Bembo bristled. 'This morning some time.'
'I don't know. Shortly before the police were called.'
'How shortly before?'
'I have no idea. I was called at home.'
'At what time?' Brunetti asked, pencil poised over the page.
Bembo's lips tightened in badly disguised irritation. 'I'm not sure. About seven, I'd say.'
'Were you already awake?'
'And was it you who called the police?'
'No, that had already been done by someone here.'
Brunetti uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. 'Comandante, the call is registered as having come at seven twenty-six. That's about half an hour after you were called and told the boy was dead.' He paused to allow the man time to explain, but when Bembo made no attempt to do so, Brunetti continued, 'Could you suggest an explanation for that?'
'For the delay of a half an hour in informing the authorities of a suspicious death at the institution you direct.'
'Suspicious?' Bembo demanded.
'Until the medical examiner has determined the cause of death, any death is suspicious.'
'The boy committed suicide. Anyone can see that.'
'Have you seen him?'
The Comandante did not answer immediately. He sat back in his chair and considered the man in front of him. Finally he answered, 'Yes. I have. I came here when they called me and went to see him. He'd hanged himself.'
'And the delay?' Brunetti asked.
Bembo waved the question away. 'I have no idea. They must have thought I would call the police, and I was sure they had.'
Letting this pass, Brunetti asked, 'Do you have any idea who called?'
'I just told you I don't know,' Bembo said. 'Surely they must have given their name.'
'Surely,' Brunetti repeated and returned to the subject. 'But no one has contacted Dottor Moro?'
Bembo shook his head.
Brunetti got to his feet. 'I'll go and see that someone does.'
Bembo didn't bother to stand. Brunetti paused for a moment, curious to see if the Comandante would enforce his sense of the loftiness of his position by glancing down at something on his desk while he waited for Brunetti to leave. Not so. Bembo sat, empty hands resting on the top of his desk, eyes on Brunetti, waiting.
Brunetti slipped his notebook into the pocket of his jacket, placed the pencil carefully on the desk in front of Bembo, and left the Comandante's office.
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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