Franco arranged to call in the morning, and arrived with an Alfa, an ex-army four-wheel-drive vehicle, the most suitable vehicle to climb up the stiff unsealed mountain roads.
Franco took with him a large case of provisions as goodwill present and expected in the tradition of those people.
The box contained fresh baby mackerel, ropes of Sicilian sausages, lamb intestines knotted with rosemary, and chickens, the best that any good Sicilian would desire.
Montelepre is relatively close to Palermo, not more then an hour drive from the city but the contrast of the country is enormous as soon as the fertile ‘Conca d’Oro’ in the plain has been left behind.
Immediately after the first twenty kilometers on the gentle hillside, the road ascended rapidly above the sea. This Sicilian hinterland appeared arid, with scarce vegetation, presenting a mountainous rocky soil almost inaccessible to normal vehicles. In this way it had created through time the ideal refuge for bandits and other traffickers in unlawful merchandise and drugs.
Within twenty minutes the Alfa had raised high above the city, crossing into a deserted wild country, scattered with boulders and dead grass.
“How can it be possible?” Angelina exclaimed “I could never imagine such ruggedness could exist. This sort of desolation leaves me full of consternation; it’s like fronting an ancient wild giant world of violence.”
The air had become cold and stagnant. In the countryside there was a visible sense of abandonment with only a few wrecked barns scattered around. After they passed through those few deserted properties, the road descended into the Montelepre Altopiano, where the richer Mafioso’s town of Partinico was.
Half way between the two towns was an old mill, possibly a thousand years old. For centuries it had grounded flour for the local inhabitants, but the creek’s water that operated the mechanism of the mill had been diverted a long time ago, and ran in the meadow below. The property was scattered with boulders and the remains of an old crooked barn still miserably standing. It was still used at night to shelter those sheep grazing further down in the valley. At the bottom of this inhospitable place a dilapidated stone house was visible. This property had belonged to the Accana’s for several centuries, and longer than any human memories could recall.
The desolation around was discouraging and without good promise. Angelina was passionate and losing hopes about the Accanas,
“Would it be possible that my family had lived in such a miserable place?” she questioned herself.
Franco read her mind and reassured her, “It is most likely your family’s descendents are living somewhere in Palermo. But this is the only good lead we have. Whoever lives here could have the right information leading to your family.”
“God, I hope so. I couldn’t stand thinking I have to live in a place like this.” Angelina replied.
They reached the building below. It seemed to be as old as the mill itself. The walls were built with bolsters standing one on top of the other. No mortar had been used to bed in the stones during the construction, but it was still solid as the battered cliffs around, and capable of withstanding the weather for many centuries to come.
The door was ajar, and had been built out of a rough-saw-cut old oak planks and hung on large handmade rusty hinges. In the centre of the dark room, a fire was alight in an open fireplace. Above the flames, hung over a chain was a large cast-iron pot that emanated acrid milk smell. An old couple kept busy in their daily work of preparing pecorino’s cheese. The forms of cheese were stored on shelves to mature and be smoked in the thick smoky air that permeated in the room.
The couple spoke only the Sicilian dialect; therefore Franco acted as an interpreter, introducing Angelina and the reason of their business.
“Yes, we are the last Accanas still living in Sicily,” the old man said.
“The younger generation, our two sons, immigrated to the United States fifty years ago.”
Then Antonio, the old Accana, told them a long and intriguing story, with Marietta, his wife, nodding in agreement over his account.
“I remember my father in the old days talked often about his younger brother. They had grown up together sharing the hard life offered by this difficult country and they learned to love and help each other.
“Life in those old days was even more difficult than today. That was the reason why my father’s sibling sold his few possessions to pay for the journey for him and his family to immigrate to America. “
“Yes, that’s him. He is my great-grandfather and one of those children was my grandmother.” exclaimed Angelina.
Antonio continued his story,
“Two wars have gone since that day. In the old times mail took months to reach the other side of the world, but still the brothers kept writing to each other. Then suddenly after a few years, my uncle’s letters stopped to arrive from that far country, as well those few necessary dollars coming with the letters.
My father one night had dreamed of his brother and the morning after was visibly upset by the dream and said that something had happened to his sibling. We never heard of my father’s sibling again. For several months, after that dream, Father every night made us pray the rosary and at the end of our prayers he asked God to be merciful for his brother’s soul.
“The Second World-war, that came many years after, gave us another round of difficult times. When the Allied Forces came from Africa and disembarked on the Sicilian shores, the Italian troops hardly fought against the invasion. But that was well planned. Only the Germans oppose some resistance. The island had been an easy prey for the Americans, not because it was a better Army but because of the clever deal they did with the American Mafia of that time. In those days life became easier for a few, but not for us. Only the Mafiosos benefited from the war.
“It was Lucky Luciano, the popular American Mafioso of that time that struck the deal with the military to ease Sicily’s occupation. The local Mafia was involved, and they organized the local population to make the American occupation easy. In exchange for the cooperation the Mafia was handsomely rewarded, and they took control of the local black market. In that deal the Mafia became the handler of all the military goods shipped to the army in the Sicilian ports, and for that job they had handsome compensation in goods which were resold on the black market.”
Then Antonio had a sip of wine and kept narrating,
“With the deal, half of the American supplies finished in the hands of the local Mafia’s rascals, who shared the profits with Lucky Luciano’s mob in the States.
“But the American Army had smartly worked out that the entire deal with Lucky Luciano had been only a fraction of what the war would have cost them if things hadn’t run smoothly, with many casualties.
“Occupying the island within a month had been cheaper than fighting against the Germans through the inaccessible mountains of the island. Such a deal proved to be a successful operation and proved also how influential the Mafia’s organization was in those days and capable of controlling the results of the war.”