“Nino Tomassoni can wait. Show me this statue you looked at,” she requested as they left the Doria Pamphilj. “It’s not far.”
“It isn’t,” Teresa agreed from the front seat. “But don’t hold out your hopes. We’ve scraped everything we can off these damned things, looking for something that might link us back to Malaspina. Paper. Ink. Spit. You name it.”
The pathologist sighed. She looked exhausted too. There was a nervous tension about them all, one that spoke of desperation and failure.
When they were about to get back into the car, Costa had taken a call from Falcone in the Questura. The legal department was getting restless. Toni Grimaldi, never the most forthcoming of colleagues, was suddenly saying nothing at all.
“We’ve tried the other statues too,” Teresa added. “We could spend months working on that material. Perhaps we will. I don’t know… We would need something extraordinary, something direct. Plain DNA won’t help us. We still run up against the same brick wall. We can’t get a thing to corroborate it with.”
They waited for the other cars to stop and the officers to crowd round Agata’s exit. Then they got out and stood in front of the crude, worn statue of Pasquino underneath a grey winter sky. Dusk was descending over the city, and black clouds full of rain, their bellies dotted by the slow-moving starling flocks that circled endlessly high above them.
“This is ridiculous,” Agata hissed under her breath. “Why would anyone wish to kill me? The magistrate has already thrown out my evidence.”
“If we find more evidence, we can reintroduce you as a witness,” Costa argued. “Also…”
He didn’t want to say it now, but she was staring at him intently.
“Perhaps he thinks you’re the person who might see something the rest of us will miss. That would worry him deeply.”
“He’s wrong there, isn’t he?” she grumbled. “I can’t even uncover the truth of what happened to Caravaggio and I’ve been studying him for years.”
Like her, he’d read so many books, so many biographies. None of them gave any good answers about what happened the day Ranuccio Tomassoni died, or why.
“Why don’t we know?” he asked, with a genuine curiosity. “It was a criminal case. There were records, surely.”
“Nothing reliable. Caravaggio fled. Most of the others, too, and when they returned, everything was hushed up, damages paid, reputations mended. I simply don’t know. What information we have comes from contemporary accounts by partial bystanders. Caravaggio’s friends. Or his enemies. By rights there should be something in the Vatican archives. I have contacts there. I’ve looked. The cupboard’s bare. Perhaps they incriminated someone important. Del Monte himself even. What’s the point in speculating?”
She took one step forward towards the statue, then reached out and touched the stone. It had been scraped clean recently by the forensic team. Even so, the posters had returned, with their customary vehemence. There were five messages there, all in the curious scrawl of a computer printer, artificial letters posing as handwriting. Three seemed to be nonsense. One castigated a senior politician as a criminal. The final poster was a foul-mouthed rant, calling the Pope any number of names and comparing him to Hitler.
“So much hate in the world,” Agata said quietly. She stared at the statue’s battered face, barely recognisable as a man. “Why do the police spend their time looking at things like this?”
“Because sometimes it’s worth it,” Rosa cut in. “It was here, in the end. Though normally” — she shrugged — “it’s just racist or political material. We need to keep tabs on that kind of information. Where else would you find something that… frank?”
“Where else?” Agata echoed, not taking her eyes off Pasquino for a moment. “Where were the others?”
Rosa told her. Then the slight woman in black pushed her way back through the huddle of officers, finding the middle car, only to sit there, waiting, engulfed by her own private thoughts.
When he got in, Costa found her staring at him.
“Tell me about these statues, Nic,” she asked. “I must have walked past them a million times. I’d like to know.”
It was good to discuss something that was not to do with paintings or Caravaggio or, directly, Franco Malaspina.
So Costa told her about Pasquino, Abate Luigi, and Il Facchino, and some of the other lesser-known statues he’d discovered in his recent research, the curious encrusted figure of Il Babuino beyond the Spanish Steps, Madama Lucrezia in the Piazza San Marco, and Marforio, once Pasquino’s partner, until the displeased authorities of the Vatican moved the recumbent figure of a sea god to the Campidoglio.
She laughed at his stories, a little anyway, and then, in a few short minutes, they were in the Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina, where she ceased to laugh at all.