Excerpt 2: Prologue continued.
Bolzano, Italy: February 1937
Behind Angelo, a man's voice called, “Minister Grimani!"
Angelo was already smiling before he spotted Stefano. The first thing he noticed was Stefano’s wire-rimmed spectacles—new—then the friendly, open face. All the earlier doubts and anxieties about their reunion washed away.
When Stefano reached him, Angelo clasped the man’s shoulders. “It’s so good to see you again. Thank you for coming. Thank you.”
Stefano grinned and embraced Angelo. “It’s good to be back in my hometown.”
When they pulled apart, Angelo glanced at the emptying platform. “Where’s your family? Where’s your wife?”
“Elena wanted to stay on in Verona with the children.” He looked sheepish. “Just until it’s safe.”
“Safe? Safe from what?”
“You understand. In case I’m forced to relocate again.”
“I’m so sorry—"
“Stop. You apologised enough in your letter.”
He pressed the bridge of the spectacles up with a forefinger, more habit than necessity, from what Angelo could tell.
“Besides, the party did as you had promised. They made our transfer as easy as could be expected, but Elena, you know, is very cautious. She wants to make certain that I really have a place here.”
Angelo patted the man’s shoulder. “You tell her to start packing then.”
He shepherded Stefano towards the exit, but Stefano stopped and turned, staring across the track at the factories. His smile vanished, and he whistled quietly.
“The Bolzano Industrial Zone,” Angelo explained. “The locals call it the BIZ. That’s where all the money is flowing. And, Stefano? People like you and I will be checked any time we threaten to ebb that flow.” He pointed to the MFE tower. “That’s the reason I need you back here.”
Stefano glanced sideways at him. “Colonel Grimani’s?”
They both had to be thinking it, picturing it. The Gleno Dam. The breach. Over three hundred people dead. The committee had put on quite a show during the hearings, hammering the Colonel with questions and accusations, but men with money and power rarely made it to the scaffold. And if you were the son of such a man…
“My father’s. Yes.” Angelo turned his back on it, Stefano following him. “It’s a new name, a new facade, but everything within it is still the same.”
To get back to the ministry, Angelo hailed a taxi and directed the driver to city hall. Stefano sat hunched in order to look out his window, making sucking sounds in response to what he saw. Like Angelo, Stefano looked older. There were slight creases around his eyes and lips. His dark hair had the first few wisps of silver. Otherwise, he looked fit, trim. Happy even. It had to be the return to Bolzano more than anything. Twelve years was a long time for anyone to be away from home.
As they passed the Laurin Hotel again, Angelo’s thoughts returned to the Gleno Dam tragedy. He had been in that hotel, lying in bed with Gina Conti, the morning the dam broke. A porter had heard about it on the radio and come to fetch Angelo, so obvious had his whereabouts been. Angelo had left Gina behind with hardly a thought and never resumed the affair again. The opportunity had never truly presented itself.
“When did that happen?” Stefano asked into his window.
Angelo bent to look, and the images of Gina Conti evaporated. They were passing the forlorn statue of von der Vogelweide in the square. “The day they renamed the piazza after the king. Quite some time ago.”
“Well then.” Stefano leaned back into his seat and gazed at Angelo, his light-grey eyes magnified a little by the glasses. “That ought to show the Tyroleans how things are done.”
Stefano was being glib, and Angelo ignored it. There was a line you could not cross with the people who had grown up here. Such as his own wife. Chiara was Italian on both sides but had grown up in Bolzano when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her love for all that was Tyrolean was a thorn in their marriage to this day.
“Seventeen years since we annexed the province,” Stefano suddenly said. “You’d think Italy would feel pretty secure by now.”
“What do you mean?”
Stefano shrugged, looked piqued. “I just heard that anyone who calls it Tyrol or South Tyrol is fined, that’s all.”
“It’s the Alto Adige. Always has been. To us Italians, I mean.” He shrugged. “So that’s what it needs to be called. Alto Adige.”
Stefano grinned apologetically. “I don’t mean to politicise. It’s that half-German in me.” He turned his head to look out the window again, and muttered, “Thank God it’s my mother’s side. Imagine what would have become of me if I’d carried a German name.”
Angelo shrank away and looked out his window. In truth, he needed Stefano for the very reason that he was half-Tyrolean and spoke German, but he couldn’t say that now. He needed to bring this around. Fast.
Bolzano: the next generation of the series is available! Order now!
With these extracts, I hope you are able to decide for yourself whether to begin the series at Part 3 or start it from No Man's Land. A sample chapter of No Man's Land is available here.
Bolzano: Extract 1/5
Bolzano: Extract 3/5
Bolzano: Extract 4/5
Bolzano: Extract 5/5