I immediately ran out into the corridor without even realizing what I was doing. This was at the Hotel Universo back when I was working there as a maid. Or, I mean, checking in. I was running toward us…I mean a maid was running toward us down a long corridor screaming “Madonna! Madonna!” My brother and I had been hiding out at the hotel for days, but they’d tracked us down. The hit man used a knife but only managed to slice off the barest tip of my brother’s finger. When I came out of the bathroom, blood was everywhere. My brother had been slicing things up for an omelet and I’d been writing postcards home when this guy with a gun enters, barging into the lobby just as I finished signing the registry. The door to our room didn’t automatically lock. My brother snuck up on him and sliced his cheek. The guy goes staggering out into the corridor as the maid’s about to come in. My brother’s screaming, “You bloody bastard!” He’d spent the previous part of the year in England. The guy lurches down the corridor and out onto the streets of I think we’d just taken the night train up from Naples so Rome, and the maid is running behind him crying and screaming as I followed her out into the corridor wanting to help. The Polizia certainly weren’t on the scene. “May I protect your uniform?” I shouted after her in Italian, struggling with the language. I fell and the knife went flying. The intruder had long stringy hair and a black, wide-brimmed monsignor’s hat. This was supposed to be a disguise? He looked like a drugged up street person on an errand. The maid pointed her gun at my brother. “Shite!” he screamed. Now the maid knew she had the wrong guy. The intruder charged in brandishing a knife but was brought up short. “Scuzi!” he said to the maid. His politeness didn’t matter. She was enraged, disgusted by the slovenly ways of so many guests. And she didn’t like surprises. Within seconds the guy’s sliding down the wall. He grimaces and I notice his toothless gums. The gun clatters onto the tiled floor. I kick it away from my brother: he’s a complete hothead. But it was the maid who was fired up. We’d only just checked in and she’s already striding down the hallway brandishing a pistol. She stood in the corridor and plugged the guy while he was cleaning our room. I mean cleaning it out. We were in the corridor when we heard the shouting. The door to his room I mean our room burst open. She stabbed him and then just pushed him aside and went over and started cleaning the room. Talk about cold. I watched him flopping around on the floor, using his fingers to hold in the blood. His teeth were chattering. Who knows what it was about. I flipped out and ran down the corridor screaming “Porca miseria!” over and over. The man stumbled past us as we were checking out. My brother turned to me and said, “The excitement always starts just as we’re leaving.” The maid had an elegant, rosewood Lady Delacour penknife hidden in her uniform. Dripping blood, the man tottered outside. I turned to look down the corridor as the maid ran past us crying “Porca Madonna!” carrying her mother-of-pearl-handled pistol. She disappeared after him into the daylight glare.

“It’s not always like this, is it?” my brother asked as we checked in. We all laughed. The clerk seemed to understand.

“Does this mean the maid is fired?” I asked.

He shrugged, jutting out his lower lip. “I am not the responsible,” he said. “But, yes, if I am deciding, she will go I think.” He looked unhappy. “She shoots herself.”

“Well, then what’s the problem?” my brother said. There was a silence.

The desk clerk looked confused and a little scared. “I do not understand but my English is not so good. She has the…the…what is it…the needle,” and he held out his arm. “Shoots, no? With the needle? And when she has no more…” He grimaced and looked nervously down at his reservation book. “But I am sorry, I do not see the vacancies. I am mistaken and very sorry. It is full.”

My brother and I exploded with laughter. How utterly droll this clerk was. What a wonderful introduction to Rome.