Carved in stone above an oblong of bare earth:
Emil Scevola Avogadro
August 3rd 1958 – October 12th 2006
“A confessore, medico e avvocato non tener il ver celato.”
It was approaching two o’clock, the sky the unappealing colour of a dirty dishcloth, the cemetery a morass of mud and wet grass. He had died of a heart attack, apparently no surprise as he suffered from angina. He’d been found collapsed on a bench at the train station. Maybe he’d been waiting to meet someone, perhaps had missed the last train. The station was unmanned at night so it was the early morning commuters who had found him, and though they’d called an ambulance he was already long gone.
A sound made me look up and I saw a figure approaching, a woman in a long coat of funereal black. A wide, dark-green wool scarf was wrapped like a hood over her head and covered much of her face, protecting her skin from the bitter wind. I expected her to turn, to approach one of the other graves but she made directly for the spot where I stood. By the time I realised this, it was too late for me to move off and she stopped opposite me, only now acknowledging I was there at all.
Strands of hair so fair it was almost silver escaped the hood, whipped by the wind, and eyes the colour of sea-washed pebbles regarded me with anger and frustration. She seemed familiar and I managed to place her as the woman in the devil’s costume at the party.
“I thought you’d come here,” she said. “I came and waited. You haven’t changed so much. But it’s not an act, is it? You don’t know me.”
“But you know me. And that guy dressed as a lizard – him too.”
“It was meant to be a snake,” she said inconsequentially and fell silent.
“So you all know me?” I said after a moment, unable to stand the quiet. I didn’t know whether to ask, or what to ask, or even if she’d tell me anything if I did.
“Oh yes,” she said. “Knew. I don’t know you now.”
“What’s your name?”
“Nerine. Not that it matters.”
Nerine. It didn’t mean anything to me. She was still a stranger. “Hi Nerine.”
“Why are you here?”
“To investigate a death. Two deaths now.” I indicated the gravestone. “Are you expecting something more?”
“Chance then, if I’m supposed to believe that. And you’re already causing problems – those bruises are real. I thought they had to be. But if you know nothing, then you are nothing. Looks like you already got a warning but ignored it. What’s the use of me saying anything? You won’t listen.”
“You can tell me…tell me…”
“No,” she said. Unexpectedly she reached out and touched my cheek. I recoiled, more out of instinct than anything. Her fingers were cold, sharp as the wind, cutting. “There are pieces missing. You’re not all here Dom.”
“Dom? What are you saying?”
“Dominic then." She stepped back and half turned, as if she were on about to leave.
Blood thundered in my ears, my heart pounding. I reached out to grab her but she wasn’t there. Overstretched and unbalanced, my foot slipped and I fell onto the muddy ground, my hands scouring shallow trenches in the wet soil.
Wind blew through the cemetery, shaking the branches. I was alone.