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Coin of Risk and Rewards by Leonardo Ricci

Coin of Risk and Rewards

2

Amulet and Bargaining

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The morning sun cast a golden glow over the streets of Trastevere. Enzo navigated the narrow cobblestone streets. He had managed to elude the cathedral’s security, but the Cardinal’s amulet was still hidden inside St. Cecilia’s, and he had to figure out how to get it without getting caught.


As he turned a corner, the lively sounds of the morning market filled the air. Enzo's senses were momentarily overwhelmed by the sights and scents, but he couldn't afford to be distracted.


He needed a plan, and fast.


"Enzo! Over here!"


Enzo turned to see Matteo, his childhood friend and occasional partner in mischief, waving enthusiastically from a café table.


Matteo was a burly man with a perpetually cheerful demeanor, his dark curls and easy smile a stark contrast to Enzo’s more reserved nature.


“Ciao, Matteo,”


He sat down.


“Che sorpresa! It’s been too long. You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s going on?”


Enzo hesitated. Matteo had a knack for getting involved in trouble, and this was more than just a small scrape. But he needed someone to talk to, someone who might help him make sense of the chaos.


“Last night was… eventful. I was at the cathedral, and I found something. Something important. An amulet, linked to Cardinal Gianetti. It’s hidden in the statue of St. Cecilia right now.”


“Madonna mia! You’ve really stepped in it this time, haven’t you? What are you going to do?”


“That’s the problem. I need to return it to where it belongs without getting caught,” Enzo said, rubbing his temples in frustration. “And I have less than 24 hours to do it.”


“Why not use the festival tonight? The Feast of San Giovanni. Everyone will be distracted with the celebrations.”


The Feast of San Giovanni was one of Rome’s biggest celebrations. The cathedral would be open for the midnight Mass, and the throngs of people might provide just the cover he needed.


“That could work. But I’ll need to be careful. If anyone catches me, especially Monsignor Donati or that council member, Franco Rossi, I’ll be in serious trouble.”


“Don’t worry, amico mio. I’ll be there to help. We’ll make a plan, and by the end of the night, that amulet will be back where it belongs.”


---


Later that day, Enzo found himself in Parioli. He was here to meet someone who might provide more insight into the amulet and its significance.


Sofia Vitale was a renowned historian and art restorer, known for her work with the Vatican’s most precious relics.


“Enzo! It’s so good to see you. Come in, come in. I’ve just made some espresso.”


Enzo followed her into the airy, sunlit apartment, filled with books and art from around the world.


Sofia’s love for history was evident in every corner, from the antique maps on the walls to the ancient sculptures that adorned her shelves.


“So, what brings you here today? I can tell something’s on your mind.”


“I need your help, Sofia. I’ve come across something… unusual. An amulet that belonged to Cardinal Gianetti.”


“The Cardinal Gianetti? That’s incredible. Do you have it with you?”


“No, it’s hidden in the cathedral. But I need to understand its significance, and why it’s so important. Can you help me?”


“This amulet is more than just a relic, Enzo,” she said. “Cardinal Gianetti was known for his involvement in the occult and mysticism. There are rumors that he used the amulet in rituals to protect Rome from dark forces. If it truly is his, it could be incredibly significant.”


….


The twilight sky over Rome was painted in hues of deep orange and soft pink as the city came alive with the vibrant energy of the Feast of San Giovanni. The ancient streets of Trastevere were transformed into a lively tapestry of stalls, music, and laughter. Lanterns hung from every balcony, and the aroma of street food wafted through the air, mingling with the sounds of joyous celebration.


Enzo, Matteo, and Sofia stood near the edge of the bustling piazza. They had come to put their plan into action.


Matteo was already dressed as a juggler. His role was to create a diversion large enough to allow Enzo to slip into the cathedral unnoticed.


Sofia, as a respected figure in the community, she would blend into the congregation attending the Mass, ready to assist Enzo from within if things went awry.


---


“Are you ready?” Matteo asked.


“As ready as I’ll ever be. Just make sure you keep them distracted long enough for me to get in and out.”


“Don’t worry, amico. I’ll give them a show they won’t forget,” Matteo replied, winking.


Sofia placed a reassuring hand on Enzo’s arm. 

“Remember, once you’re inside, head straight for the chapel. I’ll be in the crowd, keeping an eye on things. If anything goes wrong, we’ll handle it.”


Enzo managed a tight smile. “Grazie, Sofia. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”


---


As Enzo approached the cathedral’s side door, he noticed the two guards stationed there. He had to wait for the right moment to slip past them.


Matteo’s performance was already in full swing, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd as he juggled flaming torches with skill and flair.


With the guards momentarily distracted by a sudden burst of applause, Enzo seized his chance. He moved swiftly, slipping through the door and into the dimly lit corridor beyond


---


Meanwhile, Sofia took her place among the congregants gathering for the evening Mass. The grand nave of St. Cecilia’s was already filling with people, their hushed whispers blending with the solemn notes of the organ. She kept a watchful eye on the entrance, ready to signal Enzo if anything seemed amiss.


Matteo’s performance outside reached a crescendo, the crowd erupting in cheers and applause as he executed a particularly daring trick.


The noise echoed through the cathedral’s open doors, momentarily drowning out the solemnity of the Mass preparations. It was the perfect distraction.


Enzo reached the chapel door without incident. He glanced around to make sure he wasn’t being followed, then slipped inside. The chapel was empty, just as he had hoped.


He approached the statue of St. Cecilia, where he had hidden the amulet the night before. His hands shook slightly as he pried open the hidden compartment at the base of the statue. The amulet lay there, exactly as he had left it, its silver surface catching the light.


With a quick, silent prayer, Enzo lifted the amulet and placed it back on the altar, positioning it carefully in its rightful place. He breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a weight lift from his shoulders.


But his relief was short-lived.


---


A sudden noise behind him made Enzo freeze. He turned slowly to see Franco Rossi standing in the doorway, his expression a mix of surprise and suspicion.


The council member’s sharp eyes gleamed in the candlelight, and his lips curled into a thin smile.


“Well, well, what have we here? It seems a rat has been very busy.”


How had Franco found him?


“Don’t bother trying to run. I’ve been watching you. Now, tell me, why are you so interested in this piece of history?”


Enzo swallowed hard, trying to keep his voice steady. “It’s not what you think, Franco. I was just—”


“Saving your breath won’t help,” Franco interrupted. “You’re coming with me. We have much to discuss.”


Before Enzo could react, Franco reached into his jacket and pulled out a small device, pressing a button that sent a signal to the guards. Within moments, heavy footsteps echoed through the hallway, growing louder as they approached the chapel.


Enzo knew he had to act fast. He couldn’t let Franco take him. He glanced at the amulet. In a swift, desperate move, he grabbed the amulet from the altar and turned towards the window at the back of the chapel.


With a quick prayer and a burst of adrenaline, Enzo smashed the window with the amulet, shards of glass scattering across the floor. He hoisted himself up and through the opening, landing in the soft grass outside. He took off running, the sounds of pursuit echoing behind him.


Enzo ran through the narrow streets of Trastevere. The echoes of the festival behind him seemed distant and surreal. He needed to find a place to hide and regroup, somewhere Franco Rossi and his men wouldn’t find him.


The cobblestone streets were a maze of alleys and side paths, but Enzo knew them well. He turned down a narrow passageway lined with ancient buildings. His destination was a small, tucked-away bookstore that had been his sanctuary on more than one occasion.


The bell above the door jingled softly as Enzo slipped inside the dimly lit shop. Shelves laden with old books filled the space. The proprietor, a kindly old woman named Nonna Lucia, looked up from behind the counter, her face creasing into a smile when she saw him.


“Enzo, caro! You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s going on?”


“Nonna Lucia, I need your help. There are some men looking for me, and I need a place to hide.”


Nonna Lucia’s eyes widened slightly, but she nodded without hesitation. “Of course, my dear. Come, you can stay in the back room. No one will find you there.”


---


Enzo followed her to a small, cozy room at the back of the shop, furnished with an old couch and stacks of books. He sank into the couch with a sigh of relief, finally able to catch his breath. The amulet was still clutched tightly in his hand.


Nonna Lucia returned with a steaming cup of tea, which Enzo accepted gratefully. She sat down opposite him, her keen eyes studying his face. “Now, tell me what’s happened. Why are you running, and what is that in your hand?”


Enzo took a sip of the tea, the warmth soothing his frayed nerves. He explained everything — minus some details that may sound absurd to others.


When he finished, she reached out and gently touched the amulet. “This is no ordinary relic, Enzo.”


“I know.”


“Nonna Lucia, do you know anyone who could help us learn more about this amulet?” he asked.


She thought for a moment, then nodded. “There is one person. Father Pietro at the Vatican Library. He’s a scholar of ancient artifacts and has a vast knowledge of relics like this. If anyone can help you, it’s him.”


---


The next morning, Enzo set out early. He made his way to the Vatican. The imposing walls and majestic domes of the Vatican City loomed ahead.


Enzo couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. He glanced over his shoulder, but the streets were empty. He entered the Vatican Library, hoping that Father Pietro could provide the answers he desperately needed.


The library was a vast, labyrinthine space, filled with towering shelves. The air was thick with the scent of old parchment, and the quiet was almost reverential. Enzo approached the front desk, where a young librarian looked up at him with a polite smile.


“I’m here to see Father Pietro,”


The librarian nodded and directed him to a small office at the back of the library. Enzo knocked softly, and a deep, resonant voice called him in.


Father Pietro was a tall, thin man with silver hair and piercing blue eyes. He greeted Enzo warmly and motioned for him to sit.


“How can I help you, my son?”


“I need to know everything about this amulet. It’s linked to Cardinal Gianetti, and I think it’s in danger.”


Father Pietro’s eyes widened as he examined the amulet. He picked it up carefully, his fingers tracing the intricate designs.


“This is indeed a powerful relic. Its history is long and shrouded in mystery. There are legends that it possesses the ability to protect against dark forces, but also that it can unlock secrets hidden within the Vatican itself.”


Enzo leaned forward, his curiosity piqued. “Secrets? What kind of secrets?”


Father Pietro looked at him solemnly.


“The kind that some would kill to uncover.”

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