Enrico hesitated; then agreed. They would pack their things and travel by train. He would help her shop. Three days later they left by train. The train ride was uneventful but bumpy and unsettling to Bettina.
They reached Palermo and went to a fine little hotel. They had a room on the 3rd floor with a balcony which had a fine view and permitted the sun to come in first thing in the morning. Enrico went to see his father’s clients early in the day and returned midday. He took her to shop for baby clothes and they stopped for lunch at a café. The next day, Enrico left early again, so Bettina decided to take a walk. She found a street with a number of shops, including one that had a perfumery and a large apothecary, where she spent several hours. She asked the chemist many questions and finally made several purchases.
Enrico had given her some money and she was very careful in the way she spent it. Enrico completed his business in 4 days so they decided to take a late afternoon train home after lunch. The sun was just setting. They had a compartment toward the back of the train that was several cars long and had a good number of passengers. At the back of each car was a railed standing platform. Bettina said she’d like to watch the world go by from outside the car. They shared a little cheese and bread. Bettina prepared a small bottle of wine and some water for the trip back. Enrico and she spoke of the shopping and the “citta” (city), as the train made its way back.
About a half hour on the way back home Enrico opened the corked wine bottle and drank from it. He drank again after eating a piece of “cicolla” bread. They spoke about the baby. Bettina then said she wanted to go out to the platform. Enrico, now feeling the effects of nearly a half bottle of wine, was reluctant but agreed. They went toward the rear of the car and opened the door and went out onto the platform. Enrico seemed to stumble and complained about his head aching. The train was at an area of flat straight track at the edge of a series of hills known as the “Sheep’s Back” (Pecora Spade). Enrico became a little dizzy. Bettina held his arm. Suddenly, he doubled over and began to shake violently. Bettina held tight to his arm as he vomited and shook. The train was nearing a slight bend. Enrico leaned over the metal railing. Bettina said she would get someone to help. His vision blurred and he felt a hand pushing at his back before blacking out.
Bettina ran through the train car yelling, “Aiuto me, Aiuto me!”(Help me, Help me!). She had gotten to the car behind the engine when the conductor appeared. “Che su chesa?” (What is it?), he said. “Mia marito e malato,” (My husband is sick) she cried in a hysterical voice.
The conductor ran back to the compartment and stopped. “No, no, e al fuori.” (No, No, he’s outside.), she said. The conductor got to the half opened door and stepped out. The side of the platform nearest the gully was covered in a spray of vomit- a strange frothy vomit speckled with red gobs of blood and purple wine. Enrico was nowhere in sight. He ran back to the engineer and had him stop the train. It took over a half hour to organize a few groups of male passengers led by four conductors to walk back up the tracks. It was dusk but there was enough light to see along the track. After an hour one group who saw a spatter of vomit on one of the rocks near the rails ventured down the rocky gully with a group of men. Now kerosene lamps were signaling to find the others. When they found Enrico, his neck was twisted in a bizarre angle, obviously broken when he fell. His skull was split open and the grey of his brain was visible. There was no question he was dead. The men carried the body up the hill to the tracks and signaled the engineer to back up the train.
“Signora, me dispiace dire ma tu marito,.tu marito e morte.” (Signora, I am sorry to tell you but your husband….your husband is dead.), said the conductor. Bettina’s eyes widened and she put her hand over her mouth before slumping against the backside of the car at the very platform he had fallen from.
“Vene” (Come), said the conductor and he led her back to the compartment. “Lasciare me” (Leave me), she said and closed the door. Once the door closed she breathed a sigh of relief.
The body was wrapped in a few canvas mail bags and placed in the mail car. The train began to move again. Bettina sat quietly in the compartment. Her face was stoic; she was quiet. As the train rocked to and fro, she fell asleep. Perhaps it was more than the trip and the accident overwhelming her or even her pregnancy.
In a brief moment before she fell asleep, she made the sign of the cross and said “Allora, sono bene fatto.” (Now, it’s well done.) The train made its way to Corleone Station. When it stopped the conductor knocked on her door several times before she awoke.