Rosalie eased the garage door shut with both palms, making as little noise as possible. The rusted latch clicked back into the splintered frame, then her nose and upper lip suddenly twitched at a familiar odor.
The popping, and sizzling melody of the ignited match startled her to the bone, causing her to jump around in a panic. Across the space, leaning over the old table in the middle of the floor, shifting behind the dim red glow of his long cigarette, Ulrich carefully studied the brilliant craftsmanship of the violin, as well as Rosalie’s firearms, and bewildered facial expression.
“You must be, Rosalie,” Ulrich said, balancing the cigarette on his bottom lip.
Rosalie quickly found the appropriate words needed to curse this monster, but she had to stay focused, and take control of the situation.
“Put the violin back down on the table, gently,” she said, aiming the barrel of her Modello 38 at Ulrich’s long, pointy nose.
“Oh yes. You’re her. You have that same, righteous spark as your mother…and, just as pretty,” Ulrich said, as he dragged his vile eyes up and down her fit frame.
“I will not tell you a second time,” Rosalie said, “Put it down, or I will kill you.”
Ulrich smiled through the gathering clouds of cigarette smoke, then delicately placed the violin back into the case, locking it safely inside.
“You are not going to kill anyone, Rosie. I know that you place your family members above all things, and love each of them with a deep, burning, unconditional passion. I know that you would never act in such a callous way that would jeopardize their well being. I also know that you know that I am in possession of your parents. Did you think I did not see you at the winery? Hiding in the shadows. Their deaths were for you, Rosie, to get your attention — which I hope I now have. You see, this violin, it belongs to me. It is my property. Your parents murdered two of my soldiers, and stole the violin like cowards in the middle of the night. Fortunately for them, they were able to smuggle it out of Africa before we were able to capture them. Now, unfortunately for you, and your brother, your lives must now come to an end, and your house must be burned to the ground. It is a just punishment for being the children of murderous parents who steal from the Fuhrer.”
Rosalie tightened her grip on the rifle, and applied pressure to the trigger.
“At the winery. You told the Vicenzu, before you butchered him, that our parents would be freed once you acquired the violin. You said that no harm would come to me, or my brother.”
Ulrich picked up the latched violin case in his right hand, plucked the cigarette with his left index finger, and thumb, blew a silver cloud of smoke across the room, then whispered to Rosalie.
On cue, the door behind Rosalie swung open. Erich was standing in the threshold, his face twisting with pleasure, and fury as he leveled the barrel of his KAr98K rifle to her heart.
“Put down the rifle, my darling. We cannot have you dying alone. We must find your brother, so the two of you can share in the experience,” Ulrich said.
Reacting on pure instinct, Rosalie raised her rifle at Ulrich — her finger pulling back on the trigger.
Before she could squeeze it thoroughly, the backside of her skull erupted with a searing pain. Blood pooled behind her eyeballs, distorting her vision, then slowly dripped down the nape of her neck, seeping out from beneath her thick, curly, brown hair. She teetered for a moment, then fell forward. Luckily, her dead-weighted fall was broken by a loose mound-mixture of moist dirt and soft sand.
Erich quickly stepped inside the garage, and yanked Rosalie’s rifle away from her unconscious body.
“Bring her to the front of the house. We have a show to put on for her brother,” Ulrich said, grinning.
Erich placed Rosalie’s rifle onto the table, then bent down and heaved her body up and over his right shoulder. He stepped out into the night, and was instantly flanked by Rolf who escorted them to the front steps of the house.
Corrado was on his back beneath the Mercedes’ engine, slicing his knife through the thick fuel line when he heard the faint echoing of foreign laughter. He panicked at the sound, and made one final hard cut, severing the line. Amber gasoline flowed from the tube, and poured onto his face and shirt. He shut his eyes, and mouth, and tried to fight his body’s urge to cough the toxic liquid out of his throat. He craned his neck to the side, allowing the gasoline to drip away from his eyes, and nose, then subtly spit the gasoline which had seeped into his mouth, out onto the dirt. He then rolled over onto his stomach, eyes still shut, and reverse-army-crawled until he was safely out from beneath the truck.
Before cutting the line, he had carefully inspected the surrounding area, as well as the rear cabin of the truck. He was alone. Their plan was working.
Using the bottom, and dry half of his shirt, he wiped away the gasoline from his eyes, and lips, and used one of the canteens he found in the rear of the truck to wash out his mouth and throat.
Free of the toxins, save for wreaking of benzene, Corrado focused on the next leg of the plan.
Vanish into the trees, and meet Rosie at the driveway’s entrance.
Plotting out the best path through the woods, he once again heard the same distant melody of foreign laughter. His curiosity halted his decision making, and instead of disappearing into the shadows, he tiptoed to the front of the truck, and peered towards the source of the cackling.
It was a traumatizing decision he wished he hadn't made, yet it was also a critical decision he needed to make.
Illuminated by the Sicilian moonlight, and two kerosene lanterns being held by the same one-eyed man he had seen inside of the church during the exiting procession of Miceli’s funeral, and a rough looking woman who could easily be this man’s twin, Corrado’s eyes spotted the limp body of his sister being physically harassed by two men in gray military uniforms. The same men who helped destroy Mr. Bova’s instrument shop.
Corrado’s blood boiled beneath his skin, and was about to charge the group, when a familiar voice called out to him from the shadowy doorway of the garage — pausing his assault.
“Corrado Tutino. I know you are watching. So why don’t you allow us to entertain you,” Ulrich said, as he stepped out into the sliver of shifting moonlight — his right hand tightly secured to the violin’s leather case, “My men are restless, Corrado. They have traveled many miles, and desire a passionate moment of comforting relaxation. Your sister has generously, although unconsciously, offered herself to help them fulfill their needs. Please, feel free to join us at any time. I would certainly love to make your acquaintance before killing you.”
The two men in military uniforms began stroking Rosalie’s limbs, then used their daggers to cut away her blouse, exposing the pink skin around her black bra. They laughed, howled, and barked like wild dogs, as they prepared themselves for what was going to happen next.
Corrado bolted to the rear of the truck, jumped inside, then used a flat bar he found inside of a tool chest to pop open the ammunition crates that lined each side of the bed. The fourth crate finally provided him with what he was desperately looking for.
He plucked two of the M24 stick grenades from their straw beds, then jumped out of the truck. He tactically peaked towards the front of the house, and watched as the two uniformed men disrobed their gray jackets. Luckily, they were taking their time. He peered to his left, studied the perimeter scanning movements of the twins, then got eyes on Ulrich. He was leaning up against the side of the house, beside the mangled tomato garden, lighting a cigarette with a match — watching the vile events unfold.
Corrado didn’t exactly have a plan, but he was not going to allow his sister to be violated any further. It was time to cause a distraction.
Thanks to Rosalie’s obsession with firearms, and explosives, this wasn’t his first time handling a stick grenade. He unscrewed the safety cap at the base of the M24’s handle, exposing the white pull cord. Firmly gripping the handle with his right hand, he used his left to yank the cord, sparking the fifteen second relay.
He tossed the grenade beneath the truck, into the pooling pond of gasoline, then sprinted into the cover of the woods. Knowing that the seconds were ticking fast, he hauled ass towards the garage, keeping everyone in his line of sight.
The calm night suddenly erupted with scorching flames, and thick columns of black smoke. Metal, wood, and rubber truck parts reigned down from the sky into the newly formed crater where the Mercedes was once parked.
Corrado watched as he ran. The two men hunched over his sister nervously lost their balance, then fell back into the tomato garden. Ulrich was wide-eyed, pointing, and barking out vicious orders for the two soldiers to pick up their weapons, and clothes, and search the area. The twins were already fanning out into the fringes of the woods, weapons pointed outwards, hunting.
From behind the garage, Corrado studied the aftermath of his ruse — which was working. He once again unscrewed the safety cap at the base of the second M24, pulled the cord, then with all of his strength, hurled it through the air towards the two soldiers in gray uniforms who were lurching towards the burning truck.
He waited fifteen seconds, then awed as the second explosion sent blood, flesh, and bone flailing through the air in every direction. Unsure if they were dead or alive, he removed one of the pistols Rosalie gave him inside of the house, and began volleying shots towards Ulrich, and in the direction of the twins. A scream, in the direction of the twins, echoed out from beyond the trees, indicating that one of his shots found its target.
Corrado’s hands began trembling from the consecutive shots, and Ulrich’s nimble and thin frame was able to dodge and flee the barrage, taking cover behind a thick cedar tree trunk.
Corrado broke from the cover of the garage, and ran towards his half-naked sister, who was slowly returning to consciousness.
He arrived at her side, and immediately covered her exposed chest with the shirt that was removed from her body. He shook her shoulders, trying to wake her up faster, when bullets zipped over his head, exploding in the tomato garden behind him. He looked up, and honed in on the two shooters.
The twins were each firing towards them from the cover of their own trees. Their distance, and the rolling terrain made their shots difficult to find flesh. So Corrado braced himself down on one knee, and returned fire, making it impossible for the twins to advance. He heard someone cry out in agony, which caused the shots to cease. He had hit one of them, but he was not going to wait around to see if they were able to continue shooting.
He inserted both of his arms beneath Rosie’s armpits, and lifted her to her feet. He slung her arm over his shoulder, and guided her to the safety of the rear of the house, firing his pistol behind him with every step.
Corrado delicately placed Rosie down in the cool dirt, allowing her to regain her senses, then handed her the shotgun.
“Stay here. I need to get the violin, and you a shirt. If anyone comes around this corner that isn’t me, introduce them to the shotgun.”
Rosie nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks as she fought through an incredible headache. She watched her brother run back towards the front of the house, and listened as gunfire filled her night with anxiety.
She gripped the shotgun in both hands, holding it tight to her chest. Ready to use it if she had to.
She waited patiently, then exploded with relief when she saw Corrado emerge from the back door — shirt in one hand, leather violin case in the other.
“We need to move, Rosie. We cannot stay here.”
“Are they dead?” Rosie asked.
“I don’t know. I think I killed two of them with one of their own grenades, and I know I shot one of those creepy twins. Ulrich vanished into the woods like a coward when I went around front to get the violin. But regardless, we cannot stay here to find out. We need to get back into town, and find those soldiers Vincenzu spoke of. Maybe then we can get out of this mess.”
“Thank you, brother.”
“For not abandoning me.”
“You’re all I have, Rosie. I will defend you, and your honor for as long as I am alive. We can get through this. As long as we protect each other, and stay true to our family, we will survive. Can you walk?”
Rosalie rose to her feet, donned the long sleeve shirt Corrado brought her, shook the nerves from her limbs, and cracked her neck to each side.
“I’m good. Let’s go.”
The two siblings took off running, and disappeared into the dense saffron field abutting their farmhouse. They were armed, dangerous, scared, and in possession of a precious violin that was responsible for so much death.
Weaving through the violet flowers, their minds raced, and tried to comprehend everything that had happened, and everything that was about to happen. They had no idea where this newly forged path was going to lead them, but they had each other, and that is all that mattered.