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SHADOWS OF HIS PASTTHE PAST RETURNS
By SUSANNE LAWRENCE
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 SUSANNE LAWRENCE
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAngelina Berelli was a bright and talented little girl with enough heart and soul to give to the entire city of Philadelphia. She could sing and dance, but most of all she loved to play the piano. Her parents and grandparents came to America in May 1920, about a year before she was born. As a child, Angelina would go to visit her grandparents and head right for the old beat-up piano they kept in the cellar. As time went on, she began to teach herself how to play. Everyone could tell Angelina had real talent.
On June 19, 1930, Angelina was celebrating her tenth birthday. She was given the gift of a lifetime by her grandfather. He presented her with a Steinway piano. It was quite old but in excellent condition. This was really the beginning of what later turned into a brilliant career for this child. She would eventually receive a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. The piano became her passion, and when she graduated she knew exactly where she was headed—back to Philadelphia, the city she grew up in. Her love for teaching young children to play the piano was very comforting to the parents in the neighborhood that bordered Market Street. She also taught private lessons in the upscale communities. Soon she earned enough money to consider opening her own studio. Her dream was to help children like herself, who had a real passion for music. On the corner of Eighth and Market, there was a small store for rent; it was the perfect spot for her studio. She named it Miss Angelina's Studio.
Angelina had become a beautiful woman. She had long dark brown hair and large brown twinkling eyes. She was breathtaking to look at. As beautiful as she was on the outside, everyone considered her just as beautiful on the inside. Angelina would dress smart and stylish every day. Her favorite dress was blue cotton, with gold buttons and a gold belt. She would wear her hair in a bun and wore a calm pink shade of lipstick. Some saw her as a model out of a painting. Children and parents alike loved her calm, sweet voice and her warm smile.
Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days she loved to teach the most. The younger children took lessons on those days. Besides the parents and children admiring her, men admired her too. Angelina soon met a handsome young man who called himself "J." He swept her off her feet in just a few short weeks. But soon into the relationship, something suddenly changed. One evening Angelina and J were having dinner together. It had been a long day, and Angie—as he called her—was really tired. She told J she wanted to make it an early evening. He held her hand and began to twist her arm as she tried to explain she had another busy day ahead of her. "Please stop, J, you are hurting me." He apologized and let go of her arm. They kissed good night, and Angelina left the restaurant. She was very upset and could still feel the twisting of her arm and the anger he felt toward her. She decided not to see him for a while.
Tuesdays were always busy at the studio. So many new students had signed up this fall. The studio was becoming well-known, and more and more children wanted to learn to play the piano. It was a great feeling to see them so eager to learn, and many were very talented too. A young boy came into the studio looking for part-time work. This sparked an idea in Angelina's head that she could use help cleaning up the studio. She wished she had thought about it before he left. He did say he would check back at the end of the week, so hopefully he would.
Every time J called, Angelina would make up some excuse why she couldn't go out with him. But on Thursday, he decided to wait outside for her when she closed the studio. She saw him when she was getting ready to leave, and she decided to talk to him very pleasantly and calmly. "Hi," she said. "How are you?"
"Angie, why are you turning me down every time I call you to go out with me?"
"I am really very busy, J."
"Too busy for me?"
She didn't answer.
He suddenly grabbed her by the hair and said, "What's your problem?"
Angelina began to cry. "Please stop! Why are you hurting me?"
"Because you make me mad, that's why." He quickly walked away, as Angelina stood there in shock. She knew she had to break up this relationship, but now she was afraid of him.
On Friday the young man came back to the studio to ask about the job. His name was Don, and he seemed very polite and eager to work. Angelina was so glad he came back. He agreed to clean the studio on Wednesdays and Fridays just as she asked. This would really help her a lot.
On Wednesday Don came in at 6:00 pm, but something seemed wrong to him. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Miss Angelina was arguing with a man, and it looked as if he slapped her. As the man left, Don approached her and asked if everything was okay. He could see she was crying.
"Yes, everything is okay. Please don't worry; I will be fine."
Angelina was very upset and she hoped Don had not seen what had happened.
The next day Angelina decided to come to the studio as if nothing had happened. She even wore her yellow cotton dress with little red roses and placed a few flowers in her hair. She did not want her students to sense anything was wrong. They knew her well, and they would be very upset if they knew the fear and disappointment she was feeling now. Being with the children made her happy, and she tried to stay focused.
The day was warm, covered with an azure blue sky, and the leaves were all turning bright and vibrant colors. It was like a beautiful painting. Today she was teaching her usual Thursday afternoon piano lessons, which were superb. A lot of the neighborhood kids would stand close by just to hear the wonderful music being taught there.
It was getting dark earlier now, and Miss Angelina's School of Music was about to close for the evening. It had been a good day today; the children were really making great progress, and the tunes were beginning to have tone and recognition to them. Miss Angelina was very proud of them. The children were such a comfort to her; she knew how much they loved her and her music. It was the only thing that kept her from dwelling on how unhappy she had become with the man she had thought she loved. If only she could tell him how she felt, how his jealousy and bad temper were starting to scare her. Soon, she knew, this relationship would have to end.
How could she have fallen for someone she was now so afraid of? If she ever told him that, she was sure he would become violent. She tried to remove those thoughts from her mind and think about going home and having a hot cup of tea and a warm bath.
She did her usual check of the studio—lights out and doors locked. Tomorrow would be another day. She closed the door behind her and never heard the footsteps following her.
Her badly beaten body lay in a pool of blood in the alley just two doors down from the studio. She was strangled with the scarf she was apparently wearing. The crime scene was quickly surrounded by police and spectators. Neighbors were in shock and sobbing to learn who the victim was. The wonderful piano teacher everyone loved and admired was taken from them by some monster in their quiet little neighborhood. Children were bringing flowers and cards to place in front of the studio. The beautiful music that emerged from the shiny black baby grand piano had been silenced forever.
In the days and weeks that followed, police were not very successful in apprehending the person responsible for this horrible murder. The detectives were calling it a crime motivated by robbery. Miss Angelina's purse was never recovered. Whoever did this covered their tracks very well. After questioning so many people who knew Angelina, not one single person could think of anyone that wanted to harm her.
The police went to Angelina's apartment to see if there was anything she might have there that could help them find the killer. The door was wide open, and on the floor in the living room sat a woman weeping, holding Angelina's picture. When they asked who she was, she replied, "I am Gionna, Angelina's sister. I was going through some of Angie's things, and I came across pictures of us as kids growing up. Oh my God, why would someone do this to such a beautiful person?" She explained to the police that she had spoken to her sister on Wednesday evening, and she was quite upset. She told Gionna she had been dating someone she became very fond of and she had to break up with him. When Gionna asked why, Angelina told her that he turned out to be not such a nice person. Angelina never said who he was. "Now I wish I would have asked," Gionna lamented.
Chapter TwoDon was a bright good-looking kid growing up in the city of Philadelphia during the late 1920s. He had a smile that captured everyone's heart, and dreams as big as the city itself. He was the son of Italian immigrants from Sicily. Philadelphia was the city of opportunity for many, including Don's father Anthony. It was the perfect spot to open his own haberdashery. Market Street was the heart of it all. Everyone wanted their business to reside there. It was where young or old, rich or poor, could find what they were looking for.
Don loved working side by side with his father in the haberdashery, while his mother was a seamstress mostly working from their home and doing alterations for the store customers. They lived in a small row house that sat directly above their store. It became Don's way of life to learn the trade of the clothing industry and meeting and helping customers. The community loved Don; everyone knew him, and he could help you find anything you needed from the store. The business grew to be a well-known place to buy the latest in men's fashions. Anthony was so proud of Don for the way he treated people and went out of his way to help anyone.
It was right around Don's fifteenth birthday when his father became very ill. It was never determined what happened, but he passed away very suddenly. Don's life was shattered, and he felt like his world was crumbling. His mother Julia was now a young widow with five children. There were three girls, Tina, Rita, and Julie, and two boys, Don and the oldest child, George. There was no way Don's mother could manage on her own. She decided to sell the haberdashery and at least have money to feed and take care of her family.
Don still had his dream of going to college and becoming a successful businessman. Although Don wondered how he would do this, he was determined. He remembered back when he would help Miss Angelina at the studio; it was such a tragedy that she was murdered. He often wondered if they would ever find her killer. What about that guy she fought with that night—did they ever question him? If Miss Angelina were alive, she surely would have hired him, but now Don would have to find a job after school to help out at home.
George got a job unloading trucks at the pier, something he really did not want to do. As luck would have it, though, Mr. Pintero, the new owner of the haberdashery, was looking for part-time help. Don was thrilled to be back at the place he loved so much. Everyone was so glad to have Don back, and it was also good business for the new owner because people felt so comfortable seeing Don's familiar smiling face again. Working and keeping up with schoolwork was a lot for Don at times, but he knew there was no other choice if he wanted to go to college. No matter what the challenge, Don faced it head-on and always kept focused on his dreams. While Don was working and studying, his brother George was becoming increasingly angry about working and not having any time for himself.
Spring had finally arrived, bringing with it beautiful flowers and warmer temperatures. Don was really busy at the store with all the new spring arrivals. School was winding down, and soon the colleges would be sending out their acceptance letters. Which one would it be? he wondered. The thought also crossed his mind how the family would be without his help. His mother tried to reassure him that everything would be okay. Don knew that George was jealous that he would be leaving soon, which would put most of the burden on his older brother. George was very different from Don; he wasn't interested in school, and he didn't have the personal drive that Don had. Sometimes George and Don would argue about who worked more and who had more responsibility. Don would try to smooth things over between the two of them at times, but Don still knew George resented him.
It was an unusually busy Monday at the haberdashery. Don stayed late to help out; he didn't mind—he could use the extra money. He couldn't wait to get home and just take his shoes off and relax. When he arrived home, he headed straight for the shower. It felt so good after the long day he had. As he began to walk out of his room, from the corner of his eye he saw an envelope on his table next to the bed. The envelope was very official looking, and Don was sure it was important. His heart was pounding as he ripped open the envelope. It was a letter from Notre Dame College. As he read the words of acceptance with a full scholarship, he began to jump up in the air in excitement.
In the kitchen Don's mother was preparing dinner. Don ran over to her and hugged her, waving the letter. She knew right away what it was and hugged him back, saying how proud she was of him. As he read the letter to her, it began to sink in for Don. He had gotten more than he could have ever hoped for. Now he could really begin to make plans for the fall. Everyone was so happy for Don; he had really worked hard for this, and he deserved it more than anyone. The first task was to find a job on the school campus. This was part of his plan, not to burden anyone financially.
The summer was here before you knew it, and the days kept flying by. Don worked full-time at the shop to make extra money. He had so many memories of his childhood, especially ones of working in the haberdashery with his father. Don knew this was a great experience, and one he would always be grateful for.
The dog days of August, as they were called, were extremely hot. The fire hydrants were opened to keep everyone cooled off. Don had little time for fun; he had so much to do before leaving for college. Don was able to buy some clothes to take with him. Growing up being exposed to fashion was why he was so conscious of how he looked. He always loved to dress sportingly, and he had beautiful blue eyes and thick black hair that complemented everything he wore.
The weekend was really busy at the store. Don was happy to work because he wanted to buy his ticket to South Bend, Indiana. He wasn't sure how much it would cost for a train ticket, but on Monday he planned to go to the Broad Street Station and buy the ticket so he would already have it. It was just the excitement of it all, and the ticket in his hand was just another step bringing him closer to his dream. So many things were going through his mind now that the time was getting closer to leave. How would he get to the station, who would go to send him off, how would he feel leaving his family for the first time? Don really wanted everything to go smoothly, but would it?
August 29 was a very summery day. This was supposed to be the time of his life, but Don felt the sadness his mother and sisters were feeling. He thought he was prepared for this in his mind, but when it happened it was sad for him too. Don was so sure everything would work out and one day he would come home to the city he grew up in and the family he loved.
The ride to the train station seemed like the longest ride he would ever take. Although Don tried to make conversation, no one seemed to be in the mood for talking. George was good enough to drive them all in his shiny black Pontiac he bought from one of the guys he worked with. He felt so important now that he had his own car.
When it was time to say good-bye, Mom and the girls hugged him, and tears were running down their cheeks, The handshake from George was slight, and the expression of disgust was one Don could not erase from his mind. As the train pulled out of the station, Don sat thinking about the family he would surely miss and the exciting journey he was about to embark upon.
Excerpted from SHADOWS OF HIS PAST by SUSANNE LAWRENCE Copyright © 2010 by SUSANNE LAWRENCE. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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