turn it down. I suppose that's why I liked her, or I felt sorry for her, whatever it was.'

'I'm sure that was a great relief. Nothing's worse, is it, especially when you're trying to sleep?' His sympathy was audible.

'Sometimes, during the summer, it was impossible. I've got a house up in the mountains, near Trento, and I'd have to go up there just to get a good night's sleep.' She smiled and shook her head at the apparent lunacy of the situation. ‘I know it sounds crazy that a person can drive you out of your own home, but that's the way it was.' Then, with a puckish smile, she added, 'Until I discovered the firemen.'

'How did they get in?' Brunetti asked.

She told him with evident pleasure. 'The downstairs door was always locked, and they couldn't open it. So they had to go to Madonna dell'Orto, or somewhere over there, and come back with a ladder. They'd lay it on the ground in front of her house and put it together, then raise it up to her windows

'Second floor?' he asked.

'Yes. It must have been, I don't know, seven or eight metres long. And then one or two of them would climb up and in her window and go into her bedroom and wake her up.'

'You saw all of this?' he asked.

'Yes. I watched it from my windows. When they got inside, I'd move into my bedroom. That's when I saw them wake her up.' She smiled at the memory. 'They were really very nice, the firemen. They're all Venetian, so she had no trouble understanding them. They'd ask her how she was and then they'd suggest she turn down the television. And then they'd leave.'


'Excuse me?' she asked.

'How did they leave? Back down the ladder?'

'Oh, no,' she said with a laugh. 'They'd go out the door and down the stairs, and when they got outside, they'd take the ladder down and take it apart.'

'How many times did you do this, Signora?'

'Why? Is it illegal?' she asked, worried for the first time in her conversation with Brunetti.

‘I don't see how it could be,' he answered calmly. 'Quite the opposite, in fact. If you couldn't see her from one of the windows in your apartment, then it seems to me you'd have every reason to be concerned that something had happened to her.'

He didn't repeat his question, but still she answered it. 'Four times, I think. They always got here in about fifteen minutes.'

'Hum,' he said appreciatively, and she wondered if he was surprised or pleased. Then he said, 'Did it stop when Flori came?'


He allowed a long time to pass and then said, 'The lieutenant told me that you took her to the station, Signora, and left her there. Is this true?'


'At about ten-thirty?' 'Yes.'

Changing the subject, he asked, 'Did Signora Ghiorghiu have any other friends here that you know of?'

Hearing him refer to Flori with such formality pleased her, but her smile was brief, more a tightening of her lips than a smile. ‘I was hardly a friend, Commissario.'

'You behaved like one’

Reluctant to try to speak about this, she returned to his question. 'No, not that I know of. We weren't really friends because we really couldn't talk. Just people who liked one another.'

'And when you left her at the station, how would you describe her behaviour or her mood?'

'She was still upset by what had happened but much less so than before.'

He looked down at the floor for a moment, then back at her. 'Did you ever see anything else from your window, Signora?' he asked, but before she could even think about defending herself from the suggestion of nosiness, he went on, 'I ask because, if we accept the premise that Flori didn't do this, then someone else must have, and anything you can tell me about Signora Battestini might help.'

'You mean, to find out who it really was?' she asked.


So effortless had been his acceptance of the possibility of Flori's innocence that she didn't have time to register surprise. 'I've been thinking about this since I called you’ she said.

'I imagine you must have, Signora’ he said but didn't prod her.

'I've lived across from her for more than four years, since I bought the apartment.' She paused but he gave no indication of wanting or needing to hurry her. ‘I moved in in February, I think; towards the end of winter, at any rate. So I didn't notice her, not until the spring, when it got warmer and we started to open our windows. That is, I might have seen her moving around the apartment, but I paid no attention to her.

'As soon as the noise started, though, I paid attention. I started by calling across the calle, but it didn't do any good. She was always asleep; never woke up. So one day I went over and looked at the doorbells, then I found her number in the phone book and called her. I didn't say who I was or where I lived or anything like that; I just asked her if she could, at night, try to keep her television turned down.'

'And how did she respond?' he asked.

'She said she always turned it off before she went to bed and hung up.'

'And then?'

'Then it started during the day, and I'd call and when she answered I'd ask her, always very politely, to turn it down.'


'And most of the times she did.' ‘I see. And at night?'

'Sometimes it wasn't on, for weeks at a time. I'd begin to hope something had happened, that she'd been taken away or gone away.'

'Did you ever think of getting her a pair of those earphones, Signora?'

'She'd never wear them,' she answered with absolute certainty. 'She's crazy. That's why. Mad as a horse. Believe me, Signore, I did my homework on this woman. I spoke to her lawyer, her doctor, her niece, the people at the psychiatric centre at Palazzo Boldu, to the neighbours, even to the postman’

She saw his interest and went on. 'She was a patient at Boldu for years, when she could still manage the stairs and leave the house. But either she stopped or they threw her out – if a psychiatric centre can throw people out, that is.'

'I doubt they can’ he said. 'But I suppose they could encourage her to leave.' He waited a moment, then asked, 'The niece? What did she say?'

'That her aunt was 'a difficult woman'.' She snorted in scorn, 'As though I didn't know that. She didn't want to have anything to do with it. In fact, I'm not sure she really understood what I was talking about. Same with the police, as I told you, and with the Carabinieri.' She paused, then added, 'Someone in the neighbourhood – I can't remember who it was – told me her son died five or six years ago, and that's when the television began. For company.'

'So he died before you moved in?'

'Yes. But from what I've heard, I suspect she was always 'a difficult woman'.'

'And her lawyer?' Brunetti asked.

'She said she'd speak to Signora Battestini.'


Signora Gismondi pushed her lips together as if in disgust.

'The postman?' he asked with a smile.

She laughed out loud. 'He had nothing good to say about her, as a matter of fact. He'd take everything up to her, whenever it came – he was always climbing those steps – and she never gave him anything. Not even at Christmas. Nothing.'

His attention was unwavering and so she went on. 'The best story I heard about her was from the marble man, the one over by the Miracoli’ she said.

'Costantini?' he asked.

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