Here’s an excerpt from the latest Serafina Florio mystery, Murder on the Rue Cassette. Serafina is about to make some important discoveries—about the case and about herself. But this scene is about love on the banks of the Seine.
After saying goodnight to the Valoises, they walked through the Tuileries and down to the banks of the Seine, strolling along the quays, happy, quiet, Serafina’s shoulder beginning to ache. Tessa, Teo, and Arcangelo ran ahead, taking the steps down to the river. Rosa, Serafina, Carmela, and Loffredo followed at a slower pace. Serafina longed for some time with Loffredo, to speak or to sit quietly, just the two of them, and ask him about these last few weeks in prison. She sensed his fatigue, or perhaps it was her own, yet she was reluctant to end the evening.
“We are too serious, all of us,” Rosa said. “Maybe it was the food. Let’s forget this murder and what the French might think of us.
“What does your heart tell you, Loffredo?” Serafina asked.
“My heart tells me what it always has, I love only you.”
With his words, all of Serafina’s earlier concerns, her convoluted thoughts melted away.
Carmela said, “Careful, Mama. Everything is at risk.”
Her daughter’s voice was grating, but she managed a weak smile in Carmela’s direction. “You’re right.”
“I’m the last one who should be telling you to be careful,” Rosa said. “I’ve never been prudent, not once in my life. I built my business, but not by being circumspect. But think well: where will you go to be alone? To Loffredo’s rooms on the Rue Jacob? Will you be free from surveillance? I think not. The sixth arrondissement teems with spies. Or to Serafina’s room, guarded by two French agents de police? You don’t think word will get back to Valois? He’s waiting for the chance to call you a foolish strumpet. Or to Busacca sitting on his vast pile of gold in Palermo? To whoever it is who spies on us? Or to Elena, if she is still among the living? To Sophie, who prays for you to make such a mistake? To her sons? Go to your separate rooms and douse yourselves with ice water for the rest of this assignment, and I predict you’ll be together for the rest of your lives. If it makes you feel better, walk ahead a little way and make your vows in view of Notre Dame and the god of the Seine while we stand and wait, but don’t breathe too deeply, I smell fish.”
As usual, the madam was right. Serafina stood still and smiled at Loffredo. Her stomach was doing somersaults. She breathed in, yet felt the need for more air. How strange, it took hearing the right words at the right moment before she knew her heart. She loved Loffredo.
“I love you, Serafina. Again I’ll say it. I always have.”
Barges on the Seine flowed past. Lovers skirted around them, talking low. Sailors stared at them, and Rosa and her family waited. In time the five bells of Notre Dame began to ring, their deep discordant harmony like the feelings crowding her soul.
Photos: View of Notre Dame from Tour d’Argent, Wilhelmy, Creative Commons. Notre Dame at night, Atoma, Creative Commons.