Suffer the Little Children

BOOK: Suffer the Little Children
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


About the Book

About the Author

Also by Donna Leon

Title Page




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26


About the Book

When Commissario Brunetti is summoned to the hospital bedside of a senior pediatrician whose skull has been fractured, he is confronted with more questions than answers. Three men – a Carabinieri captain and two privates from out of town – have burst into the doctor's apartment in the middle of the night, attacked him and taken away his eighteen-month old baby. What can have motivated such a violent assault by the police?

But then Brunetti begins to uncover a story of infertility, desperation, and an underworld in which babies can be bought for cash, at the same time as Inspector Vianello uncovers a money-making scam between pharmacists and doctors in the city. But one of the pharmacists is motivated by more than thoughts of gain – the power of knowledge and delusions of moral rectitude can be as destructive and powerful as love of money. And the uses of information about one's neighbours can lead to all kinds of corruption and all sorts of pain...

Donna Leon's new novel is as subtle and gripping as ever, set in a beautifully realised Venice, seething with small-town vice.

About the Author

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; including
in High Places
, which won the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction,
Through a Glass
Suffer the Little Children
, and most recently,
The Girl of His Dreams

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

Uniform Justice

Doctored Evidence

Blood from a Stone

Through a Glass, Darkly

The Girl of His Dreams

Suffer the Little Children
Donna Leon

For Ravi Mirchandani

Welche Freude wird das sein,

Wenn die Götter uns bedenken,

Unsrer Liebe Kinder schenken,

So liebe kleine Kinderlein!

How happy we will be

If the gods are gracious

And bless our love with children,

With darling little children!

Die Zauberflöte
The Magic Flute


‘. . .
daughter-in-law told me that I should come in and tell you about it. I didn't want to, and my husband told me I was an idiot to get involved with you because it would only lead to trouble, and he's got enough trouble at the moment. He said it would be like the time when his uncle's neighbour tapped into the ENEL line and started to steal his electricity, and he called to report it, and when they came, they told him he had to . . .'

‘Excuse me, Signora, but could we go back to what happened last month?'

‘Of course, of course, but it's just that it ended up costing him three hundred thousand lire.'


‘My daughter-in-law said if I didn't do it,
she'd call you herself, and since I'm the one who saw it, it's probably better that
come and tell you, isn't it?'


‘So when the radio said it was going to rain this morning, I put my umbrella and boots by the door, just in case, but then it didn't, did it?'

‘No, it didn't, Signora. But you said you wanted to tell me about something unusual that happened in the apartment opposite you?'

‘Yes, that girl.'

‘Which girl, Signora?'

‘The young one, the pregnant one.'

‘How young do you think she was, Signora?'

‘Oh, maybe seventeen, maybe older, but maybe younger. I have two boys, you know, so I could tell if she was a boy, but she was a girl.'

‘And you said she was pregnant, Signora?'

‘Yes. And right at the end of it. In fact, that's why I told my daughter-in-law, and that's when she told me I had to come and tell you about it.'

‘That she was pregnant?'

‘That she had the baby.'

‘Where did she have the baby, Signora?'

‘Right there, in the
across from my place. Not out in the
, you understand. In the apartment across the
. It's a little way down from my place, opposite the house next door, really, but because the house sticks out a little bit, I can see into the windows, and that's where I saw her.'

‘Where is this exactly, Signora?'

‘Calle dei Stagneri. You know it. It's near San Bortolo, the
that goes down to Campo de la Fava. I live down on the right side, and she was on the left, on the same side as that pizzeria, only we're both down at the end, near the bridge. The apartment used to belong to an old woman – I never knew her name – but then she died and her son inherited it, and he started to rent it out, you know, the way people do, by the week, to foreigners, or by the month.

‘But when I saw the girl in there, and she was pregnant, I thought maybe he'd decided to rent it like a real apartment, you know, with a lease and all. And if she was pregnant, she'd be one of us and not a tourist, right? But I guess there's more money if you rent by the week, especially to foreigners. And then you don't have to pay the . . .

‘Oh, I'm sorry. I suppose that isn't important, is it? As I was saying, she was pregnant, so I thought maybe they were a young couple, but then I realized I never saw a husband in there with her.'

‘How long was she there, Signora?'

‘Oh, no more than a week, maybe even less. But long enough for me to get to know her habits, sort of.'

‘And could you tell me what they were?'

‘Her habits?'


‘Well, I never saw too much of her. Only when she walked past the window and went into the kitchen. Not that she ever cooked anything, at
least not that I saw. But I don't know anything about the rest of the apartment, so I don't know what she did, really, while she was there. I suppose she was just waiting.'


‘For the baby to be born. They come when they want.'

‘I see. Did she ever notice you, Signora?'

‘No. I've got curtains, you see, and that place doesn't. And the
's so dark that you can't really see into the windows on the other side, but about two years ago, whenever it was, they put one of those new street lamps just across from her place, so it's always light there at night. I don't know how people stand them. We sleep with our shutters closed, but if you didn't have them, I don't know how you'd get a decent night's sleep, do you?'

‘Not at all, Signora. You said you never saw her husband, but did you ever see any other people in there with her?'

‘Sometimes. But always at night. Well, in the evening, after dinner, not that I ever saw her cook anything. But she must have, mustn't she, or someone must have taken her food? You have to eat when you're pregnant. Why, I ate like a wolf when I was expecting my boys. So I'm sure she must have eaten, only I never saw her cook anything. But you can't just leave a pregnant woman in a place and not feed her, can you?'

‘Certainly not, Signora. And who was it you saw in the apartment with her?'

‘Sometimes men would come in and sit around the table in the kitchen and talk. They smoked, so they'd open the window.'

‘How many men, Signora?'

‘Three. They sat in the kitchen, at the table, with the light on, and they talked.'

‘In Italian, Signora?'

‘Let me think. Yes, they spoke Italian, but they weren't us. I mean they weren't Venetian. I didn't know the dialect, but it wasn't Veneziano.'

‘And they just sat at the table and talked?'


‘And the girl?'

‘I never saw her, not while they were there. After they left, sometimes she would come out into the kitchen and maybe get a glass of water. At least, I'd see her at the window.'

‘But you didn't speak to her?'

‘No, as I told you, I never had anything to do with her, or with those men. I just watched her and wished she'd eat something. I was so hungry when I was pregnant with Luca and Pietro. I ate all the time. But I was lucky that I never gained too much . . .'

‘Did the men eat, Signora?'

‘Eat? Why, no, I don't think they ever did. That's strange, isn't it, now that you mention it? They didn't drink anything, either. They just sat there and talked, like they were waiting for a vaporetto or something. After they left, sometimes she'd go into the kitchen, but she never turned the light on. That was the funny thing: she never turned the lights on at night, not
anywhere in the apartment, at least anywhere I could see. I could see the men sitting there, but I saw her only during the day or, sometimes, when she walked past a window at night.'

‘And then what happened?'

‘Then one night I heard her calling out, but I didn't know what she was saying. One of the words might have been
but I'm not really sure. And then I heard a baby. You know the noise they make when they're born? Nothing like it in the world. I remember when Luca was born . . .'

‘Was anyone else there?'

‘What? When?'

‘When she had the baby.'

‘I didn't see anyone, if that's what you mean, but there must have been someone. You can't just leave a girl to have a baby on her own, can you?'

‘At the time, Signora, did you wonder why she was living in the apartment alone?'

‘Oh, I don't know. Maybe I thought her husband was away or that she didn't have one, and then the baby came too fast for her to get to the hospital.'

‘It's only a few minutes to the hospital from there, Signora, isn't it?'

BOOK: Suffer the Little Children
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Keeper of Hands by J. Sydney Jones
The Greek Tycoon's Secret Heir by Katherine Garbera
The Critic by Joanne Schwehm
Bethlehem Road by Anne Perry
A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter
A Toast to Starry Nights by Serra, Mandi Rei