Holmes leaned forward and gazed out the window of our first-class car.
We had boarded the train in Florence that morning in response to a telegram from Lestrade informing us that Professor Moriarty had been observed leaving Trentino.
“He is certainly bound for Venice,” my friend said. “His agent, Col. Moran, last month reserved a loggia near the Rialto Bridge.”
I followed Holmes’ gaze. He was observing a small band of duck hunters near a pond. They appeared to be concealing themselves and their fowling pieces with brush.
“They are fashioning a duck blind,” Holmes remarked.
I was struck by a sudden thought.
“Of course,” I cried. “I’ve heard of these. The type is peculiar to Northern Italy. They are called, I believe, ‘Venetian blinds.’”
Holmes stared at me with some wonderment. I could barely contain my pride: it was not often that I impressed him.
From the train station, we took a dog cart to the Grand Canal and hired a gondola.
Holmes directed the gondolier to take us first to the Piazza San Marco, then the Palazzo Ducale, the Bridge of Sighs, and finally the Rialto.
Holmes knew the canals well, both by name and with regard to their intersections with other canals.
“This one is known as ‘Il Travatore,’” he said. “And now we are at the crossing with ‘Santa Lucia.’”
Halfway along a canal he identified as “La Dolce,” Holmes had our pilot halt at a jetty that served a small mercato called Fratelli Hannafordi. Holmes returned with fruit, sandwiches and a bottle of wine.
“I recommend this Chardonnay,” he said. “The vineyards are just north of here in the Dolomites along the Italian Alps. The Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios of this region are elegant and crisp with floral tones and a suggestion of exotic fruit. They are also astonishingly inexpensive.”
At that very moment, Holmes stiffened.
“The game is afoot, Watson.”
He was observing a tall, stooped figure striding purposefully toward a four-wheeler that bore a considerable freight of trunks and travel luggage.
“It’s Moriarty! He’s aware of our presence. He’s leaving Venice!”
Holmes urged our young gondolier to make haste, but before we could reach the landing the carriage had sped away.
Holmes muttered a suppressed oath.
Our gondolier responded with that most Italian concert of gestures: a dramatic shrug that brought his shoulders to his ears as he turned his palms toward us and extended his lower lip. “Non e culpa mia.” (“It’s not my fault.”)
Holmes chuckled, accepting defeat. He suggested lunch.
“We shall pair this fine, dry, straw-yellow Mezzacorona Chardonnay with panini and fomaggio in that most agreeable of canals.”
I was intrigued.
“And the name of that canal?”
“Alimentary, my dear Watson.”
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