Narcotics owned most of the west wing on the third floor of the Questura, a chaotic, rambling network of rooms where uniforms were rare and it was often difficult to tell the difference between police officers and their clientele. Costa was surprised to see that he already knew one of the two officers assigned to brief them. Rosa Prabakaran looked hollow-eyed and exhausted, thinner than the last time they’d met. She was wearing the kind of clothes, a short skirt, a tight and bright-checked thin sweater, that passed unnoticed in the places where Costa guessed she now worked. Rosa had been part of Falcone’s team until recently. She had served alongside Costa before, most recently during a terrorist attack on the city during a G8 summit. After that case, ambition took her elsewhere, to external courses and then another department altogether, the standard route to promotion. Costa had lost touch with her, which he regretted. Roman-born to an Indian father, she’d cut a solitary and private figure in the Questura. Her colleague was new to Costa, a cocky Venetian of thirty or so called Gino Riggi, stocky, with the physique of a rugby player, close-cropped dark hair and a stubbly face that smiled often, without humour or sincerity.
Peroni cleared his throat after the four of them sat at a table in the one empty interview room and said, ‘Robert Gabriel. What we need-’
‘Wait,’ the Venetian interrupted, grinning. ‘Let me get this straight. You. .’ He pointed straight at Peroni. ‘. . are the
‘Correct,’ Costa said. ‘But really I’m on holiday. So just answer the questions, will you? I’m a good listener.’
He’d taken a rapid dislike to this man for some reason. Judging from the way Rosa gave Peroni some sideways glances, she felt much the same way.
‘Sir!’ Riggi said with a mock salute. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Where can we find him?’ Peroni asked.
‘No idea. Can’t help you.’
‘Gianni-’ Rosa began.
‘Can’t. . help. . you,’ the Venetian cut in, his voice getting louder.
Peroni folded his arms and stared across the table.
‘Got a picture of him?’
‘Never had the reason.’
‘A list of addresses for his friends?’
‘I don’t keep his diary.’
‘Details of who he worked for?’
‘Details?’ Riggi frowned. ‘Not really.’
Rosa said, ‘We think he was tied to one of the Turkish gangs. The Vadisi. The Wolves. Selling. Delivering. He’s just a low-grade street kid. Really, not the kind we’d take much interest in usually. He was active. Pushing a lot. But if you pick them up they won’t tell you a thing. It’s too dangerous. Besides, what’ve we got to offer them? The Turks give them money. Dope. Girls. I think they’ve got some places where they can stay. Maybe. .’
‘We don’t know where he is,’ Riggi insisted.
Costa leaned over the table and said, ‘He’s the prime suspect in a murder.’
The slick-looking cop shrugged.
‘You’re looking in the wrong place. He’s just some stuck-up English kid who’s making a little money passing pills and smoke to his buddies. Didn’t have it in him to kill someone. You got proof that says otherwise?’
‘Early days,’ Peroni replied.
‘I thought not. Listen. I’m telling you. Look somewhere else. Robert Gabriel isn’t a murderer. You’re wasting your time. And mine.’
Peroni caught Costa’s eye then said, ‘We could always requisition the informants’ register if you like. Or shall we just save everyone some time and hear it from you right now?’
Riggi let loose with a vile curse then slammed his fists on the table.
‘What is it with you people?’ he yelled. ‘Do you have any idea of the kind of work we do?’
‘Did it myself, son,’ Peroni snapped back. ‘Twenty years ago. Don’t get smart. There’s only one reason for you to protect this Gabriel kid.’
‘Twenty years ago was different! You had. .’ Riggi looked lost for a moment, as if trying to remember something that had long eluded him. ‘There was some kind of sense of right or wrong out there. Listen to me. It’s gone. We’re trying to police people who don’t want to be policed. Victims and bad guys. None of them trusts us. None of them thinks we belong out there.’
Costa sighed and said, ‘Do you really think it’s different for anyone else in this building?’
‘Yes,’ Riggi replied. ‘And if I get someone who just might talk to me now and again I will
‘He’s a murder suspect,’ Peroni repeated.
‘I told you that’s not possible.’
Costa thought of Mina and her insistence:
For some reason he couldn’t quite explain, Costa felt Robert might be telling the truth. Or a part of it anyway.
‘Does he have any idea of the risk he’s taking?’ he asked. ‘Playing both sides? Informing against people like that?’
The Turkish gangs were among the most ruthless in Rome. They didn’t think twice about maiming or killing someone who offended them. There was none of the hood etiquette, the pseudo-religious sense of guilt and responsibility, that could still have a restraining effect on a few Italian mobsters.
‘It’s not my job to walk some dumb English adolescent across the street,’ Riggi said.
‘Nic.’ Rosa reached across the table. ‘Really, we don’t know where he is.’ She shot a bitter glance at Riggi. ‘If I had an idea, you’d know. I promise.’
‘Teamwork, teamwork,’ the cop by her side muttered. ‘We’re so good at that around here.’
‘What about pornography?’ Peroni asked. ‘Was he involved in that? These Turks?’
‘Porn?’ Riggi asked, astonished. ‘Is this some kind of bad joke?’
‘No,’ Peroni told him. ‘This woman we think he killed died in what looks like some kind of porn studio. Hidden away, with its own darkroom. Has to be a reason for that.’
The Venetian threw back his head, laughing, wiping imaginary tears from his eyes.
Rosa Prabakaran scowled and said, ‘They’re not involved in porn, Gianni. Why would they be? Porn’s so. .’
‘Turn on your computer, man,’ Riggi cut in. ‘You get more porn for free through Google than you could buy for a fortune in one of those little places near Termini five years ago. It’s a saturated market. There’s no money there. Not on the scale these guys can make. Besides. .’ He hesitated and, for a moment, seemed almost reflective. ‘What is it now? Five euros a month on your credit card. Straight. Gay. Violent. Kiddies. Animals. .’
He looked at his watch. Then, in a tone that told them this interview was over, he said, ‘Even a low-grade runner like Robert Gabriel could make two, three hundred a day shifting pills and smoke. How many Polish hookers do you have to pimp to bring in that kind of bread? No. I told you already. He’s not your man. Not for murder. Or anything else.’
Rosa stared at Costa.
‘Porn’s for old people,’ she told him. ‘If you think that’s relevant somehow. Trust me, you really are looking in the wrong place.’
‘And that’s it,’ Riggi said, getting up from the table. ‘That’s all we have to tell you.’