Surprised at the policeman's tone, the man answered, 'I was walking by, and I saw this crowd, so I stopped.'
'Did you see who did it?'
It occurred to Alvise only then that he had no idea what had been done, only that the Questura had received a call, saying that a black man was dead in Campo Santo Stefano. 'Can you show me some identification?' Alvise demanded.
The man took out his wallet and extracted his carta d'identità. Silently, he handed it to Alvise, who glanced at it before handing it back. 'Did you see anything?' he asked in the same voice.
'I told you, officer. I was walking by, and I saw these people standing around here, so I stopped to look. Nothing more.'
'All right. You can go,' Alvise said in a tone that suggested the man really had no choice. Alvise turned away from him and went back to the crime team, where the photographers were already packing up their equipment.
'Find anything?' he asked one of the technicians.
Santini, who was on his knees, running his gloved hands over the paving stones in search of shell casings, looked up at Alvise and said, 'A dead man,' before returning to his search.
Not deterred by the answer, Alvise pulled out a notebook from the inside pocket of his uniform parka. He flipped it open, took out a pen, and wrote 'Campo Santo Stefano'. He studied what he had written, glanced at his watch, added '20.58', capped the pen, and returned both notebook and pen to his pocket.
From his right, he heard a familiar voice ask, 'What's going on, Alvise?'
Alvise raised a languid hand in something that resembled a salute and said, 'I'm not sure, Commissario. We had a call, saying there was a dead man here, so we came over.'
His superior, Commissario Guido Brunetti, said, 'I can see that, Alvise. What happened to cause the man to be dead?'
'I don't know, sir. We're waiting for the doctor to get here.'
'Who's coming?' Brunetti asked.
'Who's coming where, sir?' Alvise asked, utterly at a loss.
'Which doctor is coming? Do you know?'
'I don't know, sir. I was in such a hurry to get the team here that I told them at the Questura to call and have one of the doctors sent.'
Brunetti's question was answered by the arrival of Dottor Ettore Rizzardi, medico legale of the city of Venice.
'Ciao, Guido,' Rizzardi said, shifting his bag to his left hand and offering his right. 'What have we got?'
'A dead man,' Brunetti said. 'I got the call at home, saying someone had been killed here, but nothing more than that. I just got here myself.'
'Better have a look, then,' Rizzardi said, turning towards the taped-off area. 'You speak to anyone?' he asked Brunetti.
'No. Nothing.' Talking to Alvise never counted.
Rizzardi bent and slipped under the tape, placing one hand on the pavement to do so, then held the tape up to make it easier for Brunetti to join him. The doctor turned to one of the technicians. 'You've taken pictures?'
'Sì, Dottore,' the man answered. 'From every side.'
'All right, then,' Rizzardi said, setting down his bag. He turned away, took out two pairs of thin plastic gloves and gave one pair to Brunetti. As they slipped them on, the doctor asked, 'Give me a hand?'
They knelt on either side of the dead man. All that was visible was the right side of his face and his hands. Brunetti was struck by the very blackness of the man's skin, then bemused by his own surprise: what other colour did he expect an African to be? Unlike the black Americans Brunetti had seen, with their shading from cocoa to copper, this man was the colour of ebony buffed to a high gloss.
Copyright © 2005 by Donna Leon and Diogenes Verlag AG Zurich. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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