Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chapter Twenty Seven

Donatella continued her journey back to Ravenna, under leaden grey skies and heavy rain.
The same rain that was falling on Fletcher and his men was now falling on her, and she wrapped her cloak around herself in a vain attempt to stay dry. She reached the gates of the city without encountering any further patrols, and passed through with her cloak still giving her a degree of anonymity. If they were indeed searching for her, then they evidently didn't have any idea of what she might look like.

It suddenly occurred to her that the soldiers may well have been referring to her father - after all she had only heard her surname of di Rossini being mentioned, and there had been nothing about a feisty young woman with a penchant for kicking priests in the head before stringing them up in chains in their own torture chambers. Well, perhaps they might not be so keen for that last detail to become public knowledge. She chuckled to herself at that thought, and then smiled, pleased that the depredations of the inquisition had not managed to dent her essential good humour.

Night was falling quickly, and lights were already burning in most of the windows of the houses against the winter gloom. Lanterns and candles were a quick indication of the relative wealth of the inhabitants of any given houses. The poorest residents could only afford a handful of poor quality tallow candles, or perhaps a single smoky oil lamp, whereas the wealthy could display their riches with a conspicuous display of the finest wax candles arrayed in a candleabre or even perhaps illuminating a chandelier.

Needless to say Bompanzini's house was alive with dancing lights, but where there are lights there are always shadows to accompany them. Donatella intended to take advantage of this fact. The front of the house was too dangerous a route - she thought that she might have been able to bluff her way past a doorman or other minor servant, but beyond that she had no idea of how many guards Bompanzini might have or where they would be stationed.

She followed a small alleyway that ran between Bompanzini's house and his neighbour and found herself at the back of the row of houses. An open sewer ran between the houses, feeding directly into one of the canals that ran through Ravenna in imitation of its grander cousin to the north. The eaves of the adjoining houses jutted out over the foul smelling stream, and Donatella saw an opportunity.

One of the facing houses had a trellis with a withered vine still clinging to it, and with careful choice of hand and foot holds Donatella was able to scale the wall and reach the lip of the eaves. The overhang presented a potentially tricky problem, but she was able to find a place where the plaster rendering had cracked and crumbled exposing the joists that supported the roof space. She grasped the wooden beam and worked her way out into empty space, her feet dangling precariously, until she reached the edge of the roof and by grasping it she could pull herself up onto the tiles of the house facing her objective.

She allowed herself a moment to rest and catch her breath, before jumping the gap between the roof that she occupied and that on Bompanzini's house. As she landed, she nearly slipped on the wet tiles that were slick from the earlier rain that had now subsided to a steady and persistent drizzle, but she stretched out her arms and legs to their fullest extent like a cat finding purchase on the limb of a tree and found a purchase. Experimentally, she pulled and pushed a few of the tiles until she found an area that was loose. Either the nails had rusted through, or the original builder had skimped on materials on the assumption that his shoddy workmanship at the rear of the house would not be noticed for many years. She carefully removed enough of the tiles until she had a large enough gap to lower herself into the roof space and onto the joists of the attic.

By dead reckoning she estimated that Bompanzini's room was at the front of the house and somewhat to the left of her current position, so she carefully inched her way along the beams and then across. She spotted where the chains for a chandelier had been attached to the beam through a hole in the plaster ceiling just below her.

Donatalla could see a gap in the plaster where the chandelier chain poked through, and a shaft of candle light shone up the attic space, picking out dust motes in the gloom. Looking down through the hole revealed that the viewpoint was too restricted to show much more than the a small area of the desk immediately below the chandelier.
She slowed her breathing and strained to hear any sounds or noises that might be coming up from below. She picked out a strange rasping noise which alternated with a whistling, piping drone. She was momentarily puzzled, until she realised that the noise must be the sound of Bompanzini snoring - the fat oaf was asleep, and more than likely drunk into the bargain.

She carefully pulled up some of the plaster laths around the chandelier trying to avoid dislodging any fragments into the room below. A few flakes drifted down and she held her breath for a moment, but the snoring continued as before. Soon she had created a hole large enough to climb through, much as she had done with the tiles previously. She looked down through the hole, and sure enough Bompanzini was slumped in a chair by the fire, evidently fast asleep.

She took hold of chain and carefully lowered herself down to the surface of the desk, avoiding the few guttering candles on the chandelier that were still alight. From the desk, she went to door and turned the key in the lock. Fortunately Bompanzini was the fastidious sort who kept the mechanism well oiled and it did not squeak loudly enough to alert anyone below.

Now it was her turn to have some fun …

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Excellent. Can't wait to see what sort of revenge she exacts.