Thursday, March 24, 1870
While della Trabia locked the larder, Serafina looked around for Rosa. Nowhere. She began circling around to the back, slogging through dead weeds and found her, finally, poking at a lump of long grass and webs with the toe of her boot.
“What are you doing?”
“Making myself useful.” Rosa bent to pick up part of the tangle and came up with a crumpled note, torn and faded, weakened by the wind and the sun. She held it out to Serafina. “Probably nothing.”
Gently, Serafina smoothed out the paper as best she could, but it was so old and weathered, that a corner of it crumbled at her touch.
“We’ll be in residence a month if you don’t hurry.”
Serafina made no reply. She could barely read the notation, “5g.,” followed by a partial word “tri” and something else, so smudged that it was illegible.
“Keep it,” Rosa said.
Gently she stashed the dogeared note into her pocket. Serafina wondered where she’d seen the notation, 5g, before and wished, not for the first time, that Loffredo were here. Could be a doctor’s directive or a druggist’s cipher. Her son, Vicenzu, would know. She wrestled with the thought until she remembered a case she’d worked on two years ago where the victim was given a small dose of arsenic trioxide “to soften him up.” They had to be careful because “less than four grams would kill a man,” she remembered Loffredo saying. Could this paper have something to do with the chemical that slowly killed the baroness?
Photo: Taormina. Credit: soyignatius (Flickr), Creative Commons.