Anyway, Father Jacobs is described byrnthe press here as “the strange priest tied tornthe fugitive financier Martin Frankel.” ArnJewish convert to Cathohcism and nowrnun prete da jet-set with a parish in Rome’srnTrastevere, Jacobs appears to have beenrnin trouble before, with the archdiocese ofrnNew York, for opening a swanky restaurantrnof his own called The Palantine.rnTom Corbally, a partner in Kroll Associates,rnwho introduced history’s biggestrnthief to Jacobs in the first place —alongrnwith Tom Bolan, Robert Strauss, and arnhost of other political notables —isrnknown in England as “the man who uncoveredrnthe Profumo scandal.” Havingrndined with Corbally a number of times, Irncan testif)’ that he, too, knows a thing orrntwo about linguine with clam sauce, andrnhow to tuck in a well-starched napkin.rnAnd speaking of dim, I simply cannotrnresist the following rosy reminiscence.rnFifteen vears ago, when 1 was courting arnrich man’s daughter, Kroll Associates wasrnpaid a commensurately large amount ofrnmonev’ to find out everything there was tornknow about me. An inconspicuous larrikinrnin a beige trench coat arrived to interviewrnsome people I knew, and beforernanswering any of his queshons, they naturallyrnasked him what the whole thingrnwas about. “Mr. Navrozov is applying forrna job,” the spook ventured in his bestrntones of sweet dulcimer, “and we’re doingrna check of his personal background.”rnNeedless to sav, no sooner was the threeletterrnword out of his mouth than evervrnmember of the assembled company fellrnover laughing: “Navrozov applying for arnjob! Come on, own up, you’re a privaterninvestigator! And a lousy one at that!”rnThe moral of the story, I suppose, is thatrnwhile American spooks will not becomernmore bright by eating in fancy restaurants,rnthey may, given enough time andrntwo billion dollars spending money, becomerna little more worldly.rnBut enough dark hints and playful imputations,rnNow begins the main strandrnof this troubled narrative, because Anna,rnour cook of the last three cloudless seasonsrnhere, has just got herself a regularrnjob. This, you understand, is the kind ofrntragedy that can only happen in an Italianrnresort town, at the exact point of contactrnbetween the always undeservingrnrich, meaning the summer people, andrnthe frequendy idle poor, those who livernhere all year round. “Anna! How couldrnshe? After all we’ve done for her!” Thernreader can add whatever boilerplate criesrnof outraged virtue seem apposite. So,rnwiping off my man-eat-lobster smile andrnputting on the conspiratorial air of perfectrnnonchalance, I had to go out and investigaternthe surrounding countryside inrnsearch of a new cook. Even in floweredrnshorts tight around the belly, I’m sure Irnlooked like the man from Kroll.rnThe first applicant, much recommendedrnby the uncle of one friendlyrnrestaurant owner, displeased everybodyrnby arriving at the house a good hour beforernthe scheduled audition—yes, provarncan thus be solemnly translated —andrnwas without an apron. Even more alarmingly,rnshe looked like a real witch. At firstrnI tried to rationalize, of course, by recallingrnthe perfectly charming sorceress fromrnVerdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera who gatheredrnwild herbs by the light of the moonrnand yer’ probably had an excellent wayrnwith light summer soups, but was finallyrndissuaded when I overheard Giovannarnmuttering to herself what sounded likernmagic spells while being shown aroundrnthe kitchen. Also, the contralto in Verdirnwas always young, raven-haired, and buxom,rnwhereas the real witch was not. Inrnfact, she was extremely thin, and I’m notrnso deracinated as to forget that in nn- na-rnHve tongue the word “thin” also meansrn”evil.”rnWithout so much as a fair trial, Giovannarnwas told a white lie. Our friendlyrnrestaurateur informed her that the richrnRussian gentieman had found somebodyrnelse for the job, whereupon, having takenrnthe usual precautions and reassuringrnhimself all the while with one or anotherrnof the great honeyed mantras of meliorism,rnthe man from Kroll went out againrnamong the shadows of Mediterraneanrnnight. This time, the applicant was recommended,rnfunnily enough, by the ownerrnof a famous restaurant in nearby Ansedoniarncalled La Strega, which meansrn”The Witch.” Graziella, who came onlyrn1S minutes late for her appointment andrnwore an apron, was a good deal morerncomely and not nearly as crazy as Giovanna,rnyet in some strange, intractablernway she seemed to be the witch’srnyounger, healthier, and slightly less jaundicedrnsister. She was nonetheless givenrnher prova, and I must honestly say that onrnthe opening night the aubergines in ourrnplates had been fried so delicately thatrnthe audience wept tears of contrition.rnBut then, like a summer storm out of arnclear blue sky, an unexpected telephonerncall put an end to that bout of love and repentance.rnIt was the witch Giovanna,rnshouting obscenities into the receiver, tornthe effect that she knew just what we’drnbeen up to, that she wouldn’t let us getrnaway with it, no, not for anything, thatrnshe’d given us the best years of her life,rnwell, hours anyway, and gas for the car,rnand nov’ we’re lying and saying we hiredrnsomebody else, when in fact we onlyrnfound Graziella yesterday. I felt at oncernthat all my conspiratorial techniques hadrnfailed me miserably, that I had been followed,rnobserved, perhaps secretly taped.rn”But… how did you know? . . . ” I stammeredrnout the pathetic plaint of every exposedrnspy in histor}’. “Because Graziellarnis my sister, that’s how, you numbskull!”rncame the reply.rnSo Graziella had to be fired too, tornavoid complicahons, and both had to bernpaid off in a rather generous way. Despiternthis act of largess, admittedly taintedrnby cowardice, a few days later a group ofrnhouseguests returning from the beachrnfound two enormous black cats barringrnthe front gate of the villa. They said theyrnhad never seen anything quite like it, andrnI understand exactiy what that dark portentrnmeans.rnIt means, among oflier things, that myrnmother is right to vyorr’ about what herrnsole begotten is eating.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rn•LIBERAL ARTS-rn”WS„rnBEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEPrnmakes a woman beautiful? Celebrities such as Tri,sha Yearwood,rn^lourteney Cox and Gloria Steinem each answer this probing questionrnin a new documentary film. Six women also share their stories of personal discoveryrnand self-awareness, including an HIV-positive woman who adopted fivernchildren and a woman who overcame racial discrimination and abuse to live arnrewarding life. This film is sponsored by Oil of Olay and is meant to boost selfrnesteem in women and girls.”rn— from a press release for I Am Beautiful, a Lifetime network film.rn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn