He’s having the dream again, the one about picking fruit in the summer—fingers sticky with ripe oranges, air heavy and sweet with citrus perfume. He’s having the dream, and the sunlight turns Fiona’s hair a fierce coppery brown where the light hits, picks up moss and hazel in the brown gleam of her eyes. They should be children in the memory, the way it actually happened, but they aren’t. They’re not as old as Fausto is now, though—just old enough to know better, and young enough to maybe make something out of it anyway.
He probably should’ve married her. He always thinks about it, about calling on her; about brushing away the years with a gesture just to see where they stand. She never had children. That probably means something. Salvatore still sees her two, maybe three times a week, and she still sends his cousin on with a box of oranges. She still maintains she hates Fausto after all these years, and sends the oranges on anyway. That probably means something.
He’ll do it this time, he thinks from somewhere else in his dream. In the morning. When he wakes up. He’ll tidy up the shop, process the last of his shipping orders, take a look at the ivory lupara and figure out why she’s misfiring. Then he’ll stop over at the farmstand before lunch and ask after Fiona. He’ll bring flowers. A dozen roses—
No. That was his mistake as a younger man, all flash and no heart. He’ll bring her one rose, and ask to buy her a cup of coffee at the cafe two doors down. He has seen her there before. He will ask to buy her a cup of coffee and go from there.
There’s shouting in the dream, suddenly, up close and a thousand miles away. The sunlight and the fruit trees go dark, the way dreams do, even as the lights come up all around him. Fausto thinks, It can’t be morning yet, I’ve only just, I’ve—
“Get up, you old rat,” a man in black hisses, hauling Fausto up out of his bed with a force that pops the top few buttons from his nightshirt. He’s not awake yet, only enough to worry after his books, the binding, the way the pages have become a disorganized mess on the floor as Fausto’s head slammed into the bookshelf. Su verità e menzogna in senso extramorale lies face down, crushed into the carpet, and Fausto thinks: Once upon a time, in some out-of-the-way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems...
There are two men, all in black. Fausto can feel blood on his face, warm but cooling rapidly, can feel his jaw grind and his cheek starting to swell. There are two men, all in black, but it’s a certain kind of black; the kind constructed of half-length capes, standard-issue boots, a certain golden emblem flashing a certain way against the dark fabric of a desperately certain style of hat.
Carabinieri. There are carabinieri in his home, in the middle of the night, and Fausto knows he will die.
But he tries even once. “I have done nothing,” he says, and eats the butt of a Beretta for his honesty. It’s a model nineteen-twenty-three—seven-shot detachable magazine, four-inch barrel that splits his lip. He’s serviced enough to know.
“Shut your lying mouth,” one of them says, the one to his right—older like Fausto, but his face more heavily lined and his mouth twisted bitterly, his eyes hard like chips of granite. “The time of Don Ciccio is done. We are cleaning house. We are putting down his dogs.”
A chair has been found, shoved roughly into the backs of his knees until Fausto is sitting, slumped and winded and bruised. His wrists are bound tightly behind the straight, wooden back, the edges digging painfully into his arms.
“You will tell us what you know,” the older carabiniere commands.
“I have nothing to do with the Don,” Fausto tells him fruitlessly. The younger one hits him a couple of times, heavy-fisted. Breaks his nose. He’s clean-shaven head to chin, but Fausto can’t focus enough to pick out any of his other features. He wouldn’t know him from a dozen like men in a lineup.
The older carabinere waves a yellow sheet of paper in Fausto’s face—a repair order. For the lupara.
“Still you lie,” the man hisses. “In my own hands, from your own table, is indisputable proof that you are on the payroll of Don Ciccio himself.”
“You would murder a doctor because of his patients,” Fausto spits furiously, but his mouth feels like it’s full of broken glass, and he does not recognize the words that come out of it.
He is a gunsmith. He builds guns, he services them, he repairs them. He is good at it. People pay him good money, all kinds of people. It is all he has ever known.
You don’t say no to the Mafia, especially when their only interest is that of a sometime-client. There are worse things to be to them.
But you don’t say anything the carabinieri—in their eyes, you are already guilty. What you could say in your defense only damns you further.
Fausto stops talking and lets his head hang, lets the blood leak from his mouth.
“This one’s done,” the young man says.
“End it, then,” the old one commands impatiently. “And for God’s sake, pull your punches next time.”
Fausto had a date today. He would have gone to the farmstand. He would have brought Fiona a rose.
The young man produces a straight razor. Sulking, he slits Fausto’s throat.