Don Pasquale and Ernesto were sitting on her big stuffed couch, her old teddy-bear nestled between them, its big black eyes staring at me pathetically.
I was frozen for an instant, and then I tried to push Petra away, out the door, onto the floor, anywhere not in a potential line of fire.
“It’s not like that, Warshawski,” Ernesto rumbled. “Girl’s free to come, go, do whatever she wants. She can even go squealing to the feds once we’ve left, if that suits her. We needed to talk to you cleanly, and when we learned about your cousin, the don figured you’d come out for her, which you did.”
Everyone’s life is spread out on the Web for anyone to read, including mine. All the time I was looking for Cardozo, the don’s IT pro was looking for me, probing for the weak places in my bio, and finding my cousin.
“You rang the bell and Petra buzzed you in?” I asked.
“Vic, I’m not that stupid,” Petra protested. “Ernesto was waiting in the alley when I parked my car tonight. He said he and Don Pasquale needed to talk to you privately, that he was being tailed. So of course, I figured he was a client of yours, and I called you! And I was right, wasn’t I?”
“Yeah, sugar, you were right,” I agreed sardonically.
“Qui sono,” I added to the don. “What do you want?”
“La sua cugine parle italiano? No? Bene.”
We continued in Italian. The don wanted to know exactly what I’d found in Cardozo’s home this afternoon.
“I didn’t have the time or the resources for a thorough search. I looked in all the obvious places, and didn’t find a single scrap of paper, except for his subscription to Pre-War Car. He could easily have a dozen safes in that place: have you been there? It’s the size of a hotel, you know. “
“I know, I know. He was very proud of his house. He designed everything personally, so perhaps you are right, perhaps there is a safe concealed very cleverly. But in that case, the FBI may not find it, either.”
“Depends on how bad they want it.”
“And the woman you say was-–co-habiting with Cardozo?” Pasquale asked.
I shook my head. “The FBI may find fingerprints—I didn’t have equipment to search at that level. But I didn’t see any personal effects, except her clothes. Who is she? Cardozo wasn’t married, at least not under his name.”
“Charlie liked women,” Ernesto said, indifferent. “There’s always another one, who isn’t important, unless she saw his murderer, in which case, her own life is pretty fragile right now.”
“How long was he dead, do you think?” the don asked. I shrugged. “You can call the Du Page County ME, but he was in good shape, no obvious decay. He can’t have been in the water long, maybe two or three days. When did you last hear from him?”
“Weeks ago. Maybe a month,” Ernesto said after a pause. “
What was Cardozo doing for you, Don Pasquale? Why did you really send me looking for him?”
The don studied his fingertips. “Money is missing from my organization. He claimed to be on the track of finding it. And he claimed it made his quest easier if the world believed he and I had parted company.”
Don Pasquale flashed a wintry smile. “That is a good question, Signora Victoria. Had we or hadn’t we? In order to find out where money in my organization had vanished, he took other money with him. Two hundred million dollars has now vanished as if it were the snows of yesteryear.”
“Money is melting all over the globe these days, don,” I said.
“Yes,” the don agreed. “But this was in cash.”