Chapter 20 Summary
The children put Victor on top of a blanket on the cold tiles of the theater’s men’s room. He lies in the darkness, all tied up, and feels angry at himself for being caught and trapped by a group of mere children. As he struggles against his ropes, he hears someone coming. When he sees it is Prosper, he feels relieved. Prosper removes the gag from Victor’s mouth and sits looking at him.
Victor asks Prosper to untie him. When Prosper refuses, Victor sends him to get the box by the front door. Prosper comes back laughing that a detective carries a tortoise around with him. Victor says sternly that the children will be “in a lot of trouble” if the tortoise, Paula, is hurt. Prosper lets her out of the box for a little exercise, and Victor says that if the gang plans to keep him hostage, they have to go feed Paula’s husband, who is back at Victor’s apartment.
Prosper asks Victor how his aunt found out he was in Venice, but Victor does not know. Prosper says that his mother told them stories about the city for years, and he and Bo were surprised and pleased when they found the city just as she described, with houses on stilts, winged lions, canals. Victor tries to convince Prosper that he cannot care for Bo without the help of adults and that life would be better for Prosper in school, without all the worries of looking after his brother. Prosper insists that this is not true and that he would gladly work to support himself and Bo if he could.
Not long later, Bo comes in. He sits down and begins playing with Paula the tortoise; he is apparently unsurprised that she is there. Bo turns to Victor and insists that he and Prosper do not “belong” to Aunt Esther. Victor says children have to be somebody’s, and Bo asks who Victor belongs to. Victor is unsure what to say, and he stammers that things are different for adults. Bo is not convinced, and he tells Victor to call Aunt Esther and say the boys fell off a bridge and drowned.
During the conversation, Bo almost slips and tells Victor about Scipio’s upcoming burglary, but Prosper stops him. Victor is on the brink of saying something about Scipio, but Prosper is too busy taking care of Bo to listen. He leads Bo out of the room saying, “You can’t trust someone like him.” After the boys leave, Victor falls asleep wondering whether he could really convince Esther that the boys had drowned.