Read chapter Three from Sliverfinger (Cherry Delight series)

Chapter 3

Digitally transcribed for the Gardner Francis Fox Adventure Library

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The two men did not move. One of them raised a hand and waved. Then it dawned on me. We were in the Mafia car, the Alfa-Romeo, and they recognized it. They thought we were the button-men. Thank God the button-men were lying back on the road, out cold.

Me, I reached for the shoulder holsters, drawing them onto my lap. I was going to have to move fast. Those gunmen were going to realize who we really were in about another split second. Even now one of them was straightening up suspiciously.

Mario was yelling, “Tell them not to shoot, tell them we’re going to agree to give them twenty percent.”

My hand went around a gun-butt. I said, “You tell them, Mario. I want you to see what happens when you do.”

He opened the car door and stepped out. The two men were alive with suspicion, now. One of them lifted the sub-machine-gun to his hip with the barrel aimed right at Mario della Fanzio.

“Hold it,” Mario called. “We’re going to give you that twenty percent you’re asking for. Rafaelo and Ines agree. There’s no need for any shooting.”

One of the men grinned. “It’s fifty percent of the gross, pazzo—fool! Now, will your brother and sister agree to that?”

Mario choked. He swallowed, his eyes went from the one man to the other, staring at the guns. He finally managed to rasp, “But fifty percent of the gross will leave nothing for us! It’s an impossible situation!”

“Just what Silverfinger told us you’d say,” the Smaller of the two men said. His gun-barrel lifted to focus on Mario’s smashed middle. “He also said to tell you that with you and your brother and sister dead, nobody would inherit the business. Hey?”

Mario went white. “You can’t do that! The property would go to the state!”

“Not if Silverfinger produced forged documents apparently signed by all three of you to the effect that you owed the Family much money, and that instead of the money owed us, we’d take the shipping lines and shipyard.”

“I don’t believe it,” he gasped. I could have told him. But then neither he nor Rafaelo and Ines had listened to me, last night. It sounded better coming from one of the Family, I realized. The man with the sub-machine-gun wasn’t kidding around. He meant to kill Mario della Fanzio right here and now.

I lifted out the short-barreled Beretta automatic that was in one of the shoulder holsters in my lap.

I eased it out the open car window.

“Drop the hardware, buster,” I called. Two gun-barrels swung in my direction. I didn’t need to be told what was going to happen. I squeezed the trigger. I squeezed it again and again.

I am a sharpshooter with any handgun made. I have medals back in my Park Avenue pad to prove it. I’d never made a better score than I did this day. The bullet went into a chest punching a small round hole. My second bullet caught the other man in the exact center of his forehead.

They fell face down and lay there. I turned toward Mario della Fanzio. To my surprise, I couldn’t see him. I hopped out of the Alfa-Romeo and ran around its front. Mario was lying in a heap of sprawled arms and legs, flat on his back. For one wild moment I thought the Mafia boys had gunned him down, then I remembered they hadn’t done any of the shooting.

Mario della Fanzio had fainted. I knelt beside him, slapped his face. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and stared up at me in horror. “They killed us, then? We’re dead?”

I smiled down at his pale face. I felt a little sorry for Mario della Fanzio, he’d been through a lot in the last hour or so. I moved back, gestured with a hand. He propped himself up on an elbow, stared at the bodies. His haunted eyes turned toward me with awe in them.

“You killed them both,” he breathed. “But how? You didn’t have a gun.”

I explained about the two guns I’d taken from the Alfa-Romeo. He got to his feet, moved to stand over the dead man, “I didn’t know they knew about this place. It was my hideaway, my secret place.” He sounded like a little boy who’d lost a favorite toy. “I can’t stay here now.”

“Then it’s back to the villa?” He swallowed and nodded. His eyes were like hot black holes in his pale face. “I can’t stay there, either. Not with the Mafia out to get me!” He drew a deep breath, cried, “Why didn’t they listen to me? I told them we were willing to make a deal!”

“I think we irritated them by not letting them blow up the Condottiero. They upped their asking price, rather than wait a year or two as I predicted. Well, that should score points for my side. Maybe now you and Rafaelo and Ines will listen to reason. You should know damn well by this time that the Mafia won’t. They’re going all out to grab what they can.”

His eyes questioned me. “What about those forged documents they spoke of?”

“They can’t produce those in court while any of you are still alive. You and the others have to be dead.”

“Oh, my God,” he wailed, “what will we do?”

“Hide,” I told him brutally.

“Hide?” he almost screamed “Hide where?”

“I’ll come up with a place. Right now, let’s get us back to the villa and the others. We’ll have to hold a council of war and make plans.”

He staggered toward the red Alfa. I was right on his heels, thinking fast, of course, the della Fanzios could barricade themselves in their villa and hire an army of guards. But I put that thought out of my mind. A clever gunman—say, a Mafia button-man from the United States who was used to making hits on contracts furnished by the Mafia bosses—would have no problem in getting rid of them, one by one, with a powerful rifle equipped with a telescopic lens. No, they had to do something completely unexpected if they were to protect themselves.

I thought I knew what the answer might be. As I guided the Alfa-Romeo down the curving mountain road, I also wondered who Silverfinger was. Obviously, he was the brains behind the Family proceedings in Calabria. He was going to hit the roof when word got back to him of what had happened today. He’d sent two men to rough up Mario or maybe even kill him with brass knuckles. To make sure, he’d posted two men with sub-machine-guns at Mario’s mountain love nest. They had all failed.

Silverfinger would not stop at half measures, now. From this moment on, it was open war between him and the della Fanzios.

With redheaded me in the middle. The villa was quiet in the late afternoon sun as I braked to a halt. Mario was in reasonably good shape, he made it out of the side of the car and into the villa under his own power. But he doubled up in pain once he was inside the big iron-bound doors. I put an arm about his middle, helped him up the staircase.

I got him to his bedroom. I paused in the doorway, still with my arm about his middle, his left arm across my shoulders. What caused me to stop in sudden surprise was the sight of strings of big blue beads wrapped about the posters of his bed. There were strips of red and green cloth fastened here and there on the bed’s counterpane, and stuck with thumb tacks to mirror frames and the closet doors.

“What in the world.” I exclaimed.

Mario looked where I did, then chuckled, “Oh, that’s old Tessa’s work. Ignore them. I let them stay to placate her. She does the same thing in Rafaelo’s room and to Ines.”

“But what in the world are they?”

“Amulets against the evil eye, the malocchio.”

Now I did stare at him. “The evil eye?”

Mario gestured, and winced from the pain it caused him. “We Calabrians go back a long way, you know. Before the Romans came, before the Greeks had a trading town where Reggio stands, there were pagan sacrifices made and bonfires lighted in these hills. Maybe even by my ancestors.”

I said, “Come on, let’s get you into bed. You can talk there.”

My hands went to the buttons of his sports shirt, to the belt of his slacks. In seconds, I had him down to shorts and loafers. He had a good body, muscular and tanned. I saw that he was eyeing me amusedly as I went about my maid services. I also saw that he was growing visibly excited by my nearness. His male organ was swelling, beginning its stand.

My palm patted it. He gave a little sigh, saying, “Now I shall never be able to go to sleep.”

“Lie down,” I told him. “Get into bed.”

He sat on the mattress, stared down at himself. “You really ought to check my bruises.”

Well, he had something there. His entire midsection was black and blue and yellow. Those two blows he’d taken had broken blood vessels and damaged tissue, but on the whole, he was in pretty good shape. As was evident by the fact that he found my sex appeal exciting.

“What about your family doctor?” I asked.

“You’re the only doctor I need.” His thumbs went to his shorts. He pushed them down. His rising manhood came into view, swollen perceptibly. It was long and thick, with big veins. I stared at it, rather surprised! This ragazzo was all man.

“Well, now,” I laughed.

“Come on, Cherry. Get into bed with me. I need you, I really do. I’m all on fire for you.”

“That’s sweet of you, but in your present condition. . . .”

I let my words trail off. It had been a long while since I’d bedded down with such a handsome young buck. No wonder he had a love nest where girls flocked to partake of his genital goodies. I was tempted, I admit it.

In a weak voice, I warned, “Ines and Rafaelo are somewhere about. You wouldn’t want them interrupting you in the middle of a hot love scene, would you?”

“We della Fanzios never intrude on each other’s privacy. I could have ten girls up here if I wanted, and if we kept reasonably quiet, nobody would say anything.”

“Is that so, now?” My eyes went over his upstanding attraction. My nipples rose up, stood stiffly at attention, and where my panties gripped my private parts under the Culottes, I felt a familiar moisture.

“Tell you what,” I told him. “Give me five minutes or so to go find your brother and sister. Then I come back.

“And don’t go calling the doctor,” he said, lying back naked on the coverlets and crossing his ankles, putting his hands behind his curly black hair. “The pain is lessening, I’ll be fit tomorrow. That is, if I have what I need pretty soon.”

His eyes went to where I was staring. Mario della Fanzio did have a way with him. I wondered just how many girls he’d blocked in his short lifetime, plenty, would be my guess. He had good looks, all the money he could possibly spend, and an easy way with his compliments. The country girls who looked up to him as a gran signor would have toppled over to his slightest push. Even as I myself, I thought glumly.

To remove temptation, I turned my back on him and went down the staircase into the servants quarters. A maid told me Rafaelo and Ines and Mark Condon had gone off in a car to inspect the Condottiero. They would not be home for dinner, they were to dine at the fashionable traitoria in town.

hunted around until I found a Salve for bruises and such in one of the many medicine chests in the villa. It was an Italian version of Ben-Gay or some such similar preparation. I carried it back triumphantly to Mario della Fanzio.

I thought at first he might be asleep. His eyes were closed, but there was a pixie grin on his lips that told me—if his rigid erection did not—that he was very much wide awake.

Gingerly, I sat down beside him on the bed. I smeared the ointment on my palms and put them on his naked belly. I began rubbing in the stuff very gently. The touch of his firm flesh under my hands—his chest was very hairy, and there was a big mop of wiry black hair about the base of his penis—was something more than exciting. I started to wriggle a little, while trying to keep my stare from his bloated maleness.

He made little noises from time to time that told me he was enjoying his role of patient to my nurse. I could have stopped long before I actually did, but it was kind of fun, teasing him this way. I needed a little fun myself, as well. And so, after I’d had my fill of looking, I took matters in hand. I gripped his swollen penis, ran my ointment-slick palm up and down. Mario moaned. Then I used the other hand. “It’s hot, that stuff,” he told me.

“No hotter than you,” I retorted. “Just look at you.”

“I’d rather look at you.”

I turned my head to smile at him. “Would you?” His hand was on my back where it was bare between the thin halter and my culottes. The palm was very hot. It touched my nerves, it sent pleasure signals all the way down into my loins. Then his hand lifted, caught the halter ends and tugged them free.

I felt my breasts hang loose and full in the black chiffon. My nipples were up tight, but not from worry or anxiety. They ached to have his mouth wrapped around them. And why not? After what I’d gone through, I owed it to myself.

“Let me wash of what’s left of that goo,” I whispered.

“You’d better, before you get more goo on you.” He looked about ready to erupt, with my left hand still holding him. I released him and stood up. The chiffon trailed from my shoulders to my middle. My breasts stuck up between black ribbons. Mario licked his lips at the sight of them.

“Hurry, darling,” he whispered. “I want to taste you.”

I moved toward the bathroom, unbuckling my belt. When I was in the doorway, I thumbed the culottes and my panties down, showing him my pale behind. I bent over a little more and eased them off my legs, lifting one leg and then the other to free them.

Mario could see between my thighs, take in the sight of my red haired crotch and the scarlet pansy those hairs tried ineffectually to hide. I glanced past my shoulder at him. He was up on an elbow, feasting his eyes.

“You tease,” he laughed, “Presto, presto!”

I stepped out of the culottes and walked in leather pumps naked into the bathroom. I was only going to wash my hands, but I decided on a fast shower. Mario yelled when he heard the sound of cascading water, but I hurried.

Not to tease him too unmercifully, I stepped out of the bathroom toweling myself, moving to the door and closing it. There was a big brass bolt that I shut. Not that I’m a privacy nut when I have my jollies but my caution bump was throbbing. I certainly didn’t want any Mafia button-men to walk in on me when I was in the throes of an orgasm.

I turned toward Mario and dropped the towel. A mirror on the wall reflected my nudity, the big breasts which were hard now in desire, and the rigid brown nipples. My belly made a sweet, sweet curve down into the scarlet fluff of my pubic bush. I stood there and ran my hands up and down my sides, licking my lips and smiling.

Mario was about to get up when I shook my head. “Let mamma handle this, Mario. You’re hurt. I don’t want you to strain your muscles. That is, except for one rather big muscle I can see.”

I moved toward him, hips swaying, breasts swinging. I was one eager dame at that moment. I wanted what was sticking up on him more than I wanted anything else I could think of. I meant to have it, too, but not too fast.

And so when I came to the edge of the bed where he lay, I bent over so that my breasts dangled right about his erection. I nudged its head with one rigid nipple, then the other. Mario gasped, his hips rising. I let the bulges of my tits slap against his hardened flesh, I knelt down and catching my breasts, slipped them around his straining maleness.

Gently I rubbed him with my breast-flesh. This is a form of lovemaking known as mammaeism, and some people develop a fetish for it. This wasn’t the case with either Mario or myself, we were just indulging in some foreplay. I rubbed him up and down, back and forth.

“Come va?” I whispered.

His laugh was brittle with desire. “Go easy, Cherry. Lento, lento! You’ll have me imitating Vesuvius in eruption in a moment.”

rose to stand beside the bed. There was a molten heat inside my loins, but I didn’t want to rush this. I wanted to take my time, to enjoy every thrill, every rapture.

My left leg lifted over his chest, I stood spraddle-legged above him on the bed. His eyes were hot coals staring up between my spread thighs. He could see all of me, the scarlet pansy of my womanhood, the curling red hairs.

“Is that what you want?” I breathed. His tongue ran around his lips. “Squat down over me, Cherry. So I can get at you.”

I smiled at him, Mario was going to make a good lover, I could see. Well, why not? He’d had plenty of practice. I murmured, “You’re going to miss all this, if the Mafia takes over your shipping lines and yards.”

“Don’t talk about it,” he moaned.

I let my legs bend to bring my pussy down toward his face. “We have to talk about it, Mario. Sooner or later, one of their hit men is going to get you—and then you won’t be handsome any longer—always assuming they let you live.”

“I know, I know.” I was sitting on his upper chest by this time, thighs yawning. All I had to do was slide forward a little, just a few inches. I told myself that this was no time for talking, that Mario was damn near dying under me, just as I was actually aching with the need for a little assuagement of my own inner heat.

I slid to his mouth. His tongue came out. Mario della Fanzio was an artist. His tongue painted my private parts with thrills and chills. He worked it back and around, dipped it, lapped with it. He had me shaking with orgasmic thrills in no time at all. My hands went to his curly hair, gripped it, held it tightly.

I bathed in delight. I shuddered as orgasm after orgasm rocketed through my body. I knelt over him, crouched with my breasts hanging downward, jerking to the sensations in my flesh. I could have sat on his head forever, I guess, but I realized with a tiny corner of my mind that I was torturing him with this delay.

“Abbastanza! Enough,” I whimpered.

I slid my bare buttocks backwards along his front, over his belly and then rose up above his quivering male spear. Gently I wrapped fingers about it, guided it, sank down onto it slowly. He went deep, he was a big man, he filled me completely and then some.

For a time I just sat there, content to hold him.

Nor was he in any rush to race through this rantipole ritual. He was letting me set the pace, he was enjoying himself too thoroughly to want to end matters. He lay there with his hands clasped behind his head, a happy grin on his face, his eyelids closing every so often when a special kind of thrill went through him.

After a time, I began to rise and fall. This riding Saint George position, as it is known, is an old one in the history of human intercourse. At one time it was believed that a male child conceived in this manner would become a bishop. How that legend ever got started is beyond me, but it did. I posted slowly, I went more swiftly; I slowed my hip-jogging when I felt Mario was getting too excited to hold out much longer. I just sat there then and held his broomstick.

Then I began all over again. Time went away and hid in the haze of pleasure that wrapped us together in a carnal cocoon. Mario went in and out of me; I lifted and fell on him. Every once in a while I would use my muscles to grip and hold him, letting them ripple and squeeze. I didn’t continue that for very long. It is extremely exciting to the male and will bring him to orgasm very shortly.

His mouth was open and his eyes were closed, and every so often he would roll his head back and forth to indicate that he was damn close to the end of his rogering rope. It was then that I pulled out all the stops, tightened my constrictors and started bouncing up and down on him, doing a modified hula at the same time.

Mario Screamed as his control let go. I took his yell of sheer, unadulterated pleasure as a sign that I was one sweet bed companion. I worked on him for minutes, until he had shrunk and until my own flesh had had just about all the pleasure it could stand, for now.

Then I brought my legs together, leaning over him, and lowered myself on top of his body so my breasts mashed on his hairy chest. My lips went to his open mouth and we kissed.

Mario’s eyes were closed. I felt he was drifting off to sleep. So I shut my own baby blues and nestled my head to his shoulder.

We woke sometime during the night. There was a faint chill in the air, but our bodies kept us reasonably warm. I reached down to grab the covers and bring them up over us and found Mario watching me through slitted eyes.

My eyebrows arched, “You were about to say?”

He smiled. “I’ve been lying here, thinking. Oh, I slept for a while, but I woke before you did. And I’ve changed my mind about fighting the Mafia, Cherry. You know why?

“Because I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed going to bed with a girl as much as I did with you. You’re a real woman, you’re all woman. You’ve made me realize that if I get killed by the Mafia, I’m going to miss a lot of fun in life.”

“Just what I told you last night, downstairs.”

“I didn’t believe you then. I do now, after today. God! The mere thought of what would have happened to me if you hadn’t been there makes my blood run cold.”

“Cold?” I whispered, nudging his limp but long penis with my bare thigh. “Seems to me you have plenty of hot blood.”

“And I want to keep it that way. From now on, I’m going to do exactly as you say, I’m in your hands, in more ways than one.”

I thought a moment, “What about Rafaelo and Ines?”

“After what I went through, they’ll certainly agree with me. You see, I never told them about those threatening letters I received, that said I was marked as target number one for their more personal attacks on the della Fanzios. I didn’t want to worry them.

“I tried to pass them off with a bit of bravado, hoping against hope that nothing would come of them. I was like an Ostrich that sticks its head in the sand, fully confident that danger will pass it by.”

“Do you still have those letters?”

“In my jewel case. I never threw them away; in the back of my mind I had some kind of idea about going to the police with them, trying to track down the writer.” His mouth curved in a grim smile. “I can see now that was pretty ridiculous.”

“Still, I’m glad you kept them. We can show them to Ines and Rafaelo and maybe they’ll help to change their minds.”

His hand was sliding up and down my back, gently caressing. Every so often his palm moved down to my buttocks, fondled them. And under my thigh his manliness was beginning to assert itself again.

His hands hooked me under my armpits, lifted me. My swollen breasts hung right above his face. His tongue came out to lick my nipples, one after the other, very slowly and lingeringly. My loins grew molten, moist. I sobbed out my pleasure and let more and more of my breasts mash down on his face.

His mouth caught a nipple, tugged.

Mario della Fanzio knew his way about a female body. In seconds he had me writhing with need. My thighs opened, caught his erection and gripped it. My hips worked up and down, chafing that length of male meat against my wet pussy-lips. I found that I was moaning steadily.

His hand pushed me sideways so that I fell on my back. I lay naked, thighs sprawled loosely apart, and watched as he came up to his hands and knees. The black and blue marks were still on his middle, but I don’t think they pained him any more. If they did, he had forgotten them before the pain of his throbbing, aching member.

Mario began to kiss my breasts, he put his lips to my heaving rib-cage and kissed there, too. Downward he went with his labial caresses, to my belly and navel, further downward until his lips were lost in the thick hairs on my mons veneris.

“This is to pay you back just a very little for what you did today, for saving me,” he whispered, and touched my rigid clitoral bud with his tongue.

My hips lifted eagerly. I enjoy the devotions of a man who knows his bedtime business. Just to lie naked on a mattress while a male mouth works you over is one of the joys of being alive. I let my thighs fall open to entice him deeper into my female mysteries, I felt his hands sliding my thighs even further apart so that I lay spread wide and available to him.

Mario moved to kneel between my legs. He yanked a pillow toward him, slid it under my thighs. Then he settled down to show me that he was one expert lover. I cried out as his tongue toyed with my clitoris, I raised my hips as high as I could, still with my thighs yawning open, and tears of pleasure oozed from my closed eyelids.

I could hear the faint slurping sounds his tongue made, and this added to my eroticism. I put a hand down to tousle his curly black hair, and murmured his name together with words of gratitude for what he was doing to me.

Then all hell broke loose inside me. My buttocks thumped the pillow, nearly dislodging his face. I was in the throes of a machine-gun-like orgasm. I felt my insides turn to mush; I knew I was deluging Mario’s face; I sobbed and shrieked in the utter madness of my bliss.

Before I was done yelling, he moved up on me. He drove his male spear home, deep. I lifted my hips that were still propped up on the pillow and rammed back at his every thrust. There was no thought in either one of us, we were mindless automatons of lust, almost fighting in our need to snatch as much pleasure as possible from this maenadic meeting of our genitals.

I never did know how long we kept it up. At length, of course, we orgasmed half a dozen times together, with my arms and legs wrapped tightly about him, with his body lying atop my own. We shook and shuddered together, we kissed and murmured silly little things to each other.

And then we slept. Heavily, until long past dawn.

I woke first, with Mario still on me. I sighed, remembering the joys of the night. My hands gave him a shake and he opened bleary eyes to stare at me.

“I could sleep forever this way,” he told me. “So could I, but duty calls.” I slid out from under him and padded toward the shower. No sooner had the hot water begun cascading down around me than Mario was in under it. We soaped each other off, stood there while the suds washed away.

“You going to tell Rafaelo and Ines about what happened yesterday?” I asked.

“You got a good place for me to hide?” he countered.

“A perfect place,” I giggled.

We dressed together, then went downstairs.

Rafaelo had not yet left for the office, and Ines was seated at the dining table eating croissants and coffee. We joined her after asking Rafaelo to listen to what we had to say.

Mario told the story while sipping coffee. He even stood, yanked up his shirt and pulled down enough of his slacks to show the black and blue bruises on his midsection. Ines was horrified, Rafaelo very grim.

When he was done, Ines burst out with, “But that’s—that’s inhuman! Nobody does such things today.”

“The Mafia does—when it wants something.”

Her big brown eyes turned toward me. “Why, they mean to kill us all, then?”

“Something like that, yes, Mario’s picked to go first.”

Ines stared at her brother, tears in her eyes. Rafaelo frowned as he eyed me. “You saved Mario twice yesterday, Miss Delight. We are all most grateful.” His thin lips gave a funny little smile and his hand waved a moment in the air as though he were brushing away a fly. “That sounds very cold, I know. We’re more than grateful. We want to reward you, but we all know that no reward is quite enough for what you did.

“I’ve been thinking over what you told us, night before last. You made good sense at the time, you know. It was just that we couldn’t very well grasp the fact that matters were exactly as you stated them to be. After what happened to Mario yesterday. . . .”

His shoulders shrugged eloquently. He went on, “I think we should have another vote on the subject of helping you in your efforts to bring the Mafia to its knees, as far as our family is concerned.”

My heart sang happily inside me. At last, I was getting somewhere. But I raised a cautioning hand.

“Before we vote, I want Mario to show you those threatening letters he received from the Mafia—and said nothing about for fear of alarming you.”

Mario had put those letters in his shirt pocket before we left his bedroom. Now he produced them and handed them to Rafaelo. His older brother scanned them, whispering inaudibly under his breath. Then he read them more closely.

Ines got to her feet, went to stand behind Rafaelo, and read them with wide eyes. Her lips were parted to aid her frightened breathing. From those letters her eyes went to Mario in pity and sympathy, then to me.

“What can we do?”

“I told Mario I had a good hiding place for all of you, especially you and Mario.”

Rafaelo lifted his head. “What sort of hiding place, Miss Delight?” His fingers tapped the letters. “Judging by these, none of us are safe—anywhere. A good rifle shot with a telescopic lens could pick us off one by one…”

“Just what I told Mario yesterday,” I nodded. Ines licked her full mouth. “You spoke of a hiding place?” she murmured. “Where can we go where we’ll be safe?”

“Into the shipyards—as workers.”

Rafaelo snapped irritably, “Ridiculous! We’ll all three go away on our yacht. That way—“

“That way, you’ll be like sitting ducks for a Mafia boat that will board your yacht, kill you all, and sink the yacht. no, Rafaelo, nobody in the shipyards knows either Ines or Mario. Let them wear work-clothes, do some menial jobs like sweeping up or some such thing, and I can almost guarantee that nobody will ever recognize them.”

The older brother permitted himself a cold smile. “There I agree with you. I don’t believe Ines or Mario has ever set foot inside our properties. A bit of a disguise, yes. It could be done.”

Ines protested, “You certainly can’t expect me to use a broom, Rafaelo!”

“Would you rather handle a blowtorch?” he asked.

Ines wept.

I said softly, “I’ll want a job myself.” My hand touched my red hair. “I’ll have to dye this, of course, I’ll make it black. But I want to be on hand working close to Ines and Mario to protect them at all times—so you’ll have to find a job for me, too. “

Rafaelo nodded. “So far, so good. I agree with you. But what about me? The workers know me, at least the executives do. I don’t know whether the welders and riveters do.”

“You could be a blonde,” I told him, “If you wear overalls, I’ll bet nobody would ever suspect who you really are. Not only that, but this would give you the opportunity to keep your eyes on your shipbuilding programs, your freighters and tankers. You could have your secretary or one of the executives report to you from time to time, and give such orders about the business as you have to do.”

Rafaelo thought a moment. Then his palm slapped the tabletop. “I vote yes on all you say. We shall wear dungarees and work shirts; we’ll carry our lunch to work in pails.” His eyes flashed with amusement as he eyed Ines. “You, dear sister, will also wear working garments. And you, Mario. You shall no longer be the playboy, the dilettante. Your hands are going to get callused.”

He was getting quite a bang out of my idea. Mario grimaced in dismay, and Ines still wept. I said, “Since the Mafia won’t be able to find you—we hope—and so carry out its threat to assassinate the entire della Fanzio family, We’re going to have to look for some other move they’ll make.”

Rafaelo asked, “Can you guess what it might be?”

I thought I could, but I wanted to wait and see.

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