As he drove alone down the highway the tune kept running through his head. An old Greek ballad. He couldn't shake it. Not since early morning, when his father's brother called to say, "Come home at once," offering no more of an explanation than, "It's a family matter."
Everyone in his family knew the words that went with the tune, lyrics that spoke of family honor and all that was expected of those duty-bound to protect it. The song told the story of his father's father and what his family had demanded of him a hundred years before:
In the early 1900s a young medical student studying in Athens received a message from his father to return home at once. The trip from Athens to the Mani, in the southernmost part of Greece's Peloponnese, took several days. When the student arrived home he learned that his younger sister had humiliated their father by becoming pregnant by a young man in their village. Her lover had proposed to marry his sister, but their father refused. Instead, in front of his sister and her lover he told his son to shoot and kill them both.
The lovers ran from the house, but the brother caught up with his sister in the courtyard and murdered her there. His sister's lover he caught and killed at the port as he tried to escape by boat.
At the trial of the brother for killing his sister and her lover, the Judge was about to render his decision when the Judge's mother stood and shouted at her son, "Just remember before you pass judgment that you murdered your own sister for the very same reason."
The brother was acquitted and returned to medical school.
The driver shot a quick glance down at the Corinth canal as he passed west from the Greek mainland onto the Peloponnese peninsula.
I wonder what Uncle has in mind, thought Greece's Special Crimes Division detective Yianni Kouros. Judges weren't as forgiving these days as they had been in his grandfather's.
© Jeffrey Siger