The beatless heart


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what leads you where you go....?

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Chapter 1

The beatless heart.


Today 8.47am New York City

 The whispering demon in our head, leads us where it may. It drives who we are, where we go, how and what we see. It chatters incessantly, suggesting how we should think, and feel. It tinkers; encouraging and discouraging; pushing us; pulling us and it is our barometer for all. But even in all the silence we can’t always listen: we make so much noise we remain torn.

Right now my heart was in a torrent, a raging storm and it was lost without lighthouse or guide.

Heart ahoy.

Complicated thoughts for what was to be a simple act. I tried to focus on breathing deep and easy, slowing my heartbeat through the practise of meditation. The years that had led to this had etched patience into me.

I watch the crosshairs rise and fall, my pulse tugging at my temple.

Kill or be killed.

The rain was thick and heavy, falling straight down without slant, intent on drenching everything on God’s green earth. It ran in rivulets down windows, formed streams in the gutters, pelting the canopy of umbrellas marching underneath it. I watched through my scope, the view clear despite the rain. Technological guarantees of clarity of scope and an excellent shot somewhere unread in the brochure.

Just apply nine pounds of pressure to the trigger.

The people moving through the sniper scope, appeared magnified, moving in slow motion. I could see so much of life’s lessons in the tired faces. Dreams held and lost; tears cried- smile lines sketched. Rain fell onto and all around me. It drummed a cadence to my heartbeat, falling onto my poncho, onto my exposed hands, beading raindrops in the fine hair.

Crosshairs rise and fall, my heart beats, my pulse thrums my temple.

All the while I wait.

He would come soon.

And my heart would choose.


So long ago this story began, a boy, a man and an argument over a loaf of bread.

Yeast, salt, sugar, flour, water and an egg.

From there life after life lost, grudge after grudge carried, hand to hand and heart to heart.

Blood to blood.

How stupid the folly of man.


100 years ago.-Time unknown. Northern Italy.

The Ccpriano family was not yet at war with the Shiavelli clan. That day was to come. Guns hadn't yet been fired through glass into flesh, bullets tearing and piercing epidermis. Knives not used to slit throats and puncture lungs whilst gripped tight in vengeful, violent fingers. Butchers blocks were still being used for rump and tenderloin, not for the purpose of separating limb from torso.

The story of the origin of the war would be told and retold and slowly bastardized over the years. Old wives tales used to make children sleep, the fear soaking into their bedsheets. With each drop of blood spilled another sentence would be rewritten.

But right now it hadn't happened; the story remained unwritten, unspoken.

Until the end of this day when it would begin.

Giovanni had been asked to deliver a loaf of bread, pane di casa to be exact.

La casa in this instance was the house of Ccpriano.

Dutifully, for he was afraid of his father, Giovanni placed the loaf, still warm to the touch, into the basket of his bicycle. It sat wrapped in white linen, nestled in the brown weaved basket. It gave a soft delicate fragrance.

"It's heavy papa." He noticed.

"Si" His father replied. "Yes"


The Scarselli pink diamond had spent the better part of its life nestled in a tower in Northern Italy. Simply called la torre , the tower was anything but simple. It sat surrounded by a moat of grey green waters, rippled occasionally by the specifically sourced crocodiles that lived within the murk. This moat itself was fringed with a thick, untrained gorse bush, ripe with thorns and flowers as enticingly fragrant as it was unpassable. The walls of la torre were hewn from rough rock, denying any purchase for climbing fingers. The westerly side faced away from the wind and was mossy, damply overgrown with soft lichen. On the easterly side, battered by the wind, bare, hard rock stood impassive and stoic. High in the northern aspect lay an open single window and inside that room lived the Scarselli pink diamond. The decision to build this structure wasn’t taken lightly by the owner, placing the case in such a way as to catch the light at precisely 4pm each afternoon. It was then that the light would splinter the diamond and create a spectrum of colour so magnificent it could take one’s breath. At that time each day he could be found eying his treasure, seated in the only chair in the room. Hands crossed on his big stomach, confident that it was safe from the prying eyes and hands of all of his enemies.




The locals called the tower “torre impenetrabile” The impenetrable tower.

The man who stole this diamond in these most unusual circumstances was an historian of Italian architecture. His extensive study had led him to peruse historical constructs, and design throughout the century. Purely by chance did he come to learn that 100 years before a tunnel existed in this very estate that should by his calculations run under the torre impenetrabile. This in itself was no major discovery. The dinner at which he mentioned it, and the fact that his best friend was a thief however was the only catalyst required. This confluence of occurrences led to a theft that would change the lives of 1000 others after his, and to reach into the very heart of mine on that day.

Suffice to say, the diamond was stolen and on that very day the first death occurred, quite by accident.

At 3.45pm  Ricardo Torelli Shiavelli climbed the stairs to view his Scarselli pink diamond. A fat greasy man, indulged and pampered, he took his time walking the quiet stone staircase to the tower room. His cane tapped at each stair, each laboured breath. At 4.00pm promptly he opened the heavy iron door only to discover the diamond gone from its velvet case. Only a hollow indent, and muddy footprints remained. Sunlight streamed through the window, only no spectrum of beauty awaited him. The shock of this discovery was too much for his heart and caused him to drop dead on the spot. Thus beginning a blood feud that with 9 pounds of pressure I could end.

Since that day it had been hidden, in shoes, socks, intestines, and bowels. Passed from hand to hand and family to family until now.

Now it had been washed and baked and hidden in bread. A special Italian bread called, Pane di casa. Warm, yeasty Pane di casa and young Giovanni was to carry it.

The blood spilled on that day still beats in my heart now. 

Giovanni rode his old bicycle over the uneven streets of Sicily. It was autumn time and the change of season had turned the small town into a blaze of bronze. Mothers reached for blankets as the seasons changed and the air was tinged with the smell of burning woodstoves. Rust coloured leaves tumbled slowly through the chilly air as he rode, his breath misting before him. A leaf stuck to his sweater. The green edges sharp against the wool. The cobblestones of Sicily pushed his tyres this way and that.

He never saw the black car that pulled up next to him. Nor did he see the blackened snout of the machine gun that would take his life in a hail of bullets.

A little boy caught in a war, bleeding on cobbled stones and oak leaf stuck to his sweater.


Today. 9.02am New York City.

Giovanni was my blood line, three generations removed, and the man I was waiting for was responsible for his death.


Well not directly, he was, as I was the last descendant of his family name.


The last son, the last child, the last one.

I was the last Ccpriano.

The last son, the last child, the last one.

And one of us was going to die today.


The rain eases momentarily allowing the sun a moment to brighten my heart. A hint of warmth a lovers caress upon my skin, creates immediate goose bumps. For a moment in that stillness I realize the gift of life, its simplicity and beauty. Then I squeeze.

Nine pounds of pressure.

The bullet enters his right eye, shattering, matter, bone, blood and exiting cleanly with a large fragment of  skull. The pink mist is hidden in the splatter. 5 degrees of rotation and nine more pounds releases another bullet. Another life extinguished.

So simply.

Such exquisite pain.

5 more times I deliver death until there is only one left standing. He doesn't run, nor tried to hide. He has known this time was coming, just as I have.

Now it is upon us.

 I look closely at the features of the man who has been in my dreams longer than I can remember, from before I was born and long after I will be dead. The dark hair, classic Sicilian features, strong and defined. He stands proud, tall, looks directly the scope. My imagination tells me he can see me, but I know I’m too far away.


In that singular moment we connect, heart to heart across that distance. The moment has come to end this thing that I didn’t start.

My heart falters unsure. My finger stays still, pressure not applied.

He breathes, I breathe.

Maybe that's my hearts choice.


Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...
Ash Davies

Loving this so far John, keep it up :)

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Ash? the founder of Tablo? Really?
Stef Michelle

Wow! Hi John, had to leave a comment after reading this your first chapter! You have a way with words, and I'm sure you've heard it before. I want to thank you for writing, plus sharing this on Tablo - so inspiring. Inspires me as a writer to keep writing, to use words to paint images like you have. To trust the flow, perhaps to learn a new language even, read the dictionary or a poetry book! God bless, and please keep writing! :)

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Wow Stefanie thank you very much for your kind words. I'm trying to see if and what comes of this gift.. meantime I'm just writing..thank you very much for bothering to comment and your exceptionally kind words.. thank you..

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