FIFTY-SEVEN

I n Rome, Mimi had been doing excellent work.

Lt. Rizzo wrangled her some extra salary. He set her loose across the universe of cyberspace for hours. She hacked into much of the known information about the Ukrainian Mafia in Italy and even discovered that some of those missing weapons from the US Navy may have been trafficked by a shadowy outfit known as The Caspian Group.

As she was using the money to further her art studies, the dough came in handy. Rizzo used the young woman’s information to focus on any of The Caspian Group’s activities in Rome, including that of its leader and his bodyguards. Rizzo worked some theories: who was in Rome when the murders were committed? Who might have a grievance against the two couples who had been murdered? Using sources of the Roman police department, and some darker sources of his own that he had on the side, he went around to the people who had known the musician and his girlfriend.

He showed surveillance pictures. He focused on one of Federov’s bodyguards, a man known only as Anatoli.

Then, with an eye toward cyberspace, he went back to Mimi. He set her to work researching Anatoli. Soon she had his cell phone number and dropped a tap on it.

One night after work, Rizzo asked Mimi if she could accompany him for a light dinner. He said the suggestion was purely professional, there was more work she could do, and it would be at a much higher salary. Rizzo also explained that he had someone he wanted her to meet, a guest from out of town.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Why not?”

An hour later, Mimi found herself with Lt. Rizzo at a dressy trat-toria a few blocks from the government buildings and popular among foreigners. Dressed in her usual colorful blouse and micro-miniskirt, she felt herself somewhat out of place among all the expensive suits and designer clothes. She was the youngest female in the place. But she quickly got used to the attention she drew and enjoyed it.

She and Rizzo were met there by a man to whom Rizzo showed great deference, but whom Rizzo didn’t introduce by name. He spoke Italian fluently but with a trace of an accent that she couldn’t place. And there was something ominous about him.

Mimi was nobody’s fool, so she studied the man very carefully as they engaged in conversation. She guessed that he and Rizzo underestimated her powers of everyday perception. The man’s shoes looked American and he wore one of those rings-she thought it was a high school or college thing-that Americans wore. He had a wedding band too. But Rizzo had always been so vocally anti-American. It didn’t make sense to her. So she tried something.

“You know,” she said in English, “we could speak English if you like. My mother is American. I speak English well.”

The stranger grinned. “ Grazie, pero, non,” he said, remaining in Italian. Thank you but, no. We are in Rome, he explained, so we will speak as the Romans do.

She didn’t press the point. Rizzo’s friend moved quickly to a proposition he had for her, a one-time task. A special assignment for which she would be well compensated in cash. Lots of cash.

Anatoli was back in Rome, they said, and would be for another few days. They showed her a picture of him. He was a sturdy-looking Russian Ukrainian with dirty blond hair.

“Handsome, no?” Rizzo asked.

Mimi nodded. “You want me to seduce him?” she asked, more a routine inquiry than a opportunity to volunteer.

No, they said quickly, it wasn’t exactly like that. It was more like a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

“What’s that?” she asked.

The man with no name showed Mimi a small devise in a plastic case. It looked like a small needle with a flat head like a tack. They said they knew where Anatoli liked to go to party in Rome. They had a well-armed young man who would accompany her that night, but could she somehow see how close she could get to Anatoli… and maybe stick the needle into his clothing somewhere.

She laughed.

“So it’s a transmitting device, right?” She laughed with great enthusiasm.

The two men looked at each other, then back to Mimi.

“Possibly,” said Rizzo.

“How am I supposed to get close enough to pin the device on him?” she asked.

“You’re a pretty young woman, no?” Rizzo asked, stating the obvious. “I’m sure you’ll find a way.”

She thought about it. “I don’t know,” she began.

She was still thinking about it when they piled five hundred Euros on the table. “That’s just for trying,” Rizzo said. “There’s another five hundred if you’re successful.”

“This Anatoli,” she said. “He killed someone, yes?”

They didn’t say no.

“Why don’t you just arrest him?” she asked.

“Lack of evidence,” Rizzo answered swiftly. “Life is like that, Mimi. Sometimes what we know to be true is not something that we can prove to be true. Equally, sometimes what is true isn’t and what isn’t true, in reality, is.” Mimi blinked. Rizzo exited his philosophical riff almost more confused than when he had entered it, unless he wasn’t. He paused and smiled at his own verbal gymnastics as his guest looked at him strangely. “Plus,” he continued, “Anatoli and his friends are very bad men. There are other ways to take care of them other than a time-consuming and frustrating adherence to the letter of the law.”

“What sort of ‘other ways’?” she asked.

“ Many other ways,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo’s friend reached into his jacket and piled another three hundred Euros on the table.

“And that’s just for listening,” he said. “Okay, Mimi?”

She smiled. “I’m all ears,” she said, picking up the money and pocketing it. “This sounds like a blast!”

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