At ten after nine the following morning, Kathy Brogan was sitting in the first class section of a jet bound for Munich. It was the best connection to reach Santorini Island in Greece.
As she sat there nursing a scotch on the rocks and watching flight attendants scurry around preparing the plane for departure, she felt an odd mix of emotions. Even though she was outraged at Elaine for forcing her to return home to her monstrous husband, she marveled at the way her grown daughter had stood up to her, at Elaine’s strength, courage and resolve. Despite the fact that Kathy had only raised Elaine until age ten, and admittedly had not been a very good mother even during those years, she could not help feeling proud of her daughter. Elaine had blossomed into a bold, strong, confident woman.
Before the plane took off, Kathy was tempted to ask the flight attendant for another drink. Playing the role of “the perfect grandmother” for the weekend had also been a challenge, to say the least. If smoking had been allowed on the plane, she would have sucked through a whole pack of cigarettes right then and there. But she was exhausted from her grilling the night before and was afraid more alcohol, on an empty stomach, might just knock her out. Elaine and Luna had interrogated her over the video conferencing link for almost two more hours after she’d agreed to their plan, asking her detail after detail about Spyro’s requirements and tastes that might relate to hiring Elaine as Gwen’s replacement, if she could manage to get Gwen fired.
She found herself seriously questioning Elaine’s plan. It seemed crazy to her—risky, and extremely dangerous. Would it really work? Even if she could get rid of Gwen, could Elaine really convince Spyro to hire her without him getting suspicious?
Kathy had no idea how undercover police operations worked, but Elaine, Luna and Nick were certainly well-versed in that kind of thing, and they seemed reasonably confident. Kathy supposed it was just a matter of having no other options—she apparently hadn’t brought enough evidence on Spyro to have him thoroughly investigated, let alone arrested, and this seemed like the only way to gather more information.
Live and learn, she thought, and sipped on the remains of her drink as the plane bumped through the clouds. When she’d sought out Elaine a few days ago, she’d been sure that all she would have had to do was to hand over the financial data, and that her daughter, being a federal law enforcement agent, could have Spyro arrested and put away. But what did she know about any of this? She was nothing but a housewife, after all. Even pulling her ace in the hole and telling Elaine about Spyro having Patrick killed hadn’t been enough.
* * *
Two hours later, the jet was well on its way to Munich. Kathy would have been well on her way to being drunk, too, if she hadn’t summoned the willpower to put on the brakes. She was desperate for the chemical fixes to cope with the fact that she had to go back and live with Spyro, even temporarily, but that was precisely why she needed to keep her wits about her.
When the jet touched down in Germany, Kathy’s stress reached a fever pitch. Now that she was actually about to change planes and take the final leg home, she was having a full-blown anxiety attack, complete with sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat. She had no idea if Spyro had discovered that she’d broken into his safe since she’d left. What she had told Elaine about him only opening the safe on Fridays was true, but Spyro always had the unpleasant habit of surprising her. For all she knew, he had already discovered the theft of the documents, and the money, and launched an international manhunt for her.
As Kathy walked through the terminal in Munich to catch the connecting flight home, she took in a few deep, steady breaths to calm herself, and then pulled out her cell phone. No way would she go home without making absolutely sure Spyro had not discovered anything missing from the safe. She would call Vasilis, Spyro’s driver, inform him that she was coming home, and ask him to pick her up at the airport. By carefully listening to his reaction, she would know if the coast was clear—Vasilis was a terrible liar. If she sensed that Spyro had found out what she’d done, all bets were off—she would simply exit through baggage claim here, go straight to the departure hall, and buy a ticket for some other destination, anywhere, the first flight out. She tried not to think about the implications of taking that drastic action...starting her life over from scratch, working as a cashier or waitress, living in near-poverty under a fake identity, and hiding from her maniacal husband the rest of her life. Everything they owned was in his name.
Without Spyro, she was penniless.
The mere thought of it made her hands shake so much she could barely grip her cellphone.
There were only two rings before Vasilis answered.
“Embros,” he said casually, as always. His voice sounded normal enough—he had to have seen on his phone’s display that it was her calling.
“Vasilis, it’s Kathy,” she said with her mouth dry, trying to sound relaxed.
“Tell me.” The Greeks always started their conversations that way. “I hope you having pleasant time in Parisi?”
“Yes I did, thank you.” She was immensely relieved. Vasilis was behaving in an absolutely normal way and seemed to be his ordinary, relaxed self. “I’m on my way home now. I’ll be arrivin’ on the flight from Munich at three-twenty this afternoon—would it be possible to pick me up at the airport?”
He hesitated. “I am sorry, Madame. Mister Leandrou want me pick him up at—”
“Never mind,” Kathy said. “I’ll just take a taxi.”
Spyro Leandrou’s primary residence was located one hundred and twenty miles from the Greek mainland, near the town of Oia, on Santorini Island. Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cyclades chain, and the village Oia is its crown jewel. The picture-postcard town is built on a gently sloping caldera formed by an ancient volcano, with many of the houses carved right into the volcanic stone. Although these so-called “cave houses” are naturally Cubist in their design, due to their form, they look like they might have been shaped that way on purpose by some forward-thinking architect. Their creamy white walls, graceful arches, smoothly-rounded corners, doors and window frames, usually painted in a contrasting royal blue, can make some of them appear ultra-modern, even futuristic. These unique dwellings cascade down the gentle slope of the caldera all the way to the teal Aegean Sea. Photographs taken from the uppermost point, with the brilliant white houses and blue domes in the background, have become a signature image for travel agencies and airlines offering tourism packages to the Mediterranean.
Spyro’s villa was no less picturesque, perched on one of the lower cliffs on the north side of the town, some of the walls actually carved into the caldera rock, like the other cave houses. In the fashion of the local churches, his villa featured two large domes, also blue, one crowning the sprawling living room, which offered a breathtaking view of the sea and Nea Kameni, a mountainous volcanic island only a mile across the water. The other dome was an open, “floating” design over the patio, forming the Greek version of a gazebo.
Besides the usual features of a multi-million dollar home—indoor swimming pool, home movie theater, wine cellar, gym, Turkish sauna, and Russian banya—Spyro’s latest addition was a fifty foot outdoor climbing wall, with built in handholds and footholds, for his beloved son Alexander to practice on.
As the taxi rolled down the winding road and this verifiable Greek palace came into view, Kathy mused that most women would have been overjoyed to live in such luxury, with maids and cooks and gardeners to attend to one’s every whim. And perhaps Kathy would have, too, if Spyro hadn’t been such a cold, conniving bastard.
The taxi driver knew exactly where the house was located—all the locals in Oia knew the home, because it was the largest house in the entire town, the sprawling property alone worth a fortune.
The driver stopped the car at the guardhouse with a silly grin on his face—apparently, the fact that he would have the coveted privilege to actually drive his taxi through the gate and all the way to the front door of the hallowed property raised his status to the celebrity level.
The guard on duty, one of Spyro’s innumerable cousins, leaned out the window to see who was in the back. Kathy waved at him. The guard nodded and pushed the button to open the gate.
Kathy glanced out at the scenery as they drove down the long driveway...at the huge Grecian urns that were artfully placed on the perfectly manicured grass...at the arched trellises that supported climbing roses...the Balinese teak garden benches on either side of the front door. When she had left this dreaded place three days ago, it had been with some sadness that it was the last time she would ever glimpse any of these elegant little touches, or Spyro’s unpleasant Greek face, except maybe when she passed him in the hallway of the courthouse with their lawyers in tow.
And now she had to live with the bastard again.
Hopefully, not for long. Kathy told herself to focus on the tasks at hand.
First, put the papers and money back into his safe without anyone seeing her.
Then find a way to get Gwen fired.
She had already thought of the obvious ways of having a governess dismissed—planting some small but valuable item that belonged to the family in Gwen’s room or belongings, or remove some money from Spyro’s wallet in a situation where he thought Gwen was the only possible culprit. Kathy didn’t feel guilty about getting Gwen fired this way. Elaine had assured her that no matter how the deed was carried out, they would be doing the young governess a big favor by getting her away from Spyro Leandrou. Elaine told her that if Spyro’s illegal activities were even half of what Kathy claimed they were, Gwen would be interrogated by the police due to her close relationship with Spyro, and if they thought she was aware of any of it, she might be charged as an accomplice. When they were done with their complete plan and Spyro was arrested and convicted, Spyro Leandrou would be the last person Gwen would want to be connected with, let alone list on her résumé as her previous employer.
Despite this, Kathy didn’t like the idea of framing Gwen for theft. It was just too crude and obvious. She wanted the girl to have a hand in her own undoing, behave in some unethical or immoral or disloyal way, for at least a part of the culpability to be on Gwen’s shoulders. This wasn’t because Kathy had any scruples about what she was doing—she was simply afraid that a straight framing of the governess might not stick. Worse, if Spyro found out Kathy had framed his precious Gwen, there was no telling what he would do.
Kathy had never really been able to decide if she liked Gwen or not. The Canadian governess was plenty smart and competent, but was otherwise a rather plain young woman, unmarried at twenty-nine, already a little spinsterish, Kathy thought. Gwen had pale skin and was tomboyish, the type of character not widely appreciated by the opposite sex. Her body was muscular but bony, with modest breasts. Her blonde hair was cut into a wedge that really didn’t suit her round face. Worse, the hairstyle revealed an ugly, raised mole on the back of her neck. If the unsightly thing were on Kathy’s neck, she would have either had it removed or wore her hair long.
Kathy suspected that Gwen was a lesbian.
But surely the girl isn’t honest and trustworthy all the time Kathy thought. No one was perfect. Every human being had weaknesses.
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