The Terracotta Dog / Терракотовая Собака (by Andrea Camilleri, 1996) - аудиокнига на английском

The Terracotta Dog / Терракотовая Собака (by Andrea Camilleri, 1996) - аудиокнига на английском

The Terracotta Dog / Терракотовая Собака (by Andrea Camilleri, 1996) - аудиокнига на английском

В продолжение франшизы о неподражаемом комиссаре Монтальбано выходит книга о собаке из терракоты. Криминальный авторитет, решивший завязать с мафиозным прошлым подкидывает неунывающему детективу незаурядное дело. В пещере обнаружено два человеческих скелета. Рядом с гротом этих людей разбит склад оружия. На этот раз следователю приходится окунуться в историю Сицилии, тщательно изучив страницы времен немецкой оккупации. Но преступление ведет намного дальше.

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The Terracotta Dog / Терракотовая Собака (by Andrea Camilleri, 1996) - аудиокнига на английском
Год выпуска аудиокниги:
Andrea Camilleri
Daniel Philpott
криминал, детектив, роман
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64 kbps

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THE TERRA-COTTA DOG 1 To judge from the entrance the dawn was making, it promised to be a very iffy day, that is, blasts of angry sunlight one minute, fits of freezing rain the next, all of it seasoned with sudden gusts of wind one of those days when someone who is sensitive to abrupt shifts in weather and suffers them in his blood and brain is likely to change opinion and direction continuously, like those sheets of tin, cut in the shape of banners and roosters, that spin every which way on rooftops with each new puff of wind. Inspector Salvo Montalbano had always belonged to this unhappy category of humanity. It was something passed on to him by his mother, a sickly woman who used to shut herself up in her bedroom, in the dark, whenever she had a headache, and when this happened one could make no noise about the house and had to tread lightly. His father, on the other hand, on stormy seas and smooth, always maintained an even keel, always the same unchanging state of mind, rain or shine. This time, too, the inspector did not fail to live up to his inborn nature. No sooner had he stopped his car at the ten-kilometer marker along the Vig-Fela highway, as he had been told to do, than he felt like putting it back in gear and returning to town, bagging the whole operation. He managed to control himself, brought the car closer to the edge of the road, opened the glove compartment, and reached for the pistol he normally did not carry on his person. His hand, however, remained poised in midair: immobile, spellbound, he stared at the weapon. Good God! It's real! he thought. The previous evening, a few hours before Gege Gullotta called to set up the whole mess - Gege being a small-time dealer of soft drugs and the manager of an open-air bordello known as the Pasture, the inspector had been reading a detective novel by a writer from Barcelona who greatly intrigued him and had the same surname as he, though hispanicized: Montalb. One sentence in particular had struck him: The pistol slept, looking like a cold lizard. He withdrew his hand with a slight feeling of disgust and closed the glove compartment, leaving the lizard to its slumber. After all, if the whole business that was about to unfold, turned out to be a trap, an ambush, he could carry all the pistols he wanted, and still they would fill him with holes with their Kalishnikovs however and whenever they so desired, thank you and good night. He could only hope that Gege remembering the years they'd spent together on the same bench in elementary school and the friendship they'd carried over into adulthood, had not decided, out of self-interest, to sell him like pork at the market, feeding him any old bullshit just to lead him to the slaughter. No, not just any old bullshit: this business, if for real, could be really big, make a lot of noise. He sighed deeply and began to make his way slowly, step by step, up a narrow, rocky path between broad expanses of vineyard. The vines bore table grapes, with round, firm seeds, the kind called, who knows why, Italian grapes, the only kind that would take in this soil. As for trying to grow vines for making wine, in this soil you were better off sparing yourself the labor and expense. The two-story cottage, one room on top of another, was at the summit of the hill, half-hidden by four large Saracen olive trees that nearly surrounded it. It was just as Gege'd described it. Faded, shuttered windows and door, a huge caper bush in front, with some smaller shrubs of touch-me-not the small, wild cucumber that squirts seeds into the air if you touch it with the tip of a stick, a collapsed wicker chair turned upside down, an old zinc bucket eaten up by rust and now useless. Grass had overgrown everything else. It all conspired to give the impression that the place had been uninhabited for years, but this appearance was deceptive, and experience had made Montalbano too savvy to be fooled. In fact he was convinced that somebody was eyeing him from inside the cottage, trying to guess his intentions from the moves he would make. He stopped three steps in front of the house, took off his jacket, and hung it from a branch of the olive tree so they could see he wasn't armed. Then he called out without raising his voice much, like a friend come to visit a friend. "Hey! Anybody home?" No answer, not a sound. Montalbano pulled a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from his trouser pocket, put one in his mouth, and lit it, turning round halfway to shelter himself from the wind. That way whoever was inside the house could examine him from behind, having already examined him from the front. He took two puffs, then went to the door and knocked with his fist, hard enough to hurt his knuckles on the crusts of paint on the wood. "Is there anyone here?" he asked again. He was ready for anything, except the calm, ironic voice that surprised him from behind. "Sure there is. Over here." . It had all started with a phone call. "Hello? Hello? Montalbano! Salvuzzo! It's me, Gege" "I know it's you. Calm down. How are you, my little honey-eyed orange blossom?" "I'm fine." "Working the mouth hard these days? Been perfecting your blow-job techniques?" "Come on, Salvo, don't start with your usual faggot stuff. You know damn well that I don't work myself. I only make other mouths work for me." "But aren't you the instructor? Aren't you the one who teaches your multicolored assortment of whores how to hold their lips and how hard to suck?" "Salvo, if what you're saying was true, they'd be the ones teaching me. They come to me at age ten already well- trained, and at fifteen they're top-of-the-line professionals. I've got a little Albanian fourteen-year-old" "You trying to sell me your merchandise now?" "Listen, I got no time to fuck around. I have something I'm supposed to give you, a package." "At this hour? Can't you get it to me tomorrow morning?" "I won't be in town tomorrow." "Do you know what's in the package?" "Of course. Mostaccioli with mulled wine, the way you like 'em. My sister Mariannina made them just for you." "How's Mariannina doing with her eyes?" "Much better. They work miracles in Barcelona." "They also write good books in Barcelona." "What's that?" "Never mind. Just talking to myself. Where do you want to meet?" "The usual place, in an hour." The usual place was the little beach of Puntasecca, a short tongue of sand beneath a white marl hill, almost inaccessible by land, or rather, accessible only to Montalbano and Gege who back in grade school had discovered a trail that was difficult enough on foot and downright fool hardy to attempt by car. Puntasecca was only a few kilometers from Montalbano's little house by the sea just outside of Vig, and that was why he took his time. But the moment he opened the door to go to his rendezvous, the telephone rang. "Hi, darling. It's me, right on time. How did things go today?" "Business as usual. And you?" "Ditto. Listen, Salvo, I've been thinking long and hard about what" "Livia, sorry to interrupt, but I haven't got much time. Actually I don't have any time at all. You caught me just as I was going out the door." "All right then, good night." Livia hung up and Montalbano was left standing with the receiver in his hand. Then he remembered that the night before, he had told her to call him at midnight on the dot, because they would certainly have as much time as they wanted to talk at that hour. He couldn't decide whether to call Livia back right then or when he returned, after his meeting with Gege. With a pang of remorse, he put the receiver down and went out. . When he arrived a few minutes late, Gege was already waiting for him, pacing back and forth the length of his car. They exchanged an embrace and kissed; it had been a while since they'd seen each other. "Let's go sit in my car," said the inspector, "it's a little chilly tonight." "They put me up to this," Gege broke in as soon as he sat down. "Who did?" "Some people I can't say no to. You know, Salvo, like every businessman, I gotta pay my dues so I can work in peace and keep the Pasture, or they'd put me out to pasture in a hurry. Every month the good Lord sends our way, somebody comes by to collect." "For whom? Can you tell me?" "For Tano the Greek." Montalbano shuddered, but didn't let his friend notice. Gaetano "the Greek" Bennici had never so much as seen Greece, not even through a telescope, and knew as much about things. Hellenic as a cast-iron pipe, but he came by his nickname owing to a certain vice thought in the popular imagination to be greatly appreciated in the vicinity of the Acropolis. He had three certain murders under his belt, and in his circles held a position one step below the top bosses. But he was not known to operate in or around Vig; it was the Cuffaro and Sinagra families who competed for that territory. Tano belonged to another parish. "So what's Tano the Greeks business in these parts?" "What kind of stupid question is that? What kind of fucking cop are you? Don't you know that for Tano the Greek there's no such thing as these parts and those parts when it comes to women? He was given control and a piece of every whore on the island." "I didn't know. Go on." "Around eight oclock this evening the usual guy came by to collect; today was the appointed day for paying dues. He took the money, but then, instead of leaving, he opens his car door and tells me to get in." "So what'd you do?" "I got scared and broke out in a cold sweat. What could I do? I got in, and we drove off. To make a long story short, he took the road for Fela, and stopped after barely half an hours drive." "Did you ask him where you were going?" "Of course." "And what did he say?" "Nothing, as if I hadn't spoken. After half an hour, he makes me get out in some deserted spot without a soul around, and gestures to me to follow some dirt road. There wasn't even a dog around. At a certain point, and I have no idea where he popped out of, Tano the Greek suddenly appears in front of me. I nearly had a stroke, my knees turned to butter. Don't get me wrong, I'm no coward, but the guys killed five people." "Five? Why, how many do you think he's killed? Three." "No way, it's five, I guarantee it." "Okay, go on." "I got to thinking. Since I always pay on time, I figured Tano wanted to raise the price. Business is good, I got no complaints, and they know it. But I was wrong, it wasn't about money." "What did he want?" "Without even saying hello, he asked me if I knew you." Montalbano thought he hadn't heard right. "If you knew who?" "You, Salvo." "And what did you tell him?" "Well, I was shitting my pants, so I said, yeah, I knew you, but just casually, by sight, you know, hello, how ya doin. And he looked at me, you gotta believe me, with a pair of eyes that looked like a statues eyes, motionless, dead, then he leaned his head back and gave this little laugh and asked me if I wanted to know how many hairs I had on my ass cause he could tell me within two. What he meant was that he knew everything about me from the cradle to the grave, and I hope that won't be too soon. And so I just looked at the ground and didn't open my mouth. That's when he told me he wanted to see you." "When and where?" "Tonight, at dawn. I'll tell you where in a second." "Do you know what he wants from me?" "I don't know and I don't want to know. He said to rest, assured you could trust him like a brother." Like a brother. Those words, instead of reassuring Montalbano, sent a shiver down his spine. It was well-known that foremost among Tanos three or five murder victims washis older brother Nicolino, whom he first strangled and then, in accordance with some mysterious semiological rule, meticulously flayed. The inspector started thinking dark thoughts, which became even darker, if that was possible, at the words that Gege putting his hand on his shoulder, then whispered in his ear. "Be careful, Salvo, guy's an evil beast." He was driving slowly back home when the headlights of Gege car behind him started flashing repeatedly. He pulled over and Gege pulling up, leaned all the way across the seat towards the window on the side closest to Montalbano and handed him a package. "I forgot the mostaccioli." "Thanks. I thought it was just an excuse." "What do you think I am? Somebody who says something and means something else?" He accelerated, offended. . The inspector spent the kind of night one tells the doctor about. His first thought was to phone the commissioner, wake him up, and fill him in, to protect himself in the event the affair took any unexpected turns. But Tano the Greek had been explicit, according to Gege, Montalbano must not say anything to anyone and must come to the appointment alone. This was not, however, a game of cops and robbers: his duty was his duty. That is, he must inform his superiors and plan, down to the smallest details, how to surround and capture the criminal, perhaps with the help of considerable reinforcements. Tano had been a fugitive for nearly ten years, and he, Montalbano, was supposed to go visit him as if he were some pal just back from America? There was no getting around it, the commissioner must by all means be informed of the matter. He dialed the number of his superiors home in Montelusa, the provincial capital. "Is that you, love?" murmured the voice of Livia from Boccadasse, Genoa. Montalbano remained speechless for a moment. Apparently his instinct was leading him away from speaking with the commissioner, making him dial the wrong number. "Sorry about before. I had just received an unexpected phone call and had to go out." "Never mind, Salvo, I know what your work is like. Actually, I'm sorry I got upset. I was just feeling disappointed." Montalbano looked at his watch: he had at least three hours before he was supposed to meet Tano. "If you want, we could talk now." "Now? Look, Salvo, it's not to get back at you, but I'd rather not. I took a sleeping pill and can barely keep my eyes open." "All right, all right. Till tomorrow, then. I love you, Livia." Livias tone of voice suddenly changed, becoming more awake and agitated. "Huh? What's wrong? Eh, what's wrong, Salvo?" "Nothing's wrong. What could be wrong?" "Oh, no you don't, you're hiding something. Are you about to do something dangerous? Don't make me worry, Salvo." "Where do you get such ideas?" "Tell me the truth, Salvo." "I'm not doing anything dangerous." "I don't believe you." "Why not, for Christs sake?" "Because you said I love you, and since I've known you, you've said it only three times. I've counted them, and every time it was for something out of the ordinary." The only hope was to cut the conversation short; with Livia, one could easily end up talking till morning. "Ciao, my love. Sleep well. Don't be silly. I have to go out again." So how was he going to pass the time now? He took a shower, read a few pages of the book by Montalb understood little, shuffled from one room to the other, straightening a picture, rereading a letter, a bill, a note, touching everything that came within his reach. He took another shower and shaved, managing to cut himself right on the chin. He turned on the television and immediately shut it off. It made him feel nauseated. Finally, it was time. As he was on his way out, he decided he needed a mostacciolo. With sincere astonishment, he saw that the box on the table had been opened and not a single pastry was left in the cardboard tray. He had eaten them all, too nervous to notice. And what was worse, he hadn't even enjoyed them. 2 Montalbano turned around slowly, as if to offset the dull, sudden anger he felt at having let himself be caught unawares from behind like a beginner. For all that he'd been on his guard, he hadn't heard the slightest sound. One to nothing in your favor, bastard! he thought. Though he'd never seen him in person, he recognized him at once: as compared with the mug shots from a few years back, Tano had grown his mustache and beard, but the eyes remained the same, expressionless, like a statues, as Gege'd accurately described them. Tano the Greek gave a short bow, and there wasn't the slightest hint of provocation or mockery in the gesture. Montalbano automatically returned the greeting. Tano threw his head back and laughed. "We're like two Japanese warriors, the kind with swords and breast plates. What do you call them?" "Samurai." Tano opened his arms, as if wanting to embrace the man standing before him. "What a pleasure to meet the famous Inspector Montalbano, personally in person." Montalbano decided to dispense with the ceremonies and get straight to the point, just to put the encounter on the right footing. "I'm not sure how much pleasure you'll get from meeting me, sir." "Well, you've already given me one." "Explain." "You called me sir. That's no small thing. No cop, not a single one and I've met a lothas ever called me sir." "You realize, I hope, that I'm a representative of the law, while you are a dangerous fugitive charged with several murders. And here we are, face-to-face." "I'm unarmed. How about you?" "Me too." Tano threw his head back again and gave a full-throated laugh. "I'm never wrong about people, never!" "Unarmed or not, I have to arrest you just the same." "And I am here, Inspector, to let you arrest me. That's why I wanted to see you." He was sincere, no doubt about it. But it was this very sincerity that put Montalbano on his guard, since he couldn't tell where Tano wanted to go with this. "You could have come to police headquarters and turned yourself in. Here or in Vig, it's the same thing." "Ah, no, dear Inspector, it is not the same thing. You surprise me, you who know how to read and write. The words are not the same. I am letting myself be arrested, I am not turning myself in. Go get your jacket and we'll talk inside. I'll open the door in the meantime." Montalbano took his jacket from the olive tree, draped it over his arm, and entered the house behind Tano. It was completely dark inside. The Greek lit an oil lamp and gestured to the inspector to sit down in one of two chairs beside a small table. In the room there was a cot with only a bare mattress, no pillow or sheets, and a glass-fronted cupboard with bottles, glasses, biscuits, plates, packets of pasta, jars of tomato sauce, and assorted tin cans. There was also a wood-burning stove with pots and pans hanging over it. But the inspectors eyes came to rest on a far more dangerous animal than the lizard sleeping in the glove compartment of his car: this was a veritable poisonous snake, a machine gun sleeping on its feet, propped against the wall beside the cot. "I've got some good wine," said Tano, like a true host. "All right, thanks," replied Montalbano. What with the cold, the night, the tension, and the two-plus pounds of mostaccioli he wolfed down, he felt he could use some wine. The Greek poured and then raised his glass. "To your health." The inspector raised his own and returned the toast. "To yours." The wine was something special; it went down beautifully, and on its way gave comfort and heat. "This is truly good," Montalbano complimented him. "Another glass?" To avoid the temptation, the inspector gruffly pushed the glass away. "Let's talk." "Let's. As I was saying, I decided to let myself be arrested" "Why?" Montalbanos question, fired point-blank, left the other momentarily confused. After a pause, Tano collected himself: "I need medical care. I'm sick." "May I say something? Since you think you know me well, you probably also know that I'm not someone you can fuck with." "I'm sure of it." "Then why not show me some respect and stop feeding me bullshit?" "You don't believe I'm sick? "I do. But don't try to make me swallow this bullshit that you need to be arrested to get medical help. I'll explain, if you like. You spent a month and a half at Our Lady of Lourdes Clinic in Palermo, then three months at the Gethsemane Clinic of Trapani, where Dr. Amerigo Guarnera even operated on you. And although things today are a little different from a few years ago, if you want, you can find plenty of hospitals willing to look the other way and say nothing to the police if you stay there. So it's not because youre sick that you want to be arrested." "What if I told you that times are changing and that the wheel is turning fast?" "That would be a little more convincing." "You see, when I was a little kid, my father who was a man of honor when the word honor still meant something, my father, rest his soul, used to tell me that the cart that men of honor traveled on needed a lot of grease to make the wheels turn, to make them go fast. When my fathers generation passed on and it was my turn to climb aboard the cart, some of our men said: Why should we keep on buying the grease we need from the politicians, mayors, bankers, and the rest of their kind? Let's make it ourselves! We'll make our own grease! Great! Bravo ! Everyone agreed. Sure, there was still the guy who stole his friends horse, the guy who blocked the road for some associate of his, the guy who would start shooting blindly at some other gangs cart, horse, and horseman . . . But these were all things we could settle among ourselves.The carts multiplied in number, there were more and more roads to travel. Then some genius had a big idea, he asked himself: Whats it mean that were still traveling by cart? We're too slow, he explained, were getting screwed, left behind, everybody else is traveling by car, you cant stop progress! Great! Bravo ! And so everybody ran and traded in their cart for a car and got a drivers license. Some of them, though, didn't pass the driving-school test and went out, or were pushed out. Then we didn't even have the time to get comfortable with our new cars before the younger guys, the ones who'd been riding in cars since they were born and who'd studied law or economics in the States or Germany, told us our cars were too slow. Now you were supposed to hop in a race car, a Ferrari, a Maserati equipped with radiophone and fax, so you could take off like a flash of lightning. These kids are new, brand-new, they talk to cell phones instead of people, they don't even know you, don't know who you used to be and if they do, they don't give a fuck. Half the time they don't even know each other, they just talk over the computer. To cut it short, these kids don't ever look anyone in the eye. As soon as they see you in trouble with a slow car, they run you off the road without a second thought and you end up in the ditch with a broken neck." "And you don't know how to drive a Ferrari." "Exactly. That's why, before I end up dead in a ditch, it's better for me to step aside." "But you don't seem to me the type who steps aside of his own choosing." "It's my own choosing, Inspector, all my own, I assure you. Of course, there are ways to make someone act freely of his own choosing. Once a friend of mine who was educated and read a lot told me a story which I'm gonna repeat to you exactly the way he told it, somethin' he read in a German book. A man says to his friend: Want to bet my cat will eat hot mustard, the kind that's so hot it makes a hole in your stomach? But cats don't like mustard, says his friend. Well, I can make my cat eat it anyway, says the man. Do you make him eat it with your fist or with a stick? asks the friend. No sirree, says the man, he eats it freely, of his own choosing. So they make the bet, the man takes a nice spoonful of mustard, the kind that makes your stomach burn just to look at it, picks up the cat and wham! shoves it right up the animals ass. Poor cat, feeling his asshole burn like that, he starts licking it. And so, licking it up little by little, he eats all the mustard, of his own choosing . And that, my friend, says it all." "I see what you mean. Now let's go back to where we started." "I was saying I want to be arrested, but I'm going to need some theatrics to save face." "I don't understand." "Let me explain." He explained at great length, drinking a glass of wine from time to time. In the end Montalbano was satisfied with Tanos reasons. But could he trust him? That was the question. In his youth, Montalbano had a great passion for card-playing, which he had luckily grown out of; for this reason he now sensed that Tano was playing him straight, with unmarked cards. He had no choice but to put his faith in this intuition and hope that he was not mistaken. And so they meticulously, painstakingly worked out the details of the arrest to ensure that nothing could go wrong. When they had finished talking, the sun was already high in the sky. Before leaving the house and letting the performance begin, the inspector gave Tano a long look, eye to eye. "Tell me the truth." "At your command, Inspector." "Why did you choose me?" "Because you, as you are showing me even now, are someone who understands things." As he raced headlong down the little path between the vineyards, Montalbano remembered that Agatino Catarella would now be on duty at the station, and that therefore the phone conversation he was about to engage in promised at the very least to be problematic, if not the source of unfortunate and even dangerous misunderstandings. This Catarella was frankly hopeless. Slow to think and slow to act, he had been hired by the police because he was a distant relative of the formerly all-powerful Chamber Deputy Cusumano, who, after spending a summer cooling off in Ucciardone prison, had managed to reestablish solid enough connections with the new people in power to win himself a large slice of the cake, the very same cake that from time to time was miraculously renewed by merely sticking in a few new candied fruits or putting new candles in the place of the ones already melted. With Catarella, things would get most muddled whenever he got it in his head, which happened often to speak in what he called Talian. One day he had shown up with a troubled look. "Chief, could you by any chance be able to give me the name of one of those doctors called specialists?" "Specialist in what, Cat?" "Gonorrhea." Montalbano had looked at him open-mouthed. "Gonorrhea? You? When did you get that?" "As I remember, I got it first when I was still a lil thing, not yet six or seven years old." "What the hell are you saying, Cat? Are you sure you mean gonorrhea?" "Absolutely. Had it all my life, on and off. It's here and gone, here and gone. Gonorrhea." In the car, on his way to a telephone booth that was supposed to be near the Torresanta crossroads (supposed to be, that is, unless the receiver had been torn off, the entire telephone had been stolen, or the booth itself had disappeared), Montalbano decided not to call even his second-in-command, Mim Augello, because he was the type he couldn't help it, who before anything else would inform the newsmen and then pretend to be surprised when they showed up at the scene. That left only Fazio and Tortorella, the two sergeants or whatever the hell they were called nowadays. He chose Fazio, since Tortorella had been shot in the belly not long before and hadn't yet fully recovered, feeling pain now and then in the wound. The booth was miraculously still there, the phone miraculously worked, and Fazio picked up before the second ring had finished. "Fazio, are you already awake at this hour?" "Sure am, Chief. Less than a minute ago I got a call from Catarella." "What did he want?" "He was speaking Talian so I couldn't make much sense of it. But if I had to guess, I'd say that last night somebody cleaned out Carmelo Ingrassias supermarket, the great big one just outside of town. They used a large truck or tractor- trailer at the very least." "Wasn't there a night watchman?" "There was, but nobody can find him. Were you on your way there now?" "Yes. Forget it. Phone Tortorella immediately and tell him to fill Augello in. Let those two take care of it. Tell them you can't go, make up whatever bullshit you can think of, say you fell out of bed and hit your head. No: tell them the carabinieri came and arrested you. Better yet, call them and tell them to notify the carabinieri it's small potatoes, after all, just some shitty little robbery, and they're always happy when we bring them into our cases. Now listen up, here's what I want you to do: notify Tortorella, Augello, and the carabinieri about the theft, then round up Gallo, Galluzzo, Jesus Christ, I feel like I'm running a chicken farm here, and German and bring them all where I tell you to go. And arm yourselves with submachine guns." "Shit!" "Shit is right. This is a big deal and we have to handle it carefully. No one is to whisper even half a word about this, especially Galluzzo with his newsman brother-in-law. And tell that chickenhead Gallo not to drive like he's at Indianapolis. No sirens, no flashing lights. When you splash and muddy the waters, the fish escapes. Now pay attention and I'll explain where you're to meet me." They arrived very quietly, not half an hour after the phone call, looking like a routine patrol. Getting out of the car, they went up to Montalbano, who signaled them to follow him. They met back up behind a half-ruined house, so that they could not be seen from the main road. "Theres a machine gun in the car for you," said Fazio. "Stick it up your ass. Now listen: if we play our cards right, we just might bring Tano the Greek home with us." Montalbano palpably felt that his men had ceased to breathe for a moment. "Tano the Greek is around here?" Fazio wondered aloud, being the first to recover. "I got a good look at him, and it's him. He's grown a mustache and beard, but you can still recognize him." "How did you find him?" "Never mind, Fazio, I'll explain everything later. Tano's in a little house at the top of that hill. You can't see it from here. There are olive trees all around it. It's a two-room house, one room on top of the other. It's got a door and a window in front; there's another window to the top room, but that's in back. Is that clear? Did you take that all in? Tano's only way out is through the front, unless he decides in desperation to throw himself out the rear window, though he'd risk breaking his legs. So here's what we'll do: Fazio and Gallo go in back; me, Germanand Galluzzo will break in the door and go inside." Fazio looked doubtful. "What's wrong? Don't you agree?" "Wouldn't it be better to surround the house and tell him to surrender? It's five against one, he'd never get away." "How do you know there's nobody inside the house with Tano?" Fazio shut up. "Listen to me," said Montalbano, concluding his brief war council, "it's better if we bring him an Easter egg with a surprise inside." 3 Montalbano calculated that Fazio and Gallo must have been in position behind the cottage for at least five minutes. As for him, sprawled belly-down on the grass, pistol in hand, with a rock pushing irksomely straight into the pit of his stomach, he felt profoundly ridiculous, like a character in a gangster film, and therefore could not wait to give the signal to raise the curtain. He looked at Galluzzo, who was beside him, German as farther away, to the right and asked him in a whisper: "Are you ready?" "Yes sir," answered the policeman, who was a visible bundle of nerves and sweating. Montalbano felt sorry for him, but couldn't very well come out and tell him that it was all a put-on of dubious outcome, it was true, but still humbug. "Go!" he ordered him. As though launched by a tightly compressed spring and almost not touching the ground, in three bounds Galluzzo reached the house and flattened himself against the wall to the left of the door. He seemed to have done so without effort, though Montalbano could see his chest heaving up and down, breathless. Galluzzo got a firm grip on his submachine gun and gestured to the inspector that he was ready for phase two. Montalbano then looked over at German, who seemed not only serene, but actually relaxed. "I'm going now," he said to him without a sound, exaggeratedly moving his lips and forming the syllables. "I'll cover you," German answered back in the same manner, gesturing with his head towards the machine gun in his hands. Montalbanos first leap forward was one for the books, or at the very least a training manual: a decisive, balanced ascent from the ground, worthy of a high-jump specialist, a weightless, aerial suspension, and a clean, dignified landing that would have amazed a ballerina. Galluzzo and German, who were watching him from different perspectives, took equal delight in their chief's bodily grace. The start of the second leap was even better calibrated than the first, but something happened in midair that caused Montalbano, from his upright posture, to tilt suddenly sideways like the tower of Pisa, then plunge earthward in what looked truly like a clowns routine. After tottering with arms outstretched in search of a nonexistent handle to grab onto, he crashed heavily to one side. Instinctively, Galluzzo made a move as if to help him, but stopped himself in time, plastering himself back against the wall. German also stood up a moment, but quickly got back down. A good thing this was all a shame , the inspector thought. Otherwise Tano could have cut them down like ninepins then and there. Muttering some of the pithiest curses in his vast repertoire, Montalbano began to crawl around in search of the pistol that had slipped from his hand during the fall. At last he spotted it under a touch-me-not bush, but as soon as he stuck his arm in there to retrieve it, all the little cucumbers burst and sprayed his face with seeds. With a certain melancholy rage the inspector realized he'd been demoted from gangster-film hero to a character in an Abbott and Costello movie. No longer in the mood to play the athlete or dancer, he covered the last few yards between him and the house with a few quick steps, merely hunching forward a little. Montalbano and Galluzzo looked one another in the eye without speaking and agreed on the plan. They positioned themselves three steps from the door, which did not look very resistant, took a deep breath and flung themselves against it with their full weight. The door turned out to be made of tissue paper, or almost a swat of the hand would have sufficed to push it open and thus they both found themselves hurtling inside. The inspector managed by some miracle to come to a stop, whereas Galluzzo, carried forward by the violence of his thrust, flew all the way across the room and slammed his face against the wall, crushing his nose and ending up choking on the blood that started to gush violently forth. By the dim light of the oil lamp that Tano had left burning, the inspector was able to appreciate the Greeks consummate acting skills. Pretending to have been surprised awake, he leapt to his feet cursing and hurled himself towards the Kalishnikov, which was now leaning against the table and therefore far from the cot. Montalbano was ready to recite his lines as the foil, as they say in the theater. "Stop in the name of the law! Stop or I'll shoot!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, then fired four shots into the ceiling. Tano froze, hands raised. Convinced that someone must be hiding upstairs, Galluzzo fired a burst from his machine gun at the wooden staircase. Outside, Fazio and Gallo, upon hearing all the shooting, opened fire on the little window to discourage anyone from trying that route. With everyone inside the cottage still deaf from the roar of the gunshots, German burst in with the final flourish: "Don't anybody move or I'll shoot!" He barely had time to finish uttering his threat when he was bumped from behind by Fazio and Gallo and pushed directly between Montalbano and Galluzzo, who, having set down his weapon, was dabbing his nose with a handkerchief he had taken out of his pocket, the blood having already dripped onto his shirt, tie, and jacket. At the sight of him, Gallo became agitated. "Did he shoot you? The bastard shot you, didn't he?" he yelled in rage, turning towards Tano, who was still standing patient as a saint in the middle of the room, hands raised, waiting for the forces of order to put some order to the great confusion they were creating. "No, he didn't shoot me. I ran into the wall," Galluzzo managed to say with some difficulty. Tano avoided their eyes, looking down at his shoes. "He thinks it's funny," thought Montalbano, then he brusquely ordered Galluzzo: "Handcuff him." "Is it him?" asked Fazio in a soft voice. "Sure it's him. Don't you recognize him?" said Montalbano. "What do we do now?" "Put him in the car and take him to police headquarters in Montelusa. On the way, ring up the commissioner and explain everything. Make sure nobody sees or recognizes the prisoner. The arrest, for the moment, has to remain top secret. Now go." "What about you?" "I'm going to have a look around, search the house. You never know." Fazio and the officers, holding the handcuffed Tano between them, started moving towards the door, with German holding the prisoners Kalishnikov in his hand. Only then did Tano the Greek raise his head and look momentarily at Montalbano. The inspector noticed that the statue-like gaze was gone. Now those eyes were animated, almost smiling. When the group of five vanished from sight at the bottom of the path, Montalbano went back inside the cottage to begin his search. In fact, he opened the cupboard, grabbed the bottle of wine, which was still half-full, and went and sat in the shade of an olive tree, to drink it down in peace. The capture of a dangerous fugitive had been brought to a successful conclusion. . As soon as he saw Montalbano come into the office, Mim Augello, looking possessed by the devil, put him through the meat grinder: "Where the hell have you been?! Where've you been hiding? What happened to everybody else? What the fuck is going on here, anyway?" He must have been really angry to speak so frankly. In the three years they had been working together, the inspector had never heard his assistant use obscenities. Actually, no: the time some asshole shot Tortorella in the stomach, Augello had reacted the same way. "Mim, what's got into you?" "What's got into me? I got scared, that's what!" "Scared? Of what?" "At least six people have phoned here. Their stories all differed as to the details, but they were all in agreement as to the substance: a gunfight with dead and wounded. One of them even called it a bloodbath. You weren't at home. Fazio and the others had gone out with the car without saying a word to anyone . . . So I just put two and two together. Was I wrong?" "No, you weren't wrong. But you shouldn't blame me, you should blame the telephone. It's the telephones fault." "What's the telephone got to do with it?" "It's got everything to do with it! Nowadays you've got telephones even in the most godforsaken country haylofts. So what do people do, when there's a phone within reach? They phone. And they say things. True things, imagined things, possible things, impossible things, dreamed-up things like in that Eduardo de Filippo comedy, what's it called, oh yes, The Voices Inside. They inflate things and deflate things but never give you their name and surname. They dial emergency numbers where anyone can say the craziest bullshit in the world without ever assuming any responsibility for it! And meanwhile the Mafia experts get all excited because they think omerts on the decline in Sicily! No more complicity! No more fear! Hah! I'll tell you what's on the decline: my ass is on the decline, and meanwhile the phone bill is on the rise." "Montalbano! Stop confusing me with your chatter! Were there any dead and wounded or not?" "Of course not. There was no gunfight. We just fired a few shots into the air, Galluzzo smashed his nose all by himself, and the guy surrendered." "What guy?" "A fugitive." "Yeah, but who?" Catarella arrived breathless and spared him the embarrassment of answering. "Chief, that would be his honor the commissioner on the phone." "I'll tell you later," said Montalbano, fleeing into his office. "My dear friend, I want to give you my most heartfelt congratulations." "Thank you." "You really hit the bulls-eye this time." "We got lucky." Apparently the man in question is even more important than he himself let on. "Where is he now?" "On his way to Palermo. The Anti-Mafia Commission insisted; they wouldn't take no for an answer. Your men weren't even allowed to stop in Montelusa; they had to drive on. I sent along an escort car with four of my men to keep them company." "So you didn't speak with Fazio?" "I didn't have the time or the chance. I know almost nothing about this case. So, actually, I'd appreciate it if you could pass by my office this afternoon and fill me in on the details." Ay, there's the hitch , thought Montalbano, remembering a nineteenth-century translation of Hamlets monologue. But he merely asked: "At what time?" "Let's say around five. Ah, also, Palermo wants absolute secrecy about the operation, at least for now." "If it was only up to me." "I wasn't referring to you, since I know you well and can say that compared to you, even fish are a talkative species. Listen, by the way." There was a pause. The commissioner had broken off and Montalbano didn't feel like saying anything: a troubling alarm bell had gone off in his head at the sound of that laudatory I know you well . "Listen, Montalbano," the commissioner hesitantly started over, and with that hesitation the alarm began to ring more loudly. "Yes, Commissioner." "I'm afraid that this time there's no way I can prevent your promotion to assistant commissioner." "Madunnuzza biniditta! Why not?" "Don't be silly, Montalbano." "Well, I'm sorry, but why should I be promoted?" "What a question! Because of what you did this morning." Montalbano felt simultaneously hot and cold: he had sweat on his forehead and chills down his spine. The prospect terrorized him. "I didn't do anything different from what my colleagues do every day, Commissioner." "I don't doubt it. But this particular arrest, when it comes to be known, will cause quite a stir." "So theres no hope? Come on, don't be childish." The inspector felt like a tuna caught in the net, the chamber of death. He began to feel short of breath, mouth opening and closing on emptiness. Then he tried a desperate suggestion: "Couldn't we blame Fazio?" "Blame?" "I'm sorry, I meant couldn't we give him the credit?" "See you later, Montalbano." Augello, who was lurking behind the door, made a questioning face. "What'd the commissioner say?" "We spoke about the situation." "Oh, right! You should see the look on your face!" "What look?" "Like youv'e been to a funeral." "I had trouble digesting what I ate last night." "Anything interesting?" "Three pounds of mostaccioli." Augello looked at him in dismay. Montalbano, sensing that he was about to ask him the name of the arrested fugitive, used the opportunity to change the subject and put him on another track. "Did you guys ever find the night watchman?" "The one in the supermarket? Yeah, I found him myself. The thieves bashed him in the head, then bound and gagged him and threw him in a great big freezer." "Is he dead?" "No, but I don't think hes feeling very alive either. When we pulled him out, he looked like a giant frozen stockfish." "Any idea which way they went?" "I've got half an idea myself and the carabinieri lieutenant has another. But one thing is certain: to haul all that stuff, they had to use a heavy truck. And there must have been a team of at least six people to load it, under the command of some professional." "Listen, Mim, I have to run home and change my clothes. I'll be right back." . Near Marinella he noticed that the reserve light for the gas tank was flashing. He stopped at the same filling station where there'd been a drive-by shooting a while back, when he'd had to bring in the attendant to get him to talk. Upon seeing the inspector, the attendant, who bore him no grudge, greeted him in his usual high-pitched voice, which made Montalbano shudder. After filling the tank, the attendant counted the money and eyed the inspector. "What's wrong? Didn't I give you enough?" "No sir. There's enough money here, all right. I just wanted to tell you something." "Let's have it," Montalbano said impatiently. If the guy went on talking, even a little, his nerves would give out. "Look at that truck over there." And he pointed at a large tractor-trailer parked in the lot behind the filling station, tarps pulled down tight to hide the cargo. "It was already here early this morning," he continued, "when I opened up. Now it's been four hours and still nobody's come to get it." "Did you look to see if anyone's sleeping in the cab?" "Yessir, I looked, there's nobody. And another weird thing: the keys are still in the ignition. The first soul to come along could start it up and drive it away." "Show me," said Montalbano, suddenly interested. 4 A tiny man with rat-tail mustaches, an unpleasant smile, gold-framed eyeglasses, brown shoes, brown socks, brown suit, brown shirt, brown tie, a veritable nightmare in brown, Carmelo Ingrassia, owner of the supermarket, pressed the crease in his trousers with his fingers, right leg crossed over the left, and repeated his succinct interpretation of events for the third time. "It was a joke, Inspector, a practical joke that somebody, I guess, wanted to play on me." Montalbano was lost in contemplation of the ballpoint pen he held in his hand. Concentrating his attention on the cap, he removed it, examined it inside and out as though he had never seen so strange a gizmo, blew into it as if to cleanse it of some invisible speck of dust, looked at it again, remained unsatisfied, blew into it again, put it down on the desk, unscrewed the pens metal tip, thought about this for a moment, set it down alongside the cap, carefully considered the piece remaining in his hand, lined this up near the other two pieces, and sighed deeply. This allowed him to calm down and check the impulse, which for a second had nearly overwhelmed him to get up, go over to Ingrassia, punch him in the face, and ask: "Now tell me truthfully: in your opinion, am I joking or am I serious?" Tortorella, who was present for the interview and knew his chief s reactions well, visibly relaxed. "Let me try and understand," said Montalbano, in full control of himself. "What's to understand, Inspector? It's all clear as day. The stolen goods were all in the truck that you found. Not one toothpick was missing, not a single lollipop. So, if they didn't do it to rob me, they musta done it as a joke, for fun." "You'll have to be patient with me, Mr. Ingrassia, I'm a little slow in the head. So: eight days ago, from a depot in Cataniathat is, on the other side of the island two people steal a truck with a trailer belonging to the Sferlazza company. At that moment the truck is empty. For eight days they keep this truck out of sight, hiding it somewhere between Catania and Vig, since it wasn't seen in circulation. Logically speaking, therefore, the only reason that truck was stolen and hidden was to take it out of circulation, when the time was right, to play a joke on you. Let me continue. Last night the truck rematerializes and around one a.m., when there's almost nobody on the streets, it stops in front of your supermarket. The night watchman thinks its there to bring in new stocks, even at that odd hour. We don't know exactly how things went, the watchman still cant talk, but we do know that they put him out of commission, took his keys, and went inside. One of the thieves stripped the watchman and put on his uniform. This, I must say, was a brilliant move. The next brilliant move was that the others turned on the lights and got down to work in plain sight, taking no precautions in broad daylight, one might say, if it wasn't night. Ingenious, no doubt about it. Because a stranger passing through the neighborhood, noticing the watchman in uniform overseeing a few people loading a truck, would never dream that he was actually witnessing a robbery. This is the reconstruction of events offered by my colleague Augello; it was confirmed by the testimony of Cavaliere Misuraca, who was on his way home at the time." At the mention of that name, Ingrassia, who had seemed to be losing interest as the inspector went on, sat up in his chair as if stung by a wasp. "Misuraca?!" "Yes, the one who used to work at the Records Office." "But he's a Fascist!" "I don't see what the cavalieres political beliefs have to do with the case were discussing." "They have everything to do with it! Because when I used to be involved in politics, he was my enemy." "Your'e no longer involved in politics?" "What's to be involved in anymore! With that handful of Milanese judges who've decided to ruin politics, commerce, and industry, all at the same time!" "Listen, the cavaliere merely gave a testimonial establishing the modus operandi of the thieves." "I don't give a shit what the cavaliere was establishing. He's an old geezer who can't even remember when he turned eighty. He's so senile he's liable to see a cat and say its an elephant. What was he doing out at that time of the night anyway?" "I don't know, I'll ask him. Shall we get back to the subject?" "Fine." "Once it was loaded, at your supermarket, after at least two hours of labor, the truck leaves. It drives three or four miles, turns around, parks in the lot behind the gas station, and remains there until I find it. And, in your opinion, someone went through this whole elaborate setup, committed half a dozen crimes, risking years in jail, just so he, or you, could have a good laugh?" "Inspector, we could stay here all day arguing, but I swear to you that I can't imagine how it could have been anything but a joke." . In the refrigerator Montalbano found a plate of cold pasta with tomatoes, basil, and black passuluna olives that gave off an aroma to wake the dead, and a second course of fresh anchovies with onions and vinegar. Montalbano was in the habit of trusting entirely in the simple but zestful culinary imagination of Adelina, the housekeeper who came once a day to see to his needs, a mother of two irremediably delinquent sons, one of whom was still in jail, put there by Montalbano. And this day, too, she did not disappoint him. Every time he was about to open the oven or fridge, he still felt the same trepidation he used to feel as a little boy when, on the second of November, he would look for the wicker basket in which the dead had left their gifts during the night a celebration now lost, obliterated by the banality of presents under the Christmas tree, obliterated like the memory of the dead themselves. The only ones who did not forget their dead, and who indeed tenaciously kept their memory burning, were the mafiosi; but the presents they sent in remembrance were certainly not little in trains or marzipan fruits. Surprise, in short, was an indispensable spice in Adelinas dishes. He took his two courses, a bottle of wine, and some bread to the table, turned on the television, and sat down to dinner. He loved to eat alone, relishing every bite in silence. This was yet another bond that tied him to Livia, who never opened her mouth when she ate. It occurred to him that in matters of taste he was closer to Maigret than to Pepe Carvalho, the protagonist of Montalbs novels, who stuffed himself with dishes that would have set a sharks belly on fire. On the national television stations, an ill wind of malaise was blowing. The governing majority found itself split over a law that would deny early prison release to those who had eaten up half the country; the magistrates who had laid bare the dirty secrets of political corruption were resigning in protest; and there was a faint breeze of revolt animating the interviews with people in the street. He switched to the first of the two local TV stations. TeleVig was progovernment by congenital faith, whether the government was red, black, or sky blue. The news reporter made no mention of the capture of Tano the Greek, stating only that a few conscientious citizens had alerted the Vig police of a lively but mysterious shoot-out at dawn in the rural area known as the Walnut, and that investigators, after arriving promptly at the scene, had found nothing unusual. The newscaster for the Free Channel, Nicolto, who did not hide his Communist sympathies, likewise failed to mention Tanos arrest. Which seemed to indicate that the news, fortunately, had not leaked out. But then, out of the blue, Zito started talking about the bizarre robbery at the Ingrassia supermarket and the inexplicable rediscovery of the truck with all the stolen merchandise. The common opinion, reported Zito, was that the vehicle must have been abandoned following an argument between the robbers over how to divide up the loot. Zito, however, did not agree. In his opinion, things had gone differently; the real explanation was surely far more complicated. "And so I appeal directly to you, Inspector Montalbano. Is it not true that there must be more to this story than meets the eye?" the newsman asked, closing his report. Hearing himself personally addressed and seeing Zitos eyes looking out at him from the screen as he was eating, Montalbano let the wine he was drinking go down the wrong way and started coughing and cursing. After finishing his meal, he put on his bathing suit and dived into the sea. It was freezing cold, but the swim brought him back to life. . "Now tell me exactly how it all happened," said the commissioner. After admitting the inspector into his office, he had stood up and gone right over to him, embracing him warmly. One thing about Montalbano was that he was incapable of deceiving or stringing along people he knew were honest or who inspired his admiration. With crooks and people he didn't like, he could spin out the flimflam with the straightest of faces and was capable of swearing he'd seen the moon trimmed in lace. The fact that he not only admired his superior, but had actually at times spoken to him as to a father, now put him, after the others command, in a state of agitation: he blushed, began to sweat, kept squirming in his chair as if he were under cross-examination. The commissioner noticed his uneasiness but attributed it to the discomfort that Montalbano genuinely felt whenever he had to talk about a particularly successful operation. The commissioner had not forgotten that at the last press conference, in front of the TV cameras, the inspector had expressed himself, if you could call it that, in long, painful stammerings at times devoid of common meaning, eyes bulging, pupils dancing as if he were drunk. "I'd like some advice, before I begin." "At your service." "What should I write in the report?" "What kind of question is that? Have you never written a report before? In reports you write down what happened," the commissioner replied curtly, a bit astonished. And since Montalbano hadn't yet made up his mind to speak, he continued. "In other words, you say you were able to take advantage of a chance encounter and turn it into a successful police operation, skillfully, courageously, it's true, but" "Look, I just wanted to say." "Let me finish. I can't help but notice that you took a big risk, and exposed your men to grave danger you should have asked for substantial reinforcements, taken due precaution. Luckily, it all went well. But it was a gamble. That's what I'm trying to tell you, in all sincerity. Now lets hear your side." Montalbano studied the fingers on his left hand as if they had just sprouted spontaneously and he didn't know what they were there for. "What's wrong?" the commissioner asked. "What's wrong is that it's all untrue!" Montalbano burst out. "There wasn't any chance encounter. I went to talk with Tano because he had asked to see me. And at that meeting we made an agreement." The commissioner ran his hand over his eyes. "An agreement?" "Yes, on everything." And while he was at it, he told him the whole story, from Gege phone call to the farce of the arrest. "Is there anything else?" the commissioner asked when it was over. "Yes. Thing's being what they are, in no way do I deserve to be promoted to assistant commissioner. If I were promoted, it would be for a lie, a deception." "Let me be the judge of that," the commissioner said brusquely. He got up, put his hands behind his back, and stood there thinking a moment. Then he made up his mind and turned around. "Here's what well do. Write me two reports." "Two?" said Montalbano, mindful of the effort it normally cost him to apply ink to paper. "Don't argue. The fake report I'll leave lying around for the inevitable mole who will make sure to leak it to the press or to the Mafia. The real one I'll put in the safe." He smiled. "And as for this promotion business, which seems to be what terrifies you most, come to my house on Friday evening and we'll talk it over a little more calmly. My wife has invented a fabulous new sauce for sea bream." . Cavaliere Gerlando Misuraca, who carried his eighty-four years belligerently, was true to form, going immediately on the offensive as soon as the inspector said, "Hello?" "Who is that imbecile who transferred my call?" "Why, what did he do?" "He couldn't understand my surname! He couldn't get it into that thick head of his! Bizugaga, he called me!" He paused warily, then changed his tone: "Can you assure me, on your word of honor, that he's just some poor bastard who doesn't know any better?" Realizing that it was Catarella who had answered the phone, Montalbano could reply with conviction. "I can assure you. But why, may I ask, do you need my assurance?" "Because if he meant to make fun of me or what I represent, I'll be down there at the station in five minutes and will give him such a thrashing, by God, he won't be able to walk!" And just what did Cavaliere Misuraca represent? Montalbano wondered while the other continued threatening to do terrible things. Nothing, absolutely nothing from a, so to speak, official point of view. A municipal employee long since retired, he did not hold nor had he ever held any public office, being merely a card-carrying member of his party. A man of unassailable honesty, he lived a life of dignified quasi-poverty. Even in the days of Mussolini, he had refused to seek personal gain, having always been a faithful follower, as one used to say back then. In return, from 1935 onwards, he had fought in every war and been in the thick of the worst battles. He hadn't missed a single one, and indeed seemed to have a gift for being everywhere at once, from Guadalajara, Spain, to Birel Gobi in North Africa by way of Axum, Ethiopia. Followed by imprisonment in Texas, his refusal to cooperate, and an even harsher imprisonment as a result, on nothing but bread and water. He therefore represented, Montalbano concluded, the historical memory of what were, of course, historic mistakes, but he had lived them with a faith and paid for them with his own skin: among several serious injuries, one had left him lame in his left leg. "Tell me," Montalbano had mischievously asked him one day face-to-face, "if youd been able, would you have gone to fight at alongside the Germans and the repubblichini?" In his way, the inspector was sort of fond of the old Fascist. How could he not be? In that circus of corrupters and corrupted, extortionists and grafters, bribe-takers, liars, thieves, and perjurersturning up each day in new combinations Montalbano had begun to feel a kind of affection for people he knew to be incurably honest. At this question, the old man had seemed to deflate from within, the wrinkles on his face multiplying as his eyes began to fog over. Montalbano then understood that Misuraca had asked himself the same question a thousand times and had never been able to come up with an answer. So he did not insist. "Hello? Are you still there?" Misuracas peevish voice asked. "At your service, Cavaliere." "I just remembered something. Which is why I didn't mention it when I gave my testimony." "I have no reason to doubt you, Cavaliere. I'm all ears." "A strange thing happened to me when I was almost in front of the supermarket, but at the time I didn't pay it much mind. I was nervous and upset because these days there are certain bastards about who" "Please come to the point, Cavaliere." If one let him speak, Misuraca was capable of taking his story back to the foundation of the first Fascist militias. "Actually, I cant tell you over the phone. I need to see you in person. Its something really big, if I saw right." The old man was considered someone who always told things straight, without overstating or understating the case. "Is it about the robbery at the supermarket?" "Of course." "Have you already discussed it with anybody?" "Nobody." "Don't forget: not a word to anyone." "Are you trying to insult me? Silent as the grave, I am. I'll be at your office early tomorrow morning." "Just out of curiosity, Cavaliere: what were you doing, alone and upset, in your car at that hour of the night? You know, after a certain age, one must be careful." "I was on my way back from Montelusa, from a meeting of the local party leaders. I'm not one of them, of course, but I wanted to be present. Nobody shuts his door on Gerlando Misuraca. Someone has to save our partys honor. They can't continue to govern alongside those bastard sons of bastard politicians and agree to an ordinance allowing all the sons of bitches who devoured our country out of jail! You must understand, Inspector." "Did the meeting end late?" "It went on till one oclock in the morning. I wanted to continue, but everyone else was against it. They were all falling asleep. They've got no balls, those people." "And how long did it take you to get back to Vig?" "Half an hour. I drive slowly. But as I was saying" "Excuse me, Cavaliere, I'm wanted on another line," Montalbano cut him off. "See you tomorrow." 5 "Worse than criminals! Worse than murderers! That's how those dirty sons of bitches treated us! Who do they think they are? The fuckers!" There was no calming down Fazio, who had just returned from Palermo. German, Gallo, and Galluzzo served as his psalmodizing chorus, wildly gesticulating to convey the exceptional nature of the event. "Total insanity! Total insanity!" "Simmer down, boys. Let's proceed in orderly fashion," Montalbano ordered, imposing his authority. Then, noticing that Galluzzos shirt and jacket no longer bore traces of the blood from his crushed nose, the inspector asked him: "Did you go home and change before coming here?" "Home? Home? Didn't you hear what Fazio said? We've just come from Palermo, we came straight back! When we got to the Anti-Mafia Commission and turned over Tano the Greek, they took us one by one and put us in separate rooms. Since my nose was still hurting, I wanted to put a wet handkerchief over it. I'd been sitting there for half an hour, and still nobody'd shown up, so I opened the door and found an officer standing in front of me. Where you going? he says. I'm going to get a little water for my nose.You can't leave, he says, go back inside. Get that, Inspector? I was under guard! Like I was Tano the Greek!" "Don't mention that name and lower your voice!" Montalbano scolded him. "Nobody is supposed to know that we caught him! The first one who talks gets his ass kicked all the way to Asinara." "We were all under guard," Fazio cut in, indignant. Galluzzo continued his story: "An hour later some guy I know entered the room, a colleague of yours who was kicked upstairs to the Anti-Mafia Commission. I think his name is Sciacchitano." A perfect asshole , the inspector thought, but said nothing. "He looked at me as if I smelled bad or something, like some beggar. Then he kept on staring at me, and finally he said: You know, you can't very well present yourself to the Prefect looking like that." Still feeling hurt by the absurd treatment, he had trouble keeping his voice down. "The amazing thing was that he had this pissed-off look in his eye, like it was all my fault! Then he left, muttering to himself. Later a cop came in with a clean shirt and jacket." "Now let me talk," Fazio butted in, pulling rank. "To make a long story short, from three oclock in the afternoon to midnight yesterday, every one of us was interrogated eight times by eight different people." "What did they want to know?" "How the arrest came about." "Actually, I was interrogated ten times," said German with a certain pride. "I guess I tell a good story, and for them it was like being at the movies." "Around one oclock in the morning they gathered us together," Fazio continued, "and put us in a great big room, a kind of large office, with two sofas, eight chairs, and four tables. They unplugged the telephones and took them away. Then they sent in four stale sandwiches and four warm beers that tasted like piss. We got as comfortable as we could, and at eight the next morning some guy came in and said we could go back to Vig. No good morning, no good-bye, not even get outta here like you say to get rid of the dog. Nothing." "All right," said Montalbano. "What can you do? Go on home now, rest up, and come back here in the late afternoon. I promise you I'll take this whole business up with the commissioner." . "Hello? This is Inspector Salvo Montalbano from Vig. I'd like to speak with Inspector Arturo Sciacchitano." "Please hold." Montalbano grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen. He started doodling without paying attention and only later noticed he had drawn a pair of buttocks on a toilet seat. "I'm sorry, the inspectors in a meeting." "Listen, please tell him I'm also in a meeting, that way were even. He can interrupt his for five minutes, I'll do the same with mine, and we'll both be happy as babies." He appended a few turds to the shitting buttocks. "Montalbano? What is it? Sorry, but I haven't got much time." "Me neither. Listen, Sciacchitanov" "Eh? Sciacchitanov? What the hell are you saying?" "Isn't that your real name? You mean you don't belong to the KGB?" "I'm not in the mood for jokes, Montalbano." "Who's joking? I'm calling you from the commissioners office, and he's very upset over the KGB-style treatment you gave my men. He promised me he'd write to the interior minister this very day." The phenomenon cannot be explained, and yet it happened: Montalbano actually saw Sciacchitano, universally known as a pusillanimous ass-lick, turn pale over the telephone line. His lie had the same effect on the man as a billy club to the head. "What are you saying? You have to understand that I, as defender of public safety" Montalbano interrupted him. "Safety doesn't preclude politeness," he said pithily, "sounding like one of those road signs that say: be polite, for safety's sake." "But I was extremely polite! I even gave them beer and sandwiches!" "I'm sorry to say, but despite the beer and sandwiches, there will be consequences higher up. But cheer up, Sciacchitano, it's not your fault. You cant fit a square peg into a round hole." "What do you mean?" "I mean that you, being a born asshole, will never be a decent, intelligent person. Now, I demand that you write a letter, addressed to me, praising my men to the skies. And I want it by tomorrow. Good-bye." "Do you think if I write the letter, the commissioner will let it drop?" "To be perfectly honest, I don't know. But if I were you, I'd write that letter. And I might even date it yesterday. Got that?" He felt better now, having let off some steam. He called Catarella. "Is Inspector Augello in his office?" "No sir, but he just now phoned. He said that, figuring he was about ten minutes away, he'd be here in about ten minutes." Montalbano took advantage of the time to start writing the fake report. The real one he'd written at home the night before. At a certain point Augello knocked and entered. "You were looking for me?" "Is it really so hard for you to come to work a little earlier?" "Sorry, but in fact I was busy till five oclock in the morning. Then I went home and drifted off to sleep, and that was that." "Busy with one of those whores you like so much? The kind that pack two hundred and fifty pounds of flesh into a tight little dress?" "Didn't Catarella tell you?" "He told me you'd be coming in late." "Last night, around two, there was a fatal car accident. I went to the scene myself, thinking I'd let you sleep, since the thing was of no importance to us." "To the people who died, it was certainly important." "There was only one victim. He took the downhill stretch of the Catena at high speed, apparently his brakes weren't working and ended up wedged under a truck that had started coming up the slope in the opposite direction. The poor guy died instantly." "Did you know him?" "I sure did. So did you. Cavaliere Misuraca." . "Montalbano? I just got a call from Palermo. They want us to hold a press conference. And that's not all: they want it to make some noise. That's very important. It's part of their strategy. Journalists from other cities will be there, and it will be reported on the national news. It's going to be a big deal." "They want to show that the new government is not letting up in the fight against the Mafia, and that, on the contrary, they will be more resolute, more relentless than ever" "Is something wrong, Montalbano?" "No. I was just imagining the next days headlines." "The press conference is scheduled for noon tomorrow. I just wanted to give you advance warning." "Thank you, sir, but what have I got to do with any of it?" "Montalbano, I am a nice man, a kind man, but only up to a point. You have everything to do with it! Stop being so childish!" "What am I supposed to say?" "Good God, Montalbano! Say what you wrote in the report." "Which one?" "I'm sorry, what did you say?" "Nothing." "Just try to speak clearly, don't mumble, and keep your head up. And.Oh, yes, your hands. Decide once and for all where youre going to put them and keep them there. Don't do like last time, where the correspondent of the Corriere offered aloud to cut them off for you, to make you feel more comfortable." "And what if they question me?" "Of course they'll question you, to use your odd phrasing. They're journalists, aren't they? Good day." Too agitated by everything that was happening and was going to happen the following day, Montalbano had to leave the office. He went out, stopped at the usual shop, bought a small bag of caesimenza, and headed toward the jetty. When he was at the foot of the lighthouse and about to turn back, he found himself face-to-face with Ernesto Bonfiglio, the owner of a travel agency and a very good friend of the recently deceased Cavaliere Misuraca. "Isn't there anything we can do?" Bonfiglio blurted out at him aggressively. Montalbano, who was trying to dislodge a small fragment of peanut stuck between two teeth, merely looked at him, befuddled. "I'm asking if theres anything we can do," Bonfiglio repeated resentfully, giving him a hostile look in return. "Do about what?" "About my poor dead friend." "Would you like some?" asked the inspector, holding out the bag. "Thanks," said the other, taking a handful of caesimenza. The pause allowed Montalbano to put the man he was speaking to in better perspective: Bonfiglio, aside from being like a brother to the late Cavaliere, was a man who held extreme right-wing ideas and was not all there in the head. "You mean Misuraca?" "No, I mean my grandfather." "And what am I supposed to do?" "Arrest the murderers. It's your duty". "And who would these murderers be?" "Who they are, not would be. I'm referring to the local party leaders, who were unworthy to have him in their ranks. They killed him." "I beg your pardon. Wasn't it an accident?" "Oh, I suppose you think accidents just happen accidentally?" "I would say so." "You would be wrong. If someone's looking for an accident, there's always somebody else ready to send one his way. Let me cite an example to illustrate my point. This last February Mim Crapanzano drowned when he went for a swim. An accidental death, they said. But here I ask you: How old was Mim when he died? Fifty-five years old. Why, at that age, did he get this brilliant idea to go for a swim in the cold, like he used to do when he was a kid? The answer is because less than three months before, he had got married to a Milanese girl twenty-four years younger than him, and one day, when they were out strolling on the beach, she asked him: Is it true, darling, that you used to swim in this sea in February? It sure is, replied Crapanzano. The girl, who apparently was already tired of the old man, sighed. What's wrong? Crapanzano asked, like an idiot. I'm sorry I won't ever have a chance to see you do it again, said the slut. Without saying a word, Crapanzano took off his clothes and jumped into the water. Does that clarify my point?" "Perfectly." "Now, to get back to the party leaders of Montelusa province. After a first meeting ended with harsh words, they held another last night. The Cavaliere, along with a few other people, wanted the chapter to issue a press release protesting the governments ordinance granting amnesty to crooks. Others saw things differently. At a certain point, some guy called Misuraca a geezer, another said he looked like something out of the puppet theater, a third man called him a senile wreck. I learned all these things from a friend who was there. Finally, the secretary, some jerk who's not even Sicilian and goes by the name of Biragh asked him please to vacate the premises, since he had no authorization whatsoever to attend the meeting. Which was true, but no one had ever dared say this before. So Gerlando got in his little Fiat and headed back home to Vig. His blood was boiling, no doubt about it, but the others had made him lose his head on purpose. And youre going to tell me it was an accident?" The only way to reason with Bonfiglio was to put oneself squarely on his level.The inspector knew this from experience. "Is there one television personality you find particularly obnoxious?" he asked him. "There are a hundred thousand, but Mike Bongiorno is the worst. Whenever I see him, my stomach gets all queasy and I feel like smashing the screen." "Good. And if, after watching this particular MC, you get in your car, drive into a wall, and kill yourself, what am I supposed to do, in your opinion?" "Arrest Mike Bongiorno," the other said firmly. . He went back to the office feeling calmer. His encounter with the logic of Ernesto Bonfiglio had distracted and amused him. "Any news?" he asked as he walked in. "There's a personal letter for you that came just now in the mail," said Catarella, repeating, for emphasis: Per- son-al . On his desk he found a postcard from his father and some office memos. "Hey, Cat! Where'd you put the letter?" "I said it was personal!" Catarella said defensively. "What's that supposed to mean?" "It means that you have to receive it in person, it being personal and all." "Okay. The person is here in front of you. Where's the letter?" "It's gone where it was supposed to go. Where the person personally lives. I told the postman to deliver it to your house, Chief, your personal residence, in Marinella." . Standing in front of the Trattoria San Calogero, catching a breath of air, was the cook and owner. "Where you going, Inspector? Not coming in? "I'm eating at home today." "Whatever you say. But I've got some rock lobster ready for the grill that'll seem like youre not eating them, but dreaming them." Montalbano went inside, won over by the image more than the desire. Then, after finishing his meal, he pushed the dishes away, crossed his arms on the table, and fell asleep. He always ate in a small room with three tables, and so it was easy for Serafino, the waiter, to steer customers towards the big dining room and leave the inspector in peace. Around four oclock, with the restaurant already closed, the proprietor, noticing that Montalbano was showing no signs of life, made him a cup of coffee, then gently woke him up. 6 As for the personally personal letter earlier announced by Catarella, he'd completely forgotten about it. It came back to him only when he stepped right on it upon entering his home: the postman had slipped it under the door. The address made it look like an anonymous letter: Montalbano Police Headquarters city. Then, on the upper left, the notice: personal. Which had then set Catarellas earthquake-damaged wits in motion. Anonymous it was not, however. On the contrary. The signature that Montalbano immediately looked for at the end went off in his brain like a gunshot.Esteemed Inspector, It occurred to me that in all probability I won't be able to come see you tomorrow morning as planned. If the meeting of the Party leadership of Montelusa, which I shall attend upon completing this letter, were by chance as appears quite likely to spell failure for my positions, I believe it would be my duty to go to Palermo to try and awaken the souls and consciences of those comrades who make the decisions within the Party. I am even ready to fly to Rome to request an audience with the National Secretary. These intentions, if realized, would necessitate the postponement of our meeting, and thus I beg you please to excuse me for putting in writing what I ought properly to have told you in person. As you will surely recall, the day after the strange robbery/nonrobbery at the supermarket, I came of my own accord to police headquarters to report what I had happened to see that is, a group of men quietly at work, however odd the hour, with lights on and under the supervision of a uniformed man who looked to me like the night watchman. No passerby would have seen anything unusual in this scene; had I noticed anything out of the ordinary, I would have made sure to alert the police myself. The night following my testimony, I was too upset from the arguments I'd had with my Party colleagues to fall asleep, and thus I had occasion to review the scene of the robbery in my mind. Only then did I remember a detail that could prove to be very important. On my way back from Montelusa, agitated as I was, I took the wrong approach route for Vig, one that has been recently made very complicated by a series of incomprehensible one-way streets. Instead of taking the Via Granet, I turned onto the old Via Lincoln and found myself going against the flow of traffic. After realizing my mistake about fifty yards down the street, I decided to retrace my path in reverse, completing my maneuver at the corner of Vicolo Trup thinking I would back into this street, so that I could then point my car in the right direction. I was unable to do this, however, because the vicolo was entirely blocked by a large car, a model heavily advertised these days but available only in very limited quantities, the Ulysses, license plate Montelusa 328280. At this point I had no choice but to proceed in my directional violation. A few yards down the street, I came out into the Piazza Chiesa Vecchia, where the supermarket is. To spare you further investigation: that car, the only one of its kind in town, belongs to Mr. Carmelo Ingrassia. Now, since Ingrassia lives in Monte Ducale, what was his car doing a short distance away from the supermarket, also belonging to Mr. Ingrassia, at the very moment when it was being burgled? I leave the answer to you. Yours very sincerely, Cav. Gerlando Misuraca You've fucked me royally this time, Cavaliere! was Montalbanos only comment as he glared at the letter he had set down on the dining table. And dining, of course, was now out of the question. He opened the refrigerator only to pay glum homage to the culinary mastery of his housekeeper, a deserved homage, for an enveloping fragrance of poached baby octopus immediately assailed his senses. But he closed the fridge. He wasn't up to it; his stomach was tight as a fist. He undressed and, fully naked, went for a walk along the beach; at that hour there was nobody around anyway. Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep. Around four oclock in the morning he dived into the icy water, swam a long time, then returned home. He noticed, laughing, that he had an erection. He started talking to it, trying to reason with it. It's no use deluding yourself. The erection told him a phone call to Livia might be just the thing. To Livia lying naked and warm with sleep in her bed. Your'e just a dickhead telling me dickheaded things. Teenage jerk-off stuff. Offended, the erection withdrew. Montalbano put on a pair of briefs, threw a dry towel over his shoulder, grabbed a chair and sat down on the veranda, which gave onto the beach. He remained there watching the sea as it began to lighten slowly, then take on color, streaked with yellow sunbeams. It promised to be a beautiful day, and the inspector felt reassured and ready to act. He'd had a few ideas, after reading the Cavalieres letter; the swim had helped him to organize them. "You can't show up at the press conference looking like that," pronounced Fazio, looking him over severely. "What, are you taking lessons from the Anti-Mafia Commission now?" Montalbano opened the padded nylon bag he was holding. "In here I've got trousers, jacket, shirt, and tie. I'll change before I go to Montelusa. Actually, do me a favor. Take them out and put them on a chair; otherwise they'll get wrinkled." "They're already wrinkled, Chief. But I wasn't talking about your clothes; I meant your face. Like it or not, you gotta go to the barber." Fazio had said like it or not because he knew him well and realized how much effort it cost the inspector to go to the barber. Running a hand behind his head, Montalbano agreed that his hair could use a little trim, too. His face darkened. "Not one fucking things going to go right today!" he predicted. Before exiting, he left orders that, while he was out beautifying himself, someone should go pick up Carmelo Ingrassia and bring him to headquarters. "If he asks why, what should I tell him?" asked Fazio. "Don't tell him anything." "What if he insists?" "If he insists, tell him I want to know how long its been since he last had an enema. Good enough?" "There's no need to get upset." . The barber, his young helper, and a client who was sitting in one of the two rotating chairs that barely fit into the shop, which was actually only a recess under a staircase, were in the midst of an animated discussion, but fell silent as soon as the inspector appeared. Montalbano had entered with what he himself called his barber-shop face, that is, mouth shrunken to a slit, eyes half-closed in suspicion, eyebrows furrowed, expression at once scornful and severe. "Good morning. Is there a wait?" Even his voice came out deep and gravelly. "No sir. Have a seat, Inspector." As Montalbano took his place in the vacant chair, the barber, in accelerated, Chaplinesque movements, held a mirror behind the clients head to let him admire the finished product, freed him of the towel round his neck, tossed this into a bin, took out a clean one and put it over the inspectors shoulders. The client, denied even the customary brush-down by the assistant, literally fled from the shop after muttering Good day. The ritual of the haircut and shave, performed in absolute silence, was swift and funereal. A new client appeared, parting the beaded curtain, but he quickly sniffed the atmosphere and, recognizing the inspector, said: "I'll pass by later." Then he disappeared. On the street, as he headed back to his office, Montalbano noticed an indefinable yet disgusting odor wafting around him, something between turpentine and a certain kind of face powder prostitutes used to wear some thirty years back. The stink was coming from his own hair. "Ingrassias in your office," Tortorella said in a low voice, sounding conspiratorial. "Where'd Fazio go?" "Home to change. The commissioners office called. They said Fazio, Gallo, Galluzzo, and German should also take part in the press conference." I guess my phone call to that asshole Sciacchitano had an effect , thought Montalbano. Ingrassia, who this time was dressed entirely in pastel green, started to rise. "Don't get up," said the inspector, sitting down behind his desk. He distractedly ran a hand through his hair, and immediately the smell of turpentine and face powder grew stronger. Alarmed, he brought his fingers to his nose and sniffed them, confirming his suspicion. But there was nothing to be done; there was no shampoo in the office bathroom. Without warning, he resumed his barber-shop face. Seeing him suddenly transformed, Ingrassia became worried and started squirming in his chair. "Is something wrong?" he asked. "In what sense do you mean?" "Well.in every sense, I suppose," said Ingrassia, flustered. Montalbano shrugged evasively and went back to sniffing his fingers. The conversation stalled. "Have you heard about poor Cavaliere Misuraca?" the inspector asked, as if chatting among friends in his living room. "Ah! Such is life!" The other sighed sorrowfully. "Imagine that, Mr. Ingrassia. I'd asked him if he could give me some more details about what he'd seen the night of the robbery, we'd agreed to meet again, and now this." Ingrassia threw his hands up in the air, inviting Montalbano, with this gesture, to resign himself to fate. He allowed a respectful pause to elapse, then: "I'm sorry," he said, "but what other details could the poor Cavaliere have given you? He'd already told you everything he saw." Montalbano wagged his forefinger, signaling no. "You don't think he told you everything he saw?" asked Ingrassia, intrigued. Montalbano wagged his finger again. Stew in your own juices, scumbag, he was thinking. The green Ingrassia started to tremble like a leafy branch in the breeze. "Well, then, what did you want him to tell you? What he thought he didn't see." The breeze turned into a gale, the branch began to lurch. "I don't understand. Let me explain." "You're familiar, are you not, with a painting by Pieter Brueghel called Childrens Games?" "Who? Me? No," said Ingrassia, worried. "Doesn't matter. But you must be familiar with the works of Hieronymus Bosch?" "No sir," said Ingrassia, starting to sweat. Now he was really getting scared, his face starting to match the color of his outfit, green. "Never mind, then, don't worry about it," Montalbano said magnanimously. "What I meant was that when someone sees a scene, he usually remembers the first general impression he has of it. Right?" "Right," said Ingrassia, prepared for the worst. "Then, little by little, a few other details may start coming back to him, things that registered in his memory but were discarded as unimportant. An open or closed window, for example, or a noise, a whistle, a songwhat else? a chair out of place, a car where it's not supposed to be, a light .That sort of thing. You know, little details that can later turn out to be extremely important." Ingrassia took a white handkerchief with a green border out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his face. "You had me brought here just to tell me that?" "No. That would be inconveniencing you for no reason. I would never do a thing like that. I was wondering if you'd heard from the people who, in your opinion, played that joke on you, you know, the phony robbery." "Not a word from anyone." "That's odd." "Why?" "Because the best part of any practical joke is enjoying it afterward with the person it was played on. Well, if you do hear from anybody, please let me know. Good day." "Good day," muttered Ingrassia, standing up. He was dripping wet, his trousers sticking to his bottom. Fazio showed up all decked out in a shiny new uniform. "I'm here," he said. "And the pope is in Rome. I know, Inspector, I know: today is not your day." He started to leave but stopped in the doorway. "Inspector Augello called, said he had a terrible tooth ache. He says he's not coming unless he has to. Listen, do you have any idea where the wreck of Cavaliere Misuracas Fiat ended up?" "It's still here, in our garage. If you ask me, it's just envy." "What are you talking about?" "Inspector Augello's toothache." "It's just about of envy. Who's he envious of ?" "You. Because it's your press conference and not his." "And he's probably also pissed off because you wouldn't tell him who you'd arrested." "Would you do me a favor?" "All right, all right, I'm going." When Fazio had closed the door well, Montalbano dialed a number. The voice of the woman who answered sounded like a parody of an African in a dubbed film. "Hallo?" "Who dare?" "Who you callin dare?" "Where did the Cardamones find these housekeepers? Is Signora Ingrid there?" "Ya, but who callin?" "This is Salvo Montalbano." "You wait dare." Ingrids voice, on the other hand, was the very same as the voice the Italian dubber had given to Greta Garbo, who was herself Swedish. "Ciao, Salvo. How are you? Long time no see." "I need your help, Ingrid. Are you free tonight?" "Actually, no. But if it's really important I can drop everything." "It's important." "Tell me where and when." "Nine oclock tonight, at the Marinella Bar." . For Montalbano, the press conference proved, as of course he knew it would, to be a long, painful embarrassment. Anti-Mafia Vice-Commissioner De Dominicis came from Palermo and sat on the Montelusa police commissioners right. Imperious gestures and angry glances prevailed upon Montalbano, who had wanted to remain in the audience, to sit on his superiors left. Behind him, standing, were Fazio, German, Gallo, and Galluzzo. The commissioner spoke first and began by naming the man they had arrested, the number one of the number twos: Gaetano Bennici, known as Tano the Greek, wanted for multiple murders and long a fugitive from justice. It was a literal bombshell. The journalists, who were there in great numbers there were even four TV cameras jumped out of their chairs and started talking to one another, making such a racket that the commissioner had difficulty reestablishing silence. He stated that credit for the arrest went to Inspector Montalbano who, with the assistance of his men, and here, he named and introduced them one by one, had been able to exploit a golden opportunity with skill and courage. Then De Dominicis spoke, explaining Tano the Greeks role within his criminal organization, certainly a prominent one, though not of the utmost prominence. As the Anti-Mafia Vice-Commissioner sat back down, Montalbano realized he was being thrown to the dogs. The questions came in rapid-fire bursts, worse than a Kalishnikov. Had there been a gunfight? Was Tano alone? Were any law enforcement personnel injured? What did Tano say when they handcuffed him? Had he been sleeping or awake? Was there a woman with him? A dog? Was it true he took drugs? How many murders had he committed? How was he dressed? Was he naked? Was it true he rooted for the Milan soccer team? Did he have a photo of Ornella Muti on his person? Could the inspector explain a little better the golden opportunity the commissioner had alluded to? Montalbano struggled to answer the questions as best he could, seeming to understand less and less what he was saying. It's a good thing the TVs here, he thought. That way, at least, I can watch and make some sense of the bullshit I've been telling them. And just to make things even harder, there were the adoring eyes of Corporal Anna Ferrara, staring at him from the crowd. Nicolto, newsman from the Free Channel and a true friend, tried to rescue him from the quicksand in which he was drowning. "Inspector, with your permission," said Zito. "You said you met Tano on your way back from Fiacca, where you'd been invited to eat a tabisca with friends. Is that correct?" "Yes. What is a tabisca?" "They'd eaten tabisca many times together." Zito was simply tossing him a life preserver. Montalbano seized it. Suddenly confident and precise, the inspector went into a detailed description of that extraordinary, multiflavored pizza. 7 In the alternately desperate, stammering, hesitant, bewildered, flabbergasted, lost but always wild-eyed man framed pitilessly in the foreground by the Free Channels videocamera, Montalbano scarcely recognized himself under the storm of questions from vile snake-in-the-grass journalists. And the part where hed explained how tabisca was made the part in which he came off best had been cut out. Maybe it wasn't strictly in keeping with the principal subject, the capture of Tano the Greek. The eggplant Parmesan his housekeeper had left for him in the oven suddenly tasted flavorless. But that was impossible, it couldn't be right. It must have been some sort of psychological effect from seeing himself look like such a stupid shit on television. All at once he felt like crying, like throwing himself down on his bed and wrapping himself up in the sheet like a mummy. . "Inspector Montalbano? This is Luciano Acquasanta from the newspaper Il Mezzogiorno. Would you be so kind as to grant me an interview?" "No." "I won't waste your time, I promise." "No." . "Is this Inspector Montalbano? Spingardi here, Attilio Spingardi, from the RAI office in Palermo. We're putting together a roundtable to discuss" "No." "At least let me finish!" "No." . "Darling? It's Livia. How are you feeling?" "Fine. Why?" "I just saw you on TV." "Oh, Christ! You mean they showed that all over Italy?" "I think so. But it was very brief, you know." "Could you hear what I was saying?" "No, one could only hear the commentator speaking. But I could clearly see your face, and that's what got me worried. You were yellow as a lemon." "It was even in color?" "Of course it was in color. You kept putting your hand over your eyes and rubbing your forehead." "I had a headache and the lights were bothering me." "Are you better now?" "Yes." . "Inspector Montalbano? My name is Stefania Quattrini, from the magazine Essere Donna. We'd like to do a telephone interview with you. Could you remain on the line?" "No." "It'll only take a few seconds." "No." "Do I have the honor of actually speaking with the famous Inspector Montalbano who holds press conferences?" "Don't break my balls." "No, don't worry about your balls, we won't break them. It's your ass we're after." "Who is this?" "It's your death, that's who. You're not gonna wiggle out of this one so easy, you lousy fucking actor. Who'd you think you were fooling with that little song and dance you put on with your pal Tano? You're gonna pay for trying to fuck with us." "Hello? Hello?" The line had gone dead. But Montalbano didnt have a chance to take in those threatening words and mull them over, because he realized that the insistent noise he'd been hearing for some time amid the flurry of phone calls was the doorbell ringing. For some reason he was convinced it must be a journalist more clever than the rest who'd decided to show up at his house. Exasperated, he ran to the entrance and without opening, yelled: "Who the hell is it?" "It's the commissioner." What could he want from him, at home, at that hour, without even having called to alert him? He released the bolt with a swat of the hand and yanked the door wide open. "Hello, come on in, make yourself comfortable," he said, standing aside to let him in. "We haven't got any time. Get yourself in order, I'll wait for you in the car." He turned around and walked away. Passing in front of the large mirror on the armoire, Montalbano realized what the commissioner had meant by Get yourself in order . He was completely naked. The car had none of the usual police markings; it looked, rather, like a rental car. At the wheel, in civilian clothing, was an officer from the Montelusa station whom he knew. As soon as he sat down, the commissioner began to speak. "I apologize for not calling beforehand, but your phone was always busy." "I know." The commissioner could have cut into the line, of course, but that wasn't in keeping with his polite, gentlemanly way of doing things. Montalbano didn't explain why the telephone had given him no peace. It didn't matter. His boss was gloomier than hed ever seen him before, face drawn, mouth half-twisted in a kind of grimace. After they'd been driving on the highway to Palermo for some forty-five minutes with the driver going full tilt, Montalbano started looking out on that part of his islands landscape which charmed him most. "You like it? Really?" an astonished Livia had asked him once, a few years earlier, when he brought her to this area. Arid hills like giant tumuli, covered only by a yellow stubble of dry grass and abandoned by the hand of man after sudden failures owing to drought, extreme heat, or more simply to the weariness of a battle lost from the outset, were interrupted here and there by a gray of rocky peaks rising absurdly out of nothing or perhaps fallen from above, stalactites or stalagmites of the deep, open-air cave that is Sicily. The few houses one saw, all single-story, domed structures, cubes of dry stone, stood askew, as if by chance alone they'd survived the violent bucking of an earth that didn't want them on its back. Still there was the rare spot of green, not of trees or cultivation, but of agaves, sword grass, buckthorn, and sorghum, beleaguered and dusty, they too on the verge of surrender. As if he had been waiting for the appropriate scenery, the commissioner finally began to speak, though Montalbano realized the words were addressed not to him but to the commissioner himself, in a kind of painful, furious monologue. "Why did they do it? Who decided to decide? If an investigation were held an impossibile conjecture it would turn out that either nobody took the first step, or they were acting on orders from above. So let's see who these superiors who gave the orders are. The head of the Anti-Mafia Commission would deny all knowledge, as would the minister of the interior and the prime minister, the head of state. Which leaves the pope, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and God the Father, in that order. All would cry in outrage: How could anyone think it was they who gave the order? That leaves only the Devil, notorious for being the cause of all evil. He's the guilty one! Satan!.Anyway, to make a long story short, they decided to transfer him to another prison." "Tano?" Montalbano ventured to ask. The commissioner didn't even answer. "Why?" "We'll never know, that much is certain. And while we were holding our press conference, they were putting him in an ordinary car with two plainclothesmen as escort, ah! how clever! so as not to attract attention, of course! And so, when the requisite high-powered motorcycle appeared from an alley with two men aboard, rendered utterly unrecognizable by their helmets .Final tally: two policemen dead, Tano in the hospital, on deaths doorstep. And there you have it." Montalbano absorbed it all, thinking cynically that if only they'd killed Tano a few hours earlier, he would have been spared the torture of the press conference. He started asking questions only because he sensed that the commissioner had calmed down a little after his outburst. "But how did they know" The commissioner slammed the seat in front of him, making the driver start and the car veer slightly. "What do you think, Montalbano? A mole, no? That's what's driving me so crazy!" The inspector let a minute or two pass before asking another question. "Where do we come in?" "He wants to talk to you. He knows he's dying, and wants to tell you something." "I see. So why did you go to all this trouble? I could have gone by myself." "I came along to prevent any snags or delays. In their sublime intelligence, these guys are capable of denying you access to him." In front of the hospital gate there was an armored car, as well as some ten guards scattered about the yard, submachine guns in hand. "Idiots," said the commissioner. They passed through at least five checkpoints, growing more irritated each time, then finally reached the ward where Tanos room was. All other patients had been cleared out, transferred elsewhere amid curses and obscenities. At each end of the corridor were four armed policemen, plus two outside the door of the room Tano was obviously in. The commissioner showed them his pass. "Congratulations," he said to the corporal. "For what, Mr. Commissioner?" "For maintaining order." "Thank you," said the corporal, brightening, the commissioners irony sailing far over his head. "You go in alone," the commissioner said to Montalbano, "I'll wait outside." Only then did he notice how ashen the inspector was, his forehead bathed in sweat. "My God, Montalbano, what's wrong? Do you feel ill?" "I'm perfectly fine," the inspector replied through clenched teeth. He was lying. In fact, he felt terrible.The dead left him utterly indifferent. He could sleep with them, pretend to break bread with them, play hearts or spades with them. They didn't bother him in the least. The dying, on the other hand, made him break into a sweat: his hands would start to tremble, he would go cold all over, a hole would open up in his stomach. Under the sheet that covered him, Tanos body looked shrunken, smaller than the inspector remembered it. His arms lay stretched along his sides, the right arm wrapped in thick bandages. Oxygen tubes sprouted from his nose, which had turned almost transparent, and his face looked unreal, as if it belonged to a wax doll. Overcoming the desire to run away, Montalbano pulled up a metal chair and sat down beside the dying man, who kept his eyes shut, as if asleep. "Tano? Tano? It's Inspector Montalbano." The other reacted immediately, opening his eyes and making as if to sit up in bed, a violent start surely triggered by the animal instinct of one who has long been hunted. Then his eyes brought the inspector into focus, and the tension in his body visibly relaxed. "You wanted to talk to me?" Tano nodded yes, and gave a hint of a smile. He spoke very slowly, with great effort. "They ran me off the road anyway." He was referring to the discussion they'd had in the cottage. Montalbano didn't know what to say. "Come closer," the old man said. Montalbano rose from his chair and leaned over. "Closer." The inspector bent down so far forward, his ear actually touched Tano's lip. The man's burning breath made him feel disgusted. Tano then told him what he had to tell, lucidly and precisely. But the talking had worn him out, and he closed his eyes again. Montalbano didn't know what to do, whether to leave or stay a little while longer. He decided to sit down, and Tano said something again, in a gurgly voice. The inspector stood back up and leaned over the dying man. "What did you say?" "I'm spooked." Tano was afraid, and in his present state he didn't hesitate to admit it. Was it pity, this sudden wave of heat, this flutter of the heart, this agonizing surge of emotion? He put a hand on Tanos forehead, and the intimate words came out spontaneously. "You needn't be ashamed to say so. I'ts one more thing that makes you a man. We'll all be scared when our time comes. Good-bye,Tano." He walked out quickly, closing the door behind him. In the hallway, together with the commissioner and policemen, were De Dominicis and Sciacchitano. He ran up to them. "What did he say?" De Dominicis asked anxiously. "Nothing. He didn't manage to say anything. He wanted to, but couldn't. Hes dying." "Hah!" said Sciacchitano, doubtful. Very calmly, Montalbano placed his open hand on Sciacchitanos chest and gave him a violent push. The man reeled three steps backward, stunned. "Stay right where you are and don't come any closer," the inspector said through clenched teeth. "That's enough, Montalbano," the commissioner intervened. De Dominicis seemed to pay no mind to the two mens differences. "Who knows what he wanted to tell you," he persisted, eyeing Montalbano inquisitively, as if to say: Youre not talking straight. "If you'd like, I can try and guess," Montalbano retorted insolently. Before leaving the hospital, Montalbano knocked back a double J
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