I picked my way through the bodies and back to our compartment. Susyn was awake. She said, “How long is the line?”
“Twenty minutes if you go now. It will get five minutes longer every minute you wait.”
She checked her watch, rolled over, and said, “Call me when we get to Venice.”
I left her there and closed the door. Down the corridor a dozen feet there was a space for me to stand. I lowered the window and leaned my arms on it. Power poles were swishing by so I didn’t lean out, but the morning air came in to me, mingling the sweetness of a country sunrise on damp croplands with the acrid smell of diesel welling up out of the streets. We were on the outskirts of Mestre, where the last of the fields are eaten up by industry, and Venice was only forty minutes ahead of us.
I put my chin on my arms and closed by eyes, lost in the vibration, the coolness, and the smells.
Why the hell was I here?
Raven had not merely left me, she had left me for Eric. For Eric!
Ian Alisdair Gunn, don’t you have any pride at all?
I put myself on trial, spoke for the prosecution, spoke for the defense, and finally acquitted myself on a plea of partial disinterest.
When I had wakened to find Raven gone from the Hotel St. Lazare, I would have followed her anywhere. Some of that feeling had disappeared when I found out she was with Eric. More of it had been abraded away in the days that followed. By Montreaux, or Salsburg at the latest, I would have given her up, if it had only been romantic attraction that was driving me.
But . . .
But it was not just that. She was in danger. I had only to open my eyes to the scar on the back of my hand to remember that. Sometime during the last week, I had stopped hoping for a reconciliation, but I owed her safety if I could give it to her.
So far, so good.
Now dig deeper. Go past the rational and find the real reasons for chasing a phantom halfway across Europe. Go down where decisions are really made. Go down into the sub-basements of the soul, and there confront an injured pride and a jealous, primeval sense of possession. Go talk to Grendel. Go to where the squatting, black monster mutters to himself in the darkness, “How dare she leave me!”
Enough. If she wasn’t in Venice, I would stop looking for her.
* * *
Ah, but Venice . . .
In all of Europe, there is no place where I feel less at home, or more enthralled. Venice is not like any place else.
The train moved slowly out of the lightly industrial area of Mestre and onto the Ponte della Libertà. The sun was well above the horizon, and there was a mist on the lagoon that hid the smaller, more distant islands. The surface of the water was like glass. Alongside the Ponte on the south another bridge carried automobiles to the parking garage in the northwestern corner of Venice. It was the only place on the island they were allowed. Out from the Ponte a hundred yards were a series of pole-pylons set in the mud of the lagoon that marked a highway for small boats going to and from Venice. A lean, low wooden launch was keeping speed with us, it front risen slightly from the still water in an unloaded condition, and leaving a rolling wake that ruffled the silicon smooth surface of the water. more tomorrow