David Valentini – It’s the law

It’s been twenty years today. I almost forgot. Had you not been interviewed today maybe I would have never thought about that. Look how pompous you, how you stare at the camera, how smartly and proudly you wear your golden yellow throat- band. You stuck with Public Security, you did not shit in your pants, you did not have guilty feelings. But I did. But working at the butcher’s shop is not so bad, you know? Even though there is now a ‘hyper butcher’ behind my house and Auchan still sells  half price steaks.
We acted according to standard procedure and put everything back in order in the nomads’ camp. We did it in the name of the law. It’s the law and it must always be obeyed.
The Rai 3 news and its dull reports, the Peugeot 508’s sirens racing in the background while you boastfully talk  about how you organized your men, about how those wretched people ended in handcuffs.
Why don’t you tell them about all the times you went through a red light with your Alfa Romeo 155? About when you put the siren on only to feel less depressed or about when you who got stuck in a marriage at only 24 years old. How about when you slowed down at the last minute in front of Pigneto’s bar and you gave that poor Cavellini a dirty look as to have him offer you coffee and doughnuts? The only moment in which you succeeded in not acting like a shit was when you showed me your daughter’s picture who, at that time, was only two years old.
Do you remember now that day twenty years ago? How long had we known each other? About two months? I immediately ended up patrolling roads, and squares, pacing up and down Casilina Road. I was twenty years old, newly graduated as master contractor, which had nothing to do with the job I was doing, fresh from training, which had made me lose any spirit of heroism.
“Mario Angeletti, you stay with Marini, tonight”, ordered detective inspector Zamponi, may he rest in peace. His fate was sealed.
Officer Angelo Marini, called aide-de-camp, was fifty years old, but looking much older, his face was inflated by alcohol and he had smokers’ yellow fingers. But everything disappears under Police’s golden eagle, under the stars’ tabs. Everything disappears under the authority air and the words well prepared by some assistant who, just like you yesterday, wants to work his way up. He is the one who will replace you when you are going to be too dopey to be able to give orders, maybe now he is one of those who will follow you like a scruffy dog.
I also did follow you like I had followed my mother who wanted me to wear that uniform at any cost. I followed you because for a guy who graduated from high school with 40[1] there was not much choice. I followed you because, at that time, if you did not have a father who cleaned the lavatories at some minister’s house you may as well been dead.
Like many other times during those night patrols, the call arrived again that evening.
“Are you ready, Marioli? We have to go and check a family quarrel”.
The umpteenth evening that promised to be useless, I was bored while watching from the window the tobacconist’s shops full of awful human beings and the streets full of whores, young boys smoking while hiding away in alleyways.
Everybody ran away when they saw the blue flashlights. You took your time to put  your cap on, to check your revolver, to walk like a security guard. I followed you according to common practice, looking around, casting a glance at the darkness of the garden, among the rubbish containers turned upside down, among cigarettes’ stubs.
I followed you past the condominium gate, the broken lift, the wretched mail boxes. I followed up the stairs your big stuffed bum in blue.
Four men were kicking the door of flat number ten, they were shouting and swearing. They suddenly hid like hangdogs.
“And so?”
They looked at you with their eyes full of anger and fear.
“Officer the grass is inside there”.
“Which grass? Who among you called about a family quarrel?”
“But what quarrel, agent? Inside here lives a piece of shit”.
“Let’s see if Mister… Perelli can tell us something. Mr Perelli, can you hear me?”
The voice was dull and muttered, it arrived only past the scraped wall.
“Mister Perelli, please open the door; we received a complaint and we must check”.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
A smile lightened your face: “We are the Police”.
Stefano Perelli’s haunted eye appeared, raving between the door wings.

“I did nothing”.
“If you did nothing, you have nothing to be afraid of. Was it you who called a few minutes ago?”
“No, it was not me”.
One of the mad dogs had opened his mouth.
“And why did you call?”
The four looked at each other as if they had to decide who had to take the burden upon himself. Meanwhile, Perelli had opened the door, he looked bold now that the police had come to his door.
The tallest one sprang towards Perelli shouting at him and calling him names while asking him where Lidia was. ‘What did you do to her?’ Perelli waved his hands about, yelled. I almost admired you when you pushed away the beanpole.
“Who’s Lidia, Perelli?”.
“It’s my daughter, Officer”.
“And where is she?”
“In her bedroom”.
“May I see her?”
Perelli hesitated, he did not want to let us see Lidia. I moved a step.
“Mister Perelli, I am Officer Angeletti, can we see Lidia?”
“No, you cannot”.
“Why not?”
“You cannot enter without a warrant”.
You looked at him: “Did you hear this bullshit on television, Perelli?”
“I want a lawyer”.
Your face changed, I saw sweat running down your forehead. The foursome were involved in an animated discussion over who should take the lion’s share.
It was a second, you went in, pushing aside that dopehead, I dragged him like a dead weight. There was smell of rot everywhere, cans of tuna were dripping in the kitchen, clothes on the ground, the television tuned into a shopping channel.
“Lidia, where are you?”
I did not understand why you were shouting so loud, you seemed to be terror-stricken.
Then I saw her in the bedroom. A scared young little girl, her face covered with bruises, a broken lip. I stood frozen, a stronger grasp on the monster.
Silently, with care, you took off your coat and covered that naked and shivering little body. Different eyes on your face.
“What did you do to her?”
“I have the right to see a lawyer”.
What. The hell. Have you done. To her.
Perelli turned towards the four men looking like a mask of wickedness. That was the moment when he understood that he could save himself, maybe.
“Take me to the police station. I will confess everything, take me to the police station”.
They tugged him away from me and kicked him. I ended up without cap, I shouted, I kept on saying you cannot, we are the police. In that big bustle I suddenly perceived the ice-cold Beretta, the milling on the grip, the forefinger  on the trigger.
“Angeletti, what the hell are you doing?. Put it away”.
The four men kept their arms raised up. I put it away, I apologised, with a lost glance.
Perelli had gone. Maybe something had come up. He kept on saying ‘Take me to the police station. I confess, you cannot touch me, that is the law’.
I got the handcuffs out. The words came out by themselves, muffled, morbid. Maybe I had started with the Miranda warning like in American movies.
If things had finished there, maybe everything would have gone a different way. Today I would still wear this uniform instead of spending my days disembowelling dead animals. But it was not meant to be.
“That is law, you cannot touch me. When I come out I will come and look for you, I know where you live, it’s my daughter and I can do whatever I want. The law is on my side”.
Inspector Angelo Marini called the aide-de-camp. The golden wedding ring on his finger was glittering during the interview though it soon crashed with a sharp stroke against that dope head, son of a bitch’s cheekbone. I saw him losing his balance, knocking himself against the wardrobe, slumping on his filthy clothes.
“This piece of shit does not deserve to end up in jail”.
“We cannot leave him here”.
I still remember what you said to me.
“When you have a child, you will understand that such pieces of a shit are only good as fertilizer”.
“Angelo, we cannot do that. It’s the law”.
I just had the time to see your reddened knuckles, I felt your grip on my neck.
“I swear it on God’s name, if I see him go out from the main door, I’ll shoot him first and then you”.
You went away stepping the stairs as if you wanted to get rid of a thought. And Lidia followed you.
And I did too, my head down, my cap lowered on my forehead. Both of us knew that Perelli would come out of jail and would rape his daughter again. And today, with my eyes running from you to my Anna who, with her crayons, colours her Peppa Pig sketchbook pink, I perfectly understand what you told me that day twenty years ago.
Damn him!

Translation by Paola Roveda (edited by Sabrina Macchi)

[1] In Italy, high school marks go from 38 to 60. Therefore, 40 is a low mark.