This businessman, who already owned one villa in Sommarese, heard about the innkeeper and his wife’s villa on a one-hundred-hectare estate between the slopes, dotted with trees, cultivated plots, clearings, and the businessman fell in love. And so he rounded up his three partners—an engineer, a lawyer, an accountant—and in great secrecy, he showed up on the estate in his black BMW with Aosta plates, and he passed the gate, the sign that said “Private Property,” the clearing where he would lie buried with his three partners, and arrived at around six in the morning, which was perfect, meaning, just the right hour to discuss purchasing a villa that was so gorgeous, so vast. The businessman was a pleasant type, well-mannered, convinced that everything in this world had its price. He and his three business partners sat outside at the small white wicker tables that the innkeeper and his wife had the help—two Croatian domestics—bring out during the summer, and he negotiated for around twenty minutes while he sipped a cup of blueberry tea.

The businessman enjoyed himself the entire time, playing at raising the price, in spite of their continuing to say no. His insistence, his arrogance, his presumption in thinking he could snap up any kind of consent just by naming a figure, and showing up at six in the morning, uninvited, and talking and behaving almost like he was in charge, at someone else’s home, and taking advantage of the courtesy and patience of his hosts, all this contributed to the innkeeper and his wife insisting on showing them around the villa, even though the businessman and his partners had probably already examined the land register files, planimetries, soundness and annuities of all fixed assets of the estate, and kept insisting that there was really no need. Even so, in the end the four men went inside, looked at some rooms, the last one being the armory, where the innkeeper proudly showed them his weapons, antique and modern, and then he grabbed a loaded 7.5 caliber, model twenty seven, German-made Czechoslovakian Ceska, silencer attached, and shot his four guests, once in each leg. Without going into specifics, the innkeeper explained how he shot the businessman once in each leg, then in the head, and then he buried him with his three partners shot once in each leg, then in the head, after tying all four of them up, but not in the same way they tied up Marcello and Monica: this was an important businessman with Sicilian roots.

But this time, and it certainly wasn’t the first time, either, they’d done this in other ways, with other people—usually vagabonds or gypsies or blackvugumbrà vendors, but these weren’t buried in the clearings of their villa, they had no intention of turning their villa into some kind of graveyard—but this time they’d been very reckless. The innkeeper explained that if Marcello and Monica hadn’t stopped exactly in that spot, if they hadn’t smelled what they smelled—the smell of the businessman and his three partners under the ground—if they hadn’t stopped for breakfast at the inn, and revealed what they had to exactly the wrong people—meaning the innkeeper and his wife, who also jointly owned the villa and all the surrounding land—then they wouldn’t have forced anyone into having to get rid of them. Unfortunately, up to that point, what had saved the innkeeper and his wife from carabinieri investigations or mafia-style vendettas or God knows what else was the fact that this meeting with the businessman and his stooges had been a secret, and neither one of them had any intention of letting that secret out.

The innkeeper grabbed the shovel by its wooden handle, pointed the iron shovelhead at the ground, and set his foot on top, ready to dig. His wife broke the harder ground with the pickax. The innkeeper and his wife dug and chopped for a good half hour, separating the turf from the clumps of dirt and setting them beside the two holes in two nearly symmetrical mounds. The holes were only a half-meter deep and barely one and a half meters wide, but with Marcello and Monica trussed up in the ropes, it wouldn’t be too hard to make them fit. While they dug and chopped, the innkeeper told Marcello and Monica that they wouldn’t be shot: they’d be buried as they were, even if they kicked a little. Death would greet them almost at once, he said, so they wouldn’t really suffer or feel much pain. Monica was no longer red from screaming; she was red from crying. They finished the holes, their foreheads dripping with sweat, and the innkeeper had two dark stains on his white shirt and his wife’s red satin skirt and black cardigan fluttered in the wind. First they grabbed Monica by the feet, then Marcello, dragging them along the even grass, throwing them into the jagged holes. There wasn’t even room for the backpacks, so those they’d get rid of later, maybe put them in the cellar rooms of the villa, then with the colder weather, which came early to Val d’Aosta, the backpacks would go into the living-room fireplace. The innkeeper’s wife also added that they should stop moving and crying: it would all go much faster than they thought.

Marcello felt the dirt landing on him, his hair, face, stomach, all over, and he saw the ice-capped mountains and felt the fresh Brusson air on his face, and he could still smell the smell that was there last night before he went to sleep and was there in the morning when he woke up, and he could hear the innkeeper talking to his wife as they tossed down the dirt, that she shouldn’t forget to mark where they were burying them, because by the time they finished, it would be such a good job they’d have a hard time finding this spot again in the clearing. The innkeeper—his name was Marco—was tossing dirt into the hole and telling his wife that, really, what she should do to mark the exact spot was dig in one of the kids’ backpacks and find a stake.

Text by Marco Candida

Translated copyright 2010 by Elizabeth Harris from Diario del sogni. Copyright Marco Candida.
First published in Words without Borders and reprinted here with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.