Patiently Annemarie waited for Comandante Venturi’s return.
He had been away for the best part of the day. Finally, from where she was, she saw the ‘Marines’ barge mooring at the Accademia jetty. The Comandante, with his men, walked toward the courtyard. She noticed a civilian was part of the group. She breathed deeply while exultation and relief came to her. But that sensation lasted one second only. She realized then that it was something wrong. The civilian wasn’t familiar. He was a complete stranger, and panic arouses and her body sacked in convulsions while a loudly inhumane scream erupted from her troth.
“NOOO…!” Annemarie yelled “NOOO, God help me. It’s not possible. Where is he? Gilberto doesn’t have white hair and isn’t bent by age. Where are you, my love? What’s happened to you?”
She rushed to the Marines commando. The guard stopped her. He said he had orders. She insisted and asked again and again to talk to Comandante Venturi. He categorically refused to see her. She left, but went back three more times within the hour, until she was ordered out and warned to be jailed if she would persist.
It was a cold sunset that sent glacial shivers down Annemarie spine.
Over the west a large red globe of fire descended rapidly into the Adriatic waters, splashing the surface with a pallet of blood.
Exactly at that time, a few kilometers away, a platoon of six men raised there firearms, executing the orders of a young subaltern officer. Six bullets exploded simultaneously and the man in front of them, facing the wall of the barrack, fell to the ground, but life was still in him. It was now the commanding officer’s duty. He took his Mauser, loaded it and moved to the dying man. He lowered the gun to his head, and two bullets exploded to his brain.
Gilberto funeral was attended by a large crowd. People in Venice talked of his bravery and the many lives he had saved over the past months from Nazis and Fascist.
Contessa Cigni was present to the funeral. She was emotional while she dropped red roses over his casket, and then went to Annemarie expressing her deepest sympathy. In a broken voice she said, “I owe my father’s life to Gilberto’s courage, we’ll never forget him and his bravery.”
It was two weeks after the funeral that Annemarie realized that a new life was growing in her. She felt emotional realizing it was Gilberto’s last gift to her. It was Gilberto’s son and in this way she knew that his love will be with her always. He had created the miracle of life through his love and he will continue to live with her for ever.
On the twenty-fifth of April San Marco’s bells jubilantly sent the news to all Venetians. Finally the city was free and the hostilities were over.
Germans and Fascist tried to escape back to safety to their towns and houses. Many in that long voyage lost their lives during the last tremors of war, even if officially war had finished.
For quite a long time nobody heard about Gianni Venturi’s destiny. A few years after his name started to appear on the chronicles of the Sydney newspapers, in Australia.
He was in a partnership with another Italian engineer and they had built in a short time a lucrative construction business. They had won several contracts in the construction and erection of electrical power lines, TV station antennas and modernization of the existing steelworks around Australia. They mainly employed Italian laborers that had flocked to Australia searching a new life.
Over the next ten years Venturi’s partnership flourished expanding his roles on any technical engineering fields. Bridges, explorations, submarine drillings, became some of their daily activities. But it was just possible at the dawning of their activities which were initiated with the money that Gianni Venturi raised from the Venetians Jews’ exploitation.
At the beginning of his activities, Venturi used a dictatorial policy and malignant rumors moved into the circle of other contractors who said, with concern and perhaps with some proofs, that the method Venturi firm used to gain certain contracts was not the most ethical. They said that Gianni’s disregarded any rules and to win those contracts was ruthless. He won them with briberies, gifts and back money paid to influential people. Those unscrupulous initial activities helped his company to rise rapidly in prestige and wealth. Gianni showed the foxy person in him, capable to disguise evidences which could disturb the integrity of the good name of the company and the success of its operations.
Gianni Venturi retired from business at the age of seventy-five and returned to live in Milan. His reputation as a great achiever and philanthropic preceded him and the Italian media published photograph and articles about him in the major Italian periodic, and soon after, TV programs followed with documentaries presenting the vestige of a great industrial pioneer abroad.
It was as a natural consequence, that the Italian Government honored him and officially presented him the star of Coomendatore for his tenacious successful work abroad and for his patronizing assistance to those Italian living in the far away country.
To celebrate this special occasion, he gave a party in Venice. It marked the most prestigious and the greatest achievement in his life. He selected Venice, because the city had memories for him that he could forget and which had always kept in his heart.
He booked the festivity to be held in the Manin rooms that by now had become one of the most prestigious restaurants in the city. All looked perfect. Venice represented to him the best of his past and the beginning of a not less imposing future.
Venturi only forgot to check a small detail; a detail though, that after thirty years of absence, couldn’t possibly be relevant. He didn’t check who the new proprietor of the restaurant was.
He didn’t know that Annemarie and Gilberto had a son, and he was now the new manager and owner. Gianni Venturi had buried from a long time the memories of his Fascist past. After all, today, those things were not relevant any longer in the new Italy. Most of the new generation had grown in a different political atmosphere. So Gianni had completely forgotten of the days he compelled Gilberto to do his dirty work and the way he was killed because of him.
On those particular days he had promised Annemarie, but then he refuse to protect Gilberto’s life. If he could see back in time, he would remember that he never intended to ask mercy of his life to the German commandant. On that day, instead he opted to save Conte Cigni’s life for which he had been handsomely paid for.
He didn’t care, at that time, of what were his promises to Annemarie. Arrogantly, in those days, he was the one who dictated the rules of the game. He was resentful with her and thought that the time had come for him to take revenge and finally humiliate her. He wanted to punish her dearly for the time when she refused his courtship and his proposal of marriage.
When the Manin management received a telex asking formally to book a reception on behalf of the well-known Commendatore Gianni Venturi, Annemarie and her son, saw that the day had come for them to finally claim justice. They saw only that their prayers had finally been listened, and it was God’s will that was sending him back.
Gilberto’s Vial had been kept as a precious memento of him in the same drawer he had so carefully stored away many years earlier, “Just in case of necessity” he had said.
And Judgment day had finally come. Destiny always reserves a day in our life when we have to front the Divine decision.
That was the special day. Annemarie filled Gianni’s glass. The spumante had become even zestier when the content of the vial was added, and Gilberto, her son, served the cocktail to Gianni Venturi.
Gianni drank it in a gulp, and the effect was immediate. His death appeared natural, the crystal glass disintegrated on the marble floor into a thousand tiny diamonds, making it impossible to analyze the content of the glass.
Time had gone by, and the years of war were now only a pale memory in a few. Nobody saw a connection between Gianni death and his past life in Venice.
Only God never forgets. Many times His will uses unknown ways of justice, simply called by many the “Will of God.”