edges. He said this unaware of the blood-smeared bronze statue of the recently beatified Padre Pio, already placed in a transparent plastic evidence bag and waiting to be taken to the lab for fingerprinting.

The body having been examined and photographed, Scarpa ordered it taken to the Ospedale Civile for autopsy, telling Rizzardi that he wanted it done quickly. He ordered the members of the crime team to begin searching the apartment, although from its wild disorder it was clear that this had already been done. After Rizzardi's silent departure, the lieutenant chose to search the small room at the back of the house that had apparently belonged to Florinda Ghiorghiu. Not much larger than a closet, the room appeared not to have suffered the attentions of whoever had searched the living room. It contained a narrow bed and a set of shelves curtained by a worn piece of fabric that had perhaps once been a tablecloth. When Scarpa pulled the cloth to one side, he saw two folded blouses and an equal number of changes of underwear. A pair of black tennis shoes stood side by side on the floor. On the windowsill beside the bed were a photograph in a cheap cardboard frame of three small children, and a book he didn't bother to examine. Inside a cardboard folder he found photocopies of official documents: the first two pages of Florinda Ghiorghiu's Romanian passport and copies of her Italian residence and work permits. Born in 1953, her occupation was given as 'domestic helper'. There was a second-class return train ticket between Bucharest and Venice, the second half still unused. Because there was no table and no chair in the room, there was no other surface to inspect.

Lieutenant Scarpa pulled out his telefonino and called the Questura to get the number for the Frontier Police at Villa Opicina. Calling the number, he gave his name and rank and a brief account of the murder. He asked when the next train from Venice was expected to cross the border. Saying that their suspect might be on that train and firmly emphasizing that the killer was Romanian, he added that, should she manage to reach Romania, there was little chance of extraditing her, so it was of the utmost importance that she be removed from the train.

He said he'd fax her photo as soon as he got to the Questura, re-emphasized the viciousness of the crime, and hung up.

Leaving the scene of crime team to continue its examination of the apartment, Scarpa ordered the pilot to take him back to the Questura, where he faxed Ghiorghiu's form to the Frontier Police, hoping that the photo would come through clearly. That done, Lieutenant Scarpa went to speak to his superior, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, to inform him of the speed with which violent crime was being pursued.

In Villa Opicina, the fax came through as the officer in charge of the Frontier Police, Captain Luca Peppito, was phoning the capostazione at the railway station, telling him that the Zagreb express would have to be halted long enough to allow him and his men to search for a violent killer who was attempting to flee the country. Peppito replaced the phone, checked that his pistol was loaded, and went downstairs to collect his men.

Twenty minutes later, the Intercity to Zagreb pulled into the station and slowed to a halt that normally lasted only long enough for the engines to be changed and the passengers' passports to be checked. In recent years, customs inspection between these two minor players in the game of a united Europe had become perfunctory and generally led to nothing more than the payment of duty on the odd carton of cigarettes or bottle of grappa which were no longer viewed as a threat to the economic survival of either nation.

Peppito had sent men to both ends of the train and placed two more at the entrance to the station; all were under orders to examine the passports of any female passengers alighting from the train.

Three men climbed on at the back of the train and started to work their way forward, examining the passengers in every compartment and checking that no one was in the toilets, while Peppito and a pair of officers began the same process, working backwards from the first carriage.

It was Peppito's sergeant who spotted her, sitting in a window seat in a second-class compartment, in the first carriage behind the engine. He almost overlooked her because she was asleep or pretending to be, her head turned towards the window and resting against it. He saw the broad Slavic planes of her face, her hair grown out white at the roots for lack of care, and the squat, muscular frame so common among women from the East. Two other people sat in the compartment, a large red-faced man reading a German-language newspaper, and an older man working on one of the word puzzles in Settimana Enigmistica. Peppito slid the door back, banging it against the frame. That shook the woman awake; she looked about her with startled eyes. The two men looked up at the uniformed officers, and the older one asked, 'Si?' expressing his irritation only in the tone.

'Gentlemen, leave the compartment,' commanded Peppito. Before either of them could protest, he allowed his right hand to wander over to the butt of his pistol. The men, making no attempt to take their suitcases, left the compartment. The woman, seeing the men leave, got to her feet, acting as though she thought the order was meant for her as well.

As she tried to squeeze past Peppito, he gripped her left forearm with a firm hand. 'Documents, Signora,' he spat out.

She looked up at him, her eyes blinking quickly. 'Cosa?’ she said nervously.

'Documenti,' he repeated, louder.

She smiled nervously, a placatory tightening of the muscles of her face, demonstrative of harmlessness and good will, but he saw the way her eyes shifted down the corridor towards the door. 'St, Si, Signore. Momento. Momenta,' she said in an accent so strong the words were almost incomprehensible.

A plastic bag hung from her right hand. 'La borsa,' Peppito said, indicating the bag, which was from Billa, and meant to hold groceries.

At his gesture, she whipped the bag behind her. 'Mia, mm,' she said, stating possession but demonstrating fear.

'La borsa, Signora,' Peppito said and reached for it.

She turned halfway round, but Peppito was a strong man and managed to pull her back towards him. He released her arm and grabbed the bag. He opened it and looked inside: all he saw were two ripe peaches and a purse. He took the purse and let the bag fall to the floor. He glanced at the woman, whose face had grown as white as the hair showing at her roots, and flicked open the small plastic purse. He recognized the hundred-Euro notes instantly and saw that there were many of them.

One of his men had gone off to tell his colleagues that they had found her, and the other stood in the corridor, trying to explain to the two men that they would be allowed back to their seats as soon as the woman had been removed from the train.

Peppito snapped the purse shut and moved to put it in the pocket of his jacket. The woman, seeing this, reached for it, but Peppito batted her hand away and turned to say something to the men in the corridor. He was standing at the entrance of the compartment, and when she lunged towards him with her entire body, she drove him back into the corridor, where he lost his balance and fell on to one side. That was all it took for the woman to slip past him and run to the open door at the front of the carriage. Peppito called out and struggled to his feet, but by the time he was standing, she was down the steps and racing along the platform beside the train.

Peppito and the policeman closest to him ran to the door and jumped down on to the platform; both drew their pistols. The woman, still running and now clear of the engine, turned and saw the guns in their hands. At the sight of them she screamed aloud and leapt from the platform down on to the tracks. In the distance could be heard, at least by anyone not caught up in the panic and tension of this scene, the arrival of a through freight train on its way south from Hungary.

The policemen and their shouts followed the running woman. She looked up, saw the approaching train, glanced back to calculate the distance between herself and the policemen, and decided to risk it. She ran forward a few more steps, staying close to the tracks, then suddenly veered and jumped to the left, just metres before the train would reach her. The policemen shouted, the whistle of the train blared at the same moment as the shriek of the brakes filled the air. Perhaps it was one of these noises that caused her to falter; perhaps she merely put her foot down on the rail instead of the gravel. Whatever the reason, she fell to one knee, then instantly pushed herself up and lunged forward. But, as the policemen had seen from the greater distance, it was too late, and the train was upon her.

Peppito never mentioned it again, what happened then, at least not after he described it in his report that afternoon. Nor did the officer with him, nor the men in the engine of the freight train, though one of them had seen it happen before, three years ago, just outside Budapest.

Later, the papers reported that seven hundred Euros had been found in the woman's purse. Signora

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