Monday, April 3, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 11

Elaine chimed in before Luna could continue—she didn’t want Luna sticking her neck out any farther than necessary. “His wife doesn’t trust the Greek police, thinks her husband has them in their pocket. She happened to be in Paris when we captured Raj and that tabloid story came out with our names in it, which she read by chance.” It was more or less true.
“Speaking of tabloids,” Valdez said, “that reminds me.” He reached across his desk and pulled out a paper from a tray. It was a copy of another tabloid article, but from the same newspaper. He slid it across to Elaine. “I was sent a copy of this a last week and planned to forward it to you...”
Elaine tried not to wince when she read the headline. WANTED ITALIAN CRIMINAL “GOES STRAIGHT” IN CROATIA. It was an article about Giorgio Cattoretti and the diamond-cutting factory he was setting up. There were several pictures, one of The Cat wearing his black eye patch at the ground-breaking ceremony. He was surrounded by a group of smiling Croatian government officials, all wearing expensive suits. There was another photo of the half-finished diamond-cutting facility, a sleek, modern building with a large parking lot and immaculately landscaped property, construction equipment visible in the background.
Valdez said, “Apparently he’s gotten a lucrative contract with the Sudanese government to cut all the diamonds from a new mine that was found in Darfur. Pink diamonds.” He looked curiously at Elaine. “Did you hear about all this?”
“It’s all news to me,” Elaine said truthfully. She had hoped Cattoretti would take the information she’d given him and do good with it, and it seemed that he had.
Watching her closely, Valdez said, “Seems like those diamonds might be from the same source that Raj Malik was using.”
Elaine wasn’t sure if this was a statement or a question. She glanced uneasily at Luna. “As we said in our report, we never determined the source of the diamonds he was smuggling.” She paused. “Raj hasn’t talked yet?”
“If he has, the damn gendarmerie haven’t told us.” Valdez looked disgustedly at the article. “Needless to say, Washington is not pleased by this. The Croatian government has made the son-of-a-bitch a citizen and now they can block any extradition attempt. We’ll never get him out of there.”
Elaine held up the copy of the article. “Can I keep this?”
“Yes, that’s your copy.”
She put it in her satchel.
Valdez gazed out the window at the Rh├┤ne River for a moment, thinking. A long barge was lazily sliding through the water towards the city center.
He finally looked back at Elaine and Luna, and motioned to the file. “If this is all you have, ladies, I’m afraid I’ll have to say no. I’m a risk-taker but this is too sketchy.” He handed the Panacea card back to Elaine and then glanced at his watch. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Chapter 9

Fifteen minutes later, Elaine and Luna were back in the SUV, heading for Luna’s apartment, which was just a short drive from Interpol headquarters. Walter had taken the day off and was going to make them lunch, but meals were the last thing Elaine could think about now.
“Damn it,” she said. “Maybe we could have pitched it better.”
“I don’t see how,” Luna said. “We gave him everything we have.”
Elaine stomped her foot on the floorboard. “What the hell am I supposed to do now? I want that murdering Spyro Leandrou behind bars! And whoever he hired to do his dirty work for him. Luna, the whole reason I joined the Secret Service in the first place was to track down the man that was responsible for my father’s death!”
“I know that,” Luna said sympathetically.
As Elaine had grown up and matured, she realized that blaming Ronald Eskew for her father’s suicide was a big stretch. Eskew was the owner of the scam modeling agency and who had given Elaine the fake $100 bills that she had unknowingly passed on to Patrick, and that had landed her father in jail. But now, things were different. If her mother was telling the truth and her father had been murdered, they knew who was behind it.
 “We don’t know for a fact that Spyro had your father killed,” Luna. “Your mother has no hard evidence. She could have misunderstood the conversation she overheard.”
Elaine had thought of this possibility herself. “That’s exactly why we need to investigate him. And, besides, what am I supposed to tell my mother now? ‘Sorry, Kathy, we’re both bad-ass federal agents with international scopes of responsibility, but we can’t lay a finger on your international criminal husband?”
Luna glanced at her, and Elaine knew what she was thinking.
 Elaine said, “Look, I don’t really care what she thinks. I just don’t want her staying at my house any longer, putting my family in danger—Spyro will come after her as soon as he sees that she took those papers from his safe. I don’t like the woman, but kicking her out without doing anything to help her...that’s just too low.”
“Yeah, she is your mother, after all.”
“Don’t rub it in, okay?”
Luna didn’t say anything and concentrated on driving.
“If we could just get more evidence, maybe find out what that Panacea business card means...”
Elaine suddenly opened her satchel and withdrew the copy of the tabloid article about Giorgio Cattoretti.
They were just coming to a fork that indicated Lyon center was one direction and the airport was the other.
“Take me to the airport,” Elaine snapped.
“What?” Luna said, glancing at her.
“Please take me to the airport right now, Luna. I’m serious.”
Luna glanced down at the copy of the newspaper article in Elaine’s hand. “Don’t even think about it!”
“Why? You know it’s the only way we’re going to get the straight dope on Leandrou. We need underworld connections! We won’t get anywhere following all these bureaucratic rules and worrying about getting sued for harassment.”
“No way...” Luna glanced distastefully at the article. “How can you even think of getting involved with that man again?”
Now they were rapidly approaching the fork in the motorway, but Luna was still in the right-hand lane.
“Take me to the airport, Luna. I’m sure that he can shed some light on this, and on Spyro Leandrou. All we need are a few more details to convince Valdez to let us go ahead.”
“But Walter is making us lunch. He’ll be disappointed...”
Elaine chuckled. “Luna...”
“I’m telling you, you’re making a serious mistake, Elaine.”
“Then it will be my mistake. Anyway, everything worked out okay last time, didn’t it?”
“Ha, yeah, just barely!” Luna glanced at Elaine’s left shoulder, where she’d taken the bullet. “You almost got yourself killed!”
“Almost doesn’t count.”
Luna made a growling sound in her throat, and at the last minute, glanced into her side mirror and yanked the SUV over to the other side of the fork, narrowly missing the barrier that separated them.
“You’re one damn impulsive, stubborn woman, Elaine Brogan. You know that?” 

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