An excerpt from “What Carmela Discovers,” Murder On The Rue Cassette, the fourth Serafina Florio mystery
Paris, April 1874
After the others had gone to the Jardin des Plantes, Carmela, Rosa, and Serafina sat in Serafina’s room. Carmela told them about the exhibit and about meeting Berthe Morisot and Victorine Meurent, what they’d said about Elena, her tantrum in the Place St. Sulpice, and about the man who accompanied her to the opening.
“Their impressions of Elena are the same as ours. She fools only herself. But I find it hard to believe that neither woman had heard of Elena’s death.”
Serafina looked at Rosa. “Go on.”
“They saw her Wednesday at the vernissage and also Thursday evening at the opening with her new lover, and they believe she’ll visit the exhibit again before it closes. She’s been a staunch supporter of these artists.”
“Did you tell them she was murdered?”
Carmela shook her head. “I wasn’t there to give out information. I was there to get information.”
Serafina smiled. “Right. Besides, we don’t know for sure that Elena’s dead. We only know what others tell us.”
The madam rolled her eyes.
“Tell me about going to Busacca’s store,” Carmela said. “I’m familiar with the one in Palermo, and we passed his shop on the Rue de la Paix. I love his hats—they’re such intriguing statements.”
Serafina studied her daughter. “As a child you created your own. Had to wear one all the time. You must visit all his stores in Paris.” She gave Busacca’s card to her. “Present this. They’ll design one for you.”
Carmela examined it. “Here all the women wear them. Not so at home.”
“We wear them when it’s cool enough,” Rosa said. “Imagine wearing a hat in June in Oltramari.”
Just then there was a knock on the door.
“A package for you, Madame.” The bellboy handed Serafina a hatbox.
“Where’s mine?” Rosa asked.
“So sorry, Madame, I did not know you were here.” He smiled and handed her a hatbox.
“Try them on!”
Elena was forgotten while they dealt with hats, Carmela supervising and showing Rosa and Serafina how they should wear them.
“Wonderful! The color suits you, Mama.”
“Do you think so?” Serafina turned from the glass and faced her daughter.
“No angle it more, like this.” Carmela reached up and adjusted the hat, playing with the angle. “Something’s wrong. The feathers are wrong, I think.” She fussed with them a bit. “Try it now.”
“Perfect,” Serafina said.
“Made of felt for cool weather,” Carmela said. “Soon you’ll need a lighter fabric.”
“If this investigation goes on any longer, we’ll need to send for our summer wardrobe,” the madam said.
Serafina winked at her daughter. “If it does, you can design me a hat for spring.”
Carmela’s face colored and she teared up. “I hope the investigation goes on and on. I don’t want to go home. Here, I’m happy. Here, I can be somebody.”
Photo: View of Notre Dame from Tour d’Argent, Author: Wilhelmy, Creative Commons (Wikipedia)