Uniform justice, p.1
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       Uniform Justice, p.1

           Donna Leon
 
Uniform Justice


  Uniform Justice

  by

  Donna Leon

  Donna Leon has lived in Venice for many years and previously lived in

  Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a

  teacher. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all

  been highly acclaimed, most recently Friends in High Places, which won

  the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, A Sea of Troubles and

  Wilful Behaviour.

  Uniform Justice

  Also by Donna Leon

  Death at La Fenice

  Death in a Strange Country

  The Anonymous Venetian

  A Venetian Reckoning

  Acqua Alta

  The Death of Faith

  A Noble Radiance

  Fatal Remedies

  Friends in High Places

  A Sea of Troubles

  Wilful Behaviour

  Donna Leon

  Uniform Justice

  BCA1

  This edition published 2003

  by BCA

  by arrangement with William Heinemann The Random House Group Limited

  CN 113623

  Copyright (c) Donna Leon and Diogenes Verlag AG Zurich 2003

  Donna Leon has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and

  Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

  This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of

  trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated

  without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover

  other than that in which it is published and without a similar

  condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent

  purchaser

  Typeset by SX Composing DTP, Rayleigh, Essex

  Printed and bound in Great Britain by Mackays of Chatham pic, Chatham,

  Kent for Hedi and Agusti Janes

  In uomini, in sol dati spe rare fe delta

  You expect fidelity in men, in soldiers?

  Cost fan tutte --Mozart

  Thirst woke him. It was not the healthy thirst that follows three sets

  of tennis or a day spent skiing, thirst that comes slowly: it was the

  grinding, relentless thirst that comes of the body's desperate attempt

  to replenish liquids that have been displaced by alcohol. He lay in

  his bed, suddenly awake, covered with a thin film of sweat, his

  underwear damp and clinging.

  At first he thought he could outwit it, ignore it and fall back into

  the sodden sleep from which his thirst had prodded him. He turned on

  his side, mouth open on the pillow, and pulled the covers up over his

  shoulder. But much as his body craved more rest, he could not force it

  to ignore his thirst nor the faint nervousness of his stomach. He lay

  there, inert and utterly deprived of will, and told himself to go back

  to sleep.

  For some minutes he succeeded, but then a church bell somewhere towards

  the city poked him back to consciousness. The idea of liquid seeped

  into his mind: a glass of sparkling mineral water, its sides running

  with condensation; the drinking fountain in the corridor of his

  elementary school; a paper cup filled with Coca-Cola. He needed liquid

  more than anything life had ever presented to him as desirable or

  good.

  Again, he tried to force himself to sleep, but he knew he had lost and

  now had no choice but to get out of bed. He started to think about

  which side of bed to get out of and whether the floor of the corridor

  would be cold, but then he pushed all of these considerations aside as

  violently as he did his blankets and got to his feet. His head

  throbbed and his stomach registered resentment of its new position

  relative to the floor, but his thirst ignored them both.

  He opened the door to his room and started down the corridor, its

  length illuminated by the light that filtered in from outside. As he

  had feared, the linoleum tiles were harsh on his naked feet, but the

  thought of the water that lay ahead gave him the will to ignore the

  cold.

  He entered the bathroom and, driven by absolute need, headed to the

  first of the white sinks that lined the wall. He turned on the cold

  tap and let it run for a minute: even in his fuddled state he

  remembered the rusty warm taste of the first water that emerged from

  those pipes. When the water that ran over his hand was cold, he cupped

  both hands and bent down towards them. Noisy as a dog, he slurped the

  water and felt it moving inside him, cooling and saving him as it went.

  Experience had taught him to stop after the first few mouthfuls, stop

  and wait to see how his troubled stomach would respond to the surprise

  of liquid without alcohol. At first, it didn't like it, but youth and

  good health made up for that, and then his stomach accepted the water

  quietly, even asked for more.

  Happy to comply, he leaned down again and took eight or nine large

  mouthfuls, each one bringing more relief to his tortured body. The

  sudden flood of water triggered something in his stomach, and that in

  turn triggered something in his brain, and he grew dizzy and had to

  lean forward, hands propped on the front of the sink, until the world

  grew quiet again.

  He put his hands under the still flowing stream and drank again. At a

  certain point, experience and sense told him any more would be risky,

  so he stood up straight, eyes closed, and dragged his wet palms across

  his face and down the front of his T-shirt. He lifted the hem and

  wiped at his lips; then, refreshed and feeling as if he might again

  begin to contemplate life, he turned to go back to his room.

  And saw the bat, or what his muddled senses first perceived as a bat,

  just there, off in the distance. It couldn't be a bat, for it was

  easily two metres long and as wide as a man. But it had the shape of a

  bat. It appeared to suspend itself against the wall, its head perched

  above black wings that hung limp at its sides, clawed feet projecting

  from beneath.

  He ran his hands roughly over his face, as if to wipe away the sight,

  but when he opened his eyes again the dark shape was still there. He

  backed away from it and, driven by the fear of what might happen to him

  if he took his eyes from the bat, he moved slowly in the direction of

  the door of the bathroom, towards where he knew he would find the

  switch for the long bars of neon lighting. Befuddled by a mixture of

  terror and incredulity, he kept his hands behind him, one palm flat and

  sliding ahead of him on the tile wall, certain that contact with the

  wall was his only contact with reality.

  Like a blind man, he followed his seeing hand along the wall until he

  found the switch and the long double row of neon lights passed

  illumination along one by one until a day like brightness filled the

  room.

  Fear drove him to close his eyes while the lights came flickering on,

  fear of what horrid motion the bat-like shape would be driven to make

  when disturbed from the safet
y of the near darkness. When the lights

  grew silent, the young man opened his eyes and forced himself to

  look.

  Although the stark lighting transformed and revealed the shape, it did

  not entirely remove its resemblance to a bat, nor did it minimize the

  menace of those trailing wings. The wings, however, were revealed as

  the engulfing folds of the dark cloak that served as the central

  element of their winter uniform, and the head of the bat, now

  illuminated, was the head of Ernesto Moro, a Venetian and, like the boy

  now bent over the nearest sink, racked by violent vomiting, a student

  at San Martino Military Academy.

  It took a long time for the authorities to respond to the death of

  Cadet Moro, though little of the delay had to do with the behaviour of

  his classmate, Pietro Pellegrini. When the waves of sickness abated,

  the boy returned to his room and, using the telefonino which seemed

  almost a natural appendage, so often did he use and consult it, he

  called his father, on a business trip in Milano, to explain what had

  happened, or what he had just seen. His father, a lawyer, at first

  said he would call the authorities, but then better sense intervened

  and he told his son to do so himself and to do it instantly.

  Not for a moment did it occur to Pellegrini's father that his son was

  in any way involved in the death of the other boy, but he was a

  criminal lawyer and familiar with the workings of the official mind. He

  knew that suspicion was bound to fall upon the person who hesitated in

  bringing a crime to the attention of the police, and he also knew how

  eager they were to seize upon the obvious solution. So he told the boy

  indeed, he could be said to have commanded him to call the authorities

  instantly. The boy, trained in obedience by his father and by two

  years at San Martino, assumed that the authorities were those in charge

  of the school and thus went downstairs to report to his commander the

  presence of a dead boy in the third floor bathroom.

  The police officer at the Questura who took the call when it came from

  the school asked the name of the caller, wrote it down, then asked him

  how he came to know about this dead person and wrote down that answer,

  as well. After hanging up, the policeman asked the colleague who was

  working the switchboard with him if they should perhaps pass the report

  on to the Carabinieri, for the Academy, as a military institution,

  might be under the jurisdiction of the Carabinieri rather than the city

  police. They debated this for a time, the second one calling down to

  the officers' room to see if anyone there could solve the procedural

  problem. The officer who answered their call maintained that the

  Academy was a private institution with no official ties to the Army he

  knew, because his dentist's son was a student there and so they were

  the ones who should respond to the call. The men on the switchboard

  discussed this for some time, finally agreeing with their colleague.

  The one who had taken the call noticed that it was after eight and

  dialled the interior number of his superior, Commissario Guido

  Brunetti, sure that he would already be in his office.

  Brunetti agreed that the case was theirs to investigate and then asked,

  "When did the call come in?"

  "Seven twenty-six, sir came Alvise's efficient, crisp reply.

  A glance at his watch told Brunetti that it was now more than a

  half-hour after that, but as Alvise was not the brightest star in the

  firmament of his daily routine, he chose to make no comment and,

  instead, said merely, "Order a boat. I'll be down."

  When Alvise hung up, Brunetti took a look at the week's duty roster

  and, seeing that Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello's name was not listed for

  that day nor for the next, he called

  Vianello at home and briefly explained what had happened. Before

  Brunetti could ask him, Vianello said, Till meet you there."

  Alvise had proven capable of informing the pilot of Commissario

  Brunetti's request, no doubt in part because the pilot sat at the desk

  opposite him, and so, when Brunetti emerged from the Questura a few

  minutes later, he found both Alvise and the pilot on deck, the boat's

  motor idling. Brunetti paused before stepping on to the launch and

  told Alvise, "Go back upstairs and send Pucetti down."

  "But don't you want me to come with you, sir?" Alvise asked, sounding

  as disappointed as a bride left waiting on the steps of the church.

  "No, it's not that," Brunetti said carefully, 'but if this person calls

  back again, I want you to be there so that there's continuity in the

  way he's dealt with. We'll learn more that way."

  Though this made no sense at all, Alvise appeared to accept it;

  Brunetti reflected, not for the first time, that it was perhaps the

  absence of sense that made it so easy for Alvise to accept. He went

  docilely back inside the Questura. A few minutes later Pucetti emerged

  and stepped on to the launch. The pilot pulled them away from the Riva

  and toward the Bacino. The night's rain had washed the pollution from

  the air, and the city was presented with a gloriously limpid morning,

  though the sharpness of late autumn was in the air.

  Brunetti had had no reason to go to the Academy for more than a decade,

  not since the graduation of the son of a second cousin. After being

  inducted into the Army as a lieutenant, a courtesy usually extended to

  graduates of San Martino, most of them the sons of soldiers, the boy

  had progressed through the ranks, a source of great pride to his father

  and equal confusion to the rest of the family. There was no military

  tradition among the Brunettis nor among his mother's family, which is

  not to say that the family had never had anything to do with the

  military. To their cost, they had, for it was the generation of

  Brunetti's parents that had not only fought the last war but had had

  large parts of it fought around them, on their own soil.

  Hence it was that Brunetti, from the time he was a child, had heard the

  military and all its works and pomps spoken of with the dismissive

  contempt his parents and their friends usually reserved for the

  government and the Church. The low esteem with which he regarded the

  military had been intensified over the years of his marriage to Paola

  Falier, a woman of leftish, if chaotic, politics. It was Paola's

  position that the greatest glory of the Italian Army was its history of

  cowardice and retreat, and its greatest failure the fact that, during

  both world wars, its leaders, military and political, had flown in the

  face of this truth and caused the senseless deaths of hundreds of

  thousands of young men by relentlessly pursuing both their own delusory

  ideas of glory and the political goals of other nations.

  Little that Brunetti had observed during his own undistinguished term

  of military service or in the decades since then had persuaded him that

  Paola was wrong. Brunetti realized that not much he had seen could

  persuade him that the military, either Italian or foreign, was much

  different from the Mafia: dominated by
men and unfriendly to women;

  incapable of honour or even simple honesty beyond its own ranks;

  dedicated to the acquisition of power; contemptuous of civil society;

  violent and cowardly at the same time. No, there was little to

  distinguish one organization from the other, save that some wore easily

  recognized uniforms while the other leaned toward Armani and Brioni.

  The popular beliefs about the history of the Academy were known to

  Brunetti. Established on the Giudecca in 1852 by Alessandro Loredan,

  one of Garibaldi's earliest supporters in the Veneto and, by the time

  of Independence, one of his generals, the school was originally located

  in a large building

  on the island. Dying childless and without male heirs, Lurcdan had

  left the building as well as his family palnzzo and fortune in trust,

  on the condition that the income be used to support the military

  Academy to which he had given the name of his father's patron saint.

  Though the oligarchs of Venice might not have been wholehearted

  supporters of the Risorgimento, they had nothing but enthusiasm for an

  institution which so effectively assured that the Loredan fortune

  remained in the city. Within hours of his death, the exact value of

  his legacy was known, and within days the trustees named in the will

  had selected a retired officer, who happened to be the brother-in-law

  of one of them, to administer the Academy. And so it had continued to

  this day: a school run on strictly military lines, where the sons of

  officers and gentlemen of wealth could acquire the training and bearing

  which might prepare them to become officers in their turn.

 
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