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Da Vinci's secret. MAG
Da Vinci could not help but wrinkle his nose at the scene that lay before him. He stood on a rotten deck of wooden planks. The bottom and edges were covered with algae and barnacles, and barely a foot below him the brown water of the Arno rushed. He saw a dead and bloated bird swirl past him and watched with a kind of sick fascination as the current smashed it against a submerged rock, disfiguring it further. He shook his head, forcing his thoughts away from the sickening spectacle and back to his task – searching for a small boat by the name of Santa Gioia.
Shading his eyes from the blinding glare, Da Vinci searched for the vessel in the canal was full of boats – merchant ships from Rome and Turkey, finely made pleasure boats for noblemen, rough fishing dinghies, and tiny boats stacked with goods for sale. As he watched, such a boat whisked under his nose. The merchant on board and Da Vinci noticed each other at the same moment.
“Stop!” Da Vinci shouted, just as the boat reached the far end of the dock. The merchant affected a look of surprise, but, with quick reflexes, buried his pole into the mud of the river bed.
“See something, sir? A plump orange? A regal grapefruit? Or perhaps some trinket strikes your fancy? This one here hails from-”
“Ugh, stop your babble. I am looking for the Santa Gioia. Where can I find her or her master?
“I’m sorry sir, but you’ve found her. May I ask your business?”
Da Vinci stared at the little ship in surprise. It was a small flat-bottomed vessel, hardly more than a raft, piled with half rotten fruit and worthless trinkets. On its edge leaned the merchant, a bent little man with unwashed black hair and a horrid, keening voice. As Da Vinci surveyed him with a growing sense of distaste, the wretched creature spoke.
“I-I’m sorry sir, but I have an appointment – if you’d excuse me? “
“Yes of course, I have an appointment to keep as well-”
Da Vinci had a sudden realization.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Iacopo Greco?”
“Y-yes, sir. I’m sorry, but ought I to recognize you?”
“I’m Da Vinci.”
The little merchant’s eyes sparkled and he leaned close to Da Vinci, revealing perfectly white teeth.
“Do you remember the bar you passed on the way here? Yes? Go in, buy something and when you pay give this to the barman with your money.”
He handed Da Vinci a small piece of baked mud stamped with a five-leaved clover, then pushed his boat down the river signing for Da Vinci to go. Da Vinci picked his way down the dock, and onto the cobbled street toward a small decrepit bar. The stench of cooked meat, smoke, and liquor made Da Vinci’s eyes burn, but he forced himself across the tiny room and handed the bar man the token. He was a dull looking man, with empty gray eyes and a mouth that hung open naturally, but he seemed to understand the message of the mysterious token and led Da Vinci into a side room, shutting him in. A few moments later, he returned with two hot glasses of wine. Da Vinci sipped at his while he waited. After a quarter of an hour, the door creaked to announce the arrival of Iacopo. He sat down and again spoke in a hurried voice which fitted its body badly.
“I haven’t much time. Please cut to the chase.“
“As you wish. I need a body.”
The merchant smiled.
“That is illegal.”
“I doubt many meet with YOU in secret when they want legal actions.”
“You’d be surprised. No matter, what are you prepared to give for it?”
“Oh, any amount. I need this.”
“Money anyone can have. I don’t need it.”
“Well, what do you want?”
“Information. Tell me how to build your parachute.”
“My what? It’s a prototype, it might not work.”
“Your human body might not work for your purposes either. You still want it.”
“No deal then. It’s better.”
“You don’t want my parachute.”
“You think I don’t know the desires of my heart?”
“What will you do with it?”
“In meetings of this sort, one does not ask those kinds of questions.”
“You’ll take nothing else?”
Iacopo merely shrugged, and began to rise.
Da Vinci dug through his bag for his papers, so precious that he kept them with him at all times.
“Here. When will I get my body?”
Iacopo looked them over, rolled them back up, and tucked the papers deep into a recess of his strange, dark-green jacket.
“Tomorrow. You’ll see it; no one else will.”
“What assurance do I have of this?”
Again Iacopo shrugged, though this time he grinned broadly.
Da Vinci sighed as he watched the slight figure of Iacopo disappear into the crowds.
* * *
One month later.
Antonia slipped into the room, bearing a platter laden with tea. After placing the tea on Da Vinci’s work table, she settled herself in the only comfortable chair for a moment of small talk and gossip.
“Leonardo? Have you heard of the new criminal? Jumps from amazing heights and survives!”
Da Vinci ran his hand through his hair, trailing paint.
“Well I guess you wouldn’t have. Too busy painting. Where you get inspiration I don’t know.”
She ran her finger along the edge of a canvas.
“What will you call this one?”
“La Bella Principessa.”
“A bit of a mouthful, but a very pretty name … it’s so realistic.”
“Well, its based on real people.”
He didn’t add that the people weren’t living anymore – or even had been recently.