Read The Silence of the Wave Online

Authors: Gianrico Carofiglio

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers, #Suspense

The Silence of the Wave (20 page)

After a while she came to a door that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, right there in the middle of the grass, complete with frame and handle. To my enormous surprise Ginevra opened it, went in and disappeared, as if there was a house or a room or something behind the door.

But there was only lawn. I walked around it two or three times and that’s all there was.

“What is this door, Scott?”

Forget about it, chief. Let’s get out of here
.

“What do you mean, let’s get out of here? What happened to Ginevra?”

Scott sighed and sat down. He seemed worried.

Ginevra is in her room, asleep. Now let’s get out of here
.

“I’m going through, she needs my help.”

I wouldn’t do that, chief
.

“I’m going.”

I didn’t wait for his reply and didn’t even look at him. I opened the door, went in, closed the door behind me, and found myself in a dark room. There was a slight scent in the air and it took me a while to realize that it was Ginevra’s. When my eyes were accustomed to the darkness, I started to make out what was in the room. A desk with a computer, exercise books, pens, magazines; a cabinet with one door half open; shelves with dolls, a few books, a radio, a little TV set; a lopsided Justin Bieber poster—I think he’s a real idiot, but the girls like him a lot.

And then the bed, where Ginevra was fast asleep, even though she’d only gotten in a few seconds earlier.

I went closer. Her breathing was a bit irregular, she had her arms around the pillow, and she looked very beautiful. After a while I saw her purse her lips, like someone who’s about to start crying and is trying to restrain herself.

“Help …” she whispered.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, but she didn’t hear me. She was asleep.

“Please help me …”

“I
want
to help you. But you must tell me what’s going on.”

She didn’t hear me, and after a few seconds she started crying in her sleep.

The whole thing made me crazy. I had to wake her, I thought, and tell her not to cry, tell her I was there to protect her and she just had to tell me what was going on and I would solve everything. So I put a hand on her shoulder and at that precise moment I felt a kind of electric shock spreading from my hand all over my body. I had a frightening vision—dozens of devils jumping on me all together with a disgusting noise—and then I woke up with a start, as if someone had flung me from one side to the other.

* * *

I’d never before woken up like that since I’d been going to the park.

I woke up full of nasty premonitions, and it wasn’t a good day, after that dream and that awakening. At school I was more distracted than usual and my math teacher got quite angry. She said it was as if I wasn’t in class but always somewhere else.

Ginevra too—as always since she’d come back—was completely distracted. It seemed to me that we were
like two strangers in that class. For different reasons we were completely out of place.

When we left school I followed her. I saw her walking away quickly, almost as if escaping. So I ran along the other side of the street, went about fifty yards past her, then crossed over and turned back as if that was my direction.

I don’t know what I wanted to do. Maybe I wanted to stop her and talk to her, ask her what was wrong, offer her my help.

But when I reached her she didn’t even look at me, didn’t even
see
me. She passed right by me and was gone.

24

Roberto set off and the memories of childhood suddenly came crowding in. Some were set in the welcoming semidarkness of his childhood home, others in the sunlight and the blinding foam of the waves.

The memories set in his home were full of little noises, a constant, benevolent murmur: the door of his bedroom opening and closing with a familiar, reassuring creak; his mother talking on the phone in English with the Italian accent she was so proud of; water running in the bathroom; the voices on television when he was already in bed at night; his mother’s soft, slightly shuffling footsteps early in the morning.

The memories of light and sea, on the other hand, were silent. Cool wind, waves with glossy crests, surfboards running, bodies tossed by the power of the water. All without noise and without voices.

As he walked, enveloped by this swarm of memories, Roberto stepped into a puddle and soiled his shoe. Then he started speaking. In a low voice, a whisper, but
so precise and articulate that if anyone had been close enough they would have been able to hear distinctly what he was saying.

“You remember the closet where we keep the shoes and all the stuff for cleaning them? I’m seven or eight years old and I’m sitting on the floor in that little room. I’m there to polish my father’s shoes. It’s something I do every week, polish my father’s shoes. There are rules to follow in polishing shoes. First of all, you have to remove the dust, to avoid it getting mixed with the polish and making a disgusting mess. To remove the dust, there’s a big light brown brush with hard bristles. Once you’ve removed all the dust, you can get on with the polishing. You have to apply a little polish and then spread it with a second brush, which is smaller and black with soft bristles, until it’s all been absorbed and has even penetrated the stitching. Now the shoe is ready for the most important operation, the buffing. This should be done with a soft cloth and is the pleasantest part of it, because the shoe that was opaque starts to shine—it’s transformed in front of your eyes.”

A welcoming memory, like when you go to bed in clean, nice-smelling sheets: you’re really tired and you know that in a couple of minutes you’ll fall asleep and you savor that brief, delicious space of time in which you can huddle in bed and hug the pillow and imagine all kinds of pleasant things, knowing you’re safe and secure.

Roberto felt like another cigarette. He’d quit tomorrow, or maybe the day after tomorrow. Or maybe not.
Anyway, he wanted to smoke that cigarette in peace, sitting down, savoring the cool late-April night.

Without knowing how he had got there, he realized that he was crossing the park between the Via Flaminia and the Viale Tiziano. He chose a bench in the semidarkness, some sixty or seventy feet from the all-night flower stall. He sat down, lit a cigarette, smoked it, and then started speaking again.

“Do you remember the living room at home? Outside, it’s still dark but the sky is starting to get lighter. I’m sitting on the sofa, ready to go out, and I’m waiting for my father, who’s finishing packing his bag, or maybe doing something else; I don’t know. I can smell his aftershave in the air. In a while we’ll go out and head for the sea. Some beautiful waves are forecast for today. The door is ajar and a light wind blows in from outside and makes the curtains billow in the half-light. I don’t know why, but it’s those curtains stirred by the wind that bring the tears to my eyes. Then that image disappears and in its place is the shimmer of the sea at sunrise. Seen from a distance, the big waves give the impression that the sea is breathing. We’re there, looking down on it, with our surfboards, and our wetsuits already on, and the wind brings us the salt smell of the sea, and in a little while we’ll go down to the beach and go into the water.”

“Signore?”

And then again, with a touch of impatience: “Signore, is everything all right?”

Roberto looked up in the direction of the voice. The
first thing he saw was the Carabinieri symbol on the cap, and beneath it the stripe showing the rank: corporal. Beneath that was the forty-something scarred face of someone who hadn’t been spared acne when he was a boy, with the calm but also somewhat circumspect expression of someone who is familiar with the denizens of the night, knows how to deal with them, and knows that sometimes—not often but sometimes, and you never know when it may happen—they have nasty surprises for you. Behind him, about ten feet away, standing next to a car, a much younger carabiniere.

“Thanks, yes, everything’s fine.”

“Do you have your papers on you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you mind showing them to me?”

“No, I don’t mind.”

He got out his wallet and was about to show his ID but at the last moment changed his mind. He took out his driving license and handed it to the corporal.

“Wait here.”

“Sure, I’m in no hurry,” he said. He felt a strange sensation, as if comforted by waking up with that Carabinieri uniform in front of him. He liked being there, being checked out, on that spring night, waiting for the morning to get under way. He felt lucid, master of the situation. Alert.

The corporal walked away with the license, reached the car, and got in.

They’re checking on the computer to find out who
I am, he told himself. When they find out, maybe they could tell me. Maybe I’ll ask them. The thought cheered him up somehow. He laughed, imagining the corporal’s reaction to a question like that. He didn’t seem like someone endowed with a sense of humor.

A few minutes later the corporal got out of the car and came back to Roberto, who had lit another cigarette in the meantime.

“Here’s your license, signore. Do you know what time it is?”

“About three?”

“It’s almost four. Why are you in the park at this hour, so far from your home? Did something happen to you?”

Did something happen to me? Of course something happened to me. Lots of things have happened to me, but I don’t think now is the time to tell you about them.

“No, corporal, thank you. Nothing’s ever happened to me. It’s just that I couldn’t get to sleep and so I came out to have a walk and a bit of a smoke. Now I’m going home. On foot. Long walks relax me.” And then, after calculating the time when the men’s shift would end, he added, “You two still have a couple of hours left, don’t you?”

He stood up from the bench, saluted the carabiniere, who looked at him in surprise, and set off toward home.

Giacomo

Yesterday during break I saw Davide Morandi, my classmate from primary school, who’s now in 2C, while I’m in 2D. He’s a nice guy, but obsessed with sex: once, in the last year of primary, he got caught by a teacher looking through a porn magazine under his desk. Just before, he’d let me have a quick glance, and I don’t think I’d ever seen anything so disgusting.

He asked me if I’d heard anything about videos shot on mobile phones in the toilets of a disco. He said that if you paid it was possible to get a hand job, or more, from some of the girls in the school. You had to see some guys from secondary school who took the money and provided the girls. He said he thought a girl from my class might be involved.

I didn’t want to hear any more. I said I didn’t know anything about it, that I thought it was a load of bullshit, and that I had to go back to my class anyway.

For the rest of the morning, though, Morandi’s words bounced around my head, and a suspicion started
growing inside me, something I didn’t even have the courage to think about.

Today I tried asking around a bit. The boys didn’t have any idea what I was talking about, and anyway—they thought without saying it—I really didn’t seem like the kind of person who’d ask questions like that.

Then finally I found someone from the final year of middle school who knew something. Last year our classes went on a school trip together and we became almost friends because we’re both crazy about fantasy fiction.

This guy told me there were things going on that it was best not to get into. There were guys older than us involved, real criminals. Apparently, the girls were forced to do what they did, the guys blackmailed them with secretly shot porn videos, and there were also drugs around. In other words, best to steer well clear.

I told him I’d never imagined that things were like that, and thanks for the warning, I’d certainly drop it, so see you, I’m going back to class. Oh, by the way, just out of curiosity, did he happen to know if anybody from my class was involved in any of that stuff? Oh, they did mention that blonde girl, the pretty one, what was her name? Ginevra, maybe? That’s the one. See you.

The last hours in class were a nightmare. Ginevra was sitting at her desk, with the same absent expression she’s had since she came back to school. As I looked at her, I remembered the disgusting images from that porn magazine I’d peered at two years earlier, and the next
thing I thought was that I was in love with her and had to find a way to help her.

In the end I made up my mind: I would talk to her on the way out, I would ask her what was wrong and offer her my help, even though I obviously had no idea what form this help could take.

When the bell rang for the last hour, I had already prepared my rucksack. I was the first out and waited for her to arrive. I started walking just behind her down the corridor, as if it was a chance thing. She didn’t notice me until I summoned up the courage to call her by name. It was the first time.

“Ginevra …”

She turned, still walking, and looked at me as if she didn’t know me.

“Ginevra … I … the thing is, I wanted to tell you that if … if you need help for any reason … well, I’m here for you, you just have to tell me.”

What I was saying was so incoherent, I felt like an idiot the moment I said it. She looked at me a second or two longer, but she wasn’t really looking at me, and then she left without even answering.

I was in a real state by the time I got home, wondering what I could do, and I continued wondering all afternoon. A few ideas came into my mind—talk to the teachers, go to the police, stop Ginevra and force her to tell me what was going on—but I ruled them all out because they seemed completely impractical.

I told myself that if my father was still around I’d have been able to talk to him about it and, thinking about my father, I realized the only thing I could really do.

Something obvious. The most obvious thing of all.

I should have thought of it earlier, I know, but when you’re a boy it isn’t easy to talk to your mother about certain subjects.

25

The telephone rang four or five times before Roberto managed to find it in the kitchen, between the coffee maker, the chipped cups, and a half-empty package of cookies.

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