by Alaric DeArment
While covering the crime beat, I had seen photographs of homicide victims in police stations and courtrooms, but never actually witnessed a murder taking place, let alone a massacre. As we exited Stagno and got onto the main highway, I kept my eyes on the road as it whipped from side to side along the cliff, hoping my focus would prevent me from becoming sick to my stomach. Only the white noise of rubber on asphalt and air rushing by cut through the silence, Amadeo’s face looking serenely forward. I asked Raffaele to turn on the radio.
The steady beat and raspy synthesizers of something reminiscent of 80s Italo disco poured out of the speakers for a couple of minutes before stopping, replaced by the forceful voice of a male newscaster. Amadeo’s face changed from placidity to excitement, and he told Raffaele to turn up the volume, nudging me to listen despite my not understanding Dalmatian.
“The Rector, Giuliano Darsa, and the entire Signoria have resigned in a peaceful transfer of power, citing as their reason the inability to control rampant political corruption and deal with our republic’s economic problems,” Amadeo translated, leaning forward and smirking like an ill-behaved child. “A provisional government comprising an interim Rector and a small number of ministers and advisers will take over on a temporary basis until a new government can be appointed. The former Rector and members of the Signoria have asked that the public not disturb them while they spend time with their families during this challenging transition. That is all we are hearing, and we will keep you up to date as more information comes in.”
Amadeo barely said “comes in” before he and Raffaele erupted into excited laughter, Amadeo patting me on the back as the music returned.
“Perfect timing with the press release we sent out,” Amadeo said, grinning from ear to ear.
I leaned my head back, my eyes darting from side to side of the car’s pale tan ceiling.
“What about those men’s families?” I asked, turning my head toward Amadeo. “Won’t they find out they’re all dead?”
“The families? Al diavolo the families,” Amadeo laughed with a sardonic grimace. “We have that taken care of. They say nothing.”
I almost asked what he meant by that, but I was already learning there were questions whose answers I didn’t want to know.
He scooted a bit toward me and put his hand on my shoulder, no doubt noticing that I looked troubled.
“You are very scary, I mean scared, about what just happened. I understand. I am too,” he said, putting his hand to his heart. “I wish we don’t have to do that, but if we are to be a free country, it is a price to pay. If we don’t, they will come back and take power.”
“I un…understand,” I stammered. “But you can’t expect me not to be shaken up after witnessing that.”
He closed his eyes and nodded sympathetically.
“You must know, it makes me sick, especially having to do that to Clemente,” he insisted, putting his hand on my shoulder. “But in fact, I have changed my mind about letting people choose the leaders. I wanted to let the people vote for the new Signoria, and Clemente did not.”
More than a dozen men and women stood at their luxury cars outside what had lately been Clemente’s house as we pulled into the driveway, hooting and shouting as the San Giorgio inched toward them. As soon as Raffaele cut the engine, he and Amadeo opened the doors and sprang out, embracing the others and greeting them with Old World pecks on the cheek, though they all ignored me as I stepped out of the car. One of the men and one of the women cheerfully carried cases of wine as we walked inside the house.
I sat alone on the sofa with my glass of Stagno’s finest red as the others stood around chattering in boisterous glee, half hoping someone might approach me to strike up a conversation, half hoping nobody would.
“Buna siara, you come to join the party?” a woman smiled as she approached, standing over me and gesturing toward the others. She was in her 40s, fair complected with dark brown hair in a ponytail and a professional yet not overly conservative black pantsuit. She extended her hand as Amadeo gazed blankly at us while chatting with a woman in her 60s with a bouffant and richly embroidered blue evening dress. “Ginevra Darsa. I am Raffaele’s wife and Amadeo’s cousin.”
I got that same feeling as the time I spotted the guitarist from Soundgarden walking past me at Pike Place Market, the unshakable sense that I knew Ginevra from somewhere, but couldn’t immediately pin down how. Within a few seconds I remembered her as the newscaster from the Italian-language TV station.
“You do not look like us, like Stagnese,” she said, staring at me and smiling as she sat down next to me. “Where do you come from?”
It seemed an impertinent remark of the sort I was used to hearing from less enlightened people back home, but her face expressed genuine curiosity rather than hostility.
“I’m from Seat…uh, Dzidzelalich. My mother’s family is from the Philippines,” I said, holding back any hint of emotion.
“Where is that?” Ginevra asked in a surprised tone, her head tilting and her eyebrows furrowing, as if she had never heard of a prominent country of nearly 70 million people.
“Uh, you know the islands in Asia, southeast of China?” I chuckled nervously, hoping she couldn’t sense my disbelief at her apparent geographic ignorance.
“Oh yes, you mean one of the Barangays,” she smiled, tapping my arm lightly. “I know Maynila, Cebu, Sulu – was her family from one of those?”
“Right,” I said, a bit taken aback at the ostensible ignorance that turned out to be an intimate familiarity with the place.
I learned through my conversation with Ginevra that there were multiple branches of the Darsa family, with she and Amadeo being grandchildren of Enzo Darsa, an assassinated cousin of now deceased former Rector Giuliano Darsa who, along with his descendants, was somewhat estranged from the rest of the family for unconventional political views, though she didn’t elaborate on what those were, but said she, Amadeo and the rest of his grandchildren shared them.