THE BELLINI CARD (Chapter 1)
HE sank slowly through the dark water, arms out, feet pointed: like a Christ, or a dervish, casting a benediction on the sea.
The stone at his feet hit the mud with a soft explosion, his knees buckled, and in a moment he was bowing gracefully with the tide. He had always been graceful, pliant, too, when fixing a price, a man who traded and left something in the deal for the other fellow.
Overhead, the killer turned his head from side to side, alert to the slightest motion in the darkness, feeling the rain on his face. He stood for a few minutes, waiting and watching, before he blinked, turned, and padded softly from the bridge, to be swallowed up by the night and the alleyways of the sleeping city.
The tide ebbed. The water sucked at the green weed that lined the walls, gurgled around old pilings, and slipped and receded from worn stone steps. It sank, nudging the trader closer to the sea on which, in her days of glory, the city had made her fortune. Beneath Byzantine domes, dilapidated palaces, and tethered boats the corpse was hustled noiselessly toward the sea, arms still flung wide in a gesture of vacant welcome.
Yet some obstruction, a block of stone or loop of rotten rope, must have checked his passage for a time, for when dawn broke, and the tide slackened, the trader was still yards away from the deep waters of the Riva dei Schiavoni into which he would have otherwise sunk without further trace.
THE BELLINI CARD Copyright © 2008 by Jason Goodwin