The Last Bordeaux

  • Gênero: Terror

The Last Bordeaux

A Tale of Caio César Hamasaki

English Version by L.G. Sereno

Copyright © 2019 Caio César Hamasaki

Cover: Caio César Hamasaki

Review: Alicia Hamassaki Rodrigues

Illustration:  © Harry Clarke – 1919

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced under any existing means without the written permission of the author.

Contacts: caiohamasaki@uol.com.br

This tale is a work of fiction. Names, characters, companies, organizations, countries, events and thoughts are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Part I

The first week in Venice brought me strong feelings of rejection from native habits. Nothing I no longer knew, as I had previously worked in Sereníssima, when I solved slippery cases in Tuscany, and I knew about the nights of debauchery. This time, finally transferred, I realized I would have to get used to a new life, in that dark city, where death seemed to be lurking in every alley, under every bridge, inside every gondola. Being a commissioner do not save me to be stabbed for any change I could carry, but despite this usual vigilant feeling, I was looking forward to investigate the first corpse, which would give me a fair reason for the rise at work I had received.

Borghesi, a local merchant in his mid-forties, brought the case I’ve been waiting for, even in the absence of a corpse:

“Inspector Parisi, it is an honor for our city to have you here. I hope you can help us to decrease our alarming crime rates.”

He sat down and gave me a heavy book, written in English and with beautiful illustrations, which, I must confess, caused me some discomfort to understand the complicated drawings. In a hurry, he jumped a few pages to a specific one, where one tale from the American writer’s was pictured:

“See? This image, with these details, can help us to solve a mystery over a century old.”

I have never been a great reader, I have no shame. Art figures were always my favorite, even music, and my readings were limited to those related to work and a few rare flyers of novels. Therefore, while I appreciated the art of the famous Irish illustrator, Borghesi briefly described the plot, where the leading character attracted an antagonist to a basement cellar to imprison and immure him by revenge, taking advantage of the Carnival party. At the end, he asked me:

“I suspect this was true.”

“Mr. Borghesi, how did you get this idea?”

He told me his family had always lived in Venice. Even before the Napoleonic records back in 1806, they proudly kept a heraldry and a provenance book with all the names: marriages, births, and of course, deceases. Among dozens of deceased relatives, the great-great-grandfather had been considered ‘missing’, just on the last Carnival in Venice, in 1796, on the Piedmont Fall’s eve. He held me by the arm, not in a rude way:

“Watch out! At the end of the story, – he continued – for half a century, any human being disturbed them.”

I did the math and answered:

“That would be in 1846.”

“Exactly when the American published the tale!”

He gave me the book and left, with hopes I could help him to conclude his ancestor’s mysterious disappearance. I made no promises, but the uneased image led me to the St. Mark’s Basilica, where Priest Giovanni Angeli welcomed me for an interesting chat:

“Inspector Parisi, you know here we read everything, even fiction.”

“Actually, I hoped you would say you read this book, even in English and, how can I say, despite it is ‘blasphemous’?”

“Church is attentive, my son. Judgment is not for me, but, tell me, what brings you here?”

“I’ll be straight to the point, Priest, before coming here, I stoped at Anagrafe, to research the death of nobles at the Carnival in 1846. Did you realize I add 50 years to the last Carnival celebrated in Venice?”

“I see, son. It refers to the end of the tale and the half-century of ‘rest’.”

“Exactly, Father. But I found only one death that period, and the deceased was not a noble, and the house he lived in the past became a brothel, as the lack of descendants. I had no choice but to appeal to your help.”

“It will be a pleasure to help you. We will check the seventh-day masses records’ after the 1846 Carnival.”

In the morning I met Mr. Borghesi near Rialto bridge and picked him up in our vaporetto. We arrived in a few minutes at a degraded hotel. The concierge was indifferent to us, perhaps he was used to the lack of attention from the owners. When we asked him, he informed us there was a beautiful building in that place, he was not sure how old it was, but after many disagreements among Jean Baptiste Blanche’s heirs, it had been abandoned for decades. I asked the reason for the disagreements:

“Did they have any business? Any debts?”

“Absolutely, inspector. I remember when I took over as manager, they were so healthy they despised this building. They moved to southern Italy and just one of the family members, Mr. Maurice Blanche, stayed in Firenze. After many years, and no news, I decided to take advantage of the space and made the renovation to turn into a hotel.”

I realized Borghesi’s suspicious gaze following our conversation and looking for a staircase that lead to the basement. I tried to conduct the conversation to this point:

“Tell me, is there a way to the basement?”

The old man frowned, looking concerned at my curious question, but at the same time, proud to be able to show all the knowledge he had about the building and its history, maybe because the true owners had never worried about it.

“I must warn you, gentlemen, for many decades we have no longer entered that dismal place. It will surely be totally unhealthy and hard to reach.”

“Don’t you use it for anything?”

“There was no need. When I remodeled the building, I took advantage only of the first basement for the hotel functional demands. Also, I had to seal the doors to stop smells and rats.”

“Did you leave any door?”

“Of course, inspector. Let me get the keys and some lubricant, for sure it will be stuck.”

“It ends here.” ⎯ the concierge told me.

A brick wall, looking like it had been built after the others around it, stone made, caught my eye:

“And this wall? What’s up behind?”

The old man frowned, coughed few times, raised the lamp to light up better the wall, and stretched his lower lips.

“I have no idea, inspector. When I arrived here, it was already like this.”

Borghesi finally decided to help:

“In the tool room, I could see a pickaxe.”

He brought it, and before the landlord’s uninterested gaze, started to hit the wall, already badly rotted by time and humidity, with heavy blows. At some point, a good deal of it collapsed, and we all covered our faces to avoid the noxious rising dust. We passed through this opening and realized it was a very old crypt, lined by an abandoned cellar, where oak barrels had already rotted beyond limit, leaving its precious contents spill away. The depth continued growing, and the amount of bones piled up, frightening the bravest mortals who dared to disturb their eternal rest. Finally, Borghesi grabbed my arm:

“There, Mr. Parisi!”

As illustrated by the Irish artist, a half-destroyed wall preceded the end of that horrible crypt. Outside, a skeleton dressed in old clothes lay clutching two bottles, one empty and the other corked with a note inside. We lit it up to see the inside of the crypt, and there was the skeleton of the man who had been chained to the wall, wearing an identical costume from the tale’s illustration, a clown costume.

I kneeled down and opened the corked bottle in the skeleton’s hand, which shattered into small bones. While Borghesi was looking what might have been left of his supposed great-great-grandfather, I read the note taken out of the bottle. It said:

“I returned, as promised, to pay my sentence. I say good-bye to this wealthy life and, with no regrets, I drink this last bottle of the best Bordeaux to celebrate my complete revenge.”

 

Part II

I got a week to finish the investigation in Firenze, where I would look for Maurice Blanche. With the information obtained from the old hotel manager, I arrived in my homeland accompanied by the tireless Mr. Borghesi. At the Blanche family’s, we found, again, only one mansion janitor:

“He doesn’t live here anymore. He became a member of a religious order.”

“Order? What order? And where is this?”

He couldn’t name the sect. He said only that they were scholars of Dante Alighieri’s ideas. Growing up in those narrow, dark streets, I knew all the places attended by the poet’s worshipers, as well as the small church he had adopted. Between a marvelous lunch, when I celebrated the taste of the true Florentine chop, paying visit to some long-term friends, I discovered the last of the Blanche’s whereabouts, where we arrived at dusk.

“Mr. Maurice Blanche?”

The half-open door revealed a shy, almost frightened face:

“Who do I owe the honor to?”

“I am sorry for the time. I am Inspector Parisi, and with me, Mr. Borghesi from Venice.”

He kindly received us. There were no servants, but the house was extremely tidy, clean. We sat on two sumptuous sofas:

“Inspector Parisi. Are you from Firenze? I recognized your accent.”

“You have observed well, dear sir. I know this is not a timely hour for a visit without a schedule…”

“It’s always a pleasure to receive an officer. Tell me. How can I help you?”

Before I could start a logical, straightforward, polite conversation, Mr. Borghesi held out the book and slowly laid it on the coffee table.

“Do you know these tales, Mr. Blanche?”

The discomfort turned out immediately on Blanche’s face. He took a deep breath, opened the book and found out there was a page marked, exactly the one with the illustration from the Irish artist:

“I see the quality of the picture brought you straight to me.”

Borghesi started talking while I watched:

“Did you expect we would never find out?”

“I have been praying for years so this martyrdom will come to an end.”

I gestured for Borghesi to let him speak on. Blanche continued:

“My great-great-grandfather was the person behind that horrible act. But the murder itself was not the worst. So that he could live without punishment for the next 50 years and with his wealthy life, he sold his soul to the devil. And so, he condemned the whole family to live with the product of that evil act, and we were all cursed to fight for money among the heirs throughout generations.”

He paused, and I decided to take care of the legal issues:

“Mr Blanche, I hope you understand you have not committed any crime. We did not come here to arrest or inquire you. We are here to clarify a hypothesis about your ancestor. Something must be done to the Borghesi family, for sure…”

At that moment Borghesi stood up, and before me and without embarrassment, he drew a dagger and thrust it into Maurice Blanche’s chest:

“Rest in peace, Mr. Blanche.”

And looking at me, I could see in his pupils a red I will never forget. He told me:

“I also made a deal with him. It was the only way to find out what happened that Carnival night.”

He pointed the dagger at me and concluded before leaving:

“Don’t waste your time with me. You know I’ll have my 50 years ahead, without death nor punishment.”

The End

Observação do Autor

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849), was a Boston-born writer, poet, critic, and editor, author of The Cask of Amontillado, dated 1846. He is considered one of the creators of the crime fiction genre, and has inspired generations of thriller and horror authors. He wrote famous short stories, such as "The Black Cat," "The Murders of Morgue Street," "The Fall of Usher's House," among others.
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Harry Clarke (1889-1931), an Irish illustrator from Dublin, created the most acclaimed figures for Edgar Allan Poe's short stories. For the tale "The Cask of Amontillado", the illustration is from 1919.

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