On the other side of the room, a red couch was pushed against the wall. Except that one side of the couch had been pulled away, and behind it…I peered closer, took a step closer…
Elena swung around and gasped.
He was lying on the floor beside the couch, one arm draped over his face as if he’d raised it to wipe sweat from his brow, just like I had, and had been stopped midges-ture. His face was splotched with blood. He wore a brown linen blazer, cream slacks that were spattered red, and a blue shirt. And in the center of that shirt was a hole, black on the sides, crimson from where blood had recently coursed from another wound.
I took another step. “Oh my God, someone shot him.”
“Wait!” Elena moved toward me. Her steps were slow, cautious. When she reached him, she took a hold of the hand that rested near his body. She grasped the wrist, obviously looking for a pulse.
She stood and a strangled sound came from her. I stared at her, my brain reeling. Her mouth was open, her eyes horrified. A cry escaped her mouth, sounding like a distant note, a long “O” that didn’t stop.
“Elena!” I said.
She snapped her head to mine, seemed to realize I was there. She looked at the body again, then her head swiveled around; her eyes careened about the place.
“Andiamo!” she said. “We must go!”
She grabbed my arm and propelled me through the office and into the hallway.
“No, wait,” I said. “We can’t leave him.” I tried to push around her and back into the office, but she gripped my arms and tugged at them.
“Isabel,” she said, her voice like a slap. “We are going.”
“What if he’s alive? We have to help him.”
“He is not alive.” Another strangled sound came from her throat. “We must go. Now. We must run, Isabel.”
We raced through the aqueducts and over the gangplank, then up the stairs, away from the sight of my father cloaked in blood.
“This way!” Elena yelled, grabbing my arm again when I tried to run down a gangplank. “That’s the wrong way.”
I tried to catch my breath. I made sure to stay close behind her.
Finally we reached the front door, and Elena threw it open, the fading sunlight of Rome sneaking inside the marble foyer.
She drew me outside and down a block before she turned to me. “You’ve got to leave me.”
“What happened down there? Who did that to him?”
Elena shook her head fast, so fast that her perfect chestnut hair ruffled, and she squeezed her bown eyes closed. “You must get away from me. I bring nothing but tragedy. You must leave before something happens to you.”
And with that, Elena turned and ran.
I tried to follow her, but my mind couldn’t catch up with my feet. My mind kept seeing that blood pooling, running in rivulets across the ancient floor. I shook my head to try and dispel the images, but they wouldn’t go away. I stumbled over the cobblestones, falling on one knee. I stood, couldn’t get myself to run. I took a few halting steps in one direction, then another. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what just happened. In the distance, I heard the splashing of the Trevi.
Run, Iz. Let’s go!
Finally, I got my head to connect with my body and I ran in the direction of the noise. At least there would be people there.
Once I reached the piazza, I stopped at the sight of the huge white fountain, of the water, clean and light blue, splashing almost gaily. It all seemed an insult to my father. I turned and dodged up a small alley, not knowing where I was running. Rome, if you don’t pay attention, will lead you in nothing but circles, and soon I was lost. And yet it seemed fitting, since my search for my father had led me in nothing but a circle. He’d been dead when I started, and he was dead now.