hoping this wasn’t the Questura, calling him from his bed to go to the scene of some new crime.

‘We’ve got your wife, sir.’

His mind went white at the juxtaposition of the opening remark, certainly the sort of thing every kidnapper has ever said, with the use of ‘sir’.

‘What?’ he asked when thought returned.

‘We’ve got your wife, sir,’ the voice repeated.

‘Who is this?’ he asked, anger surging into his voice.

‘It’s Ruberti, sir. I’m at the Questura.’ There was a long pause, then the man added, ‘I have night duty, sir, me and Bellini.’

‘What are you saying about my wife?’ Brunetti demanded, not at all concerned with where they were or who had night duty.

‘We do, sir. Well, I do. Bellini’s still in Campo Manin.’

Brunetti closed his eyes and listened for noises from some other part of the house. Nothing. ‘What’s she doing there, Ruberti?’

There was a long pause, after which Ruberti said, ‘We’ve arrested her, sir.’ When Brunetti didn’t say anything, he added, ‘That is, I’ve brought her down here, sir. She hasn’t been arrested yet.’

‘Let me talk to her,’ Brunetti demanded.

After a long pause he heard Paola’s voice. ‘Ciao, Guido.’

‘You’re there, at the Questura?’ he asked.


‘Then you did it?’

‘I told you I was going to,’ Paola said.

Brunetti closed his eyes again and held the receiver at arm’s length. After a while, he pulled it back and said, ‘Tell him I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Don’t say anything and don’t sign anything.’ Without waiting for her response, he put down the phone and got out of bed.

He dressed quickly, went into the kitchen and scribbled a note for the children, saying that he and Paola had had to go out, but would be back soon. He left the house, careful to close the door quietly behind him, and crept down the stairs as though he were a thief.

He turned right outside the door, walking quickly now, almost running, body inflamed with anger and fear. He hurried through the abandoned market and over the Rialto Bridge without seeing anything or anyone he passed, eyes on the ground in front of him, blind to all sensation. He remembered only her rage, the passion with which she had slammed her hand on to the table, shaking the plates and knocking over a glass of red wine. He remembered watching it soak into the table-cloth and wondering that this issue could so madden her. For he had, at the time and even now – sure that whatever she had done was provoked by that same rage – marvelled that she could become so angry at this far-off injustice. In the decades of their marriage he had become familiar with her anger, had learned that civil, political, social injustices could catapult her over the edge and into a kind of gasping outrage, but he had never learned to predict with any accuracy just what it was that could push her that extra distance until she was beyond all possibility of restraint.

As he walked across Campo Santa Maria Formosa, he remembered some of the things she’d said, deaf to his reminder that the children were there, blind to his surprise at her response. ‘It’s because you’re a man,’ she’d hissed in a tight, angry voice. And later, ‘It’s got to be made to cost them more to do it than to stop. Until then, nothing will happen.’ And finally, ‘I don’t care if it’s not illegal. It’s wrong and someone’s going to have to stop them.’

As was so often the case, Brunetti had dismissed her anger, then her promise – or had it been a threat – to do something on her own. And now, here he was, three days later, turning on to the embankment of San Lorenzo and approaching the Questura, where Paola sat, arrested for a crime she’d told him she was going to commit.

The same young officer let Brunetti in, saluting him as he entered. Brunetti ignored him and headed for the steps, ran up them two at a time and into the officers’ room, where he found Ruberti at his desk, Paola sitting quietly in front of him.

Ruberti stood up and saluted when his superior entered.

Brunetti nodded. He glanced at Paola, who met his eyes, but he had nothing to say to her.

He motioned Ruberti to sit down and when the officer did, Brunetti said, ‘Tell me what happened.’

‘We had a call about an hour ago, sir. A burglar alarm went off in Campo Manin, so Bellini and I went to answer the call.’

‘On foot?’

‘Yes, sir.’

When Ruberti didn’t continue, Brunetti nodded to him and he went on, ‘When we got there we found the window broken. The alarm was going off like crazy.’

‘Where was it coming from?’ Brunetti asked, though he knew.

‘The back room, sir.’

‘Yes, yes. But from what place?’

‘The travel agency, sir.’

Seeing Brunetti’s response, Ruberti subsided into silence again until Brunetti prodded him by asking, ‘And then?’

‘I went in, sir, and turned off the electricity. To stop the alarm,’ he explained unnecessarily. ‘Then, when we came out, we saw a woman in the campo, like she was waiting for us, and we asked her if she had seen what happened.’ Ruberti looked down at his desk, up at Brunetti, across at Paola and when neither of them said anything, he continued, ‘She said she’d seen who did it and when we asked her to describe him, she said it was a woman.’

Again, he stopped and looked at each of them and again neither said anything. ‘Then, when we asked her to describe the woman she described herself and, when I pointed that out to her, she said she’d done it. Broken the window, sir. That’s what happened.’ He thought for a moment, then added, ‘Well, she didn’t say it, sir. But she nodded when I asked her if she’d done it.’

Brunetti lowered himself into a chair on Paola’s right and folded his hands on the surface of Ruberti’s desk.

‘Where’s Bellini?’ he asked.

‘Still there, sir. He’s waiting for the owner to show up.’

‘How long ago did you leave him?’ Brunetti asked.

Ruberti glanced down at his watch. ‘More than a half-hour, sir.’

‘Does he have a phone?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Call him.’ Brunetti said.

Ruberti reached forward and pulled the phone towards him, but before he could begin to dial they heard footsteps on the stairs and a moment later Bellini came into the office. When he saw Brunetti he saluted, though he was unable to show his surprise at finding the commissario there at that hour.

‘Buon di, Bellini,’ Brunetti said.

‘Buon di, Commissario,’ the officer responded and looked towards Ruberti for some hint about what was going on.

Ruberti gave the barest of shrugs.

Brunetti reached across the desk and pulled the stack of crime reports towards him. He saw Ruberti’s neat printing, read the time and date, the officer’s name, the name Ruberti had chosen to give the crime. Nothing else was written on the report, no name was listed under ‘Arrested’, not even under ‘Questioned’.

‘What has my wife said?’

‘As I told you, sir, she hasn’t actually really said anything. Just nodded when I asked her if she did it,’ Ruberti said. To cover the rush of air that sneaked through his partner’s lips he added, ‘Sir.’

‘I think you might have misunderstood what she meant, Ruberti,’ Brunetti said. Paola leaned forward as if about to speak, but Brunetti suddenly slapped his outstretched palm on the crime report form and crushed it together in a tight ball.

Ruberti remembered, again, times when he had been a young officer, weary with sleep and once wet with fear,

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