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The Spanish had introduced the tomato from their American empire to their dominions in southern Italy, where it grew like a weed.
The historic waves of Italian emigrants from the south had virtually subsisted on this cheap and abundant foodstuff, whose appearance conveniently recalled the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which hung on their walls, and on the bottled sauce that could be made from it to last year round.
He was in his fifties or early sixties, of medium stature, with pale skin and a shock of hair that was profuse and solidly black.
The only ones to see him close to were three boys, aged between five and ten, who had been acting out a boar hunt in the dense shrubbery under the cliff face.
The five-year-old, who was the prey, had just been captured and was about to be dispatched when a man appeared on the path just a few metres away.
This duly arrived, in the form of three fresh chilli peppers the size of rifle cartridges.
He proceeded to chop them roughly and scatter the chunks over his pasta, seeds and all, before stirring the mass together and tucking in.
The dead man parked his car at the edge of the town, beside a crumbling wall marking the bounds of a rock-gashed wasteland of crippled oaks and dusty scrub whose ownership had been the subject of litigation for over three decades, and which had gradually turned into an unofficial rubbish tip for the local population.