'That the investigation is not currently being actively pursued.'

Hearing the tortured vowels the longer sentence revealed in his accent, she adjusted her response to the information that he was a southerner, perhaps Sicilian. Feigning indifference, she asked, 'To whom is it, then, that I might give information about this matter?'

'If the case were being investigated, you would give it to me.' He allowed her to grasp the implications of his statement and returned his attention to the papers on his desk. Had he told her to leave, he could have made it no clearer how little interest he had in whatever she had to tell him.

For a moment, she faltered. It would all lead, what she had to say, to trouble for her and, if they didn't believe her, possibly to actual risk. It would be so easy to push herself to her feet and leave, abandon the issue and this man with the indifferent eyes.

'I read in the Gazzettino that she was murdered by the Romanian woman who lived with her’ she said.

'That's correct’ he said, and then added, 'She did it.' His tone, like his words, brooked no opposition.

‘It might be correct that I read it in the Gazzettino, and it might be correct that it was printed there, but it is not correct that the Romanian woman killed her’ she said, driven by the omniscience of his second remark to launch herself at the truth.

His indifference, however, was unassailable. 'Have you some evidence for that statement, Signora?' he asked, not for an instant suggesting that he might be interested in considering it, even if she had.

‘I spoke to the Romanian woman the morning of the murder’ she said.

‘I fear the same is probably true of Signora Battestini’ the lieutenant said, no doubt thinking it a clever thing to say.

‘I also took her to the train station.'

That caught his interest. He put both hands on the front of his desk and leaned towards her, as though he wanted to leap across the desk and squeeze a confession from her. 'What?’ he demanded.

‘I took her to the train to Zagreb. That is, the one that passes through Villa Opicina. She would have to change in Zagreb for the train to Bucharest.'

'What are you talking about? Are you saying you helped her?' He half stood, then lowered himself back into his chair.

She didn't deign to answer his question and, instead, repeated, 'I'm saying that I took her to the station and helped her buy a ticket and a seat reservation for the train to Zagreb.'

He said nothing for a long time, studying her face, perhaps considering what he had just heard. He surprised her by saying, 'You're Venetian,' as though it were part of some case he had begun to make against her. Before she could ask what he meant by that, he went on, 'So have you just recovered from amnesia and come in to tell us all this, after three weeks?'

'I've been out of the country,' she answered, surprised to hear the guilt in her voice.

He pounced. 'Without a phone or a newspaper?'

'In England, taking an intensive language course. I decided not to speak Italian at all’ she explained, omitting mention of phone conversations with her lover. ‘I got back last night and didn't find out about it until this morning.'

He changed theme, but the suspiciousness remained in his voice. 'Did you know her, this Romanian?'


'Did she tell you what she had done?'

Signora Gismondi willed herself to keep her patience. It was the only weapon she had. 'She didn't do anything. I met her in the morning, just outside the apartment. It's directly across the calle from mine. She was locked out, and the old woman was upstairs.'


'At her window. Flori was out in the street, ringing the doorbell, but the old woman wouldn't let her in.' Assunta Gismondi raised the first finger of her right hand and waved it slowly back and forth in the air in front of her, imitating the gesture she had seen the Battestini woman make.

Scarpa said, 'You called her 'Flori'. Was she a friend of yours?'

'No. I used to see her from the window of my apartment. Occasionally we waved to one another or said simple things. She didn't speak Italian at all well, but we understood one another.'

'What sort of things did she tell you?'

'That her name was Flori, that she had three daughters and seven grandchildren. That one of her daughters worked in Germany, but she didn't know where, in what city.'

'And the old woman? Did she say anything about the old woman?'

'She said that she was difficult. But everyone in the neighbourhood knew that.' 'Did she dislike her?'

Losing her patience for an instant, Signora Gismondi shot back, 'Everyone who knew her disliked her.'

'Enough to kill her?' Scarpa asked greedily.

Signora Gismondi smoothed the fabric of her skirt across her knees, brought her feet together neatly under her, took a breath, and said, 'Lieutenant, I'm afraid you haven't been paying attention to what I've been telling you. I met her on the street in the morning. The old woman was at the window, waving her finger at her and refusing to let her in. I took the woman – Flori – I took her to a cafe and tried to talk to her, but she was too upset to think clearly. She was in tears for much of the time we were there. She said the woman had locked her out, that her clothing and things were inside. But she had her passport with her. She said she never went anywhere without it.'

'It was false,' Scarpa declared.

'I don't see what difference that makes,' Signora Gismondi shot back. 'It would have got her out of Italy and back to Romania.' Rashness and anger made her add, ‘It certainly proved sufficient to get her in.' Hearing her own anger, she paused, imposed calm at least upon her voice, and said, 'That's all she wanted to do, go home to her family.'

'You seem to have managed very well without her speaking any Italian, Signora’ Scarpa said.

Signora Gismondi bit back her response and said, 'There was very little for her to say: 'basta', 'vado', 'treno', 'famiglia', 'Bucaresti', 'Signora cattiva'.' As soon as she heard herself say it, she regretted that last.

'So you say you took her to the train?'

'I don't only say it, Lieutenant. I declare it. It is true. I took her to the station and helped her buy a ticket and a seat reservation’

'And this woman with a false passport who you say was locked out of the house, she just happened to be walking around with enough money on her to pay for a ticket to Bucaresti?' he asked, in a crass imitation of her own pronunciation of the word.

'I bought her ticket’ Signora Gismondi declared.

'What?' Scarpa asked, as though she'd confessed to madness.

'I bought her ticket. And I gave her some money.'

'How much?' Scarpa said.

‘I don't know. Six or seven hundred Euros’

'You're asking me to believe you don't even know how much you gave her?'

'It's the truth’

'How is it the truth? You saw her there and you just snapped your fingers in the air and seven hundred Euros floated into your hand, and you thought how nice it would be to give them to the Romanian woman, seeing as she was locked out of the house and had nowhere to go?'

Signora Gismondi's voice was steel. 'I was on my way back from the bank, where I had just cashed a cheque sent to me by a client. I had the money in my purse, and when she told me she wanted to go back to Bucharest, I asked her if she'd been paid.' She looked across at Scarpa, as if to ask him to understand. She saw no evidence that he was capable, but she went on nevertheless. 'She said she didn't care about that; she just wanted to get home.' She paused, suddenly embarrassed to confess to such weakness to this man. 'So I gave her some money.' His look changed and she saw his contempt for her weakness, her gullibility. 'She'd been there for months, and the woman locked her out without giving her what she owed her or letting her come back in to get her things.' It came to her to ask him what he expected her to do in a situation like that, but she thought better of it and said, 'I

Вы читаете Doctored Evidence
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату