was looking for you,' he reproached Brunetti. With a nod to Signorina Elettra, he walked into the office and set some things on the desk. Turning back to Brunetti, he said, 'Let me get a sample.'

Brunetti looked and saw the standard piece of cardboard with spaces for the prints of the various fingers. Bocchese flipped open a flat tin and waved impatiently towards Brunetti, who walked over and gave him his right hand. Quickly, it was done, then the left.

Bocchese slid the cardboard to one side, revealing another one beneath it. ‘I might as well do you, Signorina’ he said.

'No thank you’ she answered, walking away and standing near the door.

'What?' Bocchese asked, his voice making the word something more than a question but less than a demand.

‘I prefer not to,' she said, and the possibility died.

Bocchese shrugged, picked up Brunetti's card and gave it a careful look. 'Nothing like this on anything in the attic, I'd say, but there are lots of them from some other person, probably a man, and a big one.'

'Lots?' Brunetti asked.

'Looks like he went through everything’ Bocchese answered. Then, when he saw that he had Brunetti's attention, he added, 'There's a set of the same prints on the underside of her kitchen table. Well, my guess is that they're the same, but we have to send them to Interpol in Brussels to be sure.'

'How long will that take?' Brunetti asked.

Another shrug. 'A week? A month?' He put the cards in a plastic envelope and slipped the box of ink into his pocket. 'You know anyone there? In Brussels? To speed things up?'

'No,' Brunetti admitted.

Both men turned supplicating eyes towards Signorina Elettra.

‘I’ll see what I can do’ she said.


Brunetti spent the next hour alone in his office, considering the best way to confront Rossi. He moved back and forth between his desk and the window, unable to concentrate, his every thought blocked by and turned back upon the Seven Deadly Sins. None of them, he realized, was any longer against the law; at worst they might be considered flaws of character. Could this be some novel way to carbon-date between the old world and the new? For weeks, he had listened to Paola read aloud passages from the text from which his daughter was being taught religion, yet it had never occurred to him to wonder if she were being taught the concept of sin and, if so, how it was being defined.

Theft was a choice, avarice and envy merely the vices that predisposed to it. So too with the vice of sloth: experience had taught him that many criminals were led to their crimes by the slothful belief that it was easier to steal than to work. Blackmail was another choice, and the same three vices led to it.

Brunetti had seen the signs of pride in Rossi and was persuaded that the cause of his crime lay there. Any normal person would judge that the exposure of Rossi's fraud would cost him little but embarrassment. Perhaps he would lose the directorship of the school board, but a man with his connections could easily find work; the city bureaucracy could shift him sideways to some obscure job where he could receive the same salary and continue to proceed unhindered towards his pension.

But he would no longer be Dottor Rossi, would no longer be courted by local television and asked to speak to an attentive journalist about his prospects of taking a job in Rome. The news of his exposure would not last a week and would do nothing more than cause some mild fuss in the local papers; it was hardly an event that would interest the national press. The public memory grew shorter each day, geared as it was never to exceed the length of an MTV video, so Rossi, doctor or no, would be forgotten by the end of the month. But even this his pride could not endure.

Finally curiosity overcame Brunetti and he called down to Vianello. 'Let's go and get him,' was all he said. He paused only long enough to go down to Bocchese's office and pick up one of the photocopies of the letter from the University of Padova the technician had prepared.

He and Vianello decided to walk to Rossi's office and though they talked about him on the way, neither of them seemed fully capable of understanding his behaviour. Brunetti saw their failure to understand Rossi as a manifestation of either their moral shortsightedness or their lack of imagination.

Brunetti did not stop at the office of the portiere but went directly to the staircase and up to the third floor. The offices were full this morning, people walking in and out with papers and folders in their hands, the busy ants that swarmed in every city office. The woman with the studs in her temple was at her desk, looking no more interested in reality than she had been the last time he saw her. Her eyes, when she saw him, registered nothing. Nor did she seem aware of any of the half-dozen people who sat on the chairs along the walls, all of whom studied Brunetti and Vianello as they came in.

'We're here to see the Director,' Brunetti said.

'I think he's in his office,' she said with an airy wave of those green-tipped fingers. Brunetti thanked her and started towards the door that led to the corridor to Rossi's office, but he had to turn around and summon Vianello, who stood transfixed in front of the receptionist.

They found the door to Rossi's office open and went in without bothering to knock. Rossi sat at his desk; the same man, but in a way Brunetti was slow to grasp, not at all the same man. Rossi looked across his office at them with eyes that seemed to have been affected by those of the woman in the reception area. The colour was the same deep brown, but they seemed to be experiencing a difficulty in focusing similar to that of the receptionist.

Brunetti walked across the room and stopped in front of Rossi's desk. By turning his head he could read the full text on the certificate in the carved teak frame, the one from the University of Padova, conveying the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics on Mauro Rossi.

'Where'd you get it, Signor Rossi?' Brunetti asked, indicating the framed diploma with the thumb of his right hand.

Rossi gave a small cough, sat up straighter in his chair, and said, ‘I don't know what you're talking about.'

Brunetti shrugged this off, took the photocopy Bocchese had given him from his pocket, opened it, and slid it casually in front of Rossi. 'You got any idea what this is talking about, then, Signor Rossi?' Brunetti asked with exaggerated aggression.

'What's that?' Rossi asked, not daring to look at it.

'What you were searching for in the attic,' Brunetti answered.

Rossi looked at Vianello, back at Brunetti, then down at the letter, where his eyes remained. Brunetti noticed that his lips moved as he read it. Brunetti watched the man's eyes slide off the bottom of the paper, then swerve back to the top. Rossi read it again, even more slowly this time.

He looked up at Brunetti and said, 'But I've got two children.'

For a moment, Brunetti was tempted to enter into discussion with him, but he knew where this would lead: to Rossi's weighing the happiness of his two children against Signora Battestini's life, to his defence of his reputation, no doubt his honour, against the old woman's threats to destroy him. If it were a play, or a television soap opera, Brunetti would have had no trouble writing the script, and had he been the Director, he would have known exactly what instructions to give the actor playing Rossi so as to infuse his every sentence with puzzled indignation and, yes, with injured pride.

'I'm arresting you, Signor Mauro Rossi,' Brunetti finally said, 'for the murder of Maria Grazia Battestini.' Rossi stared at him, his eyes mirrors, if not of his soul, then certainly of the blankness on view in those of his receptionist. 'Come with us,' Brunetti said, stepping back from the desk. Rossi put both palms flat on his desk and pushed himself to his feet. Before he turned away towards the door, Brunetti saw that both of his hands were set squarely on the letter from the University of Padova, but Rossi seemed not to notice.

A week later, Rossi was back at home, though he was there under house arrest. He was not back at work, though he had not been fired from his position as Direttore della Pubblica Istruzione and had been placed on

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