Theme: Yes, AND…
From the sedan window, Drucilla gazed up at the Roman monuments, uplit at night. They paused in the Via del Corso traffic. Lesley beside her, squeezed her hand.
“He’ll be OK. He’ll remember you.”
Dru wasn’t so sure. Her head still fuzzy, she noticed the driver looking back at her in the rearview mirror. He looked away. Then looked back. Dru whispered to Lesley.
“Lesley – why didn’t we take your car?”
“Oh, you know – we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. Plus, hospital parking. We talked about this, Dru.”
Her tone was gentle, but Dru honestly couldn’t remember how they ended up in that town car with blacked out windows. Yet that wasn’t surprising. What she did remember was she was worried for Dante.
She looked up at the wedding cake of the Palazzo Venezia. “57: INGIUSTIZIA” was stretched across a huge banner advert alongside.
“What the hell – a TV show?”
Lesley glanced over, but they’d whooshed past. Across the Tiber, up the winding Gianicolo hill, they at last stopped outside Salvator Mundi International Hospital. Lesley nodded to the driver, slammed the door and they made their way indoors. Dru hesitated.
“I’m scared – what if he’s different since the accident?”
Lesley searched her eyes.
“So you remember?”
“I…” Dru’s voice trailed off. “There was a car accident. We were both in it. I woke up. He never did.” She inhaled sharply. “Oh god, Lesley, I was driving!”
“Don’t worry. He won’t blame you. He’s Dante, after all!”
“I don’t know… I don’t remember. I think we were arguing.”
As Lesley spoke with the nurse on reception, Dru looked around the hospital. It was past midnight now, and eerily quiet. Three baby wombats and a mezzo in full gala dress glided past and exited. Dru tugged at Lesley’s sleeve, but they’d already gone. Was she imagining things now? This was no opera.
“Third floor, second on the right. Thank you, nurse.”
The nurse stared at Dru for a moment longer than comfortable, then dialed a number. As they walked down the hall, Dru’s paranoia escalated.
“Did you see? She blames me for Dante!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dru – she doesn’t even know you!”
They stepped into an elevator, but Dru’s uneasy feeling persisted. The doors opened at floor 3. An Italian doctor in a white coat awaited, carrying a clipboard. He seemed oddly familiar, yet…
“Drucilla.” That heavy, Roman accent. He shook her hand.
“Dr Basso? We got your message.”
“He’s been asking for you. But he’s just fallen asleep again.” The doctor showed them into a private patient’s room, and shut the door quietly behind them.
Dante slept, pale, thin. Seeing him, seeing his face after all this time, jolted a memory. It was like electricity. A flash – a house, steel, glass and wood, surrounded by trees. Gunshots. Dru flinched.
“I’m ok – it’s just…” She sank into a seat next to Dante, and clasped his cold hand. As the steady, “beep, beep, beep” lulled her into a strange sense of calm, Dru closed her eyes and went back to that space.
The wind rustled through the shedding trees outside the house. Dru was on the rooftop, looking at the stars. Then looking down to – jump?
Gunshots. Two, deafening. Dru raced down the stairs, past beautiful photos of Rome, Berlin, their family. The living room. Dante, her twin brother, gun in hand, frozen. Paolo and Marlene, dead, a pool of blood forming. Dru fell to her knees, cradling her beloved parents, checking for a pulse. Nothing.
“What have you done? What have you done?”
“It’s as the Master willed it.”
“You’re sick, this cult made you sick! We should never have let you come home. You’re not well!”
Dru suddenly grabbed the gun from Dante’s hand and pointed it at him. Her hands trembled, but she spoke very clearly.
“We’re going for a drive.”
“Where? To the Master’s?”
“We’re going to see Dr Basso. He will know what to do. You can’t go to jail. You belong in Salvator Mundi.”
Dru jolted awake, her cheeks wet with tears. “This is a mental hospital?”
Dr Basso gently touched her shoulder. “The third floor ward. Dru – do you remember?”
Dru, nervous, glanced at Lesley, who nodded in encouragement.
“He murdered them. Then I drove us to the hospital, and we crashed.”
“Off the autostrada, but we didn’t know if it was a planned suicide. That whole damn cult committed suicide. And your prints were on the gun that shot your parents. We had to know, but you remembered nothing, and Dante was in a coma.” Marguerite spoke as she slipped into the room carrying a notepad, wearing a trench coat.
“Marguerite? I don’t understand.”
“I’m Detective Inspector Halaka, Interpol, assigned to your investigation. We’ve had no breakthrough until you started singing today, remembering the words. It’s been Groundhog Day with you for two months.”
Lesley nodded in confirmation. “I’m the undercover officer on your case. We’ve had you under house arrest for the past eight weeks. Orchestrating rehearsals, everything. It’s all to help you remember. Even the peanut butter.”
Her words sank in, slowly. “And 57?”
“It’s how the case has been described this year. The 57th homicide in 2015, and the public hates you. They think you’re part of this Grottaferrata cult. Interpol got involved as the cult’s reach was global. We’ve had to keep you very safe.” Lesley rubbed off the fake tattoo on her wrist.
As Dru’s world crumbled, she tried not to show it. “What will happen to Dante?”
“He’ll be charged. We have him heavily sedated. He confessed to everything as soon as he woke up, but the public outrage means we couldn’t conclude our investigation without your statement, as you were the only witness, and your prints were also on the gun. Are you ready to make a formal statement to the press in the centro storico?”
Dru glanced outside the door, where that driver guarded outside, solemn. Another undercover cop.