Friday, March 10, 2017

SNEAK PEEK! Lust, Money & Murder Book 10, "Black Widow"

Setting: Eastern Europe's first diamond-cutting factory, located near Dubrovnik, Croatia

After Elaine had waited only a couple of minutes, she saw Giorgio Cattoretti appear behind the glass of the security desk. There was a warm smile on his face, his one uncovered eye gazing out at her with obvious pleasure. He was dressed in an expensive-looking Italian suit, a red pocket handkerchief providing a splash of color. He straightened his tie as one the guards buzzed him out into the lobby.

Before he could open his mouth, Elaine said, “Mr. Cattoretti, I’m Jenny Johnson,” and thrust out her hand. He looked a little surprised as he shook it. “We met at the trade show in Antwerp—we talked briefly about distribution in America? Do you remember me?”

“Uh, yes, I remember,” he said, glancing at the guard who was watching them.

“Since I happened to be in Croatia, I would like take a tour of your facility, but maybe we could talk afterwards? If you have a few minutes, that is...”

Another man emerged from the security office with a basket in his hand—it was filled with visitor’s passes. He stepped over to the group of tourists. “Welcome to Fontanella Gemstones, ladies and gentlemen!” he said in a cultured sounding Slavic accent. “My name is Josep and I will be your tour guide. Please attach visitor’s passes to your clothing...”

Giorgio said to Elaine, “You really want to take the tour?” Before she could answer, he stepped over to Josep and whispered something in his ear.

The young man turned back to the crowd. “Well, guess what, ladies and gentleman, it is your luckiest day! Our esteemed director, Mister Cattoretti, will be conducting you the tour!”

* * *

Elaine hadn’t really wanted to take the tour—she didn’t have the time—but Giorgio seemed excited about showing off his latest venture. She hung back in the crowd as he led the group through a secure door and into the next room. In the center was a table with a half dozen huge diamonds on it, which, chuckling, he quickly pointed out were merely glass models.

As soon as the group had arranged themselves around the table, he began explaining the process of diamond cutting—sawing, bruting, blocking, and polishing—pausing to define the more technical terms using the glass models of the diamonds as aids. Elaine enjoyed watching him, and marveled at his confidence and enthusiasm—he had obviously become quite an expert on the subject of diamond-cutting, having set up this factory from scratch.

She glanced curiously at the faces of the tourists, who didn’t know quite what to make of this impressive man, with his roguish-looking eye patch and elegant suit. She wondered how they would react if they found out that their sophisticated and articulate host was one of the world’s most sought-after crooks, wanted not only for murder, but for currency counterfeiting, extortion, and a host of other serious crimes. He’d even been designated as a terrorist under an alias. And what would these people think if they knew that his missing eye had been stabbed out with a letter opener by the quiet blonde in the back of the group, dressed in the conservative business suit,

After the preliminary lecture, Giorgio led the group down a long hallway with large windows running along both sides. Dozens of workers sat at shiny, complicated-looking machines, cutting and polishing, many of them gazing through magnifiers or watching video images of the stones in process.

“We use the world’s most advanced laser cutting equipment here,” Giorgio explained, “but the craft of diamond cutting is as much an art as it is a science. When we set up the factory, we hired the best in India to come train our people, some of them third generation cutters.”

As he walked along the window, he nodded and smiled to the workers. It reminded her of the fateful day when Giorgio gave her a tour of his secret knock-off clothing design operation that was hidden in the basement of his DayPrinto company, in Milan. Elaine could not help admiring Giorgio Cattoretti—the man was the quintessential Machiavellian leader. From the telltale looks in his employees’ eyes and their careful smiles, she could tell that his employees loved him, respected, and feared him in equal measure.

The group turned a corner and The Cat stopped in front of a woman who was operating a bruting machine. Elaine had learned that the machine shaped diamonds into round forms for cutting the facets by rubbing two diamonds together over a period of many hours. “If you look closely,” Giorgio said, “you’ll see that she’s bruting two pink diamonds. Pinks are the most valuable diamonds in the world.” Giving Elaine a subtle glance, he proudly said, “Most pinks come from Australia, but we’re in the fortunate position of getting most of ours from a recently discovered mine.” He smiled indulgently. “They have a very special brilliance.”

Lust, Money & Murder, Book 10 "Black Widow" will be released on April 5th, 2017. Pre-order links for Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords here

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