1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 110:






The countryside, near Rome


            "Tough little guy," said Doctor Nichols, rolling his sleeves down as they came out of the back room the taverna's proprietor had let them have as an impromptu consulting room. "Give him an hour or so for it all to catch up with him, though, and he's going to be out like a light. I prescribed a good meal and a night's sleep, but he says he's going to be up and about for a little while."


            "What's he doing now?" Melissa asked.


            "His servant's helping him get dressed. Rita scared up some fresh clothes for them both. That'll be half the recovery right there. I don't think they were either of 'em used to being dirty and ragged." He ambled over to the serving counter and waved for attention.


            Sharon decided to butt in. "Did he ask for any help?" That was going to be an interesting question. The radio guys were upstairs in what would, later, be Sharon's bedroom, getting ready for the broadcast window that wouldn't be open for a short while yet. On the one hand, the fact that they had to relay through the embassy station at Basel was a pain in the ass if Sharon wanted to have a conversation with someone at the State Department. On the other, it was a real help if she had the distinct feeling that a fait accompli was exactly the right way to Do The Right Thing as it appeared to the woman on the spot.


            "Beyond stitching him up? No." Her dad hoisted a large glass of wine and offered a silent toast before taking a gulp. The watered wine they served like it was a cold soda was actually quite refreshing, and if you were careful about it you kept a clear head. The kitchen had boiled some drinking water for them, money being a perfectly good explanation for any oddity, but it wouldn't be cool enough to drink for a while yet. Except for Melissa, who'd made tea. "Although I think we might well have a foot in that particular door, what with my new son-in-law making up policy on the hoof."


            There was no particular note of disapproval in her dad's voice, Sharon noted. He was a doctor, and before that a Marine, and picking up the wounded and getting them to a doctor pulled some fairly well-worn levers in her dad's mind. In her own, come right to it. Rita was nodding her approval as well.


            Sharon still had no particular inspiration about how to proceed from here, though. "How bad was he?" she asked, covering her lack of clear ideas with small talk.


            "Two, maybe three busted ribs, a cracked collarbone, two nasty cuts and assorted scrapes and bruises. I've strapped the ribs and immobilized the arm, and the cuts just needed cleaning and a few stitches. Nothing a few weeks rest won't cure," her dad said. "He kept moving all day after being shot up, though, which won't have helped. Adrenalin's powerful stuff, and like I say he's a tough little guy under the flab, but he's going to be one sorry little cardinal tomorrow."


            Sharon chuckled. Cardinal Barberini had looked like death warmed up when Ruy had brought him in earlier. His servant, Mazarini, who was apparently the father of the diplomat Sharon had briefly met in Venice, had looked less battered but a lot more tired. Ruy had made him stirrup all the way from Rome, nearly seven miles, while the wounded Cardinal had been given a ride behind Ruy on the horse. Ruy had, since handing the two refugees over for care and attention, been out of sight in the stables with a Marine helping him get started on fixing the poor animal up after the strain they had put him under. "Did he tell you how they got out of Rome?" she asked. Ruy would be making his own report once he'd finished caring for his horse, a sense of priorities Sharon wasn't prepared to overrule right now.


            "Apparently Ruy found them trying to figure out how to get past a bunch of gate guards, used a rope to get them over the wall well away from any Spanish soldiers and then went back to bullshit his way past the guards so he could get his horse out. Apparently he conned 'em into thinking he was an officer of the Spanish army, pulled a surprise inspection and just rode out while they were still braced up and sweating. Way Barberini tells it, Ruy was still chuckling when they got in sight of this place."


            "Sounds like Ruy," Rita said, grinning. She'd only known him a couple of weeks, but there were some things that you learned about Ruy quite quickly. The main one was his low sense of  humor.


            "Actually," Sharon said, "Ruy wasn't fooling. He is an officer in the Spanish army. I don't think he ever resigned his commission. Or sold it, if that's what they do."


            "Sold it," her dad agreed. "Came as a bit of a shock to the guys who joined the new army, that. They were expecting to have to buy their commissions and have something in the bank for their old age. Getting given a commission and a pension plan messed with their heads a little, till they got used to the notion."