Italian Job 6- Who’s Who

I was not too delighted when Hawthorn said his story was about to get to get complicated.  I had a nagging feeling that I knew where this was going.  It was getting nippy and Hawthorn was looking tired, so I suggested we head back to the hotel.  My bloody head was really sore and I was wondering how come such a small bump could hurt so much.  My man didn’t talk for quite a while and then suddenly said “What happened to you head?”

I told him about the woman and the vase and about how I was just wondering why it hurt so much.

He laughed a genuine hearty laugh and when he smiled the years and worry fell away. He started to chat in a light hearted amiable way and we even cracked a few jokes.  At the hotel we agreed we would freshen up and meet in half an hour and continue our conversation over some grub.

Hawthorn took me to a restaurant he said was good.  When we got there the proprietor and staff greeted him warmly and they spoke in quick fire Italian.  There were smiles, handshakes and typical Italian hand movements and body language.  I was introduced as a friend of the family from England and I was given a hearty handshake and big smile from all.  As an ace detective I decided this was not the first time he had been here and his Italian was better than that of somebody who had got themselves a Linguaphone course.

We ordered two beers and then started to talk

“You said your story was complicated” I said bringing is back to the job in hand “Do you think you could enlighten me a little?”

He smiled good naturedly “I like you.  You have no pretence,  no bullshit you want to know something and you ask.  Although I suspect you can make enemies easily, but I don’t suppose you worry too much about that do you?”

I smiled back

“Ok, well it is not really that complicated, and I suspect somebody like you will have most of the pieces in a sort of order already, but let me save time and put it together for you.  After all if you are going to help me you need to know the truth”

I nodded “Give it to me in a nut shell”

He laughed and as he did so I could see that he was not a frail old man that you could have mistaken him for at the cemetery earlier, but a tough cookie who was just getting on a bit. He took a swig of beer.

“No Bullshit.  My real name is Christopher Andriolli and I am an American born to an Italian father and a German mother in New York.  My Father was a devout Catholic and my mother a staunch German Lutheran.  Believe me when I say we did not discuss religion at home, but they each held their faith and I shared both and they were very much in love if not a bit eccentric.   I spoke German and Italian, but because we had more Italian family near us and lived in an Italian neighbourhood I spoke more Italian than German. Only in America.”

He shook his head gave a typical Italian shrug and looked down at his beer.

“I was good at school and won a scholarship to Harvard and studied structural engineering.  It was funded by some Italian foundation.  Mafia probably, but hey, who was I to complain.  Any way the war broke out, and because of my language skills and profession I was drafted to the intelligence service. I came into my own at the time of the Italian and Scilly campaign and I was sent here to put my language skills to best use.  The allies advance on Rome was blocked here in Casino and the powers that be really wanted the monastery bombing.  That’s the American way, they get a bee in their bonnet and their answer is to bomb the fuck out of the place in the misguided hope that it will solve the problem.  Of course it doesn’t, it just gets worse.  Here, ‘Nam, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and I suppose Iran in the future.”

“The problem was that there was a British officer here Called Clark Hawthorn, he had established that there were no Germans in the abbey and kept reporting this in his intelligence briefs to Allied High Command.  I don’t quite know why he had been sent here to work for the British Intelligence because he was really a fish out of water.  He was an easy going English gent and I think the only reason was because he was an architect and had done some studies on the monastery at Casino and spent a lot of time inside the building.  Our side felt that if I could get architectural information from him which I could look at from a structural point of view to aid the capture of the building.  They also felt that if I could manufacture intelligence to persuade Hawthorn that there were Germans in the building he would report this back to the the Brits who would be happier about the assault on the abbey”

“But where does Cratego fit in”

“Ah yes Cratego, I was coming to him.  Rather Ironically Cratego is Hawthorn in Italian and was the sort of code word for the operation.  But…Frank Cratego was a very courageous American Army Captain.  I worked with Frank and the story got around that Frank had got behind the German lines and infiltrated the locals and was getting information from the monastery to me.”

“And was he?” I asked

“No Frank was killed almost as soon as we got here.  He was almost blown to bits.  I kept his dog tags and didn’t know what the hell to do, but I didn’t let on.  I had reports and information sent from Frank and eventually I was able to undermine the less favourable but more accurate reports from Hawthorn.  It wasn’t anything personal, in fact Clark and I became friends.  As I said he was very British from a comfortable background well educated and handsome.  He was a very likeable and charming man.  I was with him when he got the news that his parents had been killed.  He was alone in the world, as his brother had been killed in South Africa or somewhere like that.”

He paused and we both took hefty gulps of beer.

“Out of courtesy I told him a couple of days before the raid that the bombers were coming.  The morning of the raid It was really bitterly cold and I saw Hawthorn making his way in a direction I would not expect, so I followed him.  He went to a funny little sort of shepherds hut which was a sort of little cave or grotto with some stones around it.  He went in and I could hear a baby.  I went in and there was Clark with this young girl and a baby.  The baby was real small and feeding from her mother.  I had never seen a baby feeding before and the sight was one that burnt into my mind.  I don’t know if it was the sight of one life drawing life from another human when so many of us were so hell bent on killing each other,  or whether it was just the sight of such a beautiful girls breast but I know it is the most powerful thing I ever saw.”

“Was it his child?” I asked

“I don’t know, I don’t think it could be, because I don’t think he had been deployed there long enough.  As it is we will never know, because at that moment a shell landed almost on top of us.  I think a spotter must have seen my movements because as I said it landed almost on top of us. The mother was killed and Hawthorn was really badly hurt.  By some miracle I was stunned but not really hurt and neither was the baby who carried on feeding from her mothers breast.  I was with Hawthorn when he died he begged me to look after the baby.  Jeez I don’t know what he thought I could do.  Here I was in the middle of Hell on Earth and he wanted me to be Mary Poppins.”

“What did you do?”

“Well funnily enough not a lot.  He died, Hawthorn that is and I took his tags and the baby.  I don’t quite know what I thought I was going to do, I suppose I was in some kind of shock. I picked up the baby and left the hut and then I dont really know what happened but I woke up what was several days later in a field hospital.  The baby and I  had been found by a Canadian unit and dragged to relative safety.  I dont know how this happened but they thought I was Hawthorn.  I was not really in a position to put them right.  In transpires I had taken a round through the chest and had some kind of head injury.  I was asking about the baby and they assumed that the kid was mine. It all sounds weird, but you have to remember this was real war and it was just chaos.” He looked me in the eyes “I think you know the sort of situation I am talking about”

I nodded, I didn’t say anything, this was his watershed and not the time for me to speak.

“So there I was Clark Hawthorn.  The assumption was that this kid was  mine from some local woman.  I must have told them something about the girl and Hawthorn and the bodies were found at some point and buried.  Quite a bit of time elapsed before I really came to realise quite what had happened and found myself as Clark Hawthorn.  Of course by this time the Canadians notified the US Army that Andriolli had died in action.  An administrative faux pas.  I tried telling them they had made a mistake but they just assumed I was gibbering.”

We drained our glasses as our food arrived and the cork was pulled from a bottle of Chianti.

“I sat there thinking and it occurred to me that Hawthorn had no family but he had money and a comfortable way of life normally.  I on the other hand had a wife who I hated and had married for some reason or other”

“You were married” I interjected

“Ah yes I forgot to mention Helen.  What a mistake.  She was a real beauty and we met at College but she was a horrible woman.  I would have happily killed her several times over.  Being sent overseas was a merciful relief just to get away from her.  Two months after I was reported Killed she married my so called best friend.  Actually I was still in hospital.  So I just sort of fell into the Hawthorn thing.  I told them that Frank was dead and I had his tags, but they knew that anyway as they ahd found them in my pocket and put two and two together”

“And the baby” I asked

“Ah yes the baby.  Well she had been placed with some nuns for safe keeping and as I said the assumption was that she was my kid.  As I was now an English Aristocrat I acted Like one and demanded that my child be returned to me so I could take her back to England.  And do you know they handed her over just like that.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes.

“What are you going to do?” He asked.  I looked up from my excellent grub and saw fear and worry etched into his face.

“I am going to take you back home to your daughter and family.”

“Are you going to tell them about all this” He whispered

“Who?”

“The authorities, my family”

“No.  I was asked by a group of people who love you very much to come and find you and to make sure you were OK. If you were Ok they wanted me to ask you to come home to them.  They love you and are worried about you.  You the man.  You have been a good father and a good grandfather.”

“Yes but” He interrupted “Its all a lie, all false I am not who i say I am”

“That’s bollocks” I said crossly ” You are you. Granted your official title has changed, but you looked after a total strangers child and raised her as your own.  Where’s the lie there.  Don’t go giving me this psycho analytical socio economic fucking bullshit pal and don’t go fucking up some else life at this stage by seeing a burning bush and telling them you have found god or whatever and need to ease your conscience.  Take this chat as your confession and then take your secret to the grave.  If you believe in the here after you can make your peace when you get to the other side, but for the time being whilst you are this side keep your mouth shut and say bugger all or I personally will ensure that you answer to his nibs sooner than you would like.”

“How’s your food?” He asked amiably

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