Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 57

‘... Your little house of cards is crumbling, Emilio,’ Grimaldi was saying.

‘It’s a minor setback, nothing more. The merchants who defy me, and that piece of shit Antonio de Magianis will soon be dead or in chains, or working the oars of a Turkish galley.’

‘I’m talking about the Assassin. He’s here, you know. That’s what’s made Antonio so bold. Look, we’ve all been robbed or burgled, and our guardsmen have been outsmarted; it’s as much as I’ve been able to do to keep the Doge from poking his nose in.’

‘The Assassin? Here?’

‘You numbskull, Emilio! If the Master knew how stupid you are, you’d be dead meat. You know the damage he’s already done to our cause in Florence and San Gimignano.’

Emilio made a fist of his right hand. ‘I’ll crush him like the bedbug he is!’ he snarled.

‘Well, he’s certainly sucking the blood out of you. Who knows if he’s not here now, listening to us as we speak?’

‘Now, Carlo – you’ll be telling me next you believe in ghosts.’

Grimaldi fixed him with his eyes. ‘Arrogance has made you stupid, Emilio. You do not see the whole picture. You are nothing but a big fish in a small pond.’

Emilio grabbed him by the tunic, and pulled him close, angrily. ‘Venice will be mine, Grimaldi! I provided all the armaments to Florence! Not my fault if that idiot Jacopo didn’t use them wisely. And don’t try to make things bad for me with the Master. If I wanted to, I could tell him some things about you which would -‘

‘Save your breath! I must go now. Remember! The meeting is set ten days from now at San Stefano, outside Fiorella’s.’

‘I’ll remember,’ said Emilio sourly. ‘The Master will hear then how -‘

‘The Master will speak, and you will listen,’ retorted Grimaldi. ‘Farewell!’

He stepped into the darkened gondola as Ezio watched, and it glided off into the night.

‘Cazzo!‘ muttered Emilio to his secretary as he watched the gondola disappear in the direction of the Grand Canal. ‘What if he’s right? What if that damned Ezio Auditore is here?’ He brooded for a moment. ‘Look, get the boatmen ready, now. Wake the bastards up if you have to. I want those crates loaded now and I want the boat ready in half an hour by your water-clock. If Grimaldi is speaking the truth, I must find a place to hide, at least until the meeting. The Master will find a way of dealing with the Assassin…’

‘He must be working with Antonio de Magianis,’ put in the secretary.

‘I know that, you idiot!’ hissed Emilio. ‘Now come, and help me pack the documents we spoke of before our dear friend Grimaldi came calling.’

They moved back towards the interior of the palazzo, and Ezio followed, giving away no more sense of his presence than if he had been a spirit. He blended into the shadows and his footfall was no more noticeable than a cat’s. He knew Antonio would hold off the attack on the palazzo until he gave the signal, and first he wanted to get to the bottom of what Emilio was up to – what were these documents of which he had spoken?

‘Why won’t people listen to sense?’ Emilio was saying to his secretary as Ezio continued to tail them. ‘All this freedom of opportunity, it just leads to more crime! We must ensure that the State has control of all aspects of the people’s lives, and at the same time gives free rein to the bankers and the private financiers. That way, society flourishes. And if those who object have to be silenced, then that is the price of progress. The Assassins belong to a bygone age. They don’t realize that it’s the State that matters, not the individual.’ He shook his head. ‘Just like Giovanni Auditore, and he was a banker himself! You’d have thought he’d have shown more integrity!’

Ezio drew in his breath sharply at the mention of his father’s name, but continued to pursue his quarry as Emilio and his secretary made their way to his office, selected papers, packed them, and returned to the little jetty by the garden gate where another, larger gondola was now awaiting its master.

Emilio, taking his satchel of papers from his secretary, snapped a last order. ‘Send some overnight clothes after me. You know the address.’

The secretary bowed and disappeared. There was no one else about. The gondoliers prepared to cast off, fore and aft.

Ezio sprang from his vantage-point on to the gondola, which rocked alarmingly. With two swift elbow movements, he knocked the boatmen into the water, and then had Emilio by the throat.

‘Guards! Guards!’ gurgled Emilio, groping for the dagger at his belt. Ezio seized his wrist just as he was about to plunge the weapon into Ezio’s belly.

‘Not so fast,’ said Ezio.

‘Assassin! You!’ growled Emilio.

‘Yes.’

‘I killed your enemy!’

‘That does not make you my friend.’

‘Killing me will solve nothing for you, Ezio.’

‘I think it will rid Venice of a troublesome… bedbug,’ said Ezio, releasing his spring-blade. ‘Requiescat in pace.’ With barely a pause, Ezio eased the deadly steel between Emilio’s shoulder blades – death came quickly and silently. Ezio’s proficiency in killing was matched only by the cold metallic resolve with which he fulfilled the duty of his calling.

Bundling Emilio’s body over the gondola’s side, Ezio set to rifling through the papers in his satchel. There was much to interest Antonio, he thought, as he swiftly sifted through them, for there was no time now to examine them thoroughly; but there was one parchment which caught his own attention – a rolled and sealed page of vellum. Surely another Codex page!

As he was about to break the seal – shoof! – an arrow rattled and clanged into the baseboard of the gondola between his legs. Instantly alert, Ezio crouched, peering up in the direction the missile had come from. High above him on the ramparts of the palazzo a vast number of Barbarigo archers was ranged.

Then one of them waved. And acrobatically tumbled down from the high walls. In another second she was in his arms.

‘Sorry, Ezio – foolish prank! But we couldn’t resist.’

‘Rosa!’

She snuggled. ‘Back in the fray and ready for action!’ She looked at him with shining eyes. ‘And the Palazzo Seta is taken! We have freed the merchants who opposed Emilio, and we now control the district. Now, come! Antonio is planning a celebration, and Emilio’s wine cellars are legendary!’

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