In the middle of the night, a man runs through the narrow back alleys of Venice.
Three men are after him. He breaks into a travel agency, where he faxes Winch a hastily scribbled message before being gunned down by his pursuers.
The person who hands Largo Winch the fax in New York is also killed.
The message says only: Beware of the doge. Our millionaire businessman hero thinks his friend, the gorgeous Charity, could be in trouble and heads for Italy.
They are invited to a masked ball, where they indeed meet a doge.
A Renaissance-era term for the chief magistrate of the former republics of Venice and Genoa.