In his dream Signor Bompanzini was drowning.
He pictured himself falling backwards into a canal, and then slowly sinking as the waters rushed to cover his face. He flailed ineffectually, but he could not catch a breath. Just one more breath of air was all he wanted. Just a sip. Enough to keep him alive for a few seconds more.
He struggled into consciousness with, for him, a superhuman effort of will. He opened his mouth to scream, and realised that he was securely gagged and bound to his chair, and that someone was dripping water from a jug onto his face which he could not help but inhale.
"Ah, you are awake are you, you fat pig?"
He recognised the voice and then the face - it was Donatella di Rossini. He thought that that bitch had been sent to rot at the pleasure of the Inquisition in one of their hidden torture rooms. He suddenly felt afraid, very afraid.
"I'm going to ask you a few questions and then I'll loosen your gag. Any funny business or trying to call for help then it goes straight back on and I'll stick you like the hog that you are."
She demonstrated by spinning a wickedly sharp dagger up into the air and then catching it.
Bompanzini nodded furiously to signify his assent. Donatella loosened his gag, and he gratefully sucked in a lung full of fresh air.
"Please, don't kill me. All of the business earlier was a misunderstanding, a dreadful misunderstanding. It is all the doing of Father Carmelo, not me. I am an innocent party, you must believe me! You must!" Bompanzini babbled.
"All I want to know is where my father is, and what you were planning on doing with all of that gold. Just tell me the unvarnished truth - my patience for your prattle is growing dangerously thin"
"I don't know where your father is. He was sent to the same place that Carmello's men took you, but he went missing from there after a fire a couple of days ago."
Donatella felt a thrill of hope - this confirmed what she had suspected from her overheard conversation on the road.
"As for the money, Carmelo has half of the Venetian Grand Council in his pocket and spies everywhere. He needs the money to pay them all off and finance the attack on the city. Your father was supposed to part of the deal, but his ship with ten million ducats aboard has gone missing. Perhaps you are now beginning to see things from our perspective?"
"If you'll untie me, perhaps we can come to some sort of arrangement to our mutual benefit?" He pleaded with her, trusting in his ability to strike a bargain from even the most unpromising of circumstances.
"No deals. I just have one more question for you. Where is Carmelo?"
"He's in Venice somewhere. I don't know where, I promise you. I swear it!"
Donatella said nothing, but reached inside Bompanzini's pocket and removed a small bottle. She unscrewed the lid and tipped the whole bottle into a jug of wine which she picked up. Bompanzini swiftly realised what she intended to do.
"No you can't! That much of the infusion will surely kill me. Please, no!"
She pulled his hair to force his head back and poured the wine over his face until he was forced to swallow some if it. He gagged, and then vomited profusely and extravagantly over his expensive silk shirt.
"You'll live, I think" Donatella chuckled, and then the humour went from her as she heard heavy foot steps climbing the stairs and a hammering on the door.
“Boss? What's happening in there?”
It was time for Donatella to make herself scarce.