in seven countries and traveled through many more. While living in Japan for ten years, he was the director of a private investment company. Now, he spends his time writing and the foreign experiences slip into his fiction as well. His blog is here

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