The Italian Job - Part 11

I arrived at the house in Tuscany a little before 3pm that afternoon very eager to see what Victor had discovered.

The sound of the Taxi’s tyres on the gravel drive alerted him to my arrival.
He emerged from the open front door of the house with a broad smile on his face.

As I paid off the driver he opened the door of the car for me to get out.

“Thank you for coming at such short notice.”

“That’s all right Victor. You caught me just in time. Half an hour later I’d have been checked in for my flight home.”

“So, where is it?” I asked.

“Let me show you. We only found the entrance by chance.”

He led me into the back garden. It brought back memories of that first day when Luca and I had walked around the garden.

“As we agreed, I was going over the garden trying to see what was underneath the general dilapidation when I came upon this heap of stones that is covered in weeds and rubbish.”

“Where is it? This heap? I don’t remember it from the last time I was in this part of the garden.”

When was that?

“Last May”.

“Ah, that probably explains it. The vegetation was probably in full growth at that time of year.”

I didn’t answer him right away. Instead was carried on walking away from the house.

Before long we were in a part of the garden that was completely unknown to me yet we were less than 100m from the house.

“Here it is.”

Victor stopped and pointed at a mound some 10ft high in front of us.

I could see that there was a lot of rubble.

“Is this the remains of an old building?

“Yes.”

Then he looked at my feet. I was wearing a nice comfy pair of 4in heels. Comfy in that they fitted perfectly and were well worn in.
“Are you all right with walking on the grass in those shoes? What I want to show you is on the other side and with the recent rains…”

I smiled at him.

“Yes. That is fine. These are an old pair.”

I thought to myself, ‘they might be old but I really don’t want to break a heel at this very moment.’

I followed him around to the other side of the mound. It was soon obvious that Victor had cleared a sort of a path through the undergrowth. The path led to a flight of steps that disappeared below ground level.

“Do we have to go down there?”

“Afraid so.”

“Ok, lead on.”

Victor produced a large flashlight from his coat pocket and after switching it on he started going down the stairs.
I followed behind.

When he reached the bottom, he pushed open a wooden door and went inside.

Victor, ever the gentleman, shone the light onto the floor in front of me.

I entered the cellar.

Without a word, Victor shone the light around the walls of the room. It didn’t take long for me to start giggling.

Then he lit up two pieces of furniture in the middle of the floor. One was a pair of stocks and the other was clearly a chair where you could tie people down.

“Welcome to your very own Dungeon Ms Clarkson,” said Victor in a calm voice.

I smiled.

“Well, this certainly wasn’t on the inventory of the house.”

“I don’t think anyone have been down those steps for many years. Decades probably.”

He shone the torch around the room slowly. As he did I could see restraints of various kinds all hanging there nice and neatly on the wall. There were also whips and even a bridle or two complete with a shiny bit.

“Victor, when you told me about this place, I couldn’t decide if you were joking or not. I have to apologise for having any doubts about you.”

He chuckled.

“There is no need to apologise. If anyone else had phoned me up and said what I did, I probably would have had doubts just like you. I know you like to keep things simple and direct.”

“Thank you Victor.”

Then I added.

“Could I have the torch? I’d like to take a look around for a few minutes.”

“Ok. I’ll wait outside. Don’t be too long, as it looks like it might rain soon.”

He handed me the torch and made his way out of the door and up the stairs.

I spent the next 10 minutes looking over the room. Everything was in its place. Well, I assumed it was in its place. There were hooks in the walls at regular intervals on three of the walls. On each hook there was some item of restraint or punishment.

I examined the stocks and the restraint chair. I even sat down in the chair and flipped one of the cuffs over one wrist. A small shiver ran down my spine. I’d never even thought about bondage let alone ever tried it out. Still, my interest had been piqued.

I saw a small desk in one corner of the room. I got up from the chair and went over to it. There was a small drawer in the front.

After a little pulling came open.

The only contents were a few old photographs covered in dust.

I was about to bush the dust off them when I heard Victor’s voice

“Miss Clarkson, it is starting to rain. We had better get back to the house.”

I stuffed them into my purse and left the cellar. I only paused to close the door.

Victor was right. Some rain was now falling and it had got quite dark.

My heels sank into the damp ground as we virtually ‘legged it’ back to the house.

When we got to the house, Victor offered me some Coffee.

“How will you prepare it? I had the kitchen ripped out.”

He chuckled.

“You might have paid for it but these locals didn’t try too hard. Besides, those cast iron ranges are very difficult to move without specialist equipment.”

I had to agree with him.

The kitchen although warm seemed very empty without that table. I wondered if I’d done the right thing by shipping it to Genoa.

There were a few rickety chairs for us to sit on.

“I found these in the stables.”

“But… There were at least six chairs in here the last time I was here.”

“Well not any more there isn’t. If I were you, I’d take an inventory of the rest of the house.”

“That’s ok. Everything we wanted to keep is in storage in Firenze or in Genoa.  We left a few chairs here for the workers up use.”

“They have used them all right. In their own homes.”

We both laughed at that.

Victor poured the coffee from a saucepan and added some milk from a flask.

It was very warming after our exploits in the cool cellar.

As we drank the coffee Victor asked,

“Why do you think that is there?”

“What do you mean?”

“That Dungeon. Why?”

I smiled back at him.

“I have no idea at all. It is all a bit strange to me.”

He didn’t answer so I decided to change the subject.

“Has your survey shown up any problems? Do you think you will be able to carry out the restoration?”

Victor looked at me for a couple of seconds.

“Yes. Yes, I am afraid that it has.”

He paused. I could tell that his news was not good by the tone in his voice.

“The roof has to come off.”

“But it was done recently.”

I protested.

He nodded.

“I agree. But what your local bodger failed to tell you is that the wood holding the roof up is riddled with woodworm. Many of the
joists in the house are the same. Thankfully the floorboards are made from a different wood and so far, none of the floorboards seem to be affected.”

I felt rotten.

“Anything else?”

He smiled at me.

“Oh, the windows are rotten and there is no damp proof course. The external rendering is falling off on great chunks but you know that last part.”

“So the place should be pulled down tomorrow?”

He laughed.

“No. The structure is on the whole pretty sound. If we re-point the place properly before applying new render of the old type, it will be good for another hundred years.”

I felt relived that the place wasn’t going to fall down on top of us.

“This is not going to be a cheap restoration. Not by any means.”

I nodded my understanding.

“Would knocking the place down and rebuilding it be cheaper?”

He thought for a moment.

“If this were anywhere else in Italy, then yes it would be. In Tuscany, things are a little different. So many old buildings here have been ‘restored’ and totally ruined that unless the building was about to fall down we have to repair, restore and refurbish. There is no other way.”

I smiled back at him.

“In a way, I’m pleased. I like this place faults and all.”

I looked at my watch.

“Can you take me to the station in Poggibonsi. If we hurry, I can make the train to Empoli and be in Genoa tonight. I’ll fly back to London from there after I’ve taken care of a little business.”

Victor smiled.

“Yes. Yes of course. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish the outside work. You will have my report and outline schedule by the end of next week.”

~o~O~o~

Luca met me at the station and we took a Taxi to the apartment. Despite his questions, I didn’t say anything even though I dearly wanted to.

When we got into the apartment I dropped my case in the hall and after kicking off my shoes, I headed for the kitchen where I poured myself a large glass of wine. I downed most of it before refilling it and pouring another one for Luca.

I handed him his wine and together we headed for the sitting room.

I picked up my purse on the way before sitting down and taking another drink of wine.
“Steady on Darling. You will get drunk,” said Luca in a concerned voice.

“So? What does it matter?”

“What’s wrong? What happened in Tuscany?”

I opened my purse and pulled out my phone and showed him the pictures I’d taken from the drawer in the cellar. I also showed him the faded prints that I’d picked up.

I thrust them into his hand.

“Perhaps you might like to explain these?”

He said nothing. His mouth dropped open as he saw the images.

“What are you and your not so darling sister doing in them?”

“I…I…. I don’t know what to say.”

“You will have to do better than that.”

Luca went red in the face. Then he started to explain.

“It was built during the war by a German Officer. He used it to entertain his women.”

Luca saw the look of concern on my face.
“They were all women who were serving in the German Army. The story goes that he believed that he was a relative of the actor Boris Karloff and re-enacted scenes from his horror movies. We found the place and there were some old films of his re-enactments. My father made sure we couldn’t hurt ourselves as we played out the same scenes. Claudia made a very convincing Boris.”

As much as I tried, I could not stop myself laughing.

“So that’s why you are wearing a dress?”

“Fraid so.”

“Well, in future I’m the only one that wears a dress. Got it?”

Luca responded with a huge kiss.

[To be continued]



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