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IT WAS AN entirely unrealistic number of rats for a civilized age. Rats were a Biblical problem. The corners of jail cells, the shadows of granaries, rippling across Egyptian streets chattering of madness and the wrath of the Lord. Not in this middle-class villa Oscar had rented a few miles outside Napoli, unremarkable in every way imaginable. Every way except for the rats. Mark that down on the list of things to ask the landlord specifically next time.

 

“They should be here soon,” Bosie said from the bay window. He sat with his feet on the cushion and his knees toward his chest, leaning back on his hands. A small-gauge pistol lay across his lap. With his golden hair still tousled from sleep, he looked like a shepherd in white linen. The pastoral ideal, if one managed to ignore the pistol.   Continue Reading

"MADAME DEI ROSSI, do you remember Sierra Leone? Do you remember Manor Junction? Is there anything that you remember?” A long period of silence passed before the small, silver-haired woman motioned to speak. The rouge on her lips gave her aged face an elegant look. It was also a look of deep sadness and haunting regret. She stared intently into the distance, as if someone familiar, someone she loved, had appeared in her mind’s eye. 
 

“Papa was born Seydou, but they called him Samuel at school. The country people called him Pa Seydou. Only the British addressed him as Father Samuel. Mummy died when Mimi was nine months old and, afterwards, Auntie Sira came to live with us. Papa was the pride and joy of the Church Missionary Society. They believed they did fine work by sculpting an Anglican priest out of native soil. He was the youngest son of a fankama from Matopi who fathered so many children that when Reverend C.K. Lumley borrowed Papa for an experiment, no one made a fuss, but for his young mother. Three men had trouble restraining her that dry season, when they carried Papa off to the Mission School in Fallangia.  Continue Reading

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