And would the world believe it? The tryst that ended in tragedy? Most would, but some wouldn't, and it was for them that this event had been staged, the ones who would know immediately that this was politics, not passion. Because this was not a quiet disappearance, this was public, and flamboyant, so meant to serve as a warning: We will do anything we want to do, you cannot stop us. The French would be outraged, but then, the French were habitually outraged. Well, let them sputter.
It was 2042 when the leader of the OVRA squad left the hotel and crossed to Amandola's side of the rue Augereau. Hands in pockets, head down, he wore a rubber raincoat and a black felt hat, rain dripping off the brim. As he passed the Lancia, he raised his head, revealing a dark, heavy face, a southern face, and made eye contact with Amandola. A brief glance, but sufficient. It's done.
4 December, 1938. The Cafe Europa, in a narrow street near the Gare du Nord, was owned by a Frenchman of Italian descent. A man of fervent and heated opinions, an idealist, he made his back room available to a group of Parisian giellisti, so-called for their membership in the Giustizia e Liberta--known informally by the initials GL, thus giellisti. There were eight of them that morning, called to an emergency meeting. They all wore dark overcoats, sitting around a table in the unlit room, and, except for the one woman, they wore their hats. Because the room was cold and damp, and also, though nobody ever said it out loud, because it was somehow in keeping with the conspiratorial nature of their politics: the antifascist resistance, the Resistenza.
They were all more or less in midlife, emigres from Italy, and members of a certain class--a lawyer from Rome, a medical school professor from Venice, an art historian from Siena, a man who had owned a pharmacy in the same city, the woman formerly an industrial chemist in Milan. And so on--several with eyeglasses, most of them smoking cigarettes, except for the Sienese professor of art history, lately employed as a meter reader for the gas company, who smoked a powerful little cigar.
Three of them had brought along a certain morning newspaper, the very vilest and most outrageous of the Parisian tabloids, and a copy lay on the table, folded open to a grainy photograph beneath the headline MURDER/SUICIDE AT LOVERS HOTEL. Bottini, bare-chested, sat propped against a headboard, a sheet pulled up to his waist, eyes open and unseeing, blood on his face. By his side, a shape beneath the sheet, its arms flung wide.
The leader of the group, Arturo Salamone, let the newspaper lie open for a time, a silent eulogy. Then, with a sigh, he flipped it closed, folded it in half, and put it by the side of his chair. Salamone was a great bear of a man, with heavy jowls, and thick eyebrows that met at the bridge of his nose. He had been a shipping agent in Genoa, now worked as a bookkeeper at an insurance company. "So then," he said. "Do we accept this?"
"I do not," said the lawyer. "Staged."
"Do we agree?"
The pharmacist cleared his throat and said, "Are we completely sure? That this was, assassination?"
"I am," Salamone said. "Bottini had no such brutality in him. They killed him, and his lover--the OVRA, or someone like them. This was ordered by Rome; it was planned, prepared, and executed. And not only did they murder Bottini, they defamed him: 'this is the sort of man, unstable, vicious, who speaks against our noble fascism.' And, of course, there are people who will believe it."
"Some will, always, anything," the woman chemist said. "But we shall see what the Italian papers say about it."
Excerpted from The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst Copyright © 2006 by Alan Furst. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
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