Back To The Dark Ages
To mark Halloween, here’s an excerpt from my novel Diavolino for this week’s Sample Sunday. If you want to buy a copy, links are in the sidebar.
“How in God’s name did it happen?” Palmerin smashed his fists into his desk and made the window shake.
“It’s no good taking it out on me,” said Annamaria. “Elspeth handed Alice over to Clara at the school herself. Not me.”
“But I thought you’d warned her?” he said, dabbing at his brow with a gray hanky.
“I did. I told her to give Clara a wide berth. I suppose with Paolo being there—”
“He has to be involved as well. Little shit. I’ll have his guts for garters when I get my hands on him.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“We have no choice,” he said, getting to his feet and pacing up and down his office in clouds of pipe smoke. “We’re going to have to come clean. We’ll have to tell Sir Roger what we know. No doubt he will want his money back, with damages.”
“Yes, but what about the damage to tourism, to the foreign investment?”
“It’s over, Annamaria—can’t you see? They’ve won. It’s all over.” The mayor chewed on his pipe and wiped his leaking forehead. “It’ll be like going back to the Dark Ages.” He slammed the phone down and bellowed for his assistant.
“Mr. Mayor?” Her heels still ticktacked on the floor as she spoke. Dark patches were developing in the armpits of her cream dress.
“What time is Sir Roger due?”
“His secretary said he planned to be here late afternoon but—”
“But what? Not more trouble?”
“Have you not heard the news?”
“I haven’t had time to listen to the news, woman.” Claudia stood frozen to the spot. “Tell me, for Christ’s sake.”
“Well, I just heard a report of a passenger plane coming down in Greece earlier today. Probably nothing, but they reckon it was brought down by birds of some kind. I was just thinking of Sir Roger, you know, up there,” she pointed heavenward.
“Silly! Planes crash from time to time, you know.”
“Yes, I know. But they said all commercial flights in Europe have been grounded.”
“That is because of the heat, Claudia. It’s playing havoc with the airports, traffic control, and so on.” His cheeks were concave from trying to suck more smoke out of his spent pipe. “Anyway, have you found that ass, Ricci?”
“No, no sign of him.”
“Well, get everybody onto it. Find him, and we find the Lupton girl. I’ll bet my life on it. That bastard is out of a job. Oh, and tell Mangionami I want to see her as soon as she’s free.”
“I thought you just spoke to her?”
“Yes, I did. But I forgot to ask her to come round, if that’s OK with you?”
Claudia ticktacked off, mumbling something under her breath, the patches of sweat under her arms almost meeting across her narrow back.