* * *
As the taxi driver got out and unloaded Kathy’s bags from the trunk, she opened her purse to retrieve the money to pay the fare. For a second she thought that she had no cash left except five hundred euro notes, and of course the taxi driver would not have change...
A gust of wind nearly blew one of the bills out of her hand.
Then it hit her.
She stood there staring at the five hundred euro not, her mind racing.
Yes! She knew the perfect way to get rid of Gwen!
All she had to do was find the right time and place to pull it off.
The driver set the suitcases next to the front door and returned to her, telling her the fare.
Kathy paid him handsomely, far more than he asked. “Thank you so much—please keep the change.”
“Efharistó,” he said, nodding enthusiastically. “Efharistó!”
With her new plan neatly tucked away in the back of her mind, Kathy felt much better. She rolled her suitcase inside the foyer, her large handbag slung over her shoulder. The familiar smell of the villa—a faint but unique mixture of lavender and rose hips—tickled her nostrils, another sensation that she had hoped she would never experience again.
The maid, Fenia, came rushing down the hallway, wiping her hands on her black uniform so she could help with the bags. She was almost sixty, a strong stocky woman who could speak English reasonably well.
“Hello, Fenia,” Kathy said, forcing a smile. Kathy couldn’t stand her.
“Madame, I did not know you had arrived!” She took hold of the suitcase handle. “Did you have nice time in Parisi?”
“Yes I did, thank you.” Kathy could hear the sounds of the cook turning on the water in the kitchen. She glanced down the hall, toward the living room and library. “Is Spyro home?”
“No, Mister Leandrou is out with Alexander this afternoon.”
Out with Alexander this afternoon. That polite euphemism that meant her husband had taken his bastard son over to his mistress’s house. This would have once made Kathy bristle, but she had long grown used to it.
None of the staff willingly mentioned the Romanian whore by name. Réka Ionescu did not exist, officially. If pressed, with no other lexical alternative to employ, the servants would simply refer to her as “Alexander’s mother.”
But the fact that Spyro was over at Réka’s this afternoon was actually a good thing, considering what she had to do next.
As Fenia began to lug the suitcase upstairs, Kathy said, “Did anything come in the mail for me while I was gone?”
“Nothing I remember. Mail from today in library, on Mister Leandrou’s desk.”
Kathy quietly made her way to the library. The room was expansive, with books lining all three walls and a picture window that looked out over the garden. Museum-like, it housed Spyro’s ridiculous army of “toys,” as she thought of them. There was a fake battle between the Germans and Americans set up on a table, with tiny model soldiers, some medals and other military paraphernalia in display cases. He was like a child, she thought, hardly more mature than Alexander. What made it all even more ridiculous was that Spyro had never been in the army himself—he claimed that he was about to join when he graduated from high school, but then his father fell ill, and he had to take over the running of Mikos Corporation himself.
Kathy walked casually towards Spyro’s immense teak desk, which was on the far side of the room. Asking if there was any mail for her was only a pretense to come into the library, of course—that’s where Fenia always put the mail when Spyro wasn’t home.
Fenia would be busy for a few minutes unpacking her suitcase, but there was a chance that the cook could wander out of the kitchen. And the curtains over the picture windows were open—the gardener might happen along, too, and see her. Every one of the staff was loyal to Spyro, as they were all part of his extended family. Not to mention that he paid them twice what they could make working anywhere else. Kathy could trust no one.
Only Spyro himself was permitted to close the library door or the curtains. Her husband did not like anyone in the room for any length of time except Alexander, due to the hidden safe. At present, he was building a special section for the boy, two long shelves lined with American, British, Russian, and European literature. Having never attended college, Spyro was insecure about his education and had read voluminous numbers of books to educate himself about the world. For Alex, there was also a new encyclopedia set, the latest dictionaries, atlases, and other reference books.
Even Kathy had a long shelf in the library Spyro had allocated to her. To keep herself busy on the island, she gave tours of the volcano crater over on Nea Kameni Island, a part-time job she had taken almost by accident, when another tour guide, a friend of hers, had gotten sick. Spyro thought her volcano tours were a silly waste of time, but she took it seriously. She had accumulated quite a few books on volcanoes and the associated geological phenomenon, and had read them all cover to cover so she would know what she was talking about.
Kathy stepped up to Spyro’s huge desk. The day’s mail was sitting there, stacked neatly in the center.
She picked up the small pile and flipped through the envelopes and flyers. As she did so, she casually stepped behind the desk within reach of the large original Jackson Pollack painting that hid the wall safe. There were no letters for her today—everything was for Spyro, including a package from the Atlas Education Institute, the company that supplied all of Alexander’s home schooling materials. They sent a reading supplement every week.
Glancing at the picture windows and hallway door, and listening carefully for the sound of footsteps, she reached behind her back and pulled the left edge of the oil painting away from the wall, then turned and quickly dialed in the six-number combination. She supposed Spyro thought he was being very clever when he’d thought up the code, but it was so easy and obvious. The combination was his beloved Alexander’s birth date, backwards, in European format—year, month, day.
For one terrifying second the lever on the safe door would not budge. But when she pushed harder, it rotated downward and she could both hear and feel the click.
Glancing at the hallway door and windows again, she quickly pulled the safe open, unlatched the top of her pocketbook, and put the envelope exactly where she’d found it inside the musty-smelling metal box, and she put the two stacks of Euro notes right back on top of the others, on the right-hand side.
She quietly shut the heavy safe door, spun the dial, and swung the Pollack picture back against the wall until it clicked into place.
Just as she turned back around to face the desk, Fenia appeared at the door to the hallway.
Panic shot through Kathy’s body with such force she almost dropped the stack of mail. She pretended to still be flipping through it.
“Madame?” Fenia said.
“Yes?” Kathy said, looking up. She was so scared she thought she might faint.
Now she could see that the maid had some kind of garment folded over her arm, and she raised it so Kathy could see it. It was the light gray sundress she’d worn at Elaine’s house, with an ugly purple stain where she’d spilled the red wine.
Fenia said, “Do you want I send this to dry cleaners, or I should try wash with my hand?”
“Um...send it to the cleaners, please.”
Spyro and Alexander returned from the Romanian whore’s house about six o’clock.
Kathy went to the foyer to greet them, still jittery from her close call with Fenia. If the maid had seen her pushing that Jackson Pollack painting back into position, she would probably tell Spyro. But Kathy didn’t think she’d been caught.
Spyro Leandrou was a big man, who, despite the slight paunch that overhung his belt, was layered with muscle. He still played basketball and participated in a lot of sports.
“Darling,” he said, bending to give Kathy a kiss on the cheek. “I was surprised when I heard you were back from Paris—did you have a good time?”
“Hi Kathy!” Alexander said before Kathy could answer her husband. He obediently kissed her on the cheek.
The boy had obviously been mountain biking this afternoon—he was wearing a tight-fitting black riding outfit, with mud splattered on his calves, and he looked exhausted.
“Where’s Gwen?” Kathy asked casually.
“She’s cleaning up the bikes and patching one of the tires.” In addition to being a competent teacher and good athlete, Gwen also had mechanical aptitude, which made Kathy envious. “She’ll be back before we eat, though.”
Spyro ruffled his son’s hair. “You run upstairs and get showered, Superman. You stink!”
“You don’t smell so good yourself, Dad,” he laughed.
As the boy scampered up the stairs, the wheels spun in Kathy’s devious mind. Gwen would be back for dinner, which would be in less than an hour—it was the perfect opportunity to execute the plan and get the girl fired.
Spyro turned back to his wife and rubbed his hands together. “How about some champagne, darling?” He glanced towards the kitchen. “What’s for dinner tonight?”
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