(2018-05-07) Stolen Property - Calling in a Favor
"No, no, don't thank me."
antonella 
AlbriciHome.jpg
Summary:
Antonella shows up at Palazzo Albrici in hopes of finding Cesare to call in a favor.
Related:
A follow up to 2018-05-06-stolen-property, part of a small plot run by Morosina for this month's 'smuggle' theme.
Misc Info:
No horse thieves were harmed in the filming of this scene.
cesare 

The house is broken from dinner, dispersing as people do once the meal is done, leaving servants to tidy up. Rather than the end of his night, though, this marks the beginning for Cesare, who is currently eyeing himself in one of the ubiquitous mirrors in this front hall. Thus, he's on his way out when Antonella is on her way in, bypassing the awkwardness of some doorman going and looking for him and announcing her presence or whatever. He pulls open the front door and —

Finds a rather startled, wide-eyed Antonella just about to knock. She's looking rather lovely, really, on the wake of her own family dinner, fitted in appropriate finery of sky blue with deep green and bright yellow embroidery, so well-suited for spring. And for a noblewoman of one of the great houses. It's just that peculiar expression she wears — a mixture of startlement, delight, uncertainty and worry — that leaves her looking a little less than dignified. Give her a second, just a moment to draw her hand down, her shoulders up, her bright smile to the fore. She can't do much about the blushing, but one makes do. "Signore Cesare. What, um. What a coincidence. I was hoping I might find you in this evening. If you have a moment to talk?"

Surprise splashes quickly across Cesare's face, and he takes an involuntary step backward, still holding the door-handle. Surprise gives way to confusion after a second, once he's taken a beat to assess the situation: he looks Antonella over briefly, then beyond her to the street, finding no one else. "Wouldn't that be the opposite of a coincidence? Finding me where you went looking for me?" This is where he should say something gracious and invite her in, but he continues to stand there, in the doorway, instead. "Oh, by all means. Let's talk." He cocks his head, listening.

"I hadn't expected to find you precisely on the other side of the door right as I showed up to it," Antonella points out rather matter-of-factly. "Therein lies the coincidence, my coming so succinctly timed with your going." Her lips purse faintly as she, in mirror of his motion, looks back into the room behind him in a very similar check. "Which means I ought to be a more considerate creature and curb my pedantry." Brow knitting as the uncertainty comes to the fore, she lowers her voice and asks, "Might you know where one might arrange for the sale and transfer of a stolen horse?"

Well, that's what he gets for not having manners enough to invite someone in. Cesare is surprised anew, having waved away the semantics of coincidence, his eyes rounding and his forehead creasing with the pull of his brows together. "Hold on," he says, and abruptly closes the door in Antonella's face. If she's listening closely, she should be able to hear the sounds of footsteps pattering off into the distance from inside the house, then a solid thirty seconds of utter silence.

One does not get doors slammed in one's face without reason. The gentleman has asked her to hold, and so Antonella holds. With a few seconds of staring at the door in mute confusion. She takes a step backward as the footsteps trail off, spending that half-minute of silence fussing unnecessarily with her hair, her dress. Maybe making a little face at herself when she realizes she's doing so. Then she lets her attention stray toward her surroundings, perfectly patient as she waits, entirely expecting Cesare to return.

The footsteps clap across the floor once more, the door swings open, and Cesare emerges onto the front steps, now wearing his coat. He pulls the door to behind him, cutting off the handy little rectangle of light from within, stepping out into the evening like that whole interlude never happened. "Whose horse?" He tosses his chin in a walk-with-me gesture, suggesting the path away from the front door.

Antonella's got her smile on all right and proper when the door opens this time, looking the very picture of a proper young noblewoman without a care in the world. For all of a pair of seconds before she's falling into step beside Cesare. "I would hope for your discretion in this matter," she murmurs, though there's not an ounce of distrust there. Just a note to the delicacy of the situation. "The handsome stallion in question belongs to House Capello. My conte might make a personal claim."

"This?" Cesare begins, gesturing between the two of them, walking in the gathering evening where few are around to see and none near enough to hear. "Is discreet. Knocking on someone's door and asking them to fence a stolen horse for you?" He speaks out of the side of his mouth on that, shaking his head gravely to answer the question his tone presents. "You stole a horse from your own stables?" Even in all those aforementioned evening shadows, there's a healthy dose of skepticism in his expression, his head cocked askew at Antonella. "How's that math add up?"

Antonella frowns as her blush resurfaces at her earlier indiscretion being made so plain. Plenty of smarts, this one, but a little low on the practical application thereof. It's the questions which have her going wide-eyed, which get her head shaking. "No, I —" She huffs out a breath. "While I do appreciate your willingness to consider the very possibility of Antonella the Horse Thief without a Proper Plan, that's not the scenario I meant to present. I'm not looking for a fence this evening, but rather find myself in need of a knowledgeable hero. One of our hired hands proved less trustworthy than her references suggested, and we've reason to believe that she and her brother are on their way to Matora to sell the stallion they've stolen with only a very narrow window to undo their work and spare a great many people my conte's wrath."

"Wait wait wait. You talk too fast." Cesare wipes his hands through the air in front of him, stopping at the fence (or whatever) where the Albrici house meets the street, looking squarely at Antonella. "So you don't actually have a horse that you're looking to get rid of. You're just trying to find somebody who might be buying stolen horses." No, he didn't technically ask a question, but the pause that follows his summary waits for some kind of answer.

"Yes," Antonella answers promptly as she draws to a stop facing Cesare, just near enough that she can continue to keep her voice low. That smile? Gone, leaving her expression simply open. Honest. Painfully innocent. "We expect that there might be a specific buyer, though we're entirely unsure of where such transactions might occur given the necessary absence of scrutiny required. Ideally, we'd like to hold all responsible parties accountable for their actions, buyer and sellers." She pauses just long enough for her face to scrunch a bit. "I am sorry for… this."

Cesare must believe Antonella's total honesty. Or else he doesn't have a horse in this race (ba dum) and so doesn't have cause to question that honesty too deeply. "I'm still a little lost about my part in all this," he says, as if he needs to begin anew. "You want me to introduce you to someone that buys stolen horses, and you're planning to arrest that person? 'Cause," he laughs weakly, waving away Antonella's apology with a bat of his fingers, "that just sounds like you're setting me up to get my ass beat."

"Goodness no," comes with a furrow of Antonella's brow. "I'd rather not see you hurt," is just as earnest as all the rest. "However, if you're able to point me in the right direction, I'll let someone else handle all the proper trouble. Your name won't be mentioned in any of it. Not even to my conte. No matter how he scowls. You've my word on that."

Cesare is quick to agree, "Oh good, me too," about not wanting to see himself getting hurt. He agonizes over the rest of the issue, though, visibly struggling with the whole thing, lacing his fingers together on the back of his neck and tightening his expression. "I know a guy named Alfonsi, he and his boss sell horses sometimes. They trade from outside the city, and they sell good horses too cheap to be on the up-and-up." He shrugs, hands still laced behind his head, "Maybe he's seen your missing horse."

Antonella's features crease with concern — and maybe a little guilt — as she waits and watches, though there's nothing in her demeanor which seems inclined to hurry that decision on. When the information comes? She surges forward a half-step like she might just fling herslef upon Cesare before catching herself and taking a bigger step backwards to reinforce appropriate propriety. "Thank you. Truly." It looks like there might be something more, the way she stares with her forehead all scrunched up like that, but nothing comes before she glances toward the gate.

Cesare reflexively takes a half-step back in response, releasing his clasped hands at the same time and rubbing his fingers into his eyes. "No, no, don't thank me. Either it's a dead-end and no thanks are deserved. Or it's not a dead-end, and this conversation never happened, and I don't even know any Capellos, I think they just live next door to my second cousin or something." That's his story, and he's sticking to it. Dropping his hands to clasp on the gate, he swings it open, now that Antonella's gone and looked at it.

Antonella is right back to staring, even after the gate's opened for her. "This surely qualifies as a favor," comes very quietly. "That debt is paid. Though I —" She stops herself, gaze dipping to the space between them, so much more now than it had been just a moment ago. Deep breath, shoulders straight, head up. She flashes an apologetic smile. "Good evening, Signore Cesare." And, with that, she's moving off through the gate.

Cesare's, "That's a load off," is a wry mutter, heavy with dark amusement. "Yes, good night, good luck." He sticks around in the open gate while Antonella disappears, gears turning behind his eyes while he stares off into the middle distance. A full ten seconds pass; "Be careful!" He heads back into the house, on second thought.

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