Ivo Palazzi had spent almost ten years carefully and skillfully building an intricate double life that not even his closest associates had penetrated.
It took Max Hornung and his computer friends in Rome less than twenty-four hours. Max held discussions with the computer at the Anagrafe Building, where vital statistics and city-administration data were kept, and he visited the computers at SID, and went to call on the bank computers. They all welcomed Max.
Tell me about Ivo Palazzi, Max said.
Happily, they replied.
The conversations began.
A grocery bill from Amici...a beauty salon bill from Sergio in the Via Condoitti...one blue suit from Angelo...flowers from Carducci...two evening dresses from Irene Galitzine...shoes from Gucci...a Pucci purse...utility bills...
Max kept reading the print-outs, examining, analyzing, smelling. Something smelled wrong. There were tuition fees for six children.
Have you made an error? Max asked.
Sorry. What type of error?
The computers at Anagrafe told me that Ivo Palazzi is registered as the father of three children. Do you verify six tuition fees?
You show Ivo Palazzi's address as being in Olgiata?
That is correct.
But he is paying for an apartment in Via Monte-mignaio?
Are there two Ivo Palazzis?
No. One man. Two families. Three daughters by his wife. Three sons by Donatella Spolini.
Before Max was through, he knew the tastes of Ivo's mistress, her age, the name of her hairdresser, and the names of Ivo's illegitimate children. He knew that Simonetta was a blonde, and Donatella a brunette. He knew what size dresses and bras and shoes each wore and how much they cost.
Among the expenses several interesting items caught Max's eye. The amounts were small, but they stood out like beacons. There was a receipted check for a lathe, a plane and a saw. Ivo Palazzi liked to work with his hands. Max thought about the fact that an architect would probably know something about elevators.
Ivo Palazzi applied for a large bank loan recently, the computers informed Max.
Did he receive it?
No. The bank asked him to have his wife cosign. He withdrew the request.
Max took a bus to the Polizia Scientifica center at EUR, where the giant computer was kept in a large round room.
Does Ivo Palazzi have a criminal record? Max asked.
Affirmative. Ivo Palazzi was convicted on an as-sault-and-battery charge at age twenty-three. His victim went to the hospital. Palazzi went to jail for two months.
Ivo Palazzi keeps a mistress at Via Montemignaio.
Thank you. I know.
There are several police reports of complaints from neighbors.
What sort of complaints?
Disturbing the peace. Fighting, yelling. One night she smashed all the dishes. Is that important?
Very, Max said. Thank you.
So Ivo Palazzi had a temper. And Donatella Spolini had a temper. Had something happened between her and Ivo? Was she threatening to expose him? Was that why he had suddenly gone to the bank for a large loan? How far would a man like Ivo Palazzi go to protect his marriage, his family, his way of life?
There was one final item that caught the little detective's attention. A large payment had been made to Ivo Palazzi by the financial section of the Italian security police. It was a reward, a percentage of the money found on the banker whom Ivo had turned in. If Ivo Palazzi was that desperate for money, what else would he do for it?
Max bade farewell to his computers and caught a noon flight to Paris on Air France.