Da Vinci's Cases, Vol. #1-4 by Alfred Bekker 480 pages Four mysterious adventures of young Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo and the Mystery of the Villa Medici Leonardo and the Conspirators of Florence Leonardo and the Mystery of the Alchemist Leonardo and the Dungeon of the Back Riders The year 1462, location: the small village Vinci near Florence: Ten-year-old Leonardo and his friend Carlo experience a lot of adventures: a spy must be unmasked, the boys are kidnapped by disguised bandits and a testament has disappeared. Leonardo and Carlo need to find a solution in all cases. Alfred Bekker, born in 1964, writes fantasy, historical novels, criminal novels and books for young readers. His historical adventures for young readers are full of suspense, stuff which even kids who hate reading cannot resist. The German-language print edition (6 parts) was published in 2008 in the Arena Taschenbuchverlag; Translations are available in English, Turkish, Indonesian, Czech, Danish, and Bulgarian.
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Da Vinci's Cases, Vol. #1-4
by Alfred Bekker
Four mysterious adventures of young Leonardo da Vinci:
Leonardo and the Mystery of the Villa Medici
Leonardo and the Conspirators of Florence
Leonardo and the Mystery of the Alchemist
Leonardo and the Dungeon of the Back Riders
The year 1462, location: the small village Vinci near Florence: Ten-year-old Leonardo and his friend Carlo experience a lot of adventures: a spy must be unmasked, the boys are kidnapped by disguised bandits and a testament has disappeared. Leonardo and Carlo need to find a solution in all cases.
Alfred Bekker, born in 1964, writes fantasy, historical novels, criminal novels and books for young readers. His historical adventures for young readers are full of suspense, stuff which even kids who hate reading cannot resist.
The German-language print edition (6 parts) was published in 2008 in the Arena Taschenbuchverlag; Translations are available in English, Turkish, Indonesian, Czech, Danish, and Bulgarian.
© by Alfred Bekker
© 2016 of the digital edition AlfredBekker/CassiopeiaPress
A CassiopeiaPress E-Book
Translation: Antje Ippensen
Cover: Steve Mayer
In Vinci, the small village near Florence, 1462: A strange man has taken a room at the inn. Sure thing, that the ten-year-old Leonardo and his best friend Carlo do not let him out of their sight. What about these odd drawings he secretly produces up there? Leonardo and Carlo are convinced: The man is a spy! And must necessarily be exposed!
Lightning flashed from the gray clouds. It was raining cats and dogs and the dirty road the small town of Vinci was situated on, quickly turned into a swamp. Wind came up and shook shrubs and trees.
"Why don’t you close the shutters, Leonardo?"
"Because I want to watch."
"But it will rain into the room, if it gets worse!"
"Come to the window and look out, Carlo."
"I don’t know ..."
"If we're lucky, we will see how a tree is cut. Just like last summer, do you remember? "
Ten-year-old Carlo remembered very well.
His friend Leonardo, of the same age, was sitting at the open window and looking outside with fascination.
Actually, he had been occupied with trying to dissect a dead bird, which he had found in the woods yesterday. But the storm was more interesting than looking inside a bird. Leonardo had a good view of the surroundings from the room in which he lived in his grandfather’s house. It was upstairs and when sitting on the window-sill he could overlook the village to the nearby hills. In the last year a storm occurred which was extremely worse. At that time, Carlo was visiting his friend Leonardo, too, when suddenly it began to rain and to storm heavily. They had been sitting at the window and looking how the lightning was attracted by an ancient tree on one of the hills outside the village. Since then, the tree was split and Leonardo had been captured by a fascination for lightning and thunderstorms that thrilled him again and again whenever it began to rumble in the sky.
Carlo remembered well how Leonardo had wanted to examine the splitted tree the day after the storm. The boys had discovered traces of fire, but that was about all they had found.
Leonardo’s words of that time still sounded in Carlo’s ears. "The flash has a much greater force than a man with an ax – just imagine how long a person would have to use an ax to split a tree! It must be a giant, otherwise he could never split the tree like this: from top to bottom! Therefore, I think that the flash has the power of a giant!"
Carlo sighed and joined Leonardo at the window. Meanwhile, he got used to the fact that his friend was full of crazy ideas and always wanted to know all about everything. Even if Carlo thought that sometimes, he didn’t need to know anything. What was the sense, for example, of learning everything about the inside of a dead bird?
The fresh air that blew in now made Carlo breathe easier. In Leonardo’s room, it always smelled rather sharp, because he liked to dissect dead animals in order to find out how they were structured inside.
Mostly, however, he forgot to remove the leftovers, so that always some putrid odor of decay hung in the air.
"What could you achieve if you had the power of lightning," Leonardo said. "Imagine that you could capture this power somehow or invent a machine that produces lightning itself! Whereas a gang of woodcutters would need a whole month, by the help of such a machine you could finish the work in one day! And during war, you would not have to besiege fortified towns for several months, but this force could crush the fortresses!"
Again and again, Leonardo was imagining the strangest inventions and he could talk about any fantastic machines so vividly, that you could believe in the realization of these inventions.
"But how could you capture a lightning?" asked Carlo, who asked himself once again from where all these ideas came to Leonardo.
"That's the problem! If such a method had occurred to me, I would have tried to realize it for ages."
"Leonardo! You cannot catch a lightning. How should that work? You might as well try to catch the sunlight!"
"You can capture the sunlight," Leonardo said.
"With mirrors. You can do it yourself from a mirror towards the other."
"But sunlight also has the advantage that it cannot kill you," Carlo said. Three years ago, a farmer in the neighbor village was struck by lightning, because he stayed too long in his field during a thunderstorm. He was killed instantly. Leonardo did not answer.
Once, he cannot say anything against my arguments! thought Carlo, but he was not sure if his friend was maybe just thinking very intensively about something else. This, namely, happened somewhat often. He then sat there and just looked completely absent because he was thinking about something or just had one of his strange ideas. Then he did not even notice when somebody spoke to him. In any case, it was never boring with Leonardo and therefore Carlo liked to spend his time with him - though his friend was by far the weirdest boy in Vinci. In the roar of the storm, the more dense consecutive thunder and the patter of rain a different sound was now mixing that called Carlo’s attention. Hooves!
A little later, a horseman galloped the muddy road between Pisa and Florence along to the village of Vinci. The rider was wearing a cape, which to some extent protected him from the rain. The head was covered by a plate-shaped leather cap from which the water was dripping down. From the face of the man you could only see his eyes, because he had turned up his collar.
"Who's that over there?" asked Carlo. He nudged Leonardo. "That guy there! I have never seen him before!"
The rider reined in his horse and stopped. He looked around at the houses of Vinci.
"He has already been here," Leonardo said. "It's been about four weeks. But since it was night with full moon, I remember exactly, because I was trying to draw the dark spots which you see on the moon surface. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to draw them very well …"
"A strange man ..."
"Anyway, he's armed. Under his cape a sword tip is looking out! "
Leonardo shrugged. "Maybe a mercenary who wants to become a part of the city guard of Florence."
"Then he would not be here!" said Carlo.
"He might have been rejected because of no vacancy", Leonardo pointed out. "And now he wants to try it again. But perhaps he is also the ambassador of a distant court, who should bring an important message to Florence! But it’s obvious that he must be a lord because of his clothes, his equipment, the saddle ..." Leonardo said nothing more. Suddenly, an idea seemed to distract him.
"Did you notice where he was riding to that night while you were watching him?" asked Carlo.
"No. I heard grandfather coming up the stairs and I went to bed quickly. Actually, I should have been asleep. Apparently I had made too much noise so he could hear me. "
The rider now turned his horse to the side and then disappeared behind the church.
"I bet he is now riding to our single guesthouse and wants to stay there," supposed Leonardo. "If he wants to reach Florence today, he would not arrive there before the gates are closing."
Leonardo looked up at the sky. The flashes become more seldom. The thunder only was a distant rumble. The rain, however, even got harder.
"What a pity," Leonardo said. "The storm is dying down. I do not think that today a tree is splitted." He turned away from the window. "Will you help me cutting the dead bird in pieces?”
"That's terrible!" Carlo muttered in disgust.
"I also have a lizard. If you wish, we can also dissect it."
"You make me feel sick," Carlo said. "Just imagine, you would be cut in pieces when you're dead!"
"If I were dead, I would not feel that even more," said Leonardo. "So it would mean nothing to me. On the contrary! If a real doctor will examine my body, he can learn about how the human body works, so that better, more effective methods of healing could be developed! Therefore, after death, I might be useful."
Carlo frowned. "Perhaps my father is right," he said.
“That you are not quite right up top.”
"Carlo, dead animals are dead animals - nothing else! Have you never slaughtered?"
Carlo sighed and looked out of the window again. He now had the choice: Either he walked through the rain home or he had to watch how Leonardo cut two dead animals apart.
There was a knock on the door of the only inn in Vinci. The landlord looked at his wife questioningly. It knocked a second time. Gianna, the ten-year-old daughter of the host, sat in a corner and played with her little sister. They used wooden dolls that their father had carved for them. The third knock sounded and now Gianna looked up and brushed back the long falling hair.
Hesitantly the host went to the door and opened. A dark figure stood there in the rain - wrapped in a cape and with a face almost entirely covered by the turned up collar. The water dripped from the leather cap. The host’s eyes slipped to the good leather boots and the point of the sword.
"Come in, sir," the landlord said very submissively. The stranger stepped forward two steps. The water was dripping from his cloak. The look out of his blue eyes glided across the room, as if searching for something. Above the left eyebrow was a scar.
"Where is he?" His voice came muffled from under the collar.
The host turned to his daughter. "Gianna! Tell the Portuguese the news! Tell him that his visitor has arrived ..."
Gianna swallowed. The Portuguese - that was a very strange man, who had been quartered in the guest house of her father for several weeks. He almost never left his room, was wearing a dark beard that grew up under his eyes and bushy eyebrows that were very oblique giving him such a look that Gianna recalled descriptions of the devil. Actually, only the horns and the cloven hooves were missing.
No one knew his real name. He was only the Portuguese because he supposedly came from a country called Portugal. Gianna had, however, heard her parents talking about it. Her mother doubted that this far-away country called Portugal would exist at all. She rather believed that the guest was only pretending to be coming from far away, because he had committed any crime and now was hunted by the law.
"But he paid on time - and twice as much as other guests," her husband had replied. This answer had terminated the discussion. The hosts needed the money urgently.
"Come on, Gianna! What are you waiting for?" the host shouted at his daughter.
Gianna went away from the sinister stranger with shyness and ran up the stairs to the upper floor. At the very end of the hallway was the room of the Portuguese. Gianna knocked.
"Enough food I have!" the Portuguese called through the door. "Everything enough!" He was difficult to understand, but in the meantime, Gianna got somewhat used to his way to speak, so normally, she could understand him.
"The man who always visits you has just arrived!" Gianna said. Some noise could be heard from behind the door. Probably he was putting his things to the side. Gianna already knew that. Before opening the door when she brought him a meal, he always rummaged around for several moments. Once she had seen several open books and parchments scattered on the table. Gianna saw strange characters that had no resemblance to the letters and numbers she had to memorize in school.
Therefore, she feared that the stranger perhaps was a sorcerer who was occupied with black magic and performed some witch rituals by the help of those characters. Her heartbeat crazily pounded when the Portuguese finally opened the door. The look in his dark eyes was penetrating and let Gianna tremble with fear.
He looked tired, which was not surprising, because the light in his window often burned late at night.
"What did you say?" he asked, Gianna repeated her message: that someone was waiting for him on the bottom of the taproom.
The Portuguese narrowed his eyes. His bushy eyebrows seemed particularly scary now. "Tell him to come up to me!"
Carlo’s parents ran a small retail shop at the end of the village. It occupied the whole bottom floor of the small house where the family lived. Once a week father Cesare Maldini drove to Florence by horse and cart, from where he then returned with goods and news the following day. The next day when Carlo came home from school, his father was sitting at the table which stood in the midst of the store. Goods were everywhere, goods brought from Florence by Cesare Maldini. Bales of cloth as well as pitchers and tools.
Cesare Maldini was poring over a list and Carlo would have preferred to leave the room at once again when he saw it, because he knew exactly what would come now. But it was too late. His father had seen him.
"Ah, that's a good thing you're here!" he said. "Come here, summarize these amounts please!"
Carlo sighed. Actually, he wanted to visit Leonardo after school where he had been for whole two hours. Leonardo had gone to school for only two years. He had begun together with Carlo and Gianna, the daughter of the host. But first, the teachers couldn’t stand the constant questioning and the strange ideas Leonardo offered them – he drove them mad because he was a constant menace and secondly, probably no one was prepared or able to pay the school fees for Leonardo. In moments like these, Carlo wanted to be at Leonardo's place, because then he could not be forced by his father to perform those difficult bills. Probably he would have to spend half the afternoon here!
"Come on Carlo, why do I send you to school?!" his father said. "Why should I pay all that money? Of course, so that you can continue my business one day and for this reason, you need the capability of calculating! How else you will know if somebody is cheating? Or if a business is worth, anyway? "
"Yes, yes," murmured Carlo.
He knew by heart what would come now. It was always the same litany. Cesare Maldini tried to explain how privileged he was because he could go to school. Father Maldini was forced to break up school early because his father died, and then, not enough money had been left to pay the school fee. "And your mother - she was a peasant girl. Beautiful - but she has never seen a school from the inside," Cesare continued, waving his arms around in the air. "Your mother and I have often regretted that we don’t know better how to write and arithmetic. What matters is that you can calculate! And as you live from our business as we do, it’s not asking too much that you do your very best and summarize these amounts. I am sure this can’t be too difficult."
Carlo realized that probably there was no way out.
"All right," he sighed.
He sat down at the table and looked at the amount. In his head, he already began to calculate, but there was something else his father wanted to discuss with him.
"Last night you came home very late, Carlo."
"I was with Leonardo, I told mother."
"I know. And that is the point to which I am getting. For my taste, you're much too often with this strange guy. His mother is already worried about him. She came this morning to buy a hoe."
Carlo knew that Leonardo's mother had been a maid who later married a farmer from the area. Leonardo's father was Ser Piero d'Antonio, a notary from Vinci. Early Leonardo's parents had come to the conclusion that it was the best when his grandfather took care of him, who had, moreover, been willing to do so. Now, some people asked themselves if the old man perhaps granted his grandson a little too much freedom.
"The poor old man," Carlo’s father now said. "I've heard that Leonardo has poisoned several of his chickens when he gave them seeds, which he had soaked into some self-mixed tincture which was said to make the animals lay more eggs."
"That was a misunderstanding," said Carlo. "Leonardo didn’t intend that."
"A misunderstanding, you say? But in spite of this, the chickens are dead and his grandfather had to slaughter them all at once!
This boy is crazy!"
"No, he's not crazy," contradicted Carlo. "He just has a lot of ideas and always finds something new to explore."
"That's the problem," said Cesare. "These confused ideas. Machines which are useless but could hurt someone at best, healing tinctures which kill chickens, experiments which mostly cause damage ... I'm worried that one day, you also will develop such fantasies, do you understand?
"But one day these working machines might exist, exactly like Leonardo imagines," said Carlo.
"Do you see what I mean! The machines, of which you told me, will never be real - but you'll dream of such devilish stuff and that will distract you from exerting yourself in school and getting your life together! One day you might even have such crazy ideas."
But Carlo shook his head. "At this point, you can rest assured, Father," he said.
"Such ideas as Leonardo I will probably never have!" He was perfectly sure.
For Carlo’s taste it took far too long until he has finally finished the calculations and was allowed to leave the house. His father still had some concerns because of the bad influence which the daydreamer Leonardo could have on his son, but finally gave way.
And so Carlo went to the other side of the place where the house of Leonardo's grandfather was.
The road was still very muddy by the downpour yesterday. Probably it would also remain a few days like this. Carlo tried to stay at the edge. Although this time he went barefoot, so there were no shoes he could spot, he nevertheless did not want to sink deeply so that his legs were affected. When reaching the house of Leonardo's grandfather, he knocked on the door.
"Come in," said a rough, hoarse voice.
Carlo entered. A tall, gray-haired man looked at him. Since his wife died, he was seen in Vinci as something strange. Some doubted that he was able to educate a boy like Leonardo and there was a lot of talk and whispers about both.
"You go up, Carlo!" said the grandfather. "You know where to find Leonardo."
Carlo went to the stairs and had covered the first three steps to the floor as the voice of the grandfather stopped him again. "Listen Carlo – please take care that no mischief happens, will you?"
Carlo swallowed. "I'll do what I can," he promised, and the grandfather had to smile.
"I know that it is difficult to stop something when he has taken it into his head, but if he does listen to someone, it’s you!" He sighed heavily. "Something like with the chickens I really don’t want to experience soon again! So consider what you do!"
Carlo walked up the stairs and entered Leonardo's room a little later. Just before entering, he heard voices from behind the door. First, he thought that Leonardo began to talk to himself. Perhaps my father is right then and he's really on the way to becoming crazy, he thought.
But when he came through the door, he saw that his friend was not alone. Gianna was with him, the daughter of the host. Carlo greeted them briefly and then looked questioningly over to Leonardo.
"I need your help, Leonardo," she said. "Yesterday, this strange horseman was again in Vinci ..."
"I've seen him," Carlo interrupted. "And Leonardo, too."
"It was the same as last time. The stranger wanted to visit the Portuguese. My father told me to inform him. I’ve also brought him the meals, often enough. He always opens the door to his room slightly, so you cannot see anything."
"But anyway, you have seen a bit in spite of this,” suspected Leonardo.
"Yes. The Portuguese has quite strange, thick books and large rolls of parchment with strange symbols on it. He did not observe me when I was catching a glimpse of them."
Leonardo did not seem to be on the ball. He had put several jugs on the table, which were located in the middle of the room. In each of these jugs there was any kind of substance Leonardo wanted to keep. Sometimes single organs of animals which he had cut in pieces and needed for experiments.
"And how shall I help you now?" asked Leonardo.
"I have to find out what is the Portuguese is getting up in his room! There must be something that is not right, or he would not mind that one knows it!"
"Maybe this guest would just like to be alone," said Leonardo, who seemed to have little desire to take care of the matter. He knew Gianna from an early age and earlier the girl had accompanied the two boys sometimes when Leonardo led them into the surrounding forest to uncover some great mystery which had been hidden there. But after everyone had been stung badly when trying to explore a hornet's nest, she had not taken part in these excursions furthermore.
"I fear that the Portuguese truly is a sorcerer," Gianna brought out now. "But if that was true, then my parents could be prosecuted because they have granted him shelter. Probably he had been brought to trial elsewhere and had to flee."
"Did you talk to your parents about this suspicion?" asked Carlo.
"Of course, again and again!" exclaimed Gianna. "But especially my father sees only the money the stranger regularly pays. That he may be picked up soon to be interrogated about the Portuguese, he does not want to admit!"
"Honestly, I would like to dissect the lizard now," Leonardo said. "Yesterday I only treated the bird because it was too disgusting for Carlo to help me. Indeed, it is not so easy, the individual ..."
"Uh, I do not want to hear it!" Gianna interjected. "Keep that to yourself, please, I have bad dreams about it!"
Leonardo shrugged. "There is only one way to find out more about the structure of a body. You have to look into it. Unfortunately, you cannot see the organs in function, as the animal is already dead!"
"Well I am your friend, but I will continue to refuse to join in things like that," Carlo said with nearly solemn seriousness. "So do not count on me in the future concerning such things."
"You are not curious to know how a body is built from the inside?"
"Yes - but not so curious like you, Leonardo."
Leonardo sighed. "Friends! If you need them most, they let you down!"
"And what about you? I need help and the only things you’re thinking about are the innards of this stupid lizard!" Gianna went on disappointed. "I thought you could possibly help me! What on earth will happen to me and my little sister if my parents are arrested?"
Leonardo put away one of the jugs into which he had just looked very interestedly and which produced an extraordinarily bad smell – and for the first time he fully attended to Gianna.
"Calm down, just because this Portuguese is a little strange, he does not necessarily have to be a sorcerer. If he is one yet, so no one will learn about it, because he lives very isolated."
"You know exactly how fast rumors spread. Carlo’s father goes to Florence once a week and while traveling, he stops in each small village. Everyone knows how talkative he is and I assume that the rumors about the Portuguese have already spread in this way in the whole area!"
"It’s all we need now that you give me the fault if your parents would be arrested because they were so interested in money that they were willing to accommodate a servant of Satan!" Carlo defended himself furiously.
"It's just not everyone as wealthy as your father, who would certainly not need the money!" replied Gianna. While between Carlo and Gianna a brief dispute began, Leonardo seemed absent. He seemed to be thinking about something.
"I'll help you, Gianna," he finally said, ending abruptly the war of words between the other two. Gianna looked at Leonardo puzzled. Did she hear right? Why did the boy change his mind so quickly and completely?
"You want to know whether this Portuguese performs any witch rituals in his room?"
"Exactly! Sometimes I do wonder whether he might have put a jinx on my parents, so that they do not realize the danger."
"I've told you that I will help you, Gianna, but then you have to help me, too," Leonardo came to pass on the heart of the matter.
"And what with?" she asked. She was already making a face before Leonardo had told her any disgusting details. Carlo had to suppress a smile.
"First, you have to help me in dissecting the lizard. It is in my room in the wooden box the second day already and who knows how long it has been laid out there in the forest before I found it! "
Gianna swallowed. "Does it have to be that way?"
"Help against help, Gianna. One hand washes the other!"
"But you can’t remove the smell even if you wash yourself thoroughly," she said.
"I want to have a skeleton undamaged. So we have to be very careful. And that's not all."
On Gianna forehead appeared a deep furrow. "Another condition?" she gasped.
"You slaughter sometimes, right?"
"Like almost all people in Vinci do," replied the girl.
"If you slaughter the next time, then please get me some of the blood. One pitcher full, that would be nice. I do need that necessarily. Whether it is now porcine or bovine blood, is not so important. If necessary, the blood of chickens also is enough."
Gianna took a deep breath. The thing with the visitor had to weigh heavily upon her mind. Otherwise she wouldn’t have accepted Leonardo’s conditions. "All right," she said.
"But for anything in the world: What do you want to do with the blood?"
"I want to win its essence," Leonardo said. "The solid components of the blood. It is always said that in the blood is the life force - but this power cannot be the liquid, because it probably is plain water. The force, therefore, must be in the substances that are dissolved in the blood! Perhaps one can make a cure - who knows." And then Leonardo enthusiastically told how he intended to execute the process. "The blood is heated. The water evaporates and the solid ingredients are left over! It’s the same procedure when burning alcohol, where you can get a higher and higher alcohol percentage by the evaporation of the water. It is called distillation."
"Why don’t you ask your grandfather for the blood?" asked Gianna. "He also slaughters, just as often as we do!"
Leonardo hemmed and hawed a bit, then finally he said, "I already did. But having thus ruined his apparatus for distillation, he will not give me a little more time!"
Gianna grinned. "You really cannot blame him for this!"
Leonardo looked at her questioningly. "Can you fulfil the conditions?"
She paused and nodded. "My father has recently slaughtered and I can give you the blood immediately if you want."
"That would be great!" exclaimed Leonardo and it was obvious how much he was looking forward to beginning his research, finally.
"You're a strange guy," Gianna said. "Strange - but also very smart. You know almost everything! It is a shame that you couldn’t remain at school. "
Leonardo gave a shrug. "If I have to charge something, I can even have it checked by my good friend Carlo, who knows all the tricks arithmetic!" He laughed.
Gianna went home and returned with a jug of blood about an hour later. Actually, it was used to make soup. A whole tub was currently in the pantry and Gianna had just have to wait for the right moment to take some.
"Isn’t your pantry locked?" asked Carlo.
"Yes," nodded Gianna. "But as my mother sends me there so often to get something from there, I know exactly where the key is hidden."
From outdoor, Leonardo had now brought a flat stone which he had already used on other occasions as a fire pit. On the stone was still a glowing piece of coal which he had taken out of the oven in the kitchen by using the fireplace shovel. His grandfather was not in the house. He could be heard outside banging around the chicken coop that had to be repaired urgently. As Gianna showed up with the jug full of blood, everything was ready. Leonardo filled a portion of the blood into a pot. From the ceiling hung a rope. This rope, Leonardo attached to the pot handle, which now dangled over the flames.
"I do not know if this is really such a good idea to light a fire here in the room!" said Gianna.
Carlo added: "We should have taken the fire place of your grandfather!"
"When I was the last time at the stove, there has been a huge annoyance which I wanted to avoid," said Leonardo. The flames roared up. The wood he used had been a little wet by the rain storm the previous day. Smoke formed and pushed out of the window. The flames went higher and higher and higher, and finally reached the bone-dry hemp rope, which immediately caught the fire.
"What are we doing now?" asked Gianna.
Leonardo apparently had, exceptionally, no advice in that moment.
Steps could be heard now. Someone came so quickly up the stairs that one could hardly believe that it was Leonardo's grandfather.
But the next moment he stood in the doorway. Probably the smoke that had seeped out of the window had alarmed him. Without hesitation he took a step toward Leonardo's bed, tore down the bedclothes and thus smothered the flames before they were able to crawl up the hemp rope. Then he took a deep breath.
"That’s the end now!" said the grandfather, who was actually known for his calm and patience and many considered him as far too good-natured to cope with such a strenuous child like Leonardo. "Your alchemical studies or whatever it may be, are finished for now!" he said. "Do you want us to set our house on fire? What do you think will happen if the roof beams catch fire!" he gasped and wiped his face while shaking his head. Then he turned to Gianna and Carlo. "I'm sorry, but I think it is better you both go home. I have to talk to Leonardo seriously."
He sniffed something and made a face. "It stinks dreadfully here! I'm really not a sensitive urban resident, but ..." He paused, then continued: "I will learn about this, Leonardo!"
Carlo did not see Leonardo before the next day. He sauntered the street along which was rather dry now when Carlo was just leaving lessons.
Gianna appeared a little later from behind the bushes that surrounded the cemetery.
"Did you have big trouble yesterday?" Carlo asked, when the innkeeper's daughter has reached them.
Leonardo nodded, heavily sighing. "My grandfather banned all my experiments in and around the house for the next time. No matter what it is, he says no to it. He has also taken my collection of specimens, because he thought it would be very smelly. The lizard that I was about to dissect!"
"Oh, but that does not mean that I cannot fulfil the second part of our agreement now?" interfered Gianna. She could not suppress a grin.
"What a pity," she said.
"Hypocrite! You don’t regret that at all! You are neither interested in the interior of an animal body nor in any other important things. All you are interested in is that stupid Portuguese who should not do wizard magic or call loud and clear the name of Satan, so your father gets in trouble because of that, or at least has to master his business without the safe rent of this strange guy!"
Furiously, he kicked a stone. Since he exceptionally wore shoes, he could safely do that. However, the stone did not fly away but his right shoe. Abundantly it sailed through the air and landed on the other side of the street.
"It was not meant that way," Gianna said soothingly. But Leonardo gave her up and went across the street and brought back the shoe.
Gianna meanwhile, turned to Carlo.
"It’s unbearable with him! How can you stand it?" she asked.
"It's not that hard," Carlo said. "Anyway, I'm excited to see what idea he has to solve the riddle of this Portuguese."
Leonardo now returned.
"However, there is one good thing because of the trouble with your grandfather," said Gianna addressed to Leonardo. "You can now concentrate on helping me."
Leonardo nodded. "I've been thinking about it ..."
"Fine. And what do we do? "
"I do not know. I have no idea," he said dryly.
"The best thing is that we go out to your guest house and look around."
So they started, passed the church and approached the inn. It had no name. That wouldn’t have been necessary in view of the fact that it was the only inn in Vinci, therefore it could not be confused anyway.
"Now when I enter the house, I must help without doubt," said Gianna. "Besides, I would have to find a good excuse to explain why you are looking around there."
But Leonardo was not discouraged.
"In which room does the Portuguese live?" he asked.
"The window faces the other gable", Gianna informed him.
"I would like to have a look," demanded Leonardo. They went to the other side of the house. The window Gianna meant was open. The shutters were folded outwards. But it was quite impossible to look into the room from the bottom.
"And what do we do now?" whispered Gianna, as if she feared that the Portuguese could possibly hear her voice. Leonardo looked around. Carlo was observing him. He knew that if his friend had that special look, then he was thinking intensively. Mostly he had then a little later some idea that was so unusual that Carlo each time wondered where those ideas came to his friend. Carlo waited anxiously. But this time, his idea was relatively simple.
He stretched out his arm and pointed to a group of gnarled trees. "Maybe you can look into the room if you climb on one of the trees," he suggested.
Gianna rolled her eyes.
"That would also have occurred to me!" she said, but bit at once on the lips. Finally, it hadn’t been so easy to persuade Leonardo that he helped her at all. She didn’t want to annoy him right now.
But Leonardo was thinking probably already one step further. He paid no more attention to what Gianna had said.
Instead, he went straight to the group of trees. Carlo and Gianna exchanged glances. Shrugging, they followed Leonardo.
"I just hope that he really knows what he's doing," said Gianna; she couldn’t suppress this remark.
"So if anyone can figure out what is going on with the Portuguese, then it’s him!" Carlo defended his friend.
"You'll be amazed about the conclusions he can think of!"
"Well, at least I think his idea to light fire in his room, was everything else, but neither good nor amazing."
A little later they all three were within the group of trees containing a total of seven overgrown trees. It used to be eight pieces, but one of the trees had died and eventually overturned. Leonardo had spent several days at the rotten wood, fallen apart and hollowed out by maggots, beetles and woodpeckers to study the animals which were using this dead wood as their habitat.
Now he tackled the first best tree. Leonardo was a skilled climber. Soon afterward, he had won a whole lot of height. He looked up at the inn.
"And?" said Gianna. "Can you see anything?"
"I see the head and the shoulders of the Portuguese," Leonardo said. "My goodness, he must sweat like a pig under his beard and long hair!"
"Can you see what he's doing?"
"No. The table is covered. I have to go up even higher. "
"Be careful," said Carlo. "This tree looks pretty rotten, too. I would not be surprised if it crashed down next."
But Leonardo was not deterred. He climbed on. The branch, which now had to carry his weight, already groaned. Leonardo threw another look in the direction of the window. His eyes narrowed. "I cannot see what he is doing with his hands," he said. "I imagine that he is writing or painting!"
"Magic formulas", Gianna was convinced. "He prepares witch rituals to call Satan. And my parents will get in prison, to be executed and then end up in hell!"
"Calm down!" said Carlo.
"Calm down? You can talk! Finally, it’s not you who will be accused because of granting shelter to a wizard. Last night the pastor was with us and looked so strange. I believe he has a suspicion."
Gianna's tirade was interrupted by a loud crash. Leonardo had ventured too far on his way. Suddenly, the rotten branch broke. Leonardo screamed.
The next moment he landed on the ground.
The others ran over to him.
"Are you all right?" asked Carlo.
Gianna put the branches aside. Leonardo touched his face. He had gotten there and on the upper arms a few welts by small branches. In addition, his shoulder hurt. He grimaced. "Somewhat all right," he muttered.
Carlo suddenly was a little bit absent. He looked up at the guest house and seemed for a moment as if spellbound. "Look!" he whispered.
The Portuguese was standing at the window and looking out. His attention was drawn to them by the noise of the children. His face seemed morose while his eyes were wandering and then he looked at the three frowning.
Then he turned around and went back to his work - whatever it might be.
"That's been wonderful inconspicuous," said Gianna, who kept the window of the Portuguese in the eye and now seemed to be under stress. She whispered, as if he could hear them.
"He's probably long realized that we are observing him!"
"I don’t think so," said Leonardo.
"You don’t? And from where do you get your confidence? "
Leonardo shrugged. "This is not a certainty. I guess it only. Unfortunately, I could not see what he was doing - but it’s clear to me that he was very concentrated in working on something And if it’s me who is in such a situation, I do not notice the things around me – not at all. What happens around, is not important to me."
Leonardo looked down at the broken branches. One of them, which had the shape of a bow, he picked up from the ground.
"What do you mean?" asked Carlo. But Leonardo ignored him. He turned to Gianna.
"What's in the room next to the Portuguese?" he asked without returning her smile. He just remained cool.
"The room next to it is free," said Gianna. "By the way, this belonged to the conditions under whose the Portuguese took a room in our inn."
Carlo spoke up, frowning. "He did not want the neighbor room occupied? But why?"
"Because he obviously needs his rest," Gianna said irritably.
"He pays my father twice the rent to make sure that the room is free."
"That's wonderful!" said Leonardo.
"Because from there I would be able to figure out what the guy is doing in his room!"
"But how, for heaven’s sake?"
Leonardo raised his branch. "By using this branch. I tell you later. Or even better: You will have a look at my plan when everything is in place. And this may take a day or two."
Gianna put her hands on her hips. "And until then we do nothing and let this servant of Satan continue to operate his evil machinations?"
"Caution," said Carlo. "We do not know for sure that he really is a sorcerer who executes black magic operations. It’s only our suspicion."
"Honestly, I do not think he has mastered the magic," admitted Leonardo. "If it were so, he would have recognized and discovered us a long time ago. Besides, people will always believe in magic if they don’t understand a matter and have no explanation for it, but concerning that strange fellow at the inn, we will surely work it out."
They left the grove, when suddenly the Portuguese appeared at the window a second time and watched the children with suspicion.
Leonardo had put away the small twigs from the branch he had taken and set a good piece on the back. Carlo looked back again. He wondered anxiously how much the Portuguese had perhaps noticed of the conversation between the children.
"We have to think of a strategy," Leonardo finally announced. "The most important thing is that we put the man under observation. And around the clock. Whatever he does, we should know about it." Leonardo turned to Gianna. "So he meets regularly with this mysterious horseman whom Carlo and I have seen," he muttered to himself.
"There's a second rider who visits him!" emphasized Gianna. "However, only in the middle of the night. I saw him once and another time I just noticed the restlessness his visit always brings with."
Leonardo frowned. A second rider? As far as he had assumed the Portuguese only got a visit by one person. "What do you know about the second man?"
"At least just this," Gianna said. "That he is a man. I only noticed him once at night, as he knocked on the door."
"What did he want?" Leonardo persisted immediately.
"I got up and watched through a crack in the door how the Portuguese entered the taproom. The stranger gave him something. But I could not see what it was. The back of the Portuguese has hidden it."
"Did you see where he has ridden to – in which direction?"
"No. But I know where he came from, because I saw him through the window. The moon was full and I could hardly sleep ... He came from the direction of Florence."
Leonardo scratched his chin. "Strange," he said. "Someone brings something from Florence to the Portuguese and later on, another rider collects something from him and takes it with him …
"... To Pisa!" interrupted Carlo and shrugged. "I mean, everyone who takes the western road wants to reach the port of Pisa, where the ships go into all the world."
"Very strange, everything," murmured Leonardo. "In any case, we will have to observe the Portuguese. I know that this may be boring, but if we do not keep him under observation more or less around the clock, we will never learn when a handing over takes place."
Carlo frowned. "Handing over?" he asked.
"Yes! Without doubt, something changes hands and the Portuguese is a kind of intermediary or so. In order to be sure about this, we still do not know enough. Maybe forbidden things are smuggled from Florence. Secret Documents, fake relics ..."
Relics were legacies of Jesus, Mary, the disciples or a saint. They could include bones, hair, a piece of clothing or any other item which had been in contact with the Venerable. They should bring luck and the bless of God. Since these relics were immensely valuable, there were of course many scammers who tried to sell fakes.
"My father told me that recently, in Florence a gang tried filling some dried pig's blood in small vessels and selling it as the blood of John the Baptist," Carlo told his friends.
But Leonardo shook his head. "No, I do not think it has to do with it. There must be something different what is being transported there!"
"The question is: Why doesn’t that guy who comes from Florence visiting the Portuguese directly pass on towards Pisa," said Carlo.
"The explanation is rather simple," interfered Gianna. "The Portuguese is a servant of the devil and has bewitched both men. Consequently, they have to ride in different directions and serve him as messengers of evil …"
The next few days, Leonardo was very busy. First of all he had to regain the favor of his grandfather. He was in fact still pretty angry about the fire that Leonardo had lighted.
"The whole house could have burned down, my boy," he said as they both sat at the wooden table in the basement. "And where would you have slept then? Apart from my fate!"
"It was not my intention," Leonardo replied abashed.
"I wasn’t expecting that the rope catches fire so quickly ..."
"... You should have thought about this risk. You are not longer a toddler. Besides, you know enough about how to light fire, how it spreads and what you should never do with it. Just imagine my house would have been ablaze in flames, then only the wind should have been unfavorable and even the neighbor's house would have caught fire! "
"Our house is made of stone", Leonardo remembered his grandfather and regretted it the next moment, to have corrected the old man.
Grandfather's face turned dark red. "Stone!" he gasped.
"That would have been the rest, what would have been left over, yes! A few stone walls, soot blackened and the roof had crashed upon you, and burning pieces would have killed you. But you might haven’t noticed that even more because the smoke would have stolen your consciousness and nobody could have saved nor you neither your friends." He shook his head. "In any situation, you still have to give some particularly clever words on top – instead of paying attention to the things you do!"
"I’ll do in the future," Leonardo promised solemnly. But it was not his first promise of this kind.
"I spoke with your father last night. It is not possible for him to take you in at the moment. He has a lot to do and is often on business trips in Florence. But I told him that I can’t stand this longer if you continue like that! I do not want to let me burn the roof over my head! "
"Yes, grandfather," muttered Leonardo now rather sheepishly. He was well aware that he could not join nor his father neither his mother now. His mother had her husband, a farmer from the area, some children and it was for the family difficult enough to get along. Once Carlo had asked him what family name he actually has now. Meanwhile, it had become more and more common also in the country to have not only a first name, but also a family name. Leonardo had thought about it. His parents had never been married, so he was not called D'Antonio as his father. And his mother?
She had taken the name of the farmer, whom she had married. Well, why should Leonardo bear the name of his mother when she herself had given it up? "I simply want to be called Leonardo from Vinci," he answered Carlo. "Leonardo da Vinci, that sounds good - and will make this place famous!"
Carlo had looked at him in surprise: "This place is not big, but if you travel from Pisa to Florence, you have to pass Vinci and therefore it is known better than you are! So who makes whom here famous - if that is the right word for it at all!"
Leonardo had smiled. "When later on, a great prince will allow me to show him the machines I am thinking of and when they will be built then, I am famous. And all people will talk about Vinci saying: This is the city from which the great Leonardo came."
While Leonardo remembered this conversation with Carlo, he listened to his grandfather’s words: "Do you want to be famous as the greatest fire-raiser of Vinci? Maybe you want to be wiped out of this place?"
"No, of course not," Leonardo said.
"And you know that you are getting talked about because of your animal experiments?” Leonardo raised his head and looked at his grandfather's eyes. These eyes had laugh lines at the sides. A sign that he was actually a very kind man who laughed a lot and rarely gave someone a scolding - like now. Leonardo thought that it was surely over soon. You only had to wait. Like a thunderstorm. Finally, he knew his grandfather better than any other people - his parents included. Mostly, you simply let him talk, and then, little by little, he was calming down automatically.
However, Leonardo had already noticed that it took now a long time especially after the last incident and Grandfather was upset again and again about the recent events. So it was perhaps better to change the subject and to talk about the dissected animals than about the fire.
"I am interested in studying the interior of the animals," Leonardo said. "They are so different, but some things are almost always the same. For example, the backbone of ..."
"You’ve really made a fine mess there! And besides, you can get diseases from dead animals. But the reason why you should be careful is different. As I said, people are starting to talk about you ..."
"Didn’t you tell me it does not matter what other people say and that you should always do the things you have considered as right?"
"Yes, but you should also pay attention that the results do not become unpleasant. But you don’t. I do not want people saying that you were possessed by the devil and would use these animals for any witchcraft!"
Leonardo looked up. When realizing that people could think such things about him, only because he wanted to know how an animal body works, he was startled.
He swallowed. "Do you really think that could happen, Grandpa?"
"People are afraid of the power of evil. That's just like that. And if someone does strange things in the eyes of others or things that they do not understand, they take this person to be a servant of Satan. Therefore, I want to warn you."
For a while Leonardo was silent. Perhaps grandfather was right and he had at least to ensure that not everyone was paying attention to his experiments.
"Grandfather, you know the Portuguese, who lives in the inn for some time?" Leonardo asked suddenly. Grandfather shook his head vigorously. "No, but I've heard of him."
"Gianna feared that he might be a servant of the devil ..."
"Do you believe that?" said Grandfather a counter-question. Leonardo shrugged. "There's something wrong with him, but I do not know what."
Grandfather's eyes narrowed when looking at Leonardo. "Really?
What should it be? Just because he does not like going out into the fresh air, that does not have to mean anything."
"But that strange horsemen visit him at night – that could be meanful!!"
"There will be a wholly innocent explanation", believed grandfather. "May I ask you a question, too? What are you doing with the branch that is in your room?"
"It's a secret."
"And I sincerely hope that this mystery has nothing to do with fire, otherwise, even you cannot imagine how big is the trouble you get. Do you understand me?"
"No, it has nothing to do with fire," the boy assured.
"Good," nodded the grandfather, who breathed a sigh of relief now. Shortly after, Leonardo went to his room. He pulled out a box where he kept the remains of a broken mirror. One of the few wealthier citizens of Vinci had been its owner, and the mirror fell of the wall because of not being properly anchored by the hook that should have held it.
Leonardo had discovered the mirror fragments within the waste and had taken them with him. That was almost a year ago and he had not yet known for what he should use the pieces. But now they could be very useful!
With the help of these mirror fragments he wanted to construct an apparatus with which he could look through the mostly open standing window into the chamber of the Portuguese when being in the chamber next to his.
The idea came to him when noticing the curved shape of the branch with which he had fallen to the ground. In another box Leonardo was keeping different tools he had collected over the years. A hammer was also among them as well as a wood chisel. For a while, Leonardo had been trying to carve faces into the wooden blocks faces until he lost his interest in it. Mainly because the faces had not become as good as he had imagined. Now he used the tools to split the curved branch in two pieces. In the holes he put each a fragment of the mirror. In order to hold better, he clung them with resin, which he had collected in a clay pot. Carefully, he smeared the sticky mass when Carlo came to visit him.
"Done!" Leonardo gasped and everyone could have seen his pride of this creation.
"What is that?" he asked. "Looks very funny - two mirrors on a curved branch. But for what should this serve? I do not know at all."
"It's easy!" Leonardo pointed to a mirror. "Every image this mirror will catch, is then thrown into the second mirror so you can see it there. When standing now at the neighboring window of the Portuguese’s chamber and holding carefully this device to his open window so that the interior is to be seen in the mirror, you can also see it in the next room by the second mirror. "
Carlo frowned. He sat down beside Leonardo on the floor, bent deeply and made sure that both levels were actually aligned so that the image was passed.
"And you think it works?" he asked skeptically.
"I am going to try it with one of our windows," said Leonardo.
Leonardo told Carlo to go to the next room. It was currently used as a store room. Since Grandmother's death, it had not been cleaned up.
With some difficulty first, Leonardo opened the shutters. The window faced the same side of the house as his own room did.
"I will cry NOW when it’s time!" Leonardo announced.
"Time for what?" Carlo persisted blankly. It often happened that when Leonardo was in thoughts he was already a step further and, then, in Carlo’s eyes, Leonardo's intentions sometimes were just an unsolvable puzzle.
"When you must do something. Pull faces, bore in the nose or scratch your bottom. I do not care - the main thing is that you are doing something that I cannot see or imagine - but I will be able to tell you because I am able to see you through the window with my mirror curve!"
"All right," nodded Carlo.
While Leonardo brought from his window the mirror curve, as he now called this device, Carlo remained in the junk room.
Leonardo gave the prearranged signal.
He could Carlo recognize very well in the second mirror. He rubbed his nose.
"What am I doing?" he shouted.
"You are rubbing your nose!" Leonardo noted triumphantly.
"You are pulling out one of your likely horribly uncomfortable shoes that are too warm for the summer anyway, if you ask me!"
"You've only heard the noise!" Carlo questioned the fairness of in this test.
"No, I really see it here," said Leonardo.
"And clearly. If you doubt this, then do something without any noise."
Carlo folded his hands as in prayer.
"You are praying," Leonardo noted immediately and Carlo was terrified about the efficience of his friend’s invention. They tried a few other things. Carlo stood on one leg or he covered his face with a scarf he wore. Most recently, he rolled up his sleeves.
"It works," Leonardo emphasized. He pulled the mirror curve away and put it back on the table. When Carlo returned from the next room, he saw Leonardo rubbing his arms.
"In the long run it is quite exhausting to hold the branch so far outside, although it’s really not that heavy!"
Leonardo tensed the muscles of his upper arms and relaxed them again. He frowned. "How does it come, I wonder!? If I just take the branch like this it is very light and I could carry it around with me for hours, but if I have stretched out my arm, then I can’t stand this but for a short period of time?"
"I think we should first find out whether now the Portuguese is a wizard or not, instead of occupying ourselves now with your arms," said Carlo.
"Try it yourself, Carlo! Maybe it's just my problem and my grandfather's right, I should get some fresh air, play outside and move more ..."
"Leonardo!" complained Carlo. He didn’t like Leonardo’s way to do, as if now everything was solved and he would only let Gianna manage it that Leonardo came into the room next to the Portuguese with his apparatus. Easily, he would then find out what the mysterious guy did the whole day. But for Carlo, nothing was clear. On the contrary, there were still a few questions in his opinion, questions to which they haven’t any satisfactory answers yet.
Leonardo, however, did not understand why Carlo was so irritated. "I do not know what’s the matter with you!" he said. "The riddle given to us by Gianna is as good as solved!"
Carlo now submitted his objections. "Number one, my dear Leonardo: How will you get into the inn? How will you reach the room next to the chamber of the Portuguese? Do you think Gianna’s parents just let you walk through the taproom with this strange apparatus in your hand, you just saying hello and then you can move around freely there and spy a guest?"
"I will talk to Gianna about this problem. I am sure that we will find a way," Leonardo was confident. "For example, she could leave the door open for me during the night. The guy is still active until late at night. The heat in the floor is almost unbearable, if you do not have the window open!"
"Well, assuming that you're in the room and get with your mirror curve to the neighbored window. How can you be sure that he does not discover you? He just needs to look out of the window and will wondering what the mirror there should mean."
But Leonardo shook his head. "I watched this man working. He is so concentrated that he does not see and hear anything. Well, a certain risk will remain, of course, that he just turns to the window when the mirror appears. But maybe he will fail to notice it when I don’t wildly wave it around! Finally, it is quite small and it should be already dark outside, so that my construction might not be striking."
Carlo took a deep breath. "We will get into big trouble if this happens nevertheless!"
"But no risk, no success!" said Leonardo.
"Gianna has been talking to me so long that I now also want to know necessarily what this guy does in his room the whole day. It could turn out to be quite harmless, too. Maybe he is, for example, a widely-traveled adventurer who has finally come to write down his experiences ... We'll see."
"Do you happen to know about whether this country exists from which he is said to come?"
"Portugal?" Leonardo shook his head. "But I’ll find out."
"Will Gianna come today, actually?"
"She said so."
At this moment, sounds came through the window from the outside. Hooves mingled with a myriad of voices. Leonardo went to the window. Carlo followed him. They looked out and saw a long train of at least twelve teams of horses coming down to the village square. "These are traders!" said Carlo.
"But I do not understand why they take this path. The southern road is much broader and partly made up, my father says."
"Maybe these people don’t know a lot - or they want to avoid the robber gangs people are talking about!"
One of the riders turned to the carpenter Giuseppe, who was standing in front of his shop and watched this spectacle. Big teams usually came rarely to Vinci - and that was the basis of life for the business of Carlo’s father, with his light horse-drawn wagon supplying the surrounding areas.
Although the way from Pisa to Florence via Vinci was a bit shorter than on the southern route, but impassable and if you were caught in a downpour, each car got stuck for a while - no matter what size it had. The rider chatted for a few moments with the carpenter Giuseppe. Apparently he asked for the way. Giuseppe was waving his arms around in the air, pointing again to Florence, then over to the church and finally in the opposite direction.
The wagon train finally moved on. Instead of continuing to drive to Florence, they turned right. The car had to struggle over the traversed path full of bumps where the inn of Gianna’s parents laid.
"Ah, they will probably take a rest," said Carlo. "By the way, I cannot stay so long today."
"Because I still have to calculate a lot for my father."
"What a pity."
"Do you think this caravane has anything to do with the Portuguese?"
Leonardo shrugged. "We simply do not know enough, but I do not really think so. But maybe I should look around later on."
A little later, when Carlo had already gone, Leonardo went to the inn to visit Gianna.
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