Servi left the estate grounds by a back gate where a beaten track wove through an expanse of wasteland to the town and the bus stop. Servi was completely soaked. He still held the wine and the sandwich in his hands. The rain pounded the dry, hard earth like a hundred hammers to a thousand nails.
There was a flash of lightening, and then the peel of thunder. Every gully was pregnant with water; every rivulet hissed with an effulgence of liquid. The sandwich was getting wet. Servi opened his bag to be rid of the eggplant and retrieve his raincoat when he saw a satchel on top of his clothes. He dropped the sandwich and wine on the ground and peeked. It was De Vulgare Eloquentia, atop his soiled underwear. Servi puzzled over it, and then realizing it was getting wet, stuffed it back in his bag. Beatrice had put the book in his bag? But for what reason? As a plant? An Algerian steals a priceless manuscript, and is shot dead fleeing?
All that was required was that they take his passport, letters, and books, as easy as taking candy from a baby. Servi looked about the open, empty countryside. It was the perfect place for that kind of murder. But why? To conceal sex? Or did Beatrice put it in there to atone? Again, for what? For her easy life? For her carelessness? But her life was far from easy, and she was exemplary in her caution. Maybe it was simply a gift: a keepsake of their time together in the darkness of the veranda and in the even darker Etruscan caves? But that was too fantastic to believe: the book was her future.
Servi was so distracted by book, and the beating of the rain was so hard, that he did not notice the man directly behind him until his hand landed squarely on his shoulder. Beatrice decided to clean up what she had fucked up, Servi thought quickly. He wondered if he would feel any pain. He dared not turn around. If it comes, he did not want to see the face that delivered the blow. But the man was politely addressing him.
“Excuse me,” the gardener in full rain regalia thrust an envelope at Servi. Servi sighed. Some last minute explanation from Beatrice? Some plea for help or some sentiment of emotion, some petition for something more than a fantasy? But it was from a telegram company. In this part of Italy, with unreliable phones, important messages were often sent by telegram. The envelope was wet and getting wetter, so Servi tore it open. It was not from Beatrice, but from his pensione in Rome:
SERVI. STOP. FATHER CALLED. STOP. MOTHER DIED. STOP. RETURN TO NEW YORK. STOP.
The cheap ink was running down Servi’s hand. He wanted to re-read it, but it was already too late. The paper was becoming pulp in his hand. Servi had stepped out of one family’s drama only to enter his own.