Ivan slapped Hapgood. “Same jump, Hap. Legs to one side.”
Hapgood dropped, swinging his legs to the opposite side from before. “Turning the other cheek at last,” he thought.
They landed and made their way down hill winding though darkened alleys. They paused for breath.
“Obviously there are two
“I don’t think they are friends,”
“All right, let’s go with
They reversed direction and arced toward where they had come from.
The question of how to draw
the men in cloaks was solved for them.
They rounded a corner and found one standing there. This one gave out a very satisfactory scream
“This way,” said
The run uphill away from the
river was exhausting. Hapgood was breathing as if it was his last. The others were giddy with fatigue. At last they reached a major thoroughfare and
peeked out to see the other side posted with the unmistakable aggressive forms
of the mercenaries.
The mercenaries started across in an extended line. Traffic stopped. The first cloaked man to reach the light took a crossbow bolt and went down with a scream. The others took shelter in number of entries. Something flickered and a mercenary got tagged with a large, hideously curved dagger. The other mercenaries began to press on, but an arrow flicked from the near side of the street and buried itself in a bullet proof vest. Bullet proof but not arrow proof.
That was enough to send the other patrons to the front window to watch the battle unfold. The mercenaries tried another unsuccessful press up the middle. The men in cloaks attempted a flanking maneuver but had underestimated the length of the mercenary line and were forced back. Bets were exchanged in the pub. A number of the patrons would have been happy to have had a go with the crossbow, but they could not agree on which side they should be.
Instead of taking the back
door, the four went up some steps and found a deserted hallway. They sat against the wall and dozed. After a few hours
When he thought he had given them all the time he could he said, “There’s a bus leaving in five minutes about a block from here. It goes to the Montgomery Great House.” That got them up and moving. On the way to the bus they were seen by two men in robes. One of the two had a recurve bow but had evidently exhausted his arrows during the battle. The two men gave chase.
The four ran and piled aboard as the bus started moving. They lay down to hide on the floor.
“We’re really tired,” said
“Can’t let you sleep on the floor,” said the driver. “Against regulations.”
“You heard him, men,” said
”I must insist that you take your seats,” said the driver. “Otherwise I shall have to stop this bus right now.”
The driver took the hint and continued. After a time the four got up and took their seats.
As the bus moved,
The Greek language here
persisted for a thousand years after the conquest by
Below them the Slot of Naples, an earthy name for the most intimate part of the city, still preserved the layout of ancient streets.
“Yes, that means we shall have a storm,” said his friend. “It is a good thing you did your touring yesterday. Today will be wet.” The touring had been unusual in that there was not the press of other tourists he had come to expect.
“Tell me,” he continued. “What is the population doing here? How fast is it growing?”
“We do not grow. We shrink.”
“Yes, we have amore. But we do not have bambinos, no children.” He spoke as if he were in pain.
“How is that?”
“The young people. They would rather play. Who can blame them? If they are good people, they must do as they will. They wish to play. They are young. One cannot tell them that they are wrong to play. But the bambinos we do not have. It is very bad.”
“You miss them much, having bambinos around?”
“It is worse in the north. They have fewer than we. But it is still very bad. So you do not have many bambinos yourself?”
one son. He has been studying in the
“You must be very proud. It takes great courage and mind to venture so far for studying. But I am happy for you that he is coming home again. It will be happier for you.
“But having only one bambino is not enough. What then would be the purpose of dying?”
“I do not understand you my friend.”
“We die. We grow, we learn, we struggle and we die. There is little time for these. But the bambino can carry on. With luck he carries forward the best we know and can do. But if there is only one bambino then that one can on average do no more than we could ourselves. It would be more convenient if we merely lived on. Dying is such a distraction.
“But we can have more than one. Two can do more than we ever could. Of course they carry the best of their mother, too. And the wife, she is the greatest treasure there can be. The bambinos carry forward the best of life you ever found. But if there were but one, you and the wife would do better to live forever.”
“Perhaps it is an engineering problem. Perhaps life without death is not possible.”
“Perhaps. Does he have bambinos himself, your son? I suppose not.”
“That is correct. But he is young. The future stretches very wide and very bright before him. I think he will have them.” “If he lives,” he thought.
“Ah the rain comes upon us. I must be off, my friend. This is the busy time of day. Do you need any help getting to the train station?”
“No, many thanks. I have rented a car and shall start for
“Do be careful, my
As if Neapolitan drivers were not.
“Thank you and blessings of Allah on you my friend. May your business speed well this day.”
His friend left.
Before starting for
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