By Gonz Blinko
“Mr. Blinko, you nasty, nasty boy,” giggled Maria as she tossed a handful of soap suds at me.
I laughed as Isabella splashed me with hot soapy water from the other side as she repeated, “You’re a bad, bad man!”
We all laughed and splashed and had a great time in the hot tub in my suite at the Grande Hotel in Bellagio. I had met Isabella, Maria and Teresa earlier that night, at the bar beside the casino in this terrific resort. “I love Italy!” I pronounced as I splashed my new friends and started wrestling with Teresa who bit me softly on the shoulder.
Bam… Bam… Bam… Someone knocked at the door. “Shit!” I pronounced as Maria slid out of the tub, grabbed a towel and, in her broken English, said, “Ila take a car of it…”
The rumble of the Jacuzzi jets drowned out the sounds of footsteps so I couldn’t tell how many people had entered. Maria didn’t get back into the tub and Teresa and Isabella got very quiet. “Gonz,” asked a familiar voice.
“Sam?” I asked incredulously, “You knew I had plans… Can’t whatever this is wait until morning?”
“We have guests,” she responded curtly.
“Tell them to get naked and hop in the tub,” I replied.
“Not those kind of guests,” replied Samhara in a very serious tone.
“Allow me to splain,” boomed an accented male voice, “I am from Polizia Milano and I must bring you to city.”
“I’ve seen Milan, many times,” I replied, “Let’s go tomorrow.”
As I felt the officer’s large hairy hands reach into my armpits my legs untangled from Teresa’s soft smooth ones. I rose quickly and was placed on my feet on the marble floor and Samhara handed me a towel. “As your attorney, I advise you to follow this gorilla’s instructions. Dry off and put on some clothes. I’ll take care of the girls.”
“I’m sure you will,” I grumbled as I walked toward the bedroom. I lifted a cup of cold espresso and kicked it back as if it was a shot of whiskey and started groping around for something decent to put on. “Exactly what does one wear for a police rousting in a foreign country? The Fodor’s guide book didn’t cover this topic,” I wondered aloud.
Samhara hugged me close to her formidable body as Officer Aldo Enzo Ferragamo raced through the Italian Alps toward the nation’s center of opera and fashion. The siren screamed out in the way one hears them in foreign films. Aldo must have thought he drove a sports car as we took every hairpin turn at a stunning velocity, tossing Sam and I from side to side in the backseat of the police vehicle. “Arghhh… We’re going to die!” I shouted at as I felt a particularly jarring turn toss us against the door on my side of the car. Aldo laughed, “I ma ina hurry but I always drive fast, we’re Italian, it’s the way we drive.”
I did remember that all Italians drove like Mario Andretti and especially enjoyed terrorizing us tourists. So, I just whimpered and slouched into Samhara’s lap.
Even at 3 am, Milan bustles so our entrance to the city, accompanied by a far more reasonable speed became obvious to me. Horns blew, people shouted and it generally felt like an Alpine version of New York. “Where are you taking us?” asked Samhara.
Aldo just laughed. “But we just passed the police headquarters,” Samhara insisted.
“We’re going somewhere else,” he laughed again.
“Nothing like a guido with a gun,” I mumbled, “Even worse, a guido with a gun and a badge.”
Samhara didn’t find my comment funny. She stiffened as the car slowed and Aldo parked at an odd angle. “We’re at church of Santa Maria delle Grazie,” she said.
“Are we on a forced tour of great masterworks of the Italian renaissance?” I asked as everyone with even half an education knows this is where Leonardo painted “The Last Supper.”
As we entered the church’s refectory, I could hear the sound of leather soles striking the stone floor approaching us. “Dr. Blinko,” said a friendly voice, “It’s a delight to meet you. I’m a big fan.”
“So you rousted me from my bath in the middle of the night to ask for an autograph?” I responded somewhat annoyed.
“Actually,” continued the Italian official, “we have some police business to discuss. Aldo, wait outside. You two follow me.” He said as he led us further into the famous room.
“I’m Captain Cavelli of the Milan Police Force, Homicide Department.”
“Nice to meet you,” said my attorney, “I am Samhara Akuba, Dr. Blinko’s attorney.” She handed him a card.
“I guess we all know who I am so let’s get down to business, I have company waiting back in the hotel.” I urged.
Someone clicked a loud switch and the room became so bright that even I could detect the light. Samhara gasped and blurted, “That’s Father De Rosa, the art expert, it looks like he’s dead.”
“Very observant Senora Attorney,” stated El Capitan.
“Ok, we have a dead priest on the floor of a church in Milan, what does this have to do with us?” I asked.
Samhara composed herself and continued, “He wrote a bunch of stuff with his own blood on the floor.”
“And…?” I asked both disgusted and annoyed.
“One of the phrases says, in English, ‘Find Gonz Blinko!’ and the rest all looks like a bunch of numbers and letters.”
“He has also contorted himself into a silhouette with an elbow on his knee and his bloody fist under his chin.”
“The Thinker,” I remarked.
“What?” asked both Sam and the officer.
“The Thinker,” I responded with some surprise, “The sculpture by Rodin.”
“Rodin?” Asked Samhara, “The Ninja Turtle?”
“No, Rodin, the French artist.”
Samhara typed the string of letters and numbers into my PAC Mate so I could read them in Braille as the Captain described various items that seemed out of place in this legendary place of worship. “Did you know the good father?” He asked.
“Yes, we used to…” I stopped myself. “He and I met in Amsterdam…” I stopped myself again. “You might say that we spent some time together before he became a priest, during our college years.”
“Did you murder him?”
“Officer, he and this church were about as far from my mind as possible this evening,” I said longingly contemplating my hot bath and my Italian guests.
“Why then did he write your name in his own blood while dying?”
“Perhaps he wanted to leave me his art collection?” I suggested.
“He took a vow of poverty,” said the police officer, “he didn’t own any of the art, he just curated it.”
I knew that but found myself at a loss for words and would say just about anything to get back to my hotel. With little useful to add I called to Samhara, “How is it going with getting all of that gibberish entered into the PM?”
“Just finished,” she said, having somehow snuck up on me. I took the PAC Mate from her hands and started reading.
“It looks like hexadecimal,” I said. “In fact, it seems to be all ASCII characters. De Rosa always liked codes.”
“What’s it say?” Asked my always curious attorney.
“Mona Lisa Overdrive.” Are the first three words followed by, “damn, this really hurts and this floor is really cold.”
“What do you think it means?” Asked Cavelli.
“Let’s observe the juxtaposition of his body, the words, the reference to Rodin and the two Leonardo references. Let’s remember that ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’ is a science fiction book by Bill Gibson.”
Cavelli and Samhara seemed dumbstruck.
I continued, “Everything in Leonardo’s work came from the triangle, the trinity the sacred vessel of the holy femininity. There are two references to Leonardo in his message, the position of his body before the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa reference in the title of the Gibson book.”
“So?” Asked a puzzled Cavelli.
“So, De Rosa left us a hint by only including two, rather than three Leonardo references. We need to find the third.”
“Where should we look,” asked the officer, who seemed not to believe my explanation.
“Ah, that’s in the other two references he makes in the symbols he left behind.”
“Which means what?” Asked Cavelli.
“It’s in the triangles, the Gibson book, “Mona Lisa Overdrive,’ cancels out the first two words if divided by ‘Last Supper,’ slow me down if I’m talking too fast, I’m a doctor of journalism after all and decoding obscure artistic symbology has always come easy to me.”
“No, go on,” said the officer.
“Thus, we’re left with the word ‘Overdrive’ which obviously refers to the legendary Canadian rock and roll band, Bachman Turner Over Drive.”
“Gonz, are you sure this is obvious?” Asked Samhara. Then, whispering, she asked, “Did you remember to take your meds?”
“Of course it’s obvious,” I pronounced. “BTO’s biggest hit was ‘Taking Care of Business’ so Father De Rosa wants to point us to a businessman.”
“Milan is filled with wealthy businessmen, should I get Giorgio Armani and Aldo Gucci out of bed too?” Asked the very skeptical Captain.
“Of course not, he’s telling us which businessman in the references and symbols he left on the floor.”
“Go on,” said the officer, now near laughter.
“Rodin’s second most famous sculpture, after The Thinker is called Gates of Hell.” I continued, “Thus, the book by Bill Gibson and the statue called Gates says that we should look for the third point in the triangle somewhere in Seattle, with, of course, Bill Gates.”
Captain Cavelli didn’t buy my logic. I thought it seemed obvious but maybe his art history doesn’t come up to my level. Then again, maybe Sam’s right, I could be sliding into another manic, paranoid episode. The sickness often hits me when I get pulled suddenly from doing something I really love. Nonetheless, Cavelli brought us downtown to the Milano Cop Shop.
Samhara and I sat in a drab room drinking excellent coffee. The Italians really do understand the value of good taste and, even in a lock-up, they serve good coffee. Cavelli entered our little cell and sat down. An art historian named Dan Brown accompanied him and introduced himself as he entered.
“The great Gonz Blinko,” said Brown, “It’s an honor.”
“Do you want an autograph too?” I asked wondering why this nosey American had entered my Italian adventure.
“Mr. Brown called his Harvard buddy Langley and talked about your strange collection of connections.”
“And?” I asked as Samhara tried to shut me up.
“Excuse me,” she said, “Are you going to arrest us? Are you going to arrest my client? I read the EU civil rights manual and…”
“Please, Senora Attorney,” insisted Cavelli, “Let Dan continue with his story.”
“Langley knows Gonz,” continued the American egghead, “He understood his decoding of the murder scene and believes you have figure out where to go.”
“Then we can leave?” Asked Samhara.
“I do have one request Senora,” added Cavelli.
“A kiss good bye?”
Samhara punched the Captain in the gut and we headed for the exit.
I don’t know exactly why but I always seem to wake up just before the pilot says, “We are beginning our gradual descent into…” I rubbed my eyes and removed my BOSE noise reduction headphones which still played Glenn Gould’s versions of Schoenberg’s Lieder. I heard Samhara chatting with a flight attendant and released I had no idea where we had flown to. One minute, I had been gambling in Bellagio, partying quite actively and now I’m in the first class cabin of a jet going somewhere. I remain groggy from all of the Valium that Sam fed me when we got aboard in Italy. I felt my tactile watch and it said 8:30. Of course, I had no idea whether that was am, pm or what time zone it referred to.
“Sam?” I asked weakly.
“Gonz?” She replied.
“Where are we?”
“We are about to land in Seattle.”
“Because you made the connection between Leonardo, Rodin, William Gibson and Bachman Turner Overdrive and we now must meet Bill Gates to solve the mystery.”
“The death of Father De Rosa and the connection between Macrohard and the Knights Templar.”
“Where did the Knights Templar enter the story?” I asked, slowly remembering the events in Bellagio and Milan.
“Every good conspiracy has a connection to the Knights Templar and this one is no different.”
“How do you know?”
“Italian Airways, the airline we’re on, gives us Internet connections so, as you slept, I did some research.”
“As you probably know, the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene made its way to France in the form of their daughter Sarah. She had children who married into the French royal family. After a while they changed their name to St. Clair and, when the King, on a Friday the 13th in the 13th century, suggested that the Templars be killed, some snuck away to Scotland where they started using the anglicized version of their name, Sinclair.”
“Have you taken your meds?” I asked Samhara.
“Of course and you should listen to all of this, there’s lots of connections.”
Samhara drove our rented Cadillac toward Redmond. Along the way she filled me in with the strangest part of the conspiracy. Apparently, Bill Gates spent $30 million to purchase one of Leonardo’s notebooks and, it is believed that he discovered some code in it.
We pulled into the Microsoft campus and drove to the building where our meeting would take place. “Who are we meeting with?” I asked Samhara as we walked toward the office tower.
“Here’s where things get really strange.”
“Huh?” I wondered.
“The guy is in charge of disability stuff and knows you. Not only that, he’s a Sinclair.”
“Are you suggesting that we are about to meet a descendent of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene and possibly one of the last members of the Knights Templar?”
“Bingo!” She proclaimed, “He’s the person who fills in the final side of the triangle.”
“I thought that the Leonardo notebook that Bill Gates bought was the third leg of the triangle.”
“Well, it sort of is…” she continued as Rob Sinclair entered the lobby to bring us into the holy inner sanctum of the Microsoft campus.
“So, Gonz, after all of these years, you’ve found me out,” asked Rob with a smile in his voice.
“Uh, Rob, I’m not exactly sure what I’ve found out?”
“I discussed it with Samhara when she called from the plane,” he continued.
“Who’s paying for that call?” I inquired.
“BC is paying for all of this, he things there is a blockbuster book and film that he can published on Blind Confidential in this story.”
“It’s all tru,” said Rob, “I am a Sinclair and I’m in possession of the Holy Braille.”
“The Holy what?” I asked.
“The Holy Braille, it’s what we Templars have been saving secretly for centuries.”
“What about Father De Rosa?”
“He got whacked for not paying protection money for his sideline private tours of the great works of Milan business.”
“Then why all of the clues? Why did he get us involved?”
“He knew you were in town and thought sending you on a wild chase around half of the globe would be funny. He told me he’d do something like that if he ever took a few from a Beretta.”
“So, all of this was a hoax?”
“Not exactly, he did know that you would be interested in hearing about the Holy Braille.”
“What does it say?” I asked, my curiosity rising as I contemplated how to get revenge on a dead priest.
“It’s rather complex. After Bill brought the notebook to Seattle, all of the artsy fartsy people ogled it for a couple of years until I could convince him to let me alone with it for a few hours.”
“What did you find?”
“As I said the remaining part of the Holy Braille.”
“Bill and I copied it character for character into an old copy of Symdeb and typed ‘r’ and it executed the Da Vinci Source Code.”
“What does Leonardo’s source code do?”
“As you are not under NDA, I can’t comment on it but we expect it will be included in the Braille services feature of Vista if we can integrate it before the train leaves the station.”
“Can we go back to Bellagio?” I asked Samhara.
“No, vacation is over, it’s back east for both of us, you have to write this article and I need to check up on Moes’ maid.”
Rob escorted us to the exit. We thanked him and Samhara gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. As we walked to the car, I asked, “What was that about?”
“I’ll kiss any relative of Mary Magdeline’s, she was hot.”