Excerpt from Murder On The Rue Cassette:
“Elena died a lonely, brutal death,” Busacca said. “Shot in the head, her body discarded on a deserted street in Paris. Loffredo’s nowhere to be seen. The French, such a cold people; you must find out what happened.”
“But if you have friends in Paris …”
He held up a hand to stop her. Something about him reminded Serafina of Elena. His manner grated, and yet there was something magical about him. He would get his way, of that she had no doubt.
Her temples pounded. “I have a family who needs me here.”
“My dear, you are the best we have,” the commissioner said. He turned away and stared out the window, frowning. “If you are unable to accept, then I … suppose we could send Inspector Colonna, but I doubt we’d discover much of the truth.” He adjusted his sash.
That idiot, Colonna! A horrid thought, simple minded and venal in one fat package. She clamped her jaw and thought a moment. “But surely Paris is filled with investigators. The French have the cleverest detectives on the continent; they’ll bring him to justice. Someone within La Sûrété Nationale will be assigned the case and find Elena’s killer.”
Busacca shrugged. “No doubt what you say is true. But I don’t trust the French. Bad enough doing business with them. And we speak of my only daughter. True, she was a free spirit. Never knew what Elena was going to do next. Never did.” He blew his nose. “But she is a dead Sicilian, and you know the French regard for us. I want her killer hung, no mercy. I want swift justice. I want an eye for an eye. In addition, you must help my sister arrange for burial, she knows nothing of the Christian rubrics. Before Elena could marry Loffredo, the old count made her convert. Elena, good at going through the motions, consented.”
Serafina shuddered at the power of his words. “So she was murdered?”
“Of course she was murdered. Who could suggest otherwise? A single shot to the head. What else could it have been?”
Serafina said nothing.
“What else could it have been, I dare you to say it! What they tell me of your audacity is true. But know this.” He moved closer to her and shook a fist in her face, as if God Himself condemned her thoughts. “My daughter would never, ever take her own life! Never, ever—do you hear me?”
Serafina felt the blood rush to her face. “I keep an open mind. Take it or leave it.”
He continued. “If we do not send our own, I fear they’ll assign some poor untried bugger to the case. When the telegram from my sister arrived, I asked my friend, Notabartolo, the mayor of Palermo for help. Without hesitation, he suggested you. Said you were the best, our only hope.”
She stared at him but couldn’t argue with his words.
Photos: Le Cafe de Paris, a painting by Jean Béraud. Lower Right, Gaslights of Paris, over 15,000 installed with Baron Haussmann’s renovation between 1853 and 1870. Public Domain.