Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 8

Chapter 5

Half an hour later, Elaine was in the kitchen with Nick and Luna. Kathy had gone upstairs to change out of her wine-stained dress and to lie down—telling her squalid story to Elaine had exhausted her. The kids were out in the backyard now, Ryan on the swing set and Amelia playing in the sandbox, well within view of the picture window.
Elaine had shared every word Kathy had told her with Nick and Luna. She was badly shaken by it all, and Nick was just as stunned as she had been when she’d first heard it.
Luna was going through the papers that Kathy had taken from Spyro’s safe.
“What’s this?” Luna said. It was a fancy-looking business card from the bottom of the envelope. The word PANACEA was written across it in large, raised, elegant gold script. The card stock was thick and super-expensive, with a finish as smooth as silk. There wasn’t anything else written on the back or even the front, no address, telephone number, or website—just the one word. PANACEA.
“My mother doesn’t know,” Elaine said, taking the card and looking at it again. “She said there was a whole box of those cards in Spyro’s safe, open, maybe a third of them missing. She thought it might be important, so she took one.” Elaine shrugged. “She thinks it could be some kind of front for his illegal activities.”
Luna started thumbing through the printouts. “Well, I can tell you right now that there’s definitely something shady going on here.” She tapped her long, dark finger on one of the spreadsheets. “It appears that Mister Leandrou is in the construction materials business, but there are all kinds of different offshore companies he has set up—shipping, clothing import/export, furniture manufacturing, medical equipment, auto parts, food additives. The business sectors these companies are registered in fall all over the map. There’s no logical way they could all be connected operationally. And the amount of cash he’s moving around between these shell companies is huge. It’s similar to Raj Malik’s setup. Just look at these numbers...fifty-two million euros, sixty-five million dollars, forty-two million euros... One transfer here is for eighty-six million British pounds, to an account in the Maldives. That’s over—”
“A hundred million dollars,” Nick chimed in.
Luna looked evenly at Elaine. “The amount of money he’s washing makes Raj Malik’s operation look like a coin-operated laundry.”
Elaine would have laughed had she not been so upset.
Nick said, “My guess is that he’s in the drug trade. Or maybe arms trafficking. Whatever he’s into, it has to be big time with those kind of numbers.”
“I agree,” Luna said. She hesitated, looking at Elaine. “Then again, aren’t we jumping to conclusions? I mean, are you sure all the information your mother gave you is true?”
“I know at least some of it’s true.” Her stomach clenched as she uttered the words. “The part about my father being murdered…I’m pretty sure Spyro Leandrou was the one who was fencing all my dad’s stuff. Spider. I remember him calling the house a lot and acting secretive. He never came over. I never saw his face.”
“Let me have a look at that business card,” Nick said
It was still in Elaine’s hand. She passed it across the dining table to him.
Nick ran his thumb across the posh, raised, gold script. “Damn, these things are top drawer. Looks like they cost about ten bucks each.” He paused and read the name aloud. “Panacea.” He flipped it over and held it up to the light, then glanced at Elaine. “Maybe there’s an RFID chip inside?”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Elaine said. Nick had an RFID reader upstairs.
“Look,” Luna said, pulling them back to the big picture, “I think the best way to proceed is to dig up everything we can on Spyro Leandrou and go from there. We need to do a complete criminal background check on him, run his name by our connections at the FBI, Homeland, the IRS, Interpol, Europol—the works.” She motioned to the Panacea business card. “And we need to thoroughly research this Panacea company, too—there must be some information about it online.”

Chapter 6

Elaine and Luna sequestered themselves in the sunroom for the next couple of hours.
Nick quickly scanned the Panacea business card and determined that there was no RFID chip hidden inside, and he went back downstairs to keep an eye on the kids and to make sure Kathy was still in her room. Neither Elaine nor Nick wanted her around the children.
Elaine and Luna checked out Spyro Leandrou from every possible angle. Elaine searched the Internet for information about him as well as the Panacea company. Luna called her office in Lyon and had his name run through all the criminal databases and the other government organizations she had mentioned. Tony brought them a lunch of seafood pasta while they worked.
Unfortunately, it did not take Elaine long to realize she wasn’t going to find anything significant online about Spyro Leandrou. He was listed as a director of Mikos International, the Pittsburgh-based construction materials company that he’d inherited from his father, and his name appeared on a few charity websites as a donor, most of them also in Pittsburgh. He appeared to be a private, reclusive man, the type that shuns publicity. She couldn’t even find a photograph of him other than on the passport copy they’d been sent by Homeland Security.
As far as Panacea went, the company did not even seem to exist. Of course there were lots of businesses and organizations with the name Panacea all over the world—operations ranging from restaurants to health clubs to medical research equipment companies—but most were quite small. One glance at their logos told Elaine that they were not the same Panacea as the one on the business card.
Elaine sat there for a few minutes as Luna continued to talk on the phone. She felt sick. This was all such a shock, having her mother show up out of the blue and then share this horrible news. Elaine had spent all of her adult life believing her father had died by committing suicide...and now it appeared that he had been murdered.

* * *
While Luna was still making calls, Elaine quietly left her office and went into her bedroom. She stepped inside the walk-in closet. On the top shelf was an old cardboard box, which she pulled down and set on the floor. In the box were a few things that belonged to her father—a watch, his wedding band, a pair of gold cufflinks that his mother had bought him for his birthday and, as far as Elaine knew, had never worn them except to her funeral.
Elaine was nauseated as she remembered the day she’d received the news that her dad had committed suicide. She could still see the morbid look on Ms. Prentice’s face when she had been called out of class and told of the tragedy. Elaine had gone straight home, to the basement, retrieved her father’s pistol from his desk, and drove downtown to the Rising Star Modeling agency, or the building where it had been housed. She had intended to kill Ronald Eskew, the man who had refunded her fees with counterfeit U.S. $100 bills and whom she considered responsible for her father’s death. It was damn lucky for both her and Eskew that he’d shut down his crooked modeling agency and left town. At that moment, she was so blinded by rage that, if the man had actually still been there, she probably would have shot him dead.
 The cardboard box contained a few other sentimental items that had belonged to her father, including a yellowed copy of his Peabody High School yearbook from his last year there.
She pulled out the musty maroon volume and turned to the index.
Spyro Leandrou was listed on two different pages.

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