MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB is my next release, set in upstate New York during Prohibition. The Galliano Club is an Italian social club for men, catering to mill workers producing the copper and iron to build America’s bridges, ship hulls, and power grids.
Here's an excerpt that explains Luca Lombardo's backstory. It's part of his first encounter with Tess Kennedy.
They sat in a booth facing each other, damp coats hung on the racks that bookended each bench seat, and ordered coffee and ham sandwiches. McSweeney’s was the lunch option for Lido’s downtown office workers, making it happily hectic. Hot coffee, beef gravy, and fried potatoes created a fog of mouth-watering aroma. The windows were streaked with
condensation where the kitchen’s heat met October’s chill.
“May I ask you a question?” Tess said as the waiter poured coffee into thick white Syracuse China mugs.
“Pietro and Renata.” She hesitated. “Were they your parents?”
“Not my parents,” Luca said. “My wife’s parents.”
“Oh.” Tess sat back.
“Rafaella died eight years ago,” Luca said.
“I’m sorry,” Tess said. She hesitated, toying with a spoon, as a couple of men in wet raincoats slid into the next booth. “May I ask another question?”
Luca nodded as the waiter returned with their sandwiches, along with a pot of coarse mustard and a dish of dill pickles.
Tess abandoned the spoon, took a pickle, and continued to avoid Luca’s eye. “Why were you sending money to her parents?”
“I owed it to them for taking her away.”
“Coming to America, you mean?”
“I didn’t want to be a farmer.” Luca opened his sandwich and spread mustard on the thick slices of ham. “I was 19 years old and my dream was to come to America.”
“You got married when you were 19?” Tess asked. The surprise in her voice was undeniable.
“I was 18 when we got married,” Luca said. “So was Rafaella. She had a family, but I was an orphan, living with my cousins. All I ever wanted was to come to America and make things.”
“Was that her dream, too?” Tess asked. “To come to America?”
“No.” Luca covered the ham with the top slice of bread. He was ravenous but a lump the size of a baseball clogged his throat. “I don't think she had any dream besides me. Her parents didn’t want her to go. Her mother cried. Her father insisted things in Italy would get better. Even said that the soldiers would stop taking men and food for the army, but
we all knew he was wrong. Rafaella was pregnant, too. But she went because I wanted to go.”
“She must have loved you very much,” Tess said, leaving her sandwich and coffee untouched.
“We spent two weeks in steerage.” Luca was unable to stop unburdening himself to this stranger who listened so intently, despite the lunchtime clamor around them. “All the way from Genoa to New York City. After we arrived, we got a room in a tenement on Elizabeth Street. I worked any job I could find. Rafaella had the baby. They both died of the
influenza a few weeks later. I sent a telegram to her parents.”
“I’m sorry,” Tess said, fingers pressed to her mouth. “That must have been awful.”
Luca abandoned the uneaten sandwich and drank some coffee. “When I came to Lido, I worked hard. I sent them half of whatever I earned.”
“Half of your wife’s share of a better life in America,” Tess said quietly.
“Yes. Every month. For seven years.”
“Like a penance.”
Luca blinked. “Yes, like a penance.”
“Have you been lonely?” Tess asked.
Her voice was even softer than before, but the question hit Luca like a sock full of wet sand. He knew he should bluff, say that he had lots of friends and his cousin Enzo, too.
“I’m sorry,” Tess said into his silence. “That was terribly presumptuous--.”
“Yes,” Luca said.
Read more about the upcoming Galliano Club series here: http://carmenamato.net/ galliano-club-mystery-series/