Picture of Innocence(3)

By: Jacqueline Baird

Not that she was seeking fame—realistically, in today’s world where a pickled sheep or an unmade-bed made millions—she knew she was never going to get it, but it was nice to feel appreciated for what she did excel at. She had a natural gift for catching the likeness and character of any subject, be it a stuffed dog—her first ever commission!—or a person. Her paintings in oils—full-figure or portrait, large canvas or miniature—were good, even if she did say so herself.

She had confirmed her trip to Verona with the Countess when she had finally managed to get an appointment with Signor Zanelli. After a phone call that had got her nowhere she had written to the Zanelli Bank, asking for its support in staving off the forced buy-out of Steadman Industrial Plastics by Richard Johnson, one of the largest shareholders in her family’s firm. She had received a short letter back from some manager, stating that the bank did not discuss its policy on individual investments.

She had very reluctantly, as a last resort, written another letter and marked it ‘Personal and Private', addressing it to Lorenzo Zanelli himself. From all she had heard about the man she had formed the opinion he was a typical super-rich alpha male, totally insensitive to other people and with the arrogant conviction that he was always right. He never changed his mind, not even when a formal inquest said otherwise, and she disliked him intensely.

Lorenzo Zanelli had been horrible to Damien after the inquest into the mountaineering accident that had caused Antonio’s death, accosting him outside the courthouse and telling him coldly that while legally he might have been found innocent of any fault as far as he was concerned Damien was as guilty as hell, and might as well have cut Antonio’s throat instead of the rope. Her brother, devastated by the loss of his friend, had felt badly enough as it was. Lorenzo Zanelli had made him feel a hundred times worse and he had never really recovered.

As far as Lucy was aware there had been no contact between the two families since, and it had come as a shock to her to discover after Damien’s death the Zanelli bank was a third silent partner in her family firm. Lorenzo Zanelli was the last man she wanted to ask for a favour but she had no choice. Trying to be positive, she’d told herself maybe she was wrong about Lorenzo—maybe it had been his grief at losing his brother that had made him say horrible things to Damien, and with the passage of time he would have a much more balanced view.

So Lucy had swallowed her pride and written to him, blatantly mentioning her family’s friendship with his brother Antonio. She had informed him she was visiting Verona for a day or two, and had almost begged for a few minutes of the man’s time before finally being granted an appointment today.

The continuation of Steadman Industrial Plastics as a family firm was dependent on Lucy persuading Zanelli to agree with her point of view. Not that she had any family left, but to the residents of the small town of Dessington in Norfolk, where she’d been born and had grown up, Steadman’s was the main employer, and even though she had not lived there since graduating from college she did still visit occasionally, and she did have a social conscience—which she knew Richard Johnson did not.

She was pinning her hopes on Signor Zanelli. But now, after what she had heard about him and being faced with the man in person, she was having serious doubts.

She had arrived in Verona at ten this morning—well, not exactly in Verona. The budget airline she had travelled with had landed at an a airport almost two hours away. She’d just had time to book into her hotel and get here on time, and her flight back was tomorrow evening at eight. On her arrival at his office the great man’s secretary had taken her name, made a phone call, and then told her in perfect English that Signor Zanelli was going to be delayed. She had asked her if she would like to reschedule the appointment and, flicking through a diary, had suggested three days’ time.