Excerpt from Death of a Serpent
Sicily, November 1866
Rosa wagged her finger. “Mark my words, think on it well: money is at the root of these crimes. I know it, I know it.” She twisted her fingers. “The killer promises them something for a big fee. He takes their coins and kills them. At the heart is lucre.”
“That may be a part of it. Falco, for instance, gains by Bella’s death.”
“But that’s not all, not the most important part. There’s a systematic ghoulishness about these murders, a madness about the killer that lust for money will never explain. He has the cunning of a wild one, intent on one thing only—eliminating you and all your prostitutes and the business you think I know so little about.”
Rosa wrung her handkerchief. “I know, but …”
Looking at her friend, Serafina realized how hard this was on Rosa, how far she’d come in her realization of the evil surrounding her, and how far she needed to go. In agony, the poor woman, Rosa was as pale as a sheet in the sun except for two spots of riotous color on her cheeks, and Serafina hated to hurt her friend, but she had to say it. “But what? No more ‘buts.’ Why the mark branded on their foreheads? Why did each death occur between the sixth and the seventh of the month? We must discover how the victims’ lives touched this killer. Why did these women need him? Agree to meet him? What did the three women have in common, other than their profession and their address? Is the killer someone who helped himself to all three?”
Photo: Taormina. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.