3. Darkness

THE MORNING AFTER the gruesome incident, Vincenzo returned to the eastern Pennsylvania field, having caught another freight train in the opposite direction. He walked along the tracks toward the area where he believed that he had glimpsed the mutilated corpse of his friend, intending to dig a grave and to erect a cross of wooden branches. But when Vincenzo arrived at what he thought was the most likely spot, he saw no sign of the body. He paced back and forth between the railroad ties and the berm alongside the tracks, his alarm growing. It seemed that all traces of his friend had been erased from the earth. Compounding the anxiety as he continued to follow the tracks, Vincenzo encountered so many fields, forests, meadows, twists, and curves along the route zigzagging through that part of eastern Pennsylvania that he could not be certain where the body might have fallen. Everything in his mind became cloaked in a darkness deeper than that of the surrounding forest.

He walked for hours in one direction, turned around, and walked for twice as many hours in the other direction, finding no evidence of Nicola alongside any stretch of track. Vincenzo dripped with sweat, not only because of the summer heat but also because of the burning realization that he would need to inform the family of not just one tragedy but two, both of which he had failed to prevent. He knew that it was his duty to give Nicola at least a respectful burial, but now even that gesture was in jeopardy. As the sun fell in the western sky, the weight of a family’s mourning bore down upon Vincenzo. “How could this be happening?” he kept thinking of Farindola and of being alone amid a hostile wilderness. “How could he just disappear?”

When Vincenzo came upon a railroad station, he tried to ask people about anyone who might have seen a body, but nobody paid him much attention, because he spoke only in Italian and was dressed like a hobo, his coat rumpled and his pants tattered. People barely acknowledged him. As dusk descended, he wandered in a daze along the railroad tracks heading north, awaiting the next chance to hop a freight train toward New York, where he would ask the others from Farindola to help him return to the village for good.