Copyright Published by Dreamspinner Press 4760 Preston Road Suite 244-149 Frisco, TX 75034 http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/ This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author‟s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Prognosis: Forever Copyright © 2010 by Etienne Cover Art by Reese Dante http://www.reesedante.com Cover Design by Mara McKennen All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 4760 Preston Road, Suite 244-149, Frisco, TX 75034 http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/ ISBN: 978-1-61581-737-5 Printed in the United States of America First Edition March 2011 eBook edition available eBook ISBN: 978-1-61581-738-2 .
Acknowledgments A GREAT many people have helped make this story what it is today, including several beta readers who pointed out inconsistencies and asked all the right questions. My thanks to all of you. My thanks again to Silvano Stagni for setting me straight on all things Italian. Credit is also due to a retired doctor and a not-quite-retired nurse who served as beta readers in addition to critiquing all things medical in this book. Thank you, Bill and Ben. I must also thank my patient and long-suffering editor Jim Kennedy, who has guided me through the maze that is correct punctuation. Then there is my partner of fifteen years, who is also my best and most thorough critic. Thank you again, one and all. Etienne .
Prognosis: Forever 1 Chapter 1 Marco “WAKE up, Marco. Wake up,” someone was saying over and over again. I fought my way up through layers of sleep, part of me wanting to respond to the urgent voice, but the part of me that didn‟t want to do so won the battle and once again I succumbed to sleep. “Come on, babe, this isn‟t like you.” “Go away,” I heard myself saying, “and leave me alone, I wanta sleep some more.” “Marco d‟Argenzio, get your ass out of that bed right now, or I‟ll take steps. You‟re attending a birthday party for your children in a couple of hours.” “You attend it,” I said, “I‟m gonna stay here in bed.” “Okay, babe, you asked for it.” There was blessed silence for a time; then something cold and liquid hit me in the face, and I sat bolt upright, shaking the water out of my face and hair. “What the fuck are you doing?” I said. “Taking steps, just like I promised.” “I was gonna get up.” “In this lifetime?” he said. “In a bit.” “No, you weren‟t. You made that quite clear. What‟s the matter with you, anyhow? You‟ve always been an early riser, and not only that, you .
Prognosis: Forever 9 Chapter 2 Marco THE day of the wedding was almost upon us, and the Duchy of Aragoni was bustling with activity in preparation for the festivities. Members of Father‟s far-flung family were arriving from all over the world, and there were literally no rooms at the inn—any inn. All of the vacant suites in the castle complex were occupied, as were the spare bedrooms of most residents, and there were “siamo al completo” signs in front of every hotel and bed-and-breakfast facility in the city and surrounding countryside. The wedding was to take place on Sunday, and a series of celebratory performances were to be held in the new Concert Hall at the university. The University of Aragoni was home to one of the most respected music schools in Europe, and the new Concert Hall (actually a complex of three venues of different sizes) had been completed last year. The principal hall was also home to the largest pipe organ in Europe, and my father had funded an additional set of trompettes en chamade, or horizontal trumpets, to be installed in honor of his bride. They were officially named the Serafina Trumpets after the name which appeared on her birth certificate. Angelina had been raised as an orphan, and Father‟s operatives had, after a lengthy investigation, discovered that Angelina‟s mother had changed her birth name after she‟d fled the village where she was living with her husband—literally in the middle of the night, taking her infant daughter with her. Angelina and her mother had simply disappeared that night, and nobody, including her husband, knew where she had gone. Her mother had been killed in an accident when Angelina was about three years old. Her body had been recently exhumed, and radiocarbon dating of the bones had proven her age to have been approximately two hundred at the time of her death. This had been our first real proof that Angelina‟s female ancestors were, like the male members of our family, long lived. .
20 Etienne Chapter 3 Marco I TOOK a shower, dressed in a comfortable suit, and prepared to go to the Council meeting. The boys were romping around in their room, so I took a minute to give each of them a hug. Dani, who was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room playing with them, looked up at me expectantly as I was making the rounds. “Don‟t worry, babe,” I said, “you‟ll get yours later.” I bent down and kissed him. “Knock ‟em dead, Conte Marco,” he said. “Yeah. See you later.” I took the elevator to a sub-basement level and walked down the wide underground corridor to the adjacent building, which housed the administrative offices for all of the various family enterprises as well as the Council chambers. In the Council chambers, I took my seat at the head of the long table and waited for the members to gather. In addition to governing the affairs of the Duchy of Aragoni, the governing council was also responsible for managing all of the far-flung business enterprises of the family. There were twelve Council members, six of whom were sons of il Duca and therefore my half-brothers, and six of whom were descendants of father‟s many sons, which made them my nephews to one degree or another. Their ages ranged from a very young two hundred to one of my half-brothers who was born shortly after the fall of Rome. While I was waiting for everyone‟s arrival, I set my laptop on the table in front of me, opened it, and ran a fingertip across the touchpad to bring the device to life. After a moment or two, it recognized the secure wireless network and connected to it. Father arrived and carried his laptop to the other end of the table at about the same time as the rest of the members began to trickle in. As the members settled in their seats, the instant messaging program on my screen came to life. .
28 Etienne Chapter 4 Marco TOM and Noah assured us that they were both willing and able to fend for themselves, so Dani and I went back to work the next morning. We did leave the hospital at noon Friday so we could participate in the wedding rehearsal. I was acting as best man, and Dani had been asked to give the bride away because both of Angelina‟s available male relatives—her adopted father and her paternal grandfather—were too infirm to walk down the aisle with her. The rehearsal went off without a hitch. Although the wedding was being held in St. Mary‟s Anglican Cathedral with the Dean of the Cathedral officiating, a Roman Catholic priest would assist in the ceremony in deference to the bride and her family. The rehearsal dinner, which was actually a late luncheon, took place in the banquet room of the largest hotel in town, and the wine flowed freely. At one point, Father said to Tom and Noah, who were sitting opposite himself and Angelina, “You gentlemen don‟t seem to be enjoying the food and wine.” “That‟s not it at all, Sir,” Tom said. “I have a concert tomorrow evening, and Noah will be on stage performing in his own concert this evening—with me as his accompanist. We‟ve learned the hard way not to overindulge during the twenty-four hours preceding such events.” “That‟s true,” Noah said. “We‟ll make up for it after the wedding.” “How are your recording sessions coming, Tom?” I said. “Couldn‟t be better. By the time we fly back to Florida, I‟ll have enough material for at least three new CDs, plus the live recording of the concert tomorrow evening, which will be a two-CD set.” “Don‟t forget tomorrow morning,” Noah said. “What happens tomorrow morning?” Father said. “I‟m going to perform all of Maurice Durufle‟s organ compositions for .
36 Etienne Chapter 5 Marco DANI and I slept late Sunday morning, as did our guests, and Lucia somehow managed to keep the boys much quieter than usual. We combined a late breakfast with an early lunch and, dressed in our wedding finery, arrived at St. Mary‟s Anglican Cathedral with half an hour to spare. As cathedrals go, the building wasn‟t very impressive—it was basically a medium-sized Anglican church which had been elevated to cathedral status in recent years. Despite its proximity to and historic ties with Italy, Aragoni was not predominantly Roman Catholic, primarily because there were so many residents from other countries who had established churches to accommodate their own beliefs and needs. “Father, you‟re going to outshine the bride,” I said when I walked into the anteroom where he was waiting. He was decked out in an even fancier version of what we referred to as his “Student Prince” outfit, complete with a wide blue sash that ran across his chest at an angle. “It is ridiculous, is it not?” Father said. “But the people of this country are „my‟ people, and it is what they expect to see. I consider it a small sacrifice to make if it pleases my subjects.” “That‟s right,” I said. “I guess they really are your subjects, aren‟t they?” “Not really, but that is how many of them perceive themselves, and you know what they say.” “Perception is reality.” “Just so,” he said. The Dean of the Cathedral joined us, accompanied by the Roman Catholic priest who was to assist in the ceremony. We sat quietly, listening to .
Prognosis: Forever 45 Chapter 6 Dani MARCO and I watched the plane carrying our guests back to Florida until it was out of sight. “Time to go to work, babe,” Marco said. “Yeah,” I said, “duty calls.” The ever-present Sal dropped us off at the hospital entrance and asked if we needed a ride home that evening. “We‟ll take the tram, Sal,” Marco said. “I‟ll have someone drive me to the hospital so I can ride with you,” Sal said. “Are we back to that again?” Marco said. “Not back to it, Conte Marco,” Sal said, “you can‟t go back to something you never left.” “Well, if you‟re gonna come back, you might as well plan to drive us home.” “Yes, Sir,” Sal said. The rest of the week went smoothly, and we were looking forward to a quiet weekend—not that we hadn‟t enjoyed having Tom and Noah stay with us—but it was not to be. Marco‟s cell phone rang five minutes after we got home from the hospital Friday. “Hello,” Marco said. … “Stefano, good to hear from you. What can I do for you? … Really? … Eight o‟clock? … We‟ll be there. Do I need to bring anything with me? … Thanks, see you in the morning.” He closed the cell phone with a snap that told me he was annoyed, and I looked a question at him. “That was Stefano,” he said. .
56 Etienne Chapter 7 Marco WE ARRIVED at the “inn” a little before five, as it had taken much longer than predicted to navigate the many sharp curves and switchbacks in the highway through the mountains. It turned out to be more like a glorified bed-and- breakfast establishment than an inn, and Dani and I were escorted to a decent- sized room on the second floor. The room contained a pair of twin beds pushed together in the middle of the room, in the manner typical of small European hotels, and surprisingly, it was en suite. “„I suppose we‟ve done better‟,” Dani said, mimicking the aging actress portrayed by Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth. “„God knows, we‟ve done worse‟.” “Dani,” I said, “at least it‟s clean and the beds look comfortable.” I sat down on one of them to demonstrate. “Sorry,” he said, “just thought a little bit of humor was needed… and don‟t you dare say „mighty little‟.” “Just be glad you‟re with me, kiddo. I think they gave good old Conte Marco the best room in the house.” “You think?” he said. “Enough already. We need to put on some fresh clothes so we can go downstairs and mingle.” “Are you gonna wear your ermine and carry your scepter?” he said. “Fool.” “You should at least wear a suit.” “Now that I agree with,” I said. Showered, shaved, and dressed in business attire, Dani and I went .