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Monday, May 22, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 46


* * *
A few minutes later, Elaine was in the shiny Porsche, with the top down, cruising along the hilly Oia-Fira Highway, toward Fira.
She had to get her hands on a disposable phone. However, she had decided that driving to the airport herself, in this flashy, expensive automobile, was too risky. A deep metallic blue, the sports car was likely the only such Porsche on the island. Some friend of Spyro’s might see her, and she had a feeling he knew practically everybody on Santorini, or at least practically everybody knew him. She glanced at the built-in navigator on the dash, which she had switched off. It might well be connected to his computer network, too.
Every now and then she checked the rearview mirror, afraid that Spyro might have sent Costa or someone else to follow her. She hadn’t seen Costa at all today. She assumed he was in the cottage behind the villa but couldn’t be sure. In any case, the road behind her was clear.
When she reached the town of Fira, she turned onto the street leading towards the center as if following Spyro’s sightseeing recommendations. She found a parking place, put up the top and locked the car, then walked around. Just as in the photos she’d seen, the little town had been built on a steep caldera with the Cubist-style whitewashed buildings that cascaded down to the seaside. As she wandered along one of the narrow streets, she felt like she had been transported a few centuries back in time. Elderly Greek women, dressed head to toe in black, their heads covered with scarves, sat along the street in chairs, crocheting, chatting with each other. The Greek men clustered in cafés and taverns, drinking coffee or ouzo, some of them playing backgammon on old, heavily scarred wooden boards. It was as if the modern world of television and cell phones and computers had never touched this place.
The instant she had this thought, however, she noticed that virtually every restaurant, tavern and café had FREE WIFI signs in the windows or over the archways.
She soon came upon a lovely Greek Orthodox church in the middle of town. Along the front was a long row of rolling arches supported by Greek columns that were the same brilliant white as most of the other buildings on the island. Elaine glanced over her shoulder once again to make sure no one was tailing her, and went inside. Even though it was low season now, the elegant cathedral was crowded with tourists. She spent a few minutes admiring the breathtaking frescoes on the wall and ceilings, as well as the mosaics on the outer walls. She made two complete circles of the church’s interior, then exited through a side door that led to an alley.
When she was convinced that Spyro had not sent anyone to follow her, she stopped at a souvenir shop and bought a SANTORINI ISLAND baseball cap, and pulled it low over her head, then donned her sunglasses and began looking for a taxi.

* * *
The driver she chose was a heavyset, gray-haired man, who looked at least seventy years old. As far as she could tell, he couldn’t speak a word of English. He was sitting in a rather beat-up, dusty taxi about a block from the church, slumped in his seat, apparently asleep, wearing a Greek sailor’s cap that was pulled down over his eyes.
“Excuse me, I need to go to the airport,” she said, leaning in the open window.
The driver jumped a little, then looked at her and said something in Greek, shaking his head. Apparently he didn’t understand.
“The airport?” Elaine said, and held her hands together to form the wings of a plane, and tilted them side to side. She said the word the Russian way, thinking it might help. “Aeroport?”
“Ah, Aerodromou,” he said, smiling.
“Right, Aerodromou.
He reached into the back of the car and opened the rear door for her.
When Elaine got in, she slumped low in the seat, the way he had been sitting, as if she were tired from walking. She had no idea where Alex had his swimming lessons and there were very few roads on the island—she was afraid that she and Spyro might cross paths.
It took about twenty-five minutes to reach the airport. The closer they got, the more nervous Elaine became. It would be just her luck to run into Costa or one of Spyro’s staff there.
When they finally reached the island’s modest little airport and the driver pulled up to the curb, Elaine opened her door and looked at him. “Wait here, okay?”
He frowned, tapping on the meter, which showed a fare of eighteen euros.
“I want you to wait for me. Understand?” She pointed to her watch. “Five minutes.” She spread her fingers out to indicate the number.
She thought the driver was going to argue and insist that she pay in advance, but he merely shrugged and shut off the engine. He slumped down in his seat and pulled the sailor’s cap back over his eyes.
I wish I were half as relaxed as he is, she thought.
Before she actually got out of the car, she looked around the terminal entrance. There were a few passengers pulling suitcases along the sidewalk, but they looked like tourists.
Elaine went inside the terminal as quickly as she could and walked straight to the kiosk she had seen upon her arrival on the island that was selling disposable phones. She kept her head down, the cap pulled low.
Just her luck—there were three people in line in front of her. The Greek woman working at the counter moved with the same sense of non-urgency as the taxi driver, practically in slow motion. It took Elaine a nerve wracking fifteen minutes to finally reach the front of the queue, and then another five long minutes to complete the purchase of the phone and an automobile cigarette lighter charger that would fit it. The woman did not have enough change and had to go to a rental car desk to break Elaine’s fifty euro note. Elaine tried to tell her to just keep the difference, but she wouldn’t let go of Elaine’s purchase until she made the correct change.
When Elaine finally finished, so much time had passed that she half-expected the taxi to have left, or to see the driver and a cop searching the lobby for her. But the old, dusty car was still sitting there in exactly the same spot outside, the driver slumped in the seat in the same position she had left him in, the cap over his eyes.
When she opened the door and got in, he jumped again, just like he had the first time.
“Please take me back to Fira,” she said.
“Fira?”
“Yes, Fira.”
He sighed and started the engine.

* * *
As soon they were moving again, Elaine opened the package and got the phone working. When she established the data connection she logged into the email account that she and Luna had set up.
There was one message, from Luna.

Hey, baby-doll, hope things are going well for you. I’m in Pittsburgh right now and have some news. Please call or text me ASAP but don’t take any unnecessary risks, and of course don’t you dare use that SIM card he gave you to make any calls!

Elaine looked at the time stamp—the message had come about eight hours ago. She immediately called Luna’s number.
It was very early morning in Pennsylvania, but Luna answered on the second ring.
“It’s me,” Elaine said, knowing Luna wouldn’t recognize the number. “I got your message. How’s Pittsburgh?”
“Oh, it’s interestin’,” Luna said. For a second Elaine wasn’t completely sure it was her. “I’ve already been all over, been dahntahn, been to Sliberty, even been dahn to Brahnsville.”
Elaine burst out laughing. “Oh my god, you’re speaking Pittsburghese!”
Luna laughed. “Everybody here thinks I’m from ‘Worshinton.’ I drank some pop, too. And pumped some Airn.”
“Next thing you know you’ll be reddin’ up your apartment and sweepin’ your carpet n’at.”
Luna chuckled.
Elaine became still, looking at the back of the taxi driver’s head. “So?”
“I’ve come to the conclusion that Patrick’s death was...what I mean to say is that I’m fairly sure that your father did not commit suicide.”
“Then it was a murder?”
“Yes. Just like your mother said.”
Elaine felt a sob well up inside her, and even though she suppressed it, she let out a small gasp. She could not stop tears from running down her face. The thought of her poor father being killed in his jail cell was like an ice pick in her heart, but on the other hand, the sadness was bittersweet. The moment she’d heard Luna confirm that her father had been murdered, the worst wound that had been buried inside her all these years—the thought that her dad had abandoned her—began to heal.
“Are you alright, baby-doll? I wish we didn’t have to talk about this over the phone...”
“I’m okay,” Elaine said, sniffling. The taxi driver glanced at her through the rearview mirror, but looked away quickly, as if he thought he should mind his own business.
Elaine’s grief morphed into anger so quickly that it surprised her. “Who did it? Where is the son-of-a-bitch?”
“Well, I’m not completely sure. There are two different suspects, but they’re connected to each other.”
“What suspects?”
Luna explained in detail about her visit to Thomas Tutter’s house, going back and breaking in and fighting with him, and his story about letting the man named Lonnie Hendrix, a.k.a. “Mister Switch” into the cell the night he died.
“Tutter said my father paid for sex?” Elaine said, now outraged. “Paid a man for sex? That’s ridiculous. My father would never—”
“I know, but Tutter didn’t know your father, obviously. He might have believed what Lonnie Hendrix told him and just taken the bribe. This kind of sexual activity isn’t uncommon in prison, as you probably know.”
“But how was he killed? How? Without leaving a shred of evidence behind that an autopsy would find?”
Luna hesitated. “Baby-doll, you don’t really want to know the grisly details, do you?”
“Grisly or not, I need to know what you have on those bastards who killed my father!”
Luna explained about the cardboard roller that was found under the bed, and the BDSM practice of “mummification.”
Elaine shuddered at the description.
“So,” Luna went on, “if my theory is right, Hendrix could have easily suffocated your dad without leaving any marks, signs of struggle, or anything else. And I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed this. I’ve got the cardboard roller in my possession, and you can easily see that one end was cut off—the edge is slightly frayed if you look at it very closely, and other end is clean, machine-cut. The coroner just didn’t have any cause to examine it in detail—they just assumed it was a piece of ordinary cell garbage.”
As Elaine digested all this, she gazed out the left-hand window of the taxi, at the shimmering patches of Aegean Sea between the cliffs in the distance. She could hardly believe she was on a tiny Greek island, finally so close to punishing her father’s killer, nearly a decade after joining the Secret Service. But how could they connect these two suspects Luna had dug up to Spyro Leandrou?
“How do we know this guard, Tutter, wasn’t involved?” Elaine said. “He could have made up this whole story about Hendrix. The man is obviously into BDSM himself and—”
“You’re right—we don’t know if he was involved in the actual murder. All I can say is that Thomas Tutter doesn’t remotely fit the physical description your mother gave us of the guy that’s been blackmailing Spyro. But Lonnie Hendrix does, and to a T. Not only that, Hendrix has a history of blackmail, travels a lot internationally. I just checked with Homeland and Thomas Tutter doesn’t even have a passport, has never been out of the United States. On top of that, Tutter is pretty short—I don’t think he could have lifted your father off the bed high enough to...well, you know.” Luna paused. “So all indications are that even if Tutter was in on this, the one who actually carried out the murder had to have been Lonnie Hendrix, or they did it together.”
“Okay,” Elaine said, feeling sick.
“Of course that’s assuming that your mom is...” Luna’s voice trailed off.
“What? Telling the truth?”
“Well, I didn’t want to say that, but yeah.”
“It’s okay, I don’t trust her myself, as bad as that sounds. I wouldn’t put it past her to have made this up just to give me the burning desire to put her husband in jail.”
“Agreed. We’re both on the same page, then. I think the best way to proceed is to get a positive ID on Lonnie Hendrix from your mom—that will confirm we’ve got the right man. What I would like to do is email you five mug shots of random convicts, one of which will be of Lonnie Hendrix. You need to show them to Kathy ASAP and ask her if she recognizes any of the men as the one that came to their house and blackmailed Spyro.”
“Great plan, I agree.” Elaine already felt better. “Let’s do it.”
“Also, I’m going to include one picture of Thomas Tutter in the mix, just to make sure your mother hasn’t seen him, too. I don’t know why or how she would have ever seen him, but we need to cover all the possibilities, just in case.”
“Perfect.”
“When do you think you can show the photos to Kathy?”
Elaine thought it over. “Give me twenty-four hours.”
“Okay, I’m emailing them now.”

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