'Commissario Guido Brunetti, sir,' he said. 'I've been sent to investigate the report of a death here.' This was not strictly true, for Brunetti had sent himself to investigate, but he saw no reason why the Comandante should be told this. He stepped forward and extended his hand quite naturally, as though he were too dull to have registered the coolness emanating from the other man.
After a pause long enough to indicate who was in charge, Bembo stepped forward and extended his hand. His grip was firm and gave every indication that the Comandante was restraining himself from exerting his full force out of consideration for what it would do to Brunetti's hand.
'Ah, yes,' Bembo said, 'a commissario.' He allowed a pause to extend the statement and then went on, 'I'm surprised my friend Vice-Questore Patta didn't think to call me to tell me you were coming.'
Brunetti wondered if the reference to his superior, who was unlikely to appear in his office for at least another hour, was meant to make him tug humbly at his forelock while telling Bembo he would do everything in his power to see that he was not disturbed by the investigation. 'I'm sure he will as soon as I give him my preliminary report, Comandante,' Brunetti said.
'Of course,' Bembo said and moved around his desk to take his chair. He waved what was no doubt a gracious hand to Brunetti, who seated himself. Brunetti wanted to see how eager Bembo was to have the investigation begin. From the way the Comandante moved small objects around on the top of his desk, pulled together a stack of papers and tapped them into line, it seemed that he felt no unseemly haste. Brunetti remained silent.
'It's all very unfortunate, this,' Bembo finally said.
Brunetti thought it best to nod.
'It's the first time we've had a suicide at the Academy,' Bembo went on.
'Yes, it must be shocking. How old was the boy?' Brunetti asked. He pulled a notebook from the pocket of his jacket and bent the covers back when he found an empty page. He patted his pockets then, with an embarrassed smile, leaned forward and reached for a pencil that lay on the Comandante's desk. 'If I may, sir,' he said.
Bembo didn't bother to acknowledge the request. 'Seventeen, I believe,' he said.
'And his name, sir?' Brunetti asked.
'Ernesto Moro,' Bembo replied.
Brunetti's start of surprise at the mention of one of the city's most famous names was entirely involuntary.
'Yes,' Bembo said, 'Fernando's son.'
Before his retirement from political life, Dottor Fernando Moro had for some years served as a Member of Parliament, one of the few men universally acknowledged to have filled that position honestly and honourably. The wags of Venice insisted that Moro had been moved from various committees because his honesty proved inconvenient to his colleagues: the instant it became evident that he was immune to the temptations of money and power, his incredulous fellow parliamentarians found reason to reassign him. His career was often cited as evidence of the survival of hope in the face of experience, for each chairman who found Moro appointed to his committee was certain that, this time, he could be induced to back those policies most certain to line the pockets of the few at the expense of the many.
But none of them, in three years, had apparently succeeded in corrupting Moro. Then, only two years ago, he had suddenly, and without explanation, renounced his parliamentary seat and returned full time to private medical practice.
'Has he been informed?' Brunetti asked.
'Who?' Bembo asked, clearly puzzled by Brunetti's question.
Bembo shook his head. 'I don't know. Isn't that the job of the police?'
Brunetti, exercising great restraint, glanced at his watch and asked, 'How long ago was the body discovered?' Though he strove for neutrality, he failed to keep reproach out of his voice.
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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