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Out-Crooking the Crooked Warden

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Doña Sofia Salvara had seen her husband be many things during the years she'd known him, but truly anxious was not one of them.

"I am just—"

"You are just what, darling?"

Lorenzo sighed. "I'm nervous, damn that Fehrwight," he said in a tense near-whisper.

"Oh, darling, don't fret. That's all behind us, and that nasty little man is hardly worth—"

"Don't you patronize me. That 'nasty little man' parted from us the greater part of our assets, and were it not for your fortunate friendship with Doña Vorchenza, we'd be—"

"—hardly out on the streets, love. Embarrassed, perhaps, but we'd manage."

"—we'd be prostrating ourselves before the temple of Gandolo begging the Fickle Father for a second chance."

"Yes perhaps we would, husband, but the Father of Opportunities saw fit to bless us preemptively, and if you don't calm yourself and get your ass back out there, not only will your lack of initiative shame all Camorri, but the duke's newest Spiders will need to find new jobs—again."

Lorenzo squeezed his eyes shut in a forced blink. "Yes. Yes. You're right."

"Here are the drinks. Is your finger still on?" She took his right hand to check the delicate lynchpin of the evening's intrigues. The brash young thiefboss that was styling himself Camorr's new Capa—though Sofia was not quite willing to grant him the title, yet—had been lured into a meeting with Lorenzo Salvara, though at the moment Don Lorenzo Salvara was posing as Giorno Avanti, alley-piece craftsman extraordinaire, one of a handful of identities Doña Vorchenza had very kindly deigned to create for her new protégés.

"I-I think so," said Lorenzo. A flower petal chosen for its fleshlike hue had been carefully glued to the middle finger of Lorenzo's right hand, and Sofia had prepared its outward-facing surface with an especially potent—though non-lethal—alchemical hallucinogen and sedative. The new Capa needed to be reminded just who it was that held true power in Camorr.

"Remember, just one brush against the surface of his cup as he pours it. He'll demand you mingle drinks, but he won't be looking at the cup. And if you do have to touch it, remember—"

"Three minutes to get around to the kitchen for the antidote, right."

"And where will that be?" Sofia quizzed her husband.

"The bottle of sunspice oil in the cupboard."

Sofia Salvara nodded. "You're ready."

Lorenzo looked his wife in the face with fresh eyes. "Gods, I love you."

She smiled. "I know."