The Commissario sat neatly in the chair. The Bishop had chairs that were big enough for him. “A Class A firearm, sir. One of three in the bag.” The Bishop gave him all of his attention. “In addition, there were a number of Class B firearms that appear to be unregistered. The Public Prosecutor has already been advised of the matter and I understand that the paperwork to bring the matter before the preliminary investigative judge may already be underway.”
“I was privileged to see the kick that young man made that felled the woman in question,” Bishop Riccanio moved on. “Normally one would deplore deliberately hitting someone in the head with a kicked football, but under the circumstances I feel the young man did the right thing. Is he involved in a team? I can always pass his name on to a few people.”
“He tells me he is in the Calcio development program and hopes to be selected for the next Primavera competition.” The Commissario paused. “All three boys are the sons of Strefagi foot soldiers whose fathers died in recent years. Apparently Count Terrence is paying their school expenses and encouraging them to pursue both their educations and their interests.”
“I believe,” the Bishop said slowly, “That we should put them on the list of diocesan bursary applicants, in the civic and social category if they qualify for nothing else.”
“As they left school without permission to attend to this matter,” the Commissario spoke delicately, “I intend to write to their headmaster and thank him for their assistance today.”
“Do that,” the Bishop nodded in agreement, “And I will write to him commending his school for instilling the students with the courage and discernment to act in the common good to their own disadvantage. It should spare them some of the consequences they would otherwise suffer. In my profession and position I believe that good deeds should be rewarded, not punished, despite the cynical comment in vogue these days.”
“As you say, sir,” the Commissario agreed. “Will there be anything else?
“I will write to their mothers and thank them for their sons’ assistance, of course, and let their parish priests know that I will be happy to give each of them a character reference but I think that will be everything concerning the boys. Are there likely to be any impediments to the investigation and hearing?” The Bishop added the question almost as an after thought.
“Helena Strafagi needs a defence attorney before she can be interrogated,” the Commissario admitted slowly.
“I would have thought her brother-in-law would see to that.” The Bishop raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Ah. As to that, sir,” and the Commissario began to explain more recent events to his superior.
At much that moment, a gentleman of middle years was being shown into the police cells where Helena Strefagi was fuming.
“Baiardo! You came, thank God!” Her exclamation echoed off the walls of the cell. “Terrence has refused to pay for a defence attorney for me, even though he knows I have to have one to get out of here.”
“You’re my sister, Helena,” he replied quietly, “When you ask for my help from a police cell, I should at least give you the time of day.”
She stood against the bars and rested her hands on them. “You have to get Terrence to change his mind. Perhaps if you remind him of his duty and responsibility towards me?” She paused. “If he’s so lost to the requirements of his position that he still refuses, perhaps you could fund my defence?”
Marchese Baiardo Fraccelli looked quietly at his sister for a moment. “Count Terrence spoke to me before he told you he wasn’t paying for your defence attorney,” he admitted.
“What!” Helena was genuinely shocked. “And you didn’t-“
“Helena,” he interrupted, “You chose to involve yourself in House Strefagi business. There are rules. You were happy to dish out orders and throw your weight around, but you failed to hold discipline and obey orders when you didn’t get your own way.”
“But he was just rolling over and letting them dictate to us,” she protested. “Despite being the chief enforcer, he’s always been the softest but none of them, not even the old man or Amato, ever had Father’s drive. I’ve had to keep showing them the right way to do things for years.”
“Father’s way,” commented Marchese Baiardo, “Would have had the Fraccellii in much the condition the Strefagii are in, if we had continued with it. The world has changed, Helena, and it is Count Terrence’s job to recognise that and chart the House a course through new waters. You disobeyed his orders and that puts you off on a frolic of your own. You broke the bond that entitled you to his protection.”
“But he’s doing such foolish, wasteful things,” she objected forcefully, “Higher education for foot soldiers’ sons, coddling their widows and orphans, and encouraging someone who should be looking to be taken on as a foot soldier himself to play football! That’s what comes of marrying a flunkey’s daughter. Sheer foolishness.”
“He seems to be repositioning House Strefagi around its foreign investments,” commented Baiardo, “Which makes sense, they are what’s keeping the House afloat. Growing his future foot soldiers into men who can read balance sheets makes sense in that context. As for over supporting House relics, I thought you don’t like the changes he’s made to the support he gives you.” He took in her expression and added slyly, “You are one of those widows he ‘coddles’, after all. And as for the soccer player, well if the boy is as good as I hear and has some luck in the next few years, there could be considerable prestige accruing to the patron who encouraged and supported him in developing his talent.”
“You’re not going to help me, are you?” Helena’s hands dropped to her sides in disappointment.
“No,” agreed her brother, “I’m going to support Count Terrence’s decision. You will either have to pay for a defence attorney from your allowance or ask that the Public Prosecutor appoint one for you from the list.” He put up a warning hand as she went to speak. “And before you say anything more about duty, you might like to consider who it was who refused to allow an ill man to be nursed through a long terminal decline in his own home, foisting his care onto her sister-in-law, and who was found carrying a grenade launcher with grenades in the centre of town this morning.”
Monday morning, about half past ten, Rodolfo strolled into the garage in Razagettone where Terris kept his racing vehicle. It was a light industrial area, full of workshops, and slightly run down so rents were cheap. Terris and his mechanic friend were working on the racer. Noting the hip width under the overalls bent over under the bonnet, Rodolfo wondered if Count Terrence knew that his son’s mechanic was a girl.
“Ahem.” He coughed to announce himself. The girl straightened and turned from under the bonnet, a heavy wrench in hand, a pretty thing with a fat braid of reddy-brown hair pinned up around her head. Sensible too, if the wrench was any indication.
Terris pushed himself out from under the vehicle on a trolley, dark hair all skew-whiff and a drip of something oily on his face. “Oh. Um.” Rodolfo thought, with some amusement, that the boy wasn’t sure what to call him. “I suppose you’ve come to see the signage?”
“Yes.” Rodolfo allowed his amusement to show through. “You can call me Rodolfo. We are brothers-in-law, after all. I’ve come to have a look at the signage on your racer.”
“Rodolfo,” Terris made introductions, “This is my mechanic, Loren Piccolo. Loren, this is our very generous sponsor and my new brother-in-law, Rodolfo Desideri.”
The girl looked slightly taken aback but extended her hand with a smile and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” She shot a look at Terris and added, “Terris is right. You have been very generous. I haven’t dared tell my father or brothers what you’ve let us install or they’d be all over the place down here and I’d be out of the team.”
“Let’s see what Terris can do with them, shall we?” Rodolfo shook her hand, nice and firm he noted, then said, “I need to talk to Terris about some family stuff, Loren.” He pulled a couple of five ruspone coins from his pocket, held them out to her and asked, apologetically, “Would you mind go and getting coffee for the two of you while I have a quiet word with him?”
Loren flashed a glance at Terris, then put out her hand and said, “Sure. The usual, Terris?”
“That’ll be fine. Thanks.” Rodolfo caught the nervous undertone but didn’t think the mechanic did.
The two men watched her as she bounced out of the garage and round the corner in her work boots and loose, blue overalls.
“She seems nice,” commented Rodolfo, “You could do a great deal worse,” and caught Terris completely off guard when he surged towards him then lifted the younger man single handed by the throat and held him pinned against the back of a concrete supporting pillar, completely hidden from the street outside. “Now I have your complete attention, Terris,” Rodolfo went on calmly, “I would like to make it very clear to you that you will never, ever again use any female relative as collateral for a financial transaction.” Terris was certainly fixated, aside from being treated like a trapped rabbit, he was realising how strong his brother-in-law must be to do what he was doing. “Not your remaining unmarried sisters. Not your presumably as yet unsired daughters. Certainly not your eventual granddaughters. If I ever,” Rodolfo gave him a gentle shake, “Hear that you that you have done such a thing I will see to it that you disappear and that the body is never found. Do you understand me?”
“Y-yes,” it was croaked as much as spoken. Once it was said, Rodolfo put him down and dusted his hands off.
“Your sisters have all been extraordinarily lucky,” Rodolfo added, “But it’s best that it doesn’t happen again. Now, all of this started because you wanted to win some races. I’d better leave you to your work so you can get that done.” He smiled at Terris again.