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Not that I should have been anything but grateful to Sophie regardless of how she secured my release from Capanne prison. A murder by an American on foreign soil was complicated business, only made more so by the fact the victim was a powerful man. Like all powerful men Verdicchio had enemies that were happy to see him go, but none so much that any of them would have been willing to intercede on my behalf. I had, after all, killed an old man. The police reports left out that he had tortured Sophie before my arrival; Verdicchio’s power was such that even after his death it protected him. The American consulate seemed to prefer to pretend that I didn’t exist, so I had spent months in Umbria being shuttled back and forth between the prison’s routine and the indecipherable proceedings of the courthouse.
I began those days sitting on cold rocks then moved to standing in front of jurists who spoke in tongues I didn’t understand, asking questions I wasn’t meant to answer. I just stood there, waiting for someone to point me in the direction I was meant to go next. After I became accustom to the routine, though, it just added an interlude where I could enjoy a car ride with some Italian sunshine and watch the golden hills of Umbria go by.
Capanne wasn’t so bad, either. Yes, the prison was an ancient cold, stone box, and there were cockroaches, but not so many as to be too bold. They at least had the decency to scatter when a light was turned on. The same couldn’t be said for my fellow inmates. Starved for sunlight they gravitated toward any illumination. Which I suppose explained the number of them that reconciled with their old religions, be that Catholicism or Islam. I didn’t.
Through those court proceedings and the inevitable corruption around them how I had ended up in Capanne began to leak back to the other prisoners. It resonated in a change of how I was viewed, a change I could feel even through barriers of language and culture.
Capanne was filled with would-be gangsters, bona fide mafioso, smugglers, small-time thieves and big time crazies, each marked with some kind of ritual tattoo, makeshift jewelry, or taqiyah. I kept waiting for one of Verdicchio’s buddies to send someone with a shiv my way, but days turned into weeks and it never happened. One day I learned why.
I was drying myself off after a shower when a man stepped around the corner and into the room’s doorway. I always faced the exit as being naked placed anyone in a vulnerable spot and I was expecting someone to eventually show up and take advantage of that. But the man who stepped in didn’t look like anything I expected. He was short, swarthy, with a trimmed beard of dark curls, wearing one of the wool caps the muslim prisoners seemed to preferred. Closer examination showed he was younger than first inspection might have estimated.
I read no hostility in him. His hands were clasped in front of him. Certain that he had my attention he said, “As-salamu alaykum.”
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