The Sarconi Family
April 12th 1915; Monsignor Peter Sarconi of Boston
I finished reading through the incomplete translations of the scraps of parchment that were in front of me and laid them aside. They seemed to be part of some letters or a journal that were mixed in with the accounts and ledgers that had been discovered in the catacombs under some ruins of the old fortress that had been uncovered by an earthquake in Basilicata. This in itself was strange enough considering they were much more ancient than the ledgers they were found with which dated from the end of the 11th Century and were in Aramic and Oscain; not Saxon, Latin or Arabic. Tomorrow I would begin my own translations.
It is Tuesday, April 12th 1915 and The Great War has been raging in Europe for almost a year here on the Western Front. We have just returned from Alexandria, Greece where we secured permission from the government to begin excavation in a village outside the city limits suspected to dating back to the 1st Century. I also brought a file addressed to Pope Benedict XV and marked Confidential from a Father Yso Kinminie back with me.
After dinner with Cardinal Pegosus I returned to my quarters for a glass of wine and to catch up on the mail which had arrived from London by courier while I was absent. I breathed a silent prayer of Thanks that Mike had managed to get my family out of Europe before things got bad and picked up the packet marked personal/family. The first letter I opened was from my half-sister Mary and was dated a few days after Christmas 1914.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year;
Momma and Daddy said I should tell you they will be writing soon and you will probably be getting a batch of letters all at once since they have to be sent to the Offices of Alexander and Waterford in London and then smuggled through the lines to you in Rome.
We’re all praying you are safe and that this war will soon be over- Dad says the ‘Joyeux Noel'(Christmas Truce’) was a good sign and hopefully means the war end will soon; he only wishes my brothers hadn’t been in such a hurry to fight.
The last we heard Tom was about to begin training with the RFC and Daniel was somewhere in Austria. No one knows exactly where Joe is. We haven’t actually heard from him since he said Goodbye at the dock the day we left to come home when we heard the news about the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. Uncle Mike had us on a ship home the next day. Like I told you in another letter we were still on the boat when the war started.
I finished Mary’s letter and than picked up the next one in the pile.
This one was dated September 22,1914 from Mother and written shortly after they got back to Boston. The letter said how thankful she was everyone had made it home safe and that Dad was getting much better now that he had his family around him but the doctor said it would be a while before he could go back to work, in the meanwhile she was planning an early Thanksgiving and Christmas because the boys had it in their heads to join up and fight the Germans and she wanted the whole family together one last time – at least what was left of it.
I finished the last of the letters from home in that packet and looked at the clock. There was no point in going to bed since the morning bells would begin ringing in less then 2 hours so I picked up an envelope from George Scigliano, Uncle Mike’s Attorney. I hadn’t heard anything from him since last year just before we’d left Boston for London.
One year Earlier; The Voyage to London
Daddy gave me this Journal as a Going Away present before we left Boston. He said I should write everything down because someday it would be important to remember it all – exactly as it happened.
March 7, 1914
I am Mary Rose Sarconi , youngest child and only daughter of Kathleen and John Sarconi, born November 6, 1899 in Boston’s North End at Sacred Heart Hospital and until my 14th year had never been more than 10 blocks from my home. My half-brothers were grown before I was old enough to begin my education so it’s almost like being an only child. My Mother and Father dote on me and my family spoils me rotten.
We aren’t what people would call rich but we don’t want for anything, Father owns several real estate properties including a partnership in a supper club on North Street with Uncle Mike where everyone who is anyone gathers to socialize and make deals. Mother keeps the books and acts as hostess so I spent a lot of time there when I was little. Of my brothers; 2 are Police Officers, another is a Pier Boss on the Docks, and then there’s The Monsignor Sarconi; my brother Peter.
Shortly after New Year’s a Lawyer arrived in Boston bringing word to Mother that some distant relative in the old country had passed leaving no direct heirs. As was their custom the lands and all assets must be passed on to the eldest adult female next in line to the original Santa Clair one generation removed from the deceased.
He said she had died several years earlier but because of the upheavals in Europe they had been unable to locate a qualified heir. If my Mother could provide adequate proof of her blood line she could become sole heiress to the estate until her death or one who bore the ‘Mark’ reached their 25th birthday and made themself known – but she must travel to Europe to collect this inheritance.
My brothers and parents discussed everything with the lawyer and decided that given the present situation at home my Father could not leave the business right then so 2 of my brothers would escort Mother to Europe and I could accompany her to further my education abroad.
Peter went to His Eminence Cardinal William Henry O’Connell, Arch Bishop of the Boston Archdiocese and requested leave and Daniel quit his job on the docks. Tom and Joe decided they needed some adventure too and ‘temporarily’ retired their badges. One month later we boarded The Lady of St Alban and began our voyage. We’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. These have been the most exciting weeks of my life; thanks to Uncle Mike.
Michael Divette is my GodFather and a partner in the shipping line. He had made sure there was everything we could need or want in the Galleys and State rooms, his personal chef prepared all our meals and his private staff served us. I was given the freedom to go anywhere I wanted on board as long as I took Sallie, my companion, with me. One of my brothers or my uncle’s men also accompanied us where ever we went.
Sallie and I spent our days, when I wasn’t studying, exploring or playing shuffleboard on deck or Cards in the Parlor with our escorts while Uncle Mike’s men came and went and explained to any other passengers who happened in that the room or court or whatever was closed for a private gathering and they should come back later or try another room; sometimes Uncle Mike would join us.
March 8, 1914
While we were on the upper deck this morning a man with a camera approached us and tried to take some pictures. Tom and 1 of Uncle Mike’s men stopped him. They argued for a few minutes then Tom grabbed the camera away from the man and removed the film. He handed the camera back and opened his jacket then said something and motioned for a couple of men at the bar who escorted the man out.
When I asked Tom about it later he said the man was some freelance photographer or something `who thought he smelled a story. He had seen us with Peter and Mike and probably just wanted to pump us for information.
I had heard stories that Uncle Mike wasn’t a very nice guy and more than a few people would like to see him dead or behind bars but that didn’t stop the Mayor, or a lot of other really important people in Boston from calling him friend. He’d even had a private meeting with The Pope when he’d gone to Rome. He called me his Princess and gave the best presents. To me he was just Uncle Mike and I loved him like family.
March 9, 1914
This morning when Daniel knocked on the cabin door to escort Sallie and I to breakfast there were two of Uncle Mike’s men standing right outside and 2 more outside Mother’s cabin across the hall.
“Mother and Cass are in the breakfast room already, Mike asked that everyone join him there.” Daniel said.
At the door to the stairs there were 3 more men, one of them took Sallie’s arm while Daniel took mine as the men opened the door and checked the stairs.
“We will arrive in London in 3 days’ time, and I have made arrangements to make the rest of the journey by automobile or carriage. I was planning to allow you girls to attend The Captain’s Ball but after the encounter with the young journalist yesterday your brothers and l feel it best to keep you confined to your quarters until we arrive,” Uncle Mike said as we were eating.
“That’s not fair—” Sallie and I both yelled at once.
“That ‘Gentleman’ wasn’t really a journalist was he?” Mother asked fingering her necklace like she always did when she was troubled and which she had been doing since we’d got there.
“No, I don’t think so – he had this in his pocket; my colleagues persuaded him to give it up.” Uncle Mike said reaching in his vest pocket.
“It looks almost like your necklace Mother,” Peter said holding it up to the light. Mother fainted.
Tom and some of Uncle Mike’s men helped Mother and Cass back to their suite and Peter went to find the ship’s physician. While we waited for them to come back Uncle Mike and the men talked quietly over by the bar while Sallie and I tried our best to hear what they were saying.