The white-haired man shook his head. 'No. As I told you, my only concern was my wife. When I heard her shout, everything else went out of my head, so I couldn't even tell you which people from our group were there.'
Brunetti turned back to the woman and asked, 'Do you remember who was there, Doctor?'
She closed her eyes, as if trying to recall the scene yet again. Finally she said, 'There were the Petersons; they were standing to my left, and the man was behind me on the right. And I think Lydia Watts was on the other side of the Petersons.' She kept her eyes closed. When she opened them she said, 'No, I don't remember anyone else. That is, I know that we were all there in a bunch, but those are the only ones I can remember seeing.'
'How many people are in your group, Doctor?'
The husband answered, 'Sixteen. Plus spouses, that is,' he immediately corrected. 'Most of us are retired or semi-retired doctors, all from the North-east.'
'Where are you staying?' he asked.
'At the Paganelli,' he answered. Brunetti was surprised that a group that large could find room there, and that Americans would have the good sense to choose it.
'And this evening, for dinner? Is the group scheduled to eat somewhere in particular?' Brunetti wondered if he could perhaps locate them all and talk to them now, while whatever memories they had would still be fresh.
The Crowleys exchanged a glance. The man said, 'No, not really. This is our last night in Venice, and some of us decided to eat on our own, so we don't have any plans, not really.' He gave an embarrassed smile and added, 'I guess we're sort of tired of eating with the same people every night.'
'We were just going to walk around until we saw a place we liked and eat there,' his wife added, smiling across at her husband as if proud of their decision. 'But it's awfully late now.'
'And the group?' Brunetti persisted.
'They're booked to eat at some place near San Marco,' the woman said.
Her husband interrupted, 'But we didn't like the sound of it, all that local colour stuff.'
Brunetti had to admit they were probably right. 'Do you remember the name?' he asked.
Both shook their heads regretfully; the man spoke for them. 'I'm sorry, officer, but I don't.'
'You said it was your last night here,' he began, and they nodded. 'What time do you leave tomorrow morning?'
'Not until ten,' she said. 'We take the train to Rome, and then we fly out on Thursday. Home in time for Christmas.'
Brunetti pulled their bill towards him, added the cost of his own coffee to it, and put fifteen Euros on the table. The man started to object, but Brunetti said, 'It's police business,' and that lie seemed to satisfy the doctor.
'I can recommend a restaurant,' he said, and then added, 'I'd like to come and talk to you, and to these other people, in your hotel tomorrow morning.'
'Breakfast's at seven-thirty,' she explained, 'and the Petersons are always right on time. I'll call Lydia Watts, when we get back if you like, and ask her to come down at eight so you can talk to her.'
'Is your train at ten or do you leave the hotel at ten?' Brunetti asked, hoping to be spared the need to be on the other side of San Marco by seven-thirty in the morning.
'The train, so we have to leave the hotel at nine-fifteen. There's a boat coming to take us to the station.'
Brunetti got to his feet and waited while the man helped his wife into her parka and then put on his own. Wearing them, the old people doubled in size. He led the way to the door, and held it open for them. Outside, in the campo, he pointed to the right and told them to walk along Calle della Mandorla to the Rosa Rossa and to tell the owner that Commissario Brunetti had sent them.
Copyright © 2005 by Donna Leon and Diogenes Verlag AG Zurich. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
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