Thursday evening Tristano returned from the gym where he had gone alone. He had become used to the workout and felt great. Alfredo was already home and worked in the kitchen in his silky dressing gown.

"Sorry, pup, but I have a customer in half an hour. Well, actually two. That's why Sergio's out of the house", he greeted Tris. "Do me the same favour, please."

Tristano was disappointed. "Can I have a shower first, please?" Tristano never showered in the gym because he was still too shy to share it with other guys. Heaven knew what would happen to him when he looked at them.

"Go ahead." Alfredo planted a kiss upon his lips. "If you like you can return later." A grin graced his face. "Or do you want to share the bed with us?"

Tristano's face flushed briefly. "No, thanks." He grabbed his bag and vanished into the bathroom. He didn't hear the doorbell when it rang.

Alfredo opened the door, a bit pissed since it was too early for his clients. Three guys were standing there. Alfredo propped his elbow and said "Hi, sweeties. The deal was for two." He beckoned them into the apartment. "But where there's a place for two, there's a place for three." He went ahead into the living room. "Drink?" He turned to the three guys and froze. The expression on their faces was pure hatred. And then everything happened so quickly, Alfredo hadn't time to cry out.

Tristano padded out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist and a towel around his head. "Fredo, can I use your lotion?" he shouted into the room. Then he listened. The customers must have already arrived for he heard voices, suppressed cries and heavy panting. He grinned to himself. Something dragged him along to be a secret witness to this frenzy.

But when he entered the bedroom he stood petrified and felt a sudden twinge of nausea rising. Alfredo's upper body was fixed upon the bed, while another guy was pressing his face into the mattress. The guy behind him pressed an abnormous big dildo into Alfredo's anus while the third one stood at the side, giggling senselessly.

Then he saw the movement at the door. "There's another of those fags." He rushed to Tristano, grabbed him by the towel and threw it aside. "Whoohoo", he hooted and planted his fist into Tristano's face. Blood spattered from the corner of Tristano's lips. He tried to run, but the guy was close behind, grabbing him, throwing him to the ground. Another hit. Tristano's head swirled and his sight was blurred. When he saw the guy open his belt and unzip his trousers, he yelled.

An hour later Sergio entered his flat. "Hi sweeties, I'm back", he shouted, but nobody answered him. He rushed into the living room and stumbled over a body, laying on the ground. He switched on the light and gasped. Tristano was laying unconscious, his face swollen from bruises, like his ribs, in a puddle of blood, that had seeped from his anus.

"Jesus Christ", Sergio shouted, bent down to slap Tristano's cheeks. "Fredo? Fredo?!" he jumped up and hastened to the bedroom to find his friend kneeling in front of the bed, a thick candle sticking out of his butthole. He was unconscious as well. Sergio's body trembled. He panicked, not daring to touch him. After a minute of staring he pulled out his mobile and called for the police and ambulance.

"Vittorio del Chiaro", the police officer introduced himself, shaking Sergio's hand. "You found the men?"

Sergio eyed the large officer in his olive green, tight fitting shirt. "Yes", he whispered, completely in a state. Vittorio patted his shoulder while the paramedic was still busy caring for the injured ones. "It looks worse than it is. Sit down, please. I have a few questions."

Sergio stepped first to the bar and poured himself a brandy. He swallowed it down, coughed and sat down, wiping his mouth.

"One of the men is Tristano d'Astangli whom I had the pleasure of meeting before. You remember?"

Sergio looked completely dumbfound.

"At the Cascine last summer. And I dare to say that we've met before, too." A faint twinkle appeared in Vittorio's eyes. "Vito. One of your customers."

Sergio was absolutely embarrassed. The last thing he wanted to have now was a customer who remembered his profession.

"Well, yes. And now?" he squeezed out.

"Do you have a diary where you make a note of your appointments?" Vito asked business-like again.

"No. We co-ordinate our appointments in our heads."

"Good. Do you know about Alfredo's appointments then?"

"Two guys called. No names. It isn't usual to give names when you visit a call-boy." Sergio looked over to the bedroom. "Will they survive?"

"Of course. Though a hospital stay will be necessary. Now, do you have enemies?"

"Enemies?" Sergio laughed hysterically. "You were a witness to what happened at Cascine. You were the one helping to put them under arrest, weren't you."

"Yes. A guy named Raniero Riefoli. He was sentenced to eight months on probation. His conditions include community service in an AIDS-hospital. Doubt that will impress him", Vito grumbled.

"He's free? You idiots have left him running free?" Sergio asked disbelievingly.

"We are the idiots catching the jerks so that the public prosecutor will let them run free", Vito corrected him sternly. "Otherwise I agree with you." He rose. "Wait here a second." He stepped over into the bedroom, where Tristano was being cared for while Alfredo was ready to be transported to hospital. Briefly he touched Tristano's cheek. He was awake, but his eye lids fluttered. "You have pain?" Vito asked.

Tristano shook his head.

Vito exchanged a look with the paramedic. "He's had an injection. We'll need to operate", he whispered.

A vein in Vito's temple started to pulsate, but he tried to smile at Tristano. "Everything will be all right. Tomorrow I'll visit you." He pressed Tristano's hand and went to Sergio again.

"He'll need a surgery", he told him. "Alfredo will be all right more or less, though his wounds needs treatment. I ask you to come to my office tomorrow, here's my card."

Sergio took it, then he bent forward and hid his face. Vito crouched down and took hold of the shaking shoulders. "I'll stay in contact. We'll get them. I promise."

* * * *

"Luca? There's somebody on the phone for you", Clarissa called from the hall. Luca slipped from his chair, glad to flee the constricting tension at the breakfast table he shared with his brothers.

"Pronto?" he said and heard an unfamiliar voice. After a minute he almost dropped the receiver and his knees threatened to give in. Three minutes later he stalked back into the kitchen. His dark eyes were two flames in the middle of paleness. Dante nudged Marcello. At this silent sign Marcello turned the newspaper to the final page and pretended to read. "Wow, have you seen this?" he said to his brother. "Two of those fags have got what they deserve."

"What do they deserve?" Niccolò asked, entering the kitchen. Clarissa's eyebrows had pulled together and some wrinkles appeared around her eyes. Niccolò sat at the table and pulled the newspaper to his side.

"Those fags, Pappa", Marcello said. "Whores. They call themselves call-boys."

Niccolò shot him a look, then he continued reading. "Madonna", he whispered, quickly making the sign of cross. "What is it, dear?" Clarissa asked.

"One of those whores was my friend", Luca erupted. "Tristano, you know him well."

"Tristano, you say?" Clarissa said. Then she examined her youngest son and found him shaking with anger and pain. "What's happened", she asked.

"Yesterday evening two young men were found in their apartment near Santa Trinita, obviously victims of an anti-homosexual attack", Marcello read with glee. "Alfredo D. (24) and Tristano d'A. (18) have been the victims of rape and have sustained serious wounds; several of their genital areas. Tristano d'A. had to have a emergency operation. The co-inhabitant Sergio O. (23) could not give any details of the attack. Alfredo D. and Sergio O. pursue the occupation of call-boys and their clientele is exclusively homosexual. Florence Police department is investigating in the homosexual-milieu."

Clarissa made the sign of cross herself. Then her eyes found Luca. "Tristano? The pretty, blond boy?" she asked.

"Just a fag", Marcello said. The next moment his head flung back. Niccolò had given him a slap and Marcello's cheek instantly reddened. Shocked he glared at his father but he was stared down. "How dare you to laugh about it. Nobody deserves this, capisce? Who do you think you are to say such kind of words to us. You behave like a brute and it's completely unacceptable." He threw a look over the table to Luca. "How do you think Luca feels about this? His friend was hurt by these monsters."

Dante dared to protest. "Pappa, it's just a truccare. You know how they are. Getting a thick candle stick up their arses would certainly make them happy. As fat as they want it. Right?" He turned to Luca. "Am I right?"

"Say that again", Niccolò started. He tried hard not to lose control over Dante's words. "What candle? What do you know about a candle?"

Marcello and Dante exchanged a worried look. "Well, wasn't there something about a candle in the article?"

"No." Niccolò's fingers drummed upon the kitchen table. Luca felt thoroughly sick.

"Dante, Marcello", Niccolò eyed each of his sons. "If you have something to do with this tell me now."


"Good. If I should hear that you both lied to me then you aren't my sons anymore."

Luca swallowed empty. Ideas and images whirled in his head. Had they pushed a candle into... He forbade himself to think on.

"Can I visit Tris?" he heard himself asking. "He's woken up."

Niccolò nodded. "I'll make your excuses to Coppo."

Luca jumped up, ran up his room and vomited into the toilet sink. His heart beat fast in his throat. Suddenly he didn't feel safe anymore. He washed out his mouth and brushed his teeth again. Then he was on his way to the hospital Vito had named. Sitting in the bus he constantly thought if it was a betrayal if he reported his brothers to the police.

Luca swallowed hard when he was allowed to enter the ward, finding Tris' stepmother sitting next to the bed with tear-stained eyes. Her make-up had ran down her cheeks. Tristano's cheeks were swollen and on his temple he had nasty bruises. His dull eyes though lit up when he recognized his friend.

Luca smiled at him, then at the woman. "I'm Luca, his friend. Signora d'Astangli?" he asked unsure.

She nodded and rose to shake his hand. "Thanks for coming. A policeman was here to ask questions, but Tris couldn't tell anything for he was too dazed from the surgery." She sobbed and more tears welled up in her eyes. "Can you stay for a while?"

Luca nodded. She looked so tired. Then she took him by the sleeve to a corner and whispered "His family does not know how this could have happened. Tristano was in the flat of a call-boy. You are his friend. Have you any explanation?"

Of course Luca had. But how to tell her? Apparently Tristano had never told his parents. "Well", he started. His eyes were fixed on Tristano who stared bleakly back. "I guess Tristano has to tell you himself. I can't." The hell he would out Tristano. He had become wary. Who knew how she would react?

Signora d'Astangli seemed to be disappointed but didn't insist. "His father is coming in this afternoon", she said when she gave Tristano a cautious peck and vanished through the door.

Luca stood with hanging arms. Only after quite a time later was he able to move and sit upon the chair next to the bed. He'd had enough of visiting his friends in hospitals. First it had been Sandro, then Rosso and now Tristano. And the latter had gotten it worst. He touched his arm, laying upon the white bed cover. A canula stuck into his vein and connected him with the intravenous drip.

"Where's Alfredo?" Tristano whispered finally.

"Alfredo?" Luca repeated. "I don't know. I came as quick as I could. I'll ask the nurse, all right?" They stared at each other and Luca didn't dare to ask the most important question. "Do you have pain", he asked instead and Tristano shook his head. "They patched up my anus", he said hoarsely. Luca flinched. A heat wave rushed through his body. "A candle?" he blurted out.

"Candle?" Tristano blinked. His eyes rolled uncontrollably in their sockets and Luca feared he would pass out. Then his eyes fixed on Luca's face. "Candle. Right. Also."

Luca shivered from cold anger. Candle. Also. "Did you recognize them?"

"No." He hesitated. "I had passed out then, you know."

The door opened and a police officer entered the room. He was large and well built. Over his olive-coloured face scurried a brief smile. He nodded to Luca and took Tristano's hand. "Are you well enough to answer a few questions?" he asked. Luca eyed the man. This was Vito, the guy Tristano had tried to call for so long and who had always been on holiday. What an odd coincidence that Vito had found him then in this condition. And what if Tris never wanted to have anything to do with gays after what had happened to him? What if he returned to his "straight life"? Determinedly Luca interrupted Vito's whispering. "I want to give a statement."

Vittorio's black eyes looked astonished. Then he pulled out his notebook and a pencil and waited.

* * * *

Vito, with two of his colleagues, entered the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. "Please watch the exit", he said to one of them. "You're coming with me." to the other. He beckoned his colleague to follow and took the staircase that led to the work shops. The doors were open and they heard the screech of machines cutting stones.

Vito's colleague grimaced while Vito pulled out his police badge. Together they entered the large room where several men sat, bent over their cutting machines wearing plastic glasses over their eyes and dark blue smocks. He cleared his throat and started to shout, "Who of you are Dante and Marcello Montori?"

Heads flung up and the screeching of the machines gradually subsided. The men stared silently.

"I repeat: Who of you are Dante and Marcello Montori?"

Some heads turned to two man on the left side of the room. Vito followed their stares. Both policemen walked slowly toward the brothers. Dante tore off his plastic glasses. "What do you want?"

Vito showed him his badge. "You need to come with us, Signori. There's the grounds for suspicion that you had something to do with the attack on two young men last Thursday."

Dante jumped up while Marcello sat dumbfounded, unable to move. His face was unreadable while Dante's was distorted with anger. "What?" he shouted. "You dare to accuse me of a crime?"

Vito's muscles flexed and he threw a side glance at his colleague who stood a little behind him, eyeing Marcello. Vito beckoned to Dante. When he didn't move he grasped his upper arm very firmly but Dante struggled. "I had nothing to do with it."

"What's this uproar about?" Niccolò stood in the doorway. He had been working in the room next door. Now, flabbergasted, he examined the two policemen in their blue coloured uniforms. "Dante?" he asked sharply.

"Officer del Chiaro, Signore", Vito introduced himself. "Officer Lanfranco", he nodded to his colleague. "Who are you, please?"

"His father. Are you going to take him with you?"

"Yes, Signore Montori." Lanfranco dragged Marcello from his seat and Vito gave Dante a push.

"Are they under arrest?" Niccolò asked.

"No. They will be questioned." When he passed Niccolò he gave him his business card. Niccolò took it and stood petrified until the rumble upon the staircase had ceased. All eyes were on him.


"Dante and Marcello have been taken in custody!" Luca yelled into the little loudspeaker of his mobile phone. "There was an attack on Tris and the call-boys and now they think it was my brothers, though Tris didn't recognize them."

Alessandro, on the other end of the line, wrinkled his forehead and tried to follow Luca's harsh and quick words. "Attack?" he stuttered.

"Yes! Yesterday. Vito arrested them right from the workshop. My father witnessed it and now he's in a state. It's all my fault. I gave a statement to Vito and..."

"Hold on!" Alessandro called. "I can't follow! Who is Vito?"

"The police officer Tris met at the Cascine park when the attack happened there", Luca said impatiently. "He was called to Sergio's flat. Sergio had found Alfredo and Tris badly hurt. Tris needed surgery on his anus." Luca's voice was constricted with sobs. He took a deep breath. "I... my brothers had their rocks off when they heard about it and Dante mentioned a candle ... Tris was raped with one." Another sob. Then silence.

Alessandro let the words sink in. He still only understood half of it. Tristano had been raped? By Luca's brothers? Madonna, if this was the truth.... Hate boiled up in his stomach. A hate he had never felt before.

"Your brothers raped Tristano?" he managed to say.

"No. I mean, I don't know. They mentioned a candle, though, and there was nothing of it mentioned in the newspaper. Tris said that it was true. So I told Vito and he has taken them both to the police station for interrogation. And the worst of all: Raniero's free."

"Raniero", Alessandro said coolly and nodded to himself.

"I'm not sure what father thinks I've done. I've betrayed my family."

"What? That's nonsense, Luca. Your brothers are swines and deserve this treatment. Remember what they did to me."

"Perhaps", Luca said in quiet voice. "There's no evidence for it."

Alessandro shook his head. He bet that Marcello and Dante would deny everything. On the other hand... if they raped Tristano and the other guy there would be traces enough to find out the DNA. But in the case that they used a condom....

"Luca, listen to me. I'm coming home Friday as early as I can. Wait for me at the palazzo, OK?


Vito had sent the forensic team to the home of the call-boys to gather finger-prints and any other evidence. Dante and Marcello had to give saliva for a test. Tristano and Alfredo had both enough remains of sperm to mean they both needed a test for several diseases.

"Unprotected sex", Vito mumbled to his colleague while he was leafing the inquiry reports. "How can somebody be so stupid."

Carlo Lanfranco, his colleague, nodded. His face was angry. "You could hardly call this sex, could you?"

Vito looked up. "No. I know the boy Tristano d'Astangli. We met at the Cascine when the attack started there."

Carlo nodded. "I remember Raniero Riefoli. Do you think he's involved?"

"I'd bet my arse."

Vito hurried back to the hospital again, showing Alfredo a photo. He instantly recognized Raniero Riefoli as his attacker.

The cordon search was in full swing. But Raniero had vanished without leaving any real trace. Vito and Carlo visited the gym where Dante and Marcello had been members and wasn't surprised that Raniero belonged there too. The girl at the refreshment bar recognized Sergio, Alfredo and Tristano as being occasional visitors. Vito had have a keen sense of smell. The connection was the gym.

Since neither Tristano nor Alfredo had recognized Dante and Marcello, the brothers had been released from custody. The saliva-test had come out negative.

Luca was desperate. His brothers had been released and Luca feared the worst despite the fact that Vito had explained that no police officer had given away the informer. But wouldn't they be able to add two and two together after the scene at the kitchen table when Dante had blabbed it out, mentioning the candle? It could only be Luca who had informed on them.

Niccolò didn't speak to him anymore. Probably he was thinking the same, despite what he had said that Dante and Marcello wouldn't be his sons anymore if they both had had something to do with the event. But wasn't blood thicker than water? Wasn't it an unwritten rule that you must not give the names of your family members to the police no matter what they had done? Probably Alessandro would understand that code of honour.

Luca moved into the Gondi-palazzo. Rosso had declared he would spend the time with him until Alessandro arrived. They had brought up a bottle of wine from the dusty, gloomy wine cellar and sat in the kitchen in complete darkness where both could keep an eye on the yard.

Rosso occasionally glanced at his friend. Being gay seemed not to be always fun. Especially when there were such idiots as Luca's brothers. On the other hand he couldn't imagine them doing harm to their youngest brother. But who knew?

"Your mother must be beside herself", Rosso started cautiously. "And your father?"

"Pappa? I'm not sure. He was broken when he came home without the brothers. He felt so ashamed about the scene in front of his colleagues that he's ill."

"It's not the responsibility of a family for the crimes of one of its members", Rosso threw in.

"No? Of course there is liability. Everything falls back to his upbringing he said. He raised monsters."

Rosso pondered. "But everything only started when you came out, right?"

Luca nodded. "Except that they always talked bad about faggots."

Rosso poured them another glass and pushed the bread basket in front of Luca. "Eat something." Luca took a piece of unsalted bread.

"You can't hide here for all the time, Luca. You have to face them."

"I can't yet. What if they beat me up? They did it before." He saw Rosso's questioning eyes and told him about the attack on the streets in the Spring. "I know there is no evidence but Dante didn't deny it when I mentioned the subject."

"Well, you were brave enough that time", Rosso said. His stomach hurt. "We should sleep", he said finally and yawned. "Come", he pulled Luca up and dragged him up the stairs. Luca guided him to Alessandro's room where they fell upon the bed. Luca was determined not to sleep but ten minutes later he had slipped into dreams.

He struggled; fought with hands and feet and started to yell. "Sshhh!" a voice said, gripping his hands tightly. "Stop kicking me!"

Luca woke up with a start and stared into Alessandro's eyes. Rosso snored at his side.

"Oh gosh!" Luca fell into Alessandro's arms. "I thought... I thought they had come to get me."

"Who's going to get you?" Alessandro sat on the edge of the bed, holding Luca's shoulders. "Nice bed comrade", he pointed to Rosso. "Your nanny?"

Luca glared and Alessandro grinned. "Sorry. Were you afraid?"

"Dante and Marcello have been released. They certainly will beat me up."

"Rubbish. Your father would stop that."

"My father can't be everywhere."

"Come up. Let Rosso sleep." They went out, down the stairs into the kitchen. Alessandro took the kettle and heated water. "Let's have some tea." He eyed the empty wine bottle and the glasses. "I see you drowned your fear in wine", he teased.

He took a box with dried peppermint leaves and crumbled them into a sieve hanging in a pot. Then he poured over the boiling water.

"Sit down and let's make a plan of action." He pulled out his box with cigarettes and lit one. "Do you mind? I need one now. Actually I was going to visit Leoni, but this is more important. This Alfredo recognized Raniero from a photo, yes? But not your brothers. What about Tris? Did he recognize one of them?"

"He didn't. But he saw just the backs of two of them. The one, raping him, was not one of them. He knows my brothers."

"Anyway. I guess where Raniero is, your brothers are not far from him, even if they weren't directly involved. What about the leather- jackets? Does either of your brothers have one?"

"Of course. Mother said after the attack at Cascine Marcello's jacket was torn and bloody. She had to throw it away."

Alessandro raised his eyebrows. "That's a point. Have you told Vito?"

"No. I forgot. It's just a suspicion anyway."

"Where do you think Raniero would hide? Have your brothers any meeting place beside the gym?"

Luca pondered. "A playing field near the stadium where they used to play football. There's a little casino where they drink and play pool." Luca sipped at the hot tea. "Tris has had to have a test for HIV and hepatitis", he said quietly. "The bastards didn't use condoms."

"I thought it was a candle?"

"Candles, dildos and cocks", Luca said, fighting tears.

Alessandro burnt his tongue on the hot fluid. The heat of his anger matched the temperature of the tea. He wished nothing more than to get those monsters and gave them the same treatment. Preferably in jail with dozens of sex-hungry guys just waiting for them...

Then he pulled himself together. He had to be sensible. Revenge in cold blood was more satisfactory. He thought about the casino at the stadium.

Luca's head had sunk upon his arms.

What if he could summon up enough buddies to teach them a lesson? What if he told the carabiniero Vito? Would their punishment be enough or would they be released again all too soon because raping fags wasn't important enough to hold them in jail for a considerable amount of time? And who cared about the victims anyway?

Luca snored softly. Alessandro watched him lovingly. He lit another cigarette, leaned back and put his feet upon the chair next to him. Considering the possibilities he developed a plan during the night.

Autunno 8