English Version Part Nine
The Commandant, appeared in her dream as the modern Attila, and his blood-stained eyes were spinning out of their sockets. She could hear his murderous orders echoing out from his throat.
She was sweating profusely in the agonizing dream. She was terrified and to protect her she rolled into a ball, in the fetus way, under the bed covers hoping such nightmare will dissolve from such views of horror, but her hopes were vain.
Wakening, she was still under the heaviness of such incubus. She couldn’t give reasons of such anxieties. Under the stress of those visions she found completely helpless in front of the ghosts of the past.
“I must see Ludovic again. I have to gain his confidence without letting him know my thoughts. He has to trust me, so I can perpetrate my vendetta. He would only come to know it when his life would be running out, without any chance of return.
“I’ll prepare a strudel. That’s his favorite cake, with plenty of walnuts, raisins, figs and pine seeds. He had always been a glutton and in this way I will gain his confidence and then one day I’ll prepare a very special dish for him. Let me see… what can it be? He loved mushrooms…What kind of poisonous mushrooms are growing in Australia? I know plenty growing in the Italian woods, but what about here? I haven’t really heard of them. Is it any other way I can do? I remember that Angelo once prepared some poisoned baits for feral cats… It maybe some poison left over in the garage…No, I can’t really use any poison, what about if they do an autopsy? It is possible. I cannot risk that.
It must be something else. Like… falling in the shower and hit his head? Or can I throw the hair dryer or his electric shaver in the bath tub…? Would that be enough to electrocute him…? Or what about an accidental fall off Bar Beach cliffs?
Anything, anything at all, something to look like an accident where he will be… Kaput… gone for ever. Only in that way, I will get read of the ghost of the past and finally be in peace.
Rose went on Sunday to visit Ludovic and she had with her the strudel that she had specially prepared for him. She waited a few minutes before he came to open the door. He was surprised but visibly pleased to see her.
Rose noticed his paleness immediately and the tremor shaking his feeble body, and saw he was breathing with difficulty. Her nurse’s instinct told her that he was in need of medical attention. She sat him on a chair, checked his pulse and his temperature.
Finally she thought wiser to call an ambulance. He had a severe attack of pneumonia and he need to be in hospital to recover.
In that way Lucia saved Ludovic’s life. She couldn’t let him die by sickness. As a nurse she couldn’t let him die, it was part of her duties and it was also part of that Christian charity learned in many years of professing the faith.
True that it was in her the desire for vengeance, but morally she wouldn’t perpetrate any harm to a poor old man depending on her in that crucial moment.
While Ludovic was in hospital she visited him every day and encouraged him through his difficult time, till finally his condition improved. Again when he returned home there wasn’t anyone to help him and Rose dedicated her free time caring for him and cooking special dishes.
Rose, was angry with herself. She couldn’t explain why she was acting in such a contradictory way to her prime purpose. It would be much easier and more believable if an accident had happened to Ludovic while he was sick and weak and with his death she would have regain her lost peace of mind, and her conscience would have been at ease to have vindicated her mother.
At the end she had to admit that she wouldn’t kill him while he was sick, and thought,
“I wouldn’t do it until he is better. It would make it a stronger punishment and harder for him to accept. That’s the way it has to be.”
At home Rose kept scrutinizing her position
“Why has he returned into my life? For many years I have been able to gain an interior peace and I had completely forgotten the past. My life ran smoothly and I have been able to create a new myself in a new country. I came to Australia in the hope of forgetting him as well as the days of war, blood, and love.
“Love? Yes, love. We loved each other so much. I remember the day he promised to marry me.
He said, “I don’t have anyone else in my life. Recently I’ve lost my wife and my two children, killed by an American air strike over Berlin. There is only you left in my life now. When the war is over we will find a peaceful corner in the world where we can settle and live a new life.’
“I was proud of him and all his attention. He often took me to the best restaurants around the district, and we spent nights of love in the best hotels. But I was also happy at the time we made love in his room in the barracks.
‘People in town started to hate me, but I didn’t care. The times I was alone in town, they spit at me and I heard those people murmuring words. Graffiti were written around town calling me the German’s whore, but then I didn’t care of what they said. With him on my side I felt protected and safe in my position. I also thought at that time that I wasn’t worse than other women who had a lover out of wedlock. I thought that they were equally whores in the way I was.
“Then people only knew half of the story, they were wrong in their judgment, but at that time I couldn’t speak openly. People are used to repeating what somebody said and without thinking. They didn’t know the many times that at night I risked my life to go and meet Il Guercio. On those nights, I crossed town with the curfew, and my heart bet faster, and silently I walked protected by the darkness of the porches along the main street taking to Prato Castello.
I kept an eye open at the militia in their patrol round in the area. Seeing my shadow in the night, they would have shot me, without warning. But such risk exited me. Adrenaline pumped faster in my veins and I knew that I would make it, once more.
I wore dark clothes, and kept hiding from column to column, following the long porches, and waited the moment they went through to rapidly cross the street and disappear into the narrow lane taking to the pine forest above Prato Castello. In those days I had sharp site and capable to see in the dark of the night, and I was capable of hearing the feeble noise around and those senses saved my life many times.
I used to meet Il Guercio at La Piccotta, an ancient fort standing on the hill peak since the fifteen century, and built in defense against the invasions of the Ottomans.
He always had a good use of the information that I passed to him, and the partisans successfully caused losses to the German convoys that passed through the district.
Il Guercio was proud of what I was doing for him and used to repeat to me, ‘Don’t worry Lucia of what people are saying of you in town. When the war is over you will be proclaimed an heroine by our command. We owe so much to you. You are one of the best informers we have.’
In time, I came to like Il Guercio. There was a magnetic force in him and I was attracted by his visionary powers and I always look forward to the next time I would meet him. Then suddenly I felt subjugated by his man’s desires. At the beginning I wasn’t sure if he meant what he was saying to me.
‘You are so beautiful, Lucia. You are full of life and light is in you. I want you, I need you Lucia. I want to make love with you and having you in my dreams, at night, when I’m alone.’
Soon I was under his spell hypnotized by the way he was looking at me, and then, one night he kissed me. That kiss ignited in me such a fire and my body melted down. I completely lost the capacity to understand, I only knew I wanted him to make love to me. He was a good lover and with him I enjoyed the best lovemaking in ours sexual unions under the stars. No other man had such a passion and the capacity to light such desire in me. After our first night of love he became the magnet that drew me into those risky nocturnal trips, not so much for the information I could deliver to him but for the need to have him once more as my lover.
Being with him it become imperative in me, a necessity like is oxygen to live. To have him as a lover I was prepared to sacrifice even life, and I would have done anything he would ever have asked me.
The German Commandant had never suspected my nocturnal trips. I kept my whereabouts secret. I didn’t even tell Marina, when I was going up to La Piccotta to meet Il Guercio. Secrecy was necessary to protect his life and mine.
Unfortunately someone at the German command became suspicious.
He thought that it was no longer a coincidence that the partisans could have so much luck keeping causing lost to the Germans. Evidently, vital information were passed to them by someone who in the know. I had most likely become a prime suspect in the eyes of Kapitan Franz, the SS officer.
He reported his suspicions to his superior and they plotted and planned without saying a word to the Commandant. They only told him that a new convoy was coming from Austria and as usual had to be escorted through the area. It looked like many other convoys that had preceded this one. Only this time under the tarpaulins were hidden SS troops, armed with mortars and heavy machine guns.
When the partisans came out from the ambush, the mortar shells started to explode all around them. The patriots were taken by surprised and tried their best to defend themselves, replying to the enemy fire. Finally they were outnumbered by the SS and guerilla bodies were scattered on the battlefield. Some partisans, on that occasion were taken prisoners, loaded into a truck and taken by the SS to Udine. The German SS tortured and interrogated them to extort information.
Finally the ones who were still alive were lined up in front of the prison wall. The calm of down was broken for a mere minute by the cracking of an heavy machine gun and no one of those men was left alive.
That was the last that I saw of my lovers, the Commandant and Il Guercio. In the late morning some women, visibly upset by the news of the battle, saw me crossing Piazza Santa Caterina. One of them took a stone from the unpaved road, and yelled,
“They died because of you.”
Then she threw the stone she had in her hand.
Soon the others excited in seeing my spilled blood became wild animals. They imprecated against me and stoned me. I was bleeding profusely and I fell unconscious on the piazza paving.
They didn’t stop. They wanted revenge and see me dead. They screamed and stoned me,
‘You’ll pay for the men murdered by the Germans. You are the Commandant’s whore. You are our enemy.’
They hated me because of it. I had become their scapegoat. They had to kill me to have revenge. I was the German Commandant’s woman, therefore an enemy.
Ferociously they kept on stoning me, until Don Felice and the sacristan intervened. By that time everybody thought I was dead. Don Felice stopped the fury of those women while Scanio, pitifully, took me away. Sometime later, carrying me on his shoulder, he noticed that I was still alive.”