The Milanese Nightingale had once again come to Marlinspike Hall, traveling not only with Igor Wagner and Irma, but with a second jewel case. Within lay emeralds (though none quite as extravagant as her Castafiore Emerald), rubies, diamonds, and lapis lazuli, and said that she had had a very wealthy patron in Milan who had supplied her with the gemstones in lieu of payment for a private party. While grateful for the gifts, she confessed that she was somewhat skeptical of the origin of the jewels, as her own collection–the original case, now modest in comparison– had been the end product of years and years of collecting, performing, and traveling. For this amount of jewelry to tumble into her lap after one night was simply unheard of. Not only that, this new patron was somewhat of a newcomer on the opera scene, which was also somewhat unusual, as most of the socialites Madame Castafiore was asked to perform for she had been performing for as long as she could remember, especially in Milan.
As was typical of Tintin and his companions, they had found themselves in Italy, following a paper trail that grew more and more convoluted, but eventually led to multiple accounts of tax evasion, the Italian mafia, and, most damningly, not only gem smuggling, but gem smuggling used to cover up international dealings of quite another kind: drug smuggling.
After they had stumbled into a secret entrance in a sidestreet,
Tintin and Captain Haddock found themselves, rather unexpectedly, in the location referred to in several of the leads and clues they had uncovered; the main home of the stolen goods.
“This is certainly a stroke of luck… We must search everywhere, Captain,” he had whispered, looking to the sailor. Though seemingly abandoned, they had to be cautious, “we have to find absolute proof of their dealings. Let’s have a look around, but we must go quietly… don’t make a noise.”
After an hour or so of frustrated searching, they had stumbled upon the perfect piece of evidence; jewelry-boxes with false bottoms, lined with drugs.
The darkness in the room suddenly vanished, replaced by momentarily blinding light. Tintin, snapping out of the shock quickly, looked around before his eyes instantly widened, fixed on something in the distance. In the same moment, at the telltale sound of a metallic click, followed by a bang, and a rush of air.
“Captain, look out!”
No sooner did the boy reporter try to push his friend out of the way when he felt a familiar, stinging sensation on his right side, before it bloomed into a shooting pain. Gritting his teeth, he fell, bracing himself with an arm, reaching into his trenchcoat pocket where, thankfully, he had concealed a revolver, shooting in the direction where the attack had come from. Unsure of whether or not the shot had landed, the gun dropped as the feeling of hurt flared, becoming crippling, and his arm gave out from under him. His ears were ringing but he was still somehow half-alert.