Chapter 22b




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 groups,” said Ivan.  “The mercenaries and these guys in cloaks.  We need to keep them from linking up.  They may not be able to communicate as it is.”


“I don’t think they are friends,” said Tracy.  “To each other, I mean.”


“All right, let’s go with that,” said Jon. 


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 as Ivan pounded him.


“This way,” said Jon.


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.  Jon slapped Ivan and went back to bring on the pursuit.  They could hear him shout as if in surprise and then come running up behind them.  They gave it a moment and then moved out onto the sidewalk, down the block and into the front of a pub. 


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.


Ivan went to the bar man and handed over the crossbow and bolts.  “Just getting them out of harm’s way,” he said.  “Is there a back way out?  We’ve seen enough.”


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 Jon woke up and got busy with his computer.  He checked bus schedules, the time and a map. 


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 Jon in jest.  “Mind if we just catch a nap here?”

“Can’t let you sleep on the floor,” said the driver.  “Against regulations.”


“You heard him, men,” said Tracy.  “Pushups.  One.  Two.  One. Two.”

”I must insist that you take your seats,” said the driver.  “Otherwise I shall have to stop this bus right now.”


“Actually,” said Ivan.  “I think you would be a lot happier in the long run, we all would, if you waited a block or two before stopping.  Do you want to hear what we saw last night?”


The driver took the hint and continued.  After a time the four got up and took their seats.


As the bus moved, Ali was having early coffee on a terrace overlooking Naples.  He was chatting with a friend he had met the day before in his wanders looking at the castles, the churches, the museums and the ancient Greek and Roman ruins.  Naples, Napoli to the citizens, had been founded as Neapolis by Greeks coming from Cumae.  The great city was thus part of Magna Graecia, and the art which had been recovered from the buried ruins of the ancient Greek colonies as well as from of Pompey and Herculaneum attested to great artistic prowess.



Ali thought.  Neapolis meant New Town.  Napoli-Naples-Neopolis-New Town-Newton.  Again pattern without meaning.


Naples had been ruled by the Plantagenets, the dynasty that began with Henry II of England and that produced fourteen kings from 1154 to 1485.  Ali thought, “So much for the notion that lines of enterprising people die out in ten generations of thirty years each.  The Plantagenets lasted eleven.” 


Naples had given Italy much of art, music and statesmanship.  It had given Italy her first railroad and first steamship.  Virgil, the Roman poet who wrote the epic the Aneid, about the founding of Rome was born in Mantua but his tomb was here.  And thereby hung the answer to a bit of the puzzle.  The Aneid was obviously founded on the Greek classics by Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey.  Where had Virgil absorbed enough Greek language and culture to follow in one of their greatest traditions?  At the time of Virgil this city still spoke Greek in spite of centuries of Roman rule.  If Virgil wished to write in the Greek style, he had the opportunity to live in a Greek city.


The Greek language here persisted for a thousand years after the conquest by Rome.  It seemed the ultimate condemnation of the idea that a city cannot endure.  In fact in the energy and ingenuity of the population, enamored observers to this day declared they sensed some of the spirit of ancient Greece. 


From where Ali and his friend sat, Capri glinted in the morning sun.  Sorrento was to the left.  Farther to the left, Mount Vesuvius was probably the world’s most famous volcano.  Ali’s journey from Mecca had been taking him right along a chain of volcanoes, which was no total surprise, since volcanoes do occur in chains. It was Mount Vesuvius that had buried much of the art work he had seen.


Below them the Slot of Naples, an earthy name for the most intimate part of the city, still preserved the layout of ancient streets.


Ali was in a hurry.  A deep dread possessed him concerning the welfare of his son.  Hans Turelli was a formidable enemy.  Somehow Ali felt that if he could reach his son he could avert a tragedy he could not name.  He recalled something written by Winston Churchill about an armored train.  Like a rhinoceros it was invincible in attack but blind and vulnerable if struck from behind.  He dared leave no unexamined concept behind him as he sought his son.


Capri looks very pretty this morning,” said Ali.  The island shown in the low sunlight against a rack of dark clouds.


“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.”


“I thought Italy was all about armore.”


“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?”


“Just the one son.  He has been studying in the United States.  But now he is coming home.  I travel to meet him.”


“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 Rome presently.”


“Do be careful, my friend.  The Roman drivers are madmen.”


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.  Ali drained his coffee as the first rain blew in.  Then he went to his room to wait the squall out and to listen to it through the louvered door.


Before starting for Rome he visited the cave at Cumae where Aenaes in Virgil’s epic had entered the underworld under the guidance of the sibyl, the priestess there.  Like Delphi, Cumae had been a sacred place of prophesy. 


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