For All the Gold in the World

For All the Gold in the World

by Massimo Carlotto, Antony Shugaar

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Overview

“The best living Italian crime writer” immerses readers in a gritty noir novel featuring PI Marco “the Alligator” Buratti (Il Manifesto).

This novel, by one of Italy’s bestselling crime novelists, provides a unique perspective on the criminal and social dynamics that dominate contemporary Italy.

One of the many robberies that plague Northeast Italy goes wrong and ends with a brutal murder. The police investigation turns up nothing. Two years later, Marco Buratti, alias “the Alligator,” is asked to look into the crime and find out who was responsible.

Buratti’s employer is young, the youngest client he has ever had; he is only twelve years old and is the son of one of the victims. The Alligator realizes right from the start that the truth is cloaked, twisted, shocking. Together with his associates, Beniamino Rossini and Max the Memory, he finds himself mixed up in a story involving contraband gold and blood vendettas between criminal gangs.

“Finishing an Alligator mystery is like waking up after an all-night bender with your best friends. . . . You’re not 100 percent sure what happened. But you know you had a good time.” —Cedar Rapids Gazette

“Melancholy-tinged, Carlotto’s novel is quite nicely turned and solid entertainment.” —The Complete Review


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609453435
Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Series: The Alligator Mysteries , #5
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 572,119
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Massimo Carlotto was born in Padua, Italy. In addition to the many titles in his extremely popular "Alligator" series, he is also the author of The Fugitive, Death's Dark Abyss, Poisonville, Bandit Love, and At the End of a Dull Day. One of Italy's most popular authors and a major exponent of the Mediterranean Noir novel, Carlotto has been compared with many of the most important American hardboiled crime writers.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Siro Ballan wasn't much good as a luthier. Actually, he wasn't much good as a human being either. He was as mediocre as his instruments. He was a tall, skinny man, resentful and unpleasant, who lived all alone in a big house in the country that had belonged to his family for generations. He turned the old granary into a workshop, which smelled of essential oils, shellac, and all sorts of wood: Norway spruce, cherrywood, maple, ebony, rosewood, and boxwood. Along the walls, in no particular order, were a number of tables on which were scattered pieces of soundboxes, as well as necks that went with violins, mandolas, and double basses, all covered with a light layer of dust.

Siro Ballan didn't live off the money he earned from musicians. Over time, he'd built a reputation in the field, but that wasn't what he'd been aspiring to when he'd stubbornly sat down to learn a profession for which he clearly had no gift whatsoever.

If he could afford a certain kind of life, it was due to his large house, which he rented out by the hour. If a gang of bank robbers needed a quiet little place to wait for the police to tire of chasing them, then the luthier would offer them his stables, where it was possible to hide automobiles and delivery vans.

Generally speaking, the most asked-after spot in the house was the living room, reserved for encounters between people looking for a meeting place both absolutely confidential and on neutral ground.

I awaited my potential new client while sipping a grappa cut with Elixir di China, comfortably seated in one of the light-brown velvet-upholstered armchairs, the only lighter note in a room dominated by dark wood furniture.

I heard the sound of a car braking on the pea gravel, followed by that of three car doors slamming.

"That's a lot of people," I thought to myself, my curiosity piqued.

When I found myself face-to-face with the three guys, I realized that this was a gang or, at the very least, a delegation made up of a gang's most important members. The boss was the first one to introduce himself. "Nicola Spezzafumo," he said, extending his hand.

In the underworld he was known as Nick the Goldsmith because he specialized in heists and burglaries from jewelery stores and jewelers' workshops. I knew that he'd taken several years in prison like a man, a mark of his character that made him worthy of respect in my eyes.

He must have recently turned fifty and he'd put on a jacket and tie to come to this meeting. The other two were younger. Not much over thirty. Giacomo and Denis. Elaborate hairstyles from a small-town barber, tattoos on their necks and the backs of their hands.

A round of hard liquor and cigarettes to give the new arrivals a chance to size me up properly. The case had to be a sensitive one. I considered their indecision rather offensive, but curiosity kept me in my seat. After an exchange of glances, Spezzafumo made up his mind to speak.

"On November 27th, two years ago, three armed, masked men broke into a country villa outside of Piove di Sacco immediately after dinner, murdering the owner of the house and his housekeeper. His wife and daughter survived because they'd just left to attend a dance recital at the parish church."

I nodded. I remembered the case. It had been on the front pages of the local papers for months because of the savagery of the murders. This kind of thing had happened before. The intruders knew that there was a safe in the place and they needed the combination to get it open. The victims were uncooperative, and that then unleashed a burst of senseless violence.

The housekeeper, a woman in her early forties originally from Pordenone, had taken the brunt just because she was a woman. The bastards had had their fun with and then pitilessly tortured her until the gunshot to the head came as a genuine act of mercy, putting an end to the poor woman's suffering.

Then it had been the man's turn. A businessman, forty-seven, he and his wife had set up a small atelier to produce cashmere garments. He'd refused to talk as long as he could simply because he knew they'd never leave him alive anyway. The autopsy had revealed the presence of deep burns over much of his body and a bullet hole in his skull.

The subsequent investigation, though meticulous, hadn't produced any definitive results, as the detectives like to say at press conferences when they've come up empty-handed. An anonymous letter, probably written by a neighbor, had reported the presence of three men dressed in black, their faces concealed by ski masks, seen leaving the house dragging three wheeled suitcases. After a short distance, they'd vanished down a country lane where they'd most likely concealed their car.

"I don't understand what this has to do with your business," I said. "Was the owner of the villa a friend of yours?" "His name was Gastone Oddo and he was one of us," Nick the Goldsmith replied, watching for my reaction. I didn't bat an eye, and he decided to go on. "He hid our 'merchandise' and our weapons, laundered our money, and invested our profits for us."

I glanced at his confederates. Denis's eyes were glistening. The other man lit a cigarette, his head hunched low. The late Gastone had been well liked.

"Rivals?" I asked.

The three of them shook their heads. "We've investigated, looked into all the crews," Spezzafumo explained, "both Italian and foreign. We've kept a close eye on all the fences from here to Belgrade. Whoever those butchers were, they aren't in our line of work."

"So what's your theory?" The boss let his men answer that question. "A one-off gang," Giacomo replied.

Denis put out his cigarette. "Someone put it together for this one hit and then dissolved it."

"How much was the take?" I asked.

"About two million between the gold, the precious stones, and the cash," Spezzafumo replied. "We'd just pulled off a job," he hastened to explain, seeing my astonished expression.

"Did they take the weapons with them?"

"Three Kalashnikovs, handguns, ammunition. They didn't leave anything behind."

"Maybe they just didn't want the police to find them," I commented. "They were careful to cover up any clues that would point to the robbery's true objective."

I thought the situation over for a couple of minutes while the three men whispered among themselves, shooting me glances the whole time. Their distrust was palpable.

"The robbers knew that Oddo was your treasurer," I said in a clear, confident voice. "And they knew that that night they'd find the loot from your latest robbery in the safe. Now, I wouldn't dream of offending you, but it seems clear to me that whoever screwed you knew your business all too well."

"That's what we thought from the minute it happened," Denis shot back, some heat in his voice, "but it wasn't any of our guys. We went over all of Gastone's contacts with a fine-toothed comb. We didn't miss a thing."

"What about his wife?" I asked, just to rule that out.

Spezzafumo waved his hand in the air irritably. "She loved Gastone; she never would have betrayed him."

"The housekeeper?"

Denis shrugged. "She was half an idiot, and she didn't know a thing anyway."

Nick the Goldsmith pulled an envelope out of his jacket and tossed it onto the coffee table, cluttered with glasses and ashtrays. "These are the last thirty thousand euros. If you get the loot back for us, we'll give you ten percent."

A nice pile of cash that would come in handy. "How would the rest be split?"

"Half to us and half to Gigliola, Gastone's widow."

I blew out my cheeks. "I'm not taking the case."

"What the fuck are you saying?" Giacomo blurted out, jumping to his feet. "You should have made that clear before you let us tell you all our fucking private business."

His boss put a hand on his shoulder and made him sit back down. "Why not?" Spezzafumo asked.

I poured myself another glass of liquor. "If I were to track down the culprits you'd do everything within your power to make them pay, and I don't want to risk spending the rest of my life in prison thanks to a vendetta that has nothing to do with me. These stories always end badly. Funerals, cops, and the smart guy who sells the others down the river before they get a chance to do the same to him."

Denis clenched his fists and Giacomo glared at me. Nicola, on the other hand, spoke carefully. "Our operations would be secure, you know that's how we work: It's no accident no one's ever caught us."

I shrugged my shoulders. "That's no guarantee and anyway, there's another aspect to this story that I don't like ..."

Denis interrupted me and turned to Nick the Goldsmith. "Afterwards, do me a favor and explain why the fuck you insisted on bringing this asshole into it in the first place."

I ignored the insult and went on explaining my reasoning. "If you get the money, by rights it ought to be split three ways. The housekeeper was an innocent victim, she had nothing to do with your work; she was in that house working for a salary and she was tortured to death."

Denis and Giacomo snickered. Their chief shook his head. "If you don't mind, that's our business."

"Exactly," I agreed as I stood up.

Nick the Goldsmith shook my hand. He knew his manners. The other two glared at me menacingly. They were too young to know that the roads criminals tread are paved with stupid hotheads.

I left them to Siro Ballan and his idle chitchat. He always livened up the moment of payment with a barrage of pointless gossip that you had to pretend you were interested in hearing. The luthier was quick to take offense.

I started up my Škoda Felicia and out of the speakers I'd recently had installed came the voice of Susan Tedeschi singing It Hurt So Bad. Just then, I was listening to her a lot. I liked her, both as a singer and as a woman. I'd fallen in love with her more or less in the year 2000, watching one of her videos. She was accompanying Bob Dylan on a version of Highway 61 that sent shivers down my back. She wore a good-little-girl dress and a pair of black flats. Nothing like the short red skirt worn by Ana Popovic, another great love of mine. I couldn't believe that a young woman born in Belgrade would be capable of taking on the blues and, purely out of curiosity, I went to see her in concert in Munich in 2011. At the end of her solo rendition of Navajo Moon I was certain I wanted to marry her, but the infatuation ended quickly. My blues fiancée remained Susan Tedeschi, with whom I dreamed of spending the rest of my days. But now there was room in my heart only for the jazz woman who, unlike the American singer, lived in the same city as me and was far more attainable. I turned up the volume and shifted gears, thinking all the while about the story I'd just heard.

I'd turned down the job the Spezzafumo gang had offered me because, as clients go, they were dangerous, unpleasant assholes. The housekeeper, more than anyone else, deserved justice, but they didn't care. I would have liked to take on the case: Robbing private residences, staging violent home invasions that shattered lives, torturing people, murdering them — these were all odious crimes. The problem was finding the right client. Without someone hiring me, I couldn't justify my interest. The rules needed to be respected.

Max was snoring on the sofa with a book balanced on his gut. I woke him up and brought him up-to-date. He listened, paying close attention, before starting to reason through each element.

"Caution," he said, before going back to sleep. "The one sensible word to repeat like a mantra is: caution."

Knowing him, that meant that the story hadn't made much of an impression on him. I, on the other hand, thought about nothing else until I finally collapsed into sleep in front of the television.

* * *

A small workshop, five workers, a "storefront" carved out of small room next to an office that must once have been a broom closet. Maglificio Gigliola, clothing in genuine cashmere. Gigiola Knitwear. The idea for the name must have been the late Gastone's. His framed photograph stuck out on a desk cluttered with paper.

"Whatever it is you're selling, I'm not interested," the widow said clearly in a weary voice.

Gigliola Pescarotto had no doubt once been an attractive woman. Now her features were drawn taut, almost to their breaking point, with heartache, and she'd stopped taking care of her appearance the moment she'd found her husband's corpse. She'd become a portrait of the tragedy she was living.

"My name is Marco Buratti. I specialize in somewhat unusual investigations."

"What you mean by unusual?"

"The kinds of cases no licensed investigator would dream of taking," I explained. "Yesterday evening Nick Spezzafumo asked me to look into the armed robbery and double homicide. I turned him down."

The woman paled. "Nicola? What did he tell you?" she demanded suspiciously.

"Everything. Or almost," I replied, just to make sure she understood she could trust me.

She shook her head bitterly. "All he cares about is the gold and getting revenge. He doesn't understand that if he keeps trying to find the bastards who murdered Gastone and Signora Luigina, we'll all wind up in prison," she said, all in a rush. "And I don't want to lose my daughter. Lara is all I have left. She's the reason I find the strength to get up every morning and come down here to break my back."

"In other words, you don't care about catching the murderers."

"I wish I could care, but I can't afford to."

"The housekeeper was an innocent victim, she suffered more than anyone. She, at least, deserves some justice, don't you think?"

A sob shook her chest. "Poor Luigina. She was so good, and so good at her job. A little strange, sure. She came to work for us because she needed some time on her own, time to recover and figure out what to do with her life after a string of disapointments.

"Her man had knocked her up and then dumped her for some foreign woman he followed to Slovenia. She'd left her son, Sergio, with her brother when the boy was eight or nine, and she showed up at our house with an old suitcase.

"That night I'd asked her to come with us. I'd insisted, in fact, because it was the recital for the parish dance class, and for Lara it was a big deal. Gastone wasn't interested in that kind of thing, and it hurt the girl's feelings. But Luigina said that she still needed to get the kitchen straightened up and that the next morning she had to wash the curtains.

"It was the girl who found her. Naked, covered in blood. She screamed so loud it still makes my blood run cold. Then, when I found Gastone's body, it was my turn to scream."

She put her hands to her ears, touching them delicately with her fingertips. "I'm sorry about what happened to her," she continued. "I wish I could have died in her place. Luigina's murder was our fault. You can't imagine the remorse I feel. It eats away at me. But things have to stay the way they are."

"You said 'our' fault. Were you involved in your husband's criminal activities, too?"

She nodded. "From the very beginning," she replied. "And not because I loved Gastone and had sworn at the altar to share everything with him. Gold is a disease and it entered my blood. I enjoyed it when Nick and my husband melted down the jewelry and turned the metal into tiny ingots that I then had to weigh. That was my job. Every gram meant money. We would have had to be patient for a few more years, and keep a low profile, do our best to make ends meet with the knitwear business, but then we would have left the country and that gold would have given us the good life. The kind of life that small businessmen being worked over by these government bloodsuckers can only dream of.

"It had never crossed my mind that things could go sideways. We were the best, the smartest, the most careful.

"We were wrong. It was all wrong. You should never get mixed up with this stuff, not even for all the gold in the world, because if you do, fate steps in and punishes you.

"You understand? Not even for all the gold in the world."

I offered her a cigarette. She smoked it, pinching it between her thumb and forefinger, like a longshoreman.

"Do you have any idea how they found out about you?"

She stared for a few seconds at the ash at the tip of her cigarette before crushing it out in the ashtray. "Someone betrayed us. We were sold out," she said. "But I can't even imagine who it could have been, though I'm sure it was someone very close to us."

"How many people are we talking about? Three, four, five? I don't think it would be too much trouble to investigate them thoroughly."

"Nicola's already done that."

"It's not his profession. He certainly overlooked important clues."

She sprang to her feet. "This whole story is buried with the dead."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "For All the Gold in the World"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Edizioni E/O.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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