“It’s shaping up,” as my piano teacher from long ago used to tell me. Words to live by, I can finally say the same about my current work-in-progress, Memories to Die For from The Savino Sisters Mystery Series. I’m almost done, by done I mean approaching the final chapter. After that comes the fun part, at least for me: the endless tweaking, the double and triple checking of facts, deciding between a semi colon and period. After finishing that, I’ll turn this baby over to my beta proof readers while I work with a terrific designer to create an unforgettable cover, one to complement Italy to Die For, my first mystery with the Savino Sisters.
I usually write in chapter-by-chapter sequence, but for this book I made an exception and let the characters tell me how the story should open. So here it is, Chapter 1:
On the Bridge
1944, Northwest Italy. During the day a panoramic view of Pont Canavese boasted a picturesque scene of clay-tiled roofs against a backdrop of lush, green foothills leading to the magnificent Italian Alps. But a closer perspective of the village told a different story with its convoluted mix of loyalty, mistrust, pride, and defiance. Although the Allied Army had liberated much of Southern Italy, Germany still occupied the Piemonte Region and its war-torn city of Torino where the Italian Resistance was quietly gaining momentum. And in those lush foothills and snow-capped Alps, the local partigiani did their part by gathering intelligence for The Allies and carrying out covert operations, whatever it took to secure their positions and eventually liberate all of Italy.
When evening turned into night, the villagers of Pont extinguished their lamps before crawling into bed. In the event an alpine storm invaded their sleep, the villagers made sure the shutters were latched and the animals secured before returning to bed with thoughts of what tomorrow would bring. Not much since the German soldiers took more than their fair share of wine and cheese and meat. Such was the time of war. Open resistance invited reprisals. A cloak of secrecy produced better results.
On a night in late spring when the snows had disappeared from hills surrounding Pont, a storm like none other hammered the village and countryside with unrelenting rain and damaging hale, some half the size of a bocce pallino. Thunder rumbled as bolts of lightning shot across the sky, ever so briefly illuminating an otherwise eerie landscape that included the rivers Orco and Soana. One bolt offered a snapshot view of a vehicle without headlights approaching the Soana. As soon as the bolt disappeared, a view of the vehicle did too.
A close up of the bridge spanning the Soana would have revealed that same vehicle making its way across, only to stop on reaching the middle. The driver hopped out, leaving the motor running. By the time he reached the passenger side, a second man exited from the rear door. Together they pulled a third man from the back seat. The third man broke loose from their grip and started to run on wobbly legs. In a matter of seconds the driver jumped the wobbly man, causing him to fall on an already bloodied face. He was crying when the other two dragged him to the bridge railing. He begged for his life and made certain promises when they bent him over the railing. After they lifted his feet into the air and sent him into the rushing current of the Soana, the man with wobbly legs did not utter another sound.
The driver let out a sob and crossed himself. The other man blew a fingertip kiss to the Soana. They got back into the car but instead of going forward, they backed across the bridge, made a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn, and drove into the hills.