It all started here in the yard when a group of scholars, known as La Fratellanza, devised a brilliant thesis in the form of an intellectual game. Years later, the game morphed into a real-life experience with the election of President Abner Baari. No one could have foreseen the consequences–or the ramifications.
As Simon often liked to remind them, “We are probably the most unique group of intellectuals Harvard has ever entertained.” He was careful to omit Lordy, who he knew surpassed them all by far…
He convinced them that before they left Harvard and went their separate ways, they should have something to remember how they bonded as brothers. “Of course,” he exclaimed, “we must not forget the astounding theories we proved, at least on paper.”
THE FLORENTINE ENCOUNTER
In 1990, an extraordinarily talented young man was first discovered on the streets of Florence, Italy. Simon Hall was the first to sight him from his apartment window across from the Church of San Lorenzo. Each day he listened intently to Hussein Tarishi as he orated to his audience on the steps below. It was on those same steps, where years later, Hank Kramer would discover the “Chosen One.”
Hank finally witnessed the seductive language Simon promised. It is as if Hussein is standing on his own pulpit, and perhaps he is, Hank thought…As if speechifying weren’t enough, Hussein also had a photographic memory and was a remarkably quick study…Hank thought it was beautiful—Hussein had found his voice—Hank had found his man.
THE FLORENTINE ENCOUNTER
Antico Ristorante il Sasso di Dante was the nightly scene where Hank and Hussein would discuss a myriad of subjects, but mostly about the teachings of Saul Alinsky and always during a game of chess. It was there where they become friends and where Hank took the opportunity to invite Hussein to come to the United States.
In response, Hank saw a different expression on Hussein’s face. The ear-to-ear smile returned as he expressed his desire to see the United States for himself. Then he said, “It would be my privilege to work for you, my friend.”…
“Leave all of the strategy and tactics to me. I will elaborate on the plan without delay.” Hank knew Hussein would be ideal, not only to accomplish the goals of La Fratellanza but also to help him accomplish his own personal goals as well.
It was Sunday morning when Noble received the call.
“I need to meet with you as soon as possible, somewhere completely private,” Paolo stammered.
Noble’s first reaction was fear that something was wrong with either Natalie or the baby, but there was no evidence of it at their dinner…
Edging up to twenty minutes after the appointed hour, Paolo finally entered the park where Noble was patiently waiting, and trying not to shiver.
After a quick apology for being late, he began rapidly sputtering words that sounded more like Italian, but in fact, they were English. What Noble was able to glean from Paolo’s rants was that he had confessed to Natalie, telling her everything, about something, about which she promised to say nothing. And he trusted her.
So far, he wasn’t making any sense.
The director chose to let their stunned silence take hold while gazing at them, with what Noble called his “death stare.” Then he proceeded to tell La Fratellanza the evidence he had already uncovered. He enlightened the group, informing them that Noble had discovered the real identity of the president, along with the details of the plot. He also uncovered their involvement in the hoax…
Hank, his speech even slower and more measured than before, continued. “Simon insisted that after the inauguration, when President Baari started to assemble his cabinet appointees, he wanted me to ensure that Baari appoint his friend secretary of the Treasury. He punctuated his support by emphasizing his candidate was best equipped to see the country through these difficult economic times.”
And was he appointed?” the director asked.
The director and Noble bolted out of their chairs and left the room, with the video still rolling.
The gang of four sat frozen in their seats, not moving or speaking, only eyeing each other furtively.
THE PRESIDENTIAL AWAKENING
As the director sat in the Oval Office across the desk from the president, he thanked him for his time. Then he offered, “Mr. President, if there are any recording devices turned on, may I suggest you turn them off during this meeting.”
The president looked at the director inquisitively and then said, “There are none.”…
Mr. President, out of respect for the presidency, and if it is still in my control, I will give you sufficient warning as to when the information will be released.”
Still smarting at the mention of the media, the president shifted in his chair for the first time, and stated sharply, “I need to discuss this with my people. I will get back to you.”
“No, Mr. President, you are not to speak to anyone about this, including the First Lady! the director spoke firmly…he was confident Baari knew he had no other choice but to comply.
In his usual fashion, the president cocked his head, stared down at the director with his steely black eyes, and stated dispassionately, “I get it.”
Director Scott understood this was his cue to leave.
And he did leave, for Florence, Italy.
THE DIRECTOR’S SWAN SONG
April is the time of year when the city air smells fresh and the Tuscan countryside radiates green, so when Hamilton disembarked from the plane in Florence and took his first breath of fresh air, the floodgate of memories opened. But he understood this trip was for a more crucial investigation than the one that brought him to Florence in the first instance…
Stakeouts are tedious at best. However, Enzo devised a rather pleasant routine to break up the boredom. For the next few days, between the hours of one and three o’clock, they would wander a few blocks to the Mercato Centrale, the central market near the church of San Lorenzo. This was where Enzo introduced Hamilton to a gourmet’s delight, Perini’s Gastronomia, or delicatessen, inside the market…
THE DIRECTOR’S SWAN SONG
“You like?” Enzo grinned.
“I’ve never seen a more wonderful display of prosciutto; there must be hundreds hanging from the ceilings and off the walls. And look at that marvelous display of cheeses, olives, and sauces. It’s a foodies’ paradise.”
“They spread their treats on rounds of bread known as crostini,” Enzo explained.
“Yes, I remember them well.”
“I’m sorry. I had forgotten you had lived in Florence before.”
“I don’t know how I missed this place; I had no idea it even existed. It’s amazing.”
It was the dog days of summer in 2016. The Republicans had control of the Congress and the Democrats reigned in the White house. In essence, the American people had maintained a balance of power by reelecting Abner Baari to a second term. The line-up of wannabes for the 2012 presidential race had been dreadful, so Baari had been a shoo-in. And although his veto pen was still in overdrive, the wheels of government were stuck in neutral…
Curious, Noble opened the envelope. Enclosed he found an airline ticket and a letter, requesting him to fly to Florence. Interestingly, the request was not from Hamilton, but from an Aldo Tancredi. The only other information contained in the message was an address that he recognized as Hamilton’s…Noble cleared his calendar and arranged to leave the next day, for a place he had romanticized but had never actually visited…
Sir, would you please meet me in the living room?”
“I’ll join you in a moment.”
Noble freshened up, dressed, and feeling somewhat renewed, joined Aldo. Walking into the lavish room, Noble immediately recognized the grief-stricken face and knew instantly that Hamilton had passed away in his sleep…
Aldo had scheduled the funeral for Wednesday.
Noble would not delay his flight to attend; he was leaving on Tuesday as planned…However, before Noble returned to the States to carry out Hamilton’s decree, he decided to use his remaining day to tour Florence. He was hoping to capture the deep love Hamilton experienced—a paradox that drew him to a foreign city to live out his life, after devoting most of his time to protect his own country. Noble concluded that a formal tour, laden with tourists huddled together, following the leader with an umbrella, was not the way to capture the essence of Hamilton’s affection for Florence…
Passing through the ancient streets with its stone walls, he couldn’t help but ponder, If these walls could talk, I wonder what they would say. He imagined walking behind Lorenzo “the Magnificent” de Medici, perhaps the greatest patron of the Renaissance artists and scholars. He could almost hear him offering and receiving advice from those who followed him…
Aldo had recommended a restaurant at the end of the street in the small piazza, a favorite of Hamilton’s. So, Noble decided to look for the Ristorante Birreria Centrale, in the Piazza Cimatori…He was sure that after the long lunch, hearty wine, a hint of jet lag, and of course, the grappa, it would be impossible for him to maneuver back up the two torturous hills he had previously walked. However, he resisted the temptation to hail a taxi and ventured toward the Arno…Pausing in observation, he realized something. It was about the small restaurant in the corner of a small piazza, where I just met Hamilton’s family. His life was not as empty as I had imagined. Now I understand one reason why Hamilton loved Florence so much and remained here until his death, he concluded, with a consoling smile.
The next morning, while seated in a taxi, he asked the driver to make one quick stop before he headed to the airport. He couldn’t resist the desire to visit Hamilton’s favorite spot in the piazza of the church of San Miniato al Monte.
Noble had abandoned his religious beliefs shortly after the loss of his parents. He had refused to accept their sudden deaths, as it would require an act of faith. However, at San Miniato, while spending those few precious hours with Hamilton, a sense of spirituality that he thought he had lost forever, overcame him. It was unexpected, but all-consuming…
As he sat there looking out over the beautiful city spread before him, a hand touched his shoulder. Startled, he turned around to find a monk, with a glowing smile, in a long flowing white robe. The sunlight encircled his face almost like an aura.
“My name is Angelo,” he said, introducing himself in a soft, pleasing voice. “May I sit down beside you?”…
“Before the director died, God visited him, and he was forgiven for all his sins,” Angelo assured him. “When Hamilton walked through the Gate to Heaven, he was at peace.” Still clasping Noble’s hand between his, he continued. “I suspect there are terrible burdens placed on you with the director’s death, but he died having complete faith that you will always do the noble thing.”…
Then as quickly as Father Angelo arrived, he was gone.