Authors: Susan Russo Anderson
Susan Russo Anderson
A Classic Mystery, A New Romance.
No More Brothers
, a novella, is the second book in the Serafina Florio Series of mysteries.
When Serafina discovers a body on the beach, she plunges into the investigation. Suspected murderers include a Mafia capo, a soldier, a bar—keep, a shoemaker.
Evidence leads Serafina to a forest on the edge of the Madonie Mountains. With the help of family and friends, she uncovers dark secrets and conceives a daring plan to catch the killer.
Meanwhile, an old flame knocks on her door.
Will love prevail?
Does Serafina have enough time to catch the killer?
In the midst of disease and diminishing funds, can she keep her family together?
No More Brothers
Susan Russo Anderson
Conca d’Oro Publishing
Copyright © 2012 Susan Russo Anderson
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
No More Brothers is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copy Editing & Proofreading: Toni Anderson,
Characters in order of appearance:
Serafina Florio, midwife turned sleuth, widow with seven children
Ugo Pandolfina, the corpse
The commissioner, Oltramari’s police superintendent
Carlo, Serafina’s oldest son, a medical student
Giorgio, Serafina’s deceased husband
Maddalena, Serafina’s deceased mother
Beppe, Serafina’s factotum
Colonna, an inspector
Loffredo, Oltramari’s Medical Examiner
Don Tigro, Oltramari’s Mafia capo
Rodolfo Pandolfina, brother of the deceased
Teo, Rodolfo’s son
Carmela, Serafina’s oldest daughter, Carlo’s twin and a landscaper
Renata, Serafina’s second daughter, a pastry chef
Vicenzu, Serafina’s middle son, apothecary and accountant
Giulia, Serafina’s third daughter, a seamstress
Maria, Serafina’s youngest daughter, a prodigy
Totò, Serafina’s youngest son
Assunta, Serafina’s domestic
Rosa, Serafina’s friend
Graziella, the shoemaker’s wife
Ezzo Abatti, a soldier
Boffo, a barkeep
Arcangelo, Rosa’s stableboy
Mother Concetta, mother superior of Guardian Angel Orphanage
Badali, a policeman
Oltramari, fictional city on the northern coast of Sicily in the province of Palermo
A forest near the Madonie Mountains, east of Palermo
, the ancient port of Palermo, now a fashionable harbor
The harbor of Messina
Monday, February 11, 1867
erched near the water’s edge, the gunnysack tilted toward the sea. Fingers curled out of a hole near the top. Serafina Florio picked her way over stones still wet from the tide to take a closer look. Bloated eyes gaped back at her. “Poor man,” she muttered.
Something moved behind her? She shivered, turned this way and that. No one. She looked up at the sky. It was grey, decidedly so, like the color of stale body parts strewn over fields during Garibaldi’s campaign and mixed into the soil these past seven years. Were the crops better for the mulching?
Life was full of death in Sicily. Last year, a wave of cholera created a sea of makeshift coffins. They lined the piazza like battered ships. But that wasn’t all. In the fall, peasants stormed the city’s gates, scything humans and animals alike. The streets were slicked with blood. Artisans joined in the uprising, railing against taxes, conscription, the price of bread. Serafina was grateful that Giorgio hadn’t lived to see it.
This chaos must have been the reason that the commissioner summoned her to his office last week. He stood before her in sash and frock coat. “Dear lady, you caught the Ambrosi murderer before he could slash more women. You stunned us with the cleverness of your plan, the deftness of its execution.” His arms flailed like broken windmills. “We teeter on the edge of anarchy. Police and soldiers fill the streets, yet no one quells the riots. A pity, but we need your detecting skills. Say yes, you must. We’ll double your stipend.”
About time, too. The government paid her a pittance for all her backbreaking midwifery. And with Carlo in medical school and customers using wheat instead of coins to pay for their medicinals, Serafina needed the extra money her sleuthing would fetch. Besides, someone had to stop this butchery. Who better than she?
Someone hiding behind the prickly pear? She bit her lip, forcing herself to remain calm. Something familiar about the corpse—his flat face—but she couldn’t quite recall where she’d seen the man. Staring out to sea, she let its vastness mesmerize her, and in the letting go, remembered his name. She felt a surge of pity as she recalled his friendly presence in the piazza. A coincidence, she was just talking about him the other day with Loffredo. What had he said? Something about shady dealings. Serafina wrestled with herself until she was interrupted by the sound of retching.
She spun around. “Carlo, steel yourself!”
“The smell is fierce, worse than the cadaver room in May. Who is it?”
“You know our shoemaker?—it’s his brother, Ugo. Quick, before he comes, let’s take a closer look.” She unbuttoned the dead man’s shirt.
“Before who comes?”
“Inspector Colonna. Now, no more questions. Tell me what you see. Start at the head and go down to the toes.”
“You’ve sent for Dr. Loffredo?”
“Yes. But no harm in beginning.”
Carlo knelt and examined the face. “A dried, bile-like substance around his lips. I think he’s been poisoned, but why the multiple stab wounds on his chest and abdomen? Look at their size and shape. Made by a double-edged, thin blade.”
The sea was still. She cupped her elbows, waiting for Carlo to loosen the dead man’s cape and shirt, hoping for a breeze to soothe her temples. For a moment her mother appeared, not as she was in death, but full of vigorous regard and wrinkling her nose. “Such a fuss! It’s only death. And with Giorgio gone, you have a household to feed. Get on with life!”
Serafina rubbed her forehead.
“Angle of wounds and contusions on the left side of the neck suggest the killer approached his victim from the front, grabbed him with his right hand, used his left hand to stab.”
He lifted the torso. More bruises on the nape and shoulders.
“Couldn’t the killer have surprised Ugo from behind, squeezed him with his left arm, used his right hand to stab?” Serafina asked.
He pointed to Ugo’s neck. “Look at that abrasion on his Adam’s apple, probably made by the killer’s right thumb where he pressed it into the throat. What’s more, he used an upward thrust when he stabbed. Hard to do from behind a tall man like Ugo unless the killer’s a giant, and giants are rare in Sicily.”
Carlo droned on and she realized she missed half of what her son was saying. “Anything else?”
“Some leaves and pieces of prickly pear in the folds of his cape. Are you listening?”
“Of course, dear. Brilliant.” Her mind whirled, pieces of it flaking off in different directions as it often did in the morning hours, some of it ranging over this year, that plan. She must remember to take Maria to her lesson before school; she’d remind Giulia to finish sewing beads on the baroness’s collar by tomorrow; Totò’s sore finger needed addressing. Her stomach knotted as her son talked about the corpse’s lividity. She wondered where she’d get the coins to buy new shoes for the children this spring. Was she heartless in the face of this poor soul’s recent agony?
She shook herself and examined one of the leaves Carlo had just given her, turning it over a few times and pricking her finger on its edges. Her mind played its tricks again. She and Giorgio were frolicking in the Madonie when she threw a handful of leaves his way. They looked like the leaf she held in her hand. The fantasy evaporated. “Go on.”
“Loose bowels, another indication of poisoning. Soiled all over the front and back of his pants. Little wonder, the stench.”
“Why go to all this trouble? Why not just poison to kill?” Serafina asked.