Bartolo Desideri rose and came out from behind his desk to shake hands with the tall, broad man in motorcycle leathers who had been shown into his office. “And to what do I owe the pleasure,” he asked pleasantly, “Of a visit from the sotto capo of the Canis Hadi?”
“I am not here,” Boscailo Littori admitted genially, “As a representative of the Canis, Don Matteo knows nothing of this visit. I am here in my private capacity as a husband. I’m sure you are aware that my wife’s younger sister has recently passed into your care. My wife is distraught over her little sister’s situation and I hope to be able to provide her with some relief for her concerns.”
“So,” Bartolo smiled, “You are here on behalf of the Strefagi?”
“Not at all,” Boscailo disagreed amiably, “I’m here in my own self interest. My wife, delightful woman that she is, has always, for reasons I‘ve never quite understood, seen me as some sort of romantic hero. I’ve been happy to bask in this rose-tinged view of the world, particularly as it seems to give me some leeway with dirty boots on clean floors. However, now it behoves me to do something in order allay her fears.”
“In order to maintain your immunity in the area of dirty boots,” Bartolo smiled and indicated a chair in front of the desk, “Please sit down.”
“Thank you,” Boscailo sat then continued while Bartolo retook his own seat, “Not just boots, there’s cooking too. My wife is a wonderful cook but she’s been a little distracted the last few days. If matters were to deteriorate to the stage of burnt dinners, it would be a tragedy and a possible crime against humanity.”
“I see,” Bartolo laced his fingers together in front of him on the desk, “So what can we do to make your wife happier?”
When Boscailo returned to his parents-in-law’s home there was a large, black car parked in the driveway. He considered the clearance on either side of it, sighed, and parked his motorbike next to the curb. He walked up to the front door, nodding to the man who now stood beside it, and knocked. It was his mother-in-law who opened the door and let him in.
After she locked the door again she hugged him and demanded, “How did it go? Is she alright?” before stepping aside and handing him over to his wife.
Tertia hugged him too. “Are you all right? Did you see her?”
An arm around Tertia, Boscailo answered both of them. “Count Bartolo and I had a very civilised conversation and yes, I saw and spoke to Septima. I’ll tell you the rest when we’re all together. Kitchen or dining room?"
“Dining room,” his mother-in-law answered shortly with a nod of her head in the right direction. “I’ll get the rest of the girls. Filia’s eldest can keep an eye on things out there.” She added darkly, “She’s here.”
Boscailo nodded. “The car was hard to miss.”