Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, a work in progress
Thursday, March 24, 1870
The afternoon had turned and the wind was brisk on the roof. Dark clouds massed over the sea.
“Another ship making for the baron’s harbor,” Serafina pointed out. She saw men in blue racing around the pier with hand carts as tug boats guided the ship in to the wharf. Carts heavy with crates, probably containing citrus from the baron’s groves, were standing by for loading. She started over to the front railing when she was stopped by a brusque tug at the back of her skirt.
“Not on your life. I’ve had enough of edges and pushing and falling for a lifetime. You’ll stay away from the rail or I leave,” Rosa said. “Take my arm and walk around with me. That way, I know you’ll be safe even when we round the corner and gaze at Mt. Etna.”
So they strode from front to rear and side to side, Serafina and Rosa, pointing to each outbuilding, making sure they’d included it in their list of locations for Arcangelo to search, and were about to leave when they heard a sudden bang and felt the tiles shake beneath their feet. They ran to the main staircase and found, to their fright, that the door had slammed shut. They faced each other, frozen in disbelief for a brief second, until Serafina remembered the back stairwell and so hurried around the side, only to find that the back entrance was locked as well.
Serafina’s heart began to pound so rapidly that she thought she would faint and she clung to Rosa, telling herself to breathe slowly. “Let’s sit over in the roof garden,” she said. Perhaps the palms will inspire us.
Rosa agreed and the two walked over and sat. But no sooner had they done so than Serafina felt the first drop of rain on her cheek. Soon the sky opened up and they ran for shelter. Before reaching the main staircase overhang, both women were drenched to the skin. The rain poured, the thunder ripped, and the lightning scorched the sky. Serafina regarded her friend who looked like a drowned owl. They banged on the door and yelled at the top of their lungs but it did no good.
“Wait here. I’m going to take a walk around to see if I can snag someone’s attention on the ground,” Serafina said.
“In this deluge? Whatever you do, don’t get too close to the railing.”
Photo: Dawn in sicily. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.