The Sicilian sun, early-morning lemon-colored, filled Michael’s bedroom. He awoke and, feeling Apollonia’s satiny body against his own sleep-warm skin, made her come awake with love. When they were done, even all the months of complete possession could not stop him from marveling at her beauty and her passion.
She left the bedroom to wash and dress in the bathroom down the hall. Michael, still naked, the morning sun refreshing his body, lit a cigarette and relaxed on the bed. This was the last morning they would spend in this house and the villa. Don Tommasino had arranged for him to be transferred to another town on the southern coast of Sicily. Apollonia, in the first month of pregnancy, wanted to visit with her family for a few weeks and would join him at the new hiding place after the visit.
The night before, Don Tommasino had sat with Michael in the garden after Apollonia had gone to bed. The Don had been worried and tired, and admitted that he was concerned about Michael’s safety. “Your marriage brought you into sight,” he told Michael: “I’m surprised your father hasn’t made arrangements for you to go someplace else. In any case I’m having my own troubles with the young Turks in Palermo. I’ve offered some fair arrangements so that they can wet their beaks more than they deserve, but those scum want everything. I can’t understand their attitude. They’ve tried a few little tricks but I’m not so easy to kill. They must know I’m too strong for them to hold me so cheaply. But that’s the trouble with young people, no matter how talented. They don’t reason things out and they want all the water in the well.”
And then Don Tommasino had told Michael that the two shepherds, Fabrizzio and Calo, would go with him as bodyguards in the Alfa Romeo. Don Tommasino would say his good-byes tonight since he would be off early in the morning, at dawn, to see to his affairs in Palermo. Also, Michael was not to tell Dr. Taza about the move, since the doctor planned to spend the evening in Palermo and might blab.
Michael had known Don Tommasino was in trouble. Armed guards patrolled the walls of the villa at night and a few faithful shepherds with their luparas were always in the house. Don Tommasino himself went heavily armed and a personal bodyguard attended him at all times.
The morning sun was now too strong. Michael stubbed out his cigarette and put on work pants, work shirt and the peaked cap most Sicilian men wore. Still barefooted, he leaned out his bedroom window and saw Fabrizzio sitting in one of the garden chairs. Fabrizzio was lazily combing his thick dark hair, his lupara was carelessly thrown acres the garden table. Michael whistled and Fabrizzio looked up to his window.
“Get the car,” Michael called down to him. “I’ll be leaving in five minutes. Where’s Calo?”
Fabrizzio stood up. His shirt was open, exposing the blue and red lines of the tattoo on his chest. “Calo is having a cup of coffee in the kitchen,” Fabrizzio said. “Is your wife coming with you?”
Michael squinted down at him. It occurred to him that Fabrizzio had been following Apollonia too much with his eyes the last few weeks. Not that he would dare ever to make an advance toward the wife of a friend of the Don’s. In Sicily there was no surerroad to death. Michael said coldly, “No, she’s going home to her family first, she’ll join us in a few days.” He watched Fabrizzio hurry into the stone hut that served as a garage for the Alfa Romeo.
Michael went down the hall to wash. Apollonia was gone. She was most likely in the kitchen preparing his breakfast with her own hands to wash out the guilt she felt because she wanted to see her family one more time before going so far away to the other end of Sicily. Don Tommasino would arrange transportation for her to where Michael would be.
Down in the kitchen the old woman Filomena brought him his coffee and shyly bid him a good bye. ‘I’ll remember you to my father,” Michael said and she nodded.
Calo came into the kitchen and said to Michael, “The car’s outside, shall I get your bag?”
“No, I’ll get it,” Michael said. “Where’s Apolla?”
Calo’s face broke into an amused grin. “She’s sitting in the driver’s seat of the car, dying to step on the gas. She’ll be a real American woman before she gets to America.” It was unheard of for one of the peasant women in Sicily to attempt driving a car. But Michael sometimes let Apollonia guide the Alfa Romeo around the inside of the villa walls, always beside her however because she sometimes stepped on the gas when she meant to step on the brake.
Michael said to Calo, “Get Fabrizzio and wait for me in the car.” He went out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs to the bedroom. His bag was already packed. Before picking it up he looked out the window and saw the car parked in front of the portico steps rather than the kitchen entrance.
Apollonia was sitting in the car, her hands on the wheel like a child playing. Calo was just putting the lunch basket in the rear seat. And then Michael was annoyed to see Fabrizzio disappearing through the gates of the villa on some errand outside. What the hell was he doing? He saw Fabrizzio take a look over his shoulder, a look that was somehow furtive. He’d have to straighten that damn shepherd out. Michael went down the stairs and decided to go through the kitchen to see Filomena again and give her a final farewell. He asked the old woman, “Is Dr. Taza still sleeping?”
Filomena’s wrinkled face was sly. “Old roosters can’t greet the sun. The doctor went to Palermo last night.”
Michael laughed. He went out the kitchen entrance and the smell of lemon blossoms penetrated even his sinus-filled nose. He saw Apollonia wave to him from the car just ten paces up the villa’s driveway and then he realized she was motioning him to stay where he was, that she meant to drive the car to where he stood. Calo stood grinning beside the car, his lupara dangling in his hand. But there was still no sign of Fabrizzio. At that moment; without any conscious reasoning process, everything came together in his mind, and Michael shouted to the girl, “No! No!” But his shout was drowned in the roar of the tremendous explosion as Apollonia switched on the ignition. The kitchen door shattered into fragments and Michael was hurled along the wall of the villa for a good ten feet. Stones tumbling from the villa roof hit him on the shoulders and one glanced off his skull as he was lying on the ground. He was conscious just long enough to see that nothing remained of the Alfa Romeo but its four wheels and the steel shafts which held them together.
* * *
He came to consciousness in a room that seemed very dark and heard voices that were so low that they were pure sound rather than words. Out of animal instinct he tried to pretend he was still unconscious but the voices stopped and someone was leaning from a chair close to his bed and the voice was distinct now, saying, “Well, he’s with us finally.” A lamp went on, its light like white fire on his eyeballs and Michael turned his head. It felt very heavy, numb. And then he could see the face over his bed was that of Dr. Taza.
“Let me look at you a minute and I’ll put the light out,” Dr,. Taza said gently. He was busy shining a small pencil flashlight into Michael’s eyes. “You’ll be all right,” Dr. Taza said and turned to someone else in the room. “You can speak to him.”
It was Don Tommasino sitting on a chair near his bed, Michael could see him clearly now. Don Tommasino was saying, “Michael, Michael, can I talk to you? Do you want to rest?”
It was easier to raise a hand to make a gesture and Michael did so and Don Tommasino said, “Did Fabrizzio bring the car from the garage?”
Michael, without knowing he did so, smiled. It was in some strange way, a chilling smile, of assent. Don Tommasino said, “Fabrizzio has vanished. Listen to me, Michael. You’ve been unconscious for nearly a week. Do you understand? Everybody thinks you’re dead, so you’re safe now, they’ve stopped looking for you. I’ve sent messages to your father and he’s sent back instructions. It won’t be long now, you’ll be back in America. Meanwhile you’ll rest here quietly. You’re safe up in the mountains, in a special farmhouse I own. The Palermo people have made their peace with me now that you’re supposed to be dead, so it was you they were after all the time. They wanted to kill you while making people think it was me they were after. That’s something you should know. As for everything else, leave it all to me. You recover your strength and be tranquil.”
Michael was remembering everything now. He knew his wife was dead, that Calo was dead. He thought of the old woman in the kitchen. He couldn’t remember if she had come outside with him. He whispered, “Filomena?” Don Tommasino said quietly, “She wasn’t hurt, just a bloody nose from the blast. Don’t worry about her.”
Michael said, “Fabrizzio. Let your shepherds know that the one who gives me Fabrizzio will own the finest pastures in Sicily.”
Both men seemed to sigh with relief. Don Tontmasino lifted a glass from a nearby table and drank from it an amber fluid that jolted his head up. Dr. Taza sat on the bed and said almost absently, “You know, you’re a widower. That’s rare in Sicily.” As if the distinction might comfort him.
Michael motioned to Don Tommasino to lean closer. The Don sat on the bed and bent his head. “Tell my father to get me home,” Michael said. “Tell my father I wish to be his son.”
But it was to be another month before Michael recovered from his injuries and another two months after that before all the necessary papers and arrangements were ready. Then he was flown from Palermo to Rome and from Rome to New York. In all that time no trace had been found of Fabrizzio.