The thing you gotta understand is that Violette and Sebastien were trouble right from the beginning. We could see it comin', but there wasn't nothing we coulda done about it.
It started with Don Orsino, the boss of the Illyria family. You can talk about your Corleones and Tattaglias, but let me tell you, the Illyrias are, to put it delicately, stinkin' rich, not to mention influential and powerful. But more than that--Illyrias have class drippin' from their fingertips from birth on. Like royalty, except that America don't officially have any.
But Don Orsino, he was somethin' special even for an Illyria, and that's why everyone called him "the Duke"--not just the newspapers (which will publish anything without even checkin' the source, these days), but his own people, of which I am proud to be one.
And things were goin' great, y'know? His territory—it's in upstate New York, very ritzy—is makin' money hand over fist, his politicians are stayin' bought, the Feds are mindin' their own beeswax, which means they are not minding ours, and everything is fantastic.
And then the Duke, he falls in love with Olivia Dei Castello. Who, unfortunately, is mourning for her father and brother, who were killed in a recent infraction which had absolutely nothin' to do with Don Orsino. Not only that, but she is planning on mourning both of them for the next seven years, wearin' a veil over her face and weepin' 24/7 and never even going out in the daylight.
So I'm thinking, okay, the woman wants to be a bride of Dracula, she can be a bride of Dracula. No prob. But this is not really the Duke's kind of thing, so I am guessing that he will be finding some other lady friend.
Nope. He is focused on this one. Oh, Val--the Duke's other bodyguard, and do not EVER call him Valentine, ya know what I'm sayin'?--Val and I, we tried to suggest other stuff for him to do, like hunting (both the upper-crust fancy kind involving pheasants and the more usual kind that involves foxes of the bipedal variety), but he just wasn't interested.
I have not seen a guy fixate like this on one girl since high school.
And he does not quit. He sends her elaborate romantic notes and straight-from-Switzerland Swiss chocolates and blue roses from the Himalayas that were plucked by yeti and more expensive stuff that would make the IRS sit up and take notice, believe you me. And none of it is doin' any good. Signora Olivia is grumbling and talking about erotomania and stalkers and permanent restraining orders.
Now, the Duke, he does not understand this, because giving girls lotsa stuff has always worked before, and he figures he just hasn't hit on the right gift, that's all. And she is not backing down either and is sending back every single present the minute it hits her doorstep, and it is all turning into a tremendously unfunny sitcom.
And the members of other Families, not to mention other Outfits, like the Russians and the Colombians and the Israelis, are starting to poke fun at the Duke for letting himself be led around by the nose (and certain other parts), because there is not much that the various organizations agree on, but not getting what you want in your own love life is a big no-no.
So this has been goin' on for a while. And the Duke is gettin' sappier by the day, spendin' all his time listening to music (not real music, like you hear on the radio or in music videos, but classical shit) and telling everyone who will listen and a few people who won't just how gorgeous this woman who won't give him a tumble is, and I gotta say, it has gotten old.
And then one day this kid shows up at the Duke's estate.
It's kinda hard to describe the kid, but I'll try. I could say "tall, with short wavy brown hair and big blue eyes," but that sounds like it should be on an APB, tellin' the cops to be on the lookout for this guy or that girl. A better description would be—what's the word—androgynous. Coulda been a guy, coulda been a girl. Good-lookin', either way.
Now, you do not just wander onto the Duke's estate without permission, and even if you tried there are motion sensors and heat sensors and cameras and mics, not to mention guards with dogs, so it is not surprising that the kid was caught and brought to me.
The kid glances at the Little Caesar's pizza box next to my elbow and, without even pausing, says that his name is Cesario. No last name. Just...Cesario.
Okay, kid, I think. I will give you points for being able to think up a lie that fast.
Cesario then tells me that he was in a recent plane crash. Private plane from Quebec, plane blown off course by a storm, plane crashes on the U.S. side of the border, and everyone is dead except for Cesario, who doesn't know exactly where he is, has no money and has no way to get back. Sounds like a Movie-of-the-Week. Very tragic. Very original.
Except upstate New York is not Movie-of-the-Week Country. Planes do not just crash without a hell of a lot of people noticin'. Hell, that's one reason planes have to file flightplans—so that someone will know if the plane goes off track. If there'd been a crash, it woulda been on the local news and the radio and possibly the Internet as well. An international crash probably would have brought out the national news crews. And the Feds would probably find some excuse to get involved, as well. Not to mention that the woods and hills around here would be crawling with searchers.
So I know Cesario is lying, and not in a bald-faced "You want a name? Have a fake one" way. No, this is a lie that is intended to fool me, one sounds plausible as long as you don't think about it too hard.
I do not explode, though. No, I put a couple of pieces of my pizza on a paper plate and hand the kid a mug of coffee, because frankly the kid needs it. And the kid talks some more, or rather the kid tells some more lies and I let them wash over me because I've been lookin' at the kid for a while and I've noticed something VERY interesting.
Cesario's a girl.
Physically a girl, I should say. In my business, you get to learn anatomy better'n any doctor, and it's hard to miss the little tells—like the turtleneck shirt pulled up high on the neck to hide the absence of an Adam's apple. And the overly large sweater to conceal the presence of breasts. And I get the kid to stand up and cross the room at one point so that I can double-check what I think I saw when Cesario and the guard walked in...and yep, no dick.
Not that that clears anything up. As my daughter Amanda would remind me—she goes to Bryn Mawr, where she studies this stuff—it is possible that the kid regards himself as a Cesario, damn it, girl's body or not. It is also possible that Cesario is perfectly happy being a girl and just likes crossdressing and passing as a guy. Or Cesario could be not only androgynous, but intersexed. Or a guy who is physically a guy but who has a very small Adam's apple and some serious shortcomings. It's possible. I've met a couple of guys like that. Or maybe Cesario just feels that being a guy on the road is a helluva lot safer than being a girl on the road, and I cannot really disagree with this.
Or "Cesario" could be a disguise and the person inside the disguise could be a Fed. Or Interpol. Or an assassin who's plannin' on murdering the Duke in his bed tonight.
Cops we pretend to cooperate with. It's simpler, and it drives 'em crazy. But assassins...
If Cesario is an assassin, I decide, I will take care of it personally. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
So what do I do? Well, I don't make a big deal about it. And after a while, I call for another member of staff—one who is very good at fighting and disarming killers, not that you'd know it to look at her—who takes Cesario off to the washroom to clean off the pizza grease before being deposited in the library. A room, by the way, that has X-rays and cameras everywhere, and which can kill you a dozen different ways. Such as sucking all of the oxygen out. (It's a fire extinguisher. Water and chemicals are no better for books than fire is. And the Duke loves his books.)
The kid does not realize this, of course. He just grabs a paperback—rather than any of the expensive books, which shows good sense—curls up in a chair to wait, and falls asleep. Hot food and coffee will do that to you.
And I turn the greasy paper plate and the Styrofoam cup still half-full of coffee over to what would be, in most places, a crime investigation team, and they check the plate for fingerprints and the cup for saliva for DNA analysis.
Modern times, after all. We gotta be careful.
The fingerprint work comes back the next morning at sunrise. The fingerprints aren't on record anywhere in the world that we can access. So Cesario, whoever he is, has never been arrested, has never served in the armed forces (at least not in the past thirty years or so, and the kid can't be more than twenty-five, tops), has never worked for a state or federal government, and has never worked for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency. There are not even any traces of his having had a file that an organization specializing in spying decided to bury or destroy.
The DNA analysis is not back yet, but that takes several days unless you live in a TV universe, in which case it gets done in an hour while you wait. I don't live in that kind of world.
So Cesario is not a threat, even if he is lying. The thing is, I want to know why he is lying. And it does not do to let a potential enemy go before you know what he wants. So I let him stick around—keeping him under close watch, of course.
Because Don Orsino sees the kid around the mansion and takes a shine to him. Maybe the kid reminds him of himself when he was just starting in the business. I don't know. But they talk. We're talkin' hours here. Indie movies. Craigslistlieder, whatever the hell that is. Hockey teams—they get into a huge argument over the Montreal Canadiens versus the Buffalo Sabres. And when it is over, the boss is grinning like I have not seen since he fell for Olivia Dei Castello. And he ruins my life with two short words: "You're hired."
Mentally, I swear a blue streak. But you do not argue with the Duke. So I take Cesario aside and ask a few questions to find out where I can put him so that he will not disgrace us or cause anyone too much trouble.
The kid, unfortunately, is not really trained for anything. Normally I would put him with my toughest street crew as a make-it-or-break-it deal, but normally I am very sure of my crews' loyalty, even if skill and competence leave something to be desired. In this case, I don't even have that.
I sigh, and tell the kid that he is going to be the world's most glorified gofer. I don't put it like that, of course. I call the job "being a page for the Duke," which involves a lot of running around and getting stuff and taking stuff away. There is no real glory associated with it, but by doin' it, he'll be helping the Duke, not to mention the rest of us who can't do all that and do our regular jobs too.
The kid is fine with this. No. Scratch that. The kid is NOT fine with this. The kid is so eager to be helpful and to start earning his keep that for a minute I actually feel guilty for having doubted him. Then I catch myself and I think, Oh, you're good. And yet I can't even chew him out for it. It would be like kicking a Christmas puppy.
Later that day, I get a report from my man inside the Dei Castello house, Malvolio, about what's goin' on over there. Malvolio is kind of a triple agent. Officially, he's the Dei Castello accountant/investment counselor, and he's good at his job. Unofficially, he's an FBI informant, because Olivia's dad was, shall we say, connected and did the odd job for a number of Families, though the Illyrias were not among them. And third, he's my boy. I hired him because he is an informant. I know that he thinks, and that consequently the Feds think, that the Duke is planning something major relating to Olivia or her house. And the truth is, I just wanna be prepared the next time that Olivia gives the Duke the smackdown.
So I have Malvolio and the Feds wastin' their time and money on findin' out the details of a project that only exists in their minds.
Misdirection can be a lot of fun.
As to what is goin' on the Dei Castello place, the answer is "nothin' much." Olivia's uncle, Toby the Belcher, has moved in and is, shall we say, partakin' liberally of her wine cellar. Also, a local guy who is a friend of the Belcher, Andrew Aguecheek by name (and he deserves the name—white clown makeup looks colorful next to this guy) has decided that he is gonna marry Olivia, which I do not think will happen, as he is old enough to be her father, wastes money at a ridiculous rate, and is dumb as a box of hair. He makes Adam Sandler look like Albert Einstein.
I figure that the Belcher wants his old friend to marry his niece because once Andrew is on a joint account with Olivia, Andrew and he can both start spending her money. I also figure that Olivia will knock them both into the Atlantic with a bocce ball before she lets that happen. Anyway, it is not a problem I have to worry about right now, because right about the time that I get this report, the Duke decides that he's gonna stop brooding about her and go hunting tomorrow. Three to four hours that we don't have to hear a word about Olivia Dei Castello!
Except it does not work out that way. The Duke, Val, Cesario and me start off toward the fields on his estate—being vewy vewy quiet, 'cause we're hunting wabbits--and then the Duke stops and tells Cesario to go to Olivia's house this second. He picks Cesario because Val and I have both done the messenger thing for the Duke and, as a result, we, like the Duke, have our names on restraining orders. Which is not too surprising, as he tells Cesario to stand outside the house and stare at it until Olivia's servants let him in. Personally I think that this sounds like the kind of thing that you do to threaten an enemy rather than courting a woman, but then, I'm just a bodyguard.
Cesario is not too thrilled with this, and tells him that if Olivia is as sad as he's been told, she's never gonna let him in. Bright kid. The Duke says that he thinks that Cesario will be admitted, because he's a lot younger than the previous messengers, because he's the right zodiac sign, and because he looks kinda girly.
As Cesario is spluttering over that, and no wonder, the Duke motions Val and me to follow him. The hunt is back on. So we follow, but I hear Cesario mutter something as we leave: "I'll court your lady for you, but I'd rather be your wife."
Oh, yeah, I think. This is gonna end well.
So Cesario goes to Olivia's house and talks his way in, though I think that Malvolio might have been to blame for that, as he was pissed off when Olivia didn't fire her private stand-up comic when he came back from a week-long drunk. He was in the middle of arguing with her about that—getting between an accountant and his chance to save money is dangerous—when Cesario showed up. Didn't help that Mal told Olivia that the guy at the gate who wouldn't take no for an answer was extremely hot and very witty. Because those are the kind of guys that women have no interest in. Jerk.
So Olivia says she'll talk to him, but since she's wearing a black dress with black gloves and black shoes and a thick black mourning veil in front of her face, Cesario is a trifle unnerved. It don't help that he's supposed to praise Olivia's beauty—and he can't even see her face. Oh, and the women servants, who are all in the room with Olivia as—I don't know, chaperones? Moral support? Point is, they're dressed the same way she is. So it's like being at an old-fashioned funeral with your grandmother and her friends, only instead of crying and reciting the rosary, you have to be charming and funny.
Doesn't last long, though. Cesario gets Olivia going, and she sends her women servants away. Malvolio never made it inside the room, but that's okay, as he's listening at the door.
Cesario does the John Alden-Cyrano thing, speaking for someone else, and—just like in the stories—it doesn't work. Cesario speaks a little too passionately about what he would do if he were in love with Olivia, and Olivia takes it as a confession.
So once the kid is gone, she tells Malvolio that she will not accept any presents or attentions from the Duke and that if the kid comes by tomorrow, she will give him a ton of reasons why she won't. Then she sends Malvolio after the kid to return a ring that she definitely did not remove from her finger.
And if you believe that, I have some swampland for sale in Arizona.
Malvolio meets the kid, gives him the message about coming back tomorrow, and throws the ring in the street, so that the kid can get a little grubby, at least, scrambling for it, and at most can get run over. The man thinks he's bein' subtle, on account of he's got the hots for Olivia too. What is it with this woman? Helen of Troy didn't have so many guys after her.
I do not know how long it is before the kid figures out that Olivia is in love with—him? Her? At this point, I don't even know. Point is, Cesario is not Olivia-sexual. Better point: she is not someone to mess with, because for all practical purposes, she's the boss's girlfriend.
Yeah, I know. She doesn't like him. She keeps saying no. She is not interested. All of which means that, to a rational person, she is not the Duke's girl. But, and I am sorry to have to say it, the Duke is not very sane on the subject, and would not take news of a rival well, even though he not only does not have any competition, he is not even in the fucking race.
So. Next day. The Duke shows up outside Olivia's house with Cesario, Val, me and a quartet of musicians. The Duke has some serenading to do, and he wants it done right. And since he can't sing or play an instrument, he is doing the all-American thing and payin' somebody else to do it.
The song, though—well, I am not an expert on romantic shit, but the lyrics are all about his bein' murdered by "a fair cruel maid" and then buried in a shroud beneath a cypress. It is not "Love me or I'll kill myself," but it's real close. And that don't say "I love you more than anything, and I wanna make you happy" to me.It sounds a lot more like "Gimme what I want NOW, or else!"
For the first time, it occurs to me that the Duke is great at business but is something of an idiot at romance.
The Duke sends me off to find Olivia's resident performer, the stand-up comic, on the grounds that maybe she will be more inclined to listen to her own employee's singing. So the guy, whose name is Festi, sings, but then he tells the Duke Olivia isn't the first woman he's loved, or even the hundredth, and maybe, just maybe, part of the reason that Olivia's not jumping at the chance to be with him is that, aside from the fact that he does not know how to take no for an answer, he's a bit on the fickle side.
The Duke tells Festi to fuck off, which he does, and then tells the rest of us to beat it as well, which I most emphatically do not do, as it is a bit hard to guard a person's body if you are nowhere near that person. The Duke is not pleased, but if it is a choice between keepin' him happy and keepin' him alive, I will pick alive any time.
After givin' me the fishy eyeball, which says very clearly that I am gonna get chewed out later for my disobedience, Don Orsino gets into an argument with Cesario, and not a fun argument, either. The Duke, you see, does not think that women are capable of loving as much as men are, an opinion which would get him crucified by every woman I know, including my ninety-six-year-old grandmother.
Cesario reacts to this opinion as if he—or she, I guess I should say—has been stabbed in the stomach and is slowly bleeding to death. She tries to keep the tone light and bantering, but she does not handle it well, and anyone who was not focused on provin' that I love more than anyone else in the world, and I'll show you who's fickle would notice this.
Then she comes out to him. She tells a story about her sister, who fell in love with someone who didn't return her feelings. Her sister, she says, was quiet in her unrequitedness, and if she was unhappy, no one knew it.
The Duke is not impressed, and wants to know if her sister died of love.
Cesario says, "I am all the daughters of my father's house, and all the brothers too." And then turns away, probably so the Duke won't see her crying.
Well, I thought that was pretty clear. If Cesario says she's talking about her sister and then states that she doesn't have any sisters or brothers, then she's gotta be talkin' about herself. Obvious, right?
The Duke does not get it.
It sounds insane, but...he does not get it. He stares at her as if she just asked him some impossible word problem about Train A and Train B leaving the same station at different speeds, so how old is Ann? About all he is able to grasp is that Cesario is hurt for some reason. So he gives Cesario a shoulder hug—which has to make things worse for the kid—and tells her to go tell Olivia that he can't bear to wait for her any longer.
I make a solemn promise to myself to tell the Duke about Cesario once we are somewhere semi-private. Because honest to God, this is just painful.
So we get home, and he heads off to his library. I follow him there. And when he asks, with some irritation, why I am following him—after all, who is going to shoot him in his own house?--I bow my head and try not to shuffle my feet.
"Don Orsino," I say, feeling exhausted. "There is something you need to to know about Cesario--"
And that is as far as I get before we are interrupted by Val, who has news . Seems the Belcher tried hustling Cesario into a knife-fight, which Cesario does not know beans about, on behalf of Andrew Aguecheek.
Now, I think about this and decide that Toby the Belcher is a bit slow with the news, and does not know that Cesario has told Olivia, "Thanks, but so not interested." He is just seeing a guy that his niece is interested in who is not his spendthrift friend, and he knows that if Olivia and Cesario get involved, he is screwed. This way, the Belcher gets to eliminate a problem one of two ways—either Andrew will kill him, or the local constabulary, which has been informed, will arrest Cesario for committing, or trying to commit, gross bodily harm. And the latter is a slap at Don Orsino and the Illyria Family any way that you look at it
But the Duke does not know about Olivia's attraction to the kid, much less about the kid not bein' into that kind of thing, and he sure as hell does not know about Aguecheek. So he does not know why Val is makin' a big deal about this, and he says so.
I am just opening my mouth to explain when Val drops another bombshell. A guy belonging to the Family whose turf borders on the Illyrias—and there has been bad blood between the Illyrias and this Family since the dawn of time—saw the fight startin' between Aguecheek and the kid, and jumped in to save him. Not only that, but the guy from the other Family apparently knows the kid, because he called him by name. Sebastien. With a Quebecois accent.
Don Orsino is shocked that the kid has an ally from a rival Family that he can call on in time of emergency. I am busy thinkin' that I owe Cesario's ally something, because now I have a first name to to run a search under. And "Sebastien," fortunately, is not one of the more common ones. Limit the search for the rare name to the province of Quebec and suddenly, finding out who Cesario is becomes a lot easier.
Once I make my excuses and run the search, it does not take long before I find two names: Sebastien Messaline, Sr. and Sebastien Messaline, Jr. Messaline Senior died recently, and seems to have been an importer and exporter of rare goods. The genuine variety, mind you, and not the euphemism. Messaline Senior checks out as a fair, noble and honorable man, which may explain why he died broke.
Messaline Junior, on the other hand, needed a lot of money to pay off hospital bills and lots of other debts. I cannot tell what he did, as a lot of this is not recorded, but I am getting the impression that a helluva lot of money changed hands so that Messaline Junior would bring something highly illegal into the States. I do not know what this something is, but evidentally Sebastien himself bringing the stuff is not enough, because the manifest of the plane he was on says that there were two Messalines on board—Sebastien and Violette.
And Sebastien and Violette have the same birthday.
Twins. Well, no bets on which one we've got. What interests me is that the two are apparently identical. You don't get fraternal twins who are also identical twins. You can't. Two people who come from two different cells are not going to be doubles.
I find the answer online in a copy of an yearbook photo. Junior's name, ten years ago, was Vivienne Marie.
I am, I will admit, impressed. Everything I've found says that Junior has done everything in his power to become the kind of guy he wants to be. A business degree from a top-notch university. Fencing lessons. Gun club. All stuff that takes a lot of time and hard work. He just made one misstep, and that seems to have been more out of eagerness to pay off his dad's debts than anything else. It was stupid—don't get me wrong. But I have heard of worse reasons for doing stuff.
Also, I am beginning to get why Cesario did not mention that her name was Violette Messaline. Her plane did not crash, but it sure ended up in the middle of nowhere. And as of now, two passengers are accounted for.
The flight crew isn't.
Whether the guy connected to the rival Family was helpin' to fly the plane or whether he is just someone that Sebastien happens to know is not clear. But he seems determined to keep Sebastien alive. Maybe he is just a good and loyal friend—it happens--but I am going with "protecting his Family's investment."
It has been a long day, but I am feeling pretty satisfied, all things considered.
Which I should not. Because the other servants in Olivia's house have banded together against my obnoxious informant and—with the help of Aguecheek and Toby the Belcher—have set the guy up the bomb. First they provided fake letters that convinced him that Olivia was madly in love with him, and then they sicced him on her. Olivia freaked and called the cops, who decided, based on their vast experience with the mentally ill, that Malvolio may have had a psychotic break.
The upshot, although I do not know this yet, is that my very well-paid informant is cooling his heels in the local hospital talking to both a staff and a police psychiatrist.
I need this kind of aggravation, you know?
Also, since Val ran off to tell Don Orsino about what had happened to Cesario, he did not see what happened after Guy From Rival Family got arrested...though we heard about it later from all sides. Namely, Junior showed up. Apparently he just took a more roundabout route to get to this town than his sister did.
Since Cesario was not all that hot to fight, the Belcher and Aguecheek—who are basically thugs from decent families—decided that obviously Cesario was a coward. And thugs are allowed to taunt cowards. So they start taunting Sebastien, thinkin' he is Cesario.
Turns out, the fencin' lessons paid off. Sebastien delivers a few stabs and jabs before disarming Aguecheek. The Belcher, though, does not know when to back down, and Olivia has to rush out of her house and grab the knife out of his hand before Sebastien cleaves the idiot in two. Exit the Belcher, slinking off in search of a drink. Or maybe a thousand of 'em.
And then Olivia sees Sebastien acting all tough and macho, and...do I have have to spell it out? Flowers bloom spontaneously, birds are twittering overhead, and a love ballad is playing in the background with full orchestral accompaniment. If you have ever seen a Disney movie, you know how this is going to end.
Anyway. Back at the Duke's estate. Val and I have gotten everything more or less untangled, though again the Duke is not listening to either of us. He wants to know which of his enemies is in town first, and I cannot really blame him for this. And he wants to look the guy in the face. And Cesario, who is back by now as well, is the only one of us who has gotten a good look at the guy, so she's comin' along as well.
So we head off to the police station—it may be enemy territory, but with the Duke's lawyers on speed-dial, it's not really a threat—to find out who got arrested.
The guy's name is Antoine, and he is furious, both about being arrested and at Cesario for not standing by him. And he launches into a passionate spiel about how he kept this ungrateful boy alive after their plane made an emergency landing in the hills, and how they lived in the wilderness togther for months, and he paid for the kid's clothes, and he has no fucking clue why the kid is claiming not to know him now.
And before I can say, "Dude, you were with Sebastien Messaline, this one is his sister," Olivia walks in, probably intent on finding out just where the cops sent her accountant, and greets Cesario as her husband.
And the Duke loses it.
It is a very good thing that Val and I are present and can grab his arms, because otherwise he would be tearing the kid's throat out in front of the cops and no mistake. Olivia is not helping matters by saying that she can call on a priest to prove that he married her and Cesario, and when we, including Antoine, who we bail out, finally leave the station, here comes Aguecheek whining about how Cesario beat up the Belcher again just now. And this time I lose it.
"When?" I growl, and my expression is probably not too friendly as he takes a step backwards before he answers.
"About five minutes ago," he says, sounding injured.
"Oh," I say. "When we were all in the police station in front of a dozen cops."
I can see it starting to dawn on Aguecheek and the Duke that Cesario didn't have a chance to beat anyone up, but I am in no mood to stop now.
"And you. Ms. Dei Castello," I say, glaring at her. "When did you get married?"
Takes a little time to figure this out, but it turns out to be about a half hour ago. When Cesario was in the library with Val, the Duke and me, in other words.
Everyone is looking at me like I am pulling rabbits out of hats.
I look at Cesario. "I think you'd better congratulate your new sister-in-law on her marriage, Ms. Messaline."
Cesario's face goes dead white as the Duke's jaw drops. I know she wants to believe this, but after everything that's happened, she's afraid to.
And I do not know how to convince her that whatever her brother did isn't going to get her killed. Because it probably will.
You know how sometimes in movies you get a moment where just the right person enters at just the right time? Sometimes, even in real life, you get a moment like that. This is what happens now. Enter Junior, looking quite pleased with himself—he got to sock Toby the Belcher, so I can hardly blame him—and smiling lovingly at his new wife. He apologizes to her for beating up her uncle, even though the guy was rude...and then he sees Cesario. Who, frankly, looks like she's not sure if she's hallucinating, being tricked, seeing a ghost or gazing at her twin brother.
It does not take long for everything to get untangled after that. And, fortunately, the Duke is not too pissed at me for not being able to spit it out and tell him about Cesario, because he is a fair man and he admits that he spent a spectacular amount of time in this mess not listening to anybody. And I am very relieved to hear this, believe me.
So things settle down a little. The Duke puts the twins under his personal protection, which means that anyone who attacking them is attacking him, and that includes the Outfit that wanted Sebastien to smuggle a few things into the country. Then the Duke buys up all the paper of Messaline Senior and pays off every single penny. And he calls it a wedding present to Sebastien and Olivia, so no one can object. Told you he was good at business.
The situation with Cesario, who is back to calling herself Violette now, is a bit awkward. It is hard for the Duke to admit that he likes Violette a helluva lot more than he ever liked Olivia. It's even harder to admit this in view of the fact that he spent so much time swearing he could never love another. And nearly killing her when he thought that Violette was married to Olivia did not help his case.
He asks me for advice one day—what should he do to make up for his being a total jerk?
"Grovel," I say. "On your knees, if you have to. And be sincere about it."
He grimaces, because he does not do Grovel well. "You're sure that will work?"
I shrug, and give him a half-smile. "Works with my Lisa."
I do not know if he takes my advice, but I do know that two months later, he pops the question and she says yes.
Sounds like a happy ending, right? So what was I talking about at the beginning with Violette and Sebastien being trouble?
Well, the thing is, Violette kind of likes being Cesario, even now.
And the Duke thinks that Violette being Cesario is kinda hot.
For that matter, so does Olivia.
This would not be a problem if all of them kept it private. But today I get called to the library, and there is the Duke sitting at his desk with one twin curled up in his lap and the other sprawled in a chair, and all three of them are looking as content as cats who have just eaten salmon and stolen cream.
And I cannot tell which twin is which.
It must show in my face, because the Duke grins at me. "Trying to figure out which one's Sebastien?"
And I nod, shamefaced. It's embarrassing, being read so easily.
And I know that what the Duke says next is just him messing with me for not minding my own business. I know that. But all I can think of is how much danger he'd be in if his enemies heard this.
Because he looks up at me with the most serene expression I have ever seen on his face and smiles. "Which is which...hmm. That's a good question. What day of the week is it?"