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Clement's Corner: Justice Prevails

The old man’s letters from his Italian mother have been stolen, but his alert daughter works out a cunning plan to get them back, as Owen Clement reveals in this tale.

The old man sat hunched and sobbing inconsolably.

Maria waddled as quickly as she could over to old Luigi.

“What is it Papa?” she asked gently stroking his sparsely covered pate. All she could make out was the word “Gone.”

At once she moved over Luigi’s bed and with difficulty raIsed the tousled bedding and peered underneath. To her horror she saw that his old leather suitcase had indeed gone. She lowered herself onto the bed and put her head into her hands.

Her despair soon turned to fury. She rose and moved back to her father-in-law.

“Don’t worry my darling; we will get it back I promise. I’ll go and ring the police straight away.”

Luigi grabbed her arm saying, “No, no – no call the police.”

“But we must.”

“No call the police,” There was great urgency in his voice, “We never get it back then.”

She patted his hand, “Okay, okay. Let me think.” She turned to face the window and was not surprised to see it open. Being a hot Brisbane night the old man had opened it. “You know who it is, don’t you,?’’she said with a grim expression on her face.

He looked up at her, shaking his head.

“I bet you anything it was those Levy boys. They’re a bad lot that family.”

Luigi stood up and began to take off his pyjamas.

“Where are you going?”

“I go ask them.”

“No Papa, if you try that, they’ll deny everything and you’ll never see it again.”

“But what they want with old letters from my mother Eh? They can’t read them. Ever since I come to this country she write to me. I don’t keep all of them. Only the ones about Napoli and of the family. You know I want them with me when I buried.”

“Yes, I know you’ve told me many times.”

He collapsed back into his chair and broke down again.

Maria sighed folded her arms and looked down at him pityingly. “Right,” she said bringing her hands down onto her ample hips, “you go have a wash and shave and get dressed. I’ll get something ready for you in the kitchen. Don’t worry Papa, I’ll get it back. You believe me don’t you?”

Luigi raised his swollen bloodshot eyes to her.

“Of course you do. Now, try not to worry eh? It will only make you feel worse. You’ve had many troubles before and come through them all. We are going to do it this time too okay!”

Luigi took his walker and moved slowly to the bathroom while Maria went over to the window and peered outside at the flower bed below where ,clearly visible, were two pairs of boy-sized footprints.

Coming back inside, she quickly made his bed and laid out some clothes for him to wear. Her mind was occupied in planning a course of action.

After setting out a bowl of cereal for him, she called out through the bathroom door that she would be back soon. Putting on her hat, she left the house.

It was Sunday and the Levy boys would be at home. That fitted in neatly with what she had decided.

She imagined the boys’ reactions when they saw her walking up to their front door.

She knocked, then waited patiently until Laura Levy, still in her grubby nightdress, opened the door.

“Ah, Laura, I wonder if I might have a word with your sons?’’

Laura immediately became suspicious, “What about?’’ she asked sharply.

“I need their help. I’ll make it worth their while.” Maria’s smile was warm and kindly.

“Patrick, Michael,” Laura called out.

The boys, bothin their mid-teens came out, also looking suspicious.

“Hello boys,” Maria spoke disarmingly, “how would you like to earn some good money?”

They said nothing.

“I’m serious. Someone broke into my father’s room last night and took his port from under his bed. I think it’s one of those dark kids from just around the corner. If you could scare them into giving it back, my father will give you a $200 reward, Can you do it?”

“I don’t know,’’ said Patrick, the older one.

“It’s very urgent. They might get rid of it and the opportunity will be gone. Please try won’t you?” Maria pleaded.

“They’ll do it,” Laura said categorically.

The boys looked sheepish, but the decision was made.

“Well then, I’ll leave it to you. Good luck and thank you.’’. Maria knew the bait was taken. “Thanks Laura,’’ she said cheerily, then left.

She returned home and moved to Luigi’s room where, standing well back so that she could not be seen, she saw the two boys, now wearing their anoraks with the hoods pulled over their heads despite the blazing hot day, go off as if to visit the home of the supposed perpetrators. This was one time when Laura Levy’s racism came in very handy.

Warning her father to stay well away from the window, they moved to the kitchen to await developments.

Soon there was a tentative knock on the door.

Patrick, trying to look tough, said, “I scared them into giving it to me, I said I’d call the cops if they didn’t. I don’t know if it’s all there though.’’

Maria said nothing. She took the case and opened it. The contents definitely had been tampered with but the letters and bundle of old notes were there.

“Well done boys. Oh and by the way. a detective has just been here. He inspected the fingerprints on the window and took plaster casts of the footprints in the flower bed outside. Now that we have the case back they can check it for fingerprints too. Those devils are in for a lot of trouble, let me tell you.”

“But our fingerprints are on the box,” Patrick said in alarm.

“Oh, that’s all right. They’ll know when they crosscheck the prints on the window with those on the case. Don’t forget, the footprints outside too. That’s when we will get the real culprits, don’t you think?”

© Clement 2006


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