'Just off the top of your head, which of them would you suspect?'
'I don't know.' For a moment, he gazed into the middle distance. He picked at one of the half-dozen charity wristbands on his arm—cotton weaving, beaded bands, plaited leather, crude plastic, some with words printed on them. Help for Heroes. Men's Health Awareness.
'I like the jewellery,' I said, nodding at them. 'What the well-dressed man about town is wearing these days.'
He flushed. 'One of Suzy's clients produces them, so she's always giving me samples to wear, in order to promote them.'
'Whatevs.' He paused. 'But it's not just the thefts...'
'What else?' I asked, repressing the urge to sigh.
'The problem is, Alessandra, I also urgently need to find out if anything else was taken. Because if it was, and I'm not aware, then when my uncle finds out, I shall be in very serious trouble.'
'And how exactly do you think I can help?' The way he said my name was toe-curlingly sexy.
'I don't know. Maybe you could go and talk to them,' he suggested.
'And ask them if by any chance they stole a faux-Botticelli or a doge's ring? Or any other valuable trinket of that sort? Come on, Sandro, as far as they're concerned, I'm a total stranger. I can't just turn up and start interrogating them.'
'But you're with the police.'
'Used to be. Not any more. Besides, I don't think I'm qualified for this kind of job. Sounds to me as though you need to engage a private detective of some kind. There are plenty of them around. Look in the Yellow Pages. Or I can recommend—'
'Alessandra, you must do this for me. I can't have any fuss made. Think of the scandal it would cause if anyone found out, the shame and dishonour it would bring to my family, to my mamma. It would be intolerable. I need absolute discretion. And then...' He picked up his wine glass and swallowed its contents. 'I have Sicilian blood running through my veins. And as it says in the Bible, la vendetta è mia. Vengeance is mine. When I say vengeance,' he added hastily,
'I don't mean swords at midnight, or ground glass in the coffee. I just want the person responsible to suffer. Well, not suffer, exactly, but certainly to be punished in some way.'
'I always thought vengeance was the Lord's and He was the one who would repay.'
Sandro waved his hands about. 'That is beside the point.'
'Would the Lord see it that way?'
'And quite apart from anything else' Sandro wagged a finger at me 'to steal from your host is an appalling abuse of hospitality.'
He sounded much as his grandfather, an Italian aristocrat renowned for his crustiness, might have done, rather than a guy in his twenties.
'And how am I to meet these people? Let alone begin cross-examining them?'
'I thought of that. I shall have a small gathering in my flat. To celebrate my mother's birthday. Invite all of them— plus a few others. Including my aunt and uncle, of course. Plus some people of your age.'
'Oh, thank you, Sandro,' I said humbly.
'Obviously also my parents and maybe a few of my colleagues from my office. And maybe your brother he knows my parents. Would that work?'
'I'll set it up as soon as possible and let you know.'
'Won't your friends find it a bit odd, that you're having another party so soon?'
He shook his head. 'I don't think so. I entertain a lot. And they know that I prefer to eat at home rather than in a restaurant. Though it'll be a buffet rather than a formal sit-down dinner. Meanwhile...' He reached into the inside breast pocket of his suit and brought out a piece of A4 paper folded into four. 'I thought you might need some more information, so here are the coordinates of the people who were at my dinner party in Venice.'