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«Three-way weekend», Kitty Spencer

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The two young men strolling along Sutter Street might have been brothers. Each was tall, each had the same lightly tanned, dark-haired good looks, and the same Italian ancestry showed in the boned modeling of both faces. But Nino and Carlo were unrelated by direct blood ties. They considered themselves to be business partners.

They walked with easy strides toward the rows of cafe tables that lined the garden court restaurant, ignoring the San Franciscians and tourists who strolled past them. Typically, Carlo was half pace in the lead.

"Let's sit here," he suggested, reaching for a chair at a back row table. They sat down and lit cigarettes, each taking from his own pack.

Nino produced a pair of sunglasses from the breast pocket of his jacket and put them on. It was April; the sunshine was already bright.

Carlo clicked his fingers in the direction of a white jacketed waiter who immediately gave a nod of recognition.

"How goes it, George?" Carlo greeted the waiter as the man hurried to the table.

"I survive," George grinned. "What'll it be, gentlemen."

"Coffee, amico." Nino ordered the same.

The two young men leaned back in their chairs, each taking in the scene around him with a practiced gaze. Only a third of the outdoor tables were occupied, for the tourist season had hardly begun. There were still more pigeons than people in the court. Simultaneously they caught sight of the girl walking across the patio.

She was not beautiful, exactly, but she was attractive in a strangely exciting way. Shining in the sunlight, her straight blonde hair hung almost to her shoulders. She walked with a languid, long-legged gait, unhurried and graceful. And her figure superb.

Twenty or twenty-one, Carlo estimated. More importantly, he could tell at a glance that although she was casually dressed, her clothes were undoubtedly expensive. And she possessed that air of impeccable carelessness that belongs only to rich men's daughters!

"Nino, my friend," Carlo murmured, leaning across the table, "Nino – you'd better get to work. Business is already beginning to look good this year…"

"Did you fix up about the apartment?" Nino asked. The sun blazed momentarily from Nino's dark glasses as the boy turned toward his companion.

Carlo nodded.

"It's all arranged. I checked everything with the landlord. Including the rent. It's ours for the season."

"How'd you get the place so cheap?" Nino's lower lip formed a suspicious pout.

"The landlord is a friend of mine…" Shrugging, Carlo let his voice trail off.

Nino's petulant expression changed into a satisfied smile. Carlo had more "friends" in San Francisco than anyone else Nino knew. Of course, in Carlo's line of business, one either had friends – or one starved. There was no middle course.

For the official record, Carlo was a tourist guide. In reality, he was a highly versatile procurer.

Their coffee arrived, and Carlo and Nino began discussing the tourist season as they drank it.

"Christ – but I hope it's better than last year," Nino muttered as he glanced toward the table where the blonde-haired girl sat. "I nearly broke my back on those women, and not one of them turned out to be worth more than a week's keep."

"When one aims high," remarked Carlo, "one must be patient. This year, maybe you'll find your dream girl. The dream girl who'll be young, beautiful, rich – and very, very stupid."

Carlo grinned maliciously to himself. Nino glanced at him, annoyed, his mouth setting in a pouting sulk. Even with his eyes hidden behind the sunglasses, his features were expressive. Nino had long been aware that women found his mobile features distractingly charming.

"Is Benito going to share the apartment with us?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Probably. He's supposed to meet us here to let us know definitely."

"I wouldn't have thought he needed an apartment. Those rich old gals he gets always have luxury suites in the best hotels. Or else they rent a plush apartment."

Nino's voice betrayed jealousy. He sometimes wished he were less fastidious but, much as he worshipped money, he couldn't bring himself to court and sleep with older women. "It offends my sense of the aesthetic," he had tried to explain to Carlo on more than one occasion. "It's almost like a perversion, but in reverse. If they're older than thirty, I can't screw them no matter how beautiful. It won't come up properly." Carlo's response had always been both lewd and unsympathetic.

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