I loved reading spy novels, especiously ones by Fleming and de Carre, so I thought I might try my hand at one. I wrote this when we were building are house. Whenever it rained I wrote!
The bleached grass hissed as the wind tore over the rock-strewn hillside. Vincent watched the goats slipping on the shale as they clambered forward searching for green stems, devouring leaves and roots as they foraged toward the skeleton bushes. Their hooves clicked on the flattened rock as they sought shelter from the wind and the thorny branches. Sustenance and a place to lie for the night were what they sought. Vincent followed quietly behind, then pulled a tattered leather bag from his shoulder, pulling it open and then laying out a canvas bag stuffed with dried grass in the lee of the wind. Eyeing the dying sun, he wished Tanks was with him tonight but the dog had sprained a paw on this same hillside two days ago and had been left at the farm. He checked his charges once they had reached their chosen destination, then slipped into the bag and slept.
Something awoke him, a shriek in the wind, unease in the herd, he rose quickly to check and count them. A goat was worth a week of food, a pair of shoes, and a trip to Palermo and back for the family. Again, down from far below, a wail and a gunshot.
Images of tragedy crossed his mind and grabbing the halter of the herd leader he strode quickly down the rocky path toward the family fields far below.
He heard several vehicles thunder away, raising a brief cloud across the fields. He now ran, leaving the herd to find their own way. He cut down the steep slope, jumping and leaping through the pathway’s bends and raced to the farm. Scattered about, like dolls, was his own brother, Mario, the tongue cut from his head a sickly black mess over the chest, Mario, tall and strong, unbent by bullies or bandits. He ran to the squat house calling his mother, she lay pinioned by a knife through her hand to the floor blood coursing down her chest. But she groaned and Vincent held her head in his arms. She turned over and with the other hand wrenched the knife free.
“Mario”, she whispered hoarsely.
Vincent shook his head and started to weep. His Mother wrapped her weak arms around him.
“God in heaven” she cried, “Antonio…Antonio.”
“Papa is not here”
“Vincent go to the stable…Go at once”
Vincent propped his Mother up against the wall and hurtled out. He fell over Tanks, his dog, brave carefree Tanks, shot and a crushed skull. He stood paralysed, breathing deeply in shock and hatred for those that had done this to Tanks. Old Cappello’s gift for helping at harvest. Tanks gone, his mind reeled and he held the dog, still warm, but his mother called again to find his father, and half running half crouching he reached the barn. His father lay in a pool of blood, badly beaten but as Vincent knelt beside him he could hear a throaty guttural noise. He ran for the old blanket used for the animals when they were sick, and he covered his Father up.
“Don’t move Father I will run to Cappello’s for help.”
“Your Mother?” the guttural voice wheezed.
“ A blade to the hand and blood at her front”
“And…and Mario…and your Tanks?”
“Both…” Vincent could not bring himself to say it.
“Go then, get Cappello, a Doctor for your Mother, quickly…Vincent hear me you must away…Vendetta…as soon as possible…to. cousins in Agrigento…you know….”
“Yes father”, said the dark eyed child and ran back to his mother.
“ Father lives, I’m to go to Cappello’s for help.” he shouted in the doorway and swinging his short frame across the frame of Mario’s scooter, kicked the engine into life and rode like a demon from the yard.
A week later the funerals were held, a father, a mother and eldest son dead by vendetta. The people gossiped the why and wherefore. Mario had accused the Don’s son Dagio of theft in the tavern, an argument developed, Dagio pulled a knife, swung, and Mario twisted it from him and buried it into the others thigh.
When the priest had finished the service the Don sauntered over from the café, and greeting Cappello standing guard over Vincent, he turned and addressed the boy.
“You and your family injured my own. You, but a child will soon become a man.” The Don pushed his heavy face into Vincent’s; “You would be wise to understand our ways. An eye for an eye and this sad tale is at an end”. He slapped Vincent on the shoulder and his lips smiled. But Vincent only saw the reptilian eyes and knew his father and Cappello were right to advise him to leave.
“You killed… Tanks…all my family.”
“One day you may join them, it is finished now Vincent. Eh?” the Don glared at Cappello and walked away. Old Cappello led him away through the inquisitive crowd.
“I will look after your farm and keep it for you as will my sons, we will work it and for payment we will share the profit and send it to your Aunt. Mario’s cycle will be sold. However the Don will not risk a vendetta from you when you are grown, therefore your own life could be at risk.” He shrugged, “Soon perhaps, seek a life elsewhere until the Don is gone. Your mother’s sister is in the South, go there quickly, never mention your father’s name, and use your Aunts. Your profits will help her to keep you. Here is the knife used on your family, learn to use it skilfully and return it to its owner when you are grown.”
Alarmed and sickened Vincent pushed the old mans arm away, but Cappello persisted and the boy pocketed it with loathing.
“And Vincent use this,” Cappello tapped his head.
He reached his aunt four days later; she was pleased to receive him, his uncle less so. The following night Vincent could hear them arguing down the stairs whilst he lay in their spare room. In the morning his uncle drove him and his small bag of belongings to a factory close to the harbour. He motioned Vincent to wait in the vehicle whilst he went to the factory. An hour later his uncle beckoned him to follow him, and they entered the dark building, climbing some wooden stairs to an office area. Vincent’s uncle knocked on the solid wood door and opening it ushered Vincent in.
“Your uncle told you why you are here?” asked the black suited man sitting at the desk.
“Know Don Corio’s son Dagio?”
Vincent stiffened and shuddered.
“A request from Dagio to help track you down.” The black suit leaned forward over his desk and drew a cigar from a box. “You stole from the Don.”
“They stole from me….all my family”, Vincent shouted, anger coursing through his veins, his eyes bright with venom.
The black suit leaned back and held his cigar toward his uncle, who struck a match and lit it.
‘Um, your uncle has told me something of this, so I guess we’ve been expecting you.”
Vincent quickly glanced up to his uncle but the black suit rapped the table for both to attend him.
“You see Vincent, Dagio has asked for your return if we find you alive, or…” black suit paused as he drew in the smoke, “or a piece of you, if found dead.”
“The Corio’s are customers and I would not like to offend them at this particular time, so you can see you are an embarrassment to me if not to your aunt.” Black suit smiled, “But your uncle serves me well, and you will follow his instructions, later you may return.”
Vincent stood baffled looking directly at black suit, for a fleeting moment he thought he would be killed, and then he realised this black suit must have other plans.
Black suit rose and quickly walked around to face the boy.
“ What is the most precious thing which belongs to you?”
Vincent immediately thought of Tanks name tab, he had it on a piece of twine around his neck.
“I have the blade that killed my mother.”
“Let me have it,” said the man, “That’s a item held for vengeance, not a personal one.”
“Vincent give the Don your most treasured,” cried his uncle, who stepping forward grasped the twine around his nephews neck, but the Don pushed his arm away.
“Let the boy give it away himself.”
Vincent carefully withdrew the tag from around his neck and handed it to black suit.
“This and a piece of pig will save you further trouble. The knife is final proof of your demise.” Black suit turned to the uncle; “ you bought the pig and a glass jar?”
Vincent’s uncle nodded.
“And the vinegar…it must be malt not wine Huh?”
“Yes Don Vincenzo.” Vincent’s uncle bent and kissed the black suits hand and leading his nephew to the door, bowed once.
That evening they drove to a smallholding in the hills behind the town. ‘Make it deep as you can’ his uncle had said, so Vincent dug the grave until he reached the iron like strata whilst his uncle selected and cut the piece of pig for the jar of vinegar.
As they buried it in the grave his uncle looked mournfully at the mound of fresh earth “Goodbye Vincent, you are to go by the name of Vinchenzo from now. Vincent Vinchenzo. Documents are here for you, in that name you go to Genoa by ship this night…the Don has arrangements for you in Genoa. There you will learn his ways and be safe. Do not write directly to us in Sicily. Now get under that sack in the back of the van and keep your head down boy”
“I don’t understand any of this uncle.” Vincent climbed into the van rear; “ I will not use any other name than my own.”
“A death wish no doubt,” his uncle laughed, “ Do as you are told, the Corio’s are not your concern now, but you are theirs so be careful.”
“And walk away as a coward” Vincent raised the sacking.
“Do as you are told for there are other paths converging here, what thought you of our Don?”
“He spoke Italian, with a slur, not our own dialect.”
“His father, the old Don, sent him to America. You of course never knew the war days; the old Don assisted the General Patton to rid us of two scourges. I also was very young but the old ones remembered those times. In Genoa you will be cared for, and perhaps you one day may get to America.”
“What will I do there?”
“You will learn your trade as best you are able, remember you are in service to our Don now.”