‘Thanks, Ettore, but I’d like to come out. It’s been too long since I was there. I’d like to visit my father’s grave.’

‘As you like.’ They shook hands, and Rizzardi started for the door. He paused a moment, then added, ‘He was the last of the giants, Guido. He shouldn’t have died like this. I’m sorry this happened.’

‘So am I, Ettore, so am I.’ The doctor left, and the photographer followed after him. As soon as they were gone, one of the two ambulance attendants who had been standing by the window, smoking and looking at the people who passed through the small campo below, turned and moved toward the body, which now lay on a stretcher on the floor.

‘Can we take him out now?’ he asked in a disinterested voice.

‘No,’ Brunetti said. ‘Wait until everyone’s left the theater.’

The attendant who had remained near the window flipped his cigarette outside and came to stand at the opposite end of the stretcher. ‘That’ll be a long time, won’t it?’ he asked, making no attempt to disguise his annoyance. Short and squat, he spoke with a noticeable Neapolitan accent.

‘I don’t know how long it’ll be, but wait until the theater’s empty.’

The Neapolitan pushed back the sleeve of his white jacket and made a business of checking his watch. ‘Well, we’re scheduled to go off shift at midnight, and if we wait much longer, we won’t get back to the hospital until after that.’

The first one chimed in now. ‘Our union rules say we aren’t supposed to be kept working after our shift unless we’ve been given twenty-four hours’ notice. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do about something like this.’ He indicated the stretcher with the point of his shoe, as though it were something they’d found on the street.

For a moment, Brunetti was tempted to reason with them. That passed quickly. ‘You two stay here, and you don’t open the door to this room until I tell you to.’ When they didn’t respond, he asked, ‘Do you understand? Both of you?’ Still no answer. ‘Do you understand?’ he repeated.

‘But the union rules—’

‘Damn your union, and damn its rules,’ Brunetti exploded. ‘You take him out of here before I tell you to, and you’ll be in jail the first time you spit on the sidewalk or swear in public. I don’t want a circus when you remove him. So you wait until I tell you you can leave.’ Without waiting to ask if they now understood him, Brunetti turned and slammed out of the room.

In the open area at the end of the corridor he found chaos. People in and out of costume milled about; he could tell by their eager glances toward the closed door of the dressing room that the news of death had spread. He watched as the news spread even further, watched as two heads came together and then one turned sharply to stare down the length of the corridor at that door, behind which was hidden what they could only guess at. Did they want a sight of the body? Or only something to talk about in the bars tomorrow?

When he got back to Signora Wellauer, a man and a woman, both considerably older than she, were with her, the woman kneeling by her side. She had her arms around the widow, who was now openly sobbing. The uniformed policeman approached Brunetti. ‘I told you they can go,’ Brunetti told him.

‘Do you want me to go with them, sir?’

‘Yes. Did they tell you where she lives?’

‘By San Molise, sir.’

‘Good; that’s close enough,’ Brunetti said, then added, ‘Don’t let them talk to anyone,’ thinking of reporters, who were sure to have heard by now. ‘Don’t take her out the stage entrance. See if there’s some way to go through the theater.’

‘Yes, sir,’ the officer answered, snapping out a salute so crisp Brunetti wished the ambulance attendants could have seen it.

‘Sir?’ he heard from behind him, and turned to see Corporal Miotti, the youngest of the three officers he had brought with him.

‘What is it, Miotti?’

‘I’ve got a list of the people who were here tonight: chorus, orchestra, stage crew, singers.’

‘How many?’

‘More than a hundred, sir,’ he said with a sigh, as if to apologize for the hundreds of hours of work the list represented.

‘Well,’ Brunetti said, then shrugged it away. ‘Go to the portiere and find out how you get through those turnstiles down there. What sort of identification do you have to have?’ The corporal scribbled away in a notebook as Brunetti continued to speak. ‘How else can you get in? Is it possible to get back here from the theater itself? Who did he come in with this evening? What time? Did anyone go into his dressing room during the performance? And the coffee, did it come up from the bar, or was it brought in from outside?’ He paused for a moment, thinking. ‘And see what you can find out about messages, letters, phone calls.’

‘Is that all, sir?’ Miotti asked.

‘Call the Questura and get someone to call the German police.’ Before Miotti could object, he said, ‘Tell them to call that German translator—what’s her name?’

‘Boldacci, sir.’

‘Yes. Tell them to call her and have her call the German police. I don’t care how late it is. Tell her to request a complete dossier on Wellauer. Tomorrow morning, if possible.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Brunetti nodded. The officer saluted and, notebook in hand, went back toward the flight of steps that would take him to the stage entrance.

‘And, Corporal,’ Brunetti said to his retreating back.

‘Yes, sir?’ he asked, pausing at the top of the steps.

‘Be polite.’

Miotti nodded, wheeled around, and was gone. The fact that he could say this to an officer without offending him made Brunetti newly grateful that he had been transferred back to Venice after five years in Naples.

Though the final curtain calls had been taken more than twenty minutes before, the people backstage gave no sign of leaving. A few who seemed to have more sense of purpose went among the rest, taking things from them: pieces of costume, belts, walking sticks, wigs. One man walked directly in front of Brunetti, carrying what looked like a dead animal. Brunetti looked again and saw that the man’s hands were filled with women’s wigs. From across the area behind the curtain, Brunetti saw Follin appear, the officer he had sent to call the medical examiner.

He came up to Brunetti and said, ‘I thought you might want to talk to the singers, sir, so I asked them to wait upstairs. And the director too. They didn’t seem to like it, but I explained what happened, so they agreed. But they still didn’t like it.’

Opera singers, Brunetti found himself thinking, then, repeating the thought, opera singers. ‘Good work. Where are they?’

‘At the top of the stairs, sir,’ he said, pointing toward a short flight that continued to the top floors of the theater. He handed Brunetti a copy of that night’s program.

Brunetti glanced down the list of names, recognizing one or two, then started up the stairs. ‘Who was the most impatient, Follin?’ Brunetti asked when they reached the top.

‘The soprano, Signora Petrelli,’ the officer answered, pointing toward a door that stood at the end of the corridor to the right.

‘Good,’ said Brunetti, turning left. ‘Then we’ll leave Signora Petrelli for the last.’ Follin’s smile made Brunetti wonder what the encounter between the eager policeman and the reluctant prima donna had been like.

‘Francesco Dardi—Giorgio Germont,’ read the typed cardboard rectangle that was tacked to the door of the first dressing room on his left. He knocked twice and heard an immediate cry of ‘Avanti!’

Seated at the small dressing table and busy wiping off his makeup was a baritone whose name Brunetti had recognized. Francesco Dardi was a short man, whose broad stomach pressed hard against the front of the dressing table as he leaned forward to see what he was doing. ‘Excuse me, gentlemen, if I don’t stand to greet you,’ he said, carefully toweling black makeup from around his left eye.

Brunetti nodded in response but said nothing.

After a moment, Dardi looked away from the mirror and up at the two men. ‘Well?’ he asked, then returned

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