his musicians went to him in private and begged him to help her father. And I know that the musician survived the war.’

‘And the daughter?’

‘She survived the war.’

‘Well, then?’ Brunetti asked.

‘Then nothing, I suppose.’ Santore shrugged. ‘Besides, it’s always been easy to forget the man’s past and think only of his genius. There was no one like him, and I’m afraid there’s no conductor like him left.’

‘Is that why you agreed to direct this production for him—because it was convenient to forget his past?’ It was a question, not an insult, and Santore clearly took it as such.

‘Yes,’ he answered softly. ‘I chose to direct it so that my friend would get the chance to sing with him. So it was convenient for me to forget all that I knew or suspected, or at least to ignore it. I’m not sure it matters all that much, not anymore.’

Brunetti watched an idea appear in Santore’s face. ‘But now he won’t get to sing with Helmut, ever,’ and he added, to let Brunetti know that the purpose of the conversation had never been far beneath its surface, ‘which would seem to argue that I had no reason to kill him.’

‘Yes, that would seem to follow,’ Brunetti agreed, with no apparent interest, then asked, ‘Did you ever work with him before?’

‘Yes. Six years ago. In Berlin.’

‘Your homosexuality didn’t present difficulties then?’

‘No. It never presented real difficulties, once I was famous enough for him to want to work with me. Helmut’s stand, as a sort of guardian angel of Western morality or biblical standards, was pretty well known, but you can’t survive very long in this world if you refuse to work with homosexuals. Helmut just made his own sort of moral truce with us.’

‘And you did the same with him?’

‘Certainly. As a musician, he was as close to perfection as a man could come. It was worth putting up with the man to be able to work with the musician.’

‘Was there anything else about the man you found objectionable?’

Santore thought a long time before he answered this. ‘No, there’s nothing else I knew about him that would make me dislike him. I don’t find the Germans sympathetic, and he was very Germanic. But its not dislike or liking that I’m talking about. It was this sense of moral superiority he seemed to carry about with him, as if it was—he was—a lantern in dark times.’ Santore grimaced at the last phrase. ‘No, that’s not right. It must be the hour or the brandy. Besides, he was an old man, and now he’s dead.’

Going back to an earlier question, Brunetti asked, ‘What did you say to him during the argument?’

‘The usual things one says in an argument,’ Santore said wearily. ‘I called him a liar, and he called me a faggot. Then I said some unpleasant things about the production, about the music and his conducting, and he said the same things about the stage direction. The usual things.’ He stopped speaking and slumped in his chair.

‘Did you threaten him?’

Santore’s eyes shot to Brunetti’s face. He couldn’t disguise his shock at the question. ‘He was an old man.’

‘Are you sorry he’s dead?’

This was another question the director wasn’t prepared to hear. He thought for a time before he answered it. ‘No, not for the death of the man. For his wife, yes. This will be . . .’ he began, but then didn’t finish the sentence. ‘For the death of the musician, yes, I’m very sorry about that. He was old, and he was at the end of his career. I think he knew that.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The conducting, it didn’t have its old glory somehow, didn’t have that old fire. I’m not a musician, so I can’t be clear about just what it was. But something was missing.’ He paused and shook his head. ‘No, maybe it’s just my anger.’

‘Did you talk to anyone about this?’

‘No; one doesn’t complain about God.’ He paused for a moment, then said, ‘Yes, I did. I mentioned it to Flavia.’

‘La Signora Petrelli?’


‘And what did she say?’

‘She’d worked with him before; often, I think. She was bothered by the difference in him, spoke to me about it once.’

‘What did she say?’

‘Nothing specific; just that it was like working with one of the younger conductors, someone with little experience.’

‘Did anyone else mention it?’

‘No, no one; at least not to me.’

‘Was your friend Saverio in the theater tonight?’

‘Saverio’s in Naples,’ Santore responded coldly.

‘I see.’ It had been the wrong question. The mood of easy intimacy was gone. ‘How much longer will you be in Venice, Signor Santore?’

‘I usually leave after the prima has been successfully performed. But Helmut’s death will change things. I’ll probably be here for another few days, until the new conductor is fully at home with the production.’ When Brunetti made no response to this, he asked, ‘Will I be allowed to go back to Florence?’


‘Three days. Four. I have to stay for at least one performance with the new conductor. But then I’d like to go home.’

‘There’s no reason you can’t go,’ Brunetti said, and stood. ‘All we’ll need is an address where we can reach you, but you can certainly give that to one of my men at the theater tomorrow.’ He extended his hand. Santore got to his feet and took it. ‘Thank you for the brandy. And good luck with the Agamemnon.’ Santore smiled his thanks, and saying nothing else, Brunetti left.

* * * *


Brunetti decided to walk home, to take advantage of the star-studded sky and the deserted streets. He paused in front of the hotel, measuring distances. The map of the city that lay imprinted in the minds of all Venetians showed him that the shortest way was across the Rialto Bridge. He cut across Campo San Fantin and into the labyrinth of narrow streets that wound back toward the bridge. No one passed him as he walked, and he had the strange sensation of having the sleeping city entirely to himself. At San Luca, he passed the pharmacy, one of the few places that were open all night, except for the train station, where slept the homeless and the mad.

And then he was at the water’s edge, the bridge to his right. How typically Venetian it was, looking, from a distance, lofty and ethereal but revealing itself, upon closer reflection, to be firmly grounded in the mud of the city.

Across the bridge, he walked through the now abandoned market. It was usually a cross lo bear, shoving and pushing through the crowded street, through herds of tourists jammed together between vegetable stalls on one side and shops filled with the worst sort of tourist junk on the other, but tonight he had it to himself and could stride freely. Ahead of him, in the middle of the street, a pair of lovers stood, glued hip to hip, blind to the beauty about them but perhaps, after all, somehow inspired by it.

At the clock, he turned left, glad to be almost home. Five minutes brought him to his favorite shop, Biancat, the florist, whose windows offered the city a daily explosion of beauty. Tonight, through the clinging humidity of the glass, tubs of yellow roses preened themselves, while behind them lurked a cloud of pale jasmine. He walked quickly past the second window, crowded with lurid orchids, which always looked faintly cannibalistic to him.

He let himself into the palazzo in which he lived, bracing himself, as he always had to do when he was tired, for the task of climbing the ninety-four steps to their fourth-floor apartment. The previous owner had built the apartment illegally more than thirty years before, simply added another floor to the existing building without bothering with official permission of any sort. This situation had somehow been obscured when

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