Excerpt from Death Of A Serpent
Saturday, November 3, 1866
Serafina reached into her pocket and handed Rosa a fresh handkerchief. “You got up early?”
She nodded. “Middle of the night, I heard a sound, like a creature from the netherworld had me in chains and was dragging me away. At first I thought I was having a bad dream. But, no, I wasn’t sleeping. I got up, lit the lamp. The noise continued. Then I thought it must be a rowdy customer. The sound grew louder. Coming from inside? Outside? Couldn’t tell. Awake by this time, I got that feeling again, that terrible crawling at the back of my neck.” She blew her nose.
Serafina said, “Take a moment.” But she felt it, too, an indescribable weirdness.
“I felt the spider crawling up my neck and knew something bad had happened. Oh, such a fool, I thought, if I dress, the dream and the spider will go away. By this time, it was first light, the world, fuzzy and still. I opened the door, held up my lamp. Looked to the right, saw the creep of dawn, and reassuring myself that it was only a nightmare or a swallow of bad wine, I walked outside, looked to the left, and, oh, Madonna, I saw her. I screamed. Arcangelo and Scarpo came running—”
“They were here?” Carlo asked.
“They heard me yell. I asked Arcangelo to get you.” Rosa blew her nose. “Let’s go to my office. I need food. My head throbs, and there’s nothing I can do for her now. I could have last night, I could have saved her.” She sobbed.
“Rosa, you didn’t kill Gusti.”
The madam closed her eyes, held up her palm. “Nothing more you can say.”
Photo: Detail, Death of a Serpent cover.