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Wall of death

Short Story (1,205 words)

Major Canning is taken by his Italian interpreter, a very superstitious man, to a type of seance with a fascino or fortune-teller. The fascino predicts that somebody in the room who has just had two narrow escapes from death will not be so lucky the third time. Canning is disturbed.

After an air-raid a few days later, he goes out with a stretcher party. He sees an old woman injured beside a damaged building. He recognises her as somebody who was also present at the fascino's house. He picks her up and takes her along the street. When they have gone a few yards the house behind them collapses, burying the place where she was lying. Canning has escaped death again, but the old woman dies of her injuries. It turns out she too has recently had two narrow escapes.

This was the second of five contributions by Canning to a long-running series "Did it happen?" by various authors which appeared in the Evening Standard and its sister papers. Readers were asked to guess if a story was fact or fiction. Canning's story describes an incident in wartime Italy. In this case the answer was "fact".

Canning's other contributions to the series were "Honorary Godfathers", "Two good men", "You are a spy" and "Hole in one".

First published in the Evening Standard, 20 July 1957, page 9.

Included in the collection Italy and the Balkans, ed. John Higgins.