Today was the day that Stefan Günther determined he would finally speak to his own personal Mona Lisa. Everyday for weeks, she sat across from him on the S-train as he made his evening commute home to his one-bedroom apartment outside of Wiesbaden and she went to who knew where.
“Hi. My name’s Stefan.” The twenty-seven-year-old accountant leaned into the aisle hoping she could hear him over the train noise and all the other conversations around them. “Since you smile at me every time I see you, I thought I should introduce myself.”
“Ludovica. Pleased to meet you, Stefan.” Her accent was unmistakably Italian and the same, subtle smile she had been wearing throughout all of their silent encounters never left her lips.
“Pleased to meet you.” He took her hand and remembered not to apply too much pressure. Her skin was warm and smooth, and her scent was slightly earthy speaking, he hoped, of seduction.
“I don’t mean to be too forward, Ludovica, but why do you always smile at me?”
“I like to smile. Besides, you remind me of someone.”
He chuckled nervously. “Anyone in particular.”
“If I like you, I might tell you someday.”
“Well…um, I hope you come to like me.”
He looked out the window when he felt the train slow down, then turned back to the enigmatic young woman. “I’m afraid, we’ll have to pick this up next time. This is my stop.” He stood up, along with several other passengers, and extended his hand to her again.
She took it and rose. “Mine, too.”
“Really? I’ve never seen you get off here. I assumed your stop was further along the track.”
“Not tonight, Stefan.” She didn’t let go of his hand, but hefted her large purse up by the strap and hung it around her shoulder.
The couple joined the stream of humanity exiting the train and then walking downstairs from the elevated platform. She put her arm in his as they casually strolled outside.
“My flat’s just two blocks from here, that is, if you don’t mind walking.”
“Not at all, Stefan. It’s a lovely evening for a stroll.”
He looked west at the dying rays of the December sun as they perished over the horizon. “I always get a bit cold on winter evenings.”
“I guess I’ll have to find a way to keep you warm.” She flashed the same smile, but it spoke now of much more than mere friendliness and casual curiosity.
They were halfway through the walk before it dawned on him. “Oh, damn.”
“What is it, Stefan.”
“I just have some leftover chicken and vegetables for dinner. There’s a small deli round the corner. Would you like to get a bite there.”
She patted his hand and briefly leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m sure chicken and vegetables will do nicely.”
“Oh, well…if you say so.”
They reached a modest two-story building. Stefan put a finger to his lips and then whispered, “My landlady Frau Schmidt is a nosy gossip and I’d just as soon not have her share your visit with the whole world.”
“My lips are sealed.” She winked at him conspiratorially, then they both tiptoed up the steps as quietly as they could.
Stefan dropped his keys while trying to unlock the door, and his hand trembled as he recovered them from between his shoes.
“Finally,” he sighed.
He let her walk in first, then slipped in behind her, flipping on the light before closing and locking the door. “You know, this is a bit sudden, and I’m not trying to be…you know, put you off or anything, but…well…”
“But why did I come to your flat with you so impulsively?” Her back was to him as she put her handbag on the sofa and started rummaging around inside. Then she turned around holding a semi-automatic pistol in her right hand, the barrel pointed directly at his chest.
“What…what’s all this?” He reflexively raised his hands and took a step backward. For an instant, he thought about running, but it would take too long to unlock the door again.
“You really don’t remember me, do you?” Her smile had been utterly replaced by a look of grim determination.
“What do you mean? We’ve met before?” His voice cracked with terror.
“Think back to when you were seventeen, Stefan. You and your mates were at a party, getting drunk. My sister Camilla was only thirteen and I was fifteen. Our parents were out for the evening. My stupid brother Francesco convinced us it would be fun to hang out with older kids.”
“Francesco. Francesco del Giocondo? I went to school with him. Wait. You’re his sister?”
“I can understand why you don’t remember. You were very drunk as were your three mates.”
“Remember what? I went to a lot of parties back then.”
“Camilla never recovered from being raped, you bastard. She committed suicide a year ago.”
“Raped? Wait. I don’t remember anything about a rape. We were just having a little fun. I mean, I think it was you.”
Ludovica reached into her coat pocket with her free hand and threw several newspaper clippings on the floor. “Pick them up and read them.”
Still looking up at the handgun, Stefan squatted down, felt the thin carpet with his fingers, and managed to grasp the pieces of paper. Then standing, he quickly looked down, back up into Ludovica’s exquisite brown eyes, and then down again, realizing he’d recognized a name.
“Franz Weber. Herman Schneider, Karl Becker.” He thumbed through each scrap of newsprint. “Yes, I remember them. We haven’t spoken in years, not even on Facebook. Wait.” He looked back at the unwavering barrel of the gun. “It says here they’re all dead, murdered.” Then a wave of nausea assaulted his empty stomach. “You? You killed them?”
“Camilla and I never told anyone how you kept giving us drinks that night, and then while everyone else kept on drinking and watching videos, you and the other three boys lured us upstairs and took turns raping us.”
“Look, it wasn’t like that. We thought you were willing.” His face felt wet and flushed and he was afraid his bowels would become loose in his trousers.
“We were not willing, we were drunk, thanks to you. Before he died, Schneider confessed to putting a rape drug in our drinks.”
“That…that wasn’t my doing.” He pointed at her for emphasis and then pulled his hand back.
“So you do remember.”
“Please, please don’t kill me. I’ll do anything. Just put the gun away and leave. I’ll never tell anyone.”
“It’s too late for that, Stefan. Ten years too late.”
The gun made surprisingly little noise when she pulled the trigger, and there was almost no pain as the projectile hit his chest. He immediately felt light-headed, and his legs collapsed under him as he lost consciousness.
He woke up slowly with a feeling of being hung over or still drunk. He realized he was cold and he was on his back. When he tried to move, he couldn’t. He opened his eyes to find Ludovica leaning over him. She no longer held the gun, but her delicate hands were now wearing thin, leather gloves. “What? I’m naked.”
“And your wrists and ankles are tied to the four corners of your bed.” She was smiling again, but this time with bemusement.
“Why didn’t you kill me like you did the others.”
“I haven’t killed anyone. Stupid Stefan, I fabricated those articles. The other three bastards are still alive.”
“What? I thought you wanted revenge. Camilla…”
“Is very much alive. You really were drunk that night, all of you. So drunk in fact that you couldn’t even get our clothes off. I pushed you into Weber and he stumbled backwards against Schneider and Becker. All of you fell over like a circus clown act.”
“Then what’s this all about? What are you trying to prove?”
“Shortly after the assault, our father was transferred back to Italy. You are lucky we never told our family what you did or he would have had you killed. His business, you see, has a darker side. Where do you think I got the tranquilizer pistol and the drugs? How do you think I found you? I’ve been stalking you for weeks.”
“Why do this? Why now?”
“It took a while for me to track you all down. I’m getting married next month and I wanted to tie up all of my unfinished business before then. Besides, I’ve been nursing the urge to humiliate you the way you did my sister and me.”
Stefan pulled at the ropes in jerking motions but the knots were tight and there was almost no slack. Ludovica turned away from him, picked up the handbag, which had been resting on the floor next to the closet, and then turned back one more time.
“Farewell, Stefan. You were the last one. I’m almost sorry the game is over.” She playfully blew him a kiss and started to walk away, but then his words stopped her.
“I’ll call the police. Press charges. You assaulted me. Held me here against my will. We’ll see how you like the inside of a jail cell.”
The young Italian took a step back toward the bed. “You won’t tell anyone, Stefan. None of the others ever did. Even if you tried, you don’t know a thing about me except my name. Even if you did locate me, it would be your word against mine. And if you could influence my life in anyway, I’m sure my father’s and fiance’s associates would make you very sorry you did.”
She hitched the strap of her bag further up on her shoulder. “I’ve wiped down the few fingerprints I made, and only some of the train passengers saw us together. By the time you get free, I’ll be far away from here.”
“But…but you can’t leave me like this.”
“Yes I can. If you talk to Weber or the other two, they’ll tell you the same story, but I promise only they will take you seriously.” She lightly giggled. “Imagine how hysterically funny your employer, the people you work with, that silly little twit in the human resources department you’ve been trying to seduce, would think this is. If only they could see you now.”
“How am I supposed to get out of this?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something. Maybe yelling for help. Now I just bet Frau Schmidt would love to tell the whole world about this misadventure. Goodbye Stefan.”
With one last Mona Lisa smile, Ludovica turned again and walked out of Stefan’s limited field of vision. A moment later, he could hear the sounds of the door being unlocked, opened, and then shut again. He grunted with each pull of the ropes, but remained trapped. His bladder was urgently full, and he felt a sickening feeling in his chest, knowing that sooner, rather than later, he would have to cry out for Frau Schmidt. She had a key to his door, but how should he explain his current state?
I must admit to wracking my brain while I was writing this story, trying to come up with some sort of satisfactory conclusion. At first, I really was going to have Ludovica kill Stefan and the others in revenge for Camilla’s rape and suicide, but that was too obvious.
I suppose one or more of these men could try to find Ludovica via the internet and either press charges against her or find some other way of getting back, but then one of them might actually tell the truth about why she assaulted them. Even if they couldn’t be prosecuted, their reputations would be damaged if not completely ruined. Besides, if Ludovica wasn’t lying about her father’s business, something worse might happen to them if they pursued any action against her.
Oh, I took elements of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to form the basis of what happened to Ludovica and her sister.
Since the woman in the photo above resembled the famous Mona Lisa, a portrait painted by Leonardo de Vinci of Lisa del Giocondo, I gave Ludovica that last name and the first name of del Giocondo’s daughter. All of the other person names are fictitious.