The carabinieri and men crossed a rough country road that divided the plateau that served as the backdrop for the spaghetti westerns.
“This is the battlefield of the truffle hunters,” Mr. Tomasseti said as he got out of the car near the scene of the chocolate lab sinking. A specially trained Belgian Shepherd, Asia, jumped out of the Van der Carabinieri.
“Search,” Mr. Formichetti said.
When Asia investigated, Mr. Tomassetti and his friends complained that there was an “omerta” or mafioso code of silence among truffle hunters.
“Maybe it’s one of us,” he said.
“Don’t look at me when you say that!” said his friend Mario Morganti, 62.
Some suspected a local drinking coffee in the town pub.
“I’ll hide in the woods,” said Mr. Bravi. A dozen years ago he nearly lost his own dog, also named Bella, to poison. He already had a video camera installed in his jeep to see who was approaching while he was out with his dogs. “It’s working now. And then if I catch him and see him in the piazza, I’ll break his little hands.”
Asia ended her search without finding any evidence. Mr. Tomasseti then let his Bella out of the back of his jeep but carefully kept her on the leash. As they went deeper into the forest, he released them. She found truffles and then she found the fox’s body.
After the carabinieri brought the body back to the lab, Mr. Tomasseti and the others returned to their jeeps. As Bella scratched at her box, he looked out at the forest and complained that the local truffle hunters wanted it all to themselves. The jeep headed back to Rome and he escorted Bella outside the maximum security prison near his home.
“That’s where,” he said, “these murderers belong.”