The instruction to fetch his angry wife was straight forward enough, but for Tito Viale the result would create more than just feelings of guilt...















Letizia Viale stood at the Piazza Curtatone end of Lucca's mainline station building, in the protective glow of the station lights. In front of her, Piazzale Ricasoli was totally deserted, the colours of the traffic lights, controlling non-existent traffic, reflecting off the surface of the road and the walls of the nearby buildings. Behind her and to her right a broad flight of stairs descended to the subway, which led under the tracks to the far platform, the line to Pisa and the exciting, wider world beyond. Although a hive of activity during the day - especially during the busy tourist season - the platform was deserted and ghostly quiet, as it was well past midnight. At that time, even the trains were few and far between.

'For fucks sake! How long is it going to take the arsehole to get here?' she muttered to herself as she compared the time on her wristwatch with the station clock. She wore a smart bolero-style jacket, tailored to fit in all the right places, over an even more tightly fitting blouse of very pale, flesh-coloured silk. In the station's artificial light, it looked as if she wore nothing under her jacket. Her shapely legs ascended into a designer skirt of a tweed-like fabric interspersed with strips of soft calf leather, which had been dyed dark green to match the predominant colour in the woven fabric. From her ears dangled an expensive pair of drop earrings by Antonio Abbricanti, one of Lucca's most promising jewellery designers, whose work was much sought after. Over her left arm hung a Gucci handbag and on her left foot was a dark brown shoe with an exaggeratedly high heel - one of the more outrageous creations of Louisa D'Ottone from Venice. In her left hand, Letizia held the partner of this expensive item of impractical footwear. As she had alighted from the train a few minutes before, the heel had snapped off. Luckily, it rolled away from the end of the platform and she had managed to retrieve it, hopeful that it could be repaired and reunited with the rest of the shoe. For safekeeping, she had slid the errant heel into the shoe itself. Then she had tottered and limped out of the station to await the arrival of her idiot husband, grateful that she had not had to negotiate the steps of the subway.

In the full light of a sunny day she looked wealthy, extremely fashionable and very smartly turned-out; that was something that her association with her girlfriends demanded whatever the cost. As she stood fuming in the artificial glow of the electric light and despite the fortune she had spent on her appearance, Letizia Viale looked little better that a prostitute on the lookout for trade. She took a drag from the cigarette she held in her right hand and exhaled the smoke in a cloud, which did nothing to dispel the initial impression her illuminated form created of being ready for her next client.

In the stillness of the Tuscan night, she suddenly became aware of the sound of distant footsteps - even, measured footfalls. And there was another sound, a kind of tapping that fell on each of the weaker of the two footfalls. As she listened, she thought that she could also make out a continual clipping noise, as if someone was tapping a hard surface with a pencil. Letizia Viale drew her handbag closer to herself and moved into the centre of the puddle of light. Turning to look in the direction of the sound, she became aware of an elderly man approaching from the far end of the building. He was well-dressed in a smart coat and he wore a wide-brimmed hat, which hid most of his face in deep shadow. He walked with the aid of a walking stick and was accompanied by a large black Labrador that was held in check by a red leather leash and who, nevertheless, seemed to be quite happily trotting along beside his master. Letizia adjusted her balance. It was quite uncomfortable standing on only one elevated foot; it made her hips sway a little, which again enhanced the impression that she was available.

'You should not be here on your own at this time of night, Signora,' said the man as he and his dog approached her. 'It is not safe and you could be hurt.'

'I am waiting for someone,' she replied, somewhat peeved at the man's comment. After all, she had not invited any conversation from him. She was oblivious to the fact that her innocent remark could be interpreted as having another meaning.

'Nonetheless, Signora, you should not be out at this time of the night,' repeated the man as he and the Labrador passed by and slowly descended the subway towards the other side of the tracks. She took another draw of her cigarette and moved closer to the corner of the building to get a better view of the man's descending back. The dog turned back to look at her and barked.

A couple of minutes later, at nearly half-past midnight, Letizia heard another set of footfalls approaching. This time there was no additional tapping sound, just the footsteps. She glanced first at her watch and then up in the direction of the approaching sound. As she peered into the gloom, she made out the shape of her husband.

'And about bloody time, too!' she snapped as she threw the butt end of her cigarette onto the ground. She was about to stamp it out, but stopped herself in the nick of time when she remembered her bare right foot. 'How long does it take you to-?'

'Shut up!' Tito Viale snapped as he reached her, splayed his legs and clenched both fists. 'Just for once, shut the fuck up and give your jaw rest!' he boomed, his voice reverberating around the empty piazzale in front of them.

'What?' she replied aghast, not used to smashing into the buffers of her husband's pent-up anger.

'Who the fuck do you think you are, going on at me and blaming me for all of your own shortcomings?' he continued, basking in the strength of character, which, until a very short time ago, he had no idea he even possessed. 'You don't lift a finger to help with the house or money, the children don't know you anymore, and you dare rant at me just because you're a lazy bitch with grandiose ideas far above your station?'

Her mouth was still open, which gave the impression in the glow of the light of a large goldfish out of its bowl.

'Well, I have had enough of you and your crap!' he continued, showing not the least sign of decreasing the strength of his verbal attack. Quite the opposite - it seemed to be growing in intensity with every word. 'I'm not putting up with it anymore. Do you hear me?'

'Oh, is that so?' she retorted, adjusting her balance and suddenly snapping her mouth shut. She had recovered her usual acerbic self. 'And what do you think a pathetic specimen like you is going to do about it, then?'

'You … arrogant bitch! I'll start by shaking some sense into your thick head,' he ranted moving towards her, narrowing the gap that still separated them. He grabbed her by the arms and started to shake her violently. 'I'm not your personal slave … not any longer. Do you understand?'

'Let me go! My jacket!' she screamed in return. 'You'll crease it with your greasy paws.' The handbag slipped from her arm and together with the heel-less shoe, fell to the flagstones.

'To hell with your stupid jacket!' he snapped. 'Can't you see how pathetic you are?' he shouted.

'Let me go, you bast-'

Tito Viale flung her away from him with a look of the utmost loathing on his face. 'You disgust me to the point of…' The sentence remained unfinished as he stared in a mixture of disbelief and horror as his wife - who was unsteady on her feet - toppled backwards towards the wall of the station building. As she did so, she twisted and staggered towards the yawning mouth of the subway stairs. There was a sickening thud and a sound like the air being forced out of a plastic bag. The back of Letizia's head had caught the sharp, angular corner of the building as the air was all but knocked out of her lungs. For a split second she was in a timeless vacuum as her body hung in the air before collapsing to the floor in an ungainly heap. There she lay, perfectly still, the only sound being made by the loose heel of her right shoe, which had fallen out of the shoe as it fell from her hand and which now rolled from side to side in a slight dip in the flagstones. He bent down and retrieved it, his mind in another world: a world of revenge and release from the years of pent-up controlled rage that had lain submissively dormant until now - until the night when everything had simply boiled over. He held the heel like a dagger as he advanced quickly to her crumpled form. He had lost all control and was acting totally irrationally, but he knew that he needed to hurt her, to exert the retribution for the years of unhappiness she had vented on him. He wanted to kick her, slap her, punch her, stab her…! Stab her?  With the stiletto heel in his hand he leapt forward, but was stopped in his tracks by the sight of a small, dark stain spreading onto the flagstones from behind her head. In the light it looked black, but he knew it was really deep red.

'Letizia! Get up!' he snapped angrily, illogically. 'Do you hear me? Get up, damn you!'

There was no movement ... 





Copyright © 2013 Stuart Fifield
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.