When Brunetti accepted his suggestion that they have brandy, Santore went off for some. Left alone, Brunetti looked down at the book the other man had left open on the table in front of him, then pulled it toward him.

Santore came back, carrying two snifters, each generously filled with brandy.

‘Thanks,’ Brunetti said, accepting the glass and taking a large swallow. He pointed at the book and decided to begin with that, rather than with the usual obvious questions about where he had been, what he had done. ‘Aeschylus?’

Santore smiled at the question, hiding any surprise he might have felt that a policeman could read the title in Greek.

‘Are you reading it for pleasure, or for work?’

‘I suppose you could call it work,’ Santore answered, and sipped at his brandy. ‘I’m supposed to begin work on a new production of the Agamemnon in Rome in three weeks.’

‘In Greek?’ Brunetti asked, but it was clear that he didn’t mean it.

‘No, in translation.’ Santore was silent for a moment, but then he allowed his curiosity to get the better of him. ‘How is it that a policeman reads Greek?’

Brunetti swirled the liquid around in his glass. ‘Four years of it. But a long time ago. I’ve forgotten almost all I knew.’

‘But you can still recognize Aeschylus?’

‘I can read the letters. I’m afraid that’s all that’s left.’ He took another swallow of his drink and added, ‘I’ve always liked it about the Greeks that they kept the violence off the stage.’

‘Unlike us?’ Santore asked, then asked again, ‘Unlike this?’

‘Yes, unlike this,’ Brunetti admitted, not even bothering to wonder how Santore would have learned that the death had been violent. The theater was small, so he had probably learned that even before the police did, probably even before they had been called.

‘Did you speak to him this evening?’ There was no need to use a name.

‘Yes. We had an argument before the first curtain. We met in the bar and went back to his dressing room. That’s where it started.’ Santore spoke without hesitation. ‘I don’t remember if we were shouting at each other, but our voices were raised.’

‘What were you arguing about?’ Brunetti asked, as calmly as if he’d been talking to an old friend and equally certain that he would get the truth in response.

‘We had come to a verbal agreement about this production. I kept my part of it. Helmut refused to keep his.’

Instead of asking Santore to clarify the remark, Brunetti finished his brandy and set the glass on the table between them, waiting for him to continue.

Santore cupped his hands around the bottom of his glass and rolled it slowly from side to side. ‘I agreed to direct this production because he promised to help a friend of mine to get a job this summer, at the Halle Festival. It isn’t a big festival, and the part wasn’t an important one, but Helmut agreed to speak to the directors and ask that my friend be given the part. Helmut was going to be conducting just the one opera there.’ Santore brought the glass to his lips and took a sip. ‘That’s what the argument was about.’

‘What did you say during the argument?’

‘I’m not sure I remember everything I said, or what he said, but I do remember saying that I thought what he’d done, since I’d already done my part, was dishonest and immoral.’ He sighed. ‘You always ended up talking like him, when you talked to Helmut.’

‘What did he say to that?’

‘He laughed.’


Before he answered, Santore asked, ‘Would you like another drink? I’m going to have one.’

Brunetti nodded, grateful. This time, while Santore was gone, he laid his head against the back of the chair and closed his eyes.

He opened them when he heard Santore’s steps approach. He took the glass that the other man handed him and asked, as if there had been no break in the conversation, ‘Why did he laugh?’

Santore lowered himself into his chair, this time holding the glass with one hand cupped under it. ‘Part of it, I suppose, is that Helmut thought himself above common morality. Or perhaps he thought he’d managed to create his own, different from ours, better.’ Brunetti said nothing, so he continued: ‘It’s almost as if he alone had the right to define what morality meant, almost as if he thought no one else had the right to use the term. He certainly thought I had no right to use it.’ He shrugged, sipped.

‘Why would he think that?’

‘Because of my homosexuality,’ the other answered simply, suggesting that he considered the issue equal in importance to, say, a choice of newspaper.

‘Is that the reason he refused to help your friend?’

‘In the end, yes,’ Santore said. ‘At first, he said it was because Saverio wasn’t good enough, didn’t have enough stage experience. But the real reason came later, when he accused me of wanting a favor for my lover.’ He leaned forward and put his glass down on the table. ‘Helmut has always seen himself as a sort of guardian of public morals,’ he said, then corrected his grammar. ‘Saw himself.’

‘And is he?’ Brunetti asked.

‘Is who what?’ Santore asked, all grammar forgotten in his confusion.

‘Is he your lover, this singer?’

‘Oh, no. He’s not. More’s the pity.’

‘Is he homosexual?’

‘No, not that, either.’

‘Then why did Wellauer refuse?’

Santore looked at him directly and asked, ‘How much do you know about him?’

‘Very little, and that only about his life as a musician, and only what’s been in the newspapers and magazines all these years. But about him as a man I know nothing.’ And that, Brunetti realized, was beginning to interest him a great deal, for the answer to his death must lie there, as it always did.

Santore said nothing, so Brunetti prompted him. ‘Never speak ill of the dead, vero? Is that it?’

‘And never speak ill of someone you might have to work with again,’ Santore added.

Brunetti surprised himself by saying, ‘That hardly seems to be the case here. What ill is to be spoken?’

Santore glanced across at the policeman and studied his face, giving it the sort of speculative look that he might give to an actor or a singer he was deciding how to use in a performance. ‘It’s mostly rumor,’ he finally said.

‘What sort of rumor?’

‘That he was a Nazi. No one knows for sure, or if they ever knew, no one is saying, or whatever they might have said in the past has been forgotten, dropped into that place where memory does not follow. He conducted for them while they were in power. It’s even said he conducted for the Fuhrer. But he said he had to do it to save some of the people in his orchestra, who were Jews. And they did survive the war, those who were Jews, and managed to play in the orchestra all through the war years. And so did he, play and survive. And somehow his reputation never suffered because of all those years or because of those intimate concerts for the Fuhrer. After the war,’ Santore continued, voice strangely calm, ‘he said he had been “morally opposed” and had conducted against his will.’ He took a small sip of his drink. ‘I’ve no idea what’s true, whether he was a member of the party or not, what his involvement was. And I suppose I don’t care.’

‘Then why do you mention it?’ Brunetti asked.

Santore laughed out loud, his voice filling the empty room. ‘I suppose because I believe it’s true.’

Brunetti smiled. ‘That could be the case.’

‘And probably because I do care?’

‘That as well,’ Brunetti agreed.

They allowed the silence to expand between them until Brunetti asked, ‘How much do you know?’

‘I know that he gave those concerts all during the war. And I know that, in one case, the daughter of one of

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