Brunetti agreed that the case was theirs to investigate and then asked, 'When did the call come in?'
'Seven twenty-six, sir,' came Alvise's efficient, crisp reply.
A glance at his watch told Brunetti that it was now more than a half-hour after that, but as Alvise was not the brightest star in the firmament of his daily routine, he chose to make no comment and, instead, said merely, 'Order a boat. I'll be down.'
When Alvise hung up, Brunetti took a look at the week's duty roster and, seeing that Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello's name was not listed for that day nor for the next, he called Vianello at home and briefly explained what had happened. Before Brunetti could ask him, Vianello said, 'I'll meet you there.'
Alvise had proven capable of informing the pilot of Commissario Brunetti's request, no doubt in part because the pilot sat at the desk opposite him, and so, when Brunetti emerged from the Questura a few minutes later, he found both Alvise and the pilot on deck, the boat's motor idling. Brunetti paused before stepping on to the launch and told Alvise, 'Go back upstairs and send Pucetti down.'
'But don't you want me to come with you, sir?' Alvise asked, sounding as disappointed as a bride left waiting on the steps of the church.
'No, it's not that,' Brunetti said carefully, 'but if this person calls back again, I want you to be there so that there's continuity in the way he's dealt with. We'll learn more that way.'
Though this made no sense at all, Alvise appeared to accept it; Brunetti reflected, not for the first time, that it was perhaps the absence of sense that made it so easy for Alvise to accept. He went docilely back inside the Questura. A few minutes later Pucetti emerged and stepped on to the launch. The pilot pulled them away from the Riva and toward the Bacino. The night's rain had washed the pollution from the air, and the city was presented with a gloriously limpid morning, though the sharpness of late autumn was in the air.
Brunetti had had no reason to go to the Academy for more than a decade, not since the graduation of the son of a second cousin. After being inducted into the Army as a lieutenant, a courtesy usually extended to graduates of San Martino, most of them the sons of soldiers, the boy had progressed through the ranks, a source of great pride to his father and equal confusion to the rest of the family. There was no military tradition among the Brunettis nor among his mother's family, which is not to say that the family had never had anything to do with the military. To their cost, they had, for it was the generation of Brunetti's parents that had not only fought the last war but had had large parts of it fought around them, on their own soil.
Hence it was that Brunetti, from the time he was a child, had heard the military and all its works and pomps spoken of with the dismissive contempt his parents and their friends usually reserved for the government and the Church. The low esteem with which he regarded the military had been intensified over the years of his marriage to Paola Falier, a woman of leftish, if chaotic, politics. It was Paola's position that the greatest glory of the Italian Army was its history of cowardice and retreat, and its greatest failure the fact that, during both world wars, its leaders, military and political, had flown in the face of this truth and caused the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands of young men by relentlessly pursuing both their own delusory ideas of glory and the political goals of other nations.
Little that Brunetti had observed during his own undistinguished term of military service or in the decades since then had persuaded him that Paola was wrong. Brunetti realized that not much he had seen could persuade him that the military, either Italian or foreign, was much different from the Mafia: dominated by men and unfriendly to women; incapable of honour or even simple honesty beyond its own ranks; dedicated to the acquisition of power; contemptuous of civil society; violent and cowardly at the same time. No, there was little to distinguish one organization from the other, save that some wore easily recognized uniforms while the other leaned toward Armani and Brioni.
Copyright © 2003 by Donna Leon. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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