Tell Me in Italian

I’m at Mike’s Office and it’s Friday, late in the afternoon, so the sun is slipping down. The view up here is great, no clouds, no clichéd pastels; all I see is a bright orange ball. My office has forwarded a call from my sister, Gin, because I told them I’d be at Mike’s, working on my taxes, and I’m on his desk phone. The mouthpiece smells like old cigar. Mike’s on the thirty-second floor of One Shell Square. He’s behind his desk, tilted back in his chair, feet up, and in the plate-glass window behind him I can see the Superdome. I’ve just uncorked the bottle of wine I brought up in my purse, and I’m wiping out two stained coffee mugs.

Gin asks if I can talk, and I say, “Sure. I’m at Mike’s.” She groans, not approving. “What’s up?” I say. I print SISTER on a yellow Post-it and stick it below the V of my sweater, and Mike smiles and straightens the papers on his desk. He likes the top of it clean. Gin’s talking fast. She says she’s been following our father around Rock Creek Park and that something strange is going on. Gin’s in military intelligence, stationed in Washington, D.C., and no one in the family is sure what she does except that she interprets covert photos from hostile countries. Our parents live together in New Orleans, but our father’s up in D.C. on a business trip, just a few miles from Gin and her husband, Gerry.

Gin says, “Dad’s been here almost a week and hasn’t been by. I went to the Marriott where he usually stays, but he’s not registered.”

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