Two Fatherlands – An Extract

A Guide to the Reschen Valley Series Extracts
AN EXTRACT FROM

Two Fatherlands

from the Epilogue

With Bella leading the way down the two flights of stairs, Katharina followed Florian to the kitchen. He put the coffee on, and she went into the Stube with the dog. Florian had built a wide, long room adjacent to the rest of the inn. The tables and chairs were neatly lined up in rows, and the room was still dark in the half-light. It would be at least an hour before the sun came over the ridge. She went to the doors that led to the outdoor terrace and took Bella to the side garden. After tying the dog up, she stood on the far edge of the terrace, and pulled her shawl tighter over her shoulders against the cool morning air. The new Post Inn was located on the south end of the tunnel, which had been drilled right through St Anna’s hill. If she stood right in front of the tunnel, Katharina could see through to the old town. The new road ran right between their inn and the newly constructed Eagle Inn, located just below St Anna’s chapel. Beyond that was Graun Lake and a muddied path leading to old Graun.

Katharina tipped her head and frowned. She could hear the water lapping the shores of the lake. There wasn’t any wind. What was stirring the water so? Before she could further consider it, lights appeared in the tunnel and a lorry sped by. Katharina exclaimed under her breath. She would never get used to living this close to traffic.

When Florian returned with two steaming cups, Katharina pulled out a seat for each of them at one of the outdoor dining tables. They sat together quietly for a while before Katharina said, “Do you think the tourists will really come?”

“Not before I get those fixtures installed,” Florian joked.

She sighed and reached for his hand, and he kissed her fingers. “We’ll have more than just Annamarie and Sepp visiting us every summer for two weeks. It will be all right, Katharina. Promise.”

There was a lot that was not right. There had been a lot of promises too. Everything seemed to be delayed, from cash flow to construction. But Florian’s words gave her comfort because unlike the government or the authorities, her husband did keep his promises.

“Annamarie told me about the article she wrote for the paper in Switzerland,” Florian said. “On Splügen.”

Katharina was proud of her. “It created quite a stir. There was a letter from the editor afterwards, and he sounded pretty indignant that not all the families are being provided with a suitable plot of land.”

“Well”—Florian raised an eyebrow and sipped his coffee— “Mastromattei did make us an offer, if you remember.”

Katharina rolled her eyes. “Anyway, her story landed like a bomb on the Swiss residents.”

“Unfortunately it’s all a bit too late for that,” Florian said.

“It wasn’t too late for her though.” She gave Florian a knowing look. “She credits you-know-who for leading her to the right source, getting her in to talk to the Swiss authorities in the first place.”

Florian winced. “Angelo never did like doing the dirty work.

Rather convenient, don’t you find? Got his daughter’s forgiveness and sent her to the lion’s den.”

“Either way,” she said. “Our girl has really made her way, don’t you think? If only Sepp would marry her and do right by her.”

Florian smiled and reached for the sugar bowl. “He will.” Katharina looked sharply at him. “Did he talk to you?”

“He made me promise not to say anything. It’s supposed to be a surprise.”

She beamed, but her husband put a finger to his lips. “Quit smiling like that, or you’ll give it away before she even gets out of bed.”

To get him back for keeping the secret from her, she was about to scold him for using too much sugar, when the bells at St Katharina started up. Florian’s brow furrowed, and she tilted her head. It wasn’t even five-thirty. And then she listened to the tone.

“Florian—”

“Flood. But we’ve had no rain in weeks…”

They stared at one another in disbelief for a second before Katharina, still in her slippers, jumped up and rushed out onto the road. Through the tunnel, the peals were clearer and more urgent. Florian was already loping across the street, heading straight for the lake, and Katharina followed. But someone called her name, and she turned to see Jutta and Hans, also in their nightclothes, standing in the front entrance. Katharina waved them over, Florian already dashing up the path ahead of her. He’d obviously seen something, and when she peered after him, she saw why her husband had wings on his feet. Water was seeping into the streets of old Graun. She turned to the lake and saw the water already well over the shoreline. Hans grabbed her by the shoulders, almost bowling her over where she’d stopped.

“The sluices,” he said. “They must have opened the damned sluices! Katharina, go back and call the authorities.”

“Which authorities? Who’s going to stop this now?” she cried after him. But Hans was gone.
Katharina spun around to see Jutta catching up. “How could they? How could MFE have opened the sluices?” The remaining farmers had been guaranteed this summer to bring in their crops, but now water would be seeping up and into their fields. MFE was flooding their fields.

“I’m going into town,” Jutta muttered.

“I’m coming with you.”

Jutta pointed at Katharina’s feet. “You’re in nightclothes. At least go put some shoes on.”

The bells were now ringing from the tops of belfries and chapels as well. “Wait for me?”

Jutta agreed, and by the time Katharina had thrown on clothes and a pair of shoes, Annamarie was up and getting ready to go with her.

“Sepp, give me the camera,” her daughter called. She returned from her bedroom with one of Sepp’s still cameras.

Manuel teetered sleepily in the hallway. “Mother? Annamarie? What’s going on?”

“They’re flooding the fields,” Annamarie called. “Get dressed and meet us in the town square. Sepp will come when he can.”

By the time Katharina rejoined Jutta, men were running back and forth, some coming out of their barns with pitchforks and others with tools like sickles and scythes, like a scene from a medieval uprising. Sebastiano Foglio, armed with a sledge hammer and an enraged expression, took up the front and waved Father Emil over. The water was already as high as the tops of their shoes.

“I woke up this morning,” Sebastiano cried, “like the rest of you to find the fields absolutely flooded. We’re marching on MFE. We’re marching on Reschen!”

The crowd of men—Katharina counted some two dozen— roared. Father Emil waved an arm, and the crowd turned to follow him up the north road. Katharina, Jutta, and Annamarie followed at a distance, passing by Sebastiano’s wife, Rosa. She stood wide eyed at the corner of the butchery. The Foglios’ youngest son, Pepe— Charlie’s age—gripped his mother’s hand.

They were heading to the MFE barracks town, where the company’s workers and office were located. Walter Plangger and Hans were pushing ahead to lead the company of men. Katharina spotted Georg as well. It had taken them all but perhaps twenty minutes to get organised, and the church bell in Reschen tolled quarter to seven when someone cried, “They’re trying to escape!”

Katharina turned just in time to see the back of a black sedan pass between two houses on the dirt road below them.

“Figli di puttana,” Annamarie cried.

“Annamarie!” Katharina gaped. “Is that the kind of language you learn in Rome?”

But her daughter was not listening.

“Over there,” Annamarie cried. “They’re going to have to come back up to the main road over there!”

Katharina stepped aside just in time, as the men veered and began running back towards Graun. The vehicle—with whoever was in it—had no choice but to veer back onto the one road that would get them out of town, north or south. Jutta tugged on her arm, more spry and vibrant than she’d been in years. Together, they hurried after the crowd, just in time to see several men blocking the road and surrounding the vehicle. They pumped their makeshift weapons into the air, and someone landed a blow to the car. Katharina screamed. Others followed in an angry frenzy, the sound of shattering glass mixing with the shouts.

“Get out, Accosi! Get out of that vehicle right now!”

Katharina cried out when someone grabbed her, but it was Florian.

“You shouldn’t be here.” He pointed in the opposite direction. The carabinieri were coming. “Go call the authorities. Hurry.”

“Whom, Florian? Whom should I call? They are the authorities.”

He looked flustered. At the crossing, the mob rocked the vehicle back and forth. Behind her, the police blew their whistles and charged past her. “Call Angelo,” Florian said. “Now. Tell him this is a state matter now. He’ll know what to do. I have to get in there and stop this before it really gets out of control.”

He left her before she could argue that it was too late, but then Katharina spotted Annamarie snapping photographs. She called to her, but her daughter—lean, strong and brave—was absorbed in the task of recording their dark history.

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