An Elephant

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Chapter 15: Giovanni

Chapter 15: Giovanni

“I come, not to bring peace, but a sword.”

-Jesus

[Matthew 10:34]



That Iraqi kid Salim’s still hanging around, and he really didn’t show enough respect for an officer of the law, as far as I’m concerned. There he goes, up to no good. He and his friend are definitely planning something.

Giovanni looked at Hotel de la Paix, toward the three laughing English drunks, but his attention was snatched by the man a few metres away.

My God look at him! He probably weighs more than my car, and most of it is packed into that chest... All those tattoos – his neck, his arms and legs…

The largest and most physically powerful man Giovanni had ever seen, by quite some margin, walked onto Place St George from the northwest corner of the square, looking about him, as he went. He wore a green polo shirt and black shorts, and was positively bursting out of both. Giovanni noticed the sides of his face.

His face is tattooed as well! He must be blue and green all over.

He looked at the huge man’s calves, taught beneath the ink. He thought it must be an achievement for them just to carry that immense torso and those arms around. He saw that the brute was likely to be English, as he was accompanied by a skinny, purple-haired man in an England shirt. There was another with them, but he found that the trio painted an odd picture, for football fans.

That bag looks a bit out of place, too he thought as he saw the big guy take it from the purple-haired one and turn to his right, heading down Rue des Pecheurs.

So much going on, right outside the hotel, compared to a normal summer’s day he thought.

He looked down at the cobbles to avoid the glare from one of the stainless steel chairs, too bright even for his sunglasses. As he waited for the spots to leave his eyes he fished into a pocket in his shorts. He pulled out a small packet of mints and put two in his mouth, wondering what to do next.

Then he noticed the Japanese couple, and Giovanni’s attention was immediately seized by the girl.

My God! She’s wearing what looks like a school uniform. What a filthy slut. I bet she did it on purpose, knowing that the streets would be filled with testosterone-filled football fans, that boy she’s with is obviously no use. She must be desperate for authority… punishment, even.

Giovanni’s nose twitched with the beginnings of a snarl. He felt the need to concentrate on something else, to avoid getting an erection as he watched her skinny legs and long white socks sway.

He stared over at the massive Englishman again, and resisted the urge to shudder. He had a strong suspicion that there was something illegal going on, but he already felt vulnerable enough due to the football crowds, and the possibility of violence on his beloved Place St George, so he was in no hurry for any involvement with this dangerous-looking trio.

I’m on duty for surveillance purposes only, I’m not going anywhere near them. He looks like he could pull my head clean off.

Giovanni watched as the muscle-bound man carried the black hold-all out went of sight behind Hotel de la Paix, looking about him as he went.

Salim looks like he might be following him, he’s definitely paying attention.

There was shouting from the bottom of the slope where they were headed.

Civil disturbance of some sort by Le Petit Voisin. It takes a lot to get one past me.

Giovanni took the executive decision to avoid the whole scene at all costs. Immediately in front of him, behind the Japanese couple, he saw another odd trio, not long onto the square. There was a balding, expensively-dressed, slightly overweight man, who turned to reveal the red face of an over-indulgent lifestyle. He was accompanied by someone who had a military, security look about him, to Giovanni. He was big and muscled and dressed in combat gear, and he carried a shoulder bag. The third wore cheap clothes and was younger than the other two, and seemed obviously ill at ease. He sported a bushy moustache, suggesting an Eastern European origin to Giovanni.

Russian, or possibly Polish or something like that.

He trailed behind them for a second or two, taking care not to close the distance. More shouting and the sound of broken glass rang out from a street away, Giovanni presumed at the bottom of Rue des Pecheurs.

Jesus, what’s happening around my little square today? I had feared we may have some football thuggery on the cards, but now it looks like there may even be some higher level goings-on.

He hurried across the square to his friend Anthony’s book shop, by the northeast corner of the square, and peered in through the door’s tiny window and knocked. The shop front was covered by the metal shutters normally saved for night time closure, but today they remained during opening hours as a precautionary measure.

They knew each other well, and when Anthony turned from his desk and spotted Giovanni through the small window, he enthusiastically waved a copy of ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ by Haruki Murakami with his right hand. He beamed a big smile at Giovanni, but held the telephone in the other hand, and shook his head, signalling he was unable to talk.

Just then, two women he recognised from a local hairdresser’s arrived at the Hotel’s corner from Rue des Pecheurs. A few onlookers were starting to congregate just behind them, presumably looking to see whatever had spooked them. The women both looked agitated, but walked straight past Giovanni without a word. He thought this was odd, until he remembered that he was in plain clothes for the day; they simply hadn’t recognised the police presence.

He looked to his right, then to his left as the Iraqi street kid walked very slowly from around the corner.

Back already? What’s up with him? He’s obviously seen something he didn’t like.

The kid looked pale and scared, an emotion that was starting to rub off on Giovanni. They look seriously frightened, what the hell is going on down there?

Under normal circumstances, Giovanni would have immediately approached to find out what was happening, and have a look himself, but today was not a normal day. Place St George was not the normal Place St George, and as a result, the local busy-body policeman was not himself either.

He watched the young Japanese couple perform a swift U-turn from the corner, just as he spotted another Japanese woman he could see through the window to his right, gently tapping at a computer in the internet café. The left section of the window was frosted from the ground up to a metre and a half in height, and he could just see over into the café’s interior. He paused for a moment. Although he had never been with one, he found Japanese women highly attractive.

Submissive by tradition.

For Giovanni it wasn’t a question of which women were physically attractive, like many take into account. For him it was the ones that looked naïve or weak. Predators like prey to be easy game, and he couldn’t help but feel aroused as he took a moment to watch her type.

A few more boisterous football fans arrived on the square behind him from the north east, talking loudly and excitedly. They were smiling but appeared tall and potentially dangerous-looking, and Giovanni was starting to find everything slightly menacing.

In front of him, at the hotel, people were stalling, continuing to congregate and look downhill. There was some shouting in English, but most just stayed and watched and pointed, as the sirens of the police and paramedics rang out from down the road.

This all looks far too dangerous.

He played it safe and turned around. He glanced toward the woman with the Brazilian flag on her T-shirt. Sets of flip flops melodically clacking in rhythm nearby, reminded him of a Rio street party, where he got drunk and rubbed against the local girls to the sound of roaring samba percussion.

I’ll talk to that Brazilian woman. He knew Riccardo would be watching the square from the south, and as long as he was out of the line of sight, then Giovanni could come up with a suitable excuse for not approaching the corner, if need be.

As he thought of Riccardo’s surveillance, and their earlier conversation about Sicily, it raised some painful reminders about the Old Country.

His mother was now long dead, but she had left his father when Giovanni was a young boy, in the hope of being taken on by her glamorous, single, jet-setting lover. It came to nothing, and the town gossip and family’s sense of shame led to her suffering with such depression that she ended up living in a sanatorium following a breakdown. Her blatant indiscretion had become common knowledge to the locals, and the shame his proud father had to endure, back in those days, in a place like Palermo, was enough to force him to emigrate. He took the six year-old Giovanni to France to start a new life, but Giovanni, still a young boy, had no way of fully understanding the situation, and still hoped for reconciliation, and the return of his mother to the family home. Within two years his mother had committed suicide.

When Giovanni found out about his mother’s suicide, he felt numb. He felt that she had now abandoned him twice, and as an indirect result of this, and lacking a female role model to associate with, Giovanni had always struggled to form any kind of meaningful relationship with the opposite sex. A few courtship disasters with girls as a young teenager cemented his commitment to bachelorhood. He didn’t understand them, he deeply distrusted them, and he had never found any workable method of rapport with a single one.

He simplified male-female relationships at an early age, and his black-and-white view was reinforced by his father, who had already lost faith in monogamy and the Catholic family unit. For Giovanni, there was a game between men and women and each had their role: Men need to exert power, they should desire and conquer; and women must be desirable and conquerable. To Giovanni, women wanted to appear chaste and innocent, and when they submitted, sometimes they didn’t like to be held responsible for their actions.

He moved toward the centre of the square where he could hear the two journalists having a conversation off-camera. The cameraman glanced around at his surroundings but nonetheless seemed to be fiddling with where the camera met the tripod. He often told people that he spoke English fairly well, but Giovanni could barely understand a single word that was spoken. He assumed it was because they were American.

More sirens rang out in the distance, the screeching seemingly more urgent than before. Something dark moved within Giovanni, he felt his blood becoming thick and dense, and he wanted shade. He headed south to the shadow cast by the newly-whitewashed école primaire.

He glanced over his right shoulder. He saw the three Eastern Europeans from a few minutes earlier returning from Rue des Pecheurs, back onto the square. They were stepping between the ten-or-so onlookers, who ignored them, distracted by the incident down at the bottom of the hill.

He glanced to his left and saw the blonde girl in the pink vest who had left her companion, corner to opposite corner, presumably to find out what everyone was looking at.

Jesus she is really, really beautiful.

He thought about what it would be like to roughly pull the vest over her shoulders and press himself against her. He had always been very macho, displaying high levels testosterone, and sometimes found that his chemistry got the better of him. Five years earlier he had been accused of raping an air stewardess in a car park, although the charge was soon dropped. He remembered the interview. As far as he understood it, she had pretended that she had been exploited, just so her participation wasn’t followed by guilt. She had tried to alter what really happened by describing it in a different way.

That lying bitch wanted me.

She had seen him following her, and had freely gone into that high risk area, so surely she wanted to be taken. ‘Contributory Negligence’ the courts usually call it. There had been a slight struggle, but only because she needed him to be masterful and assertive.

Still unnerved by the unfamiliar danger he felt all around him on his home patch, he was self-conscious as he approached the woman with the Brazilian flag T-shirt sat on the ground in front of the school. She had remained seated in the same unusual position for at least forty minutes, coiled with her legs folded beneath her. In a way, it looked like she could sprint off at any moment, but it looked very uncomfortable, and she must surely be very stiff by now.

“Hello again” he said in English.

She didn’t answer, but he was unsure if this was because she hadn’t heard him, or was playing hard to get.

What is your name?”

“Maria” she said, after a pause.

“Ahh. A good catholic name.”

“Church every Sunday,” she answered slowly in English with a very heavy accent.

He was unsurprised. She was, after all, Brazilian. He checked to see she wore no wedding ring. She seemed detached, more interested by the commotion in the corner by the hotel, than by him.

Obviously a cover for the thrill of the chase.

“You like France?”

Schoolboy English don’t fail me now!

“OK” she shrugged, smiling lightly.

“You stay long time?”

“I have plane tomorrow. Morning.”

Suddenly a sense of urgency took him.

Jesus. I’m probably her last chance for a decent bit of French cock, and tomorrow morning we can both leave any guilt behind.

“Hot enough for you?” He raised his eyebrows, suggestively.

“I used to it.” She glanced off to her left again, toward the hotel.

I bet you are.

He heard what sounded like a car getting rolled over a couple of streets away, and a French voice spoke through a megaphone. It seemed the CRS riot police had arrived at the bottom of Rue des Pecheurs.

That is an actual riot by the sound of it, that’s why everyone is coming back up the hill.

The beautiful girl in the pink vest had obviously seen enough as she was returning to her companion in the corner, carrying two bottles of Volvic. To her left, the trio of English, led by the huge tattooed man rounded the corner. Giovanni looked at his torso, at the sizeable belly and also the impossibly broad and prominent chest that breathed above it, and wondered what size T-shirt he would have to buy, to squeeze himself into. The man was scratching the area above his heart with a massive fist.

Deciding not to join the fray downhill eh? I get it. You’re not as dangerous as you look. It takes a lot to get one past me.

As the big guy left the hotel terrace, just behind him, the biggest of the English drunks that had been drinking in Hotel de la Paix shouted ‘England!’ and ran downhill.

The big guy’s still not getting involved in the disturbance.

He wondered again if they had other priorities.

Whatever it is, I’m not getting involved.

As fearful as he was of getting caught up in the nearby riot, Giovanni made a snap decision to go to the hotel, just to have a look at what was happening downhill.

He smiled at Maria and nodded quickly toward the corner, he imagined she would be keen for him to return, and he wanted to convey that he wouldn’t be long.

A few seconds later he found himself looking down Rue des Pecheurs to see the CRS riot police in full force at the bottom, in front of Le Petit Voisin café, some hundred metres away. They were beating and dragging away what he guessed were England supporters and Tunisian supporters alike. Paramedics were attending to two individuals, one standing with a severe head wound, one on the ground in a pool of blood. There was a man carrying a red jacket being dragged away, with the practiced look of innocence and indignation that Giovanni so often saw at violent arrests.

He’s probably saying he’s not guilty of anything… but nobody’s completely innocent…

Nobody.

Always able to maintain the façade of bumbling, amiable policeman, he looked across the terrace to the bar of Hotel de la Paix, smiled broadly and waived at Lauren, the waiter. Lauren nodded back as he poured a glass of red wine.

In a flash it suddenly came home to Giovanni that he was standing by a dozen or so, very angry-looking England fans, as they watched their compatriots getting arrested. They were clearly agitated and seemed to be plotting something, but he couldn’t understand what. He understood one of them say something about ‘the beach’ where the ‘big screens’ were up, but they didn’t appear to be about to interfere with the CRS’ operation.

Thank God I’m not in uniform, and don’t look Tunisian.

The action was becoming overwhelming for him, and he had to forcibly lift his drooping head. He hated these feelings of weakness and fear. Some Tunisians were running up the hill towards the taunting English fans.

Jesus this my square and these bastards are acting like it’s theirs!

The sense of vulnerability, and the loss of control in relation to his familiar surroundings, led to him to try and seize control of his state of mind. He needed to recoup some sense or feeling of power to compensate. He needed to be in charge, to assert control.

He headed back to speak with Maria.

“You are still here?”

She shrugged and casually looked away.

I know what for. Typical Brazilian.

He thought back to his trip to Rio:

Sex mad. All of them.

He had got away with a lot in Rio. Granted there was the contrast between the haves and the have nots. He had been very rough with one or two of the prostitutes there, but it had never technically amounted to rape in the normal sense, and he knew they secretly loved it. He had sexually attacked three prostitutes in France, but as a foreigner in Rio he would be too easy to trace, and nobody wants to go to a Brazilian jail charged as a sex offender. Here in France, with his knowledge of the law and police procedure, his defence would always be a much simpler matter.

He was getting more and more aroused. He thought very briefly about the foreigners behind him, about the deep sense of emasculation he had been feeling in the square, and turned back to his quarry. She was small, and looked weak even by normal standards for a woman.

“You are not afraid by any of these angry football types?” He asked.

“No.” She stood up with the grace of a prima ballerina, surprising Giovanni as she had been sat in an odd position, it crushed her legs but allowed her to stand up without using her hands, picking up her bag as she did so.

He looked at her shiny black hair and wanted to pull it. He thought of the direct approach with women that he found to be acceptable, when visiting Brazil:

“You want we be together?”

“No.”

As he contemplated his next move, he absent-mindedly glanced at the blocked entrance to the building site just by them. He felt sure she had hesitated. That ‘No’ didn’t mean a thing. It was practically a green light.

Maria walked the few steps to the temporary fence and swung it to one side. He had looked over that way just by chance, he couldn’t believe his luck.

Was she going that way anyway? Why? To avoid the crowds? No chance. She wants us to have some privacy.

There and then he made the snap decision to have her. Simple as that.

Perfect! he thought, glancing quickly around the square.

She’s leaving tomorrow. Everyone at the hotel is watching the riot down the hill. Everyone else on the square is heading toward that. Those journalists are distracted.

Riccardo would still be at his vantage point to the south, and was out of sight, so he could say he was elsewhere if it came to it.

Maria slipped deftly between the section of the temporary fence and the school under renovation, replacing the fence behind her and walking down the alleyway it blocked. In the corner, he saw that the blond girl in the pink vest was sitting down and only paying attention to the young man with her, who was lying down with his eyes shut.

Salim, the Iraqi, kid had disappeared.

Literally no one is watching!

Weakened by his experiences of the afternoon, he was overcome by the hormone-fuelled desire for carnal pleasure, and the urgency served to separate him from the rest of his environment. He reflected on how over-sexed the girls he had met in Rio were, and he was sure she wanted it. And if he had bizarrely gauged it wrong, and she didn’t want it, and tried to resist…

Jesus! Not as vulnerable as some, but there’s no way it could defend itself properly against a man like me. And if you’re going to endure it, just enjoy it.

He fumbled another two mints into his mouth; he didn’t like to offend with bad breath in such situations. With testosterone coursing through his body and immediate sexual gratification on his mind, he followed Maria to the start of the alley and grabbed the temporary fence so he could slip through after her. It had a sign that read:

ATTENTION! ENTRÉE INTERDITE.

He shoved the fence to one side, but it took two attempts - it was heavier than she had made it look. He replaced it behind him, and followed her down the narrow alleyway along the side of the school. Now no one could see them.

Jesus!

Has anyone seen me follow it anyway? The odds aren’t great, but what do numbers really tell you? Statistically speaking, nine out of ten people enjoy gang rape.

“Hey!” he said after her. He couldn’t believe his luck. He had read the signs and was certain she wanted it, whether she knew it or not. Even if she resisted, he could easily overpower her.

“Please leave me alone” she said.

“Maria!” his eyes narrowed. “My Brazilian beauty.”

Jesus!

“I not from Brazil,” came her answer, she was still walking away from him. He didn’t understand. That was definitely the Brazilian flag covering those breasts. He looked at her back as he caught her up in a half-run, fumbling with his flies with one hand and grabbing for her hair with the other.

The back of the T-shirt read: ‘GRACIE BARRA.’

I wonder what that means?

He lunged forward and firmly grabbed her upper arm. He didn’t care where she was from, he was going to have her.

“Wherever you’re from, you’re getting it.”

It’s gonna get it. There’s not a thing it can do about it. Jesus!

Sensei Maria said: “I from Philippines.”

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