Beastly Things

Beastly Things by Donna Leon

Book: Beastly Things by Donna Leon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donna Leon
sight of the dead man, the young woman said, ‘Yes, he’s been here a few times. The last time was about two months ago.’
    ‘Did you serve him, Signorina?’ Brunetti asked.
    ‘Yes, I did. But we didn’t have his size, and he didn’t want anything else.’
    Turning to the other woman, Brunetti inquired, ‘Do you remember him, Signora?’
    ‘No, I don’t. We get so many clients in here,’ she said, and indeed just then two women, their arms laden with bags, entered the shop. Without bothering to excuse herself, the manager went over and asked if she could help them.
    Brunetti asked the young woman – really little more than a girl – ‘Do you remember anything about him, Signorina? You said he’d been in before?’
    Brunetti’s hopes were still set on a credit card purchase. The young woman thought for a moment and then said, ‘A few times. In fact, once he came in wearing a pair of shoes and bought the same ones.’
    Brunetti glanced at Vianello, whose manner was often better at encouraging responses. ‘Do you remember anything special about him, Signorina? Or did he strike you in a particular way?’ the Inspector asked.
    ‘You mean that he had got so big and was so sad?’
    ‘Was he?’ Vianello asked with every appearance of deep concern.
    Before answering, she seemed to think back to the man’s time in the shop. ‘Well, he’d gained weight: I noticed that, even under his winter jacket, and he didn’t really say anything that would make me think he was lonely or sad or anything. But he seemed it; sort of quiet and not paying much attention to things.’ Then, to make things clear to both of them, she said, ‘He tried on about eight pairs of shoes, and the boxes were lying all around him on the floor and on the chair next to him. When he was finished, and he still couldn’t find the ones he wanted, he said – I guess he felt guilty about making me go and get so many of them. Maybe that’s why I remember him – he said that he’d help me put them back in the boxes. But he put a black one in with a brown one, and then when there was only one shoe left, a black one, and the only box left had a brown shoe in it, we had to open them all up again and put the right shoes in.
    ‘He was very embarrassed and apologized for it.’ She thought about this for some time and said, ‘No one ever bothers with that, you know. They try on ten, fifteen pairs of shoes, and then they walk out without even saying thank you. So to have somebody who treated me like a real person, well, it was very nice.’
    ‘Did he give you his name?’
    ‘No.’
    ‘Or say anything about himself that you remember?’
    She smiled at this. ‘He said he liked animals.’
    ‘I beg your pardon,’ Brunetti said.
    ‘Yes, that’s what he said. When I was helping him, a woman came in, one of our regulars. She’s very rich: you can tell it by looking at her – the way she dresses and all, and the way she talks. But she has this really sweet old dog that she got from the shelter. I asked her about it once, and she said she always gets her dogs from the shelter, and she asks for old ones. You’d expect a woman like that to have an, oh, I don’t know, one of those disgusting little things that sits on your lap, or a poodle or something. But she’s got this silly little mutt; maybe it’s part beagle, but you’d never know what the other part is. And she adores it, and the dog loves her. So I guess it’s all right that she’s so rich,’ she said, causing Brunetti to wonder if the revolution was closer to hand than he thought.
    ‘And why did he say he likes animals?’ Vianello asked.
    ‘Because when he saw the dog, he asked the woman how old it was, and when she said it was eleven, he asked her if she’d had it checked for arthritis.
    ‘She said she hadn’t, and he said that, from the way the dog walked, he’d guess it had it. Arthritis.’
    ‘What did the woman say?’ the Inspector asked.
    ‘Oh, she thanked him. I told

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