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Tom Paris is forced to watch Troi succumb to Riker
way you could tell me who or when?"
He gave me a dramatic sigh, and held his hands out full extension, palms up. "I can't give you that information. It's private."
"But we belong to the same religious order!"
"Oh, you are a nun? My goodness, you are far, far too beautiful to be a nun. Surely you're just waiting for some gallant young man to deliver you from such a lonely lifestyle. . ."
"No, I do not need rescuing from anything, thank you. I need to find Barbara."
"There is nothing I can do for you, unless. . ."
"Well, we could discuss this in the back privately."
"I think not."
"There is absolutely I nothing I can do for you then." He turned away from me, looking behind me for another customer. At the moment, there was no one, but he didn't let it stop him. "I have some. . . paperwork to complete, and you are taking up my valuable time. Bon Giorno."
It took a minute before I settled down enough to stalk away and recover my vehicle. There was still nothing on my cell phone, and I saw no reason to call the Generalate with this news; Sister Lucia arrived from the country just before I left and would still be catching up with her work. A few bobs and weaves followed by some back street maneuvers and I was at headquarters. After putting the car back, I sought Sister Lucia out and found her in the garden talking with Rocco. He saw me coming up the path with a full head of steam and made his exit quickly. Lucia was standing under my observation tree when I caught up with her. "She's missing," I said, a little perturbed.
"La Rossa is missing. She wasn't on her plane from Athens, the reservation was cancelled before it took off. They wouldn't tell me if she made the flight from Tel Aviv to Athens, the greasy bastards. She hasn't returned my calls. I don't know what's going on."
The older nun gave me an arched eyebrow. "This isn't like her. If she were running away, she would tell someone, you if no one else, or more likely me. I'll make some calls, see what I can find out."
It was good to be around a cool head. "What do I do in the meantime?" I asked.
"Let me know if you hear from her. I'll make some calls, do a little research. Perhaps she's run off with that greengrocer, Freddo Salvatore. He's a scamp, and so's his son." Her eyes drifted out of focus for a moment, then came back. "What were we talking about?" she asked in a tiny voice, and shuddered before going on: "Right, LaRossa's missing and we need to find her. I'll make some calls, do a little research. In the meantime, do your work and say your prayers, I'll let you know if I find out anything. Oh by the way, Cardinal Terranova left a message asking you to come over right after the Siesta. He's sending a car over for you. Seems there's a crisis there you need to help him with."
I nodded, and she looked at me strangely. "What?" I said, spreading my hands.
"You seem to see a lot of the Cardinal."
"I only saw him when he was here. Any other work I've done for him was while he was out of town, and his staff were out of the office. This can be documented."
She nodded with a smirk on her face. "Of course I believe you, Sister Mary Francis. You are an exemplary member of our community."
I turned and walked away before I said something I'd regret. She was up to something, and I had little or no idea what it would be. And the little shot about Freddo Salvatore made no sense at all; LaRossa never saw him on a regular basis. Sister Juli and I saw him regularly when we went to the market and he never came to the Generalate. I sighed. Too many little dramas going on.
Sister Julianna got in just before lunch, and afterward regaled me with stories about her family back home. La Rossa's disappearance bothered her as well, but she had no insight for me. Our leader was usually rather reluctant to say what was in her heart to anyone: I guess I'm the one in Rome she confides in the most. Blood is thicker than water.
I wasn't in the mood to sunbathe with Juli that day.