Great happenings in a little Italian town

Manas Mulay
15 Nov 2018

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It was a bright sunny day. Temperatures were high. Detective Panini sat with his legs propped up on the table. The lemonade to his right had already gotten warm. “Antonio”, he called his assistant, “Get me another drink.”

Antonio rushed to his table with a cool lemonade in his hands. It was a dull day. No deaths, no murders, no robberies, and no phone calls. Panini seemed to be giving the telephone furtive looks; almost as if he was expecting a call. And the phone did ring.

Panini picked up the phone even before the shrill sound had stopped ringing in Antonio’s ears.

“Hello?” he said, in a thick Italian accent. Panini seemed afraid to be speaking on the phone as if his worst nightmare had come true. After a series of “uh-huhs” and asking for the address, he jolted up, knocking the lemonade to the floor. “Antonio, I’ll be gone. There is a new case that needs complete attention.”

Antonio nodded his head. Like almost all geniuses, Panini had his eccentricities. The man spoke one thing and meant another.  He would say that he hated the coffee, only to finish the whole pot all by himself. Sometimes he would sit at the table, like an Indian guru, and start chanting – not sing – chant the lyrics to his favorite songs. Every week was a new thing. Collecting stamps, lost hats, mouse traps, dog collars and what not. His drawer was filled with the most extraordinary things which one would probably expect a dog or a cat to unearth.

As Panini drove his dingy old Beetle around the streets of Italy, another man, Detective Giovanni had reached the crime scene. It had been 37 years since he had been living in Italy, but the Romanesque buildings, baroque domes and the doccione looking out onto the city never failed to elicit a gasp.

The wide avenues and dingy, dimly lit streets, the small houses and gigantic buildings, the poor and the wealthy. This was a city of opposites. But life went on. Nowhere in the world existed a place that followed strictly a life of lethargy and leisure. Shop owners came as they pleased and pedestrians would give you lazy looks if you asked them about anything. Never ask for addresses around here as you would probably end up at the wrong place, or if you were lucky enough, back at the same place where you started.

Giovanni took pictures, examined the body, went prone and looked around the floor to look for any clues left by the assailant. After the entire evidence was sealed, arrived the famous Panini. Giovanni was nervous. Panini was the most famous detective in the city. He was intelligent, fast and had no time for nonsense. A curt salute and a brief handshake later, Panini was standing at the crime scene.

The body lay in a grotesque way, head bashed in by a terracotta vase lying alongside, shattered to pieces. Panini looked around the room, stopping at after every 3 steps and examining the surroundings.
“Aha!” , he exclaimed, “Follow me detective”.

Pointing to the butler, he said, “Gendarmes, arrest this man for the murder.” That was it. This quick. Panini’s order startled Giovanni. He could be judge, jury, and executioner as and when he pleased. There would be no trial. Panini’s word was trusted to be true. The butler would be put into a small cell, locked away for life. No plea, no hearing, no petition.

But nabbing the butler proved more difficult than it seemed.
“Oh, is this payback for my previous sins, Detective?”, snarled the butler. “Think of it as you may. We both know I’ve always had a score to settle. Killing this man was rather unnecessary on your part, wasn’t it? Have fun in jail.”

After the whole ordeal was settled, and the butler’s futile attempts to get out of the matter taken care of – which led to 3 officers getting bloody noses and the butler ending up with a broken rib – Giovanni dared to ask Panini a question.
“How did you know it was him, detective?”

Panini looked him in the eye and said, “I’ve got a few aces up my sleeve detective. Everyone has secrets. Even the famous Panini. Ciao”.
Tipping his hat and grabbing his coat, he was gone. All that was heard was a swoosh.

Panini roamed about the streets that day. He had seen an opportunity and grabbed it. No use of him going to jail. With all the crime that flooded the streets, it was time someone stepped up, it was time that someone took up the responsibility of clearing the streets. High time someone cleaned the filth and muck roaming about the lousily beautiful city.

The murder he had investigated today was of his own doing. The vivified vermin roaming the streets had to be cleared. The butler, well he was in cahoots with an old gang who Panini had rounded off 10 years ago. They managed to get bail by virtue of their rich bosses and sought vendetta by vicariously eliminating Panini’s family. The terracotta vase had been a gift to him from the bosses, which he had refused. It had been delivered by the same man whom it struck. Fate can be quite funny sometimes.

Manas Mulay

Loves to read, write, talk, walk and randomly roam about cities. Also cinema and guitars and much more.

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