Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, a work in progress, publishing next month
Thursday, March 24, 1870,
“How can you not see it? It’s that huge mountain right in front of us, grey black at the base, a few houses running up its side, white around its peak, smoke and fiery ash spitting out of its mouth!” Once again, as she described it to Rosa, Serafina felt herself drawn to Etna’s power and unpredictable rage. Slowly she led her friend closer to the edge, her arm rigid, her finger pointing to the view, the madam shaking her head, Serafina straining to show her what only a blind person could fail to see, unaware of how close they’d come to the railing. “Can’t you see the spurts of fire?” Serafina asked.
“Now I do!” Rosa clutched Serafina’s arm and her face lit with Mt. Etna’s splendor.
It stood alone against the heavens, as untrustworthy and magnificent as whoever had killed the baroness, someone within these very walls. Serafina fingered the shape of the journal in her pocket. “We’ve awakened a monster. Whoever poisoned the baroness is in this house, I’m convinced of it. Nature senses it.”
Rosa nodded. “I feel it, too, and the nun was correct—the baroness was slipped a venom—but we’re a long way from proving it, especially to the likes of the baron.”
Serafina continued with her thought. “For eighteen months, he thought he got away with murder and now he’s on high alert, fearful that in her agonized awareness, the baroness may have discovered his identity before she died, written down his name or at least a clue as to who he was, and now that we’ve uncovered her journals, he’ll try to rid the world of us, mark me, and his attempts will be sudden and violent.” She trembled at the thought, but so far, she’d learned next to nothing about him. She must take a more daring approach and stir up his rage if she hoped to discover his identity. Perhaps tonight’s dinner would provide her with a stage upon which to provoke his volcanic ire.
Photo: Mt. Etna at sunset. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.