Authors: Maurizio de Giovanni,Antony Shugaar
214 West 29th St., Suite 1003
New York NY 10001
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.
Copyright Â© 2013 by Giulio Einaudi Editore SpA, Torino
This edition published in arrangement
with Thesis Contents srl and book @ literary agency
First publication 2016 by Europa Editions
Translation by Antony Shugaar
Buio per i bastardi di Pizzofalcone
Translation copyright Â© 2016 by Europa Editions
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Cover Art by Emanuele Ragnisco
Maurizio de Giovanni
FOR THE BASTARDS OF PIZZOFALCONE
Translated from the Italian
by Antony Shugaar
All the light I have
The whisper in the dark, in the dank smell, amidst all the dust.
The whoosh of a cape, slicing through the air in front of Dodo's face.
Dodo can see it because of the darkness. It's darker than the night, darker than the cubbyhole in his bedroom, the one with the door that never quite shuts and often swings back open with a creak.
His bedroom, warm. His bedroom, with the Avengers poster, with his album collections and his action figure collections on a shelf. Arranged by size and story, so that when the housekeeper dusts them, he has to put them all back where they belong. At the thought of his room, of the Avengers and the action figures, tears well up and Dodo swallows them.
Dark in here. The dark is always full of noises. The dark is never quiet for long.
Every night, in his faraway room, Dodo waits for Mamma's door to close and then pulls out the little nightlight from when he was three. No one knows about his little nightlight, the kind that you plug right into the wall, that emits just a faint glow, a glow you can hardly even call light.
How I wish I could be in my room, right now. Even if the cubbyhole door won't stay closed.
Dodo chokes back his tears and jerks at a rustling from the far corner. He couldn't even say how big this place is. He's certainly not about to go exploring.
Batman, he calls as he tightens his sweaty little hand around the action figure. It's a good thing I brought you with me to school this morning. Even if they scold me, even if they tell me I'm not supposed to bring toys to school because now I'm a big boy, I'm almost ten. You and I know it though, that you're not a toy. You're a hero.
When I talk to PapÃ about it that's what we always say, right? That you're the greatest superhero of them all. That you're the best there is, the strongest. PapÃ explained it to me, when I was little and we still lived together, when he'd give me piggyback rides and tell me: You're my little king, see, and I'm your giant, I'll take you wherever you want.
PapÃ explained to me why you're the best hero of them all: It's because you don't have superpowers.
Everyone's great at beating the bad guys if they know how to fly, or if they have superstrength, or eyes that shoot green rays. It's easy that way.
But you, Batman, you're just an ordinary man. But you're brave and you're smart. Do the others fly? Then you invent rockets that fit into your utility belt, or you shoot ropes up onto the tops of tall buildings and climb right up the side. Can the others run at superspeed? Then you have the Batmobile, which runs even faster. You're a hero among heroes, Batman. Because you have the most superpowerful superpower there is: courage. You're like my papÃ .
I never told PapÃ that I pull the nightlight out of my drawer at night. I don't want him to think that I'm not courageous. The problem is that I'm still kind of a little kid, but everyone tells me that I look like my papÃ , and he's big and strong.
You know, Batman, even if you're a hero and it seems as if you're not afraid of anything, I know that, in this big dark room where they tossed us after taking us, even you are just a little bit afraid. I am, too, a little; but just a little. Still, we don't need to worry, because my papÃ 's going to come get us out of here.
Fly, Batman, fly. You're the dark knight, master of the shadows. You're not afraid of the dark, and I can hold onto you as you fly. Fly.
A fist slams against sheet metal, a terrible echoing crash that deafens, blinds, stops the blood. The action figure falls to the floor, the plastic made slippery by the sweaty hand no longer able to grip.
Dodo shrieks in terror, starts, and recoils; then, desperate, he feels around on the ground with both hands: dust, sharp pebbles, gravel, crumpled paper. He finds the action figure, picks it up, and holds it to his face, his cheek streaked with sudden tears. Outside, a roar reverberates, a command barked in a language he doesn't understand.
He crouches in a corner; his back, under his shirt, scratched by the wall; his heart pounding in his ears as if it wants to run away.
Batman, Batman, don't worry. My papÃ will come and get us.
Because he's my giant, and I'm his little king.
he minute he peeked through the door into the communal office, the expression on Corporal Marco Aragona's face changed.
“There, I knew it. It's 8:29
and you're all here already. Don't any of you have lives? And yet you do have homes and families, at least some of you: How can it be that no matter how early in the morning I get here, I always find you guys?”
It had become something of a running joke, Aragona's all but daily habit of showing up in the office just a couple of minutes before the scheduled start of the day and noting, disappointedly, the presence of every member of the Pizzofalcone precinct house's investigative team, already sitting at their desks.
Deputy Captain Giorgio Pisanelli broke off reading a police report and shot him an amused glance over his bifocals.
“One more minute and you'd have been late for work, Arago'. And we might have been duty-bound to write you up.”
The junior officer sat down at his desk and swept off his blue-tinted glasses with a well-rehearsed gesture:
“Mr. President, if I hadn't come in talking you wouldn't have even noticed I was here. Old age is a cruel master .Â .Â .” The oldest and the youngest member of the team liked to poke regular fun at each other, the former in the tone of a teacher addressing a dimwitted student, the latter harping on senile dementia. “Plus, what fun do you get out of being in here when it's so beautiful outside? You're going to have to explain that to me one of these days.”
Peeking her head out from behind her computer screen, Ottavia Calabrese replied: “But if there's no murder by eight in the morning, that doesn't mean we can all just go have ourselves a good time, don't you agree, Aragona? And stop tormenting Pisanelli with this habit of calling him President .Â .Â . That's the last thing his ego needs.”
“You listen to me, Ottavia: You're just jealous, pure and simple. You wish someone would call you Madame President. But it'll never happen: You are now and will always be our den mother. And have you taken a good look at Pisanelli? Don't you see the resemblance? Plus his first name is Giorgio too, and they're both about the same age.” With a nod, Aragona indicated the framed portrait hanging on the wall of the detectives' bullpen, the only decorative feature amidst the pallid green of that nondescript and desolate room that contained practically their entire lives. Then, scratching the clean-shaven, sunlamped chest on display under his flower-print shirt, the three top buttons of which had been left open, he turned theatrically to Pisanelli. “Go ahead and confess, Mr. President: To better serve your country you've infiltrated the Bastards of Pizzofalcone.”
Ottavia relinquished her right of rebuttal and vanished behind her computer. By mentioning the Bastards, Aragona had summoned the spectre of the unpleasant fiasco that had led to that team of lawmen becoming what they were today. Right down to their nicknames. If the city's entire police force referred to them by using a collective insult, they certainly had good cause. Four police detectives in that precinct had been caught redhanded dealing cocaine, and Ottavia, with Pisanelli, had been an eyewitness to the sordid affair. Only the two of them had survived. Internal Affairs had turned their lives inside out as if they'd been a pair of socks, and it had taken the hand of God to persuade those feral beasts that the two of them had had nothing to do with the crooked cops. IA had gone so far as to threaten to shut down the precinct entirely. The four renegade cops, now universally referred to as the Bastards of Pizzofalcone, had been replaced. But the mark of shame remained. And once the investigation had been closed, everyone had continued to use that name for the refurbished precinct and its replacement crew. Ottavia still couldn't quite wrap her head around it.
But the new squad, cobbled together from discards of all shapes and sizes from the four corners of the city, faced with the dilemma of whether to meekly accept the insult or fight back, had chosen to take it as a badge of pride. To the collective nickname they'd started to attach individual ones. Because “remarkable people, the ones who wind up in the spotlight for whatever reason, always have nicknames,” as Aragona had ventured one day. Ottavia hadn't been able to stifle a laugh. Yes, she liked that one. And she hadn't minded that freshly coined Den Mother either, in spite of its mocking edge. She'd thought about objecting, but then she'd decided that that's actually what she was, their den mother. She never missed a trick, even tucked away behind her beloved computer, and every time they needed something, they all turned to her. As if to a den mother. And after all, she
something of a den mother in real life, what with her son. She was the only woman on the squad who had a child.
“What about the Chinaman, where's he? At least he hasn't come in yet this morning.”
This time Marco Aragona had set his sights on Lieutenant Giuseppe Lojacono, the man who'd caught the Crocodile; he'd been dubbed “the Chinaman” because of his Asian features.
“Not only is he already here,” Ottavia, ever fastidious, informed him, “he's already on the job. A call came in on a burglary around 7:10 this morning, and he went out.”
Aragona was stunned: “At 7:10? What's he doing, sleeping in the office?”
“It wouldn't just be
doing the sleeping; if anything, it would be
. Alex was here too, they went out together.”
Alex Di Nardo, the other woman on the investigative team, looked at first glance like a slender, delicate young woman, but she was a crack shot, capable of picking off a fly at thirty yards. She went to the firing range twice a week: what else could they call her if not Calamity? “That way everyone knows just how afraid of her they need to be,” Aragona had said one morning. Just now, Corporal Aragona was making a show of combing his hair, checking the results in a hand mirror. He had an Elvis-style pompadour that added a good inch to his height, which was decidedly not that of a basketball player; the hairdo was also a useful way of concealing a bald spot at the very top of his head that was making good on its threat to grow larger.