Keeping in the wake of her own shadow, Lithium hunted for information and assistance, in the alleyways of Florence’s underbelly. Despite the apparent dangers, present even in daylight, she considered it a step up from her recent scrape with Sheol’s scythe.
Entering a small clothing store tucked in behind a butcher, no less, Lithium chatted up the Manager, in Italian.
The manager was a jovial woman named Marianna. A long-time city resident, Marianna, as it turned out, knew all the latest official news about the catacombs, thanks to her archeologist nephew.
Lithium could not help but notice the strangely exceptional electronic security system protecting the humble little store. Therefore at the right moment, she asked,
“Tell me, Signora Marianna, who provides your security?”
Happy to help her new friend, Manager Marianna opened her desk drawer and offered up her store’s security contact information. She explained,
“They are Romani. Chunk is the boss. His real name is Gino, but be sure to call him Chunk. Tell him, I sent you.”
Lithium bought a faux leather jacket, a change of clothes and, a blonde wig. She thanked Marianna with a generous tip and slipped out the back exit.
Sneaking in through the cleaning staff exit to the San Lorenzo Market, Lithium bought and enabled, four disposable cell phones.
Soon thereafter, in an impeccably clean paid public toilet, Lithium slipped into her disguise, startling the female attendant seated outside the stall upon her dramatic exit as a new persona―blonde hair and all.
In the quiet gloom of a hazy unkept alley, Lithium dialed Chunk’s phone number.
“Howdy!” said an authoritative voice with a southern US drawl.
“Hello, may I speak with Chunk? I was given this number by Signora Marianna.”
“Yeah, you got him. What can I do you for?
“I am seeking to hire a team of surveillance experts.”
“I only work with people after I look ’em in the eyes, Miss, uh…”
“Lithium… it’s just, Lithium.”
“Meet me at the tour bus stop outside City hall, that should be busy enough for cover.”
“How will I recognize you, Miss Lithium?”
“Blond hair, black jacket, and carrying a red backpack.”
“You have money, Euros, cash?”
“We will meet you in ten minutes, Miss Lithium.”
Right on time at the busy unloading area to the City tours, Chunk strode towards her. She guessed that he was possibly mid to late forties.
Following closely behind him, were four young men each of whom, seemed, no more than nineteen years old.
Lithium could tell even from a distance that Chunk lived up to his name. His athletic build shouted Greco-Roman wrestler with military training.
As Chunk grew closer, Lithium confirmed from his tattoos, that he was a former US Army infantryman.
Chunk and his security team walked up to Lithium. He shook her hand like he wanted to arm wrestle, and grinned. Looking into her eyes, he quizzed her.
“No, absolutely not!”
“CIA, Interpol, Mossad?
“Ah!” He tipped back slightly on his heels and rubbed his hands together revealing a small bright green dharma chakra tattoo inside his left palm,
“Deep cover ops, off-book?”
Lithium looked briefly down to the cobblestone pavement. She offered no reply.
“Okay Miss Lithium, for simple surveillance two hundred Euros―each,” as he pointed to the four young men of his security team who had already begun surveilling the crowd around them.
“So what’s the plan, Miss Lithium?”
“Three things,” Lithium replied.
Friend or foe, BMG’s recent actions made him her best lead.
Therefore, Lithium showed Chunk and his team an old photo of BMG, Goliath had downloaded to her encrypted cell phone before the mission began.
“First,” said Lithium “I would like this man tracked and his whereabouts reported to me immediately. He was last seen running from Ditta Artigianale’s cafe approximately one hour ago.”
“Next, I need you and your teams’ eyes and ears. Fnd out whether there is a private event here at City Hall today perhaps involving a high profile person.”
Handing over the three disposable phones to Chunk, Lithium said, “And third, keep me posted every thirty minutes, Okay?”
“I will text “abort” to each of these phones when your work is complete.”
“Caution, these people are dangerous. Please do not engage them.”
Suddenly, Chunk extended his palm towards her.
“What is it?”
“Since you mentioned “danger;” then, the price has increased to four hundred Euros―each,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
Lithium held in a smile and thought to herself, “I like this man, he knows the value of his services.”
“Deal,” said Lithium, shaking Chunk’s already extended hand.
Lithium discreetly counted out two thousand Euros and palmed it over to Chunk.
“And so,” Lithium asked cautiously, “What’s to prevent you from taking off with that money, and not providing the services that I have purchased?”
Suddenly, a stern expression chiseled his countenance. With it, Chunk replied, “The same reason that one of my clients chose to give you my name, Miss Lithium―my good reputation in this town.”
Chunk rallied his team handing out their respective assignments. Then they dispersed into the throng of Florence tourists.
Meanwhile, thanks to store Manager Marianna, Lithium had a hunch that neither nuclear materials nor catacombs were at play here. Florence’s catacombs seemed too busy. There would be little place for secret meetings without some tour group popping up unannounced.
Suddenly, she feared for her old mentor and boss Goliath’s safety. If indeed her hunch was correct; then, someone wanted the two of them here in Florence today. But Why? But, that was a new problem that would have to wait.
Therefore, for now, Lithium did what she knew best. She scouted the highest point at City Hall and hunkered down on its rooftop camouflaged.
From her backpack’s secret compartment, she assembled the high-tech sniper rifle custom-made for her. She placed one of its special “bullets” in the magazine.
With an almost imperceptible whir, the rifle’s electronics booted up. A host of information was at her fingertips providing: wind speeds, wind direction, local weather reports, and targetting information. Then, she watched and waited.
It was not long before Chunk called. BMG had been spotted entering Florence’s City Hall courtyard. Apparently, he was not alone.
Lithium hurried her scope around the courtyard examining each face in turn.
Then, through her scope display, she spotted BMG speaking amicably, it seemed, with another man.
Seeing BMG in her scope, and mulling over the events of the mission thus far, Lithium “greeted” him (through her rifle’s scope) …
“Hi there, Mr. Browning Machine Gun (BMG). So, was that you and your team shooting machine guns at me last night up the Basilica’s stairs, with your weapon of choice? Tisk…tisk…”
It took several minutes before the person to whom BMG was speaking came into her sniper rifle’s field of vision.
Then, Lithium gasped.
It was that pleasant elderly gentleman who, earlier this morning, gave her a lift into town in his 1964 Aston Martin DB5!
Holding her already measured breath, she braced herself for her one-of-a-kind weapon’s recoil, and squeezed the rifle’s electronic trigger.
Then, Lithium―the former assassin, now battling her own demons looking for redemption, fired with pinpoint accuracy.
*** To be continued Next Sunday***