Dead Lagoon - 4

Dead Lagoon - 4 by Michael Dibdin Read Free Book Online

Book: Dead Lagoon - 4 by Michael Dibdin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Dibdin
Tags: Mystery & Detective
he was the nominal head. In fact this position was filled by his wife Rosalba, who had been Giustiniana Zen’s closest friend long before her marriage and was not about to desert her and the fatherless only child now that Rosalba’s prediction that the union in question would come to no good had, God forbid, come true.
    The result had been that Aurelio had grown up treating the Morosini house more or less as his own, and had often taken advantage of this freedom to escape from the intolerable spectacle of his mother weeping silently as she went about her work. The quarrels in Silvio’s and Rosalba’s home were frequent, open and vociferous, shows in which anyone present was expected to join, whether or not they were actually involved or indeed had any idea what the whole thing was supposed to be about. Everyone got their chance to yell and posture and strut about, and in the midst of these amateur dramatics the original cause of contention gradually frittered away, forgotten if not forgiven. The young Aurelio did not necessarily want to live permanently in such an atmosphere, but it certainly made a refreshing contrast to the stifling tensions of his own home, whose existence could not be admitted never mind assuaged.
    Like the whole neighbourhood, and the city itself, the Morosini house was of course a quieter place these days. Rosalba had continued to keep in touch by letter and phone when Giustiniana moved to Rome to be with her son, and Zen had thus been kept informed of the children’s marriages and of Silvio’s death the previous year. It was nevertheless a shock to be confronted by the old woman who came to greet him at the head of the stairs. On the phone, Rosalba still sounded much the same as ever, and Zen had irrationally been expecting her to look the same. But the vigorous, bustling woman he remembered now bore an astonishing resemblance to his fading memories of Rosalba’s grandmother, a legendary figure who had been born before Venice belatedly joined the newly unified Kingdom of Italy. All her features had drawn inwards towards each other, like a contracting universe, producing a compact, miniaturized version of the face he remembered.
    ‘Welcome home, Aurelio!’ she cried, embracing him repeatedly. ‘I hope you found everything as you expected it. I did the best I could in the time, but it’s no easy task to bring a house back from the dead when it’s stood empty for so many years.’
    Zen smiled warmly at her.
    ‘You did wonders, Rosalba. A real miracle.’
    Seeing her as she really was, he felt ashamed of having agreed to let her do the heavy work of preparing the house for his arrival, even though it had been her idea. He had merely phoned to let her know he was coming and to ask her to see if the house, to which she had a key, could be made habitable. He might have known that she would not trust anyone else to do the job properly.
    ‘Let me take your coat,’ Rosalba continued animatedly. ‘I expect you find it cold here now you’ve got used to living down south.’
    Zen sniffed the air appreciatively.
    ‘Something smells good.’
    ‘Oh, it’s nothing much. A little risoto de sepe col nero followed by sole. Come in, come in!’
    Installed in the large armchair in the living room, Zen sipped a glass of sparkling wine while Rosalba gave him a crash course in local news and gossip. The armchair had formerly been the throne from which Silvio Morosini had dispensed judgements and decrees and generally lorded it over his unruly clan. At that time, Zen would no more have dreamt of sitting in it than of touching the firm plump legs of Silvio’s elder daughter Antonia, who was then causing him so much distress and bewilderment as the first member of the opposite sex he found himself unable to dismiss as ‘just a girl’. Antonia, for her part, had regarded Zen as suitable football and playground fodder for her brothers, but of no conceivable personal interest to her whatsoever. And now she was

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