1635: THE CANNON LAW — snippet 62

1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 62:

CHAPTER 23

Rome

“Well, that could’ve gone better,” Sharon said to Ruy after seeing Frank and Giovanna out.

“Frank is not so young a man as he once was, Sharon,” Ruy said, in that rumbling he-man voice he put on when he thought she wasn’t been too smart.

“I know, I know,” she sighed. “And if I was to be honest I’d say I pretty much expected him not to buy it. He was pretty okay about it otherwise, though.” Actually, Frank had doubled up laughing when Sharon had told him what Barberini had said. At first, anyway. And then he’d pointed out that even if Barberini was serious, he knew from his own sources that the Inquisition was a power in its own right and while the Pope could restrain them for a time, they were waiting for an opportunity. And since he’d already made himself a pain in the ass by regularly denouncing the fake propaganda—Sharon had chuckled herself when Frank described the reaction of the junior priests there whenever he walked through the door—he wasn’t going to put himself where the pope couldn’t save him, not for anybody. And if these people really were plotting against the pope, where was the pope’s guarantee if he lost?

Frank was quite happy to just keep his toehold in Rome and make sure there was a core of support that would discount the bullshit that was going around. They had a soccer league going, running more or less without their help, and numbers had picked up a bit at the club he was running. Soon enough, he’d said, he’d have a press of his own and he sure as shit wasn’t going to use it to put himself or anyone from his organization in jail. And if he had to bug out if the pope lost, he’d do it, too. They could always come back when the heat died down.

And Sharon couldn’t disagree with any of it. She wondered, idly, for a moment, how Barberini was going to react at the salon she’d been invited to in two weeks’ time. Would he be disappointed, or relieved? She’d find out soon enough, of course. Enough daydreaming, she had an appointment, right after lunch.

“I shall go out and make more enquiries in the afternoon,” Ruy was saying. “It may be that I can find out more of what Quevedo is doing. Two of his demonstrations in the last week have resulted in small riots. The militia grow heavy-handed, I fear. On which line of enquiry I shall be purchasing drinks for a sergeant of horse tomorrow, as I believe that the orders being given arise from more than the usual incompetence. Furthermore, there is the matter of the teams of recruiters he is now using to hire layabouts for -“

Sharon leaned in close and put a finger over his lips. “Not this afternoon, you’re not, Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz. Father Maratta and Signora Fontana will be here for a meeting. It’s not going to be a big society wedding, but we are going to make a party of it and we ought to have the planning in hand before Tom and Rita and my dad arrive.”

“Ah,” Ruy said, when she let him speak. “Truly, my love, I cannot let you face such things alone. Never let it be said that Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz flinched from the horrors of matrimonial strategy. Far be it from me to take the coward’s route of espionage and spycraft! I put aside all thoughts of going forth and risking mere death and disgrace! I shall face the dangers of floral arrangement! I shall brave the terrors of banquet menus! I shall—what?”

Sharon was going weak-kneed with laughter. He was funny enough, but the heroic posturing that went with it was too much. God, she thought, but I love this man. “Stop it,” she snorted, “just stop, all right? It’ll take an hour or so, and then you can go lurk in seedy bars and beat up on people—”

“It was only one man, and him a pimp,” Ruy said, suddenly all affronted dignity, “hardly a person at all.”

“Whatever,” she said, “Just try not to make me have to come bail you out of somewhere, okay? Bad enough at the best of times, but my dad’s going to arrive tomorrow or the day after, and that’d be all I need, him growling about what a no-good bum his daughter was marrying.”

Ruy shrugged and smiled. “But Sharon, he would be right. Never let it be said that Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz is not honest, nor that he believes that confession is not good for the soul. I have broken every commandment save the first and the last. The first, because I am no sculptor, whatever my other talents. The last -?” he let it trail off, and shrugged.

“Why not the last?” she asked, trying to remember what it was, and then realizing she’d given him the straight line.

He grabbed and squeezed. “Why covet my neighbor’s ass?”

“Ruy!” she squealed, sounding like a schoolgirl to herself, and swatting his hand away. “Not here!”

She glared around at the staff who were in the main hallway, daring any of them to laugh. To their credit, none of them were. Although every last one had a big grin in evidence, even the normally-straitlaced Adolf. Oh, well, fair was fair. They were all looking forward to the wedding too, and the searching for the right people to get the wedding organized had all been done without Sharon having to lift a finger. By all accounts, Signora Fontana was a battleaxe to beat them all, and Father Maratta was one of that large minority of Catholic priests who looked like he enjoyed a good party. If he had heard of the ascetic traditions within Christianity, he wanted no part of them. He even had a list of caterers he could recommend from personal experience, and seemed to want more input into the reception afterwards than he did into the liturgy of the nuptial mass.

Ruy was giving off his best sweet-and-innocent look—about as convincing as a party hat on a tiger, in other words—and his eyes were twinkling.

“If you’ve quite done embarrassing me in front of everyone,” she said, trying to get a mad on and failing, “let’s get lunch.”

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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