for you, Paola? Why does everything you do, or read or say – or wear and eat, for the love of God -why does everything have to be filled with such meaning?’

For a long time she looked at him without saying anything, then she lowered her head and walked away from him, heading for home.

He caught up with her. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘What’s what supposed to mean?’

‘That look.’

She stopped again and gazed up at him. ‘Sometimes I wonder where the man I married went.’

‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’

‘It means that when I married you, Guido, you believed in all those things that you make fun of now.’ Before he could ask her what they were, she answered him, ‘Things like justice and what’s right, and how to decide to do what’s right.’

‘I still believe in those things,’ he insisted.

‘You believe in the law now, Guido,’ she said, but gently, as though she were speaking to a child.

‘That’s exactly what I mean,’ he said, raising his voice, deaf and blind to the people who hurried past them in increasing numbers, now that it was closer to the time when the first stalls would open. ‘You make what I do sound stupid or dirty. I’m a policeman, for God’s sake. What do you want me to do except obey the law? And enforce it?’ He felt his entire body blaze with hot rage as he saw, or thought he saw, how she had for years belittled and dismissed what he did.

‘Then why did you lie to Ruberti?’ she asked.

His rage fled. ‘I didn’t lie.’

‘You told him there was some confusion, that he didn’t understand what I meant. But he knows, and you do, and I do, and so did that other policeman, exactly what I meant and what I did.’ When he said nothing she moved closer to him. ‘I broke the law, Guido. I broke their window and I’d do it again. And I’ll go on breaking their windows until your law, this precious law you’re so proud of, until your law does something – either to me or to them. Because I won’t let them go on doing what they’re doing.’

His hands shot out before he could stop himself and grabbed her by the elbows. But he didn’t pull her to him. Instead, he stepped towards her, then wrapped his arms round her back, one hand pressing her face into the angle of his neck. He kissed the top of her head and sank his face into her hair. Suddenly he pulled himself back, hand clasped to his mouth.

‘What is it?’ she asked, frightened for the first time.

Brunetti pulled away his hand and saw that there was blood on it. He raised a finger to his lip and felt something hard, sharp.

‘No, let me,’ Paola said, placing her right hand on his cheek and moving his face down to hers. She removed her glove and touched his lip with two fingers.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘A piece of glass.’

A sudden tweak of pain, then she kissed him on the lower lip, but gently.

* * * *


On the way home they stopped in a pasticceria and bought a large tray of brioches, telling one another it was for the children but knowing it was a sort of celebratory offering to their peace, no matter how precarious its restoration. The first thing Brunetti did when they got home was remove the note he’d left on the kitchen table and stuff it deep into the plastic bag of garbage under the sink. Then he went down the corridor, quietly because of the still-sleeping children, and into the bathroom, where he took a long shower, hoping to steam away the troubles that had come to him so unexpectedly and so early this morning.

By the time he was shaved and dressed and back in the kitchen, Paola had changed into her pyjamas and dressing-gown, an old flannel tartan thing she’d worn for so long that they’d both forgotten where she had got it. She sat at the table, reading a magazine and dunking a brioche into a large cup of caffe latte, as though she’d just now got up from a long and restful night’s sleep.

‘Am I supposed to come in, kiss you on the cheek and say, “Buon giorno, cara, did you sleep well?”‘ he asked when he saw her, but there was no hint of sarcasm, either in his voice or in his intention. If anything, he hoped to distance them from the events of the night, though he well knew how impossible that was. Delay, then, the inevitable consequence of Paola’s actions, even if those consequences would be no more than their facing off verbally again, each doomed to the impossibility of accepting the other’s position.

She looked up, considered his words and smiled, suggesting that she, too, would be happy to wait. ‘Will you be home for lunch today?’ she asked, getting up to go to the stove and pour coffee into a wide-mouthed cup. She added heated milk and placed it on the table at his usual place.

As he sat, Brunetti thought how strange the situation was, how even stranger the fact that they both so readily accepted it. He’d read about the spontaneous Christmas truce that had broken out in the trenches on the Western Front during the Great War; Germans crossing over to light the cigarettes they’d just given to the Tommies; the British waving and smiling at the Huns. Massive bombardments had put an end to that: Brunetti saw no brighter possibility of a prolonged truce with his wife. But he’d enjoy it while he could, so he added sugar to his coffee, picked up a brioche and answered, ‘No, I’ve got to go up to Treviso to talk to one of the witnesses to the bank robbery in Campo San Luca last week.’

Because a bank robbery in Venice was such an unusual event, it served to divert them and Brunetti told Paola – even though everyone in the city was sure to have read about it in the paper – the little that was known: a young man with a gun had walked into a bank three days before, demanded money, walked out with it in one hand, the pistol in the other, and had calmly disappeared in the direction of Rialto. The camera hidden in the ceiling of the bank had provided the police with a fuzzy picture, but it had allowed the police to make a tentative identification of the brother of a local man said to have powerful connections to the Mafia. The robber had pulled a scarf up over his mouth and nose as he entered the bank, but he’d removed it as he left, providing a man on the way in with a clear view of his face.

The witness, a pizzaiolo from Treviso who had been going into the bank to make a mortgage payment, had had a good look at the robber and Brunetti hoped he would be able to pick him out from among the photos of suspects the police had assembled. That would be enough to make an arrest and it might be sufficient to win a conviction. So that was where Brunetti was headed that morning.

* * * *

From the back part of the apartment they heard the sound of an opening door and the unmistakable heavy tread of Raffi, sleep-sodden, on his way towards the bathroom and, they hoped, consciousness.

Brunetti took another brioche, surprised to find himself so hungry at this hour: breakfast was something for which normally he had little understanding and less sympathy. While they awaited further sounds of life from the back of the apartment, they kept themselves very busy with their coffee and their brioches.

Brunetti was just finishing when another door opened. A few moments later Chiara stumbled down the hallway and came into the kitchen, one hand prodding at her eyes, as if to help them with the complicated business of opening. Saying nothing, she shuffled barefoot across the kitchen and lowered herself into Brunetti’s lap. She wrapped one arm round his back and planted her head on his shoulder.

Brunetti put both arms round her and kissed the top of her head. ‘You going to school like this today?’ he asked in an entirely conversational voice, studying the pattern on her pyjamas. ‘Nice. I’m sure your classmates will like the look. Balloons. Very tasteful, balloons. Chic, I’d even say. A fashion statement every twelve-year-old will envy.’

Paola lowered her head and returned her attention to her magazine.

Chiara shifted around in his lap, then pushed herself away from him to look down at her pyjamas. Before she

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