‘Who was it?’ the first one asked.

‘Someone threw a rock through the window,’ the woman said.

‘What did he look like?’

‘It wasn’t a man,’ she answered.

‘A woman?’ the second one interrupted and she stopped herself from asking if there were perhaps some other alternative she didn’t know about. No jokes. No jokes. There were not going to be any more jokes, not until all this was over.

‘Yes, a woman.’

With a sharp look at his partner, the first one resumed his questions. ‘What did she look like?’

‘She was in her early forties, blonde hair, shoulder-length.’

The woman’s hair was tucked inside a scarf, so at first the policemen didn’t get it. ‘What was she wearing?’ he asked.

‘A tan coat, brown boots.’

He noticed the colour of her coat, then looked down at her feet. ‘This isn’t a joke, Signora. We want to know what she looked like.’

She looked straight at him and in the light cast down from the street lamps, he saw the glint of some secret passion in her eyes. ‘No jokes, officer. I’ve told you what she was wearing.’

‘But you’re describing yourself, Signora.’ Again, her own inner alarm against melodrama prevented her from saying ‘Thou sayest it’. Instead, she nodded.

‘You did it?’ the first one asked, unable to disguise his astonishment.

She nodded again.

The other one clarified, ‘You threw a stone through that window?’

Once more she nodded.

With unspoken agreement the two men backed away from her until they were out of earshot, though they both kept their eyes on her. They put their heads together and spoke in lowered voices for a moment, then one of them pulled out his cellular and punched in the number of the Questura. Above them, a window was flung open, a head popped out, only to disappear immediately. The window slammed shut.

The policeman spoke for several minutes, giving what information he had and saying they’d already apprehended the person responsible. When the night sergeant told them to bring him in, the policeman didn’t bother to correct him. He folded the mouthpiece back into place and slipped the phone into the pocket of his jacket. ‘Danieli told me to take her in,’ he told his partner.

‘And that means I get to stay here?’ the other one asked, making no attempt to disguise his irritation at having been finessed into staying there in the cold.

‘You can wait inside. Danieli’s calling the owner. I think he lives around here somewhere.’ He handed his partner the phone. ‘Call in if he doesn’t show up.’

With an attempt at good grace the second officer took the phone with a smile. ‘I’ll stay until he shows up. But next time I get to take the suspect in.’

His partner smiled and nodded. Good feelings restored, they approached the woman who, during their long conversation, had remained exactly where she was, seated on the pillar, eyes studying the damaged window and the shards of glass that spread out in a monochrome rainbow in front of it.

‘Come with me,’ the first policeman said.

Silently she pushed herself away from the pillar and started towards the entrance to a narrow calle to the left of the destroyed window. Neither policeman made note of the fact that she knew the way to begin the shortest route to the Questura.

It took them ten minutes to walk there, during which time neither the woman nor the policeman spoke. Had any of the very few people who saw them bothered to pay attention to them as they walked across the sleeping expanse of Piazza San Marco and down the narrow calle that led towards San Lorenzo and the Questura, they would have seen an attractive, well-dressed woman walking in company with a uniformed policeman. Strange to see at four in the morning, but perhaps her house had been burgled or she’d been called in to identify a wayward child.

There was no one waiting to let them in, so the policeman had to ring repeatedly before the sleep-dulled face of a young policeman popped out from the guard room to the right of the door. When he saw them, he ducked back and re-emerged seconds later, pulling on his jacket. He opened the door with a muttered apology. ‘No one told me you were coming, Ruberti,’ he said. The other dismissed his apology, but then waved him back towards his bed, remembering what it was to be new to the force and dead with heavy sleep.

He led the woman to the steps on the left and up to the first floor, where the officers had their room. He opened the door for her and held it politely while she came in, following her into the room and taking a seat at his desk. Opening the right drawer, he pulled out a heavy block of printed forms, slapped it down on the desk in front of them, looked up to the woman and motioned with one hand that she should take the seat in front of him.

While she sat and unbuttoned her coat, he filled out the top of the form, giving the date, the time, his name and rank. When it came to, ‘Crime’, he paused for a moment, then wrote ‘Vandalism’ in the empty rectangle.

He glanced up at her then and, for the first time, saw her clearly. He was struck by something that made no sense to him at all, by how much everything about her – her clothing, her hair, even the way she sat – gave off the self-assurance that comes only from money, great amounts of it. Please let her not be a crazy, he prayed silently.

‘Do you have your carta d’identita, Signora?’

She nodded and reached into her bag. At no time did it occur to him that there was any danger in letting a woman he had just arrested for a crime of some violence reach into a large bag to pull something out.

Her hand emerged holding a leather wallet. She opened it and took out the beige identity card, pulled it open, reversed it and placed it on the desk in front of him.

He glanced down at the photo, saw that it must have been taken some time ago, when she was still a real beauty. Then he looked down at the name. ‘Paola Brunetti?’ he asked, unable to disguise his astonishment.

She nodded.

‘Jesus Christ, you’re Brunetti’s wife.’

* * * *


Brunetti was lying on the beach when the phone rang, his arm placed across his eyes to protect them from the sand stirred up by the dancing hippos. That is, inside the world of his dreams, Brunetti lay on a beach, his location no doubt the result of a fierce argument with Paola some days before, the hippos a holdover from the escape he had chosen from that argument, joining Chiara in the living-room to watch the second half of Fantasia.

The phone rang six times before Brunetti recognized it for what it was and moved to the side of the bed to reach for it.

‘Si?’ he asked, stupid with the restless sleep that always followed unresolved conflict with Paola.

‘Commissario Brunetti?’ a man’s voice asked.

‘Un momento,’ Brunetti said. He put down the receiver and switched on the light. He lay back in bed and pulled the covers up over his right shoulder, then looked towards Paola to see that he hadn’t pulled them away from her. Her side of the bed was empty. No doubt she was in the bathroom or had gone down to the kitchen for a drink of water or, if the argument still lingered with her as it did with him, perhaps for a glass of hot milk and honey. He’d apologize when she came back, apologize for what he’d said and for this phone call, even though it hadn’t woken her.

He reached over and picked up the phone. ‘Yes, what is it?’ he asked, sinking down low in the pillows and

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