TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:“Una grossa frittura” is a very recent story by Leonardo Gori, and it is about to be published as part of an anthology entitled Giallo Uovo (Mondolibri, April 2006). It is a very different type of crime story that includes a dash of humor and has an almost Dickensian flavor: a change of pace from the typical noir. The story is unusual for several reasons. Its setting is Florence in the year 1880, a city that one of the characters says lends itself well to “dark tales” (“storie nere”). The crime involves a famous chef, Ceccone, who is found fried to death in his own cooking oil, clutching a clump of recipes torn from a notebook. Ceccone had been chef in one of Florence’s leading restaurants at the time when the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy (from 1865 to 1870). Finally, the protagonist of the story, who wants to find out who fried the chef and why, is a historical figure: the Italian writer and journalist Carlo Lorenzini, better known as Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio.
Carlo Lorenzini was picking his way along the narrow sidewalk, a little before midnight, trying not to slip on the frozen snow. He was carrying a portable pot invented by his friend Jarro: a double-boiler with a hermetically-sealed lid. He was on his way to get his late-night bachelor’s supper, solitary but of consummate quality. He had a scarf looped around his neck, and was wearing an old stovepipe hat, a heavy tail coat and an overcoat. Just the same, the December cold went right through him and made him shiver.
He turned the corner and entered a dark, narrow, foul-smelling alley. It was also a little frightening, adjacent as it was to Florence’s old ghetto, a refuge for criminals and penniless wretches. As always the smells of cooking mingled with the stench, but this time there was something odd as well: an extra light, a yellow strip behind the trattoria’s service door. For some reason, the chef had left it ajar. Even the sounds from inside seemed different to him. The corpulent Ceccone, an artist in his field, usually sang cheerfully as he straightened up the kitchen: now, instead, only scraping and mumbling could be heard. Lorenzini very slowly opened the door and was enveloped by an unexpected blast of heat.
Jarro’s pot fell out of his hand and rolled on the floor. There was a strong smell of cooked meat, and oil was frying with an ominous sizzle. What could be frying, at that hour? Five or six ghetto urchins, black with filth, were rummaging among the stoves eating what they had found: one of them, with a head of thick, dark, curly hair, was actually inside the garbage can. He climbed out quick as a cat and before running away, sank his teeth into the intruder’s calf. Lorenzini shouted, appalled: the boy’s red eyes, set in the grimy black face, were hellish. Lorenzini looked around for Ceccone, but the trattoria was deserted. A huge iron ladle lay on the ground. He looked at the stepladder alongside the platform on which an enormous frying pan, two yards in diameter, was set. Ceccone had brought it with him, almost ten years ago, from the most eminent restaurant of Florence the capital. When he saw the severed safety strap dangling, his heart dropped.
He climbed up on the narrow platform and what he saw left him petrified. There in the dark, bubbling oil was fat Ceccone. The frying had turned him all green: green skin, green eyes, even his beard was green. Frantically, Lorenzini came down from the step-stool; it took him a while to douse the fire. Then he went back up and tried to pull the unfortunate victim out with a butcher’s hook, overcoming his revulsion and the heat of the bubbling oil. He was only able to get him to a seated position, before the body slipped back into the scalding slime again. Next he grabbed one of the victim’s swollen hands and saw that it was clutching some papers. He extracted them from the clenched fist and threw them on the floor. He pulled on the arm but realized to his horror that the skin split open, revealing white fat and red meaty flesh.
Lorenzini sat down so he wouldn’t faint. When he recovered, he picked up the oily sheets of paper, folded them and put them in his pocket. Then he shut the door behind him and ran to the Royal Guard headquarters for the district of San Giovanni. He spent the rest of the long night answering the police’s questions: he told them that the sculleryboys went home at eleven, that Ceccone closed up the trattoria by himself and that he waited for him each night to give him an excellent dish on behalf of their enduring friendship, begun twenty years earlier in the volunteer ranks of the War of Independence. But the papers he had picked up in the kitchen remained in his pocket, and he never mentioned them.
He returned home at dawn. In spite of the dreadful commotion he was hungry, but Jarro’s pot was empty, and would never again be filled with Ceccone’s tasty delights. He climbed the stairs with his head bowed, opened the door of his wretched apartment and went to the nook that served as a kitchen. He tore the page from the calendar: it was the day before Christmas eve, 1880, and the pantry was bare and bleak. For breakfast he was reduced to eating the leftovers of the previous day’s meal, including pear skins and cores. He spread the pages taken from Ceccone’s fist on the marble tabletop: they contained handwritten recipes, in an elegant script. The sheets had been torn from a notebook, perhaps hastily or even in anger. Why hadn’t he turned them over to the Royal Guard? He didn’t know why, or perhaps a distracted glance had been enough to suggest a painful misgiving that had not yet developed into a real suspicion. In any case, by now it was too late. He was overcome by a prolonged shudder when he read the first lines beneath the opalescence of the oil from that frightful fricassee:
FRIED PIG LIVER -Because of its resemblance to the salivary glands (common sweetbreads) and its delicate flavor, the pancreas is known to many by the name of liver sweetbread; in Tuscany, that of the pig is called stomachino, little stomach. In my opinion, to experience the true flavor of pig liver, it must be fried naturally, in thin slices, in virgin lard, and mixed with diced stomachino.
Carefully he leafed through the other oil-drenched sheets and read another recipe:
FRIED TESTICLES – I have heard it said that on the day the foals are gelded in the Maremma region of Tuscany, friends are invited to a lunch where the dish that takes top honors is a magnificent plate of fried testicles. I can say nothing about their flavor, not having tasted them, except those of a horse, and also of a donkey. Who knows how often you and I have eaten them, without knowing it.
The handwriting was quite familiar to him, but he had to make certain. He looked through his recent correspondence and quickly found the letter he was looking for. He laid it on the marble tabletop beside the oil-stained pages and no longer had any doubt. Jarro! He had to go find his young friend. Perhaps he would be in time to put things right, or at least to figure it out.
He grabbed his overcoat and went out into the frigid air again. The rosy light of dawn transformed the strong colors of Florence’s buildings into more delicate tints. Lorenzini was in a great state of agitation. He had the recipes in his pocket and he felt like they were scalding him, as if the oil they were drenched in were still bubbling from poor Ceccone’s pan-fry. He arrived in front of Jarro’s house, a detached dwelling, elegant and modern. He rang the door-bell several times and anticipated the inevitable verbal abuses of the pleasure-loving fat man, who was accustomed to spending his nights at the newspaper or at the most celebrated restaurants, and then sleeping until late in the day. After nearly ten minutes, the old manservant came to open the door.
“I must see your master.”
“He just got in, sir. He hasn’t slept for even an hour. ”
Lorenzini got even more worried.
“Wake him, it’s urgent. ”
He entered the house and determinedly sat down on a small green velvet armchair. Arrayed on a set of bookshelves were the cookbooks, almanacs and popular novels of his thirty-year old friend: a much acclaimed journalist, bon vivant, gastronomer and dilettante cook, eager for innovation.
Jarro, still sleepy, came down the stairs with a halting step. He wore an incredibly bright yellow nightshirt, that emphasized his great bulk.
“Carlo! What are you doing here at this hour?”
“Something serious and unbelievable has happened. ”
“You’ve found a real job? You’ve stopped writing rubbish? ”
“This is no joking matter. I was at Ceccone’s trattoria, as usual. ”
“You’ll have to pay him back, sooner or later. You practically live off of him.”
“That will be difficult. He’s dead: he was murdered. I was the one who found his body. ”
Jarro sank down on the sofa with such an abrupt crash that Lorenzini clearly heard something break.
“What do you mean? Murdered? ”
“And you should see how. They made him fall into his enormous frying pan. They fried him like his famous minnows…”
“I am tempted to say that they never were his best dish: he put too much oil in that fiendish frying pan, and it inevitably turned acidic. But you’re right, this is not the time for witticisms. You could have told me later on, however. ”
“I need your help. ”
Lorenzini took out the greasy pages and spread them out on the small table in front of him.
“Ceccone had these, gripped tightly in his hand. They’re recipes: I want you to read them and tell me who the author is.”
The corpulent Jarro approached. He had the manservant bring him his eyeglasses and carefully read the first three or four sheets, dry by this time though transparent from the oil that had soaked through them. He wailed a kind of long, mournful lament.
“These are Pellegrino’s recipes. What was Ceccone doing with them?”
“That’s the point. As you can see, they’ve been roughly torn from a notebook.”
“Did you find it?”
“There was nothing in the kitchen when I got there. Then the Royal Guard turned everything upside down and I can’t tell you . . . ”
“How is it you have these pages?”
“I didn’t want to give them to the police. I was afraid that . . . ”
He broke off and carefully studied his journalist friend’s astonished expression.
“Help me think, Jarro. Who was it who tore these pages from one of Pellegrino’s recipe notebooks, and why?”
“It must have been Ceccone who did it. He must have been holding them in his hand, at the top of the stepladder, when he lost his balance and fell into the frying pan. ”
Lorenzini shook his head.
“If it had happened like that, the sheets would have ended up on the floor, but instead he was holding them tightly in his fist. No, no: they pushed him. Then too, at the top of the stepladder there’s a safety strap that wraps around the waist, and they cut it with a sharp knife.”
“But why on earth would they have had to kill him?”
“That’s what troubles me. Let’s suppose that Ceccone was holding the complete notebook in his hand . . . ”
Jarro thought a moment, moving his lower lip back and forth. In his yellow dressing gown he looked like a canary of colossal proportions. Then he nodded and spoke in a grave, almost solemn voice.
“Someone tore it out of his hand as our friend was thrown into the frying pan. But Ceccone grabbed hold of these pages.”
“That’s what I too fear happened. Tell me where you were tonight.”
Jarro’s eyes popped with comic effect.
“Wherever I felt like going. Maybe I don’t even remember where.”
“It will be better if you try to remember, because they will ask you.”
“What the devil do you mean?”
“Look me in the eye, Jarro. Was it you who killed him?”
“You’re insane, you are truly insane.”
“You’ve always said that you would do anything to have Pellegrino’s secret recipes.”
Jarro’s expression was one of pained disbelief.
“You really think so, my friend?”
In the journalist’s eyes, Lorenzini read what he was looking for and had hoped to find. Most of all, he had only to observe the man’s girth: swathed in the yellow garment, he looked like an elephant in a circus.
“If you didn’t kill him, then Ceccone must have stolen the notebook and someone went to recover it.”
Jarro understood what Carlo was driving at.
“You’re doubly insane. First because you think Pellegrino capable of doing something impossible, and secondly because you withheld evidence from the police. You could wind up in a cell at Le Murate.”
“We have to get to the bottom of this. Will you come with me?”
Jarro widened his eyes even more. There was no further trace of sleepiness in his look.
“Of course I’ll come. I’ll be dressed in a moment.”
Pellegrino Artusi’s house, a splendid structure designed in the most up-to-date style, was in Piazza D’Azeglio, a tree-lined square near the new boulevards. It was a bourgeois neighborhood, built in the period when Florence was the Italian capital. Artusi was sixty years old, a well-to-do man who for some time had been devoting himself to research and writing. He had published a biography of Ugo Foscolo, but for years he had been working on a comprehensive summa of Italian culinary knowledge, a work intended to counter the refined elegance of French cook books.
Lorenzini and Jarro, who was still wheezing from having climbed the stairs, stood before a large, carved wooden desk behind which sat a gentle looking man with a pair of large white muttonchops extending from his long sideburns. Pellegrino Artusi held the torn pages in his hand, incredulous.
“Of course they’re mine. What happened to the notebook?”
Lorenzini told the ghastly story once again, without omitting a single gruesome detail. Artusi leaped to his feet.
“That’s frightful! Why didn’t you turn these pages over to the Royal Guard, Carlo?”
“You of all people ask me that?”
Artusi was left gaping: “You don’t think that I . . . ”
“Tell me where you were and what you were doing between eleven and midnight.”
Pellegrino Artusi shouted in outrage, “What kind of question is that? How dare you?”
“You’re pathologically jealous of your notebooks: Jarro has asked you a thousand times if he could copy some, and you have always refused. Then, as if by magic, your recipes turn up in poor Ceccone’s hand . . . ”
“But I was the one who gave them to him so that he could test them! It’s one thing to research and write them, quite another to put them to the test, time after time.”
Testing and re-testing, as the motto of the great Academy goes . . .
Jarro, his face still red from exertion, looked quite offended.
“So why couldn’t I do the testing?”
“Because you write about cooking along with a thousand other things. You’re a journalist: you don’t wait for the material to decant as it should, you want to drink the still tart juice of freshly-squeezed knowledge all in one gulp. I have a higher value to defend . . . ”
“And what is that?” Jarro now appeared truly outraged.
“Science, obviously! Pure knowledge. When my book comes out, it will be available to anyone, to housewives as well as great restaurant chefs. But before then it must be tested by the best professionals so that I may hold my head high among my peers: masters and scholars. It cannot be left to . . . dilettantes!”
Lorenzini was shaking his head at that sharp exchange between culinary philosophers that he frankly found ridiculous.
“Answer my question, if you can.”
“I was at home the whole time reading and writing. I am preparing the final notes to my work regarding Giusti’s letters. My manservant can tell you, and if you don’t believe him, I have something better for you.”
“And what is that, pray?”
“I had a visit from my colleagues. An important meeting.”
Pellegrino Artusi’s expression was somewhat embarrassed.
“Some leftover business from the Banca di Sconto. Bank problems that won’t leave me in peace, even ten years after I gave up all my interests. We had to talk things over in some secrecy.”
Lorenzini gave Jarro a questioning look, the latter being familiar with clandestine Florentine matters. The journalist nodded. Artusi had lowered his eyes, but suddenly he looked up.
“If you’re looking for the guilty party, go look elsewhere.”
“Where? Do you have some idea?”
“You both know the chef Alberto, the tall, skinny fellow who looks like a crucified Christ. If anyone is pathologically jealous, he is: he’s envious, greedy and hostile to everyone by nature. Ceccone took work away from him because people line up at the Gambero Rosso to eat the dishes he tests for me. The two have come to blows more than once. I write for Pure Science, but Alberto wants my recipes for filthy lucre. Follow the obscene odor of money therefore . . . ”
Lorenzini took back the greasy sheets and stuck them in his pocket. Then he grabbed Jarro’s arm.
“Let’s go see Alberto. I know where he lives.”
“I thought so, you must have tried to persuade him to give you free meals too.”
“He’s a saint who does not grant favors. Let’s go, it’s getting late.”
Pellegrino Artusi stood up and grabbed his cane.
“Wait for me, I’m coming with you.”
Alberto’s house was on the last floor of a new apartment building on Piazza del Mercato Centrale, an immense pagoda of glass and steel, more striking than his Galleria in Milan, that architect Giuseppe Mengoni had constructed six years earlier. The three men were certain they would find the chef still asleep after his hard night’s work at the Osteria dell’Anatra, a stone’s throw from Via Nazionale. They made their way among the men carrying bloody meat carcasses on their backs and errand boys bearing huge baskets of red and yellow fruit. People swarmed around the Central Market pavilion and along the narrow streets adjacent to it. They ran into groups of filthy street urchins in tatters who looked at them hatefully, since they were dressed like gentlemen. Jarro stopped Artusi and Lorenzini before they reached the door.
“If he has a guilty conscience he’ll skip out through the service door, or maybe over the roofs. You two go and ring the bell, I’ll wait in the alley behind the building. He has no other way of escaping.”
Lorenzini watched him, amused.
“How come you know so much about these things?”
“I’m working on a novel that deals with police investigations.”
“You don’t say. What is it about? ”
“It has to do with thieves and corpses.”
“Really. Absolutely original.”
“I wouldn’t say so: Mary Shelley already cobbled something together about the dead, and Francesco Mastriani did something like it as well. But Florence lends itself quite well to dark tales. Look at what happened tonight . . . ”
They did as Jarro had suggested. Pellegrino Artusi rang the brass bell and they waited. A shutter flew open, up above, and a small head wearing a nightcap addressed them abruptly in a shrill, frightened voice, “Who are you? What do you want?”
“You know us, Alberto. Let us come up.”
The man hesitated, then withdrew his head like a snail in its shell and closed the window. Lorenzini and Artusi waited, but the door did not open. They rang again and nothing happened. Then, all of a sudden, they heard Jarro shouting over the buzz of the crowd, “Help, help! He’s getting away around the back!”
The two men had exceeded the age for pursuits by a long way, but they were still in very good health and began running toward Via del Gomitolo dell’Oro, the narrow street that led to San Lorenzo. Right away they spotted their corpulent friend puffing like a locomotive and pointing to the side of the basilica. They crossed the large square, pushing aside residents out for a stroll and women coming from the market. Someone threatened them with a knife, while up above shutters were thrown open and people leaned out to watch. Jarro was running, his belly dancing comically, but Lorenzini and Artusi, gritting their teeth so as not to appear weaker and older than their friend, paid no attention.
Alberto would easily have escaped if a carabiniere in full regimentals had not planted himself, legs wide apart and arms folded, in the middle of Borgo San Lorenzo. The chef practically ran into him and the policeman seized him by the neck, holding him up to his pursuers as if he were a giant puppet on a string:
“Is he yours, this scoundrel?”
The three friends answered yes in chorus. Excitedly they explained to the carabiniere that it was a personal matter, to be settled in private, and the policeman, observing Artusi’s muttonchops and Jarro’s elegant fur, made a wry face but handed over the prisoner.
As they gripped him by the arms, returning to the market square, Alberto the chef began to cry and whimper:
“I’ll give them back, I’ll give them back, I swear!”
“Coward! Why did you kill Ceccone?”
“No, no, what are you talking about? I haven’t killed anyone!”
“Then why were you running away?”
“The Banca di Sconto, the loans . . . ”
“What do you mean?”
Alberto, a sorry, frantic figure, pointed to Artusi with a trembling finger.
“Him, he’s the banker! His exorbitant interests ruined me . . . ”
The elderly writer and gastronomer was unable to suppress a burst of laughter.
“And you thought I had come to personally recover credits from a cook? That’s a good one.”
Alberto vigorously shook his head yes.
“Of course! You and your friends, as reinforcements.”
They let go of him in front of the entrance so he could take out his keys and open the door. Jarro was bent over, hands on his thighs and puffing, his face red as a beet: he looked like he would burst at any moment. They went up to the house and sat around the table in the small dining nook. Lorenzini shoved over the greasy pages with Artusi’s recipes.
“How do you explain these?”
The chef’s eyes popped.
“What does it mean?”
They told him everything in detail, not leaving anything out. Alberto shook his head incredulously. He firmly denied everything, and foiling them all, came up with a solid alibi: he had spent the night in lockup at Le Murate, as a result of a brawl in Piazza della Signoria. They had arrested him at sundown and released him at dawn.
“I am a serious professional, gentlemen. I would never ever kill a rival for such an ignoble motive! Besides, I too have copies of Artusi’s recipes.”
“Who gave them to you?”
“Ceccone! He’s been sharing them with me for six months now.” Jarro moaned, “Everybody has them but me!”
Artusi could not contain his mirth.
“Did he sell them to you?”
“Oh, no, sir. He gave me a copy of them in exchange for other favors: besides, it’s useless to fight among ourselves, restaurateurs of our standing. Don’t you think so? Look here.”
The chef showed them a series of systematically arranged notebooks. Artusi immediately recognized his own recipes, but the handwriting was very different from his: it appeared tentative, almost childish.
“I copied them myself. Why on earth would I want to harm him? He would have given me the last ones too, the ones for fried dishes . . . ”
Lorenzini shook his head.
“But meanwhile he himself was fried.”
“So Ceccone wasn’t killed for Science, nor for money. At least as far as we know.”
Lorenzini appeared discouraged. Jarro was shaking his head. His cheeks were still flushed from running.
“You got yourself into a fix, stealing those pages. Now, at the very least, they will suspect you.”
“If you are true friends, as I think you are, you will help me put the papers back in place. Then I’ll notify the Royal Guard, with an anonymous letter.”
“Not on your life: how crass. It’s not your style.”
“It’s not my style to end up in jail either.”
They decided not to lose time but to go immediately to the Trattoria del Gambero Rosso. Jarro and Artusi left Lorenzini in sight of the alley. The writer looked around, then hesitantly entered the narrow street. In broad daylight the act was much easier said than done, but luckily the shadows in the alleyway served to their advantage. The trattoria was closed out of respect for Ceccone’s death and no voices could be heard behind the service entry. Lorenzini bent down and slipped the recipes under the door. Then he stood up again and breathed a sigh of relief. Just at that moment the door flew open and a man with a surly face and dark moustache appeared, giving him a look that was half astonished and half threatening. Lorenzini blanched and scampered away like a rabbit.
The man with the moustache was waving his arms and running toward him. Then two Royal Guardsmen appeared. Lorenzini slipped on the frozen snow, in part because of age, in part due to fear. He glanced toward the opening of the alley: his friends had vanished, and he cursed them soundly. He dragged himself up and began running again, aching all over because of the fall, but he couldn’t make it against three younger men: they seized him by the arms almost immediately and carried him off without further ado. He protested at all costs, but to no avail. A carriage waited at the corner, and in a few minutes he found himself back at police headquarters again.
The guardsmen sat him down forcibly on a chair.
One of the cops laughed, showing his decayed teeth: – It’s a fact, here we put the innocent in jail and reward the wicked. It’s the country of Ninnynabbers!
They all roared with laughter. Lorenzini was very frightened: he imagined himself shackled to irons, in a damp, fetid cell, on bread and water. He spent a good half hour in anguish, then a door finally opened and a man in plain-clothes came in: he was tall and imposing, with pointy moustaches, and was very intimidating.
Lorenzini knew him: he was Deputy Masi, Florence’s dreaded Scumbagger. The man stood a while at the door with his thumbs hooked in his waistcoat. He watched him and smiled contemptuously. Then he went and sat down at the desk. He asked his first and last names, and who his father was. He checked the deposition of the previous night. Then he pointed an accusing finger at him: – My dear man, one does not withhold evidence from the police! What were you thinking of?
“I really don’t know,” Lorenzini stammered. “An impulse . . . ”
“An impulse! Or was it rather that you wanted to protect someone and decided to play at being a policeman?”
Lorenzini lowered his eyes not knowing what to answer. Deputy Masi changed his tone of voice and became more conciliatory.
“You recognized a handwriting that was well-known to you and jumped quickly to some conclusions. That were mistaken, my dear man. If you had had more confidence in those who are paid to protect you and all the other subjects of the Kingdom, you would have avoided suffering foolishly.”
Masi signalled one of his men who opened another door. A piercing scream, nearly inhuman, was heard: Lorenzini turned quickly and saw a policeman holding a filthy urchin, black with grime, tied to a rope like a dog. The boy had black curly hair and the red eyes of a demon. He was struggling like a fury, and two violent cuffs did nothing to calm him down. Lorenzini recognized him at once. Deputy Masi must have noticed it, because he smiled for the first time.
“We caught him in one of the grubby ratholes in the old ghetto. He was the one who killed the chef.”
Lorenzini stared wide-eyed. “Did you find Artusi’s notebook on him?”
“Of course not! That was in the frying pan, sunk in the oily sludge. We fished it out when we emptied it.”
“So then what happened?”
“The boy still had the blood-stained knife on him.”
Masi saw the look of astonishment on the part of the man he was interrogating and laughed again.
“Right, because you think Ceccone was fried to death in the frying pan. No, first they stuck a knife in his ribs.”
Masi sighed as if only at that moment did the horror of that story strike him.
“We found evidence: children’s bare feet, actual tracks that went from the door that leads to the alley to the stepladder and to the pantry. The door had been left open by mistake. The chef was perched on the ladder with the strap around his waist. He was stirring something in that monstrous frying pan with a long iron ladle . . . ”
Lorenzini nodded. The long, heavy ladle was lying on the floor when he discovered the murder. The Deputy continued.
“As soon as he went in, this little devil snatched what he could while his buddies waited outside. He’s their leader. But Ceccone acted violently too. He must have wielded the ladle like a cudgel while he was still secured to the strap. He began to strike out wildly and even hit the boy on the head: there are evident indications. The kid took advantage of the few seconds when the chef tried to free himself from the strap. He climbed the stepladder like a cat and stuck the knife between his ribs. Of the entire gang, he’s the only one capable of killing in such a savage, skillful way. Then, when Ceccone was dead, he cut the strap and let him fall into the frying pan. Maybe he hoped to make it look like an accident.”
“And the notebook?”
“Ceccone had it in his hand. Who knows what the devil he was planning to fry, at that hour of night. Maybe he was testing something. He must have considered it very precious indeed, given that he held onto it so tightly in the throes of death: his fist closed around the pages that you found, tearing them out. ”
At that point Masi again pointed his finger at him. “So then, do you recognize the boy? Was he or wasn’t he in that damned kitchen, last night? You were the only one to see him.”
Lorenzini nodded affirmatively. The boy howled like an animal as they carried him off again. Lorenzini remained silent. Masi got up and circled halfway around the chair.
“You’re a writer. Your pen name is Collodi, isn’t it? I enjoy reading your work. Continue spending your time on pleasant things, heed my words. Leave the crimes to us.”
Lorenzini looked at Deputy Masi one last time, shaking his head disconsolately.
“I thought he had been killed in the name of Science, then I considered professional jealousy, and finally money . . . the . . . what do you call them? Motives?”
“Precisely, motives. But you didn’t think of the most important one of all, the most overpowering, the one that motivates people and transforms them into animals . . . ”
Lorenzini’s eyes were imploring now.
“Hatred toward the well-to-do?”
The Deputy shook his head.
“Hatred? Not at all! It’s hunger, my dear man: hunger!”