to his makeup.

‘Have you heard about this evening?’ Brunetti asked.

‘You mean about Wellauer?’


When his question got him no more than this monosyllabic reply, Dardi set down the towel and turned to look at the two policemen. ‘May I be of help, gentlemen?’ he asked, directing the question at Brunetti.

Since this was more to his liking, Brunetti smiled and answered pleasantly. ‘Yes, perhaps you can.’ He glanced down at the piece of paper in his hand, as if he needed to be reminded of the man’s name. ‘Signor Dardi, as you’ve heard by now, Maestro Wellauer died this evening.’

The singer acknowledged this news with a slight bow of his head, nothing more.

Brunetti continued. ‘I’d like to know as much as you can tell me about tonight, about what went on during the first two acts of the performance.’ He paused for a moment, and Dardi nodded again but said nothing.

‘Did you speak to the Maestro this evening?’

‘I saw him briefly,’ Dardi said, swinging around in his chair and going back to the business of removing his makeup. ‘When I came in, he was talking to one of the lighting technicians, something about the first act. I said “Buona sera” to him, then came up here to begin with my makeup. As you can see,’ he said, gesturing at his image in the mirror, ‘it takes a long time.’

‘What time was it you saw him?’ asked Brunetti.

‘At about seven, I’d say. Perhaps a bit later, maybe quarter after, but certainly no later than that.’

‘And did you see him at any time after that?’

‘Do you mean up here or backstage?’


‘The only time I saw him after that was from the stage, when he was on the podium.’

‘Was the Maestro with anyone when you saw him this evening?’

‘I told you he was with one of the lighting crew.’

‘Yes, I remember that. Was he with anyone else?’

‘With Franco Santore. In the bar. They had a few words, but just as I was leaving.’

Although he recognized the name, Brunetti asked, ‘And this Signor Santore, who is he?’

Dardi didn’t seem at all surprised by Brunetti’s display of ignorance. After all, why should a policeman recognize the name of one of the most famous theatrical directors in Italy?

‘He’s the director,’ Dardi explained. He finished with the towel and tossed it on the table in front of him. ‘This is his production.’ The singer took a silk tie from where it lay on the far right side of the table, slipped it under the collar of his shirt, and carefully knotted it. ‘Is there anything else you’d like?’ he asked, voice neutral.

‘No, I think that will be all. Thank you for your help. If we want to speak to you again, Signor Dardi, where will We find you?’

‘The Gritti.’ The singer gave Brunetti a quick, puzzled glance, as if he wanted to know if other hotels actually existed in Venice but was somehow afraid to ask.

Brunetti thanked him and went out into the hallway with Follin. ‘We’ll try the tenor next, shall we?’ he asked as he glanced down at the program in his hand.

Nodding, Follin led him along the corridor to a door on the opposite side.

Brunetti knocked, paused a moment, heard nothing. He knocked again and heard a noise from inside, which he chose to interpret as an invitation to enter. When he did, he found a short, thin man, sitting fully dressed, coat over the arm of his chair, poised in an attitude learned in drama class, one that was meant to denote ‘annoyed impatience.’

‘Ah, Signor Echeveste,’ Brunetti gushed, walking quickly to him and extending his hand so that the other didn’t have to rise. ‘It is a tremendous honor to meet you.’ Had Brunetti been enrolled in the same class, he would have been working on the assignment ‘awe in the presence of staggering talent.’

Like a frozen stream in early March, Echeveste’s anger melted under the warmth of Brunetti’s flattery. With some difficulty, the young tenor pushed himself up from the chair and made a small, formal bow to Brunetti.

‘And whom have I the honor to meet?’ he asked in slightly accented Italian.

‘Commissario Brunetti, sir. I represent the police in this most unfortunate event.’

‘Ah, yes,’ replied the other, as though he’d once heard of the police, long ago, but had quite forgotten what they did. ‘You’re here, then, for all of this,’ he said, and paused, gesturing limply with his hand, waiting for someone to supply him with the proper word. Bidden, it came: ‘. . . this unfortunate affair with the Maestro.’

‘Yes, I am. Most unfortunate, most regrettable,’ Brunetti babbled, all the time keeping his eyes on the tenor’s. ‘Would it be too much trouble for you to answer a few questions?’

‘No, of course not,’ answered Echeveste, and he sank gracefully back into his chair, but not before carefully hiking up his trousers at the knee so as to preserve their knife-edged crease. ‘I’d like to be of help. His death is a great loss to the world of music.’

In the face of so stunning a platitude, Brunetti could do no more than bow his head reverently for a moment, then raise it to ask, ‘At what time did you reach the theater?’

Echeveste thought for a moment before he answered. ‘I’d say it was about seven-thirty. I was late. Delayed. You understand?’ and somehow, in the question, managed to convey the image of slipping reluctantly away from crumpled sheets and female allure.

‘And why were you late?’ Brunetti asked, knowing he was not supposed to and waiting to see how the question affected the fantasy.

‘I was having my hair cut,’ the tenor replied.

‘And the name of your barber?’ Brunetti asked politely.

The tenor named a shop only a few streets from the theater. Brunetti glanced at Follin, who made a note. He would check tomorrow.

‘And when you arrived at the theater, did you see the Maestro?’

‘No, no. I saw no one.’

‘And it was about seven-thirty when you arrived?’

‘Yes. As nearly as I can remember.’

‘Did you see or speak to anyone when you came in?’

‘No, I didn’t. No one at all’

Even before Brunetti could comment on the strangeness of that, Echeveste explained. ‘I didn’t come in, you see, through the stage entrance. I came in through the orchestra.’

‘I didn’t realize that was possible,’ Brunetti said, interested that there was access to the backstage area that way.

‘Well,’ Echeveste said, looking down at his hands. ‘It usually isn’t, but I have a friend who is an usher, and he let me in, so I didn’t have to use the stage entrance.’

‘Could you tell me why you did this, Signor Echeveste?’

The tenor raised a dismissive hand and allowed it to float languidly in front of them for a moment, as if hoping it would erase or answer the question. It did neither. He put the hand on top of the other and said, simply, ‘I was afraid.’


‘Of the Maestro. I’d been late for two rehearsals, and he’d been very angry about it, shouting. He could be very unpleasant when he was angry. And I didn’t want to have to go through it again.’ Brunetti suspected that it was only respect for the dead that kept any word stronger than ‘unpleasant’ from being used.

‘So you came in that way to avoid seeing him?’


‘Did you see or speak to him at any time? Other than from the stage?’

‘No, I didn’t.’

Brunetti got to his feet and repeated his very theatrical smile. ‘Thank you very much for your time, Signor Echeveste.’

‘My pleasure,’ the other replied, rising from his seat. He looked at Follin, then back to Brunetti, and asked, ‘Am I free to go now?’

‘Of course. If you’d just tell me where you’re staying?’

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