Signor Bompanzini had been a wine trader for longer than he cared to remember. Advancing years and a fondness for sampling the very product that he sold had given him an impressive girth and a bulbous red nose. He would often say that a day without wine is like a day without sunshine, and for him just about every day was a sunny day. He poured himself a goblet of a fine Tuscan red from a stone jug on his desk and settled down to work through his ledgers.
He had a keen eye for the detail in figures, and years of experience could show him the markets where he could make a tidy profit, or the merchants who were short changing him. Although a lot of his business came through Venice, he preferred to be based in Ravenna. The streets were a great deal drier for one thing – bobbing about in a gondola did not agree with his delicate constitution at the best of times. This was not to say that he did not appreciate the finer things in life that were to be found in the grand city, but he enjoyed them all the more for them being occasional treats.
His work was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. He looked up with a mild sense of irritation before replying with a somewhat world weary sigh -
"Well, come on in, if you are going to - I haven't got all day, you know"
The figure who came through the door was a revelation to him, in many ways. It was not the fellow merchant he was expecting, or perhaps a clerk from a newly arrived ship with a docket to sign, but instead was a young woman, and a very striking one at that. She was dressed in the travelling clothes of a moderately well to do noble man, dusty and travel stained from a recent journey. He struggled to describe her face in his inner monologue - she was not exactly what you might call pretty, her face was too hard and angular for that description, but she had a classical beauty that wouldn't have looked out of place on a marble statue of a Greek goddess on the front of the Doge's palace in the Piazza San Marco. Her magnificent auburn red curly hair was tied back in a functional pony tail, but he was willing to wager a very large sum indeed that properly styled she could put all of the beauties of Venice to shame.
His reverie was broken as the woman entered the room and shut the door behind her.
"Signor Bompanzini? My name is Donatella di Rossini, and I have a few questions for you. May I trouble you for a glass of that delicious looking wine - I've been on horse back for hours and my throat is as dry as a Sicilian garden in August"