By the time Rinaldo finally arrived at Harry’s Bar, a large and noisy party had grown at the bar. Rinaldo is not a tall man and so, it was several moments before I spotted him in the crowd. When I waved at him, he rushed to my table.
“Alex! Wonderful to see you at last! I must say you picked up on the first clue—the photograph of the Vivaldi musical score—in record time. Very clever of you.”
Sighing deeply, I regarded him with care. “You have some tricks planned for me? A bit of a wild goose chase you’ve sent me on…”
Something about Rinaldo reminds me of that great Surrealist artist, Salvador Dali. It’s not just his appearance, but—as with Dali’s art—you’re never sure with Rinaldo just where you stand with the man. Often his world seems like another dimension of reality which few people, if any, share.
I said, “James asked me to find you in Venice, because he thinks, for some reason, that you would not hide from me.”
“How extraordinary!” Rinaldo’s moustache waggled in the air. “I’m always ready to talk to anyone about an artistic project, Alex. In fact, I really want to collaborate with you on something I’m working on.”
I groaned. “Listen Rinaldo, remember New York City and the Williamsburg Bridge?”
Rinaldo actually tittered. “It didn’t come off quite as planned.”
“I should say not! You were trying to…”
“Alex! I thought we’d agreed that there was no malicious intent on my part. In fact, I’m quite dazzled by your artistry.”
I gazed at Rinaldo for some moments. Here sat the man who had tried to destroy my reputation with his hare-brained scheme. You can read all about that in The Drawing Lesson, the first in The Trilogy of Remembrance. At least, that is the version of my creator, Mary E. Martin. Sometimes she gets it absolutely right, but at others, well…”
I suspect you will doubt Rinaldo’s protestations of innocence. His statements are to be taken with much more that a grain of salt.
Trying to maintain a neutral tone, I said, “Apparently, someone is very interested in your concept of bowls of rotting fruit.”
Rinaldo pressed two fingers to his lips and shook his head. “Not here in Harry’s Bar. It’s no place to discuss business.” His eyes grew to a frightening size.
Leaning across the table, he grabbed my sleeve. “Come to the Palazzo Grini tomorrow afternoon, say at 5 o’clock.” He waved his arm dramatically. “There we will discuss business.”
“What is the Palace Grini and where do I find it. I can’t stay in Venice for long.”
Rinaldo gave me a wink and pulled out a notepad. After a moment of furious scribbling, he said, “Listen, Alex. It’s going to be a huge party with lots of interesting artists on hand. Do say you’ll come!”
“But how will we discuss business at a party?”
By this time, Rinaldo was on his feet heading for the door. He turned and winked at me. “Don’t you worry, friend. We’ll find a way.” And then he was gone.
Over the years I’ve had plenty of time to assess Rinaldo. Most of his talk sounds, to my ear, mostly like babble all spoken to obfuscate, confuse and weary the listener.
I began the trek back to my hotel in the dark. I paused on the Rialto Bridge which arches over the canal like a touchingly awkward elephant marooned in mid-stride. I gazed along the Grand Canal. The lamplights danced upon the water churned up by the boats. The vaporettos criss-crossed the canal to deliver their passenger at the docks on either side. To my mind, with all its reflections Venice is the mirror of the soul. From this vantage point, I thought— for the thousandth time— I would never pierce the mysterious veil which concealed her such a fantasy of light.
As I walked through the narrow, twisting calles and past cafés ve never thought of Rinaldo as being malicious or in any way dangerous. Although I felt some trepidation about this party, I was cheered by the prospect of passing another day in the enchanting city of Venice.
So what do you think Rinaldo is up to? Should Alex go to the Palace Grini?