10. Il Gaelico Uomo
The lady at the information desk had come out of nowhere. Yelling at us in Italian, she kept pointing frantically at the brass plate hanging from the door, which read in five different languages: "Restricted Access."
"But I'm doing research for a school project…" I tried to argue back in Italian. "Is there any way I—"
"No, no, no," was all I was able to get out of her while she pushed the twins and me out the sitting hall. No amount of persuading would have changed her mind into letting us stay.
Our dispute with her grew increasingly louder for another five minutes, at which point the twins and I were escorted out of the premises with a warning not to return until we were of age.
"But we are already nine!" the twins countered back, aggravated. The woman didn't even bother to acknowledge them as she kept shoving us out the door.
I was about done arguing with her when I noticed how put out Marianno and Maribel were by the woman's manhandling. And just as we stepped out the door, I saw them turn to her and sling gum into her hair.
"I miei capelli! Diavoli! Diavoli!" she started yelling frantically.
I couldn't help myself and started laughing.
Pulling the twins with me, I ran down the curb to where Mr. Chaconier was parked. He stood waiting for us while chatting away with Ms. Lucinda from the hair salon down the street.
"Andiamo!" was all I could muster between laughs, as I looked back towards the woman who was now gesturing obscenities to us. It was all I could do to let the twins gesture obscenities right back at her.
At the sight of our uproar, Mr. Chaconier started the car and opened the doors for us. In a matter of seconds we were turning the corner down the street. For a late sixty year old, Mr. Chaconier was dangerously fast behind the wheel.
"I shit on the Lord's Supper! What on earth just happened?" Mr. Chaconier asked in Italian while chuckling. I was laughing so hard, his crude nature didn't affect me.
I proceeded to explain to him what had transpired while I held onto my seatbelt for dear life. Mr. Chaconier listened attentively whilst zigzagging down the street, attempting to veer off pedestrians. I was careful to leave the Volturri crest detail out of my recount.
"Those damn snobs! Think they're better than the rest of us. I've had the same admittance problem at the Palazzo dei Priori and the Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra. I think it's a conspiracy," Mr. Chaconier said. "All of these buildings are part of the historic patrimony given to the citizens of Volterra, and no access should be denied to us. I tell you, Valeria, the government is keeping secrets from us and taxing us extra in the process! Meanwhile the aqueducts over at via Ricciarelli are still without repair…"
The twins and I exchanged looks of amusement as Mr. Chaconier went off onto complain about the government-yet again-for the rest of our short trip home.
After thanking Mr. Chaconier for the lift and prompt getaway, I attempted to wish good night to the twins. They stopped me though, before we all headed inside our corresponding homes.
"Valeria," said Marianno.
"Yes?" He hesitated, searching for the right words to say while stealing glances from Maribel.
My eyes vacillated back and forth to the two of them, confused. "What?"
Finally, Maribel asked the question for the both of them. "What is going on?"
"What do you mean?" I countered, not sure how to even begin to explain the Volturri to the twins.
"The crosses, the Vs, the coat of arms… you are not really researching a project for school, are you?"
I sighed deeply, sitting on the entrance stairs to their apartment building. After a few moments of deliberation I decided to tell them the basics. It seemed only fair after all their help thus far. I chose, however, to leave the Volturri out for now, or at least until I figured it all out. That way I can spare them all the gory details until it's absolutely necessary.
"No… my research is not for a school project," I patted the space next to me, encouraging them to sit by me. "I'm following some clues. I'm not sure where they will lead me, but you know how sometimes you just need to do something? Just cause you have to?"
"You mean, like slinging gum onto that lady's hair?" asked Maribel. I smiled.
"Sometimes there are immediate reasons for the things that we do." I gestured to the map of Volterra in Marianno's hands. "But I have this strange feeling that this time I'll find the reasons for the things that I'm doing after I do them. Does that make sense?"
The twins stared at me quizzically. The innocence in their eyes threatened to break me. I was never good at lying to the twins. Something in me inexplicably and suddenly cracked.
"I just have this feeling— I know it sounds crazy. Is just that, somehow, maybe if I follow the clues… I might find out what happened to my dad."
As I said the words out loud, the realization of what I was saying hit me. Was this my real motivation? Did I really believe all of this was connected to my father?
Startled by my realization, I look up at the twins eyes and I could sense a profound understanding. There were some things we didn't need to say out loud to know, like the fact that they resented their parents for never being at home, and how they would do anything to get their attention.
The twins didn't know the full story about Father, and how his disappearance had really affected Mother and me. But they somehow now understood why I needed to do this, even if the way I was doing it made no sense at all. In their eyes, my nonsensical reasons were worth it.
Maribel stood up first. "It doesn't sound crazy." She then kissed me good night on both cheeks, in formal European style.
"Here," Marianno offered their map of Volterra to me. "You should keep it. We'll let you know if we see any more signs anywhere."
I took the marked map from his hands and kissed him good night too. "Thank you," I whispered, and watched them go inside their apartment building.
Later that night I lay in bed trying to connect the dots of all my new findings in my head, but my thoughts kept going back to my latest realization. Why did I think the Volturri were linked to my father's disappearance?
Was it because the nightmares? The Vs? Their relation to the Volturri? Their connection to Saint Marcus Day and how that was when I last saw Father? Was there more to be disclosed from all this? Were the Volturri really vampires? If the myth was actually based on truth, did this mean they still existed today?
I anxiously got out of bed. I needed answers, and I needed them now.
I grabbed my keys from the dresser and sneaked out into the night, finding myself at Ms. Miriam's shop front door twenty minutes later.
Since it was already night-time the shop was predictably closed, but I banged on the door anyway. I knew she was home; she never left her house at night. But my efforts were to no avail as the door remained locked. I paused to consider taking her vampire theories seriously for a second. Was that why she kept to a strict daylight schedule?
Think about what you are saying, Valeria.
I sighed deeply.
Knowing perfectly well I wouldn't be able to back to bed, I decide to go for a night stroll instead. I needed to clear my head and the night was still young. The streets of Volterra stood before me shinning brightly in the moonlight, offering comfort.
Without any particular destination in mind I wandered through the city, which was buzzing with nightlife energy. Smoking patrons outside bars stood laughing down the block. I didn't recognize anyone and realized most of them were probably tourists coming through town.
I turned the corner and passed the Market, which triggered memories of Ceci and Dario. The twins were fun to hang out, but Ceci and Dario were my closest friends, and I missed them. I wondered how well formed my theories of the Volturri needed to be before I could head back to them with more clues to decipher. Would they take me back if I brought all this up again?
Suddenly I felt my heart breaking a little. The truth was, I was up to my neck with all this vampire nonsense, and so very alone.
I sighed again.
And that's when I realized that my feet had subconsciously taken me back to the Secret Chamber next door of the slaughterhouse. The iron door still stood ajar, and as I entered the Chamber, I found it the same way I had left it last time I had been here.
Yet, under the moonlight, the hollow space appeared somehow different. That's when it dawned on me that last time I'd been here it was still daylight. I stared up and saw the moonlight shinning through a skylight I hadn't noticed before. It was made out of glass welded into ornate pieces of iron.
I proceed to inspect the room for further details that might've escaped me the first time around. I studied the stone walls, and stroked the gamble and cleavers hanging form the ceiling, and was unable to find anything. After circling the area twice, I paused in the middle of the room where the floor curved down into a drain hole. Ms. Miriam worlds echoed inside my head once again: "Blood collection."
I kneeled down and looked for signs of blood everywhere, but I couldn't find any. To compensate for the lack of light available I took out my key chain and turned on my mini flashlight. I carefully continued to look down the drain more closely, and that's when I noticed the iron drain in question was shaped in what appeared to be a coat of arms.
The crest featured an encircled lion standing on three trevor leafs, and a human hand resting on top of its head. I directed my vision and my mini flashlight towards the dark piping behind the iron figure. The rusted pipe sank deep in the ground, into absolute darkness. If the drain was meant to collect blood, where was the pipe leading?
Suddenly the alarm on my digital watch beeped, announcing it was midnight. I had to get back home before it got too late.
The next day I awoke motivated, making it to Ms. Miriam first thing in the morning.
I was a bit disappointed that she welcomed my findings with meek interest. I had spread out on her table the twin's map of Volterra, and carefully described my visits to Saint Michele and the Palazzo Incontri Vitti. It was not until I laid down my notes from the research at the Guarnacci Library, and explained my findings there that she made me pause to elaborate on Il Gaelico Uomo. I looked up at the expression of interest in her eyes and sensed a breakthrough at my grasp.
"Yes, yes… Il Gaelico Uomo," she said. Her eyes twinkled, full with excitement. "The Order never knew his name."
I widen my eyes open in surprise, immediately frowning in concentration. "The inaugural documents for the Library include his signature," I thumbed through my notes until I found it. "There is no first name, just C. Kuillinn," I said eagerly.
Ms. Miriam stood up in shock, staring at the name scribbled on my notebook. After a moment, I noticed she was fighting back what it looked like euphoric tears. "You know what this means?" She reached for my hands across the table as I stared at her expectantly, "This is the first lead I have gotten in almost 30 years!"
"I don't understand. How is this 'Gaelic Man' fit in all of this?" I asked curiously.
Recognizing that she was getting ahead of herself, she settled down comfortably in her chair and switched gears onto storytelling mode:
"Some time after the Immortal Children Epidemic, the Order of Saint Eustacio found it hard to deal with the repercussions left over by the Decree of the Residential Vow. Over time, they realized it was completely unfair to have family and friends live outside the Walls of Volterra without the Vow's protection. It was even harder to have love ones move to adjacent towns and be unable to persuade them or warn them about the risk of doing so.
"So, for the benefit of all humans living in Volterra it was decided the Order was to keep operating as an underground secret society. The Order had been forced to keep to the Vampiric Law of Secrecy for obvious reasons. I mean, there was too much at stake just by having ignored the Volturri's orders of disbandment. However, the Order's new mission became too important to disregard: they now had to either find a way to expand the Volturri's ruling, or revolt against their oppression.
"It wasn't until the mid 1800s when the Order finally came across a way to contend the Volturri. During that time, a vampire that didn't feed on human blood had come to live among them. He was only ever known as 'Il Gaelico Uomo'. His preference for animal blood set for special accommodations that soon were found out by the Order."
"The Secret Chamber at the slaughterhouse!" I interrupted.
"Exactly. Armed with this new found information, the Order came out of secrecy and confronted the Volturri at a private hearing. The Order attempted to bargain with the Volturri in hopes to expand the Residential Vow by reasoning that the consumption of animal blood was a fitting compromise for everyone. The whole idea was greeted with absolute contempt and ridicule by the Volturri. It was explained that despite the fact that the consumption of animal blood by Immortals wasn't illegal, it was highly frown upon. Il Gaelico Uomo was a favored guest in the city and as such was granted this particular indulgence, despite the pressures for converting to human blood. His lifestyle, however, was a thing of mockery and absurd amusement to the Volturri Court.
"After laughing at the Order's impositions and insolence for having refuse disbandment, the Volturri made it very clear they never compromised. To that the Order reacted impulsively, threatening to break the Vampiric Law of Secrecy. Seen as how the Volturri never gave second chances, the Order was annihilated on the spot. After that a new amendment to the Vampiric Secrecy Law was proclaimed. Because of their unreliable nature, under no circumstances were humans allowed to live while knowing the Immortal Secret.
"Il Gaelico Uomo left Volterra shortly after the hearing, never to be heard of again. Upon his departure, the Volturri imposed Saint Marcus day as the anniversary of the restoration of the full Vampiric Secrecy. The cover up story of how Saint Marcus expelled the vampires (and by that meaning Il Gaelico Uomo) from the city took care of all left over rumors, turning them into myths. The Residential Vow was kept in place inside the city more as a security measure than anything else, to keep Volterra rumor free.
"One might argue that the Order's attempt for negotiations was in vain. But Il Gaelico Uomo gave the Order a completely unexpected and invaluable piece of information. It's true that, still today, anyone outside of Volterra's city limits remains at risk of Immortal consumption. Yet, thanks to this C. Kuillinn there is still hope out there for the human race."