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Emotional Damage

Novel Excerpt

By Kale RossPublished 2 months ago 15 min read
Top Story - February 2024
17

Sicily | 1943

Peering out of a pair of double glass doors, Rosalie took in the marvelous view of Canicatti’s rolling, emerald knolls, and the town’s vast array of sandstone, clay, marble, and brick structures ranging as far back as the fourteen-hundreds. Corrado paced back and forth, unimpressed with the view, and more concerned with their wrongful imprisonment.

Two hours ago, Captain Lynch locked them both inside of the church’s only suite, which had since been turned into a disheveled clerks office. Pop up tables, suffocated with stacks of uneven paper, dirty dish plates, empty mugs, and bulging manila folders were everywhere. The holy room was a chaotic mess.

“Come here, brother,” Rosalie said, “You need to stop pacing. It’s not doing you any good.”

Frustrated, and wanting to put his fist through someone’s face, he gritted his teeth and joined his sister at the double-doors.

Rosalie breathed in deep through her nostrils, then thoroughly exhaled through her lips. She turned her head, and nodded at Corrado to do the same. Raising his eyebrows with reluctance, and a little annoyance, he inhaled deeply through his nose, then exhaled through his lips.

“Disciplina,” she said, “Remember?”

Corrado smiled, and repeated the breathing practice two more times until the threat of his tremors, and a full blown panic attack, subsided.

“Why do you think he locked us in here?” Corrado asked.

“I don’t know. But I don’t like how we’ve been made to wait.”

Rosalie turned from the doors, and decided to do some intelligence work to pass the time.

She began rummaging through the desks, and peeking through the towering columns of paper. Grimly recoiling, once she realized that the documents she was reading were actually fatality records of enlisted American soldiers, she nervously shut the folder she was holding, and inserted it towards the bottom of the stack.

“What is it?” Corrado asked.

“Nothing,” she said, as she shook away the ghosts.

The jingle of a ring of keys, and the metal shifting of a lock, clamored just beyond the room’s door. Before they had time to prepare themselves, the door swung open, and Captain Lynch - accompanied yet again by the man who winked at Rosalie in the convent’s hallway - stepped inside with a slick smirk on his face.

An unseen soldier closed the door behind them.

Rosalie guessed that they were finally going to have their conversation.

The winking man pulled out a chair from one of the work desks, and sat, keeping his eyes latched onto Corrado who was staring the soldier down. Captain Lynch did the same, except he kept his eyes focused on Rosalie as he began his interrogation.

“Please, have a seat. I have a feeling that we’re going to be here for a while.”

Rosalie and Corrado both stood their ground, and refused to meet them at their level.

Captain Lynch tossed up his hands, then smoothed out the kinks in his olive drab pants.

“As you wish.”

“What do you want with us?” Corrado blurted out.

“Well son,” Lynch began.

“I’m not your son,” Corrado barked.

Annoyed, yet understanding of the boy’s resistance, the captain smiled and continued explaining the situation.

“Neither of you have been honest with me. We have a very good reason to believe that you are both harboring sensitive information that could either help us win, or lose this war. So I am going to have to ask you both a few questions. For the safety of all of us, the two of you will remain in this room until we have thoroughly evaluated the truth.”

Corrado’s eyes scrunched, his nose wrinkled, his shoulders tensed, and he took two steps backwards.

“You see,” Lynch continued, “When I asked Rosalie about your relationship with Sergeant McLaughlin, she told me a glorious tale about how you, Corrado, rescued him from drowning in a pond. And that in return for your service, he was escorting you back into town.”

“She told you the truth,” Corrado said, with elevated frustration, “The Sergeant would be dead if I hadn’t jumped in after him.”

“I am in agreement. As is the United States Government. We are extremely grateful for your selfless act of service in saving one of our own.”

Corrado’s face scrunched again, this time twisting with confusion. He looked over to Rosalie, hoping to receive some sign of what to say, but her eyes were locked onto the clever captain’s shifting demeanor. His stomach began to roil.

“However,” Lynch continued, while reaching his hand into his field jacket’s chest pocket, “You both failed to mention anything about this.”

Sending chilling sparks up and down their teenage spines, they watched in awe as the captain placed the two halves of the brass cylinder Rosalie blew up - to get the music sheet - down onto a robust manila folder.

This blindsided hit forced them both to look at each other with wide eyes. The gesture was more than enough for captain Lynch to determine that he had successfully caught them in his trap, and they indeed knew more than what they were telling.

Leaning back in his seat, Captain Lynch crossed his arms against his chest.

“Please. Indulge my curiosity. The more you tell me, the easier your time here will go, and it will only aid in speeding up your release.

“So we are prisoners,” Corrado said.

The captain chewed his cheek with his incisors, then probed the area with his tongue, then snapped his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

“You’re our guests,” replied the captain.

“But I would be more than happy to make those arrangements if you fail to cooperate.”

Corrado took three aggressive steps forward. His fists were clenched, and his face was contorted with rage. His desire to punch someone was finally about to happen.

Rosalie reached out, and filled her palm with the backside of Corrado’s wool shirt, stopping him from venturing any closer.

“Do not mind the Corporal,” Captain Lynch said as he half-heartedly turned around to acknowledge the grinning man seated behind him., “He’s just excited to win the war.”

“I have told you everything, Captain Lynch. And we don’t know anything about that,” Rosalie said, pointing to the two pieces of bronze.

Lynch sighed, and shook his head in disappointment. He tapped, and fondled the two halves of burnt bronze, then picked up the half that resembled a key. The room fell silent as all eyes were glued on the man intimately examining, and caressing the strange object.

The captain finally placed the key-shaped cylinder down, then once again reached his fingers into the chest pocket of his field-jacket. He pulled out a piece of folded paper, turned over the flaps, and read the words silently. He leaned forward in his chair, and extended his arm towards Rosalie.

Letting go of Corrado’s shirt, she stepped forward and plucked the piece of paper from the Captain’s fingers. Backpedaling quickly to resume a more comfortable position, she and Corrado read the four words, written in English, written on the page.

Saint Agatha Church. Caltanissetta.

Over his limit for mind games, Corrado reverted back to Italian to converse with Rosalie in private.

“How does he know?”

“I have no idea. I never said anything about the violin, or about what we found inside of it. Garret is the only other person alive who knows what we found inside of that cylinder.”

“Do you think they know about the music sheet?”

“Yes, Corrado. We do indeed. And thank you, both, for clarifying that mystery,” The

Corporal said in Italian from his seat.

“You look surprised,” the Corporal continued in English, “My parents immigrated from Napoli while my mother was pregnant with me, and my sister. I’m Brooklyn though and through, but Italian was my first language.”

The Corporal rose from his chair, and stalked through the maze of clerical work, shoving and kicking aside anything in his path.

“We know about the music sheet. We know about the violin your father sent to the both of you. We know about your little secret alphabet you created with your ex-spy of a father. We know about Father Burgio. We know about Private Hale, who tragically lost his life trying to rescue you by a group of fascists. We know about your band of Nazi Hunters. We even know about the freckle at the base of your jawbone.

The smiling Corporal stepped into Rosalie’s personal space, close enough for her to feel the and twirled his dry finger around two of her curls, revealing the large freckle on her neck.

“Is that what you are, Rosalie? A fascist?”

Rosalie recoiled from the intrusion, and Corrado’s fist whistled through the air until his knuckles collided with the soldier’s cheekbone.

The Corporal fell back from the well-placed punch, and hollered out with excitement. He adjusted his chin with his hand, and spat out a few swabs of blood from his split lip.

“You got guts kid, and a pretty good swing, I’ll give you that. But that was a mistake.”

The corporal charged at Corrado, with trained intentions to inflict the utmost amount of pain without causing death.

Rosalie’s knee exploded forward, sinking deep into the man’s gut. Her right boot then snapped out, and cracked against the inside of the Corporals right, striding leg. His knee popped, and he crumbled to the floor in agony.

Captain Lynch sprouted to his seat, smirking with an odd sense of satisfaction, and inserted himself between the brawling siblings.

“Can you walk, Corporal?” Lynch asked.

“I think so.”

“Good. Then get your ass out of here, and get that knee looked at. Once you’re cleared, Report to Lieutenant Gardner, and prepare for the rear assault on Montedoro.”

The Corporal struggled to rise to his feet, using the junk around him as leverage.

“This isn’t over,” he said, hobbling away on one foot.

Rosalie watched, and smiled as the angry man slowly made his exit. Then, just as the Corporal was passing through the terrace’s doors, she winked at him.

“I apologize for the Corporal’s outburst. He’s a great soldier, but he’s seen a lot of things since his time in Europe began. The kind of things that can change a person. Now, I would very much like to continue our conversation.”

Captain Lynch sat back down in his seat, leaned his spine back into the torn, brown cushion, and picked up the two bronze pieces.

“I am not your enemy. The United States Army is not your enemy. What you did for Sergeant McLaughlin, Corrado, was an act that has placed us in your debt. The loss of Private Hale is an unfortunate circumstance, and must be handled with the utmost delicacy. Look, here’s the deal. Sergeant McLaughlin told me everything that has happened between the three of you over the last thirty-six hours before I found you on the terrace. He stressed the need to help you, and I want to. I really do. I like you. You have courage, and at your age, it’s rare.”

“If you like us so much, why are we being held here?” Corrado asked.

“We’re fighting a war, Corrado. A war that will reshape the structure of the entire world as we know it. We have many allies. Yet we have just as many enemies. Italy’s ruler, your ruler, and his Fascist ideologies have banded together with the German military. Our invasion of your country is to liberate Italy’s people from tyranny, fascism, communism, and all other forms of evil. Unfortunately, many of those fascist spies terrorists reside in Sicily. They’re hiding in plain sight. Blending in among the civilians, sabotaging our communications, and food depots.”

He placed the two chunks of brass back onto the table, interlocked his fingers, then stared at both of them intently.

Rosalie understood the stare, and knew that the man was accusing them of being fascists without verbally doing so. She needed to kill this theory before it got them into deeper water. Considering they were the furthest thing from fascists, hated Mussolini, and loved Sicily, it wasn’t going to be a difficult thing to do.

Rosalie began to giggle, then worked herself up into a full on bellow of laughter that sounded long overdue. Corrado stood next to her, with a broken look of confusion plastered across his face while he tried to understand what she was laughing at.

“We’re not fascists, Captain Lynch. I promise you.”

“Then what are two seventeen year old Canicatti teenagers doing in possession of top secret, coded information, which is actively being pursued by a Nazi hunting party?”

Miraculously, a barrage of gunfire just outside of the convent’s exterior walls prevented her from needing to answer the Captain’s question.

“Son of a bitch,” The Captain said.

All three of them rushed over to the double-doors, and peered out at the ensuing chaos. Multiple bodies laid limp in the street around the convent’s front courtyard, while one dark shadow scurried away from the scene - dipping down narrow alleys. A squadron of armed soldiers chased after him, shooting their firearms and rifles whenever they decided they had a clear shot.

The door to their interrogation room suddenly blew open, and a sweating soldier in olive drab, round bifocals, and roughly parted black hair frantically informed the Captain of the situation unfolding outside.

“Two fascist terrorists just opened fire in the street while they were being questioned by two British intelligence officers. One of them was shot dead, but the other escaped through a narrow alley. He’s being pursued as we speak.”

A series of gunshots continued to ring out, backing the young man’s theory.

“What’s the status of the two intelligence officers?” Captain Lynch asked.

“One was killed. Shot through the skull. The other one was shot in the shoulder. He lost a lot of blood, but he’ll survive. Major Moone needs you down in the courtyard to help clean up this mess. The crowds are growing, and the people are getting restless.”

“Thank you, Specialist. I’ll be right there.”

The young man disappeared from the door and the room once again filled with the shouting, honking, and shooting of the chaos outside.

“I am sorry about all of this. I truly am. But, I am going to need both of you to remain in this room until the situation outside calms down. I will come to get you, and transport you to a more comfortable location where we can all, Sergeant McLaughlin included, discuss the best course of action to help you. Can you do that for me?”

Rosalie didn’t trust the Captain, but she did trust Garrett. She was disappointed that he divulged everything to this man standing in front of her, but she refused to believe that Garret would do anything to betray them. So by placing her faith in Garret, she was prepared to trust Captain Lynch.

“Yes,” Rosalie said, “We will be here when you return.”

Captain Lynch smiled at his small victory, nodded at the both of them, and hustled out of the room, yet still making sure to lock the door behind him.

“Why did you say that? We can’t wait for him to come back. We need to find a way out of here, now. I need to make sure they didn’t find the satchel I hid beneath the bed in Father Gioacchino’s private quarters. But considering Garret told them everything, they probably already found it. If they did, then we really can’t waste any more time here. We need to get to Caltanissetta before the American’s beat us there. If they arrive before we do, they will occupy the entire town, like they did here, and it will make finding the next clue nearly impossible.”

Rosalie knew Corrado was right, but she also knew that escaping Canicatti was much easier said than done. There were thousands of soldiers crawling and combing every street, alley, home, and building. They were also clearly on the American military’s radar. They needed a plan of escape, and a damn good one if they were to have any real hope of getting out of town.

“We need to be smart, Corrado. If we act solely on impulse, it could land us in a much worse situation. There’s already suspicion that we’re fascists. Let’s not give them any reason to continue pushing that theory.”

“But why is there a suspicion in the first place? We haven’t given anyone that impression. Unless Garret said something else to the Captain. Something he kept to himself, and will use it against us when he inevitably backs us into another corner.”

“No,” Rosalie shouted, “Garret wouldn’t betray us like that. I won’t believe it.”

“You don’t know that, Rosie. We barely know the guy. He’s an American soldier. Sent here to kill Germans, and apparently Sicilians.”

“Fascists,” Rosalie said, correcting him.

“Yes. But they’re still Sicilians. All I am saying is that it’s impossible to know his true agenda. We can’t be too naive to believe that the American’s will help us in our task without satisfying their own political agendas at the same time.”

Rosalie waltzed back to the double-doors, placed both of her sweaty palms on the warm glass, and watched as the street crowds began dispersing.

“You saved his life, Corrado. And he nearly lost his while trying to save ours. Do you truly believe that his purpose is to betray us?”

Corrado sighed, clearly conflicted at the question. He joined his sister at the doors, and studied her facial expressions. Because of his obsession with reading his sister’s diary when they were younger, he knew all of her signs and tells. And right now, he could sense that her heart cared for Garret more than it should. Considering her history with affection, and relationships, he knew that her feelings towards the young American Paratrooper was just as dangerous as Ulrich. He was about to attempt to maneuver her away from her brewing feelings, but they were once again interrupted by the room’s door bursting open.

The winking Corporal stood within the door’s threshold, breathing heavily. He stepped fully into the room - still slightly hobbling from his injured knee - closed the door behind him, then used the sole of his boot to violently break off the wooden knob. Locking the three of them inside.

Taking two hobbled steps forward, and grinning with ominous rage, the soldier greeted the two teenagers.

“I told you this wasn’t over.”

Shocking disbelief kept the room silent.

Then, the Corporal lunged at Rosalie’s throat.

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17

About the Creator

Kale Ross

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

https://amzn.to/3tVtqa6

https://amzn.to/49qItsD

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  4. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (6)

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  • olymoolla2 months ago

    Your stat is challenging your story is so beautiful you write like this you will be a great writer I wish and yes one more thing please open my vocal id and a story come later

  • gripping journey through wartime Sicily, filled with tension, suspense, and unexpected twists that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!!

  • Colleen Walters2 months ago

    I’m loving this! Great job 😁

  • Caroline Craven2 months ago

    This is so cool. I could totally imagine this being adapted for a mini series on the screen.

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