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.