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Nico was halfway through his breakfast sandwich when he heard a dog yelping. A high-pitched, ear-busting sound that could only come from a small breed. Maybe it was the mutt that seemed to have made a home next to the gate to his vegetable garden. A small, scruffy dog that always greeted him with one wag of his bushy tail and then lay down and went to sleep. ….
With hiking boots on and the biggest knife from his new kitchen in hand, Nico traced the sound of the yelps. …
The dog shot off deeper into the woods. Nico trudged behind him. “This better be good, mutt.” …
About twelve feet in front of them, at the far edge of the clearing, a may lay on his back, arms and legs spread out at an unnatural angle. What had been his face was now a pulpy mess of flesh, brain and bits of bone steeped in blood.
Nico’s stomach clenched. It wasn’t the sight that got to him – during his nineteen years as a homicide detective, he’d seen worse and quickly numbed to it. No, it was the surprise of finding a body here. He’d walked away from that job, his old life, and come to Italy to find peace.
from: Murder in Chianti
Italian F&F Affairs
Gravigna, a small village of about 700 inhabitants in Tuscany, near Greve and also near Florence, is a giant F&F community. Everybody knows everyone, all people have got lots of family in the village or nearby, nothing can happen without anyone observing any event, any quarrel … and remembering any crap for years and decades. The stuff that holds together the community is made from Italian food and wines, get-togethers anytime, family meals …
Nico starts a new life exactly in this spot in an old cottage creating a vegetable garden and becoming an avid home cook. His deceased wife came from this village and her family still lives here running a family restaurant. They welcomed Nico with open arms. Nico is fluent in Italian and he quickly made friends in the village, if in the local café where he has his breakfast, if in the bakery or the butcher’s shop, if at the florist’s or wherever. Anybody likes him – and seems at least to accept him … to become a fully integrated member of the Gravigna club might take some more time.
Nico’s new life means – at least at the beginning – that he didn’t tell anybody what he did before. He once started as a patrol officer in New York, but became a detective in NYPD’s murder squad rather quickly. Near the end of his successful career he made a fatal error which might have caused him to end up in jail, but he made a deal and retired helter-skelter under obligation of secrecy. At the same time his wife died from cancer. Nico wants to forget all these sad events from his past in Italy. So he barely admits that he was a simple patrol officer denying any experience in murder cases.
Of course it doesn’t work. The Carabinieri quickly check that he was a homicide detective and …
However, let’s start with Nico’s day …
He like to get up in the morning rather early jogging some kilometers, having breakfast in a local café, chatting with anybody, especially with a retired, somewhat troubled man whose passion is Dante’s main oeuvre. Afterwards he works in his garden and cooks … developing new recipes, a passion he didn’t know he had in New York. For lunch or dinner he helps in the restaurant of his wife’s family, setting the tables, waiting at tables, cooking … and whatever is to do. It’s a very good restaurant serving Italian food from its best with our any modern gimmickry. Later in the evening he likes to sit on his small balcony with some wine or whisky. To be too good to be true …
It doesn’t sound like a busy life – until some morning he stumbles across a body. On the one hand he won’t get involved in the investigation, on the other hand he is curious who might have killed the body so obviously cold-blooded in this charming village. In addition the Carabinieri are not used to any brutally murdered bodies. They get to know about Nico’s past and rope him in. So the first murder investigation gains traction.
The Carabinieri are represented by Maresciallo Salvatore Perillo and his assistant, Brigadiere Daniele Donato, and some more officers in the background. Their headquarters is in Greve because Nico’s village is far too small for a Carabinieri station. Well … Salvatore was born and raised in Southern Italy so having to deal with lots of prejudice. Otherwise he likes eating – his wife is a great cook – and drinking espressos and wine. Daniele is young and fit with any IT equipment and the Internet, social media … He is vegetarian, environmentally aware and shy, very shy, but often has brilliant ideas to promote the investigation. Of course both of them are not amused when the prosecutor, based in Florence, decides to involve Florentine police officers … That’s why they like Nico and his experience in murder cases.
Murder isn’t far-fetched in this lovely village. It seems to be an almost local affair – always. It’s about families, inheritances, the reputation of a family, revenge actions, long buried secrets … Nico, Salvatore and Daniele like to discuss the investigation and any suspicious facts at length during dinner at Nico’s, home-cooked by Nico and supplied by wine from Salvatore, sitting later on his balcony and enjoying some whisky. Slowly the case evolves from incomprehension into a tragedy or some cold-blooded act that even amiable villagers are capable of.
To be honest: if I had the chance to live in this village in this fine dream of Tuscany and Italian wines and cuisine I wouldn’t hold off to go.
… and there is OneWag.
Nico’s first murder case started when this little stray of dog led him to the body. From this time on the stray not only slept on Nico’s doorstep, but moved into Nico’s life. Nico calls him OneWag because of the one wag with his tail every time when … Nico’s friends call him Rocco – they don’t like an American name for an Italian dog. Anyway OneWag/Rocco accompanies Nico wherever and whenever there is the next murder case.
In short: it’s comfort crime at its best!