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Coin of Risk and Rewards by Leonardo Ricci

Coin of Risk and Rewards

1

The Coin and the Cathedral

1

0

On a warm morning in Rome, where the air was scented with freshly baked bread and the melodic hum of vespa engines, Enzo Moretti was standing in front of the imposing doors of St. Cecilia's Cathedral.


A bandage wrapped around his forehead, the latest in a string of bizarre accidents that seemed to shadow his every step.


With a deep sigh, Enzo pulled out a small, worn coin from his pocket. It was an ancient Roman denarius, inscribed with faded Latin that he had yet to decipher.


Below the inscription, a new set of instructions had mysteriously appeared overnight.


Return the amulet of Cardinal Gianetti to the chapel within 24 hours!


Enzo stared at the coin.


“Che disastro,” he muttered under his breath


---


Two weeks earlier, during an unexpected downpour in the bustling Piazza Navona, Enzo had slipped on the slick cobblestones and tumbled to the ground.


His head hit hard, and as he lay there dazed, a cloaked figure approached through the sheets of rain. The man knelt beside Enzo, his face obscured by the hood of his cloak.


"You, my friend, are in luck. I see great potential in you. Take this," he said, pressing the ancient coin into Enzo's palm. "Work hard, and when the stars align, the fate of Rome will rest in your hands."


Before Enzo could protest or even make sense of the man's words, the stranger had disappeared into the rain-soaked crowd. The coin was the last thing he remembered before losing consciousness.


When Enzo awoke in the hospital with a splitting headache, the coin was still clutched in his hand. Initially, he dismissed the incident as a weird prank. But the coin soon proved to be anything but ordinary.


No matter where he placed it, the coin always found its way back into his pocket, bringing with it a new set of cryptic instructions.


At first, the tasks were harmless, even amusing. Return a book to the Vatican Library, place a rose on the steps of the Colosseum. But as the days passed, the demands grew stranger, and the consequences for failing them became more severe.


One missed task had left Enzo drenched in a sudden downpour that had only targeted him while everyone around remained dry. Another had caused a cascade of misfortune, leading to his head being stuck in an elevator door and receiving an electric shock from a faulty streetlight.


Now, with the latest instruction to retrieve and return a long-lost amulet belonging to a deceased Cardinal, Enzo felt a cold shiver of dread. He had no idea how to find such a relic, and the thought of what might happen if he failed was terrifying.


Determined not to succumb to another round of misfortunes, Enzo pushed open the heavy cathedral door.

Enzo's heart raced as he navigated the dimly lit chapel. The vastness of St. Cecilia's Cathedral had always fascinated him, but today, it felt more like a labyrinthine trap than a sanctuary.


Enzo had only been a tour guide at the cathedral for three months, a job he had taken more out of necessity than passion. He had never crossed paths with Monsignor Donati, the stern and formidable custodian of the cathedral.


Yet here he was about to intrude on the sanctity of the chapel to retrieve a relic of immense historical and religious significance.


“Va bene, let's do this,”


---


The sound of his own footsteps echoed ominously. He hesitated before the altar, glancing nervously over his shoulder at the looming shadows.


His mind raced with half-formed plans and growing anxiety. What if Monsignor Donati caught him?

Just as Enzo was about to give up, his fingers brushed against something cold and metallic. Hidden in a small, recessed niche behind the altar was a tarnished bronze box, its lid adorned with intricate carvings of saints and angels.


“This must be it,”


The amulet was exquisite, a delicate silver chain with a pendant shaped like a cross. It gleamed, the gems embedded in its surface catching the flickering candlelight. Enzo felt a strange sensation as he gazed at it.


Before he could contemplate further, the distant sound of footsteps echoed through the cathedral, growing louder by the second. Panic surged through him. Someone was coming, and he had to hide.


Instinctively, Enzo looked around for a place to conceal himself. The only option was a large wooden wardrobe standing against the wall, its doors slightly ajar. With no time to waste, he slipped inside, pulling the doors closed behind him.


---


Through the narrow gap in the wardrobe doors, Enzo could see the chapel entrance. The footsteps drew closer, accompanied by the murmur of voices. Moments later, Monsignor Donati entered, followed by a young acolyte.


Enzo’s heart pounded as he watched the stern figure of the Monsignor approach the altar. The boy, carrying a bundle of cloths, seemed oblivious to Enzo’s presence.


As the Monsignor turned his attention to the altar, Enzo’s breath caught in his throat. The bronze box was still there, its lid ajar. He had to hope they wouldn’t notice that something’s amiss — at least, not yet.


"Giovanni, make sure the altar is ready for the evening Mass. We can't afford any mistakes tonight."


"Yes, Monsignor,"


Enzo remained motionless. He knew he had to find a way to slip out unnoticed, but with the Monsignor and the acolyte in the room, his options were limited.


---


As Giovanni arranged the altar cloths, Enzo noticed the old man's gaze lingering on the bronze box. Monsignor Donati's expression darkened. The Monsignor was no fool; he would soon realize that something was not of the ordinary.


He needed to wait for the right moment, a window of opportunity to escape undetected. But as the seconds ticked by, that moment seemed increasingly elusive.


Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the Monsignor turned to the acolyte. "I'll check on the preparations for the procession," he said curtly. "Finish up here and lock the chapel."


"Yes, Monsignor," Giovanni replied, bowing slightly as the old man exited the chapel.


Enzo's pulse quickened. This was his chance. He watched intently as the boy continued his tasks, hoping for a moment when he could make his move.


---


Giovanni busied himself with arranging the final touches on the altar, his back to the wardrobe. Enzo saw his opportunity. Silently, he pushed the wardrobe doors open just enough to slip through and darted across the chapel, keeping low to the ground to avoid detection.


Enzo crouched in the narrow confines of a dark alcove. He knew he had to remain hidden — any misstep could spell disaster.


Meanwhile, conversation outside grew louder, and Enzo’s curiosity got the better of him. Carefully, he edged closer to the door, peering through a small crack.


Through the dim light, he saw a woman of striking beauty enter the corridor. She moved with an elegance that seemed almost ethereal, her long, dark hair flowing down her back like a cascade of silk.


Her name was Alessia Fiore, a renowned historian and the current curator of the cathedral’s vast collection of relics.

Enzo had only seen her from a distance until now, but even in the gloom, her presence was captivating.


Alessia was supporting an elderly man, Monsignor Donati, whose frail frame contrasted sharply with her graceful poise. Behind them trailed a dozen or so other figures, their faces etched with a mix of curiosity and concern.


“Nonno, you should be resting,”


The Monsignor held an air of defiance.


“There is no rest for the weary when our history is at stake,”

Enzo shrank back into the shadows, trying to make himself as small as possible. He recognized a few of the people in the group — members of the cathedral’s council, influential figures in the city.


Among them was Luca Montesi, a prominent businessman. Next to him stood Marta Gallo, an archaeologist with a reputation for unearthing secrets better left buried.


But it was the man who stepped forward to address Alessia that caught Enzo’s attention. Tall and impeccably dressed, his demeanor radiated confidence and a hint of arrogance. This was Franco Rossi, a key patron of the cathedral and, as rumor had it, a man with many hidden agendas.


“Alessia, we need to discuss the recent disturbances. The council is concerned about the safety of our treasures, especially in light of the break-in last week. We cannot afford to lose any more artifacts.”


“I understand your concerns, Franco, but the security measures we have in place are more than adequate. This is a sacred place, and we must respect its sanctity as well as its history.”


Monsignor Donati raised a hand to silence the room.


“Enough. There is something far more pressing we must address.”


“There is an item of great importance that has recently come into our possession. An ancient amulet, believed to be linked to Cardinal Gianetti.”


Enzo’s heart skipped a beat. The amulet — was at the center of this gathering. Why is it in a place that can easily be seen?


“Where is it now?” Franco asked, his eyes narrowing with suspicion.


“The amulet was in the chapel, placed in an unassuming manner. No one will think that it is of some importance. But given the recent disturbances, I fear it may no longer be safe.”


“We must check immediately,” she said.


Enzo’s mind raced. He had to get out of there. But as Alessia and the others moved towards the chapel, his escape routes were quickly being cut off. He had to think fast.


---


Just as the group reached the chapel door, Enzo spotted a narrow passageway leading off to the side. It was a tight squeeze, but it might be his only chance. He darted through the shadows, slipping into the passage just as the chapel door opened.

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