They fight…Excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

Liz doesn’t know whether to fear Antoine Scafani or be fearful for him. A chance meeting after a funeral only confuses her more.

DSC02945For nearly an hour, I wandered Corte’s empty streets. I found a cemetery on the outskirts of town, which, unfortunately, was equally deserted. Almost all the town’s businesses, even family-owned groceries and cafés, were closed, a Corsican flag or a black-edged portrait of Henri Soriano plastered on their doors.

Near exhaustion, I sat down on a high stone curb, holding my head in my hands and letting some well-deserved tears pour out. Maybe it was the curb, like the one I’d sat on as a child, but I hadn’t truly cried since the bombing.

Suddenly two strong hands seized my shoulders from behind and lifted me to my feet. I prepared myself for arrest or worse as my abductor forced me into the shadows of a nearby alley. When I finally managed to twist around, I saw not LeClerc but Scafani. His lips quivered with rage. “What the hell were you thinking? You had no business being there.”

“I just wanted to see what was happening along with everyone else.” My explanation sounded lame, even to me.

Scafani shook his head and released me.

I broke the long silence that followed. “How is Jean Louis?”

Scafani seemed not the least surprised that I had heard of his family’s tragedy. “He is being taken care of. Jocelyn and Pierre are with him.”

“I just—”

“You just didn’t think. You aren’t back in the States. This isn’t some Wild West TV show with cowboys and Indians.”

“If it isn’t a game, why did you bring me into it? I saw exactly what Jean Paul and Carla had stored in their living room in full color on the evening news. And the romantic bit? Please.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You have no idea what I need to understand. But if it has to do with why your uncles were shot, then you need to tell me.”

Scafani pulled over a couple of crates for them to sit on. “Why is anyone shot who stands up for their beliefs?”

“It had to be more than that.”

He glared at me, sarcasm filling voice. “A bit of wisdom gathered on your little lover’s tryst to Cap Corse?”

“How did you know about that?”

“He follows us. We follow him,” he said with a frankness I had not expected.

“And you both follow me. Why?”

DSC02918A police vehicle rolled slowly by. Scafani leapt up and pulled me with him to the darker recesses of the alley. If I was going to get information about Benatar out of him, I had to do it fast before he took off again. I decided to take the sympathetic route. “Shouldn’t you be in hiding? I was worried that you’d been arrested because of that scene at the funeral, the gun salute and all.”

“I was.”

“You were what?” I asked in my most innocent voice.

“Grabbed by LeClerc’s men on the way to the cemetery. Pulled right from under Uncle Henri’s coffin. Got interrogated by LeClerc, or should I say by your lover, Philippe. I was released a half-hour ago. They had nothing to hold me on.”

“I don’t know why you keep referring to LeClerc as my anything. There’s nothing going on between us.”

I sank down onto the back-entrance stoop of a store. Scafani hesitated and then turned a trash can upside down and sat beside me. My usually glib escort seemed to be struggling with his words, so I broke the silence again. I wanted to know more.

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