1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 80:








            Sharon looked at the clock again. Still only half-past nine. Ruy had risen early and gone for a walk around town, to get a sense of what was happening. Talk to a few people, pick up on the gossip. He'd gone out in his other persona, the simple porter from Barcelona, and had promised to be back by lunchtime, or possibly a little earlier.


            Frank would be along shortly, she hoped. The night had been broken more than once with the sound of gunfire, and not just the occasional shot, either. Volleys, such as Sharon hadn't heard since her first months after the Ring of Fire. She hadn't done much trauma medicine since those days, what with one thing and another, but the effects of a three-quarter-inch musket ball on a human body were hard to forget.


            Again, the ballroom had the best view of the street. The usual swordplay session had been cancelled due to press of business, and all of the Marines were busy about the place. Captain Taggart was making preparations so he could rapidly fortify the house or organize an evacuation as the situation demanded. Although, looking out over the city and listening through the open windows, Sharon wondered whether or not either would be necessary. There was smoke rising over the river and in a few other places. Not just the usual fug of cooking fires, but the thick black columns of roiling smoke that came from burning buildings. A couple of them were in the general direction of the Vatican, which meant Frank's neighborhood, and she knew he'd been a target once already.


            "Penny for your thoughts?" It was her dad.


            She turned and smiled at him, suddenly realising how tired she was. She'd tried hard to sleep, but she'd been woken three times that she could remember. Ruy, the rat bastard, had been fresh as a daisy at some ungodly hour. The side effects of a life spent soldiering, she supposed. "Just tired and wondering what the hell's going on," she said.


            "Ruy's not back yet, then?"


            "No, but he only promised to be back for lunch. I figure he'll hear a thing or two, one way or another. There's nothing in from any of Don Francisco's people either, yet, although I reckon they'll be looking after their own business first."


            "I suppose so. Most of 'em are Jewish, aren't they?"  He shrugged. "I figure that's going to be part of it."


            Sharon shook her head. "Not here, no. The restrictions on Jews in Rome are among the worst in Italy. Most of our commercial contacts hereabouts are Cavriani affiliates of one sort or another, selling us commercial intelligence. I think Don Francisco maintains someone in the ghetto, but they don't get about much outside the rag trade. As for them being targets last night, I doubt it. They're locked in at night, and apart from some nasty rituals they used to do during carnevale they don't tend to get bothered much. Just a horrible example of what it's like not to be Catholic. A lot of Jim Crow, but no real popular feeling behind it."


            Her father nodded. "You think Frank's okay?" He sounded more than a little worried.


            "I don't honestly know, Dad," she said. "I think Ruy will have gone that way first to see what happened. If he went there, he got there early, he was out the door by half past seven. If everything was okay, he didn't think to send someone with a message. Frank's supposed to be coming by this morning to let me know what happened, but I keep seeing smoke from over that direction."


            "Try not to worry, Sharon. Frank's got a sensible head on his shoulders, and isn't fool enough to go looking for trouble. If I'm any judge, he'll have buttoned up tight for the night and waited it out."


            "That wasn't what I was worried about. I have visions of his place getting attacked and set on fire. You haven't been there, but it's got no back way out and it's in a real rough neighborhood. Ruy reckons they'd need a pickaxe to get out any way but the front."


            "Oh." She could see her father deflating. He'd been trying to keep up a cheerful front, almost verging on his bedside manner, but the facts had punctured that.


            Just then, there was a tap on the ballroom door. It was open, and Adolf was peering in. When Sharon smiled an acknowledgement of his presence, he said, "If you will forgive the interruption, Doctors, Senor Sanchez and young Herr Stone are here."


            Both Sharon and her father heaved a sigh of relief. "He's early," Sharon remarked, to cover the slightly weak-kneed feeling she was experiencing. "Both of them, come right to it. Where have you put them, Adolf?"


            "He has put us nowhere, Sharon," Ruy boomed, from behind him, "When foul deeds are afoot, I stand on no ceremony."


            So saying, he came in to the ballroom with Frank in tow. Ruy looked furious, there was no other word for it, although his voice had not betrayed the emotion written in every quiver of his mustachios.


            Frank, behind him, looked weary and generally pissed off. And smudged about the face in a manner that could only be soot.


            "Frank?" she asked, not seeing any obvious place to begin.


            "What Ruy said." Frank shrugged. "Everyone back at my place is okay, though. We had a little trouble, but it was just a few rowdies and Giovanna saw 'em off with the shotgun."


            Ruy's face changed like spring weather, from thunderous to delighted. "Frank is a lucky man, Sharon. Such a one, ah, she bids fair to match your own marvelous spirit! A woman to daunt the mightiest, not even all the eloquence of all the poets could do justice—"