Blood Brotherhoods

Blood Brotherhoods by John Dickie Read Free Book Online

Book: Blood Brotherhoods by John Dickie Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Dickie
camorra’s honey pot, and the fattest feeding trough for the guard commanders and anyone else who has a hand in supporting the camorra; the great latrine where, by force of nature, society’s most abominable scum percolates.
    It was in Procida prison’s own latrine, which fed straight into the sea, that the Duke came across another crucial facet of the camorra system. One day he noticed two human figures sketched in coal on the wall. The first had wide, goggling eyes and a silent howl of rage issuing from his twisted mouth. With his right hand he was thrusting a dagger into the belly of the second, who was writhing in excruciating pain as he keeled over. Each figure had his initials on the wall above his head. Below the scene was written, ‘Judged by the Society’, followed by the very date on which the Duke had come across it.
    Castromediano already knew that the Society or Honoured Society was the name that the camorra gave itself. But the doodle on the wall was obscure. ‘What does that mean?’ he asked, with his usual candour, of the first person he came across.
    It means that today is a day of justice against a traitor. Either the victim drawn there is already in the chapel, breathing his last. Or within a few hours the penal colony on Procida will have one less inmate, and hell will have one more.
    The prisoner explained how the Society had reached a decision, how its bosses had made a ruling, and how all members except for the victim had been informed of what was about to happen. No one, of course, had divulged this open secret.
    Then, just as he was warning the Duke to keep quiet, from the next corridor there came a loud curse, followed by a long and anguished cry that was gradually smothered, followed in turn by a clinking of chains and the sound of hurried footsteps.
    ‘The murder has happened,’ was all that the other prisoner said.
    In a panic, the Duke bolted for his own cell. But he had hardly turned the first corner when he stumbled upon the victim, three stab wounds to his heart. The only other person there was the man the victim was chained to. The man’s attitude would remain seared into Castromediano’s memory. Perhaps he was the killer. At the very least he was an eyewitness. Yet he gazed down at the corpse with ‘an indescribable combination of stupidity and ferocity’ as he waited calmly for the guards to bring the hammer and anvil they needed to separate him from his dead companion.
    Castromediano called what he had witnessed a ‘simulacrum’ of justice; this was murder in the borrowed clothes of capital punishment. The camorranot only killed the traitor. More importantly, it sought to make that killing legitimate, ‘legal’. There was a trial with a judge, witnesses, and advocates for the prosecution and the defence. The verdict and sentence that issued from the trial were made public—albeit on the walls of a latrine rather than in a court proclamation. The camorra also sought a twisted form of democratic approval for its judicial decisions, by making sure that everyone bar the victim knew what was about to take place.
    The camorra courts did not reach their decisions in the name of justice. Rather, their lodestar value was honour . Honour, in the sense that the Society understood it (a sense that Castromediano called an ‘aberration of the human mind’), meant that an affiliate had to protect his fellows at all costs, and share his fortunes with them. Disputes had to be resolved in the approved fashion, usually by a dagger duel; oaths and pacts had to be respected, orders obeyed, and punishment accepted when it was due.
    Despite all the talk of honour, the reality of camorra life was far from harmonious, as Castromediano recalled.
    Relations between those accursed men seethed with arguments, hatred, and envy. Sudden murders and horrible acts of vengeance were perpetrated every day.
    A murder committed as a vendetta was a murder to defend one’s personal honour, and as such it

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