On this hazy summer morning I hiked to the summit of Punta Imperatore, a Sphinx paw of a promontory, whose claws curl into the Mediterranean. Halfway up I encountered a friendly German Shepard who decided to accompany me.
As we contemplated the view I recalled a story Sylvia told me about a former tenant of hers named Jurgen, who, in a fit of alcoholic depression, stood at this very spot, took off all his clothes, and leaped into the abyss. Several days later Sylvia got a call from an officer of the Carabinieri. He said they’d found what looked like a last will and testment in the pocket of Jurgen's trousers.
“Signora, you must come to make an identification,” the Carabinieri officer said.
“All right,” she replied. “Do you want me to come to your headquarters?”
“No,” the officer said. “The man is still out there, on the rocks.”
“You mean you haven’t yet recovered his body?”
“What’s the rush?” the officer replied. “He’s dead.”
Sylvia rode in the back of the Carabinieri’s big black Alfa Romeo, until they got to where the road narrows to a dirt path. They got out and headed up the steep trail. With them was a young man from the mortuary who carried a block and tackle and a huge coil of rope on his shoulder.
From the top of the promontory they looked down at the dead German's corpse, which rested on a narrow ledge a short distance above the surging blue sea. The wind gusted, and tousled Sylvia’s hair.
The young man from the mortuary put on a rock-climber’s harness, and quickly rappelled down to the ledge. He tied the rope around the dead man’s body, then waved. The Carabinieri pulled up a grotesquely bloated carcass. Flies buzzed. Sylvia put a handkerchief to her mouth.
“That’s him,” Sylvia said. “Now let’s get out of here.”