Uniform Justice


Donna Leon

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for many years and previously lived in

Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a

teacher.  Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all

been highly acclaimed, most recently Friends in High Places, which won

the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, A Sea of Troubles and

Wilful Behaviour.

Uniform Justice

Also by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice

Death in a Strange Country

The Anonymous Venetian

A Venetian Reckoning

Acqua Alta

The Death of Faith

A Noble Radiance

Fatal Remedies

Friends in High Places

A Sea of Troubles

Wilful Behaviour

Kent for Hedi and Agusti Janes

In uomini, in sol dati spe rare fe delta

You expect fidelity in men, in soldiers?

Cost fan tutte –Mozart

Thirst woke him.  It was not the healthy thirst that follows three sets

of tennis or a day spent skiing, thirst that comes slowly: it was the

grinding, relentless thirst that comes of the body’s desperate attempt

to replenish liquids that have been displaced by alcohol.  He lay in

his bed, suddenly awake, covered with a thin film of sweat, his

underwear damp and clinging.

At first he thought he could outwit it, ignore it and fall back into

the sodden sleep from which his thirst had prodded him.  He turned on

his side, mouth open on the pillow, and pulled the covers up over his

shoulder.  But much as his body craved more rest, he could not force it

to ignore his thirst nor the faint nervousness of his stomach.  He lay

there, inert and utterly deprived of will, and told himself to go back

to sleep.

For some minutes he succeeded, but then a church bell somewhere towards

the city poked him back to consciousness.  The idea of liquid seeped

into his mind: a glass of sparkling mineral water, its sides running

with condensation; the drinking fountain in the corridor of his

elementary school; a paper cup filled with Coca-Cola.  He needed liquid

more than anything life had ever presented to him as desirable or


Again, he tried to force himself to sleep, but he knew he had lost and

now had no choice but to get out of bed.  He started to think about

which side of bed to get out of and whether the floor of the corridor

would be cold, but then he pushed all of these considerations aside as

violently as he did his blankets and got to his feet.  His head

throbbed and his stomach registered resentment of its new position

relative to the floor, but his thirst ignored them both.

He opened the door to his room and started down the corridor, its

length illuminated by the light that filtered in from outside.  As he

had feared, the linoleum tiles were harsh on his naked feet, but the

thought of the water that lay ahead gave him the will to ignore the


He entered the bathroom and, driven by absolute need, headed to the

first of the white sinks that lined the wall.  He turned on the cold

tap and let it run for a minute: even in his fuddled state he

remembered the rusty warm taste of the first water that emerged from

those pipes.  When the water that ran over his hand was cold, he cupped

both hands and bent down towards them.  Noisy as a dog, he slurped the

water and felt it moving inside him, cooling and saving him as it went.

Experience had taught him to stop after the first few mouthfuls, stop

and wait to see how his troubled stomach would respond to the surprise

of liquid without alcohol.  At first, it didn’t like it, but youth and

good health made up for that, and then his stomach accepted the water

quietly, even asked for more.

Happy to comply, he leaned down again and took eight or nine large

mouthfuls, each one bringing more relief to his tortured body.  The

sudden flood of water triggered something in his stomach, and that in

turn triggered something in his brain, and he grew dizzy and had to

lean forward, hands propped on the front of the sink, until the world

grew quiet again.

He put his hands under the still flowing stream and drank again.  At a

certain point, experience and sense told him any more would be risky,

so he stood up straight, eyes closed, and dragged his wet palms across

his face and down the front of his T-shirt.  He lifted the hem and

wiped at his lips; then, refreshed and feeling as if he might again

begin to contemplate life, he turned to go back to his room.

And saw the bat, or what his muddled senses first perceived as a bat,

just there, off in the distance.  It couldn’t be a bat, for it was

easily two metres long and as wide as a man.  But it had the shape of a

bat.  It appeared to suspend itself against the wall, its head perched

above black wings that hung limp at its sides, clawed feet projecting

from beneath.

He ran his hands roughly over his face, as if to wipe away the sight,

but when he opened his eyes again the dark shape was still there.  He

backed away from it and, driven by the fear of what might happen to him

if he took his eyes from the bat, he moved slowly in the direction of

the door of the bathroom, towards where he knew he would find the

switch for the long bars of neon lighting.  Befuddled by a mixture of

terror and incredulity, he kept his hands behind him, one palm flat and

sliding ahead of him on the tile wall, certain that contact with the

wall was his only contact with reality.

Like a blind man, he followed his seeing hand along the wall until he

found the switch and the long double row of neon lights passed

illumination along one by one until a day like brightness filled the


Fear drove him to close his eyes while the lights came flickering on,

fear of what horrid motion the bat-like shape would be driven to make

when disturbed from the safety of the near darkness.  When the lights

grew silent, the young man opened his eyes and forced himself to


Although the stark lighting transformed and revealed the shape, it did

not entirely remove its resemblance to a bat, nor did it minimize the

menace of those trailing wings.  The wings, however, were revealed as

the engulfing folds of the dark cloak that served as the central

element of their winter uniform, and the head of the bat, now

illuminated, was the head of Ernesto Moro, a Venetian and, like the boy

now bent over the nearest sink, racked by violent vomiting, a student

at San Martino Military Academy.

It took a long time for the authorities to respond to the death of

Cadet Moro, though little of the delay had to do with the behaviour of

his classmate, Pietro Pellegrini.  When the waves of sickness abated,

the boy returned to his room and, using the telefonino which seemed

almost a natural appendage, so often did he use and consult it, he

called his father, on a business trip in Milano, to explain what had

happened, or what he had just seen.  His father, a lawyer, at first

said he would call the authorities, but then better sense intervened

and he told his son to do so himself and to do it instantly.

Not for a moment did it occur to Pellegrini’s father that his son was

in any way involved in the death of the other boy, but he was a

criminal lawyer and familiar with the workings of the official mind. He

knew that suspicion was bound to fall upon the person who hesitated in

bringing a crime to the attention of the police, and he also knew how

eager they were to seize upon the obvious solution.  So he told the boy

indeed, he could be said to have commanded him to call the authorities

instantly.  The boy, trained in obedience by his father and by two

years at San Martino, assumed that the authorities were those in charge

of the school and thus went downstairs to report to his commander the

presence of a dead boy in the third floor bathroom.

The police officer at the Questura who took the call when it came from

the school asked the name of the caller, wrote it down, then asked him

how he came to know about this dead person and wrote down that answer,

as well.  After hanging up, the policeman asked the colleague who was

working the switchboard with him if they should perhaps pass the report

on to the Carabinieri, for the Academy, as a military institution,

might be under the jurisdiction of the Carabinieri rather than the city

police.  They debated this for a time, the second one calling down to

the officers’ room to see if anyone there could solve the procedural

problem.  The officer who answered their call maintained that the

Academy was a private institution with no official ties to the Army he

knew, because his dentist’s son was a student there and so they were

the ones who should respond to the call.  The men on the switchboard

discussed this for some time, finally agreeing with their colleague.

The one who had taken the call noticed that it was after eight and

dialled the interior number of his superior, Commissario Guido

Brunetti, sure that he would already be in his office.

Brunetti agreed that the case was theirs to investigate and then asked,

“When did the call come in?”

“Seven twenty-six, sir came Alvise’s efficient, crisp reply.

A glance at his watch told Brunetti that it was now more than a

half-hour after that, but as Alvise was not the brightest star in the

firmament of his daily routine, he chose to make no comment and,

instead, said merely, “Order a boat.  I’ll be down.”

When Alvise hung up, Brunetti took a look at the week’s duty roster

and, seeing that Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello’s name was not listed for

that day nor for the next, he called

Vianello at home and briefly explained what had happened.  Before

Brunetti could ask him, Vianello said, Till meet you there.”

Alvise had proven capable of informing the pilot of Commissario

Brunetti’s request, no doubt in part because the pilot sat at the desk

opposite him, and so, when Brunetti emerged from the Questura a few

minutes later, he found both Alvise and the pilot on deck, the boat’s

motor idling.  Brunetti paused before stepping on to the launch and

told Alvise, “Go back upstairs and send Pucetti down.”

“But don’t you want me to come with you, sir?”  Alvise asked, sounding

as disappointed as a bride left waiting on the steps of the church.

“No, it’s not that,” Brunetti said carefully, ‘but if this person calls

back again, I want you to be there so that there’s continuity in the

way he’s dealt with.  We’ll learn more that way.”

Though this made no sense at all, Alvise appeared to accept it;

Brunetti reflected, not for the first time, that it was perhaps the

absence of sense that made it so easy for Alvise to accept.  He went

docilely back inside the Questura.  A few minutes later Pucetti emerged

and stepped on to the launch.  The pilot pulled them away from the Riva

and toward the Bacino.  The night’s rain had washed the pollution from

the air, and the city was presented with a gloriously limpid morning,

though the sharpness of late autumn was in the air.

Brunetti had had no reason to go to the Academy for more than a decade,

not since the graduation of the son of a second cousin.  After being

inducted into the Army as a lieutenant, a courtesy usually extended to

graduates of San Martino, most of them the sons of soldiers, the boy

had progressed through the ranks, a source of great pride to his father

and equal confusion to the rest of the family.  There was no military

tradition among the Brunettis nor among his mother’s family, which is

not to say that the family had never had anything to do with the

military.  To their cost, they had, for it was the generation of

Brunetti’s parents that had not only fought the last war but had had

large parts of it fought around them, on their own soil.

Hence it was that Brunetti, from the time he was a child, had heard the

military and all its works and pomps spoken of with the dismissive

contempt his parents and their friends usually reserved for the

government and the Church.  The low esteem with which he regarded the

military had been intensified over the years of his marriage to Paola

Falier, a woman of leftish, if chaotic, politics.  It was Paola’s

position that the greatest glory of the Italian Army was its history of

cowardice and retreat, and its greatest failure the fact that, during

both world wars, its leaders, military and political, had flown in the

face of this truth and caused the senseless deaths of hundreds of

thousands of young men by relentlessly pursuing both their own delusory

ideas of glory and the political goals of other nations.

Little that Brunetti had observed during his own undistinguished term

of military service or in the decades since then had persuaded him that

Paola was wrong.  Brunetti realized that not much he had seen could

persuade him that the military, either Italian or foreign, was much

different from the Mafia: dominated by men and unfriendly to women;

incapable of honour or even simple honesty beyond its own ranks;

dedicated to the acquisition of power; contemptuous of civil society;

violent and cowardly at the same time.  No, there was little to

distinguish one organization from the other, save that some wore easily

recognized uniforms while the other leaned toward Armani and Brioni.

The popular beliefs about the history of the Academy were known to

Brunetti.  Established on the Giudecca in 1852 by Alessandro Loredan,

one of Garibaldi’s earliest supporters in the Veneto and, by the time

of Independence, one of his generals, the school was originally located

in a large building

on the island.  Dying childless and without male heirs, Lurcdan had

left the building as well as his family palnzzo and fortune in trust,

on the condition that the income be used to support the military

Academy to which he had given the name of his father’s patron saint.

Though the oligarchs of Venice might not have been wholehearted

supporters of the Risorgimento, they had nothing but enthusiasm for an

institution which so effectively assured that the Loredan fortune

remained in the city.  Within hours of his death, the exact value of

his legacy was known, and within days the trustees named in the will

had selected a retired officer, who happened to be the brother-in-law

of one of them, to administer the Academy.  And so it had continued to

this day: a school run on strictly military lines, where the sons of

officers and gentlemen of wealth could acquire the training and bearing

which might prepare them to become officers in their turn.

Brunetti’s reflections were cut off as the boat pulled into a canal

just after the church of Sant’ Eufemia and then drew up at a landing

spot.  Pucetti took the mooring rope, jumped on to the land, and

slipped the rope through an iron circle in the pavement.  He extended a

hand to Brunetti and steadied him as he stepped from the boat.

It’s up here, isn’t it?”  Brunetti asked, pointing towards the back of

the island and the lagoon, just visible in the distance.

“I don’t know, sir Pucetti confessed.  “I have to admit I come over

here only for the Redentore.  I don’t think I even know where the place

is.”  Ordinarily, no confession of the provincialism of his fellow

Venetians could surprise Brunetti, but Pucetti seemed so very bright

and open-minded.

As if sensing his commander’s disappointment, Pucetti added, “It’s

always seemed like a foreign country to me, sir.  Must be my mother:

she always talks about it like it’s not part of Venice.  If they gave

her the key to a house on the Giudecca, I’m sure she’d give it back.”

Thinking it wiser not to mention that his own mother had often

expressed the same sentiment and that he agreed with it completely,

Brunetti said only, “It’s back along this canal, near the end,” and set

off in that direction.

Even at this distance, he could see that the large port one that led

into the courtyard of the Academy stood open: anyone could walk in or

out.  He turned back to Pucetti.  “Find out when the doors were opened

this morning and if there’s any record of people entering or leaving

the building.”  Before Pucetti could speak, Brunetti added, “Yes, and

last night, too, even before we know how long he’s been dead.  And who

has keys to the door and when they’re closed at night.”  Pucetti didn’t

have to be told what questions to ask, a welcome relief on a force

where the ability of the average officer resembled that of Alvise.

Vianello was already standing just outside the port one  He

acknowledged his superior’s arrival with a slight raising of his chin

and nodded to Pucetti.  Deciding to use whatever advantage was to be

gained by appearing unannounced and in civilian clothes, Brunetti told

Pucetti to go back down to the boat and wait ten minutes before joining


Inside, it was evident that word of the death had already spread,

though Brunetti could not have explained how he knew this.  It might

have been the sight of small groups of boys and young men standing in

the courtyard, talking in lowered voices, or it might have been the

fact that one of them wore white socks with his uniform shoes, sure

sign that he had dressed so quickly he didn’t know what he was doing.

Then he realized that not one of them was carrying books.  Military or

not, this was a school, and students carried books, unless, that is,

something of greater urgency had intervened between them and their


One of the boys near the port one broke away from the group he was

talking to and approached Brunetti and Vianello.  “What can I do for

you?”  he asked, though, from the

tone, he might as well have been demanding what they were doing there.

Strong-featured and darkly handsome, he was almost as tall as Vianello,

though he couldn’t have been out of his teens.  The others followed him

with their eyes.

Provoked by the boy’s tone, Brunetti said, “I want to speak to the

person in charge.”

“And who are you?”  the boy demanded.

Brunetti didn’t respond but gave the boy a long, steady glance.  The

young man’s eyes didn’t waver, nor did he move back when Brunetti took

a small step towards him.  He was dressed in the regulation uniform

dark blue trousers and jacket, white shirt, tie and had two gold

stripes on the cuffs of his jacket.  In the face of Brunetti’s silence,

the boy shifted his weight then put his hands on his hips.  He stared

at Brunetti, refusing to repeat his question.

“What’s he called, the man in charge here?”  Brunetti asked, as if the

other had not spoken.  He added, “I don’t mean his name, I mean his


“Comandante,” the boy was surprised into saying.

“Ah, how grand,” Brunetti said.  He wasn’t sure whether the boy’s

behaviour offended his general belief that youth should display

deference to age or whether he felt particular irritation at the boy’s

preening belligerence.  Turning to Vianello, he said, “Inspector, get

this boy’s name and moved toward the staircase that led to the


He climbed the five steps and pushed open the door.  The foyer had a

floor patterned with enormous diamonds made from boards of different

woods.  Booted feet had worn a path to a door in the far wall. Brunetti

crossed the room, which was unexpectedly empty, and opened the door.  A

hallway led toward the back of the building, its walls covered with

what he assumed to be regimental flags.  Some of them bore the lion of

San Marco; others carried different animals, all equally aggressive:

teeth bared, claws unsheathed, hackles raised.

The first door on the right had only a number above it, as

did the second and third.  As he walked by the last of them, a young

boy, certainly not more than fifteen, came out into the hall.  He was

surprised to see Brunetti, who nodded calmly and asked, “Where’s the

office of the Comandante?”

His tone or his manner sparked a Pavlovian response in the boy, who

jumped to attention and snapped out a salute.  “Up one flight, sir.

Third door on the left.”

Brunetti resisted the temptation to say, “At ease.”  With a neutral,

Thank you’, he went back toward the staircase.

At the top, he followed the boy’s instructions and stopped at the third

door on the left.  com andante giulio be mbo read a sign next to the


Brunetti knocked, paused and waited for an answer, and knocked again.

He thought he’d take advantage of the absence of the Comandante to have

a look at his office, and so he turned the handle and entered.  It is

difficult to say who was more startled, Brunetti or the man who stood

in front of one of the windows, a sheaf of papers in his hand.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” Brunetti said.  “One of the students told me

to come up and wait for you in your office.  I had no idea you were

here.”  He turned towards the door and then back again, as if confused

as to whether he should remain or leave.

The man in front of the window was facing Brunetti, and the light that

shone in from behind him made it almost impossible for Brunetti to

distinguish anything about him.  He could see, however, that he wore a

uniform different from that of the boys, lighter and with no stripe

down the side of the trousers.  The rows of medals on his chest were

more than a hand span wide.

The man set the papers on his desk, making no attempt to approach

Brunetti.  “And you are?”  he asked, managing to sound bored with the


“Commissario Guide Brunetti, sir,” he said.  “I’ve been sent to

investigate the report of a death here.”  This was not strictly true,

for Brunetti had sent himself to investigate, but he saw

no reason why the Comandante should be told this.  He stepped forward

and extended his hand quite naturally, as though he were too dull to

have registered the coolness emanating from the other man.

After a pause long enough to indicate who was in charge, Bembo stepped

forward and extended his hand.  His grip was firm and gave every

indication that the Comandante was restraining himself from exerting

his full force out of consideration for what it would do to Brunetti’s


“Ah, yes,” Bembo said, ‘a commissa rio  He allowed a pause to extend

the statement and then went on, “I’m surprised my friend Vice-Questore

Patta didn’t think to call me to tell me you were coming.”

Brunetti wondered if the reference to his superior, who was unlikely to

appear in his office for at least another hour, was meant to make him

rug humbly at his forelock while telling Bembo he would do everything

in his power to see that he was not disturbed by the investigation.

“I’m sure he will as soon as I give him my preliminary report,

Comandante/ Brunetti said.

“Of course,” Bembo said and moved around his desk to take his chair. He

waved what was no doubt a gracious hand to Brunetti, who seated

himself.  Brunetti wanted to see how eager Bembo was to have the

investigation begin.  From the way the Comandante moved small objects

around on the top of his desk, pulled together a stack of papers and

tapped them into line, it seemed that he felt no unseemly haste.

Brunetti remained silent.

“It’s all very unfortunate, this Bembo finally said.

Brunetti thought it best to nod.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a suicide at the Academy/ Bembo went


“Yes, it must be shocking.  How old was the boy?”  Brunetti asked.  He

pulled a notebook from the pocket of his jacket and bent the covers

back when he found an empty page.  He

patted his pockets then, with an embarrassed smile, leaned forward and

reached for a pencil that lay on the Comandante’s desk.  “If I may, sir

he said.

Bembo didn’t bother to acknowledge the request.  “Seventeen, I

believe,” he said.

“And his name, sir?”  Brunetti asked.

“Ernesto Moro/ Bembo replied.

Brunetti’s start of surprise at the mention of one of the city’s most

famous names was entirely involuntary.

“Yes/ Bembo said, “Fernando’s son.”

Before his retirement from political life, Dottor Fernando Moro had for

some years served as a Member of Parliament, one of the few men

universally acknowledged to have filled that position honestly and

honourably.  The wags of Venice insisted that Moro had been moved from

various committees because his honesty proved inconvenient to his

colleagues: the instant it became evident that he was immune to the

temptations of money and power, his incredulous fellow parliamentarians

found reason to reassign him.  His career was often cited as evidence

of the survival of hope in the face of experience, for each chairman

who found Moro appointed to his committee was certain that, this time,

he could be induced to back those policies most certain to line the

pockets of the few at the expense of the many.

But none of them, in three years, had apparently succeeded in

corrupting Moro.  Then, only two years ago, he had suddenly, and

without explanation, renounced his parliamentary seat and returned full

time to private medical practice.

“Has he been informed?”  Brunetti asked.

“Who?”  Bembo asked, clearly puzzled by Brunetti’s question.

“His father.”

Bembo shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Isn’t that the job of the


Brunetti, exercising great restraint, glanced at his watch

and asked, “How long ago was the body discovered?”  Though he strove

for neutrality, he failed to keep reproach out of his voice.

Bembo bristled.  This morning some time.”

“What time?”

“I don’t know.  Shortly before the police were called.”

“How shortly before?”

“I have no idea.  I was called at home.”

“At what time?”  Brunetti asked, pencil poised over the page.

Bembo’s lips tightened in badly disguised irritation.  “I’m not sure.

About seven, I’d say.”

“Were you already awake?”

“Of course.”

“And was it you who called the police?”

“No, that had already been done by someone here.”

Brunetti uncrossed his legs and leaned forward.  “Comandante, the call

is registered as having come at seven twenty-six.  That’s about half an

hour after you were called and told the boy was dead.”  He paused to

allow the man time to explain, but when Bembo made no attempt to do so,

Brunetti continued, “Could you suggest an explanation for that?”

“For what?”

“For the delay of a half an hour in informing the authorities of a

suspicious death at the institution you direct.”

“Suspicious?”  Bembo demanded.

“Until the medical examiner has determined the cause of death, any

death is suspicious.”

“The boy committed suicide.  Anyone can see that.”

“Have you seen him?”

The Comandante did not answer immediately.  He sat back in his chair

and considered the man in front of him.  Finally he answered, “Yes.  I

have.  I came here when they called me and went to see him.  He’d

hanged himself.”

“And the delay?”  Brunetti asked.

Bembo waved the question away.  “I have no idea.  They must have

thought I would call the police, and I was sure they had.”

Letting this pass, Brunetti asked, “Do you have any idea who called?”

“I just told you I don’t know,” Bembo said.  “Surely they must have

given their name.”

“Surely/ Brunetti repeated and returned to the subject.  “But no one

has contacted Dottor Moro?”

Bembo shook his head.

Brunetti got to his feet.  “I’ll go and see that someone does.”

Bembo didn’t bother to stand.  Brunetti paused for a moment, curious to

see if the Comandante would enforce his sense of the loftiness of his

position by glancing down at something on his desk while he waited for

Brunetti to leave.  Not so.  Bembo sat, empty hands resting on the top

of his desk, eyes on Brunetti, waiting.

Brunetti slipped his notebook into the pocket of his jacket, placed the

pencil carefully on the desk in front of Bembo, and left the

Comandante’s office.

Outside Bembo’s office, Brunetti moved a few metres away from the door

and pulled out his telefonino.  He punched in 12 and was asking for

Moro’s number when his attention was caught by loud male voices coming

up the stairway.

“Where’s my son?”  a loud voice demanded.  A softer voice replied, but

the other voice insisted, “Where is he?”  Saying nothing, Brunetti

broke the connection and slipped the phone back into his pocket.

As he approached the stairs, the voices grew even louder.  I want to

know where he is,” the original voice shouted, refusing to be placated

by whatever it was that was said to him.

When Brunetti started down the flight of stairs, he saw at the bottom a

man of about his own age and size and recognized him instantly, having

both seen his photo in the papers and been presented to him at official

functions.  Moro’s face was blade-thin, his cheekbones high and tilted

at a Slavic angle.  His eyes and complexion were dark and in sharp

contrast to his hair, which was white and thick.  He i?

stood face to face with a younger man dressed in the same dark blue

uniform worn by the boys in the courtyard.

“Dottor Moro/ Brunetti said, continuing down the steps in their


The doctor turned and looked up at Brunetti but gave no sign of

recognition.  His mouth was open and he appeared to breathe only with

difficulty.  Brunetti recognized the effect of shock and mounting anger

at the opposition the young man was giving him.

“I’m Brunetti, sir.  Police/ he said.  When Moro made no response,

Brunetti turned to the other man and said, “Where’s the boy?”

At this reinforcement of the demand, the young man gave in.  “In the

bathroom.  Upstairs/ he said, but grudgingly, as if neither man had the

right to ask anything of him.

“Where?”  Brunetti asked.

Vianello called from the staircase above them, waving back towards

where he had come from, “He’s up here, sir.”

Brunetti glanced at Moro, whose attention was now directed at Vianello.

He stood rooted to the spot, his mouth still roundly open and his

breathing still audible to Brunetti.

He stepped forward and took the.  doctor’s arm in his.  Saying nothing,

Brunetti led him up the stairs after the retreating back of the slowly

moving Vianello.  At the third floor, Vianello paused to check that

they were following, then moved down a corridor lined with many doors.

At the end he turned right and continued down an identical one.

Vianello opened a door with a round glass porthole.  He caught

Brunetti’s glance and gave a small nod, at the sight of which Moro’s

arm tightened under Brunetti’s hand, though his steps did not falter.

The doctor passed in front of Vianello as though the Inspector were

invisible.  From the doorway, Brunetti saw only his back as he walked

toward the far end of the bathroom, where something lay on the floor.

The cut him down, sir,” Vianello said, putting a hand on his superior’s

arm.  “I know we’re not supposed to touch anything, but I couldn’t

stand the idea that anyone who came to identify him would see him like


Brunetti clasped Vianello’s arm and had time to say only “Good’, when a

low animal noise came from the back of the room.  Moro half lay, half

knelt beside the body, cradling it in his arms.  The noise came from

him, beyond speech and beyond meaning.  As they watched, Moro pulled

the dead boy closer to him, gently moving the lolling head until it

rested in the hollow between his own neck and shoulder.  The noise

turned to words, but neither Vianello nor Brunetti could understand

what the man said.

They approached him together.  Brunetti saw a man not far from himself

in age and appearance, cradling in his arms the body of his only son, a

boy about the same age as Brunetti’s own.  Terror closed his eyes, and

when he opened them he saw Vianello, kneeling behind the doctor, his

arm across his shoulders, close to but not touching the dead boy.  “Let

him be, Dottore,” Vianello said softly, increasing his pressure on the

doctor’s back.  “Let him be,” he repeated and moved slowly to support

the boy’s weight from the other side.  Moro seemed not to understand,

but then the combination of command and sympathy in Vianello’s voice

penetrated his numbness, and, aided by Vianello, he lowered the upper

half of his son’s body to the floor and knelt beside him, staring down

at his distended face.

Vianello leaned over the body, lifted the edge of the military cape,

and pulled it over the face.  It wasn’t until then that Brunetti bent

down and put a supporting hand under Moro’s arm and helped him rise

unsteadily to his feet.

Vianello moved to the other side of the man, and together they left the

bathroom and headed down the long corridor and then down the stairs and

out into the courtyard.  When they emerged, groups of uniformed boys

still stood about.  All

of them glanced in the direction of the three men who emerged from the

building and then as quickly glanced away.

Moro dragged his feet like a man in chains, capable of only the

shortest steps.  Once he stopped, shook his head as if in answer to a

question neither of the others could hear, and then allowed himself to

be led forward again.

Seeing Pucetti emerge from a corridor on the other side of the

courtyard, Brunetti raised his free hand and signalled him over.  When

the uniformed officer reached them, Brunetti stepped aside and Pucetti

slipped his arm under Moro’s, who seemed not to register the change.

Take him back to the launch Brunetti said to both of them, and then to

Vianello, “Go home with him.”

Pucetti gave Brunetti an inquiring glance.

“Help Vianello take the doctor to the boat and then come back here

Brunetti said, deciding that Pucetti’s intelligence and native

curiosity, to make no mention of his nearness in age to the cadets,

would help in questioning them.  The two officers set off, Moro moving

jerkily, as though unaware of their presence.

Brunetti watched them leave the courtyard.  The boys shot occasional

glances in his direction, but they had only to catch his eye to look

away instantly or to adjust their gaze as though they were busy

studying the far wall and really didn’t notice him standing there.

When Pucetti came back a few minutes later, Brunetti told him to find

out if anything unusual had happened the night before and to get a

sense of what sort of boy young Moro had been as well as of how he was

regarded by his classmates.  Brunetti knew that these questions had to

be asked now, before their memories of the previous night’s events

began to influence one another and before the boy’s death had time to

register and thus transform everything the cadets had to say about him

into the sort of saccharine nonsense that

accompanies the retelling of the stories of the saints and martyrs.

Hearing the two-tone wail of an approaching siren, Brunetti went out on

to the Riva to wait for the scene of crime team.  The white police

launch drew up to the side of the canal; four uniformed officers

stepped off then reached back on board for the boxes and bags filled

with their equipment.

Two more men then stepped off.  Brunetti waved to them, and they picked

up their equipment and started in his direction.  When they reached

him, Brunetti asked Santini, the chief technician, “Who’s coming?”

All of the men on the scene of crime team shared Brunetti’s preference

for Dottor Rizzardi, so it was with a special tone of voice that

Santini answered, “Venturi’, consciously omitting the man’s title.

“Ah/ answered Brunetti before he turned and led the men into the

courtyard of the Academy.  Just inside, he told them the body was

upstairs, then led them to the third floor and along the corridor to

the open door of the bathroom.

Brunetti chose not to go back inside with them, though not out of a

professional concern with the purity of the scene of the death. Leaving

them to it, he returned to the courtyard.

There was no sign of Pucetti, and all of the cadets had disappeared.

Either they had been summoned to classes or had retreated to their

rooms: in either case, they had removed themselves from the vicinity of

the police.

He went back up to Bembo’s office and knocked at the door.  Hearing no

response, he knocked again, then tried the handle.  The door was

locked.  He knocked again but no one answered.

Brunetti walked back to the central staircase, stopping to open each of

the doors in the corridor.  Behind them stood classrooms: one with

charts and maps on the walls, another with algebraic formulae covering

two blackboards, and a third with an enormous blackboard covered by a


diagram filled with arrows and bars, the sort of design usually found

in history books to illustrate troop movements during battles.

In ordinary circumstances, Brunetti would have paused to study this,

as, over the decades, he had read accounts of scores, perhaps hundreds,

of battles, but today the diagram and its meaning held no interest for

him, and he closed the door.  He climbed to the third floor where,

decades ago, the servants would have lived, and there he found what he

wanted: the dormitories.  At least that was what he thought they had to

be: doors set not too close to one another, a printed card bearing two

family names slipped into a neat plastic holder to the left of each.

He knocked at the first.  No response.  The same with the second.  At

the third, he thought he heard a faint noise from inside and so,

without bothering to read the names on the card, he pushed the door

open.  A young man sat at a desk in front of the single window, his

back to Brunetti, moving about in his chair as though trying to escape

from it or perhaps in the grip of some sort of seizure.  Brunetti

stepped into the room, reluctant to approach and startle the boy into

some worse reaction but alarmed by his violent motions.

Suddenly, the boy bent his head towards the desk, thrust out his arm,

and slapped his palm on the surface three times, singing out, “Yaah,

yaah, yaah,” drawing out the final noise until, as Brunetti could hear

even across the room, the drummer played a final extended riff, which

the boy accompanied, beating out the rhythm with his fingers on the

edge of his desk.

Into the pause between tracks, Brunetti barked, his voice intentionally

loud, “Cadet.”

The word cut through the low hiss of the headphones and the boy jumped

to his feet.  He turned towards the voice, his right hand leaping

toward his forehead in salute, but he caught it in the wire of the

headphones and the Discman

crashed to the floor, dragging the headphones after it.

The impact seemed not to have dislodged the disc, for Brunetti could

still hear the bass, loud even halfway across the room.  “Hasn’t anyone

ever told you how much that will damage your hearing?”  Brunetti asked

conversationally.  Usually, when he put this same question to his own

children, he pitched his voice barely above a whisper, the first few

times successfully tricking them into asking him to repeat himself.

Wise to him now, they ignored him.

The boy slowly lowered his hand from his forehead, looking very

confused.  “What did you say?”  he asked, then added, by force of

habit, ‘sir.”  He was tall and very thin, with a narrow jaw, one side

of which looked as if it had been shaved with a dull razor, the other

covered with signs of persistent acne.  His eyes were almond shaped, as

beautiful as a girl’s.

Brunetti took the two steps that brought him to the other side of the

room, and noticed that the boy’s body tightened in response.  But all

Brunetti did was bend down to pick up the Discman and headphones.  He

set them carefully on the boy’s desk, marvelling as he did at the

spartan simplicity of the room: it looked like the room of a robot, not

a young man, indeed, of two young men, if he was to believe the

evidence provided by bunk beds.

The said loud music can damage your hearing.  It’s what I tell my

children, but they don’t listen to me.”

This confused the boy even more, as if it had been a long time since an

adult had said anything to him that was both normal and understandable.

“Yes, my aunt tells me that, too.”

“But you don’t listen?”  Brunetti asked.  “Or is it that you don’t

believe her?”  He was honestly curious.

“Oh, I believe her all right the boy said, loosening up sufficiently to

reach down and press the off button.

“But?”  Brunetti insisted.

Tt doesn’t matter,” the boy said with a shrug.

“No, tell me Brunetti said.  I’d really like to know.”

“It doesn’t matter what happens to my hearing the boy explained.

“Doesn’t matter?”  Brunetti asked, utterly at a loss to grasp his

meaning.  That you go deaf?”

“No, not that he answered, paying real attention to Brunetti and

apparently now interested in making him understand.  “It takes a lot of

years for something like that to happen.  That’s why it doesn’t matter.

Like all that Global Warming stuff.  Nothing matters if it takes a long


It was obvious to Brunetti that the boy was in earnest.  He said, “But

you’re in school, studying for a future career I presume in the

military.  That’s not going to happen for a number of years, either;

doesn’t that matter?”

The boy answered after a few moments’ reflection.  That’s different.”

“Different how?”  asked a relentless Brunetti.

The boy had relaxed now with the ease of their conversation and the

seriousness with which Brunetti treated his answers.  He leaned back

against the top of his desk, picked up a packet of cigarettes and held

it out to Brunetti.  At his refusal the boy took one and patted around

on the top of his desk until he found a plastic lighter hidden under a


He lit the cigarette and tossed the lighter back on to the desk.  He

took a long drag at the cigarette.  Brunetti was struck by how very

hard he tried to appear older and more sophisticated than he was; then

the boy looked at Brunetti and said, “Because I can choose about the

music but I can’t about the school.”

Sure that this made some sort of profound difference to the boy but

unwilling to spend more time pursuing it, Brunetti asked, “What’s your

name?”  using the familiar to, as he would with one of his children’s


“Giuliano Ruffo/ the boy answered.

Brunetti introduced himself, using his name and not his title, and

stepped forward to offer his hand.  Ruffo slid from the desk and took

Brunetti’s hand.

“Did you know him, the boy who died?”

Ruffo’s face froze, all ease fled his body, and he shook his head in

automatic denial.  As Brunetti was wondering how it was that he didn’t

know a fellow student in a school this small, the boy said, That is, I

didn’t know him well.  We just had one class together.”  Ease had

disappeared from his voice, as well: he spoke quickly, as if eager to

move away from the meaning of his words.

“What one?”


“What other subjects do you take?”  Brunetti asked.  “What is it for

you, the second year?”

“Yes, sir.  So we have to take Latin and Greek and Mathematics,

English, History, and then we get to choose two optional subjects.”

“So Physics is one of yours?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And the other?”

The answer was a long time in coming.  Brunetti thought the boy must be

trying to work out what this man’s hidden motive was in asking all of

these questions.  If Brunetti had a motive, it was hidden even from

himself: all he could do at this point was try to get a sense of things

at the school, to catch the mood of the place; all of the information

he gained had more or less the same amorphous value and its meaning

would not become clear until later, when each piece could be seen as

part of some larger pattern.

The boy stabbed out his cigarette, eyed the packet, but did not light

another.  Brunetti repeated, “What is it, the second one?”

Reluctantly, as if confessing to something he perhaps construed as

weakness, the boy finally answered, “Music.”

“Good for you came Brunetti’s instant response.

“Why do you say that, sir?”  the boy asked, his eagerness patent.  Or

perhaps it was merely relief at this removal to a neutral subject.

Brunetti’s response had been visceral, so he had to consider what to

say.  “I read a lot of history,” he began, ‘and a lot of history is

military history.”  The boy nodded, prodding him along with his

curiosity.  “And historians often say that soldiers know only one

thing.”  The boy nodded again.  “And no matter how well they might know

that one thing, war, it’s not enough.  They’ve got to know about other

things.”  He smiled at the boy, who smiled in return.  “It’s the great

weakness, knowing only that one thing.”

The wish you’d tell my grandfather that, sir,” he said.

“He doesn’t believe it?”

“Oh, no, he doesn’t even want to hear the word “music”, at least not

from me.”

“What would he rather hear that you’d been in a duel?”  Brunetti asked,

not at all uncomfortable at undermining the concept of grand parental


“Oh, he’d love that, especially if it were with sabres.”

“And you went home with a scar “across your cheek?”  Brunetti


They laughed at the absurdity, and it was like this, easy and

comfortably united in gentle mockery of military tradition, that

Comandante Bembo found them.

“Ruffo!”  a voice barked from behind Brunetti.

The boy’s smile vanished and he straightened up to stand as stiff as

one of the pilings in the laguna, his heels clacking together at the

same instant as his stiff fingers snapped to his forehead in salute.

“What are you doing here?”  Bembo demanded.

“I don’t have a class this hour, Comandante/ Ruffo answered, staring

straight ahead.

“And what were you doing?”

“I was talking to this gentleman, sir he said, eyes still on the far


“Who gave you permission to talk to him?”

Ruffo’s face was a mask.  He made no attempt to answer the question.

“Well?”  demanded Bembo in an even tighter voice.

Brunetti turned to face the Comandante and acknowledged his arrival

with a gentle nod.  Keeping his voice mild, he asked, “Does he need

permission to speak to the police, sir?”

“He’s a minor Bembo said.

“I’m not sure I follow you, sir’ Brunetti said, careful to smile to

show his confusion.  He could have understood if Bembo had said

something about military rank or the need to respond only to orders

from a direct superior, but to cite the boy’s youth as a reason why he

should not talk to the police displayed what seemed to Brunetti an

inordinate attention to legal detail.  “I’m not sure I see how Cadet

Ruffo’s age is important.”

“It means his parents should be with him when you talk to him.”

“Why is that, sir?”  Brunetti asked, curious to hear Bembo’s reason.

It took a moment for Bembo to find it.  Finally he said, To see that he

understands the questions you ask.”

His doubts as to the boy’s ability to understand simple questions

hardly spoke well of the quality of instruction on offer at the school.

Brunetti turned back to the cadet, who stood rigid, arms rod-like at

his side, his chin a stranger to his collar.  “You understood what I

asked you, didn’t you, Cadet?”

“I don’t know, sir the boy answered, keeping his eyes on the wall.

“We were talking about his classes, sir Brunetti said, ‘and Cadet Ruffo

was telling me how much he enjoyed Physics.”

“Is this true, Ruffo?”  the Comandante demanded, not the least

concerned that he was openly doubting Brunetti’s veracity.

“Yes, sir the boy answered.  “I was telling the gentleman that I had

two elective subjects and how much I liked them.”

“Don’t you like the required subjects?”  Bembo demanded.  Then, to

Brunetti: “Was he complaining about them?”

“No/ Brunetti answered calmly.  “We didn’t discuss them.”  He wondered,

as he spoke, why Bembo should be so concerned at the mere possibility

that a student had said

something negative about his classes.  What else would a student be

expected to say about his classes?

Abruptly Bembo said, “You can go, Ruffo.”  The boy saluted and,

ignoring Brunetti’s presence, walked out of the room, leaving the door

open after him.

Till thank you to let me know before you question any of my cadets

again Bembo said in an unfriendly voice.

Brunetti hardly thought it worth contesting the point, so agreed that

he would.  The Comandante turned towards the door, hesitated for a

moment as though he wanted to turn back and say something to Brunetti,

but then thought better of it and left.

Brunetti found himself alone in Ruffo’s room, feeling in some way

invited there as a guest and thus bound by the rules of hospitality,

one of which was never to betray the host’s trust by invading the

privacy of his home.  The first thing Brunetti did was to open the

front drawer of the desk and remove the papers he found there.  Most of

them were notes, what appeared to be rough drafts for essays the boy

was writing; some were letters.

“Dear Giuliano,” Brunetti read, entirely without shame or scruple.

“Your aunt came to see me last week and told me you were doing well in

school.”  The calligraphy had the neat roundness of the generation

previous to his own, though the lines wandered up and down, following

an invisible path known only to the writer.  It was signed “Nonna’.

Brunetti glanced through the other papers, found nothing of interest,

and put them all back into the drawer.

He opened the doors of the closet next to Ruffo’s desk and checked the

pockets of the jackets hanging there; he found nothing but small change

and cancelled vaporetto tickets.  There was a laptop computer on the

desk, but he didn’t even waste his time turning it on, knowing he would

have no idea what to do with it.  Under the bed, pushed back against

the wall, he saw what looked like a violin case.  The books were

what he would have expected: textbooks, a driver’s manual, a history of

AC Milan and other books about soccer.  The bottom shelf held musical

scores: Mozart’s violin sonatas and the first violin part of one of the

Beethoven string quartets.  Brunetti shook his head in bemusement at

the contrast between the music in the Discman and the music on the

shelf. He opened the door to the closet that must belong to Ruffo’s

roommate and cast his eye across the surface of the second desk, but he

saw nothing of interest.

Struck again by the neatness of the room, the almost surgical precision

with which the bed was made, Brunetti toyed for a moment with the idea

of drugging his son Raffi and having him brought down here to be

enrolled.  But then he remembered what it was that had brought him to

this room, and levity slipped away on silent feet.

The other rooms were empty or, at least, no one responded to his

knocking, so he went back towards the bathroom where the boy had been

found.  The scene of crime team was at work, and the body still lay

there, now entirely covered with the dark woollen cloak.

“Who cut him down?”  Santini asked when he saw Brunetti.


“He shouldn’t have done that,” another of the technicians called from

across the room.

That’s exactly what he told me,” Brunetti answered.

Santini shrugged.  The would have done it, too.”  There were

affirmative grunts from two of the men.

Brunetti was about to ask what the crew thought had happened, when he

heard footsteps.  He glanced aside and saw Dottor Venturi, one of

Rizzardi’s assistants.  Both men nodded, as much acknowledgement of the

other’s presence as either was willing to give.

Insensitive to most human feelings that were not directed towards him,

Venturi stepped up close to the body and set his medical bag by the

head.  He went down on one knee and

drew the edge of the cloak from the boy’s face.

Brunetti looked away, back into the showers, where Pedone, Santini’s

assistant, was holding a plastic spray bottle up towards the top of the

right-hand wall.  As Brunetti watched, he squirted cloud after tiny

cloud of dark grey powder on to the walls, moving carefully from left

to right and then back to his starting point to repeat the process

about twenty centimetres below.

By the time all the walls were coated, Venturi was back on his feet.

Brunetti saw that he had left the boy’s face uncovered.

“Who cut him down?”  was the first thing the doctor asked.

“One of my men.  I told him to,” Brunetti answered and bent down to

draw the edge of the cape back across the boy’s face.  He rose up again

and looked at Venturi, saying nothing.

“Why did you do that?”

Appalled at the question, Brunetti ignored it, irritated that he had to

speak to a man capable of asking it.  He asked, “Does it look like


Venturi’s long pause made it obvious that he wanted to exchange

discourtesies with Brunetti, but when Santini turned to him and said,

“Well?”  the doctor answered, “I won’t have any idea until I can take a

look at his insides.”  Then, directly to Santini, “Was there a chair,

something he could stand on?”

One of the other technicians called over, “A chair.  It was in the


“You didn’t move it, did you?”  Venturi demanded of him.

“I photographed it,” the man answered, speaking with glacial clearness.

“Eight times, I think.  And then Pedone dusted it for prints.  And then

I moved it so it wouldn’t get in his way when he dusted the shower

stall.”  Pointing with his chin to a wooden chair that stood in front

of one of the sinks, he added, That’s it, over there.”

The doctor ignored the chair.  Till have my report sent to

3i you when I’m finished he said to Brunetti, then picked up his bag

and left.

When Venturi’s footsteps had died away, Brunetti asked Santini, “What

does it look like to you?”

“He could have done it himself the technician answered.  He pointed to

some marks that stood out from the darker grey of the coating on the

walls of the shower.  There are two long swipes across the wall here,

at about shoulder height.  He could have done that.”

“Would that have happened?”

“Probably.  It’s instinct: no matter how much they want to die, the

body doesn’t.”

Pedone, who had been openly listening to this, added, “It’s clean, sir.

No one had a fight in there, if that’s what you’re wondering about.”

When it seemed that his partner wasn’t going to add anything, Santini

continued: “It’s what they do, sir, when they hang themselves.  Believe

me.  If there’s a wall near them, they try to grab it; can’t help


“It’s the way boys do it, isn’t it, hanging?”  Brunetti asked, not

looking down at Moro.

“More than girls, yes Santini agreed.  His voice took on an edge of

anger and he asked, “What was he seventeen?  eighteen?  How could he do

something like that?”

“God knows Brunetti said.

“God didn’t have anything to do with this, Santini said angrily, though

it was unclear whether his remark called into question the deity’s

charity or his very existence.  Santini went out into the hall, where

two white-coated attendants from the hospital waited, a rolled-up

stretcher leaning against the wall between them.  “You can take him now

he said.  He remained outside while they went in, put the boy on the

stretcher, and carried him from the room.  When they were abreast of

Santini, he put up a monitory hand.  They stopped, and he leaned down

to pick up the end of the dark blue military

cloak that was dragging on the ground behind the stretcher.  He tucked

it under the boy’s leg and told the attendants to take him out to the


Recognizing it as the temptation of moral cowardice, Brunetti pushed

aside the desire to join the others on the police boat to the hospital

and from there to the Questura.  Perhaps it was the flash of terror

when he first saw the boy’s body, or perhaps it was Brunetti’s

admiration for the elder Moro’s inconvenient honesty, but something

there was that urged Brunetti to get a more complete picture of the

boy’s death.  The suicides of young boys were ever more frequent:

Brunetti had read somewhere that, with almost mathematical regularity,

they increased in times of economic well-being and decreased when times

were bad.  During wars, they virtually disappeared.  He assumed his own

son was as subject to the vagaries of adolescence as any other boy:

carried up and down on the waves of his hormones, his popularity, or

his success at school.  The idea of Raffi’s ever being driven to

suicide was inconceivable, but that must be what every parent


Until evidence suggested that the boy’s death had not been suicide,

Brunetti had no mandate to question anyone about

any other possibility: not his classmates, still less his parents.  To

do so would be the worst sort of ghoulish curiosity as well as a

flagrant misuse of his power.  Admitting all of this, he went out into

the courtyard of the Academy and, using the telefonino he had

remembered to bring with him, called Signorina Elettra’s direct line at

the Questura.

When she answered, he told her where he was and asked that she check

the phone book for Moro’s address, which he thought must be in

Dorsoduro, though he couldn’t remember why he associated the man with

that sestiere.

She asked no questions, told him to wait a moment, then said the number

was unlisted.  There elapsed another minute or two, then she gave him

the Dorsoduro address.  She told him to wait, then told him the house

was on the canal running alongside the church of Madonna della Salute.

Tt’s got to be the one next to the low brick one that has the terrace

with all the flowers she said.

He thanked her, then made his way back up the stairs to the dormitory

rooms on the top floor and went along the still silent corridor,

checking the names outside of the doors.  He found it at the end:

moro/cavani.  Not bothering to knock, Brunetti entered the room.  Like

that of Ruffo, the room was clean, almost surgical: bunk beds and two

small desks opposite them, nothing left in sight to clutter up their

surfaces.  He took a pen from the inside pocket of his jacket and used

it to open the drawer of the desk nearest him.  With the pen he flipped

open the notebook that lay inside.  Ernesto’s name was on the inside of

the cover and the book was filled with mathematical formulae, written

out in a neat, square hand.  He shoved the notebook to the back of the

drawer and opened the one beneath it, with much the same result, though

this one contained exercises in English.

He shoved the drawer closed and turned his attention to the closet

between the two desks.  One door had Moro’s name on it.  Brunetti

pulled it open from the bottom with his foot.

Inside, there were two uniforms in dry cleaning bags, a denim jacket,

and a brown tweed coat.  The only things he found in the pockets were

some small change and a dirty handkerchief.

A bookcase contained nothing more than textbooks.  He lacked the will

to take down and examine each of them.  He took one final look around

the room and left, careful to hook his pen in the handle to pull the

door shut.

He met Santini on the steps and told him to check Moro’s room then left

the school and went down to the edge of the Canale della Giudecca.

Turning right, he started to walk along the Riva, intending to catch a

vaporetto.  As he walked, he kept his attention on the buildings on the

other side of the canal: Nico’s Bar and, above it, an apartment he had

spent a lot of time in before he met Paola; the church of the Gesuati,

where once a decent man had been pastor; the former Swiss Consulate,

the flag gone now.  Have even the Swiss abandoned us?  he wondered.

Ahead was the Bucintoro, the long narrow boats long gone, evicted by

the scent of Guggenheim money, Venetian oarsmen gone to make space for

even more tourist shops.  He saw a boat coming from Redentore and

hurried on to the imbarcndero at Palanca to cross back to the Zattere.

When he got off, he looked at his watch and realized that it really did

take less than five minutes to make the trip from the Giudecca.  Even

so, the other island still seemed, as it had ever seemed, as far

distant as the Galapagos.

It took less than five minutes to weave his way back to the broad campo

that surrounded La Madonna della Salute, and there he found the house.

Again resisting the impulse to delay, he rang the bell and gave his

title and name.

“What do you want?”  a woman’s voice asked.

“I’d like to speak to Dottor Moro,” he said, announcing at least the

most immediate of his desires.

“He can’t see anyone she said shortly.

“I saw him before Brunetti said, then added, in the hope that it would

give force to his request, ‘at the school.”  He waited to see if this

would have any effect on the woman, but then went on, “It’s necessary

that I speak to him.”

She made a noise, but it was cut off by the electrical buzz of the door

release, leaving Brunetti to guess at its nature.  He pushed open the

door, passed quickly through a hallway, and stopped at the bottom of a

staircase.  At the top, a door opened and a tall woman came out on to

the landing.  “Up here she said.

When he reached the top of the stairs, she turned and led him into the

apartment, closed the door behind him, then turned back to face him. He

was struck at first by the fact that, though surely not as old as he,

she had white hair, cut short just above her shoulders.  It contrasted

sharply with her skin, dark as an Arab’s, and with her eyes, as close

to black as he had ever seen eyes be.

She put out her hand.  “I’m Luisa, Fernando’s cousin.”

Brunetti took her hand and gave his name and position.  “I realize this

is a terrible time he began, planning how best to speak to her.  Her

posture was rigid, her back as straight as if she had been told to

stand against a wall.  She kept her eyes on his as they spoke.

When Brunetti added nothing to this self-evident truth, she asked,

“What do you want to know?”

“I’d like to ask him about his son’s state of mind

“Why?”  she demanded.  Brunetti thought the answer to that should have

been obvious, and was taken aback by the vehemence with which she asked

the question.

“In a case such as this he began evasively, ‘it’s necessary to know as

much as possible about how the person was feeling and behaving, whether

there were perhaps any signs…”

“Of what?”  She cut him off, making no attempt to disguise her anger or

her contempt.  That he was going to kill

himself?”  Before Brunetti could answer, she went on, “If that’s what

you mean, for God’s sake, then say so.”  Again she didn’t wait for an

answer.  The idea’s ridiculous.  It’s disgusting.  Ernesto would no

sooner kill himself than I would.  He was a healthy boy.  It’s

insulting to suggest that he would.”  She closed her eyes and pressed

her lips together, fighting to regain control of herself.

Before Brunetti could say that he had made no insinuation of any kind,

Dottor Moro appeared in a doorway.  That’s enough, Luisa/ he said in a

soft voice.  “You shouldn’t say any more.”

Though the man had spoken, it was the face of the woman Brunetti

studied.  The stiffness of her posture lessened, and her body inclined

in her cousin’s direction.  She raised one hand towards him but made no

move to touch him.  Instead, she nodded once, ignored Brunetti

completely, and turned away.  Brunetti watched as she walked down the

corridor and through a door at the end.

When she was gone, Brunetti turned his attention to the doctor.  Though

he knew this was impossible, Moro had aged a decade during the brief

time that had elapsed since Brunetti had last seen him.  His skin was

pasty his eyes dull and reddened with tears, but it was in his posture

that Brunetti perceived most change, for it had taken on the forward

leaning curvature of an old man.

“I’m sorry to intrude on your grief, Dottore/ Brunetti began, ‘but I

hope that by speaking to you now, I won’t have to trouble you again.”

Even to Brunetti, schooled as he was in the ways of professional

mendacity, this sounded so forced and artificial as to distance him

from the other man and his sorrow.

Moro waved his right hand in the air, a gesture that might just as

easily have been dismissal as acknowledgement.  He wrapped his arms

around his stomach and bowed his head.

“Dottore,” he went on, ‘in the last few days or weeks, had

your son done anything that would lead you to suspect that he might

have been considering anything like this?”  Moro’s head was still bowed

so Brunetti could not see his eyes, nor had he any idea if the doctor

was paying attention.

He continued, “Dottore, I know how difficult this must be for you, but

it’s important that I have this information.”

Without looking up, Moro said, “I don’t think you do.”

The beg your pardon,” Brunetti said.

“I don’t think you have any idea of how difficult this is.”

The truth of this made Brunetti blush.  When his face had grown cool

again, Moro had still not bothered to look at him.  After what seemed

to Brunetti a long time, the doctor raised his head.  No tears stood in

his eyes, and his voice was as calm as it had been when he spoke to his

cousin.  “I’d be very grateful if you’d leave now, Commissario.”

Brunetti began to protest, but the doctor cut him off by raising his

voice, but only in volume: his tone remained calm and impersonal.

“Please don’t argue with me.  There is nothing at all that I have to

say to you.  Not now, and not in the future.”  He took his arms from

their protective position around his middle and let them fall to his

sides.  The have nothing further to say.”

Brunetti was certain that it was futile to pursue the matter now,

equally certain that he would return and ask the same question again

after the doctor had had time to overcome his immediate agony.  Since

he had learned of the boy’s death, Brunetti had been assailed by the

desire to know if the man had other children, but couldn’t bring

himself to ask.  He had some sort of theoretical belief that their

existence would serve as consolation, however limited.  He tried to put

himself in Moro’s place and understand what solace he would find in the

survival of one of his own children, but his imagination shied away

from that horror.  At the very thought, some force stronger than taboo

seized him, numbing his mind.  Not daring to offer his hand or to say

anything further, Brunetti left the apartment.

From the Salute stop, he took the Number One to San Zaccaria and

started back toward the Questura.  As he approached it, a group of

teenagers, three boys and two girls, cascaded down the Ponte dei Greci

and came towards him, arms linked, laughter radiating out from them.

Brunetti stopped walking and stood in the middle of the pavement,

waiting for this exuberant wave of youth to wash over him.  Like the

Red Sea, they parted and swept around him: Brunetti was sure they

hadn’t even noticed him in any real sense; he was merely a stationary

obstacle to be got round.

Both of the girls had cigarettes in their hands, something that usually

filled Brunetti with the desire to tell them, if they valued their

health and well-being, to stop.  Instead, he turned and looked after

them, filled with a sense of almost religious awe at the sight of their

youth and joy.

By the time he reached his office, the feeling had passed.  On his desk

he found the first of the many forms that were generated by any case of

suicide; he didn’t bother to fill it out.  It was only after he heard

from Venturi that he would know how to proceed.

He called down to the officers’ room, but neither Vianello nor Pucetti

was there.  He dialled Signorina Elettra’s extension and asked her to

begin a complete search through all the sources available to her,

official and unofficial, for information on Fernando Moro’s careers as

both a doctor and a Member of Parliament.  Saying that she had already

begun, she promised to have something for him later in the day.

The thought of lunch displeased him: food seemed an irrelevant

extravagance.  He felt a gnawing desire to see his family, though he

knew his current mood would render him so solicitous as to make them

uncomfortable.  He called Paola and told her he couldn’t make it home

for lunch, saying that something had come up at the Questura that would

keep him there and, yes, yes, he’d eat something and be home at the

regular time.

“I hope it’s not too bad,” Paola said, letting him know that she had

registered his tone, however neutral he had tried to make his words.

I’ll see you later,” he said, still unwilling to tell her what had

happened.  “Hug the kids for me,” he said before he hung up.

He sat at his desk for a few minutes, then drew some papers towards him

and looked at them, reading through the words, understanding each one

but not certain he understood what they intended to say.  He set them

aside, then pulled them back and read them again; this time the

sentences made sense to him, though he could see no reason why anyone

should find their messages important.

He went to the window and studied the crane that stood constant guard

over the church and the restoration that had yet to begin.  He had read

or been told once how much the equally motionless cranes that loomed

over the empty shell of the opera house cost the city to maintain each

day.  Where did all the money go?  he wondered.  Who was it that reaped

such enormous profits from so much inactivity?  Idly, keeping his mind

occupied with matters other than the death of young men, he began rough

calculations.  If the cranes cost five thousand Euros a day, it would

cost the city almost two million Euros to keep them there a year,

whether they worked or not.  He stood for a long time, numbers moving

around in his head in far greater activity than had been shown by any

of those cranes for some time.

Abruptly he turned away and went back to his desk.  There was no one to

call, so he left his office, went downstairs and out of the Questura.

He walked to the bar at the foot of the bridge, where he had a panino

and a glass of red wine and let the words of the day’s newspaper pass

under his eyes.


Though he prevaricated as much as he could, Brunetti still had no

choice but eventually to return to the Questura.  He stopped in the

officers’ room to look for Vianello and found him there with Pucetti.

The younger officer started to get to his feet, but Brunetti waved him

back.  There was only one other policeman in the room, sitting at a

desk off to one side, talking on the phone.

“Anything?”  he asked the two seated policemen.

Pucetti glanced at Vianello, acknowledging his right to speak first.

“I took him back,” the Inspector began, 1jut he wouldn’t let me go in

with him.”  He shrugged this away and asked, “You, sir?”

The spoke to Moro and to his cousin, who was there with him.  She said

the boy couldn’t have killed himself, seemed pretty insistent on it.”

Something kept Brunetti from telling the others how easy it had been

for Moro to dismiss him.

“His cousin, you said?”  Vianello interrupted, echoing his


“That’s what she told me.”  The habit of doubt, Brunetti reflected, the

habit of seeking the lowest possible common moral denominator, had been

bred into all of them.  He wondered if there were some sort of

psychological equation which correlated years of service with the

police and an inability to believe in human goodness.  And whether it

was possible, or for how long it would be possible, to go back and

forth between his professional world and his private world without

introducing the contamination of the first to the second.

His attention was recalled by Vianello, who had just finished saying


“Excuse me?”  Brunetti said.

“I asked if his wife was there Vianello repeated.

Brunetti shook his head.  “I don’t know.  No one else came in while I

was there, but there’s no reason she would want to talk to me.”

“Is there a wife?”  Pucetti asked, emphasizing the first word.

Rather than admit that he didn’t know, Brunetti said, “I asked

Signorina Elettra to see what she can find out about the family.”

There was something in the papers about them, I think,” Vianello said.

“Years ago.”  Brunetti and Pucetti waited for him to continue, but all

the Inspector finally said was, “I don’t remember, but I think it was

something about the wife.”

“Whatever it is, she’ll find it Pucetti declared.

Years ago, Brunetti would have responded with condescension to

Pucetti’s childlike faith in Signorina Elettra’s powers, as one would

to the excesses of the peasant believers in the liquefaction of the

blood of San Gennaro.  Himself presently numbered among that unwashed

throng, he made no demurral.

“Why don’t you tell the Commissario what you’ve told me?”  Vianello

asked Pucetti, drawing him back from his devotions and Brunetti back

from his reflections.

The portiere told me that the gate is kept locked after ten at night

the young officer began, tut most faculty members have keys, and

students who stay out later than that have to ring him to let them


“And?”  Brunetti asked, sensing Pucetti’s reservations.

“I’m not sure,” Pucetti answered, then explained.  Two of the boys I

spoke to, separately, that is, seemed to make fun of the idea.  I asked

why, and one of them smiled and went like this,” Pucetti concluded,

raising the thumb of his right hand towards his mouth.

Brunetti registered this but left it to Pucetti to continue.  I’d say

the boys are right and he’s a drunk, the portiere.  It was what eleven

in the morning when I spoke to him, and he was already halfway


“Did any of the other boys mention this?”

“I didn’t want to push them on it, sir.  I didn’t want any of them to

know just what I had learned from the others.  It’s always better if

they think I already know everything there is to know: that way, they

think I’ll know when they lie.  But I got the feeling that they can get

in and out when they please.”

Brunetti nodded for him to continue.

“I’m not sure I learned much more than that, sir.  Most of them were so

shocked that all they could do was ask more questions,” Pucetti


“What exactly did you ask them?”  Brunetti inquired.

“What you told me to, sir: how well they knew Moro and if they had

spoken to him in the last few days.  None of them could think of

anything special the boy had said or done, nor that he had been

behaving strangely, and none of them said that Moro had been a

particular friend.”  “And the faculty?”  Brunetti asked.

“Same thing.  None of the ones I spoke to could remember anything

strange about Moro’s behaviour in the last few days, and all of them

said he was a fine, fine boy but were quick to insist that they really

didn’t know him very well.”

All three of them recognized the phenomenon: most people refused to

know anything.  It was rare for any person who was subject to

questioning or interrogation to admit to familiarity with the subject

of police inquiries.  One of the texts Paola had dealt with in her

doctoral thesis was a medieval one entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. For

an instant Brunetti pictured it as a warm, dry place to which all

witnesses and potential witnesses fled in lemming-like terror and where

they huddled until no single question remained to be asked.

Pucetti went on.  “I wanted to speak to his roommate, but he wasn’t

there last night, nor the night before.”  Seeing interest in their

faces, he explained, Twenty-three boys, including Moro’s roommate, were

on a weekend trip to the Naval Academy in Livorno.  Soccer.  The game

was Sunday afternoon, and then they spent yesterday and this morning

going to classes there.  They don’t get home until this evening.”

Vianello shook his head in tired resignation.  “I’m afraid this is all

we’re going to get from any of them.”  Pucetti shrugged in silent


Brunetti stopped himself from remarking that it was what they could

expect from a public which viewed authority and all who attempted to

impose it as adversaries.  He had read enough to know that there were

countries whose citizens did not perceive their government as an

inimical force, where they believed, instead, that the government

existed to serve their needs and respond to their wishes.  How would he

react if someone he knew were to maintain this to be true here, in this

city, in this country?  Religious mania would be less convincing proof

of mental imbalance.

Vianello and Pucetti were to go back that afternoon and question the

rest of the boys and the remaining faculty.  Leaving it at that,

Brunetti told them he would be up in his office, and left.

Curiosity and the desire to see Signorina Elettra and learn what she

had managed to discover led him off the stairs at her floor and into

her small office.  Here he had the sensation that he had stepped into a

jungle or a forest: four tall trees with enormous leaves, broad, dark

green and shiny, stood in terra cotta pots against the back wall.  With

their darkness as a backdrop, Signorina Elettra, today dressed in

colours usually seen only on Buddhist monks, sat at her desk.  The

total effect was of an enormous piece of exotic fruit exposed in front

of the tree from which it had fallen.

“Lemons?”  he asked.


“Where did you get them?”

“A friend of mine just directed Lulu at the opera.  He had them sent

over after the last performance.”


She smiled.  “The very same.”

“I don’t remember lemons in Lulu,” he said, puzzled, but willing, as

ever, to be graced with illumination.

“He set the opera in Sicily,” she explained.

“Ah,” Brunetti whispered, trying to remember the plot.  The music,

mercifully, was gone.  At a loss for what else to say, he asked, “Did

you go and see it?”

She took so long to answer that, at first, he thought he had somehow

offended her with the question.  Finally, she said, “No, sir.  My

standards are very low, of course, but I do draw the line at going to

the opera in a tent.  In a parking lot.”

Brunetti, whose aesthetic principles were entrenched well behind that

same line, nodded and asked, “Have you been able to find out anything

about Moro?”

Her smile was fainter, but it was still recognizably a smile.  “Some

things have come in.  I’m waiting for a friend in Siena to tell me more

about the wife Federica.”

“What about her?”  Brunetti asked.

“She was involved in an accident there.”

“What kind of accident?”


“Hunting?  A woman in a hunting accident?”  he asked, his disbelief


She raised her eyebrows as if to suggest that anything at all was

possible in a world where Lulu was set in Sicily, but instead said, “I

shall pass over the glaring sexism in that remark, Commissario.”  She

paused a didactic moment, then continued, “It happened a couple of

years ago.  She was staying with friends in the countryside near Siena.

One afternoon, while she was out for a walk, she was shot in the leg.

Luckily, she was found before she bled to death and taken to the


“Was the hunter ever found?”

“No, but it was hunting season so they assumed that a hunter had heard

her and thought she was an animal and shot at the noise without seeing

what it was.”

“And didn’t bother to come and see what he had shot?”  an indignant

Brunetti asked.  He added another question.  “Or when he saw what he

had shot, he didn’t help her or call for help?”

“It’s what they do,” she said, her voice matching his own in

indignation.  “You read the papers, don’t you, every year when the

season opens, about the way three or four of them get shot on the first

day?  It goes on all during hunting season.  It’s not only the ones who

stumble over their own guns and blow their brains out.”  Brunetti

thought her tone was devoid of anything approaching sympathy as she

said this.  They shoot one another, too,” she went on, ‘and get left to

bleed to death because no one wants to run the risk of being arrested

for having shot someone.”

He started to speak, but she cut him off and added, “As far as I’m

concerned, it can’t happen often enough.”

Brunetti waited for her to calm down and retract her words but then

decided to leave the issue of her feelings toward

hunters unexamined and asked, “Were the police called?  When she was


“I don’t know.  That’s what I’m waiting for the police report.”

“Where is she now?”  Brunetti asked.

That’s something else I’m trying to find out.”

“She’s not with her husband?”

“I don’t know.  I had a look at the files at the Comune, but she’s not

listed as resident at his address, even though they own the apartment

jointly.”  So habituated had Brunetti become to her useful criminality

that it did not for an instant trouble him that a person with greater

sympathy for legal precision would translate her phrase, ‘had a look

at’ as ‘broke into’.

There could certainly be many explanations for why Moro’s wife was not

registered as resident at his Dorsoduro address, though the most

obvious interpretation was that she did not live with her husband. “Let

me know when you get hold of the report on the shooting he said,

wondering if this would launch her into further denunciation.  Like

most Venetians, Brunetti had no interest in hunting, judging it an

endeavour that was expensive, inconvenient, and excessively loud.

Further, experience as a policeman as well as his habit of reflecting

upon human behaviour had too often suggested a frightening correlation

between a man’s interest in firearms and feelings of sexual


“It could have been a warning,” she said without preamble.

The know,” he answered, having thought this the instant she told him

about the shooting.  “But of what?”

The scepticism that had seeped into Bmnetti’s bones over the years

forced him to suspect that Signora Moro’s accident might have been

something other than that.  She must have cried out when she was shot,

and the sound of a woman’s scream would surely have brought any hunter

running.  Low as his opinion of hunters was, Brunetti could not believe

that one of them would leave a woman lying on the ground, bleeding.

That conviction led him to the consideration of what sort of person

would be capable of doing so, which in its turn led him to consider

what other sorts of violence such a person might be capable of.

He added to these speculations the fact that Moro had served in

Parliament for some time but had resigned about two years ago.

Coincidence could link events either in kind or subject or time: the

same sort of thing happened to different people or different things

happened to the same person, or things happened at the same time.  Moro

had resigned from Parliament around the time his wife was injured.

Ordinarily, this would hardly arouse suspicion, even in someone as

instinctively mistrustful as Brunetti, were it not that the death of

their son provided a point from which to begin a process of speculative

triangulation around the ways in which the third event might be related

to the other two.

Brunetti thought of Parliament in the way most Italians thought of

their mothers-in-law.  Not due the loyalties created by ties of blood,

a mother-in-law still demanded obedience and reverence while never

behaving in a manner that would merit either.  This alien presence,

imposed upon a person’s life by sheerest chance, made ever-increasing

demands in return for the vain promise of domestic harmony.  Resistance

was futile, for opposition inevitably led to repercussions too devious

to be foreseen.

He lifted the phone and dialled his home number.  When the machine

answered after four rings, he hung up without speaking, bent down to

his bottom drawer, and took out the phone book.  He flipped it open to

the Ps and kept turning pages until he found Perulli, Augusto.  He

tossed the book back into the drawer and dialled the number.

After the third ring a man’s voice answered.  “Perulli.”

This is Brunetti.  I need to speak to you.”

After a long pause, the man said, “I wondered when you’d call.”

“Yes,” was Brunetti’s only response.

“I can see you in half an hour.  For an hour.  Then not until


“I’ll come now Brunetti said.

He kicked the drawer shut and left his office, then the Questura.

Because he had half an hour, he chose to walk to Campo San Maurizio,

and because he was early, he chose to stop and say hello to a friend in

her workshop.  But his mind was on things other than jewellery, so he

did little more than exchange a kiss and promise to bring Paola to

dinner some time soon; then he crossed the campo and headed up towards

the Grand Canal.


He had last been to the apartment six years ago, near the end of a long

investigation of a trail of drug money that led from the noses of

adolescents in New York to a discreet account in Geneva, a trail that

paused long enough in Venice to invest in a couple of paintings meant

to join the money in the vault of that eminently discreet bank.  The

money had made its way safely through the empyrean realms of

cyberspace, but the paintings, made of less celestial matter, had been

stopped at Geneva airport.  One by Palma il Vecchio and the other by

Marieschi and thus both part of the artistic heritage of the country,

neither could be exported, at least not legally, from Italy.

A mere four hours after the discovery of the paintings, Augusto Perulli

had called the Cambinieri to report their theft.  No proof could be

found that Perulli had been informed of their discovery a possibility

that would raise the unthinkable idea of police corruption and so it

was decided that Brunetti, who had gone to school with Perulli and had

remained on friendly terms with him for decades, should be sent to talk

to him.  That decision had not been taken until the day after the

paintings were found, by which time the man who was transporting them

had somehow been released from police custody, though the precise

nature of the bureaucratic oversight permitting that error had never

been explained to the satisfaction of the Italian police.

When Brunetti finally did talk to his old schoolfriend, Perulli said

that he had become aware of the paintings’ disappearance only the day

before but had no idea how it could have happened.  When Brunetti asked

how it could be that only two paintings had been taken, Perulli

prevented all further questioning by giving Brunetti his word of honour

that he knew nothing about it, and Brunetti believed him.

Two years later, the man who had been detained with the paintings was

again arrested by the Swiss, this time for trafficking in illegal

aliens, and this time in Zurich.  In the

5i hope of making a deal with the police, he admitted that he had

indeed been given those paintings by Perulli, and asked to take them

across the border to their new owner, but by then Perulli had been

elected to Parliament and was thus exempt from arrest or prosecution.

“Ciao, Guido Perulli said when he opened the door to Brunetti,

extending his hand.

Brunetti was conscious of how theatrical was his own hesitation before

he took Perulli’s hand: Perulli was equally conscious of it.  Neither

pretended to be anything but wary of the other, and both were open in

studying the other for signs of the years that had passed since their

last meeting.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”  Perulli said, turning away and

leading Brunetti into the apartment.  Tall and slender, Perulli still

moved with the grace and fluidity of the youth he had shared with

Brunetti and their classmates.  His hair was still thick, though longer

than he had worn it in the past, his skin smooth and taut, rich with

the afterglow of a summer spent in the sun.  When was it that he had

begun searching the faces of the acquaintances of his youth for the

telltale signs of age?  Brunetti wondered.

The apartment was much as Brunetti remembered it: high ceilinged and

well-proportioned, sofas and chairs inviting people to sit at their

ease and speak openly, perhaps indiscreetly.  Portraits of men and

women from former eras hung on the walls: Perulli, he knew, spoke of

them casually, suggesting that they were ancestors, when in reality his

family had for generations lived in Castello and dealt in sausage and

preserved meat.

New were the ranks of silver-framed photos that stood on a not

particularly distinguished copy of a sixteenth-century Florentine

credenza.  Brunetti paused to examine them and saw reflected in them

the trajectory of Perulli’s career: the young man with his friends; the

university graduate posed with one of the leaders of the political

party to which Perulli

had then given allegiance; while the adult man stood arm in arm with a

former mayor of the city, the Minister of the Interior, and the

Patriarch of Venice.  Behind them, in an even more elaborate frame,

Perulli’s face smiled from the cover of a news magazine that had since

abandoned publication.  This photo, and Perulli’s need that people see

it, filled Brunetti, against his will, with an enormous sadness.

“Can I offer you something?”  Perulli asked from the other side of the

living room, standing in front of a leather sofa and clearly wanting to

settle this before he sat down.

“No, nothing,” Brunetti said.  “Thanks.”

Perulli sat, pulling fussily at both legs of his trousers to keep them

from stretching at the knees, a gesture Brunetti had observed before,

but only in the old.  Did he sweep the bottom part of his overcoat

aside before he sat down on the vaporetto?

The don’t suppose you want to pretend we’re still friends?”  Perulli


The don’t want to pretend anything, Augusto,” Brunetti said.  The just

want to ask you a few questions, and I’d like you to give me honest


“Not like the last time?”  Perulli asked with a grin he tried to make

boyish but succeeded only in making sly.  It caused Brunetti a moment’s

uncertainty: there was something different about Perulli’s mouth, about

the way he held it.

“No, not like the last time,” Brunetti said, surprised at how calm he

sounded, calm but tired.

“And if I can’t answer them?”

Then tell me so, and I’ll go

Perulli nodded, and then said, The didn’t have any choice, you know,


Brunetti acted as though the other hadn’t spoken and asked, “Do you

know Fernando Moro?”

He watched Perulli react to the name with something stronger than mere



“How well do you know him?”

“He’s a couple of years older than we are, and my father was a friend

of his, so I knew him well enough to say hello to on the street or

maybe go and have a drink with, at least when we were younger.  But

certainly not well enough to call him a friend.”  Some sense warned

Brunetti what was going to come next, so he was prepared to hear

Perulli say, “Not like I know you and so did not respond.

“Did you see him in Rome?”

“Socially or professionally?”


“Socially, no, but I might have run into him a few times at

Montecitorio.  But we represented different parties, so we didn’t work



“No, we worked on different ones.”

“What about his reputation?”

“What about it?”

Brunetti restrained the sigh that seeped up from his chest and answered

neutrally, “As a politician.  What did people think of him?”

Perulli uncrossed his long legs and immediately recrossed them the

opposite way.  He lowered his head and raised his hand to his right

eyebrow and rubbed at it a few times, something he had always done when

he considered an idea or had to think about his response.  Seeing

Perulli’s face from this new angle, Brunetti noticed that something was

different about the angle of his cheekbones, which seemed sharper and

more clearly defined than they had been when he was a student.  His

voice, when he finally spoke, was mild.  “I’d say people generally

thought he was honest.”  He lowered his hand and tried a small smile,

“Perhaps too honest.”  He enlarged the smile, that same engaging smile

that girls, then women, had proven unable to resist.

“What does that mean?”  Brunetti asked, striving to fight against the

anger he felt growing in response to the sniggling tone of Perulli’s


Perulli didn’t answer immediately, and as he thought about what to say

or how to say it, he pursed his lips into a tight little circle a few

times, a gesture Brunetti had never noticed in him before.  Finally he

said, “I suppose it means that he was sometimes difficult to work


That told Brunetti nothing, so he asked again, “What does that mean?”

Perulli couldn’t restrain a quick gleam of anger as he looked across at

Brunetti, but when he spoke his voice was calm, almost too calm.  To

the people who disagreed with him, it meant that it was impossible to

persuade him to look at things from a different point of view.”

“Meaning their point of view?”  Brunetti asked neutrally.

Perulli did not rise to the bait and, instead, said only, “From any

point of view different from the one he had decided on.”

“Did you ever have this experience with him?”

Perulli shook the idea away with a negative motion of his head.  “I

told you, we never worked on the same committees.”

“What committees did he work on?”  Brunetti asked.

Perulli put his head back against the top of his chair and closed his

eyes, and Brunetti could not stop himself from thinking that the

gesture was consciously posed to show the energy Perulli was willing to

expend in order to answer the question.

After what seemed an inordinately long time, Perulli said, “As far as I

can remember, he was on the committee that examined the Post Office,

and one that had something to do with farming, and a third one .. .” He

broke off and glanced at Brunetti with a very small, private smile,

then he continued, “I don’t really remember what that one was.  Maybe

the mission in Albania, all that humanitarian aid stuff, or maybe the

one about farmers’ pensions.  I can’t be sure.”

“And what did these committees do?”

What all of them do Perulli said, his voice honestly surprised that a

citizen should need to ask.  They study the problem.”

“And then?”

“Make recommendations.”

“To whom?”

To the government, of course.”

“And then what happens to their recommendations?”

They’re examined and studied, and a decision is made.  And if it’s

necessary, a law is passed or the existing law is changed.”

“As simple as that, eh?”  Brunetti said.

Perulli’s smile didn’t have time to blossom fully before the frost of

Brunetti’s tone blighted that smile.

“You can joke if you want, Guido, but it’s not easy, running a country

like this.”

“You really think you run it?”

“Not I, personally,” Perulli said in a tone that suggested some regret

at this fact.  “Of course not.”

“All of you together, then?  The people in Parliament?”

“If not we, then who?”  Perulli demanded, voice rising to something

that resembled indignation but was closer to anger.

“Indeed,” Brunetti said simply.  After a long pause, he went on, his

voice perfectly normal, “Do you know anything else about these

committees, perhaps who else served on them?”

Deprived of an immediate target for his displeasure by Brunetti’s

sudden change of subject, Perulli hesitated before he answered.  “I’m

not sure there’s much to be said about any one of them.  They aren’t

important, and usually new members or those who aren’t well connected

get appointed to them.”

The see Brunetti said neutrally.  “Do you know any of the other people

who served on these committees?”

He was afraid he had pushed Perulli too far and that the man might

dismiss his question or refuse to give him any more time, but after a

moment the parliamentarian answered, “I know one or two of them, but

not at all well.”

“Could you talk to them?”

“About what?”  Perulli asked, immediately suspicious.


“No.”  His answer was immediate.

“Why not?”  Brunetti asked, though he was sure he knew the answer.

“Because, when you called, you said you wanted to ask me some

questions.  You didn’t say you wanted me to start doing your job for

you.”  As he spoke, Perulli’s voice grew more heated.  He looked at

Brunetti, who said nothing, and that silence seemed to be enough to

unleash even more of Perulli’s anger.  “I don’t know why you want to

know about Moro, but it’s a good thing someone’s going to take a closer

look at him.”  Red spots the size of golf balls flashed into being on

his cheeks.

“Why?”  Brunetti asked.

Again, Perulli uncrossed his legs, but this time he leaned forward,

towards Brunetti, the forefinger of his right hand jabbing the space

between them.  “Because he’s a sanctimonious bastard, always talking

about fraud and dishonesty and .. .”  Here Perulli’s voice changed,

deepening and dragging out the final syllables of words in a way

Brunetti realized was very much like Moro’s.  “Our responsibility to

the citizen,” he went on, the imitation suddenly becoming sarcastic

exaggeration.  “We can’t continue to treat our offices, this

Parliament, as though it were a trough and we a herd of pigs,” Perulli

intoned.  It was clear to Brunetti that he was again quoting Moro.

Brunetti thought the other man would go on: Augusto had never known

when a joke had gone on long enough.  But Perulli surprised him by

lapsing into silence, though he

couldn’t resist the temptation to goad Brunetti by saying, “If he’s

done something, it’s no surprise to me: he’s no different from any one

of us.”

“With your front trotters in the trough?”  Brunetti asked mildly.

He might just as well have slapped the other man across the face.

Perulli lurched forward, his right hand aiming for Bj Brunetti’s

throat, but he had forgotten the low table between “I them.  It caught

Perulli just below the knees and sent him sprawling across and then

beyond it.

Brunetti had risen to his feet while Perulli was clattering across the

table.  Seeing him on the floor, stunned, he started to reach down to

help him to his feet but then stopped himself.  Curious, he stepped to

one side and bent over to look closer.  Perulli’s hair had fallen

forward, and Brunetti could see the little round, puckered scar just

behind the left ear.  Gratified to have detected the cause of Perulli’s

youthful appearance, he stood and waited, and when he saw Perulli pull

his knees up under him and place his hands flat on the floor on either

side of him, Brunetti turned and left the apartment.

When he got outside and looked at his watch, Brunetti was surprised to

see that it was almost five.  He found himself very hungry and

geographically halfway between work and home.  He didn’t know what he’d

find to eat at home, and by the time he got there and had something, it

would be too late to bother to go back to the Questura.  He sent the

feet of memory up towards San Marco, recalling every bar or trattoria

he knew on the way, then, at the thought of what he would encounter in

that direction, he re plotted the trip via Campo Sant’ Angelo and back

through Campo San Fantin.  Knowing it was absurd and aware that he had

himself chosen to forgo lunch, he was assaulted by a wave of self-pity:

he was doing his job as best he knew how, and he found himself hungry

at a time when it would be impossible to get a meal.  He remembered

then one of the few stories his father ever told about the war, though

he recalled it in a garbled fashion, for it had never been told the

same way twice.  At some point, marching across Lower Saxony in the

days just after the end of the war, his father and two companions had


befriended by a stray dog that emerged from under a bombed house to

follow them.  The next day, they ate the dog.  Over the course of

decades, this story had taken on talismanic powers for Brunetti, and he

found himself unable to keep his mind from it whenever anyone talked

about food in a way he thought too precious, as though it were a

fashion accessory rather than a basic need.  All he had to do was hear

one of Paola’s friends go on about her delicate digestion and how she

couldn’t even bear to buy vegetables that had been displayed next to

garlic, and the story came to mind.  He remembered, years ago, sitting

across the table from a man who told the other guests how impossible it

was for him to eat any meat that had not come from his own butcher,

that he could taste the difference in quality instantly.  When the man

finished the story, and after he had received the required accolade for

his delicacy of palate, Brunetti had told the story of the dog.

He cut through to Campo San Fantin and stopped in a bar for two

tramezzini and a glass of white wine.  While he was there, an

attractive dark-haired woman came in for a coffee wearing a tight

leopard-patterned coat and an outrageous black hat that looked like a

black pizza balanced on a skullcap.  He studied her for a moment as she

sipped at her coffee; indeed, he joined every man in the bar in

studying her.  All of them, he concluded, joined with him in giving

thanks that she had come in to lift their hearts and brighten their


Cheered by having seen her, he left the bar and walked back to the

Quesrura.  As he entered his office, he saw a folder lying on his desk,

and when he opened it he was astonished to discover the autopsy report

on Ernesto Moro.  His immediate reaction was to wonder what Venturi was

up to, what manoeuvre or power play he might be involved in and against

whom.  His speed in having performed the autopsy could be explained

only as an attempt to win Brunetti’s favour, and that favour could be

of use to the pathologist only

if he were planning to move against some rival or perceived rival

either in the police or the medical system.

Brunetti refused to speculate further about Venturi’s motives and

directed his attention to the report.  Ernesto Moro had been in

excellent health at the time of his death, entirely free of any sign of

disease, not a single cavity in his teeth, though there was evidence of

previous orthodontic work.  His left leg had been broken in the past,

perhaps as long as ten years ago, but had healed completely; tonsils

and appendix were still present.

The cause of death was strangulation.  There was no way to judge how

far his body had fallen before the noose had tightened around his

throat, but it had not been sufficient to break his neck, so the boy

had strangled to death.  It had not been, Venturi stated, a quick

process: the rope had caused extensive bruising of the front and right

side of his neck.  This suggested that his last moments had been spent

in instinctive convulsions against the tightening cord.  There followed

the exact dimensions of the shower stall in which his body had been

found and the possible extension of arms as long as his.  Brunetti

thought of those sweeping marks on the wall of the shower.

From the evidence of the food in the boy’s stomach, it was likely that

he had died some time between midnight and three in the morning.  There

was no evidence of drug use, and it seemed that he had consumed only a

moderate amount of wine with his last meal, probably no more than one

glass and certainly not enough to cloud his judgement in any way.

Brunetti put the papers back in the folder and left it lying open on

his desk.  The report said everything just as it said nothing.  He

tried to subtract the knowledge that Signora Moro had been shot and

view her son’s death as a separate event.  The obvious possible motives

were thus some disappointment the boy had suffered or the desire to pay

someone back for a perceived injury.  Once the mother was

put back into the equation, the possible motives expanded

exponentially.  Instead of being viewed as the prime mover in the

action, the boy became a means and some other person the mover.

Following this filament of vague speculation, Brunetti saw ” that the

mother’s survival suggested she was not the prime | target, which left

Moro himself.  But even that, he realized, led nowhere: until he had an

idea of what Moro might be a target of, or for whom, all speculation

was as flimsy as the jumbled bits and pieces of information upon which

he chose to base it.

The arrival of Signorina Elettra put an end to his fragmentary musings.

“You saw that?”  she asked as she came in, nodding towards the autopsy


“Yes.  What do you make of it?”

“I can’t understand it, why a boy like that would kill himself.  It

doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“It’s not so unusual, I’m afraid, kids killing themselves.”

His remark seemed to cause her pain.  She stopped in front of his desk,

another folder in one hand.  “But why?”

“I spoke to one of the cadets over there.  He said there was no way to

be sure about the future, or that there even would be one for them.”

“That’s nonsense,” she snapped angrily.  “Of course there’s always a


“I’m just repeating what he told me.”

“A cadet?”  she asked.


She was silent for a long time, then finally said, I went out with one

of them for a while.”

Immediately curious, Brunetti asked, “When you were a student?”

Her mouth moved in a sly smile: “Not last week, certainly.”  Then she

went on, “Yes, when I was eighteen.”  She looked down at the floor in a

moment’s reflection and then said, “No, as a matter of fact, I was only

sixteen.  That explains it.”

He knew a set-up line when he heard it.  “Explains what?”

“How I could have put up with him

Brunetti half rose in his chair and gestured towards the other.  “Have

a seat, please.”  She swept one hand behind her as she sat,

straightening her skirt, then placed the folder flat on her lap.

“What did you have to put up with?”  he asked, puzzled by the idea of

Signorina Elettra as a person capable of enduring anything she didn’t

wish to.

“I was going to say that he was a Fascist and that they all were, and

probably still are today, but it might not be true of all of them.  So

I’ll say only that he was a Fascist, and a bully, and a snob and that

most of his friends were, too.”  From long experience of her, Brunetti

could sense when Signorina Elettra was doing no more than practising

verbal solfeggi and when she was preparing to launch into an aria; he

detected signs of the second.

“But you see that only now?”  he asked, offering her the briefest of

recitativi as a means of prompting the aria.

“We used to see them, my friends and I, swarming around the city in

their capes, and we thought they were the most exciting, wonderful boys

in the world.  Whenever one of them spoke to one of us, it was as

though the heavens had opened to allow a god to descend.  And then one

of them .. .”  she began.  Then, seeking the proper words, she changed

her mind and went on, “I began going out with one of them.”

“Going out?”  he inquired.

“For a coffee, for a walk, just to go down to the Giardini to sit on a

bench and talk.”  With a rueful smile, she corrected herself.  To

listen, that is.”  She smiled across at him.  “I believe one could

employ a new noun here, sir: a listen, instead of a conversation.

That’s what I had whenever we met: a listen.”

“Perhaps it was a quicker way for you to get to know him Brunetti

suggested drily.

“Yes,” she said brusquely.  The got to know him.”

He didn’t know quite what question to ask.  “And what was it that makes

you say those things about him?”

“That he was a snob and a Fascist and a bully?”


“You know Barbara, don’t you?”  she asked, mentioning her older



“She was in medical school at the time, living in Padova, so I didn’t

see much of her except on the weekends.  I’d been going out with Renzo

for about three weeks when she came home one weekend, and I asked her

to meet him.  I thought he was so wonderful, so clever, so thoughtful.”

She snorted at the memory of her own youth and went on.  “Imagine that,

thoughtful.  At eighteen.”  She took a deep breath and smiled at him,

so he knew that this story was going to have a happy ending.

“Whenever we were together, he talked about politics, history, all

those things I’d heard Barbara and my parents talk about for so long.

Nothing he said sounded much like what they said.  But he had dark blue

eyes, and he had a car at home, in Milano, a convertible.”  Again, she

smiled at the memory of the girl she had been, and signed.

When she seemed reluctant to continue, he asked, “And did Barbara meet


“Oh yes, and they hated one another after three words.  I’m sure he

thought she was some sort of Communist cannibal, and she must have

thought he was a Fascist pig.”  She smiled again at him.


“One of them was right.”

He laughed outright and asked, “How long did it take you to realize


“Oh, I suppose I knew it all along, but he did have those eyes.  And

there was that convertible.”  She laughed.  “He carried a photo of it

in his wallet.”

At first, it was difficult for Brunetti to picture a Signorina Elettra

capable of this folly, but after a moment’s reflection, he realized

that it didn’t surprise him all that much.

“What happened?”

“Oh, once Barbara started on him, when we got home, it was as if how do

they describe it in the Bible?  as if “the scales fell from my eyes”?

Well, it was something like that.  All I had to do was stop looking at

him and start listening to what he said and thinking about it, and I

could see what a vicious creep he was.”

“What sort of things?”

“The same things people like him are always saying: the glory of the

nation, the need to have strong values in the family, the heroism of

men in war.”  She stopped here and shook her head again, like a person

emerging from rubble.  “It’s extraordinary, the sort of things a person

can listen to without realizing what nonsense it is.”


“Well, when the people who say it are still children, I suppose it’s

nonsense.  It’s when adults say it that it’s dangerous.”

“What became of him?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I imagine he graduated and went into the Army and

ended up torturing prisoners in Somalia.  He was that kind of



“No, not really, but very easily led.  He had all of the core beliefs.

You know the sort of things they say: honour and discipline and the

need for order.  I suppose he got it from his family.  His father had

been a general or something, so it’s all he’d ever been exposed to.”

“Like you, only different?”  Brunetti asked, smiling.  He knew her

sister, and so he knew what the politics of the Zorzis were.

“Exactly, only no one in my family has ever had a good

word to say about discipline or the need for order.”  The pride with

which she said this was unmistakable.

He started to ask another question, but she got to her feet, as though

suddenly conscious of how much she had revealed, and leaned forward to

place the file on his desk.  That’s what’s come in, sir,” she said with

a briskness that was strangely dissonant with the easy familiarity of

their conversation up to that point.

Thank you,” he said.

“It should all be clear, but if you need any explanation, call.”

He noticed that she didn’t tell him to come down to her office or to

ask her to come up to explain.  The geographical limits of their

formality had been reestablished.  |

“Certainly,” he said, and then repeated, as she turned i toward the

door, Thank you.”

The folder contained photocopies of newspaper articles about Fernando

Moro’s careers as doctor and politician.  The first seemed to have led

to the second: he had first caught the public eye about six years ago,

when, as one of the inspectors commissioned to examine the quality of

hospital care in the Veneto, he had submitted a report calling into

question the statistics issued by the provincial government, statistics

which boasted one of the lowest patient to doctor ratios on the

continent.  It was the Moro Report which indicated that the low figure

resulted from the inclusion in the statistics of three new hospitals,

facilities which were planned to provide medical care at the highest

level.  Money had been allocated for their construction, and that money

had been spent, and thus the statistics included these hospitals and

factored in all of the services they were planned to provide.  The

resulting figures were a three-day marvel, for the Veneto was thus

shown to have the best health care in Europe.

It was Fernando Moro’s report that pointed out the

inconvenient fact that those three hospitals, however grandiose their

plans, however extensive their staffs, and however varied the services

they were meant to provide, had never actually been built.  Once their

services were subtracted from the tabulations, the health care provided

to the citizens of the Veneto fell to where its patients were

accustomed to judging it to be: somewhat below that of Cuba, though

certainly above that of Chad.

In the aftermath of the report, Moro had been lauded as a hero by the

press and had become one in the popular mind, but he found that the

administration of the hospital where he worked had decided that his

many talents would be better utilized if he were to take over the

administration of the old people’s home attached to the hospital.  His

protest that, as an oncologist, he would be better employed in the

hospital’s oncology ward was brushed aside as false humility, and his

lateral transfer was confirmed.

This in its turn led to his decision to attempt to achieve public

office before his name dropped from public memory; perhaps a tactical

decision, but a no less successful one for that.

Moro had once remarked that his long familiarity with terminal illness

was perhaps the best preparation he could have had for a career in

Parliament.  Late at night and only when among old and trusted friends,

he was rumoured to expand upon that metaphor, a fact which was not long

in filtering back to his fellow parliamentarians.  This might well have

affected the nature of the committees to which he was appointed.

As he read the newspaper articles, all purporting to be neutral

presentation of fact but all tinted by the political affiliation of the

particular paper or journalist, Brunetti realized that he was colouring

the articles with the hues of his own memory.  He had known, or at

least heard, about Moro for years, and as he tended to share the man’s


leanings, he knew he was prejudiced in the man’s favour and that he

presupposed his honesty.  He knew just how dangerous this sort of

thinking was, especially for a policeman, yet Moro was hardly a

suspect: the totality of his grief excluded him from any suspicion of

involvement in his son’s death.  “Or else I’ve never had a son; or else

I’ve never had a soul Brunetti caught himself whispering out loud.

He looked up at the door, embarrassed to have been so distracted by his

thoughts, but no one was there.  He continued reading: the other

articles merely repeated the essential information contained in the

first few.  Regardless of how insinuating the tone of some of the

journalists, no matter how carefully they constructed their specious

explanations of Moro’s behaviour, not even the dullest reader could

doubt the man’s integrity.

The tone of innuendo became even stronger in some of the articles

dealing with Moro’s sudden withdrawal from Parliament, a decision he

refused to attribute to anything other than ‘personal reasons’.  The

first article, written by one of the best-known apologists of the

Right, raised the rhetorical question of the sort of connection that

might exist between Moro’s resignation and the arrest, two weeks

before, of one of the last members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang.  “None,

probably,” Brunetti found himself whispering again, as had become his

annoying habit when reading this particular adornment of the free


The shooting of Moro’s wife was mentioned in two small articles,

neither of which did more than report the barest facts of the case. The

second article, however, provided the name of the people with whom she

was staying at the time of the shooting.

He picked up the phone and dialled 12, then asked for the number of

Giovanni Ferro in Siena or in the province of Siena.  There were two,

and he took down both numbers.

He dialled the first number and a woman answered.

“Signora Ferro?”

Who’s calling, please?”

This is Commissario Guido Brunetti, in Venice/ he said.

He heard a startled gasp and then she asked, voice tight and fast and

apparently beyond her control, Is it Federica?”

Tederica Moro?”  he asked.

The woman was evidently too shaken to do more than answer, “Yes.”

“Signora, nothing’s happened to her, please believe me.  I’m calling to

ask about the incident two years ago.”  She said nothing, but Brunetti

could hear her rapid breathing on the other end of the line.  “Signora,

can you hear me?  Are you all right?”

There was another long silence, and he was afraid she was going to hang

up or already had, but then her voice came back, “Who did you say you


“Commissario Guido Brunetti.  I’m with the police in Venice, Signora.”

Again, silence.  “Signora, can you hear me?”

“Yes,” she said, The can hear you.”  There was another long pause, and

then the woman said, “I’ll call you back’, and was gone, leaving

Brunetti with the memory of her terror and the strong aspirants of her

Tuscan speech.

And indeed, thought Brunetti, as he replaced the receiver, why should

she believe that he was who he said he was?  There was no way to prove

it, and the call was being made about a woman who had been shot and

whose assailant, presumably, had never been found by the police

Brunetti claimed to represent.

The phone rang after a few minutes.  He picked it up on the first ring

and gave his name.

“Good/ she said.  “I wanted to be certain.”

That’s very wise of you, Signora/ he said.  The hope you’re reassured

that I am who I said I was.”

“Yes/ she agreed, then went on, “What do you want to know about


“I’m calling about the shooting because there’s a case it might be

related to.  The newspapers said that she was staying with you and your

husband when it happened.”


“Could you tell me something more about it, Signora?”

Yet again there was a long pause, and then the woman asked, “Have you

spoken to her?”

“Signora Moro?”


“No, I haven’t, not yet.”  He waited for her to speak.

“I think you should talk to her Signora Ferro said.

There was something in the way she said the last word that warned

Brunetti not to dispute this.  “I’d very much like to be agreed

amiably.  “Could you tell me where I might find her?”

“Isn’t she there?”  the woman asked, the nervousness flooding back into

her voice.

He adopted his most soothing tone.  “You’re the first person I’ve

called, Signora.  I haven’t had time to try to locate Signora Moro.” He

felt like an explorer on a glacier who suddenly sees an enormous

crevasse yawn open in front of him: so far he had said nothing about

the death of Signora Moro’s son and to do so at this point would be

impossible.  “Is she here with her husband?”

Her voice became bland and noncommittal.  “They’re separated,” she


“Ah, I didn’t know that.  But is she still here in Venice?”

He could all but follow her thoughts as she considered this.  A

policeman would find her friend; sooner or later, he’d find her.  “Yes/

she finally answered.

“Could you give me the address?”

Slowly she answered: “Yes, wait while I get it, please.”  There was a

soft tap as she set the phone down, then a long

silence, and then the woman was back.  “It’s San Marco 2823,” she said,

then gave him the phone number, as well.

Brunetti thanked her and was considering what else he could ask her

when the woman said, “What you need to do is let the phone ring once

and then call back.  She doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“I can understand that, Signora/ he said, the memory of Ernesto Moro’s

limp body suddenly appearing to him like the ghost of one of Ugolino’s


The woman said goodbye and hung up, leaving Brunetti, he realized, in

possession of little more information than he had had before he made

the call.

He was aware of how dark his office had become.  The late afternoon sun

had faded away, and he doubted that he could any longer see the numbers

on the phone clearly enough to dial them.  He walked over to the switch

by the door and turned on the light and was surprised by the

unaccustomed order he had established on his desk while talking to

Signora Ferro: a stack of folders sat at the centre, a piece of paper

to one side, a pencil placed across it in a neat horizontal.  He

thought of the obsessive neatness of his mother’s house in the years

before she- lapsed into the senility in whose embrace she still lay,

and then the explosion of disorder in the house during the last months

before she was taken from it.

Seated at his desk again, he was suddenly overcome by exhaustion and

had to fight the impulse to lay his head on the desk and close his

eyes.  It had been more than ten hours since they had been called to

the school, hours during which death and misery had soaked into him

like liquid into blotting paper.  Not for the first time in his career

he found himself wondering how much longer he could continue to do this

work.  In the past, he had comforted himself with the belief that a

vacation would help, and often his physical removal from the city and

the crimes he saw there did in fact serve to

lift his mood, at least for the time he was away.  But he could think

of no removal in time or space that would lift from him the sense of

futility that he now felt assailing him from every side.

He knew he should try to call Signora Moro, willed himself to reach for

the phone, but he could not do it.  Who was it whose gaze could turn

people to stone?  The Basilisk?  Medusa?  With serpents for hair and an

open, glaring mouth.  He conjured up an image of the tangled, swirling

locks, but could not remember who had painted or sculpted them.

His departure from the Questura had the feel of flight about it, at

least to Brunetti.  His chair remained pushed back from his desk, his

door open, the papers set neatly at the centre of his desk, while he

fled the place and went home in a state not far from panic.

His nose brought him back to his senses.  As he opened the door to the

apartment he was greeted by aromas from the kitchen: something

roasting, perhaps pork; and garlic, so pervasive it suggested that an

entire field of garlic had been seized and tossed into the oven along

with the pork.

He hung up his jacket, remembered that he had left his briefcase in his

office and shrugged off the thought.  He paused at the door to the

kitchen, hoping to find his family already seated at the table, but the

room was empty, except for the garlic, the odour of which seemed to be

coming from a tall pot boiling over a low flame.

Devoting his entire attention to the smell, he attempted to remember

where he had smelled it before.  He knew it was familiar, as a melody

is familiar even when a person cannot remember the piece from which it

comes.  He tried to separate the scents: garlic, tomato, a touch of

rosemary, something fishy like clams or shrimp probably shrimp and,

perhaps, carrots.  And the garlic, a universe of garlic.  He summoned

up the sensation he had experienced in the office, of his spirit being

steeped in misery.  He breathed deeply, hoping that the

garlic would drive the misery out.  If it could drive away vampires,

then surely it could work its herbal magic against something as banal

as misery.  He stood propped against the jamb, his eyes closed,

inhaling the scents, until a voice behind him said, “That is not the

proud stance of a defender of justice and the rights of the


Paola appeared beside him, kissed his cheek without really looking at

him, and slipped past him into the kitchen.

“Is that Guglielmo’s soup?”

“The very same,” Paola said, lifting the lid from the pot and taking a

long wooden spoon from the counter to stir at the contents.  Twelve

heads of garlic,” she whispered, her voice filled with something that

approached awe.

“And we’ve survived it every time,” Brunetti added.

“Proof of divine intervention, I think,” Paola suggested.

“And, if Guglielmo is to be believed, a sure cure for worms and high

blood pressure.”

“And an even surer way to get yourself a seat on the vaporetto


Brunetti laughed, feeling his tension begin to evaporate.  He

remembered their friend Guglielmo, who had served as military attache

in Cairo for four years, during which time he had studied Arabic,

converted to Coptic Christianity, and made a fortune smuggling

archaeological artefacts out of the country on military aeroplanes.

Devoted to food, he had taken with him, when he left, a broad variety

of recipes, most of which called for inordinate quantities of garlic.

“Is it true that they’ve found dried-up garlic in mummy coffins?”

Brunetti asked, pushing himself away from the door.

“You’d probably find it in the pockets of Guglielmo’s dress uniform,

too,” Paola observed, replacing the lid and taking her first good look

at her husband.  Her voice changed.  “What’s the matter with you?”

He tried to smile but failed.  “Bad day.”


“A suicide that might not be.”


“A boy.”

“How old?”


The death, the gender and the age stopped Paola in her tracks.  She

took a deep breath, shook her head as if to dismiss superstitious

possibility, and put her hand on his arm.  “Tell me about it.”

For a reason he didn’t understand, perhaps the same superstition,

Brunetti didn’t want to have to look at Paola as he told her about

Ernesto Moro, so he busied himself with taking down two glasses and

getting a chilled bottle of Tocai out of the refrigerator.  As he went

through the business of opening the bottle, he spoke, deliberately

slowing his actions so that they would last as long as the explanation

he had to give.  “He was a student at the San Martino.  We had a call

this morning, and when we got there, we found him hanging in the

shower.  Vianello did, that is.”

He poured two glasses of wine and handed one to Paola, who ignored it

and asked, “Who was he?”

“Fernando Moro’s son.”

“Dottor Moro?”

“Yes,” Brunetti said and pressed the glass into her hand until she

accepted it.

“Does he know?”

Brunetti turned away from her, set his glass down, and opened the

refrigerator, searching for something he could eat by way of

distraction.  His back to her, he went on, “Yes.”

She said nothing while he rooted around and found a plastic container

of olives, which he opened and placed on the counter.  As soon as he

saw them, dark and plump in their yellow oil, he lost the taste for

them and picked up his glass again.  Conscious of Paola’s attention, he

glanced at her.

“Did you have to tell him?”

“He came while I was there with the boy’s body, then I went and talked

to him at his home.”

Today?”  she asked, unable to disguise what was either astonishment or


“I wasn’t there long he said and regretted the words the instant they

were out of his mouth.

Paola shot him a look, but what she saw on his face made her let his

remark pass without comment.  The mother?”  she asked.

“I don’t know where she is.  Someone said she was here, in the city,

but I couldn’t call her.”  Perhaps it was the way he said ‘couldn’t’

that caused Paola not to question him about this, either.

Instead, she asked, “What makes you think it might not be?”

“Habit,” he ventured.

The habit of doubt?”  she asked.  “I suppose you could call it that,”

Brunetti answered and finally allowed himself a sip of wine.  Cool,

tight on his tongue, it gave him little comfort, though it reminded him

that comfort did exist in the world.

“Do you want to talk about it?”  Paola asked, sipping for the first

time at her own wine.

“Later, perhaps.  After dinner.”

She nodded, took another sip, and set the glass down.  “If you want to

go and read for a while, I’ll set the table.  The kids should be home

soon she began, and both of them were conscious of the word ‘kids’ and

the casual assertion it made that things had at least remained the same

for them, their family safe.  Like a horse suddenly breaking stride to

avoid a hole below its front foot, her voice jogged over into

artificial jollity and she added, “And then we’ll eat.”

Brunetti went into the living room.  He placed his glass on the table,

sat on the sofa, and picked up his book, Anna Comnena’s life of her

father, the Emperor Alexius.  Half an

hour later, when Chiara came in to tell her father that dinner was

ready, she found him on the sofa, his book lying open and forgotten in

his lap, as he stared out at the rooftops of the city.

Much as Brunetti hoped that talking to Paola about the boy’s death

would serve to lessen the horror with which it filled him, it did not.

In bed, Paola curled beside him, he told her the events of his day,

struck by the grotesqueness of their bedtime talk.  When he finished,

not hiding from her the anguish that had caused him to flee from-his

office without trying to contact Signora Moro, she propped herself up

on one elbow and looked down at his face.

“How much longer can you do this, Guido?”  she asked.

In the dim moonlight, he glanced at her, then returned his attention to

the opposite wall, where the mirror glowed dimly in the light reflected

from the tiles of the terrace.

She allowed a certain time to pass in silence, and then asked,


“I don’t know,” he answered.  “I can’t think about that until this is


“If it’s decided he committed suicide, then isn’t it already finished?”

she asked.

The don’t mean finished that way he said dismissively.  “I mean really


“Finished for you, you mean?”  she asked.  At other times, the words

would have been a demand, perhaps even a sarcastic observation, but

tonight they were only a request for information.

“I suppose so,” he admitted.

“When will that be?”

The accumulated exhaustion of the day enveloped him, almost as if it

had decided to wrap its arms around him and lull him to sleep.  He felt

his eyes close and he rested in those other arms for a moment.  The

room began to move away from him as he felt himself drawn towards

sleep.  Suddenly able to see the events affecting the Moro family only

as a triangle created by coincidence, he whispered, “When the lines

aren’t there,” and gave himself to sleep.

The next morning, he woke to ignorance.  The rays of the sun, reflected

off the same mirror and on to his face, pulled him from sleep, and in

the first moments of waking, he had no memory of the events of the

previous day.  He moved a bit to the right and his body sensed Paola’s

absence; he turned his head to the left and saw the bell tower of San

Polo, the sunlight so clear upon it that he could make out the grey

blobs of cement that held the bricks together.  A pigeon glided toward

the eaves under the tower roof, spread its wings to reduce speed, and

then set itself down in a soft-footed landing.  It turned around twice,

bobbed about a bit, and then tucked its head under one wing.

Nothing the bird did was reminiscent of the events of the previous day,

but as its head disappeared under its wing, Brunetti had a sharp vision

of Ernesto Moro’s face at the moment that Vianello pulled the hem of

his cape across it.

Brunetti got out of bed and, careful to avoid himself in the mirror,

went down to the bathroom to take a shower.  As he stood there,

shaving, he had no choice but to confront his

own eyes, and the face he saw looking back at him had the weary

dullness of every grief-stricken parent he had ever had to speak to.

How to explain that a child was dead, and even if it could be

explained, what explanation could hope to stem the torrent of grief

that must flow from those words?

Paola and the children were long gone, so he left the house, glad of

the chance to drink his coffee in the company of a familiar

pasticceria, with conversation no more demanding than the idle comments

someone might make to him.  He bought both // Tempo and II Gazzettino

at the edicola in Campo Santa Marina and went into Didovich for a

coffee and a brioche.


declared on one of the inner pages, while the front page of the second

carried the headline, son of ex parliamentarian FOUND DEAD AT SAN

MARTINO.  The loWCr case headlines informed the people of Venice that

the father of the victim had resigned from Parliament after his hotly

contested health report had been condemned by the then Minister of

Health, that the police were investigating the boy’s death, and that

his parents were separated.  Reading the lead paragraphs, Brunetti was

sure that anyone who read them, regardless of the information contained

in the article that followed, would already suspect that the parents or

the way they lived was somehow related to, if not directly responsible

for, the boy’s death.

Terrible, isn’t it?  This boy?”  one of the women at the counter asked

the owner, waving her hand towards Brunetti’s newspaper.  She bit into

her brioche and shook her head.

“What’s the matter with kids today?  They have so much.  Why can’t they

be content with it?”  another one answered.

As if on cue, a third woman the same age as the other two, her hair the

standard post-menopausal red, set her coffee cup resoundingly back into

its saucer and said, “It’s because the

parents don’t pay attention to them.  I stayed home to take care of my

children, and so nothing like this ever happened.”  A stranger to this

culture might well assume that no option was open to the children of

working mothers but suicide.  The three women nodded in united

disapproval at this latest proof of the perfidy and ingratitude of

youth and the irresponsibility of all parents other than themselves.

Brunetti folded his paper, paid, and left the pasticceria.  The same

headlines blared forth from the yellow posters taped to the back wall

of the edicola.  In their real grief, attacks like this could do no

more than glance off the souls of the Moros: this belief was the only

comfort Brunetti could find in the face of this latest evidence of the

mendacity of the press.

Inside the Questura, he went directly to his office, where he saw new

files lying on his desk.  He dialled Signorina Elettra, who answered

the phone by saying, “He wants to see you immediately.”

It no longer surprised him when Signorina Elettra knew that it was he

who was calling: she had spent considerable police funds in having

Telecom install a new phone line in her office, though the moneys

currently available could not provide for anyone except her to have a

terminal on which the number of the caller appeared.  Nor was he

surprised by her use of the pronoun: she granted this distinction only

to her immediate superior, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta.

“Immediately now?”  he asked.

“Immediately yesterday afternoon, I’d say,” she answered.

Brunetti went downstairs and into her office without taking time to

examine the folders.  He had expected to find Signorina Elettra at her

desk, but her office was empty.  He stuck his head back outside the

door to check to see if she were in the hallway, but there was no sign

of her.

Reluctant to present himself to Patta without first having some

indication of his superior’s mood or what it was Patta wanted to see

him about, Brunetti toyed with the idea of

going back to his office to read the folders or to the officers’ room

to see if Vianello or Pucetti were there.  As he stood undecided, the

door to Vice-Questore Patta’s office opened, and Signora Elettra

emerged, today wearing what looked very much like a bomber jacket,

buttoned tight at the waist, puffy and full over the bust and

shoulders; well, a bomber jacket, were bombardiers given to the wearing

of uniforms made of apricot-coloured raw silk.

Patta had a clear view from his office into hers.  “I’d like to see

you, Brunetti,” he called.  Brunetti glanced at Signorina Elettra as he

turned toward Patta’s door, but the only thing she had time to do was

push her lips tightly together in either disapproval or disgust.  Like

ships in the night, they passed, barely acknowledging the presence of

the other.

“Close the door,” Patta said, glancing up and then back at the papers

on his desk.  Brunetti turned to do so, certain that Patta’s use of the

word ‘please’ would provide the clue to what sort of meeting this would

be.  The fact that Brunetti had time to formulate this thought

destroyed any possibility that it was going to be a pleasant

interchange of ideas between colleagues.  A short delay would be the

habitual flick of the whip from a carriage driver: aimed to snap the

air and catch the beast’s attention without doing it any harm, it was

an unconscious assertion of command, not meant to inflict damage.  A

longer delay would demonstrate Patta’s irritation without revealing its

cause.  The complete absence of the word, as on this occasion, was

indicative of either fear or rage: experience had taught Brunetti that

the first of these was the more dangerous, for fear drove Patta to the

reckless endangerment of other people’s careers in his attempt to

protect his own.  This evaluation was complete long before Brunetti

turned to approach his superior, and so the sight of a glowering Patta

did not intimidate him.

“Yes, sir?”  he asked with a serious face, having learned that

neutrality of expression and tone was expected of him in

these moments.  He waited for Patta to wave him to a chair, consciously

imitating the behaviour of a non-Alpha male dog.

“What are you waiting for?”  Patta demanded, still without looking at

him.  “Sit down.”

Brunetti did so silently and placed his arms in neat horizontals on the

arms of the chair.  He waited, wondering what scene Patta was going to

play and how he was going to play it.  A minute passed silently.  Patta

continued to read through the file that lay open before him,

occasionally turning a page.

Like most Italians, Brunetti respected and approved of beauty.  When he

could, he chose to surround himself with beauty: his wife, the clothes

he wore, the paintings in his home, even the beauty of thought in the

books he read: all of these things gave him great pleasure.  How, he

wondered, as he did whenever he encountered Patta after a gap of a week

or so, how could a man so very handsome be so utterly devoid of the

qualities usually attributed to beauty?  The erect posture was solely

physical, for the ethical Patta was an eel; the firm jaw bespoke a

strength of character that was manifested only in stubbornness; and the

clear dark eyes saw only what they chose to see.

Caught in this reflection, Brunetti didn’t notice when Patta finally

turned his attention to him, nor did he hear the Vice Questore’s first

words, tuning in only toward the end ‘… your mistreatment of his


Like a scholar piecing together a coherent meaning from a fragment of

text, Brunetti realized that the students must be those at the San

Martino Academy, and the only person capable of using the possessive

pronoun when speaking of them the Comandante.

“I chanced into the room of one of them, and we discussed his class

work.  I don’t think this can be construed in any way as mistreatment,


“Not only you Patta said, overriding Brunetti and giving no indication

that he had bothered to listen to his explanation.  “One of your

officers.  I was at a dinner last night, and the father of one of the

boys said your officer was very rough when he questioned his son.”

Patta allowed the full horror of this to sink in before adding, The

father was at school with General D’Ambrosio.”

“I’m sorry, sir Brunetti said, wondering if the boy would go on to

complain to his father should he experience rough treatment from the

enemy in battle, “I’m sure if he had known that, he would have shown

him more courtesy

“Don’t try being smart with me, Brunetti/ Patta shot back, displaying a

quicker sensitivity to Brunetti’s tone than usual.  “I don’t want your

men in there, strong-arming these boys and causing trouble.  These are

the sons of some of the best people in the country and I won’t have

them treated like this.”

Brunetti had always been fascinated by the way the police shuttlecocked

back and forth between Patta and all the others who might be seen as

responsible for them: when they solved a case or behaved bravely, they

were Patta’s police, but all cases of mis behaviour incompetence or

negligence were clearly attributable to their behaving like the police

of someone else, in this case, Brunetti.

“I’m not sure there’s any question of their being mistreated, sir

Brunetti said mildly.  “I asked an officer to speak to the other

students and try to find out if the Moro boy had been behaving

strangely or if he had said anything that would indicate he had been

thinking about suicide.”  Before Patta could interrupt, he went on, “I

thought this would help make it even clearer that the boy had committed


“Clearer than what?”  Patta asked.

Than the physical evidence, sir Brunetti answered.

For a moment, he thought that Patta was about to say, “Good.”  Surely

his face grew less tense and he, too, let out a deep breath.  But all

he said was, “Very well.  Then let’s file it

as suicide and let the school begin to get back to normal.”

“Good idea, sir said Brunetti, then, as if the idea had just occurred

to him, “But what do we do if the boy’s parents aren’t satisfied?”

“What do you mean, “aren’t satisfied?”

“Well, the father has a history of causing trouble,” Brunetti began,

shaking his head as if thinking of the shocking scepticism towards

public institutions demonstrated in the Moro Report.  “And so I

wouldn’t want to be responsible for a report about his son’s death that

left anything open to question.”

“Do you think there’s a chance of that?”

“Probably not, sir,” Brunetti answered.  “But I wouldn’t want to leave

something undone that a person as difficult as Moro could point to and

ask questions about.  He’d be sure to make it look bad for us.  And

he’s certainly a person who gets his fair share of public attention.”

Brunetti stopped himself from saying more.

Patta gave all of this some thought and finally asked, “What do you


Brunetti feigned surprise that he should be asked such a thing.  He

started to speak, stopped, and then went on, giving every evidence that

he’d never considered this possibility.  “I suppose I’d try to find out

whether he took drugs or showed signs of depression.”

Patta appeared to consider all of this and then said, “It would be

easier for them to bear it if they were certain, I suppose.”

“Who, sir?”

“His parents.”

Brunetti risked a question.  “Do you know them?”

The father, yes,” Patta said.

Because this was still not followed by an attack on the man, Brunetti

dared to ask, Then do you think we should go ahead like this, sir?”

Patta sat up straighter and moved a heavy Byzantine coin he used as a

paperweight from one side of his desk to the other.  “If it doesn’t

take too much time, all right.”  How typically Patta was this answer:

having commissioned the investigation, he had simultaneously assured

that any delay would be laid at the feet of someone else.

“Yes, sir,” Brunetti said and got to his feet.  Patta turned his

attention to a thin file on his desk and Brunetti let himself out.

In the small outer office, he found Signorina Elettra at her desk, head

bent over what appeared to be a catalogue.  He looked closer and saw a

double-page spread of computer screens.

She glanced up and smiled.

“Didn’t you just buy one of those?”  he asked, pointing to the screen

to her right.

“Yes, but they’ve just come out with new ones, perfectly flat screens,

as thin as a pizza.  Look,” she said, pointing a scarlet fingernail at

one of the photos in the catalogue.  Though he found her simile

surreal, he had to agree it seemed accurate enough.

He read the first two lines of print and, seeing too many numbers and

initials, to make no mention of a word he thought was ‘gigabytes’ he

sped to the bottom where the price was given.  That’s a month’s

salary,” he said, in astonishment, aware that there was more than a

little disapproval in his tone.

“Closer to two,” she added, ‘if you get the larger LCD screen.”

“Are you really going to order it?”  he asked.

“I’ve no choice, I’m afraid.”


“I’ve already promised this one she began, indicating her all-but-new

computer screen as though it were a bag of old clothing she was asking

the cleaning lady to dispose of, ‘to Vianello.”

Brunetti decided to let it go.  There seems to be some connection

between the Vice-Questore and Dottor Moro/ he began.  “Do you think you

could find out more about that?”

She had returned her attention to the catalogue.  “Nothing easier, sir

she said, and turned a page.

Venice, like every other city in the country, was feeling the

consequences of the government’s refusal to adopt an immigration policy

that was related in any sane way to the realities of immigration. Among

the consequences which did not affect Brunetti directly were the

thousands of illegal immigrants who profited from the easygoing Italian

policy and who then, in possession of Italian documents legitimizing

their presence on the continent, passed to northern countries where

they would be able to work with some protection under the law.  There

was also the resulting irritation on the part of other governments at

the ease with which the Italians washed their hands of the problem by

passing it on to them.

Venice, and Brunetti, had begun to feel the consequences in their own

way: the number of pickpocketings had skyrocketed; shoplifting was a

problem for even the smallest merchants; and no householder any longer

felt that his home was safe from robbery.  Since most of these cases

passed through the Questura, Brunetti registered the increase, but he

felt it lightly, as a person with a mild cold might discover that ins

temperature has increased a degree or two without feeling any real

symptoms.  If this increase in petty crime produced any symptoms for

Brunetti himself, it was in the amount of paperwork he was obliged to

initial and, presumably, read.

It was a period in which there was very little violent crime in the

houses or on the streets of Venice, and so Patta, no doubt feeling

withdrawal symptoms after his name had not appeared in the Gazzettino

for more than a week, ordered Brunetti, and requested Signorina

Elettra, to prepare a report providing statistics which would show the

high clear-up rate of the Venetian police.  The report, he stipulated,

was to show that the perpetrators of most crimes were found and

arrested and that, during the last year, there had been a consequent

decrease in crime within the city.

“But that’s nonsense,” Brunetti said, when Signorina Elettra informed

him of their task.

“No more nonsensical than any other statistic we’re provided with she


His patience short because of the time he knew he’d waste in preparing

this report, he asked curtly, “Like what?”

“Like the statistics about road fatalities,” she said, smiling, patient

in the face of his annoyance.

“What about them?”  he asked, not really interested, yet doubtful that

anything so well documented could be altered.

“If you die a week or more after you’re injured in an accident, you

didn’t die because of the accident,” she said, almost with pride.  “At

least, not statistically.”

“Does that mean the hospitals kill you?”  he asked, aiming towards


“That’s certainly often enough the case, sir,” she said with every

appearance of patience.  “I’m not sure just how they list these deaths,

but they aren’t counted as traffic fatalities.”

Not for an instant did it occur to Brunetti to doubt her.  Her

idea, however, sent his mind tumbling back to the report they had to

prepare.  “Do you think we could use this technique ourselves?”

“You mean, if someone who is murdered takes a week to die, they weren’t

murdered?”  she asked.  “Or if a theft is reported after more than a

week, then nothing was stolen?”  He nodded, and Signorina Elettra

devoted herself to considering the possibility.  Finally she answered,

“I’m sure the Vice-Questore would be delighted, though I’m afraid there

would be certain difficulties if we were questioned about it.”

He drew his imagination away from these angel flights of mathematics

and back to the grim truth of the report they had to write.  “Do you

think we can do it and get the results he wants?”

Her voice grew serious.  “I think what he wants won’t be hard to give

him.  All we have to do is exercise caution about the number of crimes


“What does that mean?”

“That we count only those where people came down here or went to the

Carabinieri to fill out a formal den uncia

“What will that achieve?”

“I’ve told you before, Commissario.  People don’t bother to report

crimes, least of all pick-pocketing or burglary.  So when they phone to

report it but then don’t bother to come down here to fill out the

papers, the crime hasn’t been reported.”  She paused for a moment,

allowing Brunetti, who knew just how Jesuitical her reasoning could be,

to prepare himself for the consequences towards which this must lead

her.  “And if there is no official den uncia which, in a certain sense,

means the act never occurred then I see no reason why we should have to

include them in our calculations.”

“What percentage would you estimate people don’t bother to report?”  he


“I have no way of knowing, sir,” she said.  “After all, it’s

philosophically impossible to prove a negative.”  There

followed another pause, and then she said, “I’d guess a bit more than


“Are or aren’t reported?”  a surprised Brunetti asked.


This time it was Brunetti who paused for a long time before he said,

That’s very lucky for us, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” was her response, then she asked, “Would you like me to take

care of it, sir?  He wants it for the newspapers, and they want to be

able to say that Venice is a happy island, virtually free from crime,

so no one is likely to question my numbers or my accounting.”

“It is, though, isn’t it?”  he asked.

“What, a happy island?”


“In comparison with the rest of the country, yes, I think so.”

“How long do you think it will stay like that?”

Signorina Elettra shrugged.  As Brunetti was turning to leave her

office, she opened her desk drawer and took a few sheets of paper from

it.  “I didn’t forget about Dottor Moro, sir,” she said as she handed

it to him.

He thanked her and left her office.  As he walked up the stairs, he saw

that it explained the reason for Patta’s familiarity with Dr.  Fernando

Moro.  There was nothing unusual: Signora Patta’s mother had been a

patient of Moro’s since he had returned to the practice of medicine.

Signorina Elettra had not managed to provide copies of her medical

records, but she had supplied the dates of her visits to Dottor Moro,

twenty-seven in all during the last two years.  At the bottom,

Signorina Elettra had added, in her own hand: “Breast cancer.”  He

checked the date of the last appointment: little more than two months


As with any superior, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta was often the

subject of speculation among those under his command.  His motives for

action or inertia were usually transparent: power, its maintenance and

aggrandizement.  In

9i the past, however, he had proven capable of great weakness, had even

been deflected from his headlong pursuit of power, but only when he

acted in defence of his family.  Brunetti, though often suspicious of

Patta and usually deeply contemptuous of his motives, felt nothing but

respect for this weakness.

Brunetti had told himself that decency demanded he wait at least two

days before attempting to speak again to either of the boy’s parents.

That time had passed, and he arrived at the Questura that morning with

the intention of interviewing one or both of them.  Dottor Moro’s home

phone was answered by a machine.  The phone at his practice said that,

until further notice, the doctor’s patients would be seen by Doctor D.

Biasi, whose office hours and phone number were given.  Brunetti re

dialled the first number and left his name and his direct number at the

Questura, requesting that the doctor call him.

That left the mother.  Signorina Elettra had provided a brief

biography.  Venetian, like her husband, she had met Moro in liceo, then

both had gone on to the University of Padova, where Moro opted for

medicine, Federica for child psychology.  They married when her studies

were completed but didn’t return to Venice until Moro was offered a

place at the Ospedale Civile, when she had opened a private practice in

the city.

Their legal separation, which took place with unseemly haste after her

accident, had been a surprise to their friends.  They had not divorced,

and neither appeared to be involved with another person.  There was no

evidence that they had contact with one another, and any communication

they had seemed to take place through their lawyers.

Signorina Elettra had clipped the article about Ernesto’s death that

had appeared in La Nuova to the outside of the folder.  He chose not to

read it, though he did read the caption under the photo of the family,

‘in happier times’.

Federica Moro’s smile was the centre of the photo: she stood with her

right arm wrapped around the back of her husband, her head leaning on

his chest, her other hand ruffling her son’s hair.  The photo showed

them on a beach, in shorts and T-shirts, tanned and bursting with

happiness and health; behind them the head of a swimmer bobbed just to

her husband’s right.  The picture must have been taken years ago, for

Ernesto was still a boy, not a young man.  Federica looked away from

the camera, and the other two looked at her, Ernesto’s glance open and

proud, as who would not be proud to have such an attractive woman as a

mother?  Fernando’s look was calmer, yet no less proud.

One of them, Brunetti thought, must just have said something funny, or

perhaps they’d seen something on the beach that made them laugh.  Or

was it the photographer, perhaps, who had been the clown of the moment?

Brunetti was struck by the fact that, of the three of them, Federica

had the shortest hair: boyish, only a few centimetres long.  It stood

in sharp contrast to the fullness of her body and the natural ease with

which she embraced her husband.

Who would dare to publish such a photo, and who could have given it to

the paper, surely knowing how it would be used?  He slipped the

clipping free and stuck it inside the folder.  The same number Signora

Ferro had given him was written on the outside; he dialled, forgetting

what she had told him about letting it ring once and hanging up.

On the fourth ring, a woman’s voice answered, saying only “SIT

“Signora Moro?”  Brunetti asked.


“Signora, this is Commissario Guido Brunetti.  Of the police.  I’d be

very grateful if you would find the time to speak to me.”  He waited

for her to reply, then added, “About your son.”

“Aah,” she said.  Then nothing for a long time.

“Why have you waited?”  she finally asked, and he sensed that having to

ask the question made her angry.

“I didn’t want to intrude on your grief, Signora.”  When she was

silent, he added, “I’m sorry.”

“Do you have children?”  she surprised him by asking.

“Yes, I do.”

“How old?”

“I have a daughter he began, then said the rest quickly, “My son is the

same age as yours.”

“You didn’t say that at the beginning,” she said, sounding surprised

that he should have failed to use such an emotive tool.

Unable to think of anything suitable to say, Brunetti asked “May I come

and speak to you, Signora?”

“Any time you want she said, and he had a vision of days, months,

years, an entire lifetime stretching away from her.

“May I come now?”  he asked.

“It’s all the same, isn’t it?”  she asked; it was a real request for

information, not a sarcastic or self-pitying pose.

“It should take me about twenty minutes to get there he said.

“I’ll be here she replied.

He had located her address on the map and so knew which way to walk. He

could have taken the boat up towards San Marco, but he chose to walk up

the Riva, cutting through the Piazza and in front of the Museo Correr.

He entered Frezzerie and turned left at the first cafe on his left.  It

was the second door on the right, the top bell.  He rang it, and with

no question asked through the intercom, the door snapped open and he

went in.

The entrance hall was damp and dark, though no canal was nearby.  He

climbed to the third floor and found, directly opposite him, an open

door.  He paused, called, “Signora Moro?”  and heard a voice say

something from inside, so he went in and closed the door behind him. He

went down a

narrow corridor with a cheap machine-made carpet on the floor, towards

what seemed to be a source of light.

A door stood open on his right and he stepped inside.  A woman was

sitting in a chair on the other side of the room, and light filtered in

from two curtained windows that stood behind her.  The room smelled of

cigarette smoke and, he thought, mothballs.

“Commissario?”  she asked, raising her face to look in his direction.

“Yes/ he answered.  Thank you for letting me come.”

She waved his words away with her right hand, then returned the

cigarette it held to her mouth and inhaled deeply.  There’s a chair

over there she said, exhaling and pointing to a cane-seated chair that

stood against the wall.

He brought it over and set it facing her, but not very close and a

short distance to one side.  He sat and waited for her to say

something.  He didn’t want to seem to stare at her and so he directed

his attention to the windows, beyond which he saw, just on the other

side of the narrow calle, the windows of another house.  Little light

could get in that way.  He turned his attention back to her and, even

in this strange penumbra, recognized the woman in the photo.  She

looked as though she’d been on a crash diet that had drawn the flesh

tight on her face and honed the bones of her jaw until they were so

sharp that they would soon come slicing through the skin.  The same

process seemed to have pared her body down to the bare essentials of

shoulders, arms, and legs contained in a heavy sweater and dark slacks

that accentuated her body’s frailty.

It became evident that she was not going to speak, was simply going to

sit with him and smoke her cigarette.  “I’d like to ask you some

questions, Signora/ he began, and exploded in a sudden fit of nervous


“Is it the cigarette?”  she asked, turning to the table on her right

and making to put it out.

He raised a reassuring hand.  “No, not at all he gasped but was gripped

by another coughing fit.

She stabbed out the cigarette and got to her feet.  He started to get

to his, doubled over by his coughing, but she waved him back and left

the room.  Brunetti lowered himself into the chair and continued to

cough, tears streaming from his eyes.  In a moment, she was back,

handing him a glass of water.  “Drink it slowly,” she said.  Take small


Still shaking with the attempt to control himself, he took the glass

with a nod of thanks and put it to his lips.  He waited for the spasms

to subside and took a small sip, and then another and another until all

of the water was gone and he could breathe freely again.  Occasionally,

puffs of air rushed from his lungs, but the worst was over.  He leaned

down and set the glass on the floor.  “Thank you,” he said.

“It’s nothing,” she answered, taking her place in the chair opposite

him.  He saw her reach instinctively to the right, towards the pack of

cigarettes that lay on the table, and then lower her hand to her lap.

She looked over at him and asked, “Nerves?”

He smiled.  “I think so, though I don’t think I’m supposed to say


“Why not?”  she asked, sounding interested.

“Because I’m the policeman, and we’re not supposed to be weak or


That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

He nodded, and in that instant recalled that she was a psychologist.

He cleared his throat and asked, “Could we begin again, Signora?”

Her smile was minimal, a ghost of the one on her face in the photo that

still lay on his desk.  “I suppose we have to.  What is it you’d like

to know?”

“I’d like to ask you about your accident, Signora/

Her confusion was visible, and he could understand its

cause.  Her son was recently dead in circumstances that had yet to be

officially determined, and he was asking her about something that had

happened more than two years ago.  “Do you mean in Siena?”  she finally



“Why do you want to know about that?”

“Because no one seemed curious about it at the time.”

She tilted her head to one side as she considered his answer.  “I see

she finally said, then added, “Should they have been?”

That’s what I’m hoping to learn, Signora.”

Silence settled in between them and Brunetti, having no option, sat and

waited to see if she would tell him what had happened.  In the minutes

that passed, she glanced aside at the cigarettes twice, and the second

time he almost told her to go ahead and smoke, that it wouldn’t bother

him, but he said nothing.  As the silence lengthened, he studied the

few objects he could see in the room: her chair, the table, the

curtains at the window.  All spoke of a taste far different from the

casual wealth he had observed in Moro’s home.  There was no attempt to

suit style to style or do anything more than provide furniture that

would meet the most basic needs.

“I’d gone down to our friends on the Friday morning,” she said,

surprising him when she finally began to speak.  “Fernando was supposed

to get there on the last train, at about ten that night.  It was a

beautiful day, late autumn but still very warm, so I decided to go for

a walk in the afternoon.  I was about a half a kilo metre from the

house when I heard a loud noise it could have been a bomb for all I

knew and then I felt a pain in my leg, and I fell down.  It wasn’t as

if anyone had pushed me or anything: I just fell down.”

She glanced across at him, as if to establish whether he could possibly

find any of this interesting.  He nodded and she went on.  “I lay

there, too stunned to do anything.  It didn’t even hurt all that much

then.  I heard noises from the woods

that I had been walking towards.  Well, not really woods, perhaps an

acre or two of trees.  I heard something moving around in there and I

wanted to shout for help, but then I didn’t.  I don’t know why, but I

didn’t.  I just lay there.

“A minute or two must have passed, and then, over from where I’d come

from, two dogs came running toward me, barking their heads off, came

right up to me and started jumping around, barking all the time.  I

shouted at them to shut up.  My leg had started to hurt then, and when

I looked at it, I realized I’d been shot, so I knew I had to do

something.  And then there were these hunting dogs, barking and dancing

around me like crazy things.”

She stopped talking for so long that Brunetti was forced to ask, “What

happened then?”

The hunters came.  The men whose dogs they were, that is.  They saw the

dogs and they saw me on the ground and they thought the dogs had

attacked me, so they came running and when they got to us they started

kicking the dogs away and hitting at them with the ends of their guns,

but the dogs weren’t doing anything.  They probably saved my life,

those dogs.”

She stopped and looked directly at him, as if to ask if he had any

questions, and when he said nothing, she went on, “One of them used his

handkerchief and made a tourniquet, and then they carried me to their

Jeep, which was just at the edge of the woods.  And they took me to the

hospital.  The doctors there are used to this kind of thing: hunters

are always shooting themselves or other hunters down there, it seems.”

She paused and then said softly, “Poor things,” in a voice so filled

with real sympathy that he was struck by how vulgar and cheap his

conversation with Signorina Elettra sounded in comparison.

“Did they ask you at the hospital how it happened, Signora?”

The men who found me told them what had happened, so

all I did, when I came out from surgery, was confirm what they’d


That it was an accident?”  he asked.

“Yes.”  She said the word with no special tone.

“Do you think it was?”  he asked.

Again, there was a long delay before she spoke.  “At the time, I didn’t

think it could have been anything else.  But since then I’ve started to

wonder why whoever it was that shot me didn’t come to see what they’d

done.  If they thought I was some sort of an animal, they would have

come to check that they’d killed me, wouldn’t they?”

That was what had troubled Brunetti ever since he’d first heard the


“And when they heard the dogs and then the other hunters, they would

have come to see what all that was about, if they thought someone else

was going to take the animal they’d killed.”  She let some time pass

and then said, “As I said, I didn’t think about any of this at the


“And what do you think now?”

She started to speak, stopped herself, and then said, “I don’t mean to

be melodramatic, but I have other things to think about now.”

So did Brunetti.  He was wondering if a police report had been filed of

the incident, if the two hunters who found her had noticed anyone in

the area.

Brunetti could no longer keep her from her cigarettes, so he said, “I

have only one more question, Signora.”

She didn’t wait for him to ask it.  “No, Ernesto didn’t kill himself.

I’m his mother, and I know that to be true.  That’s another reason why

I think it wasn’t an accident.”  She prised herself from her chair,

said, “If that was your last question …”  and started towards the

door of the room.  Her limp was slight, the merest favouring of her

right leg when she walked, and as she wore slacks, he had no idea of

the damage that had been done to her leg.

He let her lead him to the door of the apartment.  He thanked her but

didn’t offer his hand.  Outside, it had grown marginally warmer, and as

it was already after noon, Brunetti decided to go directly home for

lunch with his family.

Brunetti arrived before the children did, so he opted to keep Paola

company while she finished preparing the meal.  As she set the table,

he lifted pot lids and opened the oven, comforted to find nothing but

familiar dishes: lentil soup, chicken smothered in red cabbage, and

what looked like radicchio di Treviso.

“Are you bringing all of your detective skills to bear in examining

that chicken?”  Paola asked as she set glasses on the table.

“No, not really,” he said, closing the oven and standing upright.  “My

investigation has to do with the radicchio, Signora, and whether there

are perhaps traces in it of the same pancetta I detected in the lentil


“A nose as good as that,” she said, coming over and placing the tip of

her finger on it, ‘could effectively put an end to crime in this city.”

She lifted the lid from the soup and stirred it round a bit, then said,

“You’re back early.”

“I was over near San Marco and so it didn’t make any sense to go back,”

he said, taking a sip of mineral water.  “I went to

see Signora Moro/ he began, pausing to see if Paola would react.  She

did not, so he went on, “I wanted to talk to her about the hunting


“And?”  Paola prodded.

“Someone shot at her from the woods near her friends’ house, but then

some other hunters came along and took her to the hospital.”

“Are you sure they were other hunters?”  Paola asked, giving evidence

that her native scepticism had been enhanced by more than two decades

of marriage to a policeman.

“It would seem so he said, leaving it at that.

Knowing how reluctant he would be to mention him, Paola asked, “And the


“She said that he didn’t kill himself, and that’s all she said.”

“She’s his mother,” Paola said.  “Believe her.”

“It’s as simple as that?”  Brunetti asked, unable to disguise his own


“Yes, it’s as simple as that.  If anyone knew what he was capable of,

it’s she.”

Unwilling to argue the point, he poured himself another glass of water

and wandered over to stand at the window that looked off to the north.

From behind him, Paola asked, “What’s she like?”

He thought about the woman, remembered her voice, the eyes that took

little interest in seeing him, the paper-thin skin of her neck.

“Reduced/ he finally said.  “She’s not a whole person any more.”  He

thought Paola would ask about this, but she didn’t.  “All I saw was a

photo of her, taken some years ago, with the boy.  And her husband. She

still looks like the same person; I mean, you could recognize her from

the photo, but there’s less of her.”

“That makes sense Paola said, ‘there is less of her.”

He had no idea why he thought Paola would have an answer, but he asked

her anyway, “Will that ever go away, the diminishing?”

It was only then that Brunetti realized that his question would force

Paola to think about the death of her own children because the only way

to answer the question was to put herself in the other woman’s place.

He regretted asking the question as soon as he had spoken.  He had

never had the courage to ask her if she thought about that possibility

and, if so, how often.  Though he had always found it absurd that

parents should worry excessively about the safety of their children,

that is, worry in the absence of any real danger, a day did not pass

but he worried about his own.  The fact that he knew it to be

ridiculous, especially in a city without cars, in no way reduced his

concern or prevented him from counting out the ways the safety of his

children could be imperilled.

Paola’s voice broke into his reverie.  “No, I don’t think the death of

a child is something a person ever recovers from, not fully.”

“Do you think it’s worse because she’s a mother?”  he asked.

She dismissed this with a shake of her head.  “No.  That’s nonsense.”

He was grateful that she chose not to give an example to prove that a

father’s grief could be as deep.

He turned back from looking at the mountains, and their eyes met. “What

do you think happened?”  she asked.

He shook his head, utterly at a loss to make any sense of what had

happened to the Moro family.  “All I have is four events: he writes his

report, though nothing much comes of it except that he’s punished; he

gets elected to Parliament and then leaves before his term in office is

over; his wife is shot just before he resigns; two years later, his son

is found hanged in the bathroom of his school.”

“Does the school mean anything?”  Paola asked.

“Mean anything in what way?  That it’s a military academy?”

That’s the only thing that’s unusual about it, isn’t it?”  she asked.

That and the fact that they spend the winter walking

around the city looking like penguins.  And the rest of the year

looking like they have a bad smell under their noses.”  This was

Paola’s usual description of snobs and their behaviour.  As she had

been born to a conte and conte ssa and had spent her youth surrounded

by wealth and titles and the hangers-on who are drawn to both, he

figured she’d seen her fair share of snobs.

“I always heard it had a good academic record he said.

“Bah/ she exploded, erasing that possibility from the air with a puff

of breath.

“I’m not sure that serves as a conclusive counter argument he said.

“Articulate and well-reasoned as it is.”

Paola turned to face him and put her hands on her hips, looking like an

actress trying out for the role of Angry Woman.  “My counter-argument

might not be conclusive she said, 1?ut I shall do my best to make it


“Oh, I love it when you’re angry like that, Signora Paola/ he said in a

voice he forced up to its highest register.  Her hands fell to her

sides and she laughed.  “Tell me he said, reaching for the bottle of

Pinot Noir that stood on the counter.

“Susanna Arid/ she said, ‘used to teach there, right after she came

back from Rome and was waiting-for a job at a state school.  She

thought that by taking the job she was offered at the Academy, even

though it was only part time, she’d at least have entered the state

system.”  At Brunetti’s questioning glance, she explained, “She thought

it was run by the Army, which would make it a state school.  But it’s

entirely private, not attached to the Army in any official way, though

it seems it somehow manages to receive quite a bit of state funding. So

all she had was a badly paid part-time job.  And then when the

permanent position came up, they didn’t give her the job, anyway.”

“What did she teach, English?”  Brunetti had met Susanna a number of

times.  The youngest sister of a classmate of Paola’s, she had gone to

Urbino to study, then come back to

Venice to teach, where she still was, happily divorced and living with

the father of her second daughter.

“Yes, but for only one year.”

This had been almost ten years ago, so Brunetti asked, “Couldn’t things

have changed since then?”

“I don’t see why anything should have.  Certainly, the public schools

have done nothing but get worse, though I imagine the students have

remained pretty much the same: I don’t see why things in private

schools should be any different.”

Brunetti pulled out his chair and sat.  “All right.  What did she


That most of their parents were terrible snobs and that they passed

this feeling of superiority on to their sons.  To their daughters as

well, for all I know, but as the Academy takes only boys…”  Paola’s

voice trailed off, and for a moment Brunetti wondered if she were going

to use this opportunity to launch into a denunciation of single-sex

schools that received funds from the state.

She came and stood near him, took his glass of wine and sipped at it,

then handed it back to him.  “Don’t worry.  Only one sermon at a time,

my dear.”  Brunetti, unwilling to encourage her, stifled a smile.

“What else did she say?”  he asked.

That they felt entitled to everything they had or their parents had and

that they believed themselves to be members of a special group.”

“Doesn’t everyone?”  Brunetti asked.

“In this case Paola went on, ‘it was more a case that they felt

themselves bound only to the group, to its rules and decisions.”

“Isn’t that what I just said?”  Brunetti asked.  “Certainly we police

feel that way.  Well, some do.”

“Yes, I suppose so.  But you still feel bound by the laws that govern

the rest of us, don’t you?”

“Yes/ Brunetti agreed, but then his conscience, and indeed his

intelligence, forced him to add, “Some of us.”

“Well, what Susanna said was that these boys didn’t.  That is, they

thought that the only rules that governed them were the rules of the

military.  So long as they obeyed them and remained loyal to that

group, they believed they could pretty much do anything else they


Paola studied him as she spoke, and when she saw the attention he gave

to what she said, she went on, “What’s more, she said that the

teachers, most of whom had a military background, did everything they

could to encourage the students to think like this.  They told them to

think of themselves as soldiers first and foremost.”  And then she

smiled, though grimly.  “Just think of the pathos of it: they aren’t

soldiers, aren’t associated with the military in any real way, yet

they’re being taught to think of themselves as warriors, loyal only to

the cult of violence.  It’s disgusting.”

Something that had been nibbling at the edge of his memory finally

broke through.  “Was she there when that girl was raped?”  he asked.

“No, I think that was a year or two after she left.  Why?”

“I’m trying to remember the story.  The girl was the sister of one of

them, wasn’t she?”

“Yes, or a cousin,” Paola said, then shook her head as if that would

better summon the memory.  “All I remember is that the police were

called to the school and at first it looked as if the girl had been

raped.  But then it dropped out of the papers like a stone.”

“It’s strange, but I don’t have a clear memory of it, just that it

happened, but none of the details are clear.”

The think it happened when you were in London on that course,” Paola

suggested.  “I remember thinking, at the time, that I had no way of

knowing what really happened because you weren’t here to tell me, and

the only source of information I had was the newspapers.”

“Yes, that must be it,” he agreed.  “I’m sure there’s something in the

files; there’s got to be, at least the original report.”

“Could you find it?”

“I’m sure Signorina Elettra could.”

“But why bother?”  Paola suddenly countered.  “There’s no surprise

here: rich boys, rich parents, so everything goes suddenly quiet and,

next thing you know, it’s disappeared from the press and, for all I

know, from the public record.”

“I can still ask her to have a look Brunetti said.  Then he asked,

“What else did Susanna say?”

That she never felt comfortable there.  She said there was always an

undercurrent of resentment at the fact that she was a woman.”

“No way she could change that, is there?”  Brunetti asked.

They did the next best thing when they hired her replacement Paola


“Let me guess.  A man?”

“Very much so.”

Speaking carefully, always conscious of when he was about to stumble

over one of Paola’s hobby-horses, he asked, “It couldn’t be a bit of

reverse sexism I’m detecting here, could it?”

Paola’s look was fierce, but then it disappeared, replaced by a

tolerant smile.  “According to Susanna, he spoke English about as well

as the average Parisian taxi driver, but he’d been to the Naval Academy

in Livorno, so it didn’t matter how well he spoke it.  For that fact,

it probably didn’t matter if he spoke it at all.  You know the place is

just a finishing school for those boys before they step into their

fathers’ shoes in the Army or into whatever businesses they run, and

it’s not as if the Army’s an institution that makes serious

intellectual demands on anyone.”  Before Brunetti could question this,

Paola said, “But, yes, it might be that she exaggerated.  Susanna does

tend to see sexism where it doesn’t exist.”

When he got his breath back, Brunetti asked, “You remember her saying

all of this at the time?”

“Of course.  I was one of the people who recommended her for the job,

so when they let her go, she told me.  Why do you ask?”

“I wondered if you’ve talked to her since this happened.”

“You mean the boy?”


“No, we haven’t spoken in, oh, at least six months.  But I remember it,

probably because it confirms everything I’ve ever thought about the

military.  They have the morals of pit vipers.  They’ll do anything to

cover up for one another: lie, cheat, commit perjury.  Just look what

happened when those Americans flew into the cable car.  You think any

of them told the truth?  I haven’t noticed any of them going to jail.

How many people did they kill?  Twenty?  Thirty?”  She made a noise of

disgust, poured herself a small glass of wine, but left it untouched on

the counter as she went on.  They’ll do anything they want to anyone

who isn’t a member of the group, and the instant the public begins to

ask questions, they all clam up and talk about honour and loyalty and

all that other noble shit.  It’s enough to make a’ pig vomit.”  She

stopped talking and closed her eyes, then opened them enough to see her

glass of wine and pick it up.  She took a small sip, and then a larger

one.  Suddenly she smiled.  “End of sermon.”

Brunetti had, in his youth, done eighteen months of undistinguished

military service, most of it spent hiking in the mountains with his

fellow Alpini.  His memories, and he admitted that they had acquired

the golden patina of age, were chiefly of a sense of unity and

belonging entirely different from those his family had given him.  As

he cast his mind back, the image that came through with greatest

clarity was of a dinner of cheese, bread and salami, eaten in company

with four other boys in a freezing mountain hut in

Alto Adige, after which they had drunk two bottles of grappa and sung

marching songs.  He had never told Paola about this evening, not

because he was ashamed of how drunk they had all got, but because the

memory could still fill him with such simple joy.  He had no idea where

the other boys men now had gone or what they had done after finishing

their military service, but he knew that some sort of bond had been

forged in the cold of that mountain hut and that he would never

experience anything like it again.

He pulled his mind back to the present and to his wife.  “You’ve always

hated the military, haven’t you?”

Her response was instant.  “Give me one reason not to.”

Certain that she would dismiss his memory as the worst sort of male

bonding ritual, Brunetti found himself with precious little to say.

“Discipline?”  he asked.

“Have you ever ridden on a train with a bunch of them?”  Paola asked,

then repeated his answer with a little puff of contempt.


“It gets them away from their mothers.”

She laughed.  That’s perhaps the only certain good thing it does.

Unfortunately, after they have their eighteen months, they all come

back home to roost.”

“Is that what you think Raffi will do?”  he asked.

“If I have any say,” she began, causing Brunetti to wonder when she had

not, ‘he won’t do military service.  It would be better for him to go

to Australia and spend eighteen months hitchhiking around the country

and working as a dishwasher.  He’d certainly learn more by doing that,

or by opting to do his service as a volunteer in a hospital,


“You’d actually let him go off to Australia by himself?  For eighteen

months?  To wash dishes?”

Paola looked at him and, at the expression of real astonishment she

read on his face, she smiled.  “What do you think I am, Guido, the

mother of the Gracchi, that I must forever hold my children to my bosom

as though they were

my only jewels?  Tt wouldn’t be easy to see him go, no, not at all, but

I think it would do him a world of good to go off and be independent.”

When Brunetti remained silent, she said, “At least it would teach him

how to make his own bed.”

“He does that already a literal-minded Brunetti answered.

“I mean in the larger sense,” Paola explained.  “It would give him some

idea that life is not only this tiny city with its tiny prejudices, and

it might give him some idea that work is what you do if you want


“As opposed to asking your parents?”

“Exactly.  Or your grandparents.”

It was rare for Brunetti to hear Paola make a criticism, however

veiled, of her parents, and so he was curious to follow this up.  “Was

it too easy for you?  Growing up, I mean.”

“No more than it was too hard for you, my dear.”

Not at all sure what she meant by that, Brunetti was about to ask, when

the door to the apartment flew open and Chiara and Raffi catapulted

into the corridor.  He and Paola exchanged a glance, and then a smile,

and then it was time to eat.


As often happened, Brunetti was immeasurably cheered by having lunch at

home in the company of his family.  He was never certain if his

response was different from that of an animal returned to its den:

safe, warmed by the heat of the bodies of its young, slavering over the

fresh kill it had dragged home.  Whatever the cause, the experience

gave him fresh heart and sent him back to work feeling restored and

eager to resume the hunt.

The imagery of violence dropped away from him when he entered Signorina

Elettra’s office and found her at her desk, head bowed over some papers

on her desk, chin propped in one hand, utterly relaxed and comfortable.

“I’m not interrupting you, am I?”  he asked, seeing the seal of the

Ministry of the Interior on the documents and below it the red stripe

indicating that the material it contained was classified.

“No, not at all, Commissario/ she said, casually slipping the papers

inside a file and thus arousing Brunetti’s interest.

“Could you do something for me?”  he asked, his eyes on

hers; he was careful to avoid lowering them to the label on the front

of the file.

“Of course, sir she said, slipping the file into her top drawer and

pulling a notepad over in front of her.  “What is it?”  she asked, pen

in hand, smile bright.

“In the files for the Academy, is there anything about a girl who had

been raped?”

Her pen clattered to the desk, and the smile disappeared from her lips.

Her entire body pulled back from him in surprise, but she said


“Are you all right, Signorina?”  he asked, with concern.

She looked down at the pen, picked it up, made quite a business of

replacing the cap and removing it again, then looked up at him and

smiled.  “Of course, sir.”  She looked at the pad, pulled it closer to

her, and poised her pen over it.  “What was her name, sir?  And when

did it happen?”

“I don’t know,” Brunetti began.  “That is, I’m not even sure it

happened.  It must have been about eight years ago; I think it was when

I was at a police seminar in London.  It happened at the San Martino.

The original report was that the girl had been raped, I think by more

than one of them.  But then no charges were pressed, and the story


“Then what is it you’d like me to look for, sir?”

“I’m not sure,” Brunetti answered.  “Any sign of something that might

have happened, who the girl was, why the story disappeared.  Anything

at all you can find out about it.”

She seemed to be a long time writing all of this down, but he waited

until she was finished.  Pen still in her hand, she asked, “If charges

weren’t pressed, then it’s not likely we’ll have anything here, is


“No, it isn’t.  But I’m hoping that there might be some report of the

original complaint.”

“And if there isn’t?”

Brunetti was puzzled to find her so hesitant about

following up an investigation.  Then perhaps the newspapers.  Once you

have the date, that is he said.

Till have a look at your personnel file, sir, and find the dates when

you were in London/ she said, then looked up from her notebook, face


“Yes, yes he said, then, lamely, Till be in my office

As he went upstairs, he reconsidered what Paola had said about the

military, trying to figure out why he couldn’t bring himself to condemn

them as universally or as strongly as she did.  Part of it, he knew,

was because of his own experience under arms, however brief it had

been, and the lingering fondness he felt for that period of unexamined

comradeship.  Perhaps it was nothing more elevated than the instinct of

the pack, gathered round the kill, retelling stories of that day’s hunt

while great gobbets of fat dripped into the fire.  But if memory was to

be trusted, his loyalty had been to his immediate group of friends and

not to some abstract ideal of corps or regiment.

His reading in history had given him many examples of soldiers who died

in proud defence of the regimental flag or while performing remarkable

acts of heroism to save the perceived honour of the group, but these

actions had always seemed wasteful and faintly stupid to Brunetti.

Certainly, reading accounts of the actual events or even the words of

the decorations bestowed, too often posthumously, upon these brave

young men, Brunetti had felt his heart stir in response to the nobility

of their behaviour, but the antiphon of pragmatic good sense had always

rung out in the background, reminding him that, in the end, these were

boys who threw their lives away in order to protect what was nothing

more than a piece of cloth.  Bold, certainly, and brave, but also

foolish to the point of idiocy.

He found his desk covered with reports of one sort or another, the

detritus of several days’ lack of attention.  He wrapped himself in the

cloak of duty and, for the next two

hours, engaged himself in behaviour as futile as any he thought to

criticize on the part of those valiant young men.  As he read through

accounts of arrests for burglary, pick pocketing, and the various types

of fraud currently practised on the streets of the city, he was struck

by how often the names of the people arrested were foreign and by how

often their age exempted them from punishment.  These facts left him

untroubled: it was the thought that each of these arrests guaranteed

another vote for the Right that disturbed him.  Years ago, he had read

a short story, he thought by some American, which ended with the

revelation of an endless chain of sinners marching towards heaven along

a broad arc in the sky.  He sometimes thought the same chain of sinners

marched slowly through the skies of Italian politics, though hardly

toward paradise.

Stupefied by the boredom of the task, he heard his name called from the

door and looked up to see Pucetti.

“Yes, Pucetti?”  he said, beckoning the young officer into his office.

“Have a seat.”  Glad of the excuse to set the papers aside, he turned

his attention to the young policeman.  “What is it?”  he asked, struck

by how young he looked in his crisp uniform, far too young to have any

right to carry the gun at his side, far too innocent to have any idea

of how to use it.

“It’s about the Moro boy, sir,” Pucetti said.  “I came to see you

yesterday, sir, but you weren’t here.”

It was close to a reproach, something Brunetti was not used to hearing

from Pucetti.  Resentment flared in Brunetti that the young officer

should dare to take this tone with him.  He fought down the impulse to

explain to Pucetti that he had decided there was no need for haste.  If

it was generally believed the police were treating Moro’s death as

suicide, people might be more willing to speak about the boy openly;

besides, he had no need to justify his decisions to this boy.  He

waited longer than he usually would, then asked simply, What about


“You remember the time we were there, talking to the cadets?”  Pucetti

asked, and Brunetti was tempted to ask it the younger man thought he

had arrived at an age where his memory needed to be prodded in order to


“Yes,” Brunetti limited himself to saying.

“It’s very strange, sir.  When we went back to talk to them again, it

was as if some of them didn’t even know he had been in the same school

with them.  Most of the ones I talked to told me they didn’t know him

very well.  I spoke to the boy who found him, Pellegrini, but he didn’t

know anything.  He was drunk the night before, said he went to bed

about midnight.”  Even before Brunetti could ask, Pucetti supplied the

information: “Yes, he’d been at a party at a friend’s house, in

Dorsoduro.  I asked him how he’d got in, and he said he had a key to

the port one  He said he paid the portiere twenty Euros for it, and the

way he said it, it sounded like anyone who wants one can buy one.”  He

waited to see if Brunetti had any questions about this, but then

continued, “I asked his roommate, and he said it was true, that

Pellegrini woke him up when he came in.  Pellegrini said he got up

about six to get some water and that’s when he saw Moro.”

“He wasn’t the one who called, though, was he?”

“Called us, you mean, sir?”


“No.  It was one of the janitors.  He said he’d just got there for work

and heard a commotion in the bathroom, and when he saw what had

happened, he called.”

“More than an hour after Pellegrini found the body,” Brunetti said


When Pucetti made no response, Brunetti said, “What else?  Go on.  What

did they say about Moro?”

“It’s in here, sir,” he said, placing a file on Brunetti’s desk.  He

paused, weighing what to say next.  “I know this sounds strange, sir,

but it seemed like most of them really didn’t care about it.  Not the

way we would, or a person would, if


something like this happened to someone you knew, or you worked with.”

He gave this some more thought and added, “It was creepy, sort of, the

way they talked as if they didn’t know him.  But they all live there

together, and take classes together.  How could they not know him?”

Hearing his voice rise, Pucetti forced himself to calm down.  “Anyway,

one of them told me that he’d had a class with Moro a couple of days

before, and they’d studied together that night and the following day.

Getting ready for an exam.”

“When was the exam?”

“The day after.”

“The day after what?  That he died?”

“Yes, sir.”

Brunetti’s conclusion was instant, but he asked Pucetti, “How does that

seem to you?”

It was obvious that the young officer had prepared himself for the

question, for his answer was immediate.  “People kill themselves, well,

at least it seems to me, that they’d do it after an exam, at least

they’d wait to see how badly they’d done in it, and then maybe they’d

do it.  At least that’s what I’d do he said, then added, ‘not that I’d

kill myself over a stupid exam.”

“What would you kill yourself over?”  Brunetti asked.

Owl-like, Pucetti stared across at his commander.  “Oh, I don’t think

over anything, sir.  Would you?”

Brunetti shook the idea away.  “No, I don’t think so.  But I suppose

you never know.”  He had friends who were killing themselves with

stress or cigarettes or alcohol, and some of his friends had children

who were killing themselves with drugs, but he could think of no one he

knew, at least not in this instant, whom he thought capable of suicide.

But perhaps that’s why suicide fell like lightning: it was always the

most unexpected people who did it.

His attention swung back to Pucetti only at the end of what he was

saying.”… about going skiing this winter.”

The Moro boy?”  Brunetti asked to disguise the fact that his attention

had drifted away.

“Yes, sir.  And this kid said Moro was looking forward to it, really

loved to ski.”  He paused to see if his superior would comment, but

when he did not, Pucetti went on, “He seemed upset, sir.”

“Who?  This boy?”



Pucetti gave him a startled glance, puzzled that Brunetti hadn’t

figured this out yet.  “Because if he didn’t kill himself, then someone

else did.”

At the look of pleased satisfaction on Brunetti’s face as he heard him

explain this, Pucetti began to suspect, not without a twinge of

embarrassment, that perhaps his superior had figured it out.

In the days that followed, Brunetti’s thoughts were distracted from the

Moro family and its griefs and directed towards the Casino.  The

police, this time, were not asked to investigate the frequent and

refined forms of peculation practised by guests and croupiers, but the

accusations brought against the casino’s administration for having

enriched itself at public expense.  Brunetti was one of the few

Venetians who bothered to remember that the Casino belonged to the

city; hence he realized that any theft or embezzlement of Casino

earnings came directly from the funds earmarked for the aid of orphans

and widows.  That people who spent their lives among gamblers and

card-sharks should steal was no surprise to Brunetti: it was only their

boldness that occasionally astonished him, for it seemed that all of

the ancillary services offered by the Casino banquets, private parties,

even the bars had quietly been turned over to a company that turned out

to be run by the brother of the director.

Since detectives had to be brought in from other cities so as

not to be detected as they presented themselves at the Casino in the

role of gamblers, and employees had to be found who would be willing to

testify against their employers and colleagues, the investigation had

so far been a slow and complicated one.  Brunetti found himself

involved in it at the expense of other cases, including that of Ernesto

Moro, where the evidence continued to pile up in support of a judgment

of suicide: the crime lab’s report on the shower stall and the boy’s

room contained nothing that could be used to justify suspicions about

his death, and none of the statements of students or teachers suggested

anything at variance with the view that it was suicide.  Brunetti,

though unpersuaded by the absence of credible evidence in support of

his own view, recalled occasions in the past when his impatience had

proven harmful to investigations.  Patience, then, patience and calm

would be his watchwords.

The magistrate appointed to the investigation of the Casino was on the

point of issuing warrants for the arrest of the entire directorate when

the mayor’s office put out a statement announcing the transfer of the

director of the Casino to another position in the city administration,

as well as the promotion of his chief assistants to places high in

other city services.  Further, the two leading witnesses found

themselves promoted to positions of importance within the reorganized

Casino, whereupon both began to realize that their previous

interpretation of events must have been mistaken.  Their case in

rubble, the police backed away from the gorgeous palazzo on the Canal

Grande, and the visiting detectives were sent home.

These events resulted in a late-morning summons from Patta, who

chastised Brunetti for what he considered an overaggressive attitude

toward the Casino administration.  Because Brunetti had at no time felt

more than mild disapproval of the behaviour of the suspects always

taking a broad-minded view of crimes against property Patta’s

heated words fell upon him with no more effect than spring rainfall

upon sodden earth.

It was when his superior turned his attention to the Moro family that

he found himself attending to what Patta was saying.  “Lieutenant

Scarpa has told me that the boy was considered unstable, and so there’s

no further need to drag our heels on this.  I think it’s time we closed

the case.”

“By whom, sir?”  Brunetti inquired politely.


“By whom?  Who was it that thought he was unstable?”  It was evident

from Patta’s response that he had not thought it necessary to ask this

question: Scarpa’s assertion would more than suffice by way of proof.

“His teachers, I imagine.  People at the school.  His friends.  Whoever

the lieutenant talked to,” Patta shot off in a quick list.  “Why do you


“Curiosity, sir.  I didn’t know the lieutenant was interested in the


“I didn’t say he was interested Patta said, making no attempt to

disguise his disapproval at this latest evidence of Brunetti’s

inability though Patta suspected it was his refusal to do what every

good policeman should do: realize when a suggestion was really an

order.  He took a long breath.  “Whoever it was he talked to, they said

that the boy was clearly unstable, and so it’s even more likely that it

was suicide.”

That’s certainly what the autopsy indicated Brunetti affirmed mildly.

“Yes, I know.”  Before Brunetti could ask, Patta went on, “I haven’t

had time to read it carefully, but the overview is certainly consistent

with suicide.”

There was no doubt in Brunetti’s mind as to the author of this

overview; what was in doubt was why Lieutenant Scarpa should take an

interest in a case in which he was not involved.

“Has he had anything else to say about this?”  Brunetti asked, trying

his best to sound only mildly interested.

“No.  Why?”

“Oh, merely that if the lieutenant is so convinced, then we can inform

the boy’s parents that the investigation is closed.”

“You’ve already spoken to them, haven’t you?”

“Some days ago, yes.  But if you remember, sir, you asked me to be sure

that no doubt could be cast on our conclusions so the father would have

no reason to complain about our work, given that he’s already created a

great deal of trouble for other agencies of the state.”

“You mean his report?”  Patta asked.

“Yes, sir.  I was of the understanding that you wanted to be certain he

would have no grounds to launch a similar investigation of our handling

of his son’s death.”  Brunetti paused a moment to assess the effect of

this, and when he saw the first signs of Patta’s uneasiness, he drove

in another nail.  “He seems to be someone who has earned the trust of

the public, so any complaint he might make would probably be picked up

by the press.”  He allowed himself a small, dismissive shrug.  “But if

Lieutenant Scarpa is satisfied that there’s enough evidence to prove to

the parents that it was suicide, then there’s certainly no reason for

me to continue working on it.”  Slapping his hands on his thighs,

Brunetti pushed himself to his feet, eager to go off in pursuit of some

new project, now that the Moro case had so neatly been settled by his

colleague, Lieutenant Scarpa.

“Well,” Patta said, drawing the word out, ‘perhaps it’s hasty to think

that things are as conclusive as Lieutenant Scarpa would like to


“I’m not sure I understand you, sir,” Brunetti lied, unwilling to let

Patta off so easily and wondering to what lengths he would go to

distance himself from Scarpa’s eagerness to settle matters.  Patta said

nothing, and so an emboldened Brunetti asked, “Is there some question

about these people?

These witnesses?”  By a remarkable exercise of restraint, Brunetti kept

all hint of sarcasm from the last word.  Still Patta | said nothing,

and so Brunetti asked, “What, exactly, did he tell you, sir?”  I

Patta waved Brunetti to his seat again and contented himself with

leaning back in his chair, and holding his chin with one hand no doubt

a non-threatening posture learned at a management seminar as a means to

create solidarity with an inferior.  He smiled, rubbed briefly at his

left temple, then smiled again.  “I think the lieutenant might be too

eager to bring closure to the boy’s parents.”  Surely, this was a word

that had its origin in the same seminar.  “That is, it was rumoured at

the school that Moro was not his normal self during the days before his

death.  Upon sober reflection, it occurs to me that the lieutenant

might have been hasty to interpret this as proof of suicide,” Patta

ventured, then added quickly, ‘though I’m sure he’s right.”

“Did these boys say how he was behaving?”  Before Patta could answer

the question, Brunetti asked a second, “And who were these boys?”

“I’m not sure he said,” Patta answered.

“Surely it’s in his report,” Brunetti said, leaning forward minimally

as though expecting Patta to satisfy him by producing the lieutenant’s

written report.

“He gave his report orally

“So he didn’t mention any names?”  Brunetti asked.

“Not that I recall, no,” Patta said.

“Do you know if he subsequently submitted a written report?”

“No, but I doubt he’d consider that necessary, not after having spoken

to me,” Patta said.

“Of course.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Patta demanded, swiftly returning to

his usual manner.

Brunetti’s smile was bland.  “Only that he would have

thought he had done his duty by reporting to his superior.”  He allowed

a long pause to extend beyond this, then changed his expression to one

he’d seen used by a tenor singing the Simpleton in Boris Godunov, “What

should we do now, sir?”

For a moment, he feared he’d gone too far, but Patta’s response

suggested he had not.  “I think it might be wise to speak to the

parents again,” Patta began, ‘to see if they’re willing to accept the

judgment that it was suicide.”  There were still times when Patta’s

honesty was breathtaking, so absolute was his lack of interest in the


Brunetti offered, “Perhaps the lieutenant should go and speak to them,

sir?  ‘

That caught Patta’s attention.  “No, it might be better if you went.

After all, you’ve already spoken to them, and I imagine they thought

you were sympathetic.”  Never had that quality sounded so much like a

character defect as when Patta used it in reference to Brunetti.  Patta

considered further.  “Yes, do it that way.  Go and talk to them and see

how they feel.  You’ll know how to handle it.  Once they’ve accepted

that it was suicide, we can close the case.”

“And turn our attention back to the Casino?”  Brunetti could not

prevent himself from asking.

The coolness of Patta’s glance not only lowered the temperature of the

room; it removed Brunetti to a greater distance.  “I think the city has

proven itself capable of attending to that problem,” Patta pronounced,

forcing Brunetti, not for the first time, to suspect that his superior

might not be as dull as he’d always found it convenient to believe


Upstairs, he pushed papers around on his desk until he found the thin

file which contained the papers generated by the death of Ernesto Moro.

He dialled the father’s number, and after six rings, a man’s voice

answered with the surname.

“Dottor Moro,” Brunetti said, ‘this is Commissario Brunetti.  I’d like

to speak to you again, if possible.”  Moro did not

answer, so Brunetti said into the silence, “Could you tell me a time

that’s> convenient for you?”

He heard the other man sigh.  “I told you I had nothing further to say

to you, Commissario.”  His voice was calm, entirely without


“I know that, Dottore, and I apologize for disturbing you, but I need

to speak to you again.”


“I think so.”

“We need very little in this life, Commissario.  Have you ever

considered that?”  Moro asked, quite as if he were prepared to spend

the rest of the afternoon discussing the question.

“Often, sir.  And I agree.”

“Have you read Ivan Ilych?”  Moro surprised him by asking.

The writer or the short story, Dottore?”

Brunetti’s response must have surprised Moro in turn, for there

followed a long silence before the doctor answered, The short story.”

“Yes.  Often.”

Again, the doctor sighed, after which the line lay silent for almost a

minute.  “Come at four, Commissario/ Moro said and hung up.

Though reluctant to face both of Ernesto’s parents on the same day,

Brunetti still forced himself to phone Signora Moro.  He let the phone

ring once, cut the connection, then pressed the “Redial’ button, filled

with relief when the phone rang on unanswered.  He had made no attempt

to keep a check on the whereabouts of either parent.  For all he knew,

she could have left the city any time after the boy’s funeral two days

ago; left the city, left the country, left everything behind save her


He knew that such thoughts would take him nowhere, and so he returned

his attention to the papers on his desk.

The man who let Brunetti into the Moro apartment at four

that afternoon might well have been the doctor’s older brother, if such

a brother were afflicted with some wasting disease.  The worst signs

were to be found in his eyes, which seemed covered with a thin film of

opaque liquid.  The whites had taken on the tinge of ivory often seen

in people of advanced age, and inverted dark triangles had settled

under both eyes.  The fine nose had become a beak, and the thick column

of his neck was now a trunk held upright by tendons that pulled the

skin away from the muscle.  To disguise his shock at the change in the

man, Brunetti lowered his gaze to the floor.  But when he noticed that

the cuffs of the doctor’s trousers hung limply over the backs of his

shoes and dragged on the floor, he raised his eyes and looked directly

at the doctor, who turned away and led him into the sitting room.

“Yes, Commissario?  What is it you’ve come to say?”  Moro asked in a

voice of unwavering politeness when they were seated opposite one


Either his cousin had come frequently or someone else was seeing that

the apartment was kept clean.  The parquet glistened, the rugs lay in

geometrical regularity, three Murano vases held enormous sprays of

flowers.  Death had made no inroads into the evident prosperity of the

family, though Moro might as well have been living in the atrium of a

bank for all the attention he paid to his surroundings.

“I think this has put you beyond lies, Dottore,” Brunetti said


Moro displayed no sign that he found Brunetti’s words at all unusual.

“You might say that,” he answered.

“I’ve thought a great deal about our last meeting,” Brunetti said,

hoping to establish some connection with the man.

“I don’t remember it,” Moro said, neither smiling nor frowning at the


“I tried to talk to you about your son.”

“That’s understandable, Commissario, as he had just died, and you

seemed to be in charge of investigating his death.”

Brunetti hunted, but hunted in vain, for sarcasm or anger in the

doctor’s tone.  I’ve thought about him a great deal Brunetti


“And I think of nothing but my son Moro said coolly.

“Is there anything among your thoughts that you can tell me?”  Brunetti

asked, and then amended his question by adding, ‘or will tell me?”

“Of what interest could my thoughts be to you, Commissario?”  the

doctor asked.  As Moro talked, Brunetti observed that his right hand

never stopped moving, as his thumb and middle finger kept rubbing

against one another, busy rolling some invisible object between them.

“As I said, Dottore, I think you must be beyond lies now, so I won’t

hide from you the fact that I don’t think your son killed himself.”

Moro’s gaze drifted away from Brunetti for a moment and then returned

to him.  “Lies aren’t the only thing I’m beyond, Commissario.”

“What does that mean?”  Brunetti asked with conscious politeness.

That I have little interest in the future.”

“Your own?”

“My own or, for that fact, anyone else’s.”

“Your wife’s?”  Brunetti asked, ashamed of himself for doing so.

Moro blinked twice, appeared to consider Brunetti’s question, and then

answered, “My wife and I are separated.”

“Your daughter, then?”  Brunetti said, recalling a reference to the

child in one of the articles he had read about Moro.

“She’s in her mother’s care Moro said with every evidence of


Brunetti wanted to say that he was still the girl’s father, but he

couldn’t bring himself to do so.  Instead, he contented himself with

saying, “That’s a legal situation, a separation.”

It took Moro a long time to answer.  Finally he said, “I’m not sure I

understand you

Until now Brunetti had paid little attention to their words, allowing

his consciousness to move ahead as if on automatic pilot.  His mind

detached from meaning, he paid closer attention to Moro’s tone and

gestures, the way he sat and the pitch of his voice.  Brunetti sensed

that the man had moved to some place distant from pain, almost as if

his heart had been put in protective custody and his mind had been left

behind to answer questions.  But there remained, as well, an enormous

sense of fear; not fear of Brunetti but of saying something that might

reveal what lay behind the facade of calm restraint.

Brunetti decided to answer what the doctor clearly intended as a

question.  “I’ve spoken to your wife, sir, and she voices no rancour

towards you.”

“Did you expect her to?”

“In the situation, yes, I think it would be understandable if she did.

That way, she could somehow hold you responsible for what happened to

your son.  Presumably it was your decision that he attend the


Moro shot him a stunned glance, opened his mouth as if to speak in his

own defence, but stopped himself and said nothing.  Brunetti averted

his eyes from the other man’s anger, and when he looked back, Moro’s

face was empty of feeling.

For a long time, Brunetti could think of nothing to say until at last

he spoke entirely without thinking.  “I’d like you to trust me,


After a long time, Moro said, voice tired, “And I’d like to trust you,

Commissario.  But I do not and will not.”  He saw Brunetti preparing to

object and quickly went on, “It’s not because you don’t seem like a

perfectly honest man but because I have learned to trust no one.”

Brunetti tried to speak again, and this time Moro held up a hand to

stop him.

“Further, you represent a state I perceive as both criminal and

negligent, and that is enough to exclude you, absolutely, from my


The words, at first, offended Brunetti and roused in him a desire to

defend himself and his honour, but in the stillness that fell after

Moro stopped talking, he realized that the doctor’s words had nothing

at all to do with him personally: Moro saw him as contaminated simply

because he worked for the state.  Brunetti realized he had too much

sympathy for that position to attempt to argue against it.

Brunetti got to his feet, but he did so tiredly, with none of the faked

energy he had devoted to the same gesture when talking to Patta.  “If

you decide you can talk to me, Dottore, please call me.”

“Of course,” the doctor said with the pretence of politeness.  Moro

pushed himself from his own chair, led Brunetti to the door, and let

him out of the apartment.

Outside, he reached for his telefonino, only to realize he’d left it in

the office or at home in another jacket.  He resisted the siren song

whispering to him that it was futile to call Signora Moro this late in

the afternoon, that she wouldn’t talk to him.  He resisted it, at any

rate, long enough to make two unsuccessful attempts to call her from

public phones.  The first, one of the new, aerodynamic silver phones

that had replaced the reliable ugly oranges ones, refused to accept his

plastic phone card, and the second rejected his attempts with a

repeated mechanical bleat in place of a dialling tone.  He yanked the

card from the phone, slipped it back in his wallet and, feeling

justified that he had at least made the effort, decided to go back to

the Questura for what little remained of the working day.

As he stood in the gondola traghetto that ran between the Salute and

San Marco, his Venetian knees adjusted automatically to the thrust and

counter-thrust between the strokes of the gondolieri’s oars and the

waves of the incoming tide.  He looked ahead as they made their slow

passage across

the Canal Grande, struck by just how jaded a person could become: ahead

of him lay Palaz/o Ducale, and behind it popped up the gleaming domes

of the Basilica di San Marco: Brunetti stared as though they were

nothing more than the painted backdrop in a dull, provincial production

of Otello.  How had he got to the point where he could look on such

beauty and not be shaken?  Accompanied by the dull squeal of the oars,

he followed this train of thought and asked himself how, equally, he

could sit across from Paola at a meal and not want to run his hands

across her breasts or how he could see his children sitting side by

side on the sofa, doing something stupid like watching television, and

not feel his bowels churn with terror at the many dangers that would

beset their lives.

The gondola glided in to the landing, and he stepped up on to the dock,

telling himself to leave his stupid preoccupations in the boat.  Long

experience had taught him that his sense of wonder was still intact and

would return, bringing back with it an almost painful awareness of the

beauty that surrounded him at every turn.

A beautiful woman of his acquaintance had, years ago, attempted to

convince him that her beauty was in some ways a curse because it was

all that anyone cared about, to the almost total exclusion of any other

quality she might possess.  At the time, he had dismissed it as an

attempt to win compliments, which he was more than willing to give, but

now perhaps he understood what she meant, at least in relation to the

city.  No one really cared what happened to her how else explain her

successive recent governments?  just so long as they could profit from

and be seen in the reflection of her beauty, at least for as long as

that beauty lasted.

At the Questura, he went up to Signorina Elettra’s office, where he

found her reading that day’s Gazzettino.  She smiled at his arrival and

pointed at the lead story.  The Americans’ Appointed President seems to

want to eliminate all

restrictions on the burning of carbon-based fuels she said, then read

him the headline: “a slap in the face for the


“Sounds like something he’d do Brunetti said, not interested in

continuing the discussion and wondering if Signorina Elettra had been

converted to Vianello’s passionate ecological views.

She looked up at him, then back to the paper.  “And this: “venice


“What?”  Brunetti demanded, taken aback by headline and with no idea of

what it referred to.

“Well, if the temperature rises, then the ice-caps will melt, and then

the seas will rise, and there goes Venice.”  She sounded remarkably

calm about it.

“And Bangladesh, as well, one might observe Brunetti added.

“Of course.  I wonder if the Appointed President has considered the


“I don’t think that’s in his powers, considering consequences Brunetti

observed.  It was his custom to avoid political discussions with the

people with whom he worked; he was uncertain whether foreign politics

were included under that ban.

“Probably not.  Besides, all the refugees will end up here, not


“What refugees?”  Brunetti asked, not clear where the conversation was


“From Bangladesh.  If the country is flooded and finds itself

permanently under water, the people certainly aren’t going to remain

there and agree to drown so that they don’t inconvenience anyone.

They’ll have to migrate somewhere, and as there’s little chance they’ll

be allowed to go east, they’ll end up here.”

“Isn’t your geography a bit imaginative here, Signorina?”

“I don’t mean they, the Bangladeshis, will come here, but

the people they displace will move west, and the ones they displace

will end up here, or the ones That they in then turn displace will.”

She looked up, confused at his slowness in understanding.  “You’ve read

history, haven’t you, sir?”  At his nod, she concluded, Then you know

that this is what happens.”

“Perhaps,” Brunetti said, his scepticism audible.

“We’ll see,” she said mildly and folded the paper closed.  “What can I

do for you, sir?”

“I spoke to the Vice-Questore this morning, and he seemed reluctant to

put his entire faith in Lieutenant Scarpa’s opinion that the Moro boy

killed himself.”

“Is he afraid of a Moro Report on the police?”  she asked, grasping at

once what Patta himself probably refused to admit.

“More than likely.  At any rate, he wants us to exclude all other

possibilities before he closes the case.”

There’s only one other possibility, isn’t there?”


“What do you think?”  She shoved the paper aside on her desk and leaned

slightly forward, her body giving evidence of the curiosity she managed

to keep out of her voice.

“I can’t believe he committed suicide.”

She agreed.  “It doesn’t make sense that a boy that young would leave

his family behind.”

“Kids don’t always have their parents’ feelings in mind when they

decide to do something,” Brunetti temporized, unsure why he did so;

perhaps to muster the arguments he knew would be presented against his

own opinion.

“I know that.  But there’s the little sister,” she said.  “You’d think

he’d give her some thought.  But maybe you’re right.”

“How old is she?”  Brunetti asked, intrigued by this mystery child in

whom both parents had displayed so little interest.

There was something about her in one of the articles about

the family, or perhaps someone I know said something about her,

Sigiiorma Eiettra answered, Everyone s talking about them now.”  She

closed her eyes, trying to remember.  She tilted her head to one side,

and he imagined her scrolling through the banks of information in her

mind.  Finally she said, “It must be something I read because I don’t

have any emotional memory of having heard it, and I’d have that if

someone had told me about her.”

“Have you saved everything?”

“Yes, all of the newspaper clippings and the articles from the

magazines are in the file, the same one that has the articles about

Dottor Moro’s report.”  Before he could ask to see it, she said, “No,

I’ll look through them.  I might remember the article when I see it or

start reading it.”  She glanced at her watch.  “Give me fifteen minutes

and I’ll bring it up to you.”

Thank you, Signorina,” he said and went to his office to wait for her.

He called Signora Moro’s number, but still there was no answer.  Why

had she not mentioned the daughter, and why, in both houses, had there

been no sign of the child?  He started to make a list of the things he

wanted Signorina Elettra to check and was still adding to it when she

came into the office, the file in her hand.  “Here it is, sir,” she

said as she came in.  “Valentina.  She’s nine.”

“Does it say which parent she lives with?”

“No, nothing at all,” she said.  “She was mentioned in an article about

Moro, six years ago.  It said he had one son, Ernesto, twelve, and the

daughter, Valentina, three.  And the article in La Nuova mentions


“I didn’t see any sign of her when I spoke to the parents.”

“Did you say anything?”

“About the girl?”

“No, I don’t mean that, sir.  Did you say anything that might have

given her mother the opportunity to mention her?”

Brunetti tried to recall his conversation with Signora Moro.  “No,

nothing that I can remember.”

“Then it’s possible she wouldn’t have mentioned her, isn’t it?”

For almost two decades, Brunetti had shared his home with one, then

both, of his children, and he could not recall a single instant when

physical proof of their existence had been absent from their home:

toys, clothing, shoes, scarves, books, papers, Discmen lay spread about

widely and chaotically.  Words, pleas, threats proved equally futile in

the no-doubt biological need of the young of the human species to

litter their nest.  A man of meaner spirit might have considered this

an infestation: Brunetti thought of it as one of nature’s ways to

prepare a parent’s patience for the future, when the mess would become

emotional and moral, not merely physical.

“But I would have seen some sign of her, I think,” he insisted.

“Maybe they’ve sent her to stay with relatives,” Signorina Elettra


“Yes, perhaps,” Brunetti agreed, though he wasn’t convinced.  No matter

how often his kids had gone to stay with their grandparents or other

relatives, signs of their recent habitation had always lingered behind

them.  Suddenly he had a vision of what it must have been for the Moros

to attempt to remove evidence of Ernesto’s presence from their homes,

and he thought of the danger that would remain behind: a single, lonely

sock found at the back of a closet could break a mother’s heart anew; a

Spice Girls disc carelessly shoved into the plastic case meant to hold

Vivaldi’s flute sonatas could shatter any calm.  Months, perhaps years,

would pass before the house would stop being a minefield, every cabinet

or drawer to be opened with silent dread.

His reverie was interrupted by Signorina Elettra, who leaned forward to

place the file on his desk.

“Thank you,” he said.  “I have a number of things I’d like you to try

to check for me.”  He slid the paper towards her, listing them as he

did so.


“Find out, if you can, where the girl goes to school.  If she’s living

here or lived here with either of them, then she’s got to be enrolled

in one of the schools.  There are the grandparents: see if you can

locate them.  Moro’s cousin, Luisa Moro I don’t have an address for her

might know.”  He thought of the people in Siena and asked her to call

the police there and have them find out if the child was living with

them.  She ran her finger down the list as he spoke.  “And I’d like you

to do the same for his wife: friends, relatives, colleagues,” he


She looked at him and said, “You aren’t going to let this go, are


He pushed himself back in his chair but didn’t get to his feet.  “I

don’t like any of it, and I don’t like anything I’ve heard.  Nobody’s

told me the truth and nobody’s told me why they won’t.”

“What does that mean?”

Brunetti smiled and said it gently.  “For the moment, all it means is

that I’d like you to get me all the information I’ve asked for.”

“And when I do?”  she asked, not for an instant doubting that she would

find it.

Then perhaps we’ll start proving a negative.”

“Which negative, sir.”

“That Ernesto Moro didn’t kill himself.”

Before he left the Questura, he made one more call to Signora Moro’s

number, feeling not unlike an importunate suitor growing ever more

persistent in the face of a woman’s continued lack of response.  He

wondered if he’d overlooked some mutual friend who might put in a good

word for him and realized how he was returning to the tactics of former

times, when his attempts to meet women had been animated by entirely

different hopes.

Just as he was approaching the underpass leading into Campo San

Bartolomeo, his mind on this unsettling parallel, he registered a

sudden darkness in front of him.  He looked up, still not fully

attentive to his surroundings, and saw four San Martino cadets

wheeling, arms linked, as straight across as if on parade, into the

calk from the campo.  The long dark capes of their winter uniforms

swirled out on either flank and effectively filled the entire width of

the calle.  Two women, one old and one young, instinctively backed up

against the plate glass windows of the bank, and a pair of

map-embracing tourists did the same against the windows of the bar on


other side.  Leaving the four shipwrecked pedestrians in their wake,

the unbroken wave of boys swept towards him.

Brunetti raised his eyes to theirs boys no older than his own son and

the glances that came back to him were as blank and pitiless as the

sun.  His right foot might have faltered for an instant, but by an act

of will he shoved it forward and continued towards them, stride

unbroken, his face implacable, as though he were alone in Calle della

Bissa, the entire city his.

The boys drew closer, and he recognized the cadet to the left of centre

as the one who had tried to interrogate him at the school.  The

atavistic urge of the more powerful male to assert his supremacy

shifted Brunetti’s direction two compass points until he was heading

straight for the boy.  He tightened his stomach muscles and stiffened

his elbows, preparing for the shock of contact, but at the instant

before impact, the boy next to the one who had become Brunetti’s target

loosened his grip and moved to the right, creating a narrow space

through which Brunetti could pass.  As his foot entered the space, he

saw, from the corner of his eye, the left foot of the boy he recognized

move minimally to the side, surely bent on tripping him.  Carefully,

thrusting forward with his full weight behind him, he took aim at the

boy’s ankle and felt a satisfying jolt as the toe of his shoe found its

target, glanced off, and came down on the pavement.  Not pausing for an

instant, Brunetti strode on and out into the campo, cut left, and

started for the bridge.

Because Raffi as well as Chiara was at dinner, and because he thought

it unseemly to manifest pride in such mean spirited behaviour in their

presence, he said nothing about his meeting with the cadets and

contented himself with the meal.  Paola had brought home ravioli di

zucca and had prepared them with salvia leaves quickly sauteed in

butter, then smothered them with Parmigiano.  After that, she had

switched to fennel, serving it interspersed with pan-fried veal

pieces that had spent the previous night in the refrigerator,

marinating in a paste of rosemary, garlic, fennel seed and minced


As he ate, delighted by the mingled tastes and the pleasant sharpness

of his third glass of Sangiovese, he remembered his earlier uneasiness

about the safety of his children, and the thought made him feel

foolish.  He could not, however, dismiss it or allow himself to scoff

at the desire that nothing would ever invade their peace.  He never

knew if his perpetual readiness for things to change for the worse was

the result of his native pessimism or of the experiences his profession

had exposed him to.  In either case, his vision of happiness had always

to pass through a filter of uneasiness.

“Why don’t we ever have beef any more?”  Raffi asked.

Paola, peeling a pear, said, “Because Gianni can’t find a farmer he


“Trusts to do what?”  Chiara asked between grapes.

To have animals he’s sure are healthy, I suppose,” Paola answered.

“I don’t like eating it any more, anyway,” Chiara said.

“Why not?  Because it’ll make you crazy?”  her brother asked, then

amended it to “Crazier?”

“I think we’ve had more than enough mad cow jokes at this table,” Paola

said with an unusual lack of patience.

“No, not because of that,” Chiara said.

Then why?”  Brunetti asked.

“Oh, just because Chiara answered evasively.

“Because of what?”  her brother asked.

“Because we don’t need to eat them

That never bothered you before,” Raffi countered.

“I know it never bothered me before.  Lots of things didn’t.  But now

they do She turned to him and delivered what she clearly thought would

be a death blow.  “It’s called growing up, in case you’ve never heard

of it

Raffi snorted, driving her to new defences.

“We don’t need to eat them just because we can.  Besides, it’s

ecologically wasteful she insisted, like someone repeating a lesson,

which Brunetti thought was most likely the case.

“What would you eat instead?”  Raffi asked, ‘zucchini?”  He turned to

his mother and asked, “Are we allowed to make mad zucchini jokes?”

Paola, displaying the Olympian disregard for the feelings of her

children which Brunetti so admired, said only, Till take that as an

offer to do the dishes, Raffi, shall I?”

Raffi groaned, but he did not protest.  A Brunetti less familiar with

the cunning of the young would have seen this as a sign that his son

was willing to assume some responsibility for the care of their home,

perhaps as evidence of burgeoning maturity.  The real Brunetti,

however, a man hardened by decades of exposure to the furtiveness of

criminals, could see it for what it was: cold-blooded bargaining in

which immediate acquiescence was traded for some future reward.

As Raffi reached across the table to pick up his mother’s plate, Paola

smiled upon him with favour and, displaying a familiarity with slyness

equal to that of her husband, got to her feet, saying, Thank you so

much, dear, for offering, and no, you cannot take scuba lessons.”

Brunetti watched her leave the room, then turned to watch his son’s

face.  Raffi’s surprise was patent, and when he saw that his father was

looking at him, he removed that expression but had the grace to smile.

“How does she do that?”  Raffi asked.  “All the time.”

Brunetti was about to offer some bromide about its being one of the

powers of mothers to be able to read the minds of their children, when

Chiara, who had been busy finishing the fruit on the platter, looked up

at them and said, “It’s because she reads Henry James.”

In her study, Brunetti told Paola about his run-in with the cadets,

deciding not to mention the rush of animal triumph he had felt when his

foot made contact with the boy’s ankle.

“It’s a good thing it happened here she said when he finished, then

added, ‘in Italy.”

“Why?  What do you mean?”

“There are a lot of places where something like that could get you


“Name two he said, offended that she could so cavalierly dismiss what

he saw as evidence of his bravery.

“Sierra Leone and the United States, to begin with she said.  “But that

doesn’t mean I’m not happy you did it.”

Brunetti said nothing for a long time, then asked, “Does it show, how

much I dislike them?”

Them who?”

“Boys like that, with their wealthy, well-connected families and their

sense of command.”

“Families like mine, you mean?”  In their early years together, before

Brunetti came to realize that the shocking brutality of Paola’s honesty

was often entirely unaggressive, he would have been astonished by her

question.  Now all he did was answer it.  “Yes.”

She laced her fingers together and propped her chin on her knuckles. “I

think only someone who knows you very well would see it.  Or someone

who pays close attention to what you say.”

“Like you?”  he asked, smiling.


“Why do you think it is, that they get to me so easily?”

She considered this; it was not that she had not thought about it

before, but he had never asked the question so directly.  “I think part

of it is your sense of justice.”

“Not jealousy?”  he asked, trying to make sure she would be


“No, at least not jealousy in any simple sense.”  He leaned back on the

sofa and latched his fingers behind his head.  He shifted around,

seeking a comfortable position, and when she saw that he’d found it,

she went on.  “I think part of it comes from your resentment not that

some people have more than others, but that they don’t realize or don’t

want to admit that their money doesn’t make them superior or give them

the right to anything they choose to do.”  When he didn’t query this

she continued: “And from their refusal to consider the possibility that

their greater fortune is not anything they’ve earned or merited.”  She

smiled at him, then said, “At least I think that’s why you dislike them

as much as you do.”

“And you?”  he asked.  “Do you dislike them?”  With a ringing laugh,

she said, There are too many of them in my family to allow me to.”  He

laughed along with her, and she added, “I did, when I was young and

more idealistic than I am now.  But then I realized they weren’t going

to change, and I had come by then to love some of them so much and I

knew nothing was ever going to change that, so I saw that I had no

choice but to accept them as they are.”  “Love before truth?”  he

asked, striving for irony.  “Love before everything, I’m afraid, Guido

she said in deadly earnest.

As he walked to the Questura the next morning, it occurred to Brunetti

that he had been overlooking at least one anomaly in all of this: why

had the boy been boarding at the school?  So caught up had he been in

the order and rules of life at the Academy that, as he searched

Ernesto’s room, the obvious question had not arisen: in a culture that

encouraged young people to live at home until their marriage, why was

this young man living away from home, when both parents lived in the


At the Questura, he almost bumped into Signorina Elettra

emerging from the front door.  “Are you going somewhere?”  he asked.

She glanced at her watch.  “Do you need something, sir?”  she asked,

not really an answer, though he didn’t notice.

“Yes, I’d like you to make a phone call for me.”

She stepped back inside the door and asked, To whom?”

The San Martino Academy.”

With no attempt to disguise the curiosity in her voice, she asked, “And

what would you like me to tell them?”  She started to walk back towards

the stairs that led to her office.

“I want to know if it’s obligatory for the boys to sleep in the

dormitory or if they’re allowed to spend the night at home if their

parents live in the city.  I’d like to get an idea of just how

inflexible the rules are there.  Perhaps you could say you’re a parent

and want to know something about the Academy.  You can say your son is

just finishing school and has always wanted to be a soldier, and as

you’re Venetian, you’d like him to have the opportunity to attend the

San Martino because of its high reputation.”

“And is my voice to be filled with pride and patriotism as I ask these


“Choking with them he said.

She could not have done it better.  Though Signorina Elettra spoke an

Italian as elegant and pure as any he had heard, as well as a very

old-fashioned Venetian dialect, she managed to mingle the two perfectly

on the phone and succeeded in sounding exactly like what she said she

was: the Venetian wife of a Roman banker who had just been sent north

to head the Venice branch of a bank she carelessly avoided naming.

After making the secretary at the Academy wait while she found a pen

and pencil and then apologizing for not having them next to the phone

the way her husband insisted she do, Signorina Elettra asked for

particulars of the date of the beginning of the next school term, their

policy on late admission, and where to have letters of recommendation


academic records sent.  When the school secretary offered to provide

details about school fees and the cost of uniforms, the banker’s wife

dismissed the very idea, insisting that their accountant dealt with

things like that.

Listening to the conversation on the speaker phone, Brunetti was amazed

at the way Signorina Elettra threw herself into the role, could all but

see her returning home that evening after a hard day’s shopping to

check if the cook had found real basilica genovese for the pesto.  Just

as the secretary said she hoped that young Filiberto and his parents

would find the school satisfactory, Signorina Elettra gasped, “Ah, yes,

one last question.  It will be all right if he sleeps at home at night,

won’t it?”

“I beg your pardon, Signora/ the secretary said.  The boys are expected

to live here at the school.  It’s included in the fees.  Where else

would your son live?”

“Here with us in the palazzo, of course.  You can’t expect him to live

with those other boys, can you?  He’s only sixteen.”  Had the secretary

asked her to give her life-blood, the banker’s wife could have sounded

no less horrified.  “Of course we’ll pay the full fees, but it’s

unthinkable that a child that young should be taken from his mother.”

“Ah,” the secretary answered upon hearing the first part of Signorina

Elettra’s last sentence, managing not to register the second, ‘in a few

cases, with the approval of the Comandante some exceptions can perhaps

be made, though the boys have to be at their first class at eight.”

That’s why we have the launch was Signorina Elettra’s opening shot in

her last volley, which drew to a close with her promise to send the

signed papers and the necessary deposit off by the end of the week,

followed by a polite goodbye.

Brunetti found himself filled with unwonted sympathy for Vice-Questore

Patta: the man simply didn’t have a chance.  “Filiberto?”  he asked.

“It was his father’s choice Signorina Elettra replied.  “And yours?

Eustasio?”  “No, Eriprando.”

The information that exceptions to the school rules could be made at

the discretion of the Comandante did not tell Brunetti anything he had

not already suspected: where the children of the wealthy and powerful

congregated, rules were often bent to follow the whim of their parents.

What he did not know was the extent of the Comandante’s subservience.

Nor, he had to admit, did he have a clear idea of how this might be

related to Ernesto’s death.

Deciding not to speculate further, Brunetti dialled Signora Moro’s

phone again, and again the phone rang on unanswered.  Spurred by some

impulse he registered but did not question, he decided to pass by her

apartment and see if any of her neighbours could give him an idea of

where she was.

He chose to take the vaporetto to San Marco, then cut back towards the

apartment.  He rang the bell, waited, and rang again.  Then he rang the

bell to the left of hers, waited, then rang the others in succession,

working his way across and down, like a climber rappelling down the

face of a cliff.  The

first response came from an apartment on the first floor, the bell of

which bore the name Delia Vedova.  A woman’s voice answered, and when

he explained that he was from the police and needed to speak to Signora

Moro, the door clicked open.  As he entered, the light in the dim hall

flashed on, and a few moments later a woman’s voice called from above,

“Up here, Signore.”

He ascended the steps, and noted that attached to one side of them was

a system which would allow a wheelchair to move up and down.  The

explanation waited just inside the door at the top of the steps: a

young woman in a wheelchair, an enormous grey cat resting on her lap.

As he reached the landing, she smiled at him and, shifting the cat to

one side, reached up with her right hand.  “Beatrice Delia Vedova/ she

said, “My pleasure to meet you.”

He gave his name and rank, then she put both hands on the wheels of her

chair, whipped it around in a neat half-circle and propelled herself

back into the apartment.  Brunetti followed her inside, closing the

door behind him.

She led him into a living room in the centre of which stood an

architect’s drawing board that had been lowered almost a metre to a

height that would allow her wheelchair to slip comfortably under it.

Its surface was covered with water colour sketches of bridges and

canals, painted in the Day-Glo colours tourists seemed to favour.  By

contrast, the three views of the facades of churches San Zaccaria, San

Martino and San Giovanni in Bragora that hung on the rear wall all

showed a close attention to architectural detail that was absent from

the paintings on the drawing board.  Their muted colours captured the

glowing warmth of stone and the play of light on the canal in front of

San Martino and on the facades of the other churches.

She spun around and saw him studying the drawings on the wall.  That’s

what I really do,” she said.  Then, with a vague swipe at the paintings

on the board, she added, “And

that’s what I get paid to do.”  She bent down to the cat and whispered

in its ear, “We’ve got to keep you in Whiskas, don’t we, fatty?”

The cat rose slowly from her lap and jumped, with a thump that surely

could be heard in the entrance hall below, to the floor.  Tail raised,

it walked from the room.  The woman smiled up at Brunetti.  “I never

know if he’s offended at my comments about his weight or if he just

doesn’t like being made to feel responsible for those paintings.”  She

let this lie in the air between them, then with a smile added, “Either

position seems justified, wouldn’t you say?”

Brunetti smiled in return, and she asked him to take a seat.  As he

did, she wheeled her chair around until it was facing him.  She might

have been in her late twenties, though the flecking of grey in her hair

made her seem older, as did the vertical lines between her eyebrows.

Her eyes were a light amber, her nose a bit too large for the rest of

her face, her mouth so soft and relaxed that it seemed out of place on

a face so marked with what Brunetti thought was a history of pain.

“You said you were interested in Signora Moro?”  she prompted.

“Yes, I’d like to speak to her.  I’ve been phoning but she’s never

home.  The last time I spoke to her, she …”

The woman cut him off.  “When was that?”

“Some days ago.  She didn’t say anything about leaving the city.”

“No, she wouldn’t.  Say anything, I mean.”

Brunetti registered the remark and said, The didn’t get the feeling

that .. .”  He paused, not certain how to express it.  “I didn’t have

the feeling that she had anywhere to go.”

Signora or Signorina Delia Vedova looked at him with fresh interest.

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know.  I just had a very strong feeling that the city was

where she belonged and that she had no interest in going anywhere.  Or


When it seemed that Brunetti had no more to say, she replied, “She

didn’t.  Have anywhere to go, that is.”

“Do you know her well?”

“No, not really.  She’s been here for less than two years.”

“Since the accident?”  Brunetti asked.

She looked at Brunetti, and all pleasantness disappeared from her face.

This,” she said, flipping the fingers of her right hand across her lap

to indicate the legs that rested uselessly below it, ‘was an accident.

What happened to Federica was not.”

Brunetti stifled any response he might have made to this and asked,

calmly, “Are you so sure of that?”

“Of course not,” she said, her voice calm again.  “I wasn’t there and I

didn’t see what happened.  But Federica, the two times she spoke to me

about it, said, “When they shot me…”  People who are in accidents

don’t talk about it that way.”

Brunetti had no doubt that this woman knew full well how people who

were in accidents speak.  “She said this twice?”

“Yes, so far as I can remember.  But simply by way of description, not

complaint.  I never asked her what happened, didn’t want to pry.  I’ve

had enough of that myself.  And I figured she’d tell me what she wanted

to when she was ready.”

“And has she?”

She shook her head.  “No, only those two references.”

“Have you seen her often?”

“Perhaps every week or so.  She stops in and has a coffee or simply

comes down and talks for a while.”

“Did you know her before she moved into this apartment?”

“No.  I knew about her husband, of course.  But I suppose everyone

does.  Because of his report, I mean.”  Brunetti nodded.  “I met her

because of Gastone she said.


The cat.  She found him outside the front door one day and when she

opened the door, he came in.  When he came up and

stood outside my door, she knocked and asked me if he were mine.  He

gets out of here sometimes and then lurks out in the calle until

someone opens the door, or rings my bell and asks me to open the street

door so they can let him in.  People who know he’s mine, that is.”  Her

face warmed in a smile.  “Good thing they do.  It’s not as if it’s easy

for me to go down and let him in.”  She said this simply, and Brunetti

did not hear in it an unspoken prompting to strangers to ask questions,

nor did he hear an unconscious appeal for pity.

“When did you see her last?”

She had to think about this.  The day before yesterday, and I didn’t

really see her, just heard her on the stairs.  I’m sure of that.  I’d

read about the boy’s death, and then, when she came in, I recognized

her steps outside.  I went over to the door, and I was going to open

it, but then I didn’t know what I could say to her, so I didn’t.  I

just sat here and listened to her go up the stairs.  Then, about an

hour later, I heard her come down again.”

“And since then?”

“Nothing.”  Before he could speak, she added, “But I sleep in the back

of the apartment, and I sleep very deeply because of the pills I take,

so she could have come in or gone out and I wouldn’t have heard her.”

“Has she called you?”


“Is it like her to be away for two days?”

Her answer was immediate, “No, not at all.  In fact, she’s almost

always here, but I haven’t heard her on the steps and I haven’t heard

her moving around in her apartment.”  She said this last with a gesture

towards the ceiling.

“Do you have any idea where she might have gone?”

“No.  None.  We didn’t talk to one another like that.”  When he looked

puzzled, she tried to clarify things.  “I mean, we weren’t friends,

just lonely women who talked to one another once in a while.”

There was no hidden message in that, either, so far as Brunetti could

tell: merely the truth, and the truth told clear.  “And she lived


“Yes, so far as I know.”

“No one ever visited her?”

“Not that I know of, no.”

“You never heard a child?”

“Do you mean her son?”

“No, her daughter.”

“Daughter?”  she asked, her surprise answering the question for him.

She shook her head.


Again she shook her head, as though the idea of a mother never

mentioning one of her children was something too shocking to bear


“Did she ever mention her husband?”


“And how?  That is, how did she speak about him?  With rancour?


She thought for a moment and then answered, “No, she mentioned him in a

normal way.”


She gave him a quick glance, rich in unspoken curiosity, then answered,

“No, I couldn’t say that.  She simply mentioned him, quite


“Could you give me an example?”  Brunetti asked, wanting to get a feel

of it.

“Once, we were talking about the hospital.”  She stopped here, then

sighed, and continued.  “We were talking about the mistakes they make,

and she said that her husband’s report had put an end to that, but only

for a short time.”

He waited for her to clarify, but it seemed that she had said enough.

Brunetti could think of nothing else to ask her.  He got to his feet.

“Thank you, Signora/ he said, leaning down to shake her hand.

She smiled in response and turned her wheelchair towards the door.

Brunetti got there first and was reaching for the handle when she

called out, “Wait.”  Thinking she had remembered something that might

be important, Brunetti turned, then looked down when he felt a sudden

pressure against his left calf.  It was Gastone, serpentining his way

back and forth, suddenly friendly with this person who had the power to

open the door.  Brunetti picked him up, amazed at the sheer mass of

him.  Smiling, he placed him in the woman’s lap, said goodbye, and let

himself out of the apartment, though he did not pull the door closed

until he made sure that there was no sign of Gastone between the door

and the jamb.

As he had known he would do ever since Signora Delia Vedova told him

that there had been no sign of Signora Moro for two days, Brunetti went

up the stairs to her apartment.  The door was a simple one: whoever

owned the apartment had no concern that his tenants should be safe from

burglars.  Brunetti took out his wallet and slid out a thin plastic

card.  Some years ago, Vianello had taken it from a burglar so

successful he had become careless.  Vianello had used it on more than

one occasion, always in flagrant violation of the law, and upon his

promotion from Sergeant to Inspector, he had given it to Brunetti in

token of his realization that the promotion was due primarily to

Brunetti’s insistence and support.  At the time, Brunetti had

entertained the possibility that Vianello was merely freeing himself of

an occasion of sin, but the card had since then proven so useful that

Brunetti had come to appreciate it as the gift it was.

He slipped it between the door and the jamb, just at the height of the

lock, and the door swung open at a turn of the handle.  Long habit made

him stop just inside the door and sniff the air, hunting for the scent

of death.  He smelled dust and old cigarette smoke and the memory of

some sharp

cleaning agent, but there was no scent of rotting flesh.  Relieved, he

closed the door behind him and walked into the sitting room.  He found

it exactly as he had left it: the furniture in the same position, the

single book that had been lying face down on the arm of a sofa still

there, still at the same page, for all he knew.

The kitchen was in order: no dishes in the sink, and when he pried the

door open with the toe of his shoe, he found no perishable food in the

refrigerator.  He took a pen from the inner pocket of his jacket and

opened all of the cabinets: the only thing he found was an open tin of


In the bathroom, he opened the medicine cabinet with the back of a

knuckle and found nothing more than a bottle of aspirin, a used shower

cap, an unopened bottle of shampoo, and a package of emery boards.  The

towels on the rack were dry.

The only room left was the bedroom, and Brunetti entered it uneasily:

he disliked this part of his job as much as anything about it.  On the

nightstand beside the bed a thin rectangle of clear space stood

outlined in the dust: she had removed a photo from there.  Two more had

been taken from the dresser.  Drawers and closet, however, seemed full

as far as he could tell, and two suitcases lay under the bed.

Shameless now, he pulled back the covers on the side of the bed closest

to the door and lifted the pillow.  Under it, neatly folded, lay a

man’s white dress shirt.  Brunetti pulled it out and let it fall open.

It would have fitted Brunetti, but the shoulders would have fallen from

Signora Moro’s, and the sleeves would have come far down over her

hands.  Just over the heart of the man who would wear the shirt he saw

the initials “FM’ embroidered in thread so fine it could only have been


He folded the shirt and replaced it under the pillow, then pulled the

covers up and tucked them neatly in place.  He went back through the

living room and let himself out of the

apartment.  As he passed the door to the Delia Vedova apartment, he

wondered if she was sitting inside, holding her cat, listening for the

footsteps that carried life back and forth outside her door.


It was not until after the kids had gone to bed that night, when he and

Paola sat alone in the living room, she reading Persuasion for the

hundred and twenty-seventh time, and he contemplating Anna Comnena’s

admonition that, “Whenever one assumes the role of historian,

friendship and enmities have to be forgotten’, that Brunetti returned

to his visit to Signora Moro’s apartment, though he did so indirectly.

“Paola,” he began.  She peered at him over the top of her book, eyes

vague and inattentive.  “What would you do if I asked you for a


Her eyes had drifted back to the page before he spoke, but they shot

back to his face now, and Anne Elliot was left to her own romantic

problems.  “If you what?”

“Asked for a separation.”

Voice level, she inquired, “Before I go into the kitchen to get the

bread knife, could you tell me if this is a theoretical question?”

“Absolutely/ he said, embarrassed by how happy her threat of violence

had made him.  “What would you do?”

She placed the book by her side, face down.  “Why do you want to


Till tell you that as soon as you answer my question.  What would you


Her look was discomfiting.  “Well?”  he prodded.

“If it were a real separation, I’d throw you out of the house and after

you I’d throw everything you own.”

His smile was positively beatific.  “Everything?”

“Yes.  Everything.  Even the things I like.”

“Would you use one of my shirts to sleep in?”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“And if it were a fake separation?”


“Done so that it would look as if we were separated when in reality we

weren’t but just needed to look as if we were.”

“I’d still throw you out, but I’d keep all the things I like.”

“And the shirt?  Would you sleep in it?”

She gave him a long look.  “Do you want a serious answer or more


“I think I want a real answer he confessed.

Then yes, I’d sleep in your shirt or I’d put it on my pillow so that I

could have at least the smell of you with me.”

Brunetti believed in the solidity of his marriage with the same faith

he invested in the periodic table of the elements, indeed, rather more;

nevertheless, occasional reinforcement did no harm.  He found himself

equally assured of the solidity of the Moros’ marriage, though he had

no idea what that meant.

“Signora Moro,” he began, ‘is living apart from her husband.”  Paola

nodded, acknowledging that he had already told her this.  “But one of

his dress shirts is under the pillow of the bed in which she is

sleeping alone.”

Paola looked off to the left, to where an occasional light could still

be seen burning in the top floor window of the apartment opposite.

After a long time, she said, “Ah.”


“Yes/ he agreed,” “Ah,” indeed

“Why do they have to look as if they’re separated?”

“So whoever shot her won’t come back and do a better job of it, I’d


“Yes, that makes sense.”  She thought about this, then asked, “And who

could they be?”

“If I knew that, I’d probably understand everything.”

Automatically, not really thinking about what she said but asserting

truth by habit, she said, “We never know everything.”

“Then at least I’d know more than I know now.  And I’d probably know

who killed the boy

“You won’t let that go, will you?”  she asked entirely without



“Probably wise not to she agreed.

“So you think he was murdered, too?”

“I always did


“Because I trust your feelings and because your feeling about it was so


“And if I’m wrong?”

Then we’re wrong together she said.  She picked up her book, slipped a

bookmark between the pages, and closed it.  Setting it down, she said,

“I can’t read any more

The neither he said, setting Anna Comnena on the table in front of


She looked across at him and asked, “Is it all right if I don’t wear

one of your shirts?”

He laughed out loud and they went to bed.

The first thing he did the next morning was to go see Signorina

Elettra, whom he found in her office.  Her desk was covered with at

least six bouquets of flowers, each wrapped separately in a cone of

pastel paper.  As he knew she had a

standing order for flowers to be delivered on Monday from Biancat, he

wondered if he’d got things wrong in thinking today was Tuesday or if

he’d somehow invented the events of the previous day.

“Are those from Biancat?”  he asked.

She ripped two of the packages open and began to place dwarf sunflowers

in a green vase.  “No, they’re from Rialto.”  She stepped back from the

desk, studied the arrangement, then added three more sunflowers.

“Then it’s really Tuesday?”

She gave him a strange look and answered, “Of course.”

“Don’t the flowers usually arrive on Monday?”

She smiled, lifted the vase, and placed it on the other side of her

computer.  “Yes, they usually do.  But the Vice-Questore has begun to

cause quite a fuss about office expenses, so, because they’re so much

cheaper there, I thought I’d get them from Rialto for a while, until

something diverts him.”

“Did you bring them all yourself?”  he asked, trying to calculate

whether they’d fit in her arms.

“No, I called for a launch when I realized how many of them I’d


“A police launch?”

“Of course.  It would be difficult to justify taking a taxi,” she said,

snapping off the stem of a carnation.

“What with the economy drive and all,” Brunetti suggested.


Three of the other bouquets ended up together in an enormous ceramic

vase, and the last, asters, went into a narrow crystal vase Brunetti

could not remember ever having seen.  When all three vases were placed

to her satisfaction and the papers neatly folded and placed in the

basket she kept for paper to be recycled, she said, “Yes,


“Have you managed to find out anything about the daughter?”

Signorina Elettra pulled a notebook from the side of her


desk and flipped it open.  Reading from it, she began, “She was taken

out of school two years ago, and there’s been no j trace of her, at

least no bureaucratic trace, since.”

Taken out by whom?”  5

“Her father, apparently.”  |

“How did that happen?”

The school records show that her last day of school was the sixteenth

of November.”

She looked at him, neither of them having to remind the other that

Signora Moro had been shot one week before.

“And?”  he asked.

“And that’s all.  The forms on file say that the parents had decided to

place her in a private school.”

“Where?”  Brunetti asked.

“It’s not necessary to mention that, I was told.”

“And didn’t they ask?”  he demanded, his irritation clear.  “Don’t they

need to know where a child’s going?”

The woman I spoke to said that all that’s required is that the parents

complete and sign the proper forms, in duplicate Signorina Elettra

recited in what Brunetti assumed was the mechanical voice of whoever

she had spoken to.

“And a child’s allowed to disappear and no questions asked?”

“I was told that the school’s responsibility ends once the parents have

filled in the forms and the child’s been taken from the school by one

of them.”

“Just like that?”  he asked.

Signorina Elettra opened her hands in a gesture meant to show her own

lack of responsibility.  This woman said she wasn’t working there when

the girl was withdrawn, so the best she could do was try to explain the

regulations to me.”  ,

“So where is she?  A little girl can’t just disappear,” Brunetti *


“She could be anywhere, I suppose,” Signorina Elettra said, then added,

“But she’s not in Siena.”

Brunetti shot her an inquiring glance.

“I called the police there, and then I had a look through the records

of the school system.  There’s no record for her, nor for any child of

the Ferros.”

“The mother’s missing now, too Brunetti said and then went on to tell

her of his visit to her apartment and the inferences he had drawn from

the presence of the shirt.

Signorina Elettra’s face paled and just as suddenly flushed.  “His

shirt?”  she asked then, before he could answer, repeated the question,

“His shirt?”

“Yes/ Brunetti answered.  He started to ask her what she thought of

this, but when he took a closer look at her face, he realized there was

only one man this could cause her to think of, and he spoke to fill the

painful silence that the memory of his loss brought into the room. “Can

you think of a way to trace the child?”  he finally said.  When she

seemed not to hear him, he said, “There’s got to be a way to find her.

Some central register of children enrolled in schools, perhaps?”

As if returning from a long distance, Signorina Elettra said in a very

soft voice, “Perhaps her medical records, or if she’s in the Girl


Before she could suggest anything else, Brunetti cut her off by saying,

There are her grandparents.  They’ve got to have some idea of where she


“Do you know where they are?”  Signorina Elettra asked with returning


“No, but both of the Moros are Venetian, so they should be here in the


Till see what I can find out was the only remark she permitted herself.

Then: “By the way, sir, I found out about the girl who was supposedly

raped at the Academy.”

“Yes?  How?”

“Friends from the past was the only explanation she provided.  When she

saw that she had Brunetti’s attention, Signorina Elettra went on. “The

girl was thefidanzata of one of

the students, and he brought her back to his room one night.  Somehow,

the captain of his class found out about it and went to the room.  She

started screaming when he came in, and then someone called the police.

But there were never any charges and, from what I make of reading the

original report, probably no need for any.”

“I see,” he said, not bothering to ask her how she had found that

report so quickly.  “Tantofumo, poco arrosto.”  As soon as he spoke he

was aware how his dismissal of the story would seem to her, and so

hastened to add, “But thank God for the girl.”

Sounding not at all convinced by his piety, Signorina Elettra said

merely, “Indeed,” and turned back to her computer.

Brunetti called down to the officers’ room and asked where Pucetti was,

only to be told that he was out on patrol and wouldn’t be back until

the following morning.  After he hung up, he sat and wondered how long

it would take before his appreciation of Pucetti’s intelligence would

begin to work to the young man’s disadvantage.  Most of the others,

even those arch-fools, Alvise and Riverre, were unlikely to turn

against him: the uniformed officers were pretty much devoid of

jealousy, as least so far as Brunetti could discern.  Perhaps Vianello,

closer to them in rank and age, would have a better sense of this.

Someone like Scarpa, however, was bound to regard Pucetti with the same

suspicion with which he viewed Vianello.  Even though Vianello had for

years kept his own counsel, it had been obvious to Brunetti that the

antipathy between the two men had been instant and fierce, on both

sides.  Possible motives abounded: dislike between a southerner and a

northerner, between a single man and one so happily married, between

one who delighted in the

imposition of his will upon those around him and another |

who cared only to live peacefully.  Brunetti had never been able to

make more sense of it than that the men felt a visceral antipathy for

one another.

He felt a flash of resentment that his professional life should be so

hampered by the complications of personal ,

animosity: why couldn’t those who enforced the law be 4

above such things?  He shook his head at his own crazy |

utopianism: next he would be longing for a philosopher-king.  f

He had only to think of the current leader of government, >

however, for all hopes of the philosopher-king’s arrival to wither and


Further reflection was made impossible by the arrival of Alvise with

the latest tabulations of crime statistics, which he placed on

Brunetti’s desk, saying that the Vice-Questore needed the finished

report by the end of the day and that he wanted figures he could

present to the press without embarrassment.

“What do you think that means, Alvise?”  Brunetti allowed himself to


“That he solved them all, I’d guess, sir,” Alvise answered

straight-faced.  He saluted and left, leaving Brunetti with the

lingering suspicion that Lear was not the only man who had a wise fool

in his following.

He worked through lunch and well into the late afternoon juggling

figures and inventing new categories until he had something that would

both supply the truth and satisfy Patta.  When he finally glanced at

his watch, he saw that it was after seven, surely time for him to

abandon these concerns and go home.  On an impulse, he called Paola and

asked her if she felt like going out to dinner.  She hesitated not an

instant, said only that she’d have to prepare something for the kids

and would meet him wherever he chose.

“Sommariva?”  he asked.

“Oh my,” she answered.  “What brings this on?”

“I need a treat he said.

“Maria’s cooking?”  she asked.

“Your company he answered.  Till meet you there at eight.”

Almost three hours later, a lobster-filled Brunetti and his

champagne-filled consort climbed the stairs to their apartment, his

steps slowed by satisfying fullness, hers by the grappa she’d drunk

after dinner.  Their arms linked, they were looking forward to bed, and

then to sleep.

The phone was ringing as he opened the door, and Brunetti for an

instant thought of not answering it, of leaving whatever it was until

the next morning.  Had there been time to see that the children were in

their rooms and thus the call unrelated to their safety, he would have

let it ring on unanswered, but paternity asserted itself, and he

answered it on the fourth ring.

“It’s me, sir Vianello said.

“What’s wrong?”  came Brunetti’s instinctive response to Vianello’s


“Moro’s mother’s been hurt.”


Sudden static filled the line, drowning out Vianello.  When it came to

an end, Brunetti heard only, ‘..  . no idea who.”

“Who what?”  Brunetti demanded.

“Did it.”

“Did what?  I didn’t hear you.”

“She was hit by a car, sir.  I’m in Mestre, at the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“She was going to the train station in Mogliano, where she lives.  At

least she was walking in that direction.  A car hit her, knocked her

down and didn’t stop.”

“Did anyone see it?”

Two people.  The police there talked to them, but neither was sure

about anything other than that it was light-coloured and the driver

might have been a woman.”

Glancing at his watch, Brunetti asked, “When did this happen?”

“At about seven, sir.  When the police saw that she was Fernando Moro’s

mother, one of them remembered the boy’s death and called the Questura.

They tried to get you, and then they called me.”

Brunetti’s glance fell on the answering machine.  A tiny pulsating

light illuminated the one message that awaited him.  “Has he been


They called him first, sir.  She’s a widow, and his name and address

were in her purse.”


“He came out.”  Both men thought of what that must have been for Moro,

but neither said anything.

“Where is he now?”  Brunetti asked.

“In the hospital here.”

“What do the doctors say?”  Brunetti asked.

“Some cuts and bruises, but nothing broken.  The car must just have

brushed her.  But she’s seventy-two, so the doctors decided to keep her

overnight.”  After a pause, Vianello added, “He just left.”

There was a lengthy silence.  Finally, Vianello said, in response to

Brunetti’s unspoken question, “Yes, it might be a good idea.  He was

very shaken.”

Part of Brunetti’s mind was aware that his instinctive desire to profit

from Moro’s weakness was no less reptilian than Vianello’s

encouragement that he do so.  Neither idea stopped him.  “How long

ago?”  Brunetti asked.

“About five minutes.  In a taxi.”

Familiar sounds came from the back of the apartment: Paola moving about

in the bathroom, then going down the corridor to their bedroom.

Brunetti’s imagination soared above the city and the mainland and

watched a taxi make its way through the empty streets of Mestre and

across the long causeway that led to Piazzale Roma.  A single man


reached back inside, shoving money at the driver, then turned away and

began to walk towards the iinbarcudero of the Number One.  I’ll go,”

Brunetti said and hung up.

Paola was already asleep when he looked into the bedroom, a stream of

light falling across her legs.  He wrote a note then couldn’t decide

where to leave it.  Finally he propped the sheet of paper on the

answering machine, where the flickering light still called for


As Brunetti walked through the quiet city, his imagination took flight

again, but this time it observed a man in a dark suit and a grey

overcoat walking from San Polo toward the Accademia Bridge.  As he

watched, the man crossed in front of the museum and made his way into

the narrow calling of Dorsoduro.  At the end of the underpass that ran

beside the church of San Gregorio, he crossed the bridge to the broad

Riva in front of the Salute.  Moro’s house, off to his right, was dark,

though all the shutters were open.  Brunetti moved along the canal and

stopped at the foot of the bridge leading back over the small canal and

to the door of Moro’s house.  From there, he would see Moro returning,

whether he walked, came by taxi or took the Number One.  He turned and

looked across the still waters at the disorderly domes of San Marco and

the piebald walls of Palazzo Ducale, and thought of the peace their

beauty brought him.  How strange it was: nothing more than the

arrangement of lines and colours, and he felt better than he had before

he looked at them.

He heard the throb of the motor of the vaporetto arriving; then saw the

prow emerge from behind the wall of a building.  The noise moved into a

different key, and the boat glided up to the imbarcadero.  The crewman

tossed out the rope with effortless accuracy and whipped it around the

metal stanchion in the centuries-old knot.  A few people got off the

boat, none of them Moro.  The metal scraped as the gate was pulled

shut; a careless flip and the rope came free, and the boat continued.

Another boat arrived twenty minutes later, but Moro wasn’t on this one,

either.  Brunetti was beginning to think the doctor might have decided

to go back to his mother’s home in Mogliano when, off to the left, he

heard footsteps approaching.  Moro emerged from the narrow calle

between the houses at the end of the tiny campo.  Brunetti crossed the

bridge and stood at the bottom, just short of the door to Moro’s


The doctor came toward him, hands stuffed into the pockets of his

jacket, head lowered as if he had to take particular care of where he

placed his feet.  When he was a few metres from Brunetti, he stopped

and reached first his left hand, then his right, into the pockets of

his trousers.  On the second attempt, he pulled out a set of keys but

looked at them as if he didn’t quite understand what they were or what

he was meant to do with them.

He raised his head then and saw Brunetti.  There was no change in his

expression, but Brunetti was sure Moro recognized him.

Brunetti walked towards the other man, speaking before he thought,

surprised by the force of his own anger.  “Are you going to let them

kill your wife and daughter, too?”

Moro took a step backwards, and the keys fell from his hand.  He raised

one arm and shielded his face with it, as though Brunetti’s words were

acid and he had to protect his eyes.  But then, with a speed that

astonished Brunetti, Moro moved up to him and grabbed at his collar

with both hands.  He misjudged the distance, and the nails of his

forefingers dug into the skin at the back of Brunetti’s neck.

He pulled Brunetti towards him, yanking so savagely that he pulled him

a half-step forwards.  Brunetti flung his hands out to the side in an

attempt to balance himself, but it was the strength of Moro’s hands

that kept him from falling.

The doctor pulled him closer, shaking him the way a dog shakes a rat.

“Stay out of this,” Moro hissed into his face,

sprinkling him with spittle.  They didn’t do it.  What do you know?”

Brunetti, allowing Moro to support him, recovered his balance, and when

the doctor shoved him to arm’s length, still holding tight, Brunetti

stepped back and flung his hands up, breaking the doctor’s grip and

freeing himself.  Instinctively he put his hands to his neck: his

fingers felt torn skin and the beginnings of pain.

He leaned forward until his face was dangerously close to the doctor’s.

They’ll find them.  They found your mother.  Do you want them to kill

them all?”

Again the doctor raised his hand, warding off Brunetti’s words.

Robot-like, he raised the other hand, now a blind man, a trapped man,

seeking a place of safety.  He turned away and staggered, stiff-kneed,

to the door of his house.  Leaning brokenly against the wall, Moro

began to pat his pockets for his keys, which lay on the ground.  He dug

his hands into his pockets, turning them out and scattering coins and

small pieces of paper around him.  When no pockets remained unturned,

Moro lowered his head to his chest and began to sob.

Brunetti bent and picked up the keys.  He walked over to the doctor and

took his right hand, which was hanging limply at his side.  He turned

the doctor’s palm up and placed the keys in it, then closed his fingers

over them.

Slowly, like a person long victim to arthritis, Moro pushed himself

away from the wall and put one key, then another, then another into the

lock until he found the right one.  The lock turned noisily four times.

Moro pushed the door open and disappeared inside.  Not bothering to

wait to see if lights went on inside, Brunetti turned away and started

to walk home.

Brunetti woke groggily the next morning to the dull sound of rain

against the bedroom windows and to Paola’s absence from his side.  She

was nowhere in the apartment, nor was there any sign of the children. A

glance at the clock showed him why: everyone had long since gone off to

the business of their day.  When he went into the kitchen, he was

grateful to see that Paola had filled the Moka and left it on the

stove.  He stared out the window while he waited for the coffee, and

when it was ready took it back into the living room.  He stood looking

through the rain at the bell tower of San Polo, and sipped at his

coffee.  When it was finished, he went back into the kitchen and made

more.  This time, he came back and sat on the sofa, propped his

slippered feet on the table, and stared out the glass doors that led to

the terrace, not really aware of the rooftops beyond.

He tried to think of who ‘they’ could be.  Moro had been too stunned by

Brunetti’s attack to prepare a defence and so had made no attempt to

deny or pretend not to understand Brunetti’s reference to this nameless

‘they’.  The first

possibility that occurred to Brunetti, as it would to anyone who knew

even the least bit about Moro’s career, was someone at the health

services, the target of the Moro Report’s accusation of

institutionalized corruption and greed.  Closing his eyes, Brunetti

rested his head against the back of the sofa and tried to remember what

had become of the men who had been in charge of the provincial health

services at the time of the Moro Report.

One had disappeared into private law practice, another had retired, and

a third currently held a minor portfolio in the new government: in

charge of transportation safety or relief efforts for natural

disasters; Brunetti couldn’t recall which.  He did remember that, even

in the face of the scandal and indignation at the gross pilfering from

the public purse revealed by the report, the government’s response had

proceeded with the stateliness of the Dead March from Saul.  Years had

passed: the hospitals remained unbuilt, the official statistics

remained unchanged, and the men responsible for the deceit had moved on

quite undisturbed.

Brunetti realized that, in Italy, scandal had the same shelf life as

fresh fish: by the third day, both were worthless; one because it had

begun to stink, the other because it no longer did.  Any punishment or

revenge that ‘they’ might have inflicted upon the author of the report

would have been exacted years ago: punishment that was delayed six

years would not dissuade other honest officials from calling attention

to the irregularities of government.

That possibility dismissed, Brunetti turned his thoughts to Moro’s

medical career and tried to see the attacks on his family as the work

of a vengeful patient, only to dismiss that immediately.  Brunetti

didn’t believe that the purpose of what had happened to Moro was

punishment, otherwise he would have been attacked personally: it was

threat.  The origin of the attacks against his family must lie in what

Moro was doing or had learned at the time his wife was shot.  The

attacks, then, could make sense as a repeated and violent attempt to

prevent the publication of a second Moro Report.  What struck Brunetti

as strange, when he reconsidered Moro’s reaction the night before, was

not that the doctor had made no attempt to deny that ‘they’ existed so

much as his insistence that ‘they’ were not responsible for the


Brunetti took a sip of his coffee but found it was cold; and it was

only then that he heard the phone ringing.  He set the cup down and

went into the hall to answer it.

“Brunetti/ he said.

“It’s me Paola said.  “Are you still in bed?”

“No, I’ve been up a long time.”  I’ve called you three times in the

last half-hour.  Where were you, in the shower?”

“Yes/ Brunetti lied.

“Are you lying?”


“What have you been doing?”  Paola asked with real concern.

“Sitting and looking out the window.”

“Well, it’s good to know your day has started out as a productive one.

Sitting and looking or sitting and looking and thinking?”

“And thinking.”

“What about.”



“And I think I see something I didn’t see before.”

“Do you want to tell me?”  she asked, but he could hear the haste in

her voice.

“No.  I need to think about it a little more.”

Tonight, then?”


She paused a moment and then said, using a voice straight

out of Brazilian soap opera, “We’ve got unfinished business from last

night, big boy.”

With a jolt, his body remembered that unfinished business, but before

he could speak, she laughed and hung up.

He left the apartment half an hour later, wearing a pair of

rubber-soled brogues and sheltered under a dark umbrella.  His pace was

slowed by the umbrella, which caused him to duck and bob his way

between the other people on the street.  The rain appeared to have

lessened, not eliminated, the streams of tourists.  How he wished there

were some other way he could get to work, some means to avoid being

trapped in the narrow zigs and zags of Ruga Rialto.  He cut right just

after Sant’ Aponal and walked down to the Canal Grande.  As he emerged

from the underpass, a traghetto pulled up to the Riva.  After the

passengers had got off, he stepped aboard, handing the gondoliere one

of the Euro coins he still found unfamiliar, hoping it would be

sufficient.  The young man handed him back a few coins, and Brunetti

moved to the rear of the gondola, allowing his knees to turn to rubber

and thus help maintain his balance as the boat bobbed around on the


When there were thirteen people, one of them with a sodden German

Shepherd, standing in the gondola, all trying to huddle under the

umbrellas spread above their heads in an almost unbroken shield, the

gondolieri shoved off and took them quickly to the other side.  Even in

this rain, Brunetti could see people standing without umbrellas at the

top of the bridge, their backs to him, while other people took their


The gondola slid up to the wooden steps, and everyone filed off.

Brunetti waited while the gondoliere at the front handed a woman’s

shopping cart up to her.  One of its wheels caught on the side of the

steps and it tilted back toward the gondoliere, who caught it by the

handle and handed it up.  Suddenly the dog jumped back into the boat

and picked up

something that once had been a tennis ball.  With it firmly between his

jaws, he leaped back on to the dock and ran after his master.

It occurred to Brunetti that he had just witnessed a series of crimes.

The number of people in the boat had exceeded the legal limit.  There

was probably a law stating that umbrellas had to be furled while they

crossed the canal, but he wasn’t sure and so let that one go.  The dog

had worn no muzzle and wasn’t on a leash.  Two people speaking German

had been given change only when they asked for it.

On the way up to his office, Brunetti stopped in the officers’ room and

asked Pucetti to come upstairs.  When they were both seated, Brunetti

asked, “What else have you learned?”  Obviously surprised by the

question, Pucetti said, “You mean about the school, sir?”

“Of course.”

“You’re still interested?”

“Yes.  Why wouldn’t I be?”

“But I thought the investigation was finished.”

“Who told you that?”  Brunetti asked, though he had a good f idea.

“Lieutenant Scarpa, sir.”


Pucetti glanced aside, trying to remember.  “Yesterday, sir.  He came

into the office and told me that the Moro case was no longer active and

that I had been assigned to Tronchetto.”

Tronchetto?”  Brunetti asked, failing to hide his astonishment that a

police officer should be sent to patrol a parking lot.  “What for?”

“We’ve had reports about those guys who stand at the entrance and offer

tourists boat rides into the city.”

“Reports from whom?”  Brunetti asked.

There was a complaint from someone at the American Embassy in Rome.  He

said he paid two hundred Euros for a ride to San Marco.”

“What was he doing at Tronchetto?”

“Trying to park, sir.  And that’s when one of those guys with the white

hats and fake uniforms told him where to park and offered to show him a

taxi that would take him into the city, right to his hotel.”

“And he paid?”

Pucetti shrugged and said, “You know what Americans are like, sir.  He

didn’t understand what was going on.  So yes, he paid, but when he told

the people at the hotel, they said he’d been cheated.  Turns out he’s

something important at the Embassy, so he called Rome, and then they

called us and complained.  And that’s why we’ve been going out there,

to keep it from happening again.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

The went out yesterday, sir, and I’m due there in an hour,” Pucetti

said; then, in response to Brunetti’s expression, he added, “It was an


Brunetti decided to make no observation on the young officer’s

docility.  Instead he said, The investigation of the Moro boy’s death

is still open, so you can forget about Tronchetto.  I want you to go

back and talk to one of the boys, named Ruffo.  I think you spoke to

him already.”  Brunetti had seen the boy’s name in Pucetti’s written

report and recalled the young officer’s comment that the boy had seemed

unduly nervous during the interview.  Pucetti nodded at the name and

Brunetti added, “Not at the school, if that’s possible.  And not while

you’re in uniform.”

“Yes, sir.  That is, no, sir,” Pucetti said, then quickly asked, “And

the lieutenant?”

Till deal with him Brunetti answered.

Pucetti instantly got to his feet and said, Till go over there as soon

as I change, sir.”

That left Brunetti with Lieutenant Scarpa.  He toyed with the idea of

summoning the lieutenant to his office but, thinking it better to

appear before him unannounced, went

down two flights of stairs to the office Scarpa had insisted he be

given.  The room had for years functioned as a storeroom, a place where

officers could leave umbrellas and boots and coats to be used in the

event of a change in the weather or the sudden arrival of ac qua alia.

Some years ago, a sofa had appeared as if by magic, and since then

officers on the night shift had been known to steal an hour’s sleep.

Legend had it that a female commissa rio had been introduced to the

pleasures of adultery on that very sofa.  Three years ago, however,

Vice-Questore Patta had ordered the boots, umbrellas and coats removed;

the next day the sofa disappeared, replaced by a desk made of a plate

of mirrored glass supported by thick metal legs.  No one lower than

commissa rio had a private office at the Questura, but Vice Questore

Patta had installed his assistant behind that glass desk.  There had

been no official discussion of his rank, though there had certainly

been more than ample comment.

Brunetti knocked at the door and entered in response to Scarpa’s

shouted “Avantil’ There ensued a precarious moment during which

Brunetti observed Scarpa deal with the arrival of one of his superiors.

Instinct asserted itself, and Scarpa braced his hands on the edge of

his desk as if to push himself back and get to his feet.  But then

Brunetti saw him react, not only to the realization of just which

superior it was, but also to the territorial imperative, and the

lieutenant transformed the motion into one that did no more than propel

himself higher in his chair.  “Good morning, Commissario,” he said.

“May I help you?”

Ignoring what Scarpa tried to make a gracious wave towards the chair in

front of his desk, Brunetti remained standing near the door and said,

“I’m putting Pucetti on a special assignment.”

Scarpa’s face moved in something that was perhaps meant to be a smile.

“Pucetti is already on special assignment, Commissario.”

Tronchetto, you mean?”

“Yes.  What’s going on there is very harmful to the image of the


Telling his better self to ignore the dissonance between the sentiments

and the Palermitano accent in which they were voiced, Brunetti

answered, “I’m not sure I share your concern for the image of the city,

Lieutenant, so I’m reassigning him.”

Again, that motion of the lips.  “And you have the approval of the

Vice-Questore, of course?”

“I hardly think a detail as insignificant as where a police officer is

assigned is of much interest to the Vice-Questore/ Brunetti answered.

“On the contrary, Commissario, I think the Vice-Questore is deeply

interested in anything that concerns the police in this city.”

Tired of this, Brunetti asked, What does that mean?”

“Just what I said, sir.  That the Vice-Questore will be interested to

learn about this.”  Like a tenor with register problems, Scarpa could

not control his voice as it wobbled between civility and menace.

“Meaning you intend to tell him about it?”  Brunetti asked.

“Should the occasion arise,” Scarpa answered blandly.

“Of course,” Brunetti answered with equal blandness.

“Is that all I can do for you, Commissario?”

“Yes/ Brunetti said and left the office before giving in to the

temptation to say something else.  Brunetti knew almost nothing about

Lieutenant Scarpa or what motivated him: money was probably a safe

guess.  This thought called to mind a remark Anna Comnena had made

about Robert Guiscard: “Once a man has seized power, his love of money

displays exactly the same characteristics as gangrene, for gangrene,

once established in a body, never rests until it has invaded and

corrupted the whole of it.”

An old woman lay injured in the hospital in Mestre, and

he had to concern himself with turf battles with Patta’s I

creature and with the attempt to understand the lieutenant’s motives.

He walked up the stairs, inwardly fuming about

Scarpa, but by the time he got back to his office he had f accepted the

fact that his real anger was directed at his own “

failure to foresee the attack on Moro’s mother.  It mattered I

little to Brunetti that this was entirely unrealistic; somehow, j he

should have realized the danger and done something to * ‘

protect her.

He called the hospital and, adopting the harsh, authoritarian voice he

had learned to use when dealing with mindless bureaucracies, announced

his rank and demanded to be connected to the ward where Signora Moro

was being treated.  There was some delay in transferring the call, and

when the nurse on duty spoke to him, she was helpful and cooperative

and told him that the doctor had advised that Signora Moro be kept

until the next day, when she could go home.  No, there was no serious

injury: she was being kept an extra day in consideration of her age

rather than her condition.

Braced by this comforting sign of humanity, Brunetti thanked her, ended

the call, and immediately called the police in Mogliano.  The officer

in charge of the investigation told him that a woman had come into the

Questura that morning and admitted she had been driving the car that

struck Signora Moro.  Panicking, she had driven away, but after a

sleepless night in which she had been the victim of both fear and

remorse, she had come to the police to confess.

When Brunetti asked the other officer if he believed the woman, he

received an astonished, “Of course’, before the man said he had to get

back to work and hung up.

So Moro was right when he insisted that ‘they’ had had nothing to do

with the attack on his mother.  Even that word, ‘attack’, Brunetti

realized, was entirely his own invention.

Why, then, Moro’s rage at Brunetti for having suggested it?  More

importantly, why his state of anguished despair last night, far out of

proportion for a man who had been told that his mother was not

seriously injured?

Awareness that he had done something else to merit Lieutenant Scarpa’s

enmity should have troubled Brunetti, but he could not bring himself to

care: there were no degrees to implacable antipathy.  He regretted only

that Pucetti might have to bear the brunt of Scarpa’s anger, for the

lieutenant was not a man likely to aim a blow, at least not an open

one, at people above him.  He wondered whether other people behaved

like this, deaf and blind to the real demands of their professions in

their heedless pursuit of success and personal power, though Paola had

long assured him that the various struggles that absorbed the

Department of English Literature at the university were far more savage

than anything described in Beowulf or the bloodier Shakespearean

tragedies.  He knew that ambition was accepted as a natural human

trait, had for decades observed others striving to achieve what they

determined to be success.  Much as he knew these desires were judged to

be perfectly normal, he remained puzzled by the passion and energy of

their endeavours.  Paola had once observed that he had been born with


essential piece missing, for he seemed incapable of desiring anything

other than happiness.  Her remark had troubled him until she explained

that it was one of the reasons she had married him.

Musing on this, he entered Signorina Elettra’s office.  When she looked

up, he said without introduction, “I’d like to learn about the people

at the Academy.”

“What, precisely, would you like to know?”

He considered this, then finally said, “I think what I’d really like to

know is whether any of them is capable of killing that boy and, if so,

for what reason.”

There could be many reasons,” she answered, then added, “If, that is,

you want to believe that he was murdered.”

“No, I don’t want to believe that.  But if he was, then I want to know


“Are you curious about the boys or the teachers?”

“Either.  Both.”

“I doubt it could have been both.”

“Why?”  he asked.

“Because they’d probably have different motives.”

“Such as?”

“I haven’t explained myself well,” she began, shaking her head.  “I

think the teachers would do it for serious reasons, adult reasons.”

“For instance?”

“Danger to their careers.  Or to the school.”

“And the boys?”

“Because he was a pain in the ass.”

“Seems a pretty trivial reason to kill someone.”

“Viewed from a different perspective, most reasons for killing people

are pretty trivial.”

He was forced to agree.  After a while he asked, “In what way could he

have been a pain in the ass?”

“God knows.  I don’t have any idea what bothers boys that age.  Someone

who is too aggressive, or not aggressive

enough.  Someone who is too smart and makes the others embarrassed.  Or

shows off, or …”

Brunetti cut her off.  Those still seem like trivial reasons.  Even for


Not the least offended, she said, That’s the best I can come up with

Nodding at the keyboard, she said, “Let me take a look and see what I

can find.”

“Where will you look?”

“Class lists and then members of their families.  Faculty lists and

then the same.  Then cross-check them with, well, with other things.”

“Where did you get those lists?”

Her intake of breath was stylishly long.  “It’s not that I have them,

sir, but that I can get them.”  She looked at him and waited for his

comment; outflanked, Brunetti thanked her and asked her to bring him

whatever information she could find as soon as she had it.

In his office, he set himself to attempting to recall anything he’d

heard or read, over the years, about the Academy.  When nothing came,

he turned his reflections to the military at large, recalling that most

of the faculty were former officers of one branch or other.

A memory slipped in from somewhere, tantalizing him and refusing to

come into focus.  Like a sharpshooter straining to see at night, he

addressed his attention, not to the target that wouldn’t appear, but to

whatever stood beside or beyond it.  Something about the military,

about young men in the military.

The memory materialized: an incident from some years before, when two

soldiers paratroopers, he thought had been directed to jump from a

helicopter somewhere in, he thought, former Yugoslavia.  Not knowing

that the helicopter was hovering a hundred metres above the ground,

they had jumped to their death.  Not knowing, and not having been told

by the other men in the helicopter, who

had known but were members of a military corps different from their

own.  And with that memory came another one, of a young man found dead

at the bottom of a parachute jump, perhaps the victim of a nighttime

hazing prank gone wrong.  To the best of his knowledge, neither case

had ever been resolved, no satisfactory explanation provided for the

completely unnecessary deaths of these three young men.

He recalled, as well, a morning at breakfast some years ago when Paola

looked up from the newspaper which contained an account of the

country’s then-leader offering to send Italian troops to aid an ally in

some bellicose endeavour.  “He’s going to send troops,” she said.  “Is

that an offer or a threat, do you think?”

Only one of Brunetti’s close friends had opted for a career in the

military, and they had lost touch over the last few years, so he did

not want to call him.  What he would ask him, anyway, Brunetti had no

idea.  If the Army were really as corrupt and incompetent as everyone

seemed to believe it was?  No, hardly the question he could ask, at

least not of a serving general.

That left his friends in the press.  He called one in Milano but when

the machine answered, he chose not to leave either his name or a

message.  The same happened when he called another friend in Rome.  The

third time, when he called Beppe Avisani, in Palermo, the phone was

answered on the second ring.


“Ciao, Beppe.  It’s me, Guido.”

“Ah, good to hear your voice,” Avisani said, and for a few minutes they

exchanged the sort of information friends give and get when they

haven’t spoken for some time, their voices perhaps made formal by a

shared awareness that they usually now spoke to one another only when

one of them needed information.

After everything that had to be said about families had been said,

Avisani asked, “What can I tell you?”

“I’m looking into the death of the Moro boy,” Brunetti answered and

waited for the reporter to answer.

“Not suicide, then?”  he asked, not bothering with polite pieties.

That’s what I want to know,” Brunetti answered.

Without hesitation, Avisani volunteered.  “If it wasn’t suicide, then

the obvious reason is the father, something to do with him.”

“I’d got that far, Beppe,” Brunetti said with an entire absence of


“Of course, you would.  Sorry.”

“The report came out too long ago,” Brunetti said, certain that a man

who had spent twenty years as a political reporter would follow his

thinking and also dismiss the report as a possible cause.  “Do you know

what he worked on while he was in Parliament?”

There was a long pause as Avisani followed the trail of Brunetti’s

question.  “You’re probably right,” he said at last, then, “Can you

hold on a minute?”

“Of course.  Why?”

T’ve got that stuff in a file somewhere.”

“In the computer?”  Brunetti asked.

“Where else?”  the reporter asked with a laugh.  “In a drawer?”

Brunetti laughed in return, as though he’d meant the question as a


“Just a minute Avisani said.  Brunetti heard a click as the phone was

set down on a hard surface.

He looked out of the window as he waited, making no attempt to impose

order upon the information that tumbled around in his mind.  He lost

track of time, though it was far more than a minute before Avisani was


“Guido?”  he asked, ‘you still there?”


“I haven’t got much on him.  lie was there for three years, well, a bit

less than that, before he resigned, but he was kept pretty well out of



The party he ran for chose him because he was famous at the time and

they knew they could win with him, but after he was elected and they

got an idea of what his real ideas were, they kept him as far out of

sight as they could.”

Brunetti had seen it happen before as honest people were elected into a

system they hoped to reform, only to find themselves gradually absorbed

by it, like insects in a Venus’ fly-trap.  Because Avisani had seen far

more of it than he, Brunetti drew a pad towards him and said only, “I’d

like to know what committees he worked on.”  ,v

“Are you looking for what I think you are someone he might have



Avisani made a long noise that Brunetti thought was meant to be

speculative.  “Let me give you what I have.  There was a pension

committee for farmers,” Avisani began, then dismissed it with a casual,

“Nothing there.  They’re all nonentities.”  And then, The one that

oversaw sending all that stuff to Albania.”

“Was the Army involved in that?”  Brunetti asked.

“No.  I think it was done by private charities.  Caritas, organizations

like that.”

“What else?”

The Post Office.”

Brunetti snorted.

“And military procurement,” Avisani said with undisguised interest.

“What does that mean?”

There was a pause before he answered, “Probably examining the contracts

with the companies that supply the military.”

“Examining or deciding?”  Brunetti asked.

“Examining, I’d say.  It was really only a subcommittee, which means

they’d have no more power than to make recommendations to the real

committee.  You think that’s it?”  he asked.

“I’m not sure there is an “it”,” Brunetti answered evasively, only now

forcing himself to recall that his friend was a member of the press.

With laboured patience, Avisani asked, “I’m asking as a curious friend,

Guido, not as a reporter.”

Brunetti laughed in relief.  “It’s a better guess than the postmen.

They’re not particularly violent.”

“No, that’s only in America,” Avisani said.

Agreement’s awkwardness fell between them, both of them aware of the

conflict between their professions and their friendship.  Finally

Avisani said, “You want me to follow up on this?”

At a loss as to how to phrase it, Brunetti said, “If you can do it


“I’m still alive because I do things delicately, Guido,” he said

without any attempt at humour, gave a farewell not distinguished by its

friendliness, and hung up.

Brunetti called down to Signorina Elettra, and when she answered, said,

“I’d like you to add one more thing to your .. .”  he began, but was at

a loss for a name for what Signorina Elettra did.  To your research,”

he said.

“Yes, sir?”  she asked.

“Military procurement.”

“Could you be a bit more precise?”

“Getting and spending,” he began, and a line Paola was forever quoting

rushed towards him.  He ignored it and continued, “For the military. It

was one of the committees Moro was on.”

“Oh, my,” she exclaimed.  “However did that happen?”

Hearing her unfeigned astonishment, Brunetti wondered

how long it would take him to explain her reaction to a foreigner.  Her

response presumed Moro’s honesty, and her astonishment that an honest

man had been placed on any committee that would make decisions that

might somehow affect the allocation of significant amounts of

government funds.

“I’ve no idea he answered.  “Perhaps you could see who else served on

the committee with him.”

“Certainly, sir.  Government records are very easy to access she said,

leaving him to speculate about the precise level of criminality lurking

in that verb.

He looked at his watch and asked, “Should I go and have lunch or should

I wait?”

“Lunch, sir, I think she advised and was gone.

He walked down to Testiere, where the owner would always find him a

place, and had a fish antipasto and then a piece of grilled tuna Bruno

swore was fresh.  For all the attention Brunetti paid to it, the fish

could have been frozen or freeze-dried.  At any other time, ignoring a

meal this fine would have shamed Brunetti: today he could not drag

himself away from his attempt to discover the connection between Moro’s

professional life and the suffering inflicted upon his family, and so

the meal remained eaten but untasted.

He stopped at the door to Signorina Elettra’s office and found her

standing at her window, looking off down the canal that led toward the

Bacino.  Her attention was so absorbed in whatever she was watching

that she didn’t hear him come in, and he stopped, reluctant to startle

her.  Her arms were crossed on her breast, and she stood with her

shoulder leaning against the window frame, one leg crossed in front of

the other.  He saw her in profile and as he watched, she lowered her

head and closed her eyes for a heartbeat longer than necessary.  She

opened them, took a breath so deep he saw her breasts rise, and turned

away from the window.  And saw him watching her.

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f *

^ *




Three seconds passed.  Paola had once told him that the Irish often

said, in moments when consolation was necessary, “I’m sorry for your

trouble’, and it was on his lips to say this when she took a step

towards her desk, tried to smile, and said, “I’ve got everything but

said it in the voice of someone who had nothing.

Three more seconds passed and then he joined her at her desk, in

unspoken agreement that they would ignore what had just happened.

He saw two piles of papers.  Standing, she pointed to the first, saying

as she did, That’s a list of students who have fathers in the military

or the government that’s the only thing I checked about the students.

And under it is a list of the faculty, which branch of the military

they served in, and the final rank they held.  And beneath that a list

of the men who served on the committee for military procurement with

Dottor Moro.”

Curiosity overcame good sense and he asked, “All right.  Please tell me

where you got all of this.”  When she didn’t answer, he held up his

right hand and said, “I promise, on the head of anyone in my family you

choose to name, that I will never repeat what you tell me, will forget

it the instant you tell me, will not allow Lieutenant Scarpa, no matter

what means he employs, ever, to wrest it from me.”

She considered this.  “What if he makes horrible threats?”

“Like what, invites me for a drink?”

“Worse.  Dinner.”

The shall be strong.”

She capitulated.  There’s a way to access military personnel files. All

you need is the code and then the service number of any member.”

Because she was volunteering this, Brunetti did not ask how she got the

code or the numbers.  “Parliament is too easy,” she said with contempt.

“A child could get in.”  He assumed she was talking about the computer

files, not the building.

“And the lists from the schools?”  he asked.

She gave him a long, speculative look, and he nodded, renewing his vow

of silence.  She said, Tucetti stole them when he was there and gave

them to me in case they might be useful.”

“Have you had time to study them?”

“A little.  Some names occur on more than one list.”

“For example?”

She pulled a sheet of paper from the first pile and pointed to two

names that she had already highlighted in yellow.  “Maggiore Marcello

Filippi and Colonello Giovanni Toscano.”

Tell me he said.  “It’s faster.”

“The Maggiore was in the Army for twenty-seven years and retired three

years ago.  For the six years immediately before his retirement, he was

in charge of the procurement office for the Paratroopers.  His son is a

third-year student at the Academy.”  She pointed to the second name.

“The Colonello served as military adviser to the parliamentary

committee on which Moro served.  He now teaches at the Academy.  He was

in Paris, attending a seminar, during the week the boy died.”

“Isn’t that something of a fall from grace, to go from a job in

Parliament to teaching at a military academy in the provinces?”

The Colonello retired after twenty-two years of military service under

something of a cloud,” Signorina Elettra said.  “Or at least,” she

immediately corrected herself, ‘that’s the sense I get from reading the

internal files.”

Internal files, Brunetti repeated to himself.  Where would she stop?

“What do they say?”

That certain members of the committee registered less than total

satisfaction with the Colonello’s performance.  One of them even went

so far as to suggest that the Colonello was not at all impartial in the

advice he provided the committee.”





“Less than impartial in what way?”  Brunetti asked.

“It didn’t say, though there’s not far to look, is there?”

“No, I suppose not.”  If the Colonello were partial in a way which the

committee did not like, it would have to be in favour of the firms

which supplied the military, and the men who owned them.  Brunetti’s

atavistic cynicism suggested here that it might just as easily mean

that Toscano was in the pay of companies different from those making

payments to the parliamentarians on the committee.  The marvel here was

not that he was partial why else seek a position like this but that he

should have been .. . Brunetti stopped himself from saying the word

‘caught’, even in his mind.  It was remarkable that he should have been

forced to retire, for Brunetti could not imagine that a man in this

position would go quietly.  How obvious or excessive must his

partiality have been if it had led to his retirement?

“Is he Venetian, the Colonello?”  he asked.

“No, but his wife is.”

“When did they come here?”

“Two years ago.  Upon his retirement

“Do you have any idea of how much he earns as a teacher at the


Signorina Elettra pointed to the paper again.  “All of their salaries

are listed to the right of their names.”

“Presumably, he’s also receiving his military pension,” Brunetti


That’s listed, as well she answered.

Brunetti looked at the paper and saw that the sum of the Colonello’s

pension plus his salary at the Academy was well in excess of his own

salary as a commissa rio  “Not bad, I’d say.”

“They struggle though, I suppose,” she observed.

The wife?”


“What does he teach?”

“History and Military Theory.”

“And does he have a particular political stance that he brings to the

teaching of history?”

She smiled at the delicacy of his phrasing and answered, “I can’t

answer that yet, sir.  I’ve got a friend whose uncle teaches

Mathematics there, and he’s promised to ask him.”

“It’s probably a safe guess what his ideas would be she went on, ‘but

it’s always best to check.”

He nodded.  Neither of them had any illusions about the view of

politics and, for that fact, history likely to be held by a man who had

spent twenty-two years in the military.  But, like Signorina Elettra,

Brunetti thought it would be best to be certain.

“And the two men?”  he asked.  “Did they ever serve together?”

She smiled again, as if this time pleased with his perspicacity, and

pulled towards her the second pile of papers.  “It would seem that, at

the same time as the Colonello was giving his advice to the

parliamentary committee, the newly retired Maggiore was on the board of

directors of Edilan-Forma.”

“Which is?”  he asked.

“A Ravenna-based company which supplies uniforms, boots and backpacks

to the military, along with other things.”

“What other things?”

“I’ve not been able to break into their computer yet,” she said,

clearly still in no doubt that this entire conversation was protected

by the same dispensation.  “But it looks like they supply anything

soldiers can wear or carry.  It would seem, as well, that they serve as

subcontractors for companies that sell food and drink to the


“And all of this means?”  Brunetti asked.

“Millions, sir, millions and millions.  It’s a money fountain,

or it could be.  After all, the military spends about seventeen billion

Euros a year.”

“But that’s insane he blurted out.

“Not for anyone who has a chance to take any of it home, it’s not she



“Even so she replied, and then returned to the information she had

gathered.  “At one point, the committee examined the contracts with

Edilan-Forma because one of the committee members had raised questions

about them.”

Though he barely thought it necessary, Brunetti asked, “Moro?”

She nodded.

“What sort of questions?”

“The parliamentary minutes mention pricing for a number of items, also

the quantities ordered she said.

“And what happened?”

“When the committee member resigned, the questions were not


“And the contracts?”

They were all renewed.”

Was he mad, he wondered, to find this so normal and so simple to

understand?  Or were they all mad, everyone in the country, in a way

that demanded the papers lying on Signorina Elettra’s desk could be

read in only one way?  The public purse was a grab bag, and public

spoil the supreme gift of office.  Moro, stupid and transparently

honest Moro, had dared to question this.  Brunetti was no longer in any

doubt that the answer to Moro’s questions had been given, not to him,

but to his family.

“If you haven’t already begun it, could you take a closer look at

Toscano and Filippi?”

“I was just beginning that when you came in, sir she said.  “But my

friend in Rome, the one who works in military records, has been sent to

Livorno for a few days, so I won’t

have access to their records until the end of the week.”

Failing to remind her that she had been standing at the window, looking

out sadly at her past or her future, when he came in, not beginning to

work on anything, Brunetti thanked her and went back to his office.

By force of will, Brunetti kept himself at the Questura until the

normal time for leaving.  He occupied himself with reading and

initialling reports, then decided that he would read only every second

one, then every third, though he scrupulously wrote a careful “GB’ on

the bottom of all of them, even the unread ones.  As his eyes ran over

the words, the columns of numbers, the endless spew of facts and

figures that were as closely related to reality as Anna Anderson to

Tsar Nicholas II, Brunetti’s thoughts remained anchored to Moro.

Just before leaving, he called Avisani in Palermo.

Again, the journalist answered with his name.

“It’s me, Beppe,” Brunetti said.

“It’s not even a day, Guide.  Give me some time, will you?”  the

journalist said waspishly.

“I’m not calling to nag, Beppe.  Believe me.  It’s that I want to add

two names to the list Brunetti began.  Before Avisani could refuse, he

continued, “Colonello Giovanni Toscano and Maggiore Marcello


After a long time, Avisani said, “Well, well, well.  If there’s salt,

there’s pepper; oil, there’s vinegar; smoke, fire.”

“And Toscano, Filippi, I assume?”  Brunetti asked.

“Very much so.  How is it you’ve stumbled on those two?”

“Moro,” Brunetti said simply.  They’re both tied to the committee Moro

was working on when he left Parliament.”

“Ah yes.  Procurement/ Avisani said, stretching the word out as if

better to enjoy the sound of it.

“Do you know anything?”  Brunetti asked, though he was sure his friend


“I know that Colonello Toscano was encouraged to leave his position as

consultant to the parliamentary committee and soon after that decided

to retire from the Army.”

“And Filippi?”

“My sense is that the Maggiore decided his position had become too


“What position was that?”

“Husband to the cousin of the president of the company from whom the

Paratroopers obtained most of their supplies.”

“Edilan-Forma?”  Brunetti inquired.

“Haven’t you been a busy boy?”  Avisani asked by way of compliment.

Honesty demanded that Brunetti make it clear that it was Signorina

Elettra who had been a busy girl, but he thought it best not to reveal

this to a member of the press.  “Have you written about this?” Brunetti


Time and time again, Guido,” Avisani answered with heavy resignation.


“And what are people supposed to do?  Pretend to be surprised, pretend

this isn’t the way they do business, too?  Remember what that

television comic said when they started the Mani Pulite


That we were all guilty of corruption and should all spend

a few days in jail?”  Brunetti asked, remembering Beppe Grille’s

frenetic admonition to his fellow citizens.  He was a comic, Grillo,

and so people were free to laugh, though what he said that night had

been in no way funny.

“Yes,” Avisani said, pulling back Brunetti’s attention.  “I’ve been

writing articles about this for years, about this and about other

agencies of the government that exist primarily to siphon money to

friends and relatives.  And no one cares.”  He waited for Brunetti to

react, and then repeated, “No one cares because they all think that,

sooner or later, they might get a chance at some of the easy money, so

it’s in their best interests that the system stay the way it is.  And

it does.”

Since Brunetti knew this to be the case, there was no reason to object

to his friend’s remarks.  Returning to Avisani’s original reaction, he

asked, “Is that the only way they’re linked?”

“No.  They graduated in the same class from the Academy in Modena/

“And after that?”  Brunetti asked.

“I don’t know.  I doubt it’s important.  What is, is that they knew one

another well and that both were eventually involved in procurement.”

“And both retired?”

“Yes, pretty much at the same time.”

“Where’s Filippi, do you know?”  Brunetti asked.

“I think he lives in Verona.  You want me to find out about him?”


“How much?”

“Whatever you can.”

“And I suppose you’ll pay me the same as you always do?”  Avisani asked

with a laugh.

“You don’t want to eat my wife’s cooking?”  Brunetti asked with fake

indignation, then, before Avisani could answer,

Brunetti said, “I don’t want you to go to any trouble with this,


This time it was the journalist who laughed.  “Guido, if I worried

about going to trouble, or, for that matter, getting into trouble, I

doubt I could do this job.”

Thanks, Beppe,” Brunetti said, and the warmth of the other man’s

parting laugh told him that their friendship remained as strong as


He went downstairs, and though he tried to resist the siren lure of

Signorina Elettra and her computer, he failed.  There was no light on

in her office, and the darkened screen of the computer suggested she

had not yet found what he had asked her to get.  There was nothing else

for him to do, short of rifling through her desk, so he went home to

his family and his dinner.

The next morning he was at the Questura before eight, and when his

detour past Signorina Elettra’s office showed that she was not yet in,

he continued to the officers’ room, where he found Pucetti at a desk,

reading a magazine.  The young man got to his feet when he saw

Brunetti.  “Good morning, Commissario.  I was hoping you’d come in


“What have you got?”  Brunetti asked.  He was vaguely conscious of

motion behind him, and he saw its reflection on Pucetti’s face, from

which the smile disappeared.  “Only these forms, sir he said, reaching

across his desk to the one beside it and gathering up two stacks of

papers.  “I think they need your signature,” he said, his voice


Imitating his tone, Brunetti said, “I’ve got to go down to see Bocchese

for a minute.  Could you take them up and put them on my desk for


“Certainly, sir,” Pucetti said, setting one stack, and then the second,

on top of his magazine and tapping them together to straighten the

edges.  When he picked them up, the magazine had disappeared.

Brunetti turned towards the door and found it blocked by

Lieutenant Scarpa.  “Good morning, Lieutenant/ Brunetti said neutrally.

“Is there something I can do for you?”

“No, sir the lieutenant answered.  “I wanted to speak to Pucetti/

Brunetti’s face lit up with grateful surprise.  “Ah, thank you for

reminding me, Lieutenant: there’s something I need to ask Pucetti

about.”  He turned to the young man.  “You can wait for me in my

office, Officer.  I won’t be a minute with Bocchese.”  With a friendly

smile at the lieutenant, Brunetti said, “You know how Bocchese loves to

get an early start suggesting this was common knowledge at the

Questura, despite the well-known truth that Bocchese spent the first

hour of his day reading La Gazzetta del lo Sport and using his email

address at the Questura to place bets in three countries.

Silently, the lieutenant moved aside to let his superior pass.

Brunetti waited just outside the door until Pucetti joined him and then

closed the door of the office behind them.

“Oh, I suppose Bocchese can wait a few minutes Brunetti said

resignedly.  When they got to his office, Brunetti closed the door

behind them and while he took off his overcoat and hung it in the

closet, said, What did you learn?”

Pucetti kept the papers tucked under, his arm and said, “I think

there’s something wrong with the Ruffo boy, sir.  I went over there

yesterday and hung around in the bar down the street from the school,

and when he came in I said hello.  I offered him a coffee, but it

seemed to me he was nervous about talking to me.”

“Or being seen talking to you Brunetti suggested.  When Pucetti agreed,

Brunetti asked, “What makes you think there’s something wrong with


“I think he’s been in a fight.”  Not waiting for Brunetti to question

him, Pucetti went on.  “Both of his hands were scraped, and the

knuckles of his right hand were swollen.  When he saw me looking at

them, he tried to hide them behind his back.”

“What else?”

“He moved differently, as though he were stiff.”

“What did he tell you?”  asked Brunetti as he sat down behind his


“He said he’s had time to think about it and he realizes now that maybe

it was suicide, after all,” Pucetti said.

Brunetti propped his elbows on his desk and rested his chin on his

folded hands.  Silently, he waited to hear not only what Pucetti had

been told but what he thought of it.

In the face of his superior’s silence, Pucetti ventured, “He doesn’t

believe that, sir, at least I don’t think he does.”


“He sounded frightened, and he sounded as if he were repeating

something he’d had to memorize.  I asked him why he thought it might

have been suicide, and he said it was because Moro had been acting

strangely in the last few weeks.”  Pucetti paused, then added, “Just

the opposite of what he told me the first time.  It was as if he needed

some sign from me that I believed him.”

“And did you give it to him?”  Brunetti asked.

“Of course, sir.  If that’s what he needs to feel safe, and I think it

is, then it’s better he have it.”

“Why’s that, Pucetti?”

“Because it will cause him to relax, and when he relaxes he’ll be even

more frightened when we talk to him again.”

“Here, do you mean?”

“Downstairs, yes.  And with someone big in the room with us.”

Brunetti looked up at the young man and smiled.

The obvious choice to serve the role of enforcer was Vianello, a man

who had perfected the art of disguising his essential good nature

behind expressions that could vary from displeased to savage.  He was

not, however, to be given the chance to employ his repertory on Cadet

Ruffo, for when the

Inspector and Pucetti arrived at the San Martino Academy an hour later,

the cadet was not in his room, nor did the boys on his floor know where

to find him.  It was the Comandante who brought illumination by telling

them, when their inquiries finally led them to his office, that Cadet

Ruffo had been granted leave to visit his family and was not expected

to return to the Academy for at least two weeks.

When asked, the Comandante remained vague as to the precise reason for

Cadet Ruffo’s leave, saying something about ‘family matters’, as if

that should satisfy any curiosity on their part.

Vianello knew that the student list was in Signorina Elettra’s

possession, a list that would surely provide the address of Ruffo’s

parents, and so it was nothing more than interest in the Comandante’s

response that prompted Vianello to ask him to provide it.  He refused,

insisting that the addresses of the students constituted privileged

information.  Then he announced that he had a meeting to attend and

asked them to leave.

After the two men returned to the Questura and reported this encounter

to Brunetti, he asked Pucetti, “What was your general impression of the


I’d like to say they were frightened, the way Ruffo was when I talked

to him the last time, but they weren’t.  In fact, they seemed angry

that I’d ask them anything, almost as if I didn’t have a right to talk

to them.”  The young officer shrugged in confusion about how to make

all of this clear.  “I mean, they’re all seven or eight years younger

than I am, but they acted like they were speaking to a kid or someone

who was supposed to obey them.”  He looked perplexed.

“An enlisted man, for example?”  Brunetti asked.

Not following, Pucetti asked, “Excuse me, sir?”

“As if they were speaking to an enlisted person?  Is that how they

spoke to you?”

Pucetti nodded.  “Yes, I think so, as if I was supposed to obey them

and not ask questions.”

“But that doesn’t tell us why they didn’t want to talk Vianello


“There’s usually only one reason for that Brunetti said.

Before Vianello could ask what he meant, Pucetti blurted out, “Because

they all know whatever Ruffo does, and they don’t want us to talk to


Once again, Brunetti graced the young man with an approving smile.

By three that afternoon, they were seated in an unmarked police car

parked a hundred metres from the entrance to the home listed for Cadet

Ruffo, a dairy farm on the outskirts of Dolo, a small town halfway

between Venice and Padova.  The stone house, long and low and attached

at one end to a large barn, sat back from a poplar-lined road.  A

gravel driveway led up to it from the road, but the recent rains had

reduced it to a narrow band of mud running between patches of dead

grass interspersed with mud-rimmed puddles.  There were no trees within

sight, though stumps stood here and there in the fields, indicating

where they had been cut.  It was difficult for Brunetti, stiff and cold

in the car, to think of a season different from this one, but he

wondered what the cattle would do without shade from the summer sun.

Then he remembered how seldom cows went to pasture on the farms of the

new Veneto: they generally stood in their stalls, reduced to motionless

cogs in the wheel of milk production.

It was cold; a raw wind was coming from the north.  Every so often,

Vianello turned on the motor and put the heat on high, until it grew so

hot in the car that one or another of them was forced to open a


After half an hour, Vianello said, The don’t think it makes much sense

to sit here, waiting for him to show up.  Why don’t we just go and ask

if he’s there or not?”

Pucetti, as befitted his inferior position, both in terms of rank and,

because he was in the back seat, geography, said nothing, leaving it to

Brunetti to respond.

Brunetti had been musing on the same question for some time, and

Vianello’s outburst was enough to convince him.  “You’re right,” he

said.  “Let’s go and see if he’s there.”

Vianello turned on the engine and put the car into gear.  Slowly, the

wheels occasionally spinning in search of purchase, they drove through

the mud and gravel and towards the house.  As they drew nearer, signs

of rustic life became more and more evident.  An abandoned tyre, so

large it could have come only from a tractor, lay against the front of

a barn.  To the left of the door of the house a row of rubber boots

stood in odd pairings of black and brown, tall and short.  Two large

dogs emerged from around the side of the house and ran towards them,

low and silent and, because of that, frightening.  They stopped two

metres short of the car, both on the passenger side, and stared, their

lips pulled back in suspicion, but still silent.

Brunetti could recognize only a few well-known breeds, and he thought

he saw some German Shepherd in these dogs, but there was little else he

could identify.  “Well?”  he asked Vianello.

Neither of the others said anything, so Brunetti pushed open his door

and put one foot on the ground, careful to choose a patch of dried

grass.  The dogs did nothing.  He put his other foot on the ground and

pushed himself out of the car.  Still the dogs remained motionless. His

nostrils were assailed by the acidic smell of cow urine, and he noticed

that the puddles in front of what he thought to be the doors of the

barn were a dark, foaming brown.

He heard one car door open, then the other, and then Pucetti was

standing beside him.  At the sight of two men standing side by side,

the dogs backed away a bit.  Vianello came around the front of the car,

and the dogs backed away

even farther, until they stood just at the corner of the building.

Vianello suddenly stamped his right foot and took a long step towards

them, and they disappeared around the corner of the building, still

without having made a sound.

The men walked to the door, where an enormous iron ring served as a

knocker.  Brunetti picked it up and let it drop against the metal

plaque nailed into the door, enjoying the weight of it in his hand as

well as the solid clang it created.  When there was no response, he did

it again.  After a moment, they heard a voice from inside call

something they could not distinguish.

The door was opened by a short, dark-haired woman in a shapeless grey

woollen dress over which she wore a thick green cardigan that had

obviously been knitted by hand, a clumsy hand.  Shorter than they, she

stepped back from the door and put her head back to squint at them.

Brunetti noticed that there was a lopsided quality about her face: the

left eye angled up towards her temple, while the same side of her mouth

drooped.  Her skin seemed baby soft and was without wrinkles, though

she must have been well into her forties.

“Si?”  she finally inquired.

“Is this the home of Giuliano Ruffo?”  Brunetti asked.

She might have been a speaker of some other language, so long did it

take her to translate his words into meaning.  As Brunetti watched, he

thought he saw her mouth the word, “Giuliano’, as if that would help

her answer the question.

“Momenta,” the woman said, and the consonants caused her great

difficulty.  She turned away, leaving it to them to close the door.  Or

just as easily, Brunetti said to himself, walk off with everything in

the house or, if they preferred, kill everyone inside and drive away

undisturbed, even by the dogs.

The three men crowded into the hall and stood there, waiting for the

woman to return or for someone to arrive

better able to answer their questions.  After a few minutes they heard

footsteps come towards them from the back of the house.  The woman in

the green cardigan returned, and behind her was another woman, younger,

and wearing a sweater made from the same wool but by more skilful

hands.  This woman’s features and bearing, too, spoke of greater

refinement: dark eyes that instantly sought his, a sculpted mouth

poised to speak, and an air of concentrated attention left Brunetti

with a general impression of brightness and light.

“Si?”  she said.  Both her tone and her expression made the question

one that required not only an answer, but an explanation.

“I’m Commissario Guido Brunetti, Signora.  I’d like to speak to

Giuliano Ruffo.  Our records show that this is his home.”

“What do you want to talk to him about?”  the second woman asked.

“About the death of one of his fellow cadets.”

During this exchange, the first woman stood to one side of Brunetti,

open mouthed, her face moving back and forth from one to the other as

he spoke to the younger woman, seeming to register only sound. Brunetti

saw her in profile, and noticed that the undamaged side of her face was

similar to that of the other woman’s.  Sisters, then, or perhaps


“He’s not here the younger woman said.

Brunetti had no patience for this.  “Then he’s in violation of his

leave from the Academy,” he said, thinking this might perhaps be


To hell with the Academy,” she answered fiercely.

“All the more reason for him to talk to us, then,” he countered.

“I told you, he’s not here.”

Suddenly angry, Brunetti said, “I don’t believe you.”  The idea of what

life in the countryside was like came to him, the

boredom of work relieved only by the hope that some new misery would

befall a neighbour.  “If you like, we can leave and then come back

again with three cars, with sirens wailing and red lights flashing, and

fill your courtyard and then go and ask all of your neighbours if they

know where he is.”

“You wouldn’t do that,” she said, far more truthfully than she


“Then let me talk to him Brunetti said.  “Giuliano,” said the first

woman, surprising them all.

“It’s all right, Luigina,” the younger woman said, placing a hand on

her forearm.  These men have come to see Giuliano.”

“Giuliano,” the older woman repeated in the same dull, uninflected


“That’s right, cam.  They’re friends of his, and they’ve come to


“Friends,” the woman repeated with a crooked smile.  She moved towards

the bulk of Vianello, who was looming behind his colleagues.  She

raised her right hand and placed the open palm on the centre of his

chest.  She raised her face up to his and said, “Friend.”

Vianello placed his hand over hers and said, That’s right, Signora.


There ensued a moment of intense awkwardness, at least for Brunetti,

Pucetti and the younger woman.  Vianello and Luigina remained linked by

her hand on his chest, while Brunetti turned to the other woman and

said, “Signora, I do need to speak to Giuliano.  You have my

inspector’s word: we’re friends.”

“Why should I trust you?”  she demanded.

Brunetti turned partly towards Vianello, who was now softly patting the

back of the other woman’s hand.  “Because she does he said.

The younger woman began to protest but let it drop even before she

could pronounce the first word.  As Brunetti watched, her face

displayed her recognition of the truth of his remark.  Her body relaxed

and she asked, “What do you need to ask him?”

The told you, Signora.  About the death of the cadet.”

“Only about that?”  Her glance was as clear and direct as her


“Yes.”  He could have left it at that, but he felt himself bound

by Vianello’s promise.  “It should be.  But I won’t know until I speak

Lo him.”

Luigina suddenly took her hand from Vianello’s chest.  She turned to

the other woman and said, “Giuliano.”  After she pronounced the name,

she gave a nervous grin that tugged at Brunetti’s pity as it pulled at

her mouth.

The younger woman stepped close to her and took her right hand in both

of hers.  “It’s all right, Luigina.  Nothing will happen to


The woman must have understood what she heard, for the grin expanded

into a smile and she clapped her hands together in undisguised

happiness.  She turned towards the back of the house, but before she

could move the younger woman placed a hand on her arm, stopping her.

“But the gentleman needs to speak to Giuliano alone,” she began, making

a business of looking at her watch.  “And while he’s doing that, you

can feed the chickens.  It’s time for that.”  Brunetti knew little

about country life, but he did know that chickens didn’t get fed in the

middle of the day.

“Chickens?”  Luigina asked, confused by the abrupt change of subject.

“You have chickens, Signora?”  Vianello asked with great enthusiasm,

stepping forward until he was directly in front of her.  “Would you

show them to me?”  he asked.

Again, the lopsided smile, at the chance to show her friend the


Turning to Pucetti, Vianello said, The Signora’s going to show us the

chickens, Pucetti.”  Without waiting for Pucetti to respond, Vianello

placed a hand on the woman’s arm and started to walk with her to the

front door of the house.  “How many … ?”  Brunetti heard the

Inspector begin, and then, as if he’d realized that the act of counting

was probably well beyond this woman’s powers, he continued seamlessly,

‘… times have I wanted to see chickens.”  He turned to Pucetti.

“Come on, let’s go see the chickens.”

When they were alone, Brunetti asked the woman, “May I ask who you are,


“I’m Giuliano’s aunt.”

“And the other signora?”  he asked.

“His mother.”  When Brunetti followed this with no inquiry, she added,

“She was injured some years ago, while Giuliano was still a boy.”

“And before that?”  Brunetti asked.

“What do you mean?  Was she normal?”  she demanded, attempting an angry

tone but not fully succeeding.

Brunetti nodded.

“Yes, she was.  As normal as I. I’m her sister, Tiziana.”

“I thought so he said.  “You look very much alike, the two of you.”

“She was the beautiful one,” she said sadly.  “Before.”  If this

woman’s neglected beauty were any indication, then Luigina must indeed

have been a wonder.

“May I ask what happened?”

“You’re a policeman, aren’t you?”


“Does that mean you can’t repeat things?”

“If they’re not related to the case I’m investigating, no.”  Brunetti

failed to tell her that it was more a case of what he chose not to

reveal than what he was forbidden to, but his answer satisfied her.

“Her husband shot her.  And then he shot himself,” she said.  When

Brunetti made no comment, she continued, “He meant to kill her and then

himself.  But he failed, at least with Luigina.”

“Why did he do it?”

“He thought she was having an affair.”

“Was she?”

“No.”  Her answer left no doubt in Brunetti’s mind.  “But he was a

jealous man, always.  And violent.  We all warned her not to marry him,

but she did.”  After a long pause, she added,

“Love/ as though asked to name the disease that had destroyed her


“How long ago did this happen?”

“Eight years.  Giuliano was ten.”  The woman suddenly folded her arms

across her stomach, her hands grabbing at the opposite arms as though

seeking security there.

When it occurred to him, the idea so shocked him that he spoke before

he considered how painful the question would be for her.  “Where was


“No, he wasn’t there she answered.  “At least he didn’t do that to


Brunetti wanted to know the full extent of the damage to the other

woman, but he recognized this as the prurient curiosity it was, and so

he forbore to ask.  The evidence in Luigina’s behaviour and

asymmetrical face sufficed to indicate what was left: this woman’s

vitality was enough to suggest what had been taken.

As they were walking across to the back of the house, Brunetti asked,

“Why did he leave the school?”

“He said .. .”  she began but then stopped, and Brunetti sensed that

she was sorry not to be able to explain it to him.  The think it would

be better if you asked Giuliano that.”

“Was he happy there?”

“No.  Never.”  Her answer was instant and fierce.

“Then why did he go, or why did he stay?”

She stopped and turned to face him, and he noticed that her eyes, which

had at first appeared dark, were in reality flecked with amber and

seemed to glow, even in the dim light of the hall.

“Do you know anything about the family?”

“No.  Nothing/ he said, at once regretting that he had failed to ask

Signorina Elettra further to invade their privacy and ferret through

their secrets.  All of this would then have been far less surprising,

and he would have known what information to try to get out of her.

Again, she crossed her arms in front of her and turned to |r face him.

“You didn’t read about it, then?”

“No, not that I recall.”  He wondered how he could have missed a case

like this: it must have been a three-day wonder for the press.

“It happened when they were in Sardegna, on the naval base there she

said, as though that would explain it.  “And my sister’s father-in-law

managed to keep it quiet.”

“Who is he, her father-in-law?”  Brunetti asked.

“Ammiraglio Giambattista Ruffo,” she said.

Brunetti recognized the name instantly: the man known as the “King’s

Admiral’ for his avowedly monarchist sentiments and opinions.  Brunetti

thought Ruffo was Genovese by birth, had a vague memory of having heard

people talk about him for decades.  Ruffo had risen through the ranks

of the Navy on merit, keeping his ideas to himself, but once his senior

rank was confirmed and Brunetti thought this had been about fifteen

years ago he had ceased to disguise or equivocate about his belief that

the monarchy should be restored.  The attempt on the part of the War

Ministry to silence Ruffo had given him a sort of overnight celebrity,

for he refused to retract any of his statements.  The serious

newspapers, if, in fact, any can be said to exist in Italy, quickly

tired of the story, and it was relegated to those weekly magazines

whose covers devote attention week by week to various parts of the

female anatomy.

Given his celebrity, it was nothing short of miraculous that his son’s

suicide could have been kept from turning into a media feeding frenzy,

but Brunetti had no memory of the case.  “How did he manage to silence

it?”  Brunetti asked.

Tn Sardegna, at the naval base, he was in command,” she began.

“You mean the Admiral?”  Brunetti interrupted to ask.

“Yes.  Because it all happened there, the press could be kept out.”

“How was it reported?”  Brunetti asked, knowing that, given these

conditions, almost anything was possible.

That he had died in an accident, and Luigina had been seriously injured

at the same time.”

That’s all they said?”  he asked, surprised at his own ingenuousness at

thinking this unusual.

“Of course.  The Naval police investigated, and a Naval doctor did the

autopsy.  Luigina wasn’t even badly hurt by the bullet.  It hit her in

the arm.  But she fell and hit her head.  That’s what did the


“Why are you telling me this?”  Brunetti asked.

“Because Giuliano doesn’t know what really happened.”

“Where was he?”  Brunetti asked.  “When it happened, I mean.”

There.  But in a different part of the house, with his grandparents.”

“And no one’s ever told him?”

She shook her head.  The don’t think so.  At least, not until now.”

“Why do you say that?”  he asked, sensitive to a sudden lessening of

confidence in her tone.

She raised her right hand and rubbed at her temple, just at the

hairline.  “I don’t know.  He asked me about it when he came home this

time.  I’m afraid I didn’t handle it well.  Instead of just telling him

what we’ve always told him, about the accident, I asked him why he was

asking.”  She stopped speaking, glancing at the floor, her fingers

still busy at the edge of her hair.

“And?”  Brunetti prodded.

“And when he didn’t answer me, I told him that he already knew what

happened, that there was a terrible accident and his father was

killed.”  She stopped again.

“Did he believe you?”

She shrugged the question away like a wilful child refusing to deal

with an unpleasant subject.

Brunetti waited, not repeating the question.  Finally she t>aid,

raising her eyes to meet his, I don’t know if he did or not.”  She

stopped, considering how to explain this, then went on, “When he was

younger, he used to ask about it.  It was almost like a fever: it would

grow and grow on him until he couldn’t do anything except ask me about

it again, no matter how many times I’d told him what happened.  And

then he’d be all right for a time, but then it would start again, and

he’d refer to his father or ask questions about him, or about his

grandfather, until he couldn’t stand it any more, and then he’d ask

about his father’s death.”  She closed her eyes, letting her hands fall

to her sides.  “And I’d tell him the same old lie again.  Until I was

sick of hearing it.”

She turned away from him and started towards the back of the house

again.  Following her, Brunetti risked one last question: “Did he seem

different this time?”

She kept walking, but he saw the sudden rise and fall of her shoulders

as she shrugged the question away.  After a few more steps, she stopped

just in front of a door but did not turn to face him.  “Every time he

asked, he was calmer for a while after I told him what had happened,

but this time he wasn’t.  He didn’t believe me.  He doesn’t believe me

any more.”  She didn’t explain why she thought this, and Brunetti

didn’t think it necessary to ask: the boy would be a far more reliable


She opened a door that gave on to another long corridor, then stopped

at the second door on the right and knocked.  Almost immediately it

opened, and Giuliano Ruffo came out into the corridor.  He saw his aunt

and smiled, then turned to Brunetti and recognized him.  The smile

disappeared, flared up for a hopeful moment, then died away again.

“Zz’a,” he named her.  “What is it?”  When she didn’t answer, the boy

said to Brunetti, “You’re the man who came to my room.”  At Brunetti’s

nod, he asked, “What do you want now?”

The same thing I did last time, to talk about Ernesto Moro.”

“What about him?”  Giuliano asked neutrally.  Brunetti thought the boy

should have been more disturbed to have the police pursuing him to his

home to ask about Ernesto Moro.  Suddenly he was conscious of the

awkwardness of their situation, the three of them standing in the

unheated corridor, the woman silent while Brunetti and the boy circled

one another with questions.  As if sensing his thoughts, the woman

said, indicating the room behind her nephew, “Shall we go somewhere

warmer to talk?”

If it had been a command, the boy could not have responded more

quickly.  He went back inside, leaving the door open for them to

follow.  Entering, Brunetti was reminded of the unnatural orderliness

of Giuliano’s room at the Academy, but reminded only because here he

saw its antithesis: clothing lay discarded across the bed and on top of

the radiator; compact discs, vulnerable and naked outside of their

boxes, covered the desk; boots and shoes cluttered the floor.  The only

thing that surprised him was the absence of the smell of cigarettes,

though he saw an open pack on the desk and another on the table beside

the bed.

Giuliano went to the armchair in front of the window and picked up the

clothing draped over it, then told his aunt that she could sit there.

He tossed the clothing on to the foot of the bed, adding it to a pair

of jeans already there.  He nodded his head towards the chair in front

of his desk, indicating to Brunetti that he could sit there, then sat

down in the space he had just made on the bed.

Brunetti began, “Giuliano, I don’t know what you’ve been told or have

read, and I don’t care what you might have told anyone.  I don’t

believe that Ernesto killed himself; I don’t believe he was the kind of

boy to do it, and I don’t think he had any reason to do it.”  He

paused, waiting for the boy or his aunt to say something.

Neither did, so he continued, That means either he died in an accident

of some sort or that someone killed him.”

“What do you mean, accident?”  Giuliano asked.

“A practical juke that went wrong, one he was playing 01 that someone

was playing on him.  If that was the case, then I think the people

involved would have panicked and done the first thing that they thought

of: faking a suicide.”  He stopped there, hoping to provide the boy

with the opportunity to agree, but Giuliano remained silent.

“Or else,” Brunetti continued, ‘for reasons I don’t understand, he was

killed, either deliberately or, again, when something went wrong or got

out of hand.  And then the same thing happened: whoever did it tried to

make it look like a suicide.”

“But the newspapers say it was suicide,” the aunt interrupted.

That doesn’t mean anything, Zia,” the boy surprised Brunetti by


Into the silence that radiated from this exchange, Brunetti said, “I’m

afraid he’s right, Signora.”

The boy put both hands on the surface of the bed and hung his head, as

if examining the jumble of shoes and boots that lay on the floor.

Brunetti watched his hands turn into fists then unfold themselves

again.  He looked up, suddenly leaned aside, and picked up the pack of

cigarettes on the table beside him.  He held it tight in his right

hand, like a talisman or the hand of a friend, but he made no move to

take a cigarette.  He switched the pack to his left hand and finally

took a cigarette from it.  Standing, he tossed the pack down on the bed

and came towards Brunetti, who remained motionless.

Giuliano took a disposable plastic cigarette lighter from the desk and

went to the door.  Saying nothing, he left the room, closing the door

behind him.

His aunt said, “I’ve asked him not to smoke in the house.”

“Don’t you like the smell?”  Brunetti asked.

She pulled a battered packet of cigarettes from the pocket of her

sweater and said, holding it up to him, “Quite the

opposite.  But Giuliano’s father was a heavy smoker, so my sister

associates the smell with him: we both smoke only outside the house not

to upset her.”

“Will he come back?”  Brunetti asked; he had made no attempt to stop

Giuliano from leaving and was fully convinced that the boy could not be

forced to reveal anything he did not want to.

There’s nowhere else he can go his aunt said, though not unkindly.

They sat in silence for a while, until Brunetti asked, “Who runs this


“I do.  With a man from the village.”

“How many cows do you have?”


“Is that enough to make a living?”  Brunetti asked, curious to learn

how the family managed to survive, though he admitted to himself he

knew so little about farming that the number of cattle could give him

no indication of wealth or the ability to produce it.

There’s a trust from Giuliano’s grandfather she explained.

“Is he dead?”


Then how can there be a trust?”

“He set it up when his son died.  For Giuliano.”

Brunetti asked, “What does it stipulate?”  When she didn’t answer, he

added, “If you’ll permit me to ask.”

“I can’t stop you asking anything she said tiredly.

After some time, she apparently decided to answer the question.

“Giuliano receives a sum every four months she told him.

A certain hesitation at the end of her statement led Brunetti to ask,

“Are there any conditions?”

“So long as he is actively pursuing a career in the military, he’ll

continue to receive it.”

“And if he stops?”

“It does, too.”

“His time at the Academy?”

That’s part of the pursuing.”

“And now?”  he asked, waving a hand to indicate the unmilitary chaos of

Giuliano’s room.

She shrugged, a gesture he was beginning to associate with her, then

answered, “So long as he’s still officially on leave, he’s considered

…”  her voice trailed off.

“Pursuing?”  Brunetti ventured and was pleased by her smile.

The door opened then and Giuliano came into the room, bringing with him

the scent of cigarette smoke.  He walked back to the bed, and Brunetti

noticed that his shoes left muddy tracks on the tiles of the floor.  He

sat, propping his hands on either side, looked at Brunetti and said, “I

don’t know what happened.”

“Is that the truth or what you decided to tell me while you were

outside?”  Brunetti asked mildly.

“It’s the truth.”

“Do you have any idea at all?”  Brunetti asked.  The boy gave no sign

that he had even heard the question, so Brunetti asked an even more

hypothetical question: “Or of what might have happened?”

After a long time, head still lowered and eyes still on his shoes, the

boy said, The can’t go back there.”

Brunetti did not for an instant doubt him: no one who heard him would.

But he was curious about the boy’s reasons.  “Why?”

“I can’t be a soldier.”

Why is that, Giuliano?”  he asked.

“It’s not in me.  It just isn’t.  It all seems so stupid: the orders

and the standing in line and everyone doing the same thing at the same

time.  It’s stupid.”

Brunetti glanced at the boy’s aunt, but she sat motionless,

staring at her nephew, ignoring Brunetti.  When the boy spoke again,

Brunetti turned his attention back to him.  “I didn’t want to do it,

but my grandfather said it’s what my father would have wanted me to

do.”  He glanced up at Brunetti, who met his eyes but remained


That’s not true, Giuliano/ his aunt interrupted.  “He always hated the


Then why did he join?”  Giuliano snapped back, making no attempt to

disguise his anger.

After a long time, as if she’d considered the effect her words were

bound to have, she answered, “For the same reason you did: to make your

grandfather happy.”

“He’s never happy,” Giuliano muttered.

A silence fell on them.  Brunetti turned and looked out the window, but

all he saw was the long expanse of muddy fields and, here and there, a

tree trunk.

It was the woman who finally broke the silence.  “Your father always

wanted to be an architect, at least that’s what your mother told me.

But his father, your grandfather, insisted that he become a soldier.”

“Just like all the other Ruffos,” Giuliano spat out with undisguised


“Yes/ she agreed.  “I think that was part of the cause of his


“He killed himself, didn’t he?”  Giuliano startled both of the adults

by asking.

Brunetti turned his gaze back to the woman.  She looked at him, then at

her nephew, and finally said, “Yes.”

“And before, he tried to kill Mamma?”

She nodded.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”  the boy asked, his voice tight and

close to tears.

Tears appeared in her eyes too and began to spill down her face.  She

drew her mouth tight, incapable of speech, and shook her head.  Finally

she held up her right hand, her palm

facing her nephew, as if asking him to be patient long enough for words

Lo come back lo her.  More lime passed and then she said, “I was


“Of what?”  the boy demanded.

To hurt you she said.

“And a lie wouldn’t?”  he asked, but in confusion, without anger.

She turned her palm upwards, splaying open her fingers, in a gesture

that spoke of uncertainty and, in a strange way, of hope.

“What happened?”  Giuliano asked.  When she didn’t answer, he added,

“Please tell me, Zia.”

Brunetti watched her struggle towards speech.  Finally she said, “He

was jealous of your mother and accused her of having an affair.”  As

the boy showed no curiosity about this, she went on.  “He shot her and

then himself.”

“Is that why Mamma is the way she is?”

She nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?  I always thought it was a disease you were

afraid to tell me about.”  He stopped and then, as if carried forward

on the current of his own confessions, added, “That it was something in

the family.  And it would happen to me, too.”

This broke her, and she started to cry openly, silently, save for an

occasional deep intake of breath.

Brunetti turned his attention to the boy and asked, “Will you tell me

what you think happened, Giuliano?”

The boy looked at Brunetti, at the weeping woman, and then back at

Brunetti.  The think they killed him,” he finally said.


The others.”

“Why?”  Brunetti asked, leaving for later the question of who ‘they’


“Because of his father and because he tried to help me.”

“What did they say about his father?”  Brunetti asked.

Thai he was a traitor.”

“A traitor to what?”

“La Patria,” the boy answered, and never had Brunetti heard the words

spoken with such contempt.

“Because of his report?”

The boy shook his head.  “I don’t know.  They never said.  They just

kept telling him his father was a traitor.”

When it seemed that Giuliano had reached a halting place, Brunetti

prodded him by asking, “How did he try to help you?”

“One of them started talking about my father.  He said he knew what had

happened and that my mother was a whore.  That there wasn’t any

accident, and that she’d gone crazy when my father killed himself

because it was her fault that he did.”

“And what did Moro do?”

“He hit him, the one who said this, Paolo Filippi.  He knocked him down

and broke one of his teeth.”

Brunetti waited, not wanting to press him, afraid that it would break

the thread of the boy’s revelations.

Giuliano went on.  “That stopped it for a while, but then Filippi began

to threaten Ernesto, and then a bunch of his friends did, too.”

Branetti’s.attention was riveted by the name Filippi, the third-year

student whose father supplied material to the military.

“What happened?”

The don’t know.  I didn’t hear anything that night, the night he died.

But the next day they all seemed strange worried and happy at the same

time, like kids who have a secret or a secret club.”

“Did you say anything?  Ask anyone?”



Giuliano looked straight at Brunetti as he said, “I was

afraid’, and Brunetti was struck by how much courage it took for him to

say that.

“And since then?”

Giuliano shook his head again.  “I don’t know.  I stopped going to

classes and stayed in my room most of the time.  The only people I

talked to were you and then that policeman who came to the bar, the

nice one.”

“What made you leave?”

“One of them, not Filippi, but one of the others, saw me talking to the

policeman, and he remembered him from when he was asking questions at

the Academy, and then Filippi told me if I talked to the police I

better watch out…”  His voice trailed off, leaving the sentence

unfinished.  He took a deep breath and added, “He said I should be

careful and that talking to the police could drive a person to suicide,

and then he laughed.”  He waited to see what effect this would have on

Brunetti, and then said, “So I left.  I just walked out and came


“And you’re not going back his aunt startled them both by interrupting.

She got to her feet, took two steps towards her nephew, and stopped.

Looking across at Brunetti, she said, “No more.  Please, no more of


“All right,” Brunetti agreed, standing.  For a moment, he debated

whether to tell the boy he would have to make a formal statement, but

this was not the time to try to force anything from him, especially not

with his aunt present.  In future, they could deny that this

conversation had taken place or they could admit it.  Which they chose

to do was irrelevant to Brunetti: what interested him was the

information he had obtained.

As they made their way back to the front hall, he heard the deep,

comforting bass of Vianello’s voice, interspersed with a light female

warbling.  When Brunetti and the others entered the room, Giuliano’s

mother turned to greet them, her face aglow with joy.  Vianello stood

in the middle of the room, a

wicker basket full of brown eggs dangling from his right hand.

Giuliano’s mother pointed to Vianello and said, “Friend

On the way back to Venice, Brunetti explained that, although they now

had enough to warrant calling the Filippi boy in for questioning, he

would prefer them to dedicate their energies to seeing what they could

find out about his father.

Vianello surprised him by suggesting he take a few hours the next day

to have a look on the Internet to see what he could discover.  Brunetti

forbore from comment on his phrase, ‘have a look’, which sounded to him

like vintage Signorina Elettra, when he considered the relief that

would come to him if someone other than Signorina Elettra, someone to

whom he was less beholden by the heavy demands of past favours, were to

be the one to discover sensitive information.

“How will you do it?”  he asked Vianello.

Keeping his eyes on the traffic that filled the roads leading towards

Venice, Vianello said, The same way Signorina Elettra does: see what I

can find and then see what my friends can find.”

“Are they the same friends as hers?”  Brunetti asked.

At this question, Vianello took his eyes from the road and permitted

himself a quick glance in Brunetti’s direction.  “I suppose.”

Then perhaps it would be faster to ask Signorina Elettra/ a defeated

Brunetti suggested.

He did so the following morning, stepping into her office and asking

her if her military friend was back from Livorno and, if so, whether he

would allow her to have a look at their files.  As if she had known

upon rising that the day would cause her to engage the military,

Signorina Elettra wore a dark blue sweater with small buttoned tabs on

the shoulders not unlike epaulettes.

“You wouldn’t.happen to be wearing a sword, would you?”  Brunetti


“No, sir she answered, “I find it very inconvenient for daytime wear.”

Smiling, she pressed a swift series of keys on her computer, paused a

moment, then said, “He’ll start working on it now.”

Brunetti went back to his office.

He read two newspapers, calling it work, while he waited for her, then

made a few phone calls, not attempting to justify them as anything

other than maintaining good relations with people who might some day be

asked to provide him with information.

When there had been no sign of Signorina Elettra before lunchtime, he

left the Questura without calling her, though he did call Paola to say

he would not be home for lunch.  He went to da Remigio and ate insalata

di mare and coda di rospo in tomato sauce, telling himself that,

because he drank only a quartino of their house white wine and limited

himself to a single grappa, it was a light meal and would entitle him

to have something more substantial that evening.

He looked into Signorina Elettra’s office on his way up to his own, but

she was gone.  His heart dropped, for he feared that she had left for

the day and he would have to wait until

the following day to learn about Filippi.  But she did not disappoint.

At three-thirty, just as he was considering going down to ask Vianello

to have a look on the computer, she came into his office, a few papers

in her hand.

“Filippi?”  he asked.

“Isn’t that the name of a battle?”

“Yes.  It’s where Bruto and Cassio were defeated.”

“By Marc’ Antonio?”  she asked, not at all to his surprise.

“And Ottaviano,” he added for the sake of correctness.  “Who then went

on, if memory serves, to defeat Antonio.”

“It serves she said, placing the papers on his desk, adding, “A tricky

lot, soldiers.”

He nodded at the papers.  “Do they lead you to that conclusion, or does

the battle of Filippi?”

“Both,” she answered.  She explained that she would be leaving the

Questura in an hour because she had an appointment and left his


There didn’t seem to be more than a dozen sheets of paper, but they

contained an adequate summary of both men’s rise through the ranks of

the military.  After graduating from the San Martino Academy, Filippi

went on to the formal military academy in Mantova, where he proved to

be a mediocre cadet.  Filippi finished in the middle of his class,

beginning a career that had little to do with battle or its many

dangers.  He had spent his early years as ‘resource specialist’ in a

tank regiment.  Promoted, he had served for three years on the staff of

the military attache to Spain.  Promoted again, he was posted as

executive officer in charge of procurement for a regiment of

paratroopers, where he remained until his retirement.  Glancing back at

Filippi’s first posting, Brunetti’s attention was caught by the word,

‘tank’, and his mind flew instantly to his father and the rage into

which that word would catapult him.  For two of the war years, while

the Army staggered under the command of General Cavallero, ex-director

of the Ansaldo armaments complex, Brunetti’s

father had driven one of their tanks.  More than once he had seen the

men of his battalion blown to fragments as the armour plating shattered

like glass under enemy fire.

Toscano had enjoyed a similarly un-bellicose career.  Like Filippi, he

had risen effortlessly through the ranks, as though helped along by

gentle puffs of wind from the cheeks of protecting cherubs.  After

years in which he had certainly never been disturbed by the sound of

shots fired in anger, Colonello Toscano had been appointed to serve as

military adviser to Parliament, the position from which he had been

encouraged to retire two years before.  He now served as professor of

history and military theory at the San Martino Academy.

Beneath the two pages bearing the letterhead of the Army were two more

containing lists of property owned by Filippi and Toscano and by

members of their families, as well as copies of their most recent bank

statements.  Perhaps they both had rich wives; perhaps both came from

wealthy families; perhaps both had been careful with their salaries all

those years.  Perhaps.

Years ago, when he first met Paola, Brunetti had limited himself to

phoning her only every few days in the hope of disguising his interest

and in the equally vain hope of maintaining what he then defined as his

male superiority.  The memory of this awkward restraint came to him as

he dialled Avisani’s number in Palermo.

But Avisani, when he heard Brunetti’s voice, was as gracious as Paola

had been, all those years ago.  “I’ve wanted to call you, Guido, but

things are crazy here.  No one seems to know who’s in charge of the


Brunetti marvelled that a reporter as experienced as he should think

anyone would find this worthy of comment but said only, “I thought I’d

call.  And nag.”

“It’s not necessary,” Avisani answered with a laugh.  “I’ve had a trawl

through the files, but the only thing I could come

up with aside from what I told you last time is that both of them,

Filippi and Toscano, own enormous amounts of stock in Edilan-Forma.”

“What does “enormous” mean?”

“If you’ve managed to convert to thinking in Euros, perhaps ten million


Brunetti made a low humming noise of interest then asked, “Any idea how

they acquired it?”

Toscano’s really belongs to his wife.  At least it’s listed in her


“You told me Filippi was married to the President’s cousin.”

“Yes.  He is.  But the stock is in his name, not hers.  It seems that

he was paid in stock while he was on the board.”

Neither spoke for a long time until finally Brunetti broke the silence

by saying, “It would be in both of their interests to see that the

price of the stock didn’t drop.”

“Exactly,” agreed Avisani.

“A parliamentary investigation might have just that effect.”

This time it was the journalist who answered with a noise, though his

was more a grunt than a hum.

“Did you check the stock?”  Brunetti asked.

“Steady as a rock, well, as a rock that continues to move upward and

that gives out steady dividends.”

The phone line was silent, but both of them heard the tumble and roll

of the other’s calculations and conclusions.  Finally Avisani said,

sounding stressed, “I’ve got to go, Guido.  We might wake up tomorrow

morning with no government.”

“It’s a pity Tommaso d’Aquino is no longer with us,” Brunetti observed


Confused, Avisani asked, “What?”  then amended it to “Why?”

“He might have added that to his proofs of the existence of God.”

Another muffled noise and Avisani was gone.

But how, Brunetti wondered, to penetrate the world of the cadets?  He

had long held the view that it was no accident that the Mafia had grown

in the home of the Vatican, for both demanded the same fidelity from

their followers and both punished betrayal with death, either earthly

or eternal.  The third in this trinity of twisted loyalty was

undoubtedly the military: perhaps the business of imposing death upon

the enemy made it easy to impose it upon their own.

He sat for a long time, dividing his gaze between the wall of his

office and the facade of San Lorenzo, but on neither surface saw he any

way to penetrate the code that reigned at San Martino.  Finally he

picked up the phone and called Pucetti.  When the officer answered,

Brunetti asked, “How old is Filippi?”

“Eighteen, sir



“We can talk to him alone.”

“Won’t he want a lawyer?”

“Not if he thinks he’s smarter than we are.”

“And how will you make him think that?”

“I’ll send Alvise and Riverre to bring him in.”

Brunetti was very pleased by the fact that Pucetti refrained from

laughter or comment, seeing in his discretion sign of both the young

man’s intelligence and his charity.

When Brunetti went downstairs an hour later, he found Paolo Filippi in

the interview room, sitting at the head of the rectangular table,

facing the door.  The young man sat straight in the chair, his spine at

least ten centimetres from the back, his hands carefully folded on the

desk in front of him, like a general who has summoned his staff and

waits impatiently for them to arrive.  He wore his uniform and had

placed his cap, neatly folded gloves carefully set on its crown, to


right.  He looked at Brunetti when he and Vianello came in but said

nothing to acknowledge their presence.  Brunetti recognized him

instantly as the boy whose ankle he had so delighted in kicking, and he

saw that the recognition was mutual.

Taking his cue from Filippi’s silence, Brunetti walked to one side of

the table, Vianello to the other.  Brunetti carried a thick blue file,

which he placed in front of him as he sat down.  Ignoring the boy, he

reached out and turned on the microphone, then gave the date and the

names of the three people present in the room.  He turned to face the

boy and, in a voice he made sound as formulaic as possible, asked

Filippi if he wanted a lawyer to be present, hoping that to the young

man’s ears it would sound like the sort of offer a brave man would


“Of course not,” the boy said, striving for the tone of bored

superiority used by mediocre actors in bad war movies.  Brunetti gave

silent thanks for the arrogance of the young.

Quickly, using the same formulaic tone, Brunetti disposed of the

standard questions about name, age, place of residence, and then asked

the boy what he did.

“I’m a student, of course Filippi answered, as though it were

unthinkable that someone his age, from his background, could be

anything other than this.

“At the San Martino Academy?”  Brunetti asked.

“You know that,” the boy said.

“I’m sorry, but that’s not an answer Brunetti said calmly.

In a sulky voice, the boy said, “Yes.”

“In what year are you?”  Brunetti asked, though he knew the answer and

believed the information to be irrelevant.  He wanted to see if Filippi

had learned to answer questions without dispute.


“Have you spent all three years at the Academy?”  Brunetti asked.

“Of course.”

“Is it part of your family tradition?”

“What, the Academy?”


“Of course it is.  The Academy and then the Army.”

“Is your father in the Army, then?”

“He was.  He’s retired.”

“When was that?”

“Three years ago.”

“Do you have any idea why your father retired?”

Irritated, the boy asked, “Who do you want to know about, me or my

father?  If you want to know about him, then why don’t you bring him in

and ask him?”

“In due course Brunetti said calmly, then repeated, “Do you have any

idea why your father retired?”

“Why does anyone retire?”  the boy shot back angrily.  “He had enough

years and he wanted to do something else.”

“Serve on the board of Edilan-Forma?”

The boy waved away the possibility with his hand.  The don’t know what

he wanted.  You’ll have to ask him.”

As if it followed in logical sequence, Brunetti asked, “Did you know

Ernesto Moro?”

The boy who killed himself?”  Filippi asked, Brunetti thought



“Yes, I knew him, though he was a year below me.”

“Did you take any classes together?”


“Did you participate in sports together?”


“Did you have friends in common?”


“How many students are there at the Academy?”  Brunetti asked.

The question puzzled Filippi, who turned to take a quick

look at the silent Vianello, as if the other man might know why this

question was being asked.

When nothing was forthcoming from Vianello, the boy said, “No.  Why?”

“It’s a small school, fewer than a hundred students

“If you knew that, why did you ask me?”  Brunetti was glad to see that

the boy was irritated at having been asked a question to which the

police obviously already knew the answer.

Ignoring Filippi’s question, Brunetti said, “I understand it’s a good


“Yes.  It’s very hard to get in.”

“And very expensive Brunetti observed neutrally.

“Of course,” Filippi said with no attempt to disguise his pride.

“Is preference given to the sons of former students?”

“I should hope so Filippi said.

“Why is that?”

“Because then the right people get in.”

“And who are they?”  Brunetti asked with mild curiosity, conscious as

he spoke that, if his own son were to use the phrase, ‘the right

people’, in that same tone, he would feel himself to have failed as a


“Who?”  Filippi demanded.

“The right people.”

The sons of officers, of course the boy answered.

“Of course Brunetti repeated.  He opened the file and glanced at the

top sheet of paper, which had nothing to do with Filippi or Moro.  He

looked at Filippi, back at the paper, then again at the boy.  “Do you

remember where you were the night that Cadet Moro was .. .”  he began,

deliberately hesitating after the last word before correcting it to,


“In my room, I assume the boy answered.

“You assume?”

“Where else would I be?”

Brunetti permitted himself to look across at Vianello, who gave the

most minimal of no cis  Brunetti slowly turned the page over and

glanced at the next.

“Was anyone in the room with you?”

“No.”  The answer was immediate.

“Where was your roommate?”

Filippi reached out and adjusted the folded gloves until they ran

directly from the centre of the peak to the back of the cap.  “He must

have been there the boy finally said.

“I see Brunetti said.  As if unable to resist the impulse, he glanced

across at Vianello.  The Inspector gave another slight nod.  Brunetti

looked again at the paper and, from memory, asked, “His name’s Davide

Cappellini, isn’t it?”

Filippi, suppressing any sign of surprise, answered, “Yes.”

“Is he a close friend of yours?”  Brunetti asked.

“I suppose so Filippi said with the petulance that only teenagers can


“Only that?”

“Only what?”

That you suppose it.  That you aren’t sure.”

“Of course I’m sure.  What else would he be if we’ve shared a room for

two years?”

“Exactly/ Brunetti permitted himself to observe and bent his attention

to the papers again.  After what he realized was a long time, he asked,

“Do you do things together?”  Then, before Filippi could ask who he

meant, Brunetti clarified, “You and your roommate, Cadet Cappellini?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do things together Brunetti repeated.  “Study?  Sports?  Other


“What other things?”  Filippi demanded suspiciously.

“Hunting?”  Vianello surprised them both by suggesting.

Almost as if he had forgotten the presence of the other policeman,

Filippi whipped his head towards Vianello and demanded, his voice

slipping up an octave, “What?”

“Fishing?  Hunting?”  Vianello asked with innocent curiosity, then

added, “Soccer?”

Filippi reached a hand in the direction of the gloves but stopped

himself and folded both hands together on the desk in front of him.  “I

want to have a lawyer here with me,” he said.

Mildly, as though Filippi had asked for a glass of water, Brunetti

said, “Of course,” leaned forward, gave the time, and said into the

microphone that the interview was being broken off.

When he said that he didn’t know a lawyer, the boy was left alone in a

room and allowed to call his father.  A few minutes later he came out

and said that his father would be there with a lawyer in about an hour.

Brunetti called an officer to take the boy back to the room where he

had been questioned and told Filippi that he would be left there,

undisturbed, until his father arrived.  Politely, Brunetti asked if he

would like anything to eat or drink, but the boy refused.  In the

manner of his refusal, Brunetti saw generations of B movie actors

spurning the handkerchief offered by the commander of the firing


As soon as the boy was led away, Brunetti told Vianello to wait for

Major Filippi and the lawyer and to delay them as long as he could

before letting them see the boy.

Calling to Pucetti, he told him to go down and wait at the launch, that

he’d be down in a moment.

“Where are you going?”  interrupted a puzzled Vianello.

“Back to the Academy.  I want to talk to the Cappellini boy before they

get to him Brunetti said.  “Let them talk to the boy

alone as long as they want.  If you have to, let them take him away.

Jusl see that it all takes as long as possible.  Do anything you can to

delay them.”  He was gone even before Vianello could make any


The launch stood before the Questura, the pilot gunning the engine in

response to Pucetti’s excitement.  Pucetti had already untied the

moorings and stood on the dock, holding the boat close to the pier.

Brunetti jumped on board, followed a second later by Pucetti, who lost

his footing on the already moving boat and had to steady himself with a

hand on Brunetti’s shoulder.  Full throttle, the launch sped out into

the Bacino, straight across, then turned into the open mouth of the

Canale della Giudecca.  The pilot, warned by Pucetti, used the flashing

blue light but not the siren.

The first thrill of excitement was followed almost immediately by

Brunetti’s embarrassment that, in the midst of death and deceit, he

could still revel in the simple joy of speed.  He knew this was no

schoolboy holiday, no cops and robbers chase, but still his heart

soared with delight at the rush of wind and the rhythmic thump of the

prow against the waves.

He glanced at Pucetti and was relieved to see his own feelings

reflected on the younger man’s face.  They seemed to flash by other

boats.  Brunetti saw heads turn and follow their swift passage up the

canal.  Too soon, however, the pilot pulled into the Rio diSant’

Eufemia, slipped the motor into reverse, and glided silently to the

left-hand side of the f canal.  As he and Pucetti jumped off, Brunetti

wondered if he f had been rash to bring this sweet-tempered young man

with him instead of someone like Alvise who, if equally decent, at

least had the professional advantage of looking like a thug.

“I want to frighten this kid,” Brunetti said as they started up the

Riva towards the school.

“Nothing easier, sir,” Pucetti replied.

As they walked across the courtyard, Brunetti sensed some sort of

motion or disturbance to his right, where Pucetti was.  Without

breaking his stride, he took a quick glance at him and was so surprised

that he almost stopped.  Somehow, Pucetti’s shoulders had thickened,

and he had adopted the stride of a boxer or roustabout.  His head

jutted forward on a neck that, to Brunetti, looked suddenly thicker.

Pucetti’s hands were curled, almost as if poised for the command that

they be turned into fists, and his steps were, each one, a command that

the earth dare not resist his passage.

Pucetti’s eyes roved around the courtyard, his attention turning with

predatory haste from one cadet to another.  His mouth looked hungry,

and his eyes had lost all trace of the warmth and humour which usually

filled them.

Brunetti automatically slowed his pace, allowing Pucetti to cut ahead,

like a cruise ship in the Antarctic that moves aside to allow an ice

breaker to slip in front of it.  The few cadets in the courtyard fell

silent as they passed.

Pucetti took the steps to the dormitory two at a time, Brunetti

following at a slower pace.  At the door to Filippi’s room, Pucetti

raised his fist and banged on it twice, then quickly twice again.  From

the end of the corridor, Brunetti heard the yelp from inside and then

saw Pucetti open the door and shove it back on its hinges so that it

banged against the wall.

When Brunetti got to the door, Pucetti was standing just inside, his

hands raised almost to the level of his waist; his shoulders looked, if

this were possible, even thicker.

A thin blonde boy with acne-pitted cheeks was on the top bunk, half

sitting, half lying, but pressed back against the wall, his feet pulled

towards him, as though he were afraid to leave them hanging in the air

so close to Pucetti’s teeth.  As Brunetti came in, Cappellini raised a

hand, but he used it to wave Brunetti closer, not to tell him to


“What do you want?”  the boy asked, unable to disguise his terror.

At the question, Pucetti turned his head slowly to Brunetti and raised

his chin, as if asking if Brunetti wanted him to climb up on the bed

and hurl the boy down.

“No, Pucetti/ Brunetti said in a voice generally used to dogs.

Pucetti lowered his hands, but not by much, and turned his head back to

face the boy on the bed.  He kicked the door shut with his heel.

Into the reverberating silence, Brunetti asked, “Cappellini?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where were you on the night Cadet Moro was killed?”

Before he thought, the boy blurted out, “I didn’t do it,” voice high

and himself too frightened to realize what he’d just admitted.  “I

didn’t touch him.”

“But you know,” Brunetti said in a firm voice, as if repeating what

he’d already been told by someone else.

“Yes.  But I didn’t have anything to do with it,” the boy said.  He

pushed himself farther back on the bed, but his shoulders and back were

flat against the wall, and there was no place for him to go, no way he

could escape.

“Who was it?”  Brunetti added, stopping himself from suggesting

Filippi’s name.  When the boy hesitated, he demanded, Tell me.”

Cappellini hesitated, calculating whether this current danger were

worse than the one he lived with.  Obviously he decided in Brunetti’s

favour, for he said, “Filippi.  It was his idea, all of it.”

At the admission, Pucetti lowered his hands, and Brunetti sensed a

general relaxing of his body as he allowed the menace of his presence

to slip away.  He had no doubt that, were he to take his eyes off

Cappellini, he would see that Pucetti had managed to return to his

normal size.

The boy calmed down, at least minimally.  He allowed

himself to slip down lower on the bed, extended his legs and let one of

his feet hang off the side.  “He hated him, Filippi.  I don’t know why,

but he always did, and he told us all that we had to hate him, too,

that he was a traitor.  His family was a family of traitors.”  When he

saw that Brunetti made no response to this, Cappellini added, “That’s

what he told us.  The father, too.  Moro.”

“Do you know why he said that?”  Brunetti asked in a voice he allowed

to grow soft.

“No, sir.  It’s what he told us.”

Much as Brunetti wanted to know who the others were, he was aware that

it would break the rhythm, so he asked, instead, “Did Moro complain or

fight back?”  Seeing Cappellini’s hesitation, he added, When Filippi

called him a traitor?”

Cappellini seemed surprised by the question.  “Of course.  They had a

couple of arguments, and one time Moro hit him, but somebody stopped

it, pulled them apart.”  Cappellini ran his right hand through his

hair, then propped himself up on both hands, letting his head sink down

between his shoulders.  There was a long pause.  Pucetti and Brunetti

might just as easily have been two stones.

“What happened that night?”  Brunetti finally prodded him.

“Filippi came in late.  I don’t know whether he had permission or he

used his key,” Cappellini explained casually, as if he expected them to

know about this.  The don’t know who he was with; it might have been

his father.  He always seemed angrier, somehow, when he came back from

seeing his father.  Anyway, when he came in here .. .”  Cappellini

paused and waved his hand at the space in front of him, the same space

now filled by the motionless bodies of the two policemen.  “He started

talking about Moro and what a traitor he was.  I’d been asleep and I

didn’t want to hear it, so I told him to shut up.”

He stopped speaking for so long that Brunetti was finally prompted to

ask, “And then what happened?”

“He hit me.  He came over here to the side of the bed and reached up

and hit me.  Not really hard, you understand.  Just sort of punched me

on the shoulder to show me how mad he was.  And he kept saying what a

shit Moro was and what a traitor.”

Brunetti hoped the boy would continue.  He did.  “And then he left,

just turned and walked out of the room and went down the hall, maybe to

get Maselli and Zanchi.  I don’t know.”  The boy stopped and stared at

the floor.

“And then what happened?”

Cappellini looked up and across at Brunetti.  “I don’t know.  I fell

asleep again.”

“What happened, Davide?”  Pucetti asked.

With no warning, Cappellini started to cry, or at least tears started

to roll down his cheeks.  Making no attempt to brush them away he spoke

through them.  “He came back later.  I don’t know how long it was, but

I woke up when he came in.  And I knew something was wrong.  Just by

the way he walked in.  He wasn’t trying to wake me up or anything.

Just the opposite, maybe.  But something woke me up, as if there was

energy all over the place.  I sat up and turned on the light.  And

there he was, looking like he’d just seen something awful.  I asked him

what was wrong, but he told me it was nothing and to go back to sleep.

But I knew something was wrong.”

The tears slid down his face, as if independent of his eyes.  He didn’t

sniff, and he still made no attempt to wipe them away.  They ran down

his cheeks and fell on to his shirt, darkening it.

“I suppose I went back to sleep, and the next thing I knew, people were

running down the halls shouting and making a lot of noise.  That’s what

woke me up.  Then Zanchi came in and woke Filippi up and told him

something.  They didn’t speak to me, but Zanchi gave me a look, and I

knew I couldn’t say anything.”

He stopped again, and the two policemen watched his tears fall.  He

nodded at Pucetti.  Then you all came and started asking questions, and

I did what everyone else did, said I didn’t know anything.”  Pucetti

made a sympathetic patting gesture in the air with his right hand.  The

boy raised a hand and wiped away the tears on the right side of his

face, ignoring the others.  “It’s what I had to do.”  He used the

inside of his elbow to wipe all of the tears away; when his face

emerged, he said, “And then it was too late to say anything.  To


The boy looked at Pucetti, then back at Brunetti, then down at his

hands, clasped in his lap.  Brunetti glanced at Pucetti, but neither of

them risked saying anything.

Beyond the door, footsteps went by, then came back after a minute or so

but did not stop.  Finally Brunetti asked, “What do the other boys


Cappellini shrugged away the question.

“Do they know, Davide?”  Pucetti asked.

Again, that shrug, but then he said, “I don’t know.  No one talks about

it.  It’s almost as if it never happened.  None of the teachers talks

about it either.”

The thought there was some sort of ceremony Pucetti said.

“Yes, but it was stupid.  They read prayers and things.  But no one

said anything.”

“How has Filippi behaved since then?”  Brunetti asked.

It was as if the boy hadn’t considered it before.  He raised his head,

and both Brunetti and Pucetti could see how surprised he was by his own

answer.  “Just the same.  Just the same as ever.  As if nothing’s


“Has he said anything to you about it?”  Pucetti asked.

“No, not really.  But the next day, that is, the day they found him,

when all of you came here to the school and started asking questions,

he said he hoped I realized what happened to traitors.”

“What do you think he meant by that?”  Brunetti asked.

With the first sign of spirit the boy had shown since the two men came

into his room, Cappellini shot back, That’s a stupid question.”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Brunetti admitted.  “Where are the other two?”

he asked.  “Zanchi and Maselli.”

Their room is down to the right.  The third door

“Are you all right, Davide?”  Pucetti asked.

The boy nodded once, then again, leaving his head hanging down, looking

at his hands.

Brunetti signalled to Pucetti that they should leave.  The boy didn’t

look up when they moved, nor when they opened the door.  Outside, in

the corridor, Pucetti asked, “Now what?”

“Do you remember how old they are, Zanchi and Maselli?”  Brunetti said

by way of answer.

Pucetti shook his head, a gesture Brunetti interpreted to mean they

were both underage and thus obliged to have a lawyer or parent present

when they were questioned, at least if what they said were to have any

legal weight at all.

Brunetti saw then the futility of having rushed here to speak to this

boy; he regretted the folly of having given in to his impulse to follow

the scent laid down by Filippi.  There was virtually no hope that

Cappellini could be led to repeat what he had just said.  Once he spoke

to cooler heads, once his family got to him, once a lawyer explained to

them the inescapable consequences of an involvement with the judicial

system, the boy was certain to deny it all.  Much as Brunetti longed to

be able to use the information, he had to admit that no sane person

would admit to having had knowledge of a crime and not going to the

police; much less would they allow their child to do so.

It struck him that, in similar circumstances, he would be reluctant to

allow his own children to become involved.  Surely, in his role as

police officer, he would offer them the protection of the state, but as

a father he knew that their only hope of emerging unscathed from a

brush with the

magistratura would be his own position and, more importantly, their

grandfather’s wealth.

He turned away from the boys’ room.  “Let’s go back,” he told a

surprised Pucetti.

On the way back to the Questura, Brunetti explained to Pucetti the laws

regarding statements from underage witnesses.  If what Cappellini told

them was true and Brunetti’s bones told him it was then he bore some

legal responsibility for his failure to tell the police what he knew.

This, however, was only negligence; the actions of Zanchi and Maselli

if they were involved and of Filippi, were active and criminal and, in

the case of Filippi, subject to the full weight of the law.  But until

Cappellini confirmed his statement in the presence of a lawyer, his

story had no legal weight whatsoever.

Their only hope, he thought, was to attempt the same strategy with

Filippi as had worked with his roommate: pretend to have full knowledge

of the events leading to Moro’s death and hope that, by asking

questions about the small details that still remained unexplained, they

could lead the boy to a full explanation of just what had happened.

Holding the mooring rope, Pucetti jumped on to the Questura dock and

hauled the boat up to the side of the pier.

Brunetti thanked the pilot and followed Pucetti into the building.

Silent, they went back to the interrogation rooms, where they found

Vianello standing in the corridor.

They still here?”  asked Brunetti.

“Yes/ Vianello said, glancing at his watch, then at the closed door.

“Been in there more than an hour.”

“Hear anything?”  Pucetti asked.

Vianello shook his head.  “Not a word.  I went in a half-hour ago to

ask them if they wanted anything to drink, but the lawyer told me to

get out.”

“How’d the boy look?”  Brunetti asked.


The father?”

The same.”

“Who’s the lawyer?”

“Donatini,” Vianello said in a studiedly neutral voice.

“Oh, my,” Brunetti answered, finding it interesting that the most

famous criminal lawyer in the city should be chosen by Maggiore Filippi

to represent his son.

“He say anything?”  Brunetti asked.

Vianello shook his head.

The three men stood in the corridor for a few minutes until Brunetti,

tiring of it, told Vianello he could go back to his office and himself

went up to his own.  There he waited until, almost an hour later,

Pucetti phoned and told him that Avvocato Donatini said his client was

ready to talk to him.

Brunetti called Vianello and told him he’d meet him at the

interrogation room but deliberately made no haste in going downstairs.

Vianello was there when he arrived.  Brunetti nodded, and Vianello

opened the door and stood back, allowing his superior to pass into the

room before him.

Donatini stood and extended his hand to Brunetti, who shook it briefly.

He smiled his cool smile, and Brunetti noticed that he had had

extensive dental work since last they met.  The Pavarotti-style caps on

his upper front teeth had

been replaced with new ones that better corresponded to the proportions

of his face.  The rest was the same as ever: skin, suit, tie, shoes all

joining in a hallelujah to wealth and success and power.  The lawyer

gave Vianello a curt nod but did not offer his hand.  The Filippis,

father and son, looked up at the policemen but did not acknowledge

their arrival with even a nod.  The father wore civilian clothes, but

it was a suit that, like Donatini’s, spoke so eloquently of wealth and

power that it might as well have been a uniform.  He was perhaps

Brunetti’s age but looked a decade younger, the result of either

natural animal grace or hours in a gym.  He had dark eyes and the long,

straight nose that was mirrored on the face of his son.

Donatini, staking a claim to the proceedings, waved Brunetti to a seat

at the opposite end of the rectangular table and Vianello to a chair

across from the father and son.  Thus he himself faced Brunetti, while

the other two looked at Vianello.

“I won’t waste your time, Commissario,” Donatini said.  “My client has

volunteered to talk to you about the unfortunate events at the Academy/

The lawyer looked to his side, where the cadet sat, and the boy gave a

solemn nod.

Brunetti gave what he thought was a rather gracious one.

“It would seem that my client knows something about the death of Cadet


T’d be very eager to hear what that is,” Brunetti said with a curiosity

he allowed to be tempered with politesse.

“My client was .. .”  Donatini began, only to be stopped by Brunetti,

who held up a hand, but gently and not very high, to suggest a moment’s

pause.  “If you don’t mind, Avvocato, I’d like to record what your

client has to say.”

This time it was the lawyer who responded with politesse, which he

conveyed by the merest inclination of his head.

Brunetti reached forward, conscious as he did so of how

often he had done the same thing, and switched on the microphone.  He

gave the date, his name and rank, and identified all of the people in

the room.

“My client .. .”  Donatini began again, and again Brunetti saw fit to

stop him with a raised hand.

“I think it would be better, Avvocato Brunetti said, leaning forward to

switch off the microphone, ‘if your client were to speak for himself.”

Before the lawyer could object or question this, Brunetti went on with

an easy smile, “That might give a greater appearance of openness on his

part, and it would certainly then be easier for him to clarify anything

that might seem confusing.”  Brunetti smiled, aware of how elegant had

been his implication that he reserved the right to question the boy as

he spoke.

Donatini looked at Maggiore Filippi, who until now had remained

motionless and silent.  “Well, Maggiore?”  he asked politely.

The Maggiore nodded, a gesture his son responded to with what appeared

to be an involuntary half-salute.

Brunetti smiled across at the boy and turned the microphone on again.

“Would you tell me your name, please?”  he asked.

“Paolo Filippi.”  He spoke clearly and louder than he had spoken the

last time, presumably for the benefit of the microphone.

“And are you a third-year student at the San Martino Military Academy

in Venice?”


“Could you tell me what happened at the Academy on the night of

November third of this year?”

“You mean about Ernesto?”  the boy asked.

“Yes, I’m asking specifically about anything concerning the death of

Ernesto Moro, also a cadet at the Academy.”

The boy was silent for so long that Brunetti finally asked, “Did you

know Ernesto Moro?”


“Was he a friend of yours?”

The boy shrugged that possibility away, but before Brunetti could

remind him about the microphone and the need to speak, Paolo said, “No,

we weren’t friends.”

“What was the reason for that?”

The boy’s surprise was obvious.  “He was a year younger than me.  In a

different class.”

“Was there anything else about Ernesto Moro that prevented him from

being a friend of yours?”

The boy thought about this and finally answered, “No.”

“Could you tell me about what happened that night?”

When the boy did not answer for a long time, his father turned

minimally towards him and gave a slight nod.

He leaned towards his father and whispered something, the last words of

which, ‘have to?”  Brunetti couldn’t help but overhear.

“Yes/ the Maggiore said in a firm voice.

The boy turned back to Brunetti.  “It’s very difficult,” he said, his

voice uneven.

“Just tell me what happened, Paolo/ Brunetti said, thinking of his own

son and the confessions he had-made over the years, though he was sure

none of them could compare in magnitude to what this boy might have to


“I was the boy began, coughed nervously, and began again.  “I was with

him that night.”

Brunetti thought it best to say nothing and so did nothing more than

look encouragingly.

The boy glanced up to the top of the table at Donatini, who gave an

avuncular nod.

“I was with him he repeated.


“In the showers the boy said.  Usually, it took them a long time to get

to the confession.  Most people had to build up to it with a long set

of details and circumstances, all of which

would make what finally happened seem inevitable, at least to

themselves.  “We were there the boy said and then stopped.

Brunetti looked at Donatini, who drew his lips together and shook his


The silence went on so long that at last Donatini was driven to say,

Tell him, Paolo.”

The boy cleared his throat, looked at Brunetti, started to glance at

his father but stifled the gesture and looked back at Brunetti.  “We

did things he said, and stopped.

For a moment that seemed all he was going to say, but then he added, To

one another.”

Brunetti said, “I see.  Go on, Paolo.”

“A lot of us do it the boy said in a voice so soft Brunetti doubted the

microphone would pick it up.  “I know it’s not right, not really, but

nobody gets hurt, and everybody does it.  Really.”

Brunetti said nothing, and the boy added, “We have girls.  But at home.

And so it’s .. . it’s hard .. . and .. .”  His voice stopped.

Brunetti avoided the eyes of the boy’s father and turned to Donatini.

“Am I to understand that these boys engaged in sexual acts with one

another?”  He thought he might as well be as clear as he could and

hoped he was right.

“Masturbation, yes Donatini said.

It had been decades since Brunetti had been as young as this boy, but

he still failed to understand the strength of Paolo’s embarrassment.

They were boys in late adolescence, living among other boys.  Their

behaviour didn’t surprise him: the boy’s reaction did.

Tell me more about it Brunetti said, hoping that whatever he heard

would help this to make sense to him.

“Ernesto was strange Paolo said.  “It wasn’t enough for him to, well,

just to do what we do.  He always wanted to do other things.”


Brunetti kept his eyes on the boy, hoping with his attention to spur

him on to explain.

That night, he told me that… well, he told me he’d read about

something in a magazine.  Or a newspaper.”  Paolo stopped and Brunetti

watched him worry at this detail.  Finally he said, “I don’t know where

he read it, but he said he wanted to do it that way.”  He stopped.

“To do what?”  Brunetti finally asked.  “What way?”  For an instant, he

took his eyes from the boy and saw his father, sitting with his head

lowered, looking down at the table as if he were willing himself not to

be in the room where his son had to admit this to a policeman.

“He said the thing he read said it made it better, better than

anything,” the boy went on.  “But it meant he had to put something

around his neck and choke himself a little bit when he … well, when

he did it.  And that’s what he wanted me there for, to be sure that

nothing went wrong, when it happened.”

The boy gave an enormous sigh, pulling air into his lungs, preparing

himself for the final leap.  “I told him he was crazy, but he wouldn’t

listen.”  He brought his hands together and folded them primly on the


“He had the stuff there in the bathroom, and he showed me the rope.  It

was where it was … I mean, where it was after, when they found him.

It was long, so he could sort of crouch on the floor in there and

pretend to fall over.  And that would make him choke.  And that’s why

it was so good.  The choking, or something.  Or that’s what he said.”

Silence.  From beyond the wall, everyone in the room could hear a low

humming noise: computer?  tape recorder?  It hardly mattered.

Brunetti remained absolutely silent.

The boy began again.  “So he did it.  I mean, he had this bag and put

it over his head and over the rope.  And then he started laughing and

tried to say something, but I couldn’t

understand what he said.  I remember he pointed at me and laughed

again, then he started to … and after a while, he crouched down and

sort of fell over to the side.”

The boy’s face grew suddenly red and Brunetti watched his hands grip at

one another.  But he went on, unable to stop himself from telling it

all until it was finished.  “He kicked a few times and his hands

started to wave around.  And then he started to scream or something and

kick real hard.  I tried to grab him, but he kicked me so hard he

knocked me out of the shower.  But I went back and I tried to untie the

rope, but the plastic bag was tied over it, so I couldn’t get to the

rope, and when I did, I couldn’t untie the knot because he was yanking

around so much.  And then, and then, he stopped kicking, but when I got

to him it was too late, and I think he was dead.”

The boy wiped at his face, which was covered with sweat.

“And then what did you do, Paolo?”  Brunetti asked.

The don’t know.  For the first minute, I just was there, next to him. I

never saw a dead person before, but I don’t remember what I did.”  He

glanced up, then immediately down.  As Brunetti watched, his father

reached out and placed his left hand on top of his son’s clenched

hands.  He squeezed them once and left his hand there.

Encouraged by that pressure, Paolo went on.  “I guess I panicked.  I

thought it was my fault because I hadn’t been able to save him or stop

him.  Maybe I could have, but I didn’t.”

“What did you do, Paolo?”  Brunetti repeated.

“I wasn’t thinking much, but I didn’t want them to find him like that.

People would know what happened.”

“And so?”  Brunetti prodded.

The don’t know where I got the idea, but I thought if it looked like a

suicide, well, it would be bad, but it wouldn’t be as bad as … as the

other.”  This time, Brunetti didn’t press, hoping that the boy would

continue by himself.

“So I tried to make it look like he hanged himself.  I knew I had to

pull him up and leave him there.”  Brunetti’s eyes fell to

their clasped hands; the father’s knuckles were white.  “So that’s what

I did.  And I left him there.”  The boy opened his mouth and pulled air

into his lungs as though he’d been running for kilometres.

“And the plastic bag?”  Brunetti asked when his breathing had grown


“I took it with me and threw it away.  I don’t remember where.  In the

garbage somewhere.”  “And then what did you do?”

“I don’t remember much.  I think I went back to my room.”  “Did anyone

see you?”  “I don’t know.”  “Your roommate?”

“I don’t remember he said.  “Maybe.  I don’t remember how I got back to

my room.”

What’s the next thing you do remember, Paolo?”  “The next morning,

Zanchi woke me up and told me what had happened.  And then it was too

late to do anything.”  “Why are you telling me this now?”  Brunetti

asked.  The boy shook his head.  He separated his hands and grabbed at

his father’s with his right.  Finally in a soft voice, he said, “I’m

afraid.”  “Of what?”

“Of what will happen.  Of what it could look like.”

“What’s that?”

That I didn’t want to help him, that I let it happen to him because I

didn’t like him.”

“Did people think you didn’t like him?”

That’s what he told me to do,” Paolo said, turning minimally away from

his father, as if fearful of what he would see on his face, but not

letting go of his hand.  That’s what Ernesto told me to do.  So people

wouldn’t know about the other thing.”

That you were, well … ?”

“Yes.  All of \is do it, but we usually do it with different

guys.  Ernesto just wanted to do it with me.  And I was ashamed of


The boy turned to his father.  “Papa, do I have to say any more?”

The Maggiore, instead of answering his son, looked across the table at

Brunetti.  Instead of replying, Brunetti leaned forward, gave the time,

and said that the interview was over.

Silently, all five of them got to their feet.  Donatini, who was

closest to the door, went and opened it.  The Maggiore wrapped his

right arm around his son’s shoulders.  Brunetti pushed his chair under

the table, nodded to Vianello that they would leave now, and moved

towards the door.  He was just a step from the door when he heard a

noise behind him, but it was only Vianello, who had stumbled against

his chair.

Seeing that Vianello was all right, Brunetti took a final glance at the

father and son, who were facing one another.  And as he watched he saw

Paolo, who had his father’s complete attention, close his right eye in

a single wink of triumphant, sly satisfaction.  In the same instant,

the father’s right hand came up and gave the boy an approving punch on

the right biceps.

Vianello hadn’t seen it; he had been facing away from that millisecond

of comp licit understanding between father and son.  Brunetti turned

towards the door and passed in front of a silent Donatini.  In the

hall, he waited until Vianello emerged, followed by the two Filippis

and their lawyer.

Brunetti closed the door of the interrogation room, moving slowly to

give himself time to think.

Donatini spoke first.  “It’s your decision, Commissario, about what to

do with this information.”  Brunetti was entirely unresponsive, didn’t

even bother to acknowledge that the lawyer had spoken.

In the face of Brunetti’s silence, the Maggiore spoke.  “It might be

better if that dead boy’s family were left with the memory of him that

they have,” he said solemnly, and Brunetti was shamed to realize that,

had he not seen the momentary flash of triumph between him and his son,

he would have been moved by the man’s concern for Ernesto’s family.  He

was swept by a desire to strike the man across the mouth but instead

turned away from all of them and started

down the corridor.  From behind him, the boy called out, “Do you want

me to sign anything?”  and then a moment later, intentionally delayed,


Brunetti kept walking, ignoring them all, bent on getting back to his

office, like an animal that has to return to its cave in order to feel

safe from its enemies.  He closed the door behind him, knowing that

Vianello, however confused by his superior’s behaviour, would leave him

alone until called.

“Check and mate and game at an end he said aloud, so much the victim of

the energy surging in him that he could not move.  Clenching his hands

and closing his eyes didn’t help at all: he was left with the image of

that wink, that sustaining punch.  Even if Vianello had seen it, he

realized, it would make no difference for them, nor for Moro. Filippi’s

story was credible, the entire performance perfectly pitched. He

cringed at the memory of how he had been moved by the boy’s

embarrassment, how he had superimposed upon his halting account what he

imagined would be his own son’s response in the same circumstances and

seen fear and remorse where there had been only low cunning.

Part of him longed to hear Vianello’s voice at the door so that he

could tell him how they had been duped.  But there would be no purpose,

he realized, and so he was glad that the Inspector stayed away.  His

own rashness in going off to talk to Cappellini had given the Filippis

time to concoct their story; not just to concoct it but to work on it

and to put into it all of the ingredients that were sure to appeal to

the sentimentalism of anyone who heard it.  What cliche did they leave

untouched?  Boys will be boys.  My shame is greater than my guilt.  Oh,

spare from further pain the suffering mother of the lad.

Brunetti turned and kicked the door, but the noise and the jolt of pain

in his back changed nothing.  He confronted the fact that anything he

did would have the same effect: nothing would change, regardless of how

much pain was endured.

He looked at his watch and saw that he’d lost all track of tone while

questioning the boy, though the darkness outside should have told him

how late it was.  He’d given no orders but there was certainly no

reason to hold FilipVaTvSnello must surely have let him go.  He wanted

desperately not to see any of them when he left, so he forced hfrnse f

to s and there eyes closed and head leaning back against the door for

another five minutes, and then he went downstairs

could Tee “Tde Wm r id ^ ffiCerS’ r 0m’ thought he could see light

coming from the door as he went silently outside he turned to the right

-d ^ St.

presenTed h I” VaP rett SUdd6 my ^^the ^action presented by the many

people on board at this hour

One was just pulling away as he arrived at the imbarcadero

;:0a:iewwhaited forHthe next he had ten Az

people who arrived, most of them Venetian by the look of them.  When it

came, he boarded the boat, crossed to the far sule and stood at the

rail, back turned to the g’ryo the city When at last he arrived at the

door to his apartment he paused, hoping that some remnant of humanity

wAd’ be

Pao “8H r I” inSide’ ^ if ^ ^ he ^ a son liS creatd hinT, HPmSe *,*?  ^

*** Without having *** aparLent **”** ** *** *”* let hims^ ^ the

1 will not buy you a telefomno because they create a race of spineless

weaklings; it would make you even more

rejoTedt thl^H ^ ^ ** ^ ^oTa -yTnd

S^S^S*8 ng Ur ^ ^^ She *” her

Her voice came from the direction of the kitchen but

HTkn’wTat inStead’ dr ^ hall to–dkolaSud; He knew that years of lying

awake for the sound of the footsteps of returning children would alert

her to ^arrival

S Shee did” d dUb rat t WOULD S n — -AnA ‘ She did, and they talked.

Rather, he talked and she

listened.  After a long time, when he had explained everything and

named the choices open to him, he asked, “Well?”

The dead can’t suffer,” was all she said, an answer that confused him

at first.

Familiar with her habits of thought, he considered the remark for some

time and finally asked, “And the living can?”

She nodded.

“Filippi and his father he said, then added, ‘who should.  And Moro and

his wife

“And daughter, and mother Paola added, ‘who shouldn’t.”

“Is this a contest of numbers?”  he asked soberly.

She flicked this away with a quick motion of her hand.  “No, no, not at

all.  But I think it matters, not only because of the number of people

who will be affected but for the amount of good it would do

“Neither choice will do anyone any good he insisted.

Then which will do less harm?”

“He’s dead Brunetti said, ‘no matter what the official verdict is.”

This isn’t about the official verdict, Guido

Then what is it about?”

“It’s about what you tell them The way she spoke, she made it sound

self-evident.  He had shied away from accepting that, had almost

succeeded in preventing himself from thinking about it, yet the instant

the words fell from her lips, he realized that it was the only thing

any of this was about.

“You mean what Filippi did?”

“A man has the right to know who killed his child

“You make that sound so simple.  Like something from the Bible.”

“It’s not in the Bible, to the best of my knowledge.  But it is simple.

And true Her tone was a stranger to uncertainty.

“And what if he does something about it?”

“Like what?  Kill Filippi?  Or his father?”

Brunetti nodded.

“From what I know of him and what you’ve said, I doubt that he’s the

kind of man who would do something like that.”  Before he could say

that one never knew, she said, “But you never know, do you?”

Once again, Brunetti had the strange sensation of being adrift in time.

He looked at his watch and was stunned to see that it was almost ten.

“Have the kids eaten?”

“I sent them out to get a pizza when I heard you come in.”

He had gradually, as he told her the story of his meeting with the

Filippis and their lawyer, sunk lower and lower on the sofa until he

was now lying with his head on a pillow.  “I think I’m hungry he


“Yes/ Paola agreed.  The, too.  Stay here for a while and I’ll make

some pasta.”  She got to her feet and went to the door.  “What will you

do?”  she asked.

Till have to speak to him Brunetti said.

He did so the next day, at four in the afternoon, a time chosen by

Dottor Moro, who had insisted on coming to the Questura rather than

have Brunetti come to his home.  The doctor was on time to the minute,

and Brunetti stood up when a uniformed officer ushered him into his

office.  Brunetti came around his desk and extended his hand.  They

exchanged strained courtesies and then, as soon as he was seated, Moro

asked, “What is it you want, Commissario?”  His voice was level and

calm, devoid of curiosity or, for that fact, interest.  Events had

washed him clean of such things.

Brunetti, who had retreated behind his desk more out of habit than

choice, began by saying, There are some things I think you should know,

Dottore.”  He paused, waiting for the doctor to respond, perhaps with

sarcasm, perhaps with anger.  But Moro said nothing.

“There are certain facts regarding the death of your son that

I think…”  Brunetti began, then flailed to a stop.  He looked at the

wall behind Moro’s head, then began again.  That is, I’ve learned some

things and want you to know them.”


“Because they might help you decide.”

“Decide what?”  Moro asked tiredly.

“How to proceed.”

Moro shifted to one side in the chair and crossed his legs.  “I have no

idea what you’re talking about, Commissario.  I don’t think there are

any decisions I can make, not now.”

“About your son, I think.”

Brunetti saw something flash into Moro’s eyes.

“No decision can affect my son,” he said, making no attempt to disguise

his anger.  And then, to hammer the message home, he added, “He’s


Brunetti felt the moral heat of what Moro had just said sweep over him.

Again, he looked away, then back at the doctor, and again he spoke.

I’ve come into the possession of new information, and I think you

should be aware of what it is.”  Without giving Moro a chance to

comment, he went on.  “Paolo Filippi, who is a student at the Academy,

maintains that your son died by accident and that, to avoid

embarrassment for him, and for you, he arranged it to look like


Brunetti waited for Moro to ask if that would not also be an

embarrassment, but Instead the doctor said, “Nothing my boy did would

embarrass me.”

“He maintains your son died as the result of homosexual activity.”

Brunetti waited for the other man to respond.

“Even though I’m a doctor Moro said, “I have no idea of what that can


That your son died in an attempt to increase his sexual excitement by


“Autoerotic asphyxiation Moro said with clinical detachment.

Brunetti nodded.

“Why should that embarrass me?”  the doctor said calmly.

After a long silence, Brunetti realized that Moro was not going to

prompt him, so he said, “I don’t think what he told me is true.  I

think he killed your son because his father had persuaded him that

Ernesto was a spy or a traitor of some sort.  It was his influence,

perhaps even his encouragement, that led the boy to do what he did.”

Still Moro said nothing, though his eyes had widened in surprise.

In the face of the other man’s silence, the best Brunetti could do was

say, “I wanted you to know what story Filippi will give if we pursue

the case.”

“And what is this decision you’ve called me in here to make,


“Whether you want us to bring a charge of involuntary manslaughter

against Filippi.”

Moro studied Brunetti’s face for some time before he said, “If you

think he killed Ernesto, Commissario, then involuntary manslaughter is

not much of a charge, is it?”  Before Brunetti could reply, Moro added,

“Besides, this should be your decision, Commissario.  Not mine.”  His

voice was as cool as his expression.

“I wanted to give you the choice,” Brunetti said in what he thought was

a calm voice.

“So you wouldn’t have to decide?”

Brunetti bowed his head but turned the motion into a nod.  “In part,

yes, but it’s also for you and your family.”

To spare us embarrassment?”  Moro asked with heavy emphasis on the last


“No/ Brunetti asked, worn down by Moro’s contempt.  To spare you


“What danger?”  Moro asked, as though he were really curious.

The danger that would come to all of you if this went to trial.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Because the report you suppressed would have to be produced as

evidence, or at least you would have to testify as to its existence and

contents.  To justify Filippi’s behaviour and his father’s anger.  Or

fear, or whatever it was.”

Moro put a hand to his forehead in what seemed to Brunetti an

artificial gesture.  “My report?”  he finally asked.

“Yes.  About military procurement.”

Moro took his hand away.  There is no report, Commissario.  At least

not about the Army or procurement or whatever it is they’re afraid I’ve

done.  I abandoned that when they shot my wife.”

Brunetti was amazed to hear Moro speak so calmly, as though it were a

truth universally acknowledged that his wife had been shot


The doctor went on.  The started doing research on their spending and

where the money went as soon as I was appointed to the committee.  It

was obvious where all the money was going; their arrogance makes them

very sloppy bookkeepers, so their trail was very easy to follow, even

for a doctor.  But then they shot my wife.”

“You say that as though there’s no question Brunetti said.

Moro looked across at him and said in a cold voice.  There’s no

question.  I was called even before she reached the hospital.  And so I

agreed to abandon my research.  The suggestion was made at the time

that I retire from politics.  And I did.  I obeyed them,


“You knew they shot her?”  Brunetti asked, though he had no idea who

‘they’ were, at least no idea so clear that a specific name could be


“Of course,” Moro said, his voice slipping back towards sarcasm.  T’d

done at least that much research.”

“But then why arrange the separation from your wife?”  Brunetti


To be sure they left her alone.”

“And your daughter?”  Brunetti asked with sudden curiosity.

“In a safe place was the only answer Moro was willing to provide.

Then why put your son there, at the Academy?”  Brunetti asked, but as

he did it came to him that perhaps Moro had thought it would be best to

hide the boy in plain sight.  The people who shot his wife might think

twice about creating bad publicity for the Academy; or perhaps he had

hoped to fool them.

Moro’s face moved in something that might once have been a smile.

“Because I couldn’t stop him, Commissario.  It was the greatest failure

of my life that Ernesto wanted to be a soldier.  But that’s all he ever

wanted to be, ever since he was a little boy.  And nothing I could ever

do or say could change it.”

“But why would they kill him?”  Brunetti asked.

When Moro eventually spoke, Brunetti had the sense that he was

relieved, at long last, to be able to talk about this.  “Because they

are stupid and didn’t believe that it was so easy to stop me.  That I

was a coward and wouldn’t oppose them.”  He sat thinking for a long

time and added, “Or perhaps Ernesto was less of a coward than I am.  He

knew I had once planned to write a report, and perhaps he threatened

them with it.”

Though his office was cool, Brunetti saw that sweat stood on Moro’s

brow and was slowly sliding down his chin.  Moro wiped at it with the

back of his hand.  Then he said, “I’ll never know.”

The two men sat for a long time, the only motion Moro’s occasional

attempt to wipe the sweat from his face.  When, finally, his face was

dry again, Brunetti asked, “What do you want me to do, Dottore?”

Moro raised his head and looked at Brunetti with eyes that had grown

even sadder in the last half-hour.  “You want me to make the decision

for you?”

“No.  Not really.  Or not only.  To make it for yourself.  And for your


“You’ll do whatever I say?”  Moro asked.


“Regardless of the law or justice?”  Moro’s emphasis, a very unkind

emphasis, was on the last word.


“Why?  Don’t you care about justice?”  Moro’s anger was undisguised


Brunetti had no taste for this, not any longer.  “There’s no justice

here, Dottore,” he said, frightened to realize that he meant not only

for this man and his family, but for this city, and this country, and

their lives.

Then let it be,” Moro said, exhausted.  “Let him be.”

Everything that was decent in Brunetti urged him to say something that

would comfort this man, but the words, though summoned, failed to come.

He thought of Moro’s daughter and then of his own.  He thought of his

own son, of Filippi’s son, and of Moro’s, and then the words came:

“Poor boy.”

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