“This isn’t a question of what happened,” Leone said, gently massaging his forehead. “The issue I’m concerned about is why I was the last to know about it.”
“Your holiness, please forgive me, but I brought the incident to your attention as soon as I was made aware of it.” Emilia bowed her head deeply in humility as she spoke, trying desperately to conceal her fear of the Cardinal.
“Then the time for you to improve your connections has come.” Leone stood, circling the table between them. “I will not accept another lapse of this magnitude.”
“Of course, your holiness.”
Cardinal Leone took a moment to drink in the young girl before him as he walked. Her figure was heavily obscured by the heavy vestments she wore, but certain curves were pronounced enough for Leone to make use of them. She had visited him many times in his dreams, but he was yet to actually have her. In time, he thought.
Drawing in a breath, he spoke again. “Go find where these Spaniards are being held. Find their captors, and demand I gain an audience with them.”
Emilia bowed deeply, then shuffled away quickly. Leone knew her to be a fool, but she was pleasant enough on the eyes, and had — on occasion — come through and actually performed with a degree of competence. In truth, he’d been thinking with his crotch when he asked she be assigned to him, but she’d proved to be worth more than just a young toy.
With a sigh, the Cardinal returned to his desk, drawing forth a pen and some paper. If Spain was making a move on Athens, Rome would want to know about it.
“Senator,” a voice floated through the air. “Senator,” the man repeated, “please, your attention is requested.”
Senator Spiros sat up in her bed with a grumpy sigh, struggling to gain her bearings. “What time is it?” She finally asked, after a moment.
“Very early, Senator.” The man spoke again. “Not yet dawn.”
The Senator drew in a breath and stood from her bed to fetch a robe. The messenger flushed red at her nudity and looked away, though Spiros was too groggy to notice his embarrassment. “What is it about?” She asked, after a moment.
“There’s been an incident by the docks.”
“So get the Port Authority. Why are you bothering me?”
“A diplomatic incident, Senator.” Spiros stopped and slowly craned her neck to meet the messenger’s gaze. “Involving Spaniards. Possibly spies.”
“We had received express promises that Athens was acting as a neutral state, and now we’re hearing about Spanish soldiers carrying out espionage missions in the harbor?”
“They claim to have been investigating what they believed to be a pirate vessel, sailing under—”
“So the Spanish are policing for Athens now?"
“Who allowed this? The Al-Azars have multiple treaties with Athens forbidding against this exact thing.”
“And what business does Athens have looking to Spain for protection, when the Holy Roman Empire already has more ships in the Mediterranean?”
“Gentlemen, please, I assure you—”
“I have received reports that the ship was discovered by pirates! Rome demands to know what pirates are doing carrying out vigilante missions in Athenian water!”
“Oh, and now we hear about pirates! What’s next, chevaliers at the gates?”
“And what’s this about a submersible vessel?”
“We are currently investi—”
“Russia is confused! Were the pirates in the submersible, or the Spaniards?”
“If I cou—”
“And another thing!”
“Thank you for meeting with me, Inspector. I know your time is valuable, so I’ll try to be brief.” Katina found a corner and turned to face the room. The Inspector General offered only a grumble as he closed the door behind them. Sensing this as her queue, Katina resumed speaking.
“The senate has decided that this incident needs to be defused before it gets worse.”
The Inspector General sighed heavily as he hung up his sash. “Have they, now?” He turned to face Katina. “It’s good they decided that. My plan was to make it all blow up in everyone’s faces.”
Katina sighed. “There’s no need to get petulant. They’re trying to help.”
“I know how to do my job, councilor. I don’t need their help.”
“Maybe not,” Katina admitted. “But they didn’t send me just to lord over you.”
“That would be a first.”
“You’ve been given orders, Inspector.” She produced a sealed envelope from her sleeve. “You’re to strike a deal with the prisoners, and get them out of town.”
“You’re kidding,” the Inspector replied, snatching the letter and tearing it open. “We’re cutting the Spaniards loose?” Katina stood in silence as the Inspector read over his new orders. “Wait,” he continued, after a moment. “We’re cutting the instigators loose?”
“They are clearly just bystanders here, we need to get them out of the way before they make this thing worse.”
“They’re obviously thieves, and we have evidence they were planning on smuggling two of the Spaniards out of here. For all we know, they answer to Black Bart!”
“Be that as it may, whatever we would gain from imprisoning them would be inconsequential compared to the potential political ramifications.”
“This is absurd,” the Inspector said, tossing the orders onto his cluttered desk. “Has the Senate lost their mind?”
“You have your orders, Inspector.”