He went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. He waited a short while, then rang again.
"Do you know whose house this is?"
What should he do? Night was falling and he could feel the beginnings of fatigue. Their pointless, exhausting day was starting to weigh on him.
"Let's go," he said. Then he added, in a vain attempt at convincing himself: "I'm sure they called."
Gallo gave him a doubtful look, but didn't open his mouth.
Gallo wasn't even invited into headquarters. The inspector had sent him immediately home to rest. His second-in-command, Mimì Augello, wasn't in; he'd been summoned to report to the new commissioner of Montelusa, Luca Bonetti-Alderighi, a young and testy native of Bergamo who in the course of one month had succeeded in creating knife- blade antipathies all around him.
"The commissioner was upset you weren't in Vigàta," said Fazio, the sergeant he was closest to. "So Inspector Augello had to go in your place."
"Had to go?" the inspector retorted. "He probably just saw it as a chance to show off!" He told Fazio about their accident that morning and asked him if he knew who owned the house. Fazio didn't, but promised his superior that he'd go to City Hall the following morning and find out.
"By the way, your car's in our garage."
Before going home, the inspector interrogated Catarella.
"Try hard to remember. Did anyone happen to call about a car we ran into?"
"Let me try and understand a minute," Livia said angrily by phone from Boccadasse, Genoa.
"What's to understand, Livia? As I said, and now repeat, François's adoption papers aren't ready yet. Some unexpected problems have come up, and I no longer have the old commissioner behind me always smoothing everything out. We have to be patient."
"I wasn't talking about the adoption," Livia said icily.
"You weren't? Then what were you talking about?"
"Getting married, that's what. We can certainly get married while the problems of the adoption are being worked out. The one thing does not depend on the other."
"No, of course not," said Montalbano, who was beginning to feel harried and cornered.
"Now I want a straight answer to the following question," Livia went on, implacably. "Supposing the adoption isn't possible: What will we do? Will we get married anyway, in your opinion, or won't we?"
A sudden, loud thunderclap gave him a way out.
"What was that?"
"Thunder. There's a terrible stor"
He hung up and pulled out the plug.
He couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned, snarling himself up in the sheets. Around two o'clock in the morning, he realized it was useless. He got up, got dressed, grabbed a leather bag given to him some time ago by a house burglar who'd become his friend, got in his car, and drove off. The storm was raging worse than ever, lightning bolts illuminating the sky. When he reached the Twingo, he slipped his car in under some trees and turned off the headlights. From the glove compartment he extracted a gun, a pair of gloves, and a flashlight. After waiting for the rain to let up, he crossed the road in one bound, went up the driveway, and flattened himself against the front door. He rang and rang the doorbell but got no answer. He then put on the gloves and pulled a large key ring with a dozen or so variously shaped picklocks out of the leather bag. The door opened on the third try. It was locked with only the latch and hadn't been dead-bolted. He entered, closing the door behind him. In the dark, he bent over, untied his wet shoes and removed them, remaining in his socks. He turned on the flashlight, keeping it pointed at the ground. He found himself in a large dining room that opened onto a living room. The furniture smelled of varnish. Everything was new, clean, and orderly. A door led into a kitchen that sparkled like something one might see in an advertisement; another door gave onto a bathroom so shiny it looked as if no one had ever used it before. He slowly climbed the stairs to the upper floor. There he found three closed doors. The first one he opened revealed a neat little guest room; the second led into a bigger bathroom than the one downstairs, but unlike it, this one was decidedly messy. A pink terrycloth bathrobe lay rumpled on the floor, as though the person wearing it had taken it off in a hurry. The third door was to the master bedroom. And the naked, half-kneeling female body, belly resting against the edge of the bed, arms spread, face buried in the sheet that the young, blond woman had torn to shreds with her fingernails in the final throes of her death by suffocation, must have belonged to the owner of the house.
Originally published in Italian as La Voce del Violino by Sellerio editore. Copyright 1997 Sellerio editore via Siracusa 50 Palermo. Translation copyright Stephen Sartarelli 2003. 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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