As mentioned in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 1 (Redux), I work to nail down the opening of whatever I’m working on.
Here’s The Alibi – Chapter 4 and is a precursor to what was The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 11 – Mary Frances Cuccello, Rhinehold, Cranston at AirCon bomb scene
Maria Francesca Cuccello sat at her top floor, corner apartment’s kitchen table and looked out over the harbor. A cup of coffee steamed in her hand, the coffee slightly beiged by a touch of cream. The steam brought a strong draft of Sambuca to her nostrils and she inhaled deeply. About an eighth of the cup was Sambuca, poured first, then just a splash of cream, just enough to swirl the Sambuca already there, then followed by coffee from a stovetop espresso maker her great-grandfather brought over from the old country.
She’d never been to the old country.
Her great-grandfather, Francesco Romeo Renaldi Fortesso Cucello came to this country the year the Wright Brothers claimed the skies at KittyHawk. He came with a box and no english save “Boston” and “Prince-a Commercia.”
Someone on the same boat, someone lost to her family’s antiquity, spoke English and got him to their cousin’s attic room and a job unloading ships.
Strong backs and a knowledge of ropes, those Italians.
Half a year later his Sicilian made way for Pidgen-English and two rooms with a shared bath basement apartment in the building in exchange for maintenance work.
Three years later he spoke without an accent and spent most of his earnings on good clothes, and language and etiquette lessons. Eight years into this country he started purchasing buildings nobody wanted in sections of North End people avoided, or walked through hurriedly, looking but never stopping, and made deals with other immigrants offering lodging in exchange for remodeling and maintenance work.
He leveraged the remodeled buildings until, in his fifteenth year, he owned the block where he started, no longer had to bang up his hands or suffer rope burns for his daily bread, and went back to Fortuna for a bride.
He arrived and people didn’t recognize him. Fathers entertained him and practically threw their daughters at him.
One caught his eye, Alessa Magdalena Montonori, third daughter of Don Carlo Vicenzi Montonori, full figured, blue-eyed, waist-length raven black hair pulled back into a punishing bun, and with a stutter that made speech a near impossibility for her.
Francesco took her hand in his, asked if she wanted to speak without fear, and wiped a tear from her eye as she nodded.
They wed. On the shipride home he told her of Demosthenes and began working with her daily. Her vocabulary swelled with her belly. Ten months later Rocco was born. Francesco arraigned for a radio-telephone call to Palermo. Don Carlo arrived later than expected and Francesco kept the line open despite the cost and angry Boston aristocats demanding time on the line.
Don Carlo and his wife, Simona Contessa, arrived via truck and heard the scratchy sound of a baby crying followed by a woman’s voice speaking in flawless English, “Shh, shh, shh, Rocco, listen. It’s your grandmother and grandfather come to say hello to you.”
Don Carlo spoke into the mouthpiece, “Chi ha detto questo?”
“Sono io, papà. Alessa Maddalena. Non riconosci il suono di tua figlia?” It’s me, Papa. Alessa Magdalena. Don’t you recognize the sound of your own daughter?
Don Carlo and Simona Contessa cried through the rest of the call.
Francesco offered to pay for them to come to America to see their grandson. He repeated the offer, in Sicilian then in English and again in Sicilian. Someone on their end had to help them understand they heard correctly.
In 1919, Francesco’s new homeland asked him to go back to Sicily, to help them. One storm passed, another was coming, and his knowledge was needed.