Four hours later, Elaine was headed to Lyon, taking the same route back through Munich. She hoped that Cattoretti would come up with something, and soon. He had assured her he would do his best, whatever that meant.
She was glad she had taken the risk and gone to see The Cat. The trip had cleared up her thinking about her mother and Spyro Leandrou. She decided that Luna was right. The man who had murdered her father in his Pittsburgh jail cell was probably just a thug, somebody who was eager to make some money or in a financial bind. It was Spyro Leandrou who had decided that one of his best friends from high school needed to die and had hired someone to kill him. That quote in their yearbook stuck in her mind: A true friend is one who watches your back instead of sticking a knife in it.
Spyro Leandrou was the one they needed to focus on now. The other lowlife could be dealt with later.
Luna was picking her up at the Lyon Airport. As she deplaned and rolled her carry-on suitcase down the corridor towards Baggage Claim, her personal phone started ringing. The display indicated an unknown number.
Elaine pulled her carry-on over to the side and answered the call, making sure all the other passengers kept moving and that nobody was paying attention.
“It’s me,” Giorgio said. “I already have an answer for you.”
That was fast, Elaine thought. “I’m all ears.”
“The man you asked me about is definitely involved in some sort of illegal trade.”
“Trade? What do you mean?”
“He’s moving contraband across international borders.”
“What kind of contraband?”
“I’m not sure. My contact wouldn’t say. I don’t think he actually knows for sure what the man is moving.”
“Drugs?” Elaine said.
“No, definitely not that.”
Elaine had guessed that Cattoretti had probably called his Ukrainian arms dealer friend, who she had a feeling was the most powerful and well-connected criminal he knew. It seemed she was right.
She racked her brain to think of what other “contraband” Spyro could be dealing in. “What about human trafficking?”
“That’s also possible.”
Human trafficking was an egregious crime. If that’s what Spyro was doing, and any of his trafficked people had lost their lives, he could be put away for life. It occurred to her that Greece was in the direct path of the refugees migrating from the Middle East into Europe.
“How certain are you of this?” she said.
“One hundred percent certain.”
Elaine felt a wave of relief pass through her. “Thank you.”
“You owe me one,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
Just as she was about to cut the call, he said, “There’s also one more thing I can tell you about Spyro Leandrou with one hundred percent certainty.”
“He’s capable of murder. More than capable. Be careful, cara.”
As soon as Elaine climbed in Luna’s SUV, she relayed all the information she had gotten from Giorgio Cattoretti. She also explained the microprinting she discovered on the Panacea business card.
Luna mulled it all over as they rode along Boulevard Périphérique Nord, the divided highway that ran around the north side of Lyon. Elaine could tell from the wrinkles on her friend’s forehead that she was thinking hard, and didn’t want to interrupt. Elaine’s own thoughts on the situation had taken a certain direction now, and she wondered if Luna’s would do the same.
They crossed the Rhône, and the road curved around to the left and followed along the north riverbank. After a moment, the sprawling Interpol Headquarters came into view on the other side of the river, half the windows still illuminated even though it was almost ten p.m.
They both watched it slide by in silence.
Luna finally glanced over at Elaine. “I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about all this today, and I believe the best course of action is to try and penetrate Spyro Leandrou’s operation.”
“Go in undercover, you mean?”
Luna nodded. “Exactly. Either me, you, or Nick.”
“I’ve reached the same conclusion.”
Glancing at Elaine again, she said, “We need to grill Kathy and see if we can find some hole in his armor, some way we can get inside.”
* * *
They soon reached the Presqu’île or “peninsula” section of the city, where Luna and Walter’s apartment was located. A narrow strip of land separating the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, the historic area was well known for its preponderance of cafés, restaurants, luxury shops and elegant old buildings. Luna and her husband had decided that if they were going to live in France for a few years, they might as well do it in style and soak up the best culture that Lyon had to offer.
The flat they had rented was beautiful, within sight of the spectacular baroque facade of the Hôtel de ville de Lyon, which was famous for its charging marble horse statues with fountain-powered “breath” steaming from their nostrils.
Luna pulled into a tiny garage at ground level that was barely large enough to accommodate her SUV and Walter’s car, and they both went inside. Elaine lugged her suitcase up an impossibly narrow set of stairs.
“Bonjour, bonjour!” Walter cried, when they entered the apartment. He rushed up to Elaine and gave her three overly-affected air kisses, alternating between her cheeks, French style.
Elaine laughed. “How are you, Walter?”
“Tryin’ to get this damn French language under control,” he said, motioning to some books scattered over the couch. “Those nasal vowels are killing me.”
Elaine laughed again. “Yeah, they’re not easy to master, and the French are proud of that.”
Luna and Walter made an odd couple. He was a good six inches shorter than she was, with a bald head and neatly trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard, his skin as dark as any of the Sudanese Elaine had seen in Central Africa. He was the most laid-back person Elaine knew. He and Luna were a great match. His light, easygoing character balanced out Luna’s serious and sometimes intense personality. He had two children from a previous marriage, but both of them were in college now back in the States.
Elaine apologized for missing the lunch that Walter had prepared yesterday. Luna and Elaine then went into the den, which doubled as a home office, and shut the door.
They used the Secret Service server in Lyon to establish a secure video conference link to the computer in Elaine’s sunroom office—Nick handled everything on that end.
A moment later, Elaine and Luna were sitting side by side in front of Luna’s computer in Lyon, and Nick and Kathy were visible on the screen, sitting side by side at Elaine’s desk at the farmhouse.
Elaine summarized everything they had learned about Spyro, and that Panacea might be a top secret clinic and wellness spa.
Nick immediately asked, “How did you find all this out?”
“Just more desk research,” Elaine said, as if exhausted from staring at computer screens. She wasn’t about to tell him that she had gone to Croatia to visit Giorgio Cattoretti.
Nick looked skeptical, but he let it pass.
Luna said, “Kathy, we’re thinking of sending someone to Greece to figure out exactly what your husband is up to.”
“You mean, like undercover?”
“Yes, maybe someone Spyro would hire as an employee, as a guard, for example.”
She chuckled. “No way, that would be impossible.”
Luna and Elaine exchanged a glance. “Why?”
“Spyro is extremely careful. He only hires Greeks, and almost all of them are family—he has a zillion relatives there.”
“Who’s around him on a day-to-day basis?” Nick said.
“Well, he has a cook, a driver, a housekeeper, and all that, but all of them have worked for Spyro for years. They’re all Greeks, of course. Locals.”
“What about security?” Nick said. “Maybe I could apply for a job as a—”
“His security team is all Greek, too.”
“Isn’t there anyone around him who’s not Greek?” Elaine said. “There must be somebody...a gardener maybe?”
Kathy thought for a moment. “Well, there is only one position I can think of that has to be filled by a foreigner”
“Alexander’s governess. He’s very picky because he wants Alex to study with a native English speaker and use an American or UK home schoolin’ package. It’s a challenge to fill that position. Spyro has hired seven or eight of them by now. None of them are good enough for him, and he always ends up firin’ them. This latest one, Gwen, is from Canada—he just hired her in October. The one before her was American, and the one before her was British.”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘governess’?” Elaine asked. “What are her specific duties?”
“Well the main duty is home-schoolin’ Alexander. Alex also participates in a lot of sports and the governess has to participate, too, to help him practice. That’s the problem Spyro has with them. If they’re athletic enough, they’re not competent enough to teach the home classes, and if they’re good enough teachers, they can’t keep up with the sports. Alexander plays basketball and soccer, takes tennis lessons, karate lessons, rock climbin’, scuba—I can’t even keep track of it all.”
Elaine and Luna looked at each other. “You could do that,” Luna said to her.
“Has Spyro ever seen a picture of me?” Elaine asked Kathy.
“Well, no. I always avoid the subject of children with him, because I don’t want to have any with him. But—”
“Did he ever see Elaine when she was a kid, or a teenager?” Luna asked.
“No. He avoided contact with our family because of what he and Patrick were doin’ together.”
Luna looked at Elaine and said, “You and your mom don’t look anything alike, except for your blonde hair. You could dye it—”
“It won’t work,” Kathy interrupted.
“Why not?” Luna said.
“Because I told you, Alexander already has a governess, since October. Her name is Gwen. She seems to be workin’ out great.”
“No she isn’t’,” Elaine said.
Kathy blinked. “Excuse me?”
Elaine made a snap decision. “You’re going back to Spyro tomorrow morning, and you’re going to get Gwen fired.”
“What?” Kathy gasped. “I can’t go back to Spyro! He would kill me!”
“Why would he do that? You just told us two days ago that he thought you were just visiting a friend in Paris.”
“And you said that he wouldn’t know you’d gotten into the safe until Friday, when he pays the help.”
“I know I said that, but—”
“Which means you can go home and put those documents back in the safe, and he’ll never know the difference. And then you can get Gwen fired.”
“How?” Kathy cried. “I can’t just—”
“You’ll think of something. And after you get rid of her, you’ll let me know exactly how and where I can interview for the job when Spyro advertises it.”
“I cannot go back to Spyro, Elaine! I will not do it!”
Elaine was so agitated she had to stand up. She leaned closer to the computer’s camera, her face filling up the entire screen. “You barge into my life and put my family in grave danger, beg for me to put your husband in jail and protect you from him, but you won’t lift a finger yourself to help?”
Nick leaned back in his chair, out of Kathy’s view, trying to suppress a smile. Elaine knew exactly what he was thinking: Payback time.
Kathy glanced over at him, as if she felt like everyone was ganging up on her, and then looked pleadingly back at the camera. “I...I can’t go back there...it took me so long to work up the courage to leave...I just...I just can’t do it, Elaine!”
Elaine watched her mother’s tearful face on the screen for a long moment. Gritting her teeth, she said, “You can do it, and you will.”
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