|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)|
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The darkness seemed heavy, oppressive in the summer heat that filled the city that night. Marco held Anna tightly, as though afraid of losing her.
"Marco Sartini," she scolded with a giggle, "it's late and we have to get to the Metro."
Three men had been following them in the dark as they walked along the Via Sistina, towards the long flight of stone steps down to the Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the hill. Anna jumped in fright as one of the men threw a beer can noisily across the street. The group began to jeer at the embrace. Their language sounded like German.
"Ignore them," Marco said. "We're nearly at the station."
One of the men came closer and called out something that Marco did not understand. Then, "Sprechen sie Deutsch?"
Marco pretended not to hear.
The man raised his voice. "Lauter sprechen! Do… you… speak… English?" he demanded.
"A little," Marco volunteered warily.
"This woman is Italian?"
"That is good. Italian women all want one thing." He laughed loudly as he lurched forward and grabbed hold of Anna's arm, smirking. "How would you fancy the three of us tonight, pretty woman?"
As Marco tried to wrench the man off, the two men watching hurried forward and pinned him by the arms, holding him back.
Suddenly Anna kicked out, taking her captor by surprise. She ran quickly across the street, reaching the top of the Spanish Steps and the long descent to the piazza far below.
Marco heard her fall, the sudden stop of clattering shoes on the stone steps, the yell of enjoyment from her pursuer. He twisted violently in thehands of the two men holding him and they threw him to the ground. He lay there stunned, slowly becoming aware of the sound of a vehicle coming along the Via Sistina. It was a late night police patrol, but the vehicle drove past before Marco could stand up or even call out.
He dragged himself painfully to the top of the steps beneath the tall church of the Trinità dei Monti. The men had gone. He slid down one step at a time to where Anna lay sprawled, her long black dress pulled up to her waist. The men must have reached her as she lay defenseless. A small crowd was already running up from the Piazza di Spagna—to watch, if not to help.
As he crouched helplessly beside the bright red pool forming in the dust around Anna's head, it seemed that a great stillness had fallen over Rome. He screamed a silent scream, pressing her hand to his lips. The smell of Anna's perfume would stay with him for ever.
The three men had returned to shout more abuse, more taunts from the stone balustrade where the Via Sistina overlooked the steps. Then they were gone.
"Bastards!" Marco shouted. "You've killed my wife!" He laid his head on Anna's stomach. "O, God, and our baby."
A gust of wind caught one of the empty beer cans and sent it rolling across the broad sidewalk of the Via Sistina, towards the top of the steps. It tumbled over the edge, hitting each step in turn as it fell. It stopped where Marco knelt. He jumped to his feet and hurled it back to where the men had been standing.
"Bastards like you deserve to die," he yelled into the blackness.
Copyright © 2005 Christopher Wright.