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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 47


Chapter 55

By the time the taxi driver dropped her off at the church in Fira, Elaine had downloaded the five photographs onto the burner phone. All the men in the pictures were dark-haired and quite handsome, except for Thomas Tutter, who was rather average looking and significantly older than the other four. And as Luna said, Lonnie Hendrix did match Kathy’s description, right down to the deep cleft in his chin.
As Elaine climbed out of the taxi, she once again made sure she wasn’t being followed and then walked to where she had parked the Porsche. The first thing she did when she got in the car was plug in the burner phone’s charger to the cigarette lighter. The phone hadn’t been fully charged to begin with, and the call to Luna and downloading the photographs from the email account had nearly drained the battery.
Finding a way to privately show the pictures to Kathy would not be easy. The two of them hardly even saw each other inside the huge villa, and when they did, there was almost always someone in the same room or within earshot, even if it was only a servant. And despite what Spyro had told her, she could not be sure that some rooms were not bugged.
Elaine decided that the quickest and safest approach would be to catch Kathy back at the house before she left to conduct her volcano tour this afternoon—going on the tour would be a perfect opportunity to be alone with her mother, at least for a period long enough to show her the photos. Kathy had already invited her in front of Spyro, so it would look natural and should not arouse any suspicion.
 Elaine pushed the Porsche hard along the curvy road that led back to Oia, screeching the tires around the turns. She was sure that Kathy had said she had another volcano tour at three o’clock, which meant her mother would be leaving the house in a few minutes. If she drove fast enough, she could catch her and hopefully ask to go along on the tour with Spyro within earshot.

* * *
When Elaine reached the villa and the guard opened the gate for her, she was relieved to see Kathy’s blue BMW convertible still in the garage.
She parked the Porsche in the space where she had found it and then quietly walked to the villa’s main entrance. The disposable phone was in the top inside pocket of her overcoat, the ringer turned off and volume muted, both chargers in her purse. The phone made a tiny lump under her coat, but she was sure nobody would notice it.
As soon as Elaine stepped into the foyer, Spyro appeared at the entry to the living room with a hardbound book in his hand that looked like a novel.
“Oh, didn’t expect you back so soon. Did you go to Fira?”
“Yes I did. It was lovely. Beautiful little town.”
He smiled. “Did you have the courage to ride the donkeys?”
“No, I’m afraid I chickened out and just rode the cable car down to the port and back.”
He casually walked up to her in the hallway as she moved towards the stairs. He seemed to want to chat a little more. Now she was painfully aware of the phone in her coat pocket. The lump felt like a tumor under her skin the size of a basketball.
Elaine decided it would be prudent to say something that would convince her boss that she had actually been to Fira, just in case he had any doubts. “That cathedral at the top of the hill is really something, all those colorful frescoes and mosaics.”
“Ah! That’s the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, where Alex and I go to church every Sunday.” He motioned to her with his prosthetic hand. “Speaking of which, I wanted to invite you to attend the service with us tomorrow morning. That is, if you’re interested. If not, that’s fine. I don’t expect you to—I don’ know much about your religious convictions...”
Elaine wasn’t prepared for this. “Oh.” In a split second she decided it was an opportunity to learn more about him. “That would be nice, I’d like that...”
At that second, Kathy trotted down the steps. She hurriedly passed them by, dressed in a warm up suit and trainers, with a knapsack slung over her back.
“Kathy?” Elaine said.
Spyro looked surprised that Elaine had addressed her.
Kathy turned around, looking just as surprised as her husband. “Yeah?”
“I wanted to know if you’d mind if I went along on your volcano tour today, since you were kind enough to offer...”
Kathy frowned, glancing at her watch. “I’m late already.”
Elaine took a step towards the stairs. “I can be ready in two minutes, I promise. I’d really like to see it.”
Now Alex popped out of the living room and frowned at Elaine. “What do you want to go on one of those stupid tours for? They’re booooooring.”
“Alex,” Spyro said.
“This tour is fully-booked, anyway,” Kathy said, reaching for the door handle. “There’s not enough space on the—”
“You don’t think there will be any cancellations?” Elaine broke in.
Kathy turned and glanced at her, looking annoyed. Elaine’s back was to Spyro and Alex now, and she gave Kathy a hard look that she hoped transmitted the thought This is important, I need to talk to you alone!
“I guess we can make room on the boat,” Kathy muttered “but it’s pretty tight.”
“I’m going, too!” Alex said suddenly, and trotted up next to Elaine, taking her hand.
“You just said the tours were boring,” Spyro said.
“I want to show Patricia the volcano!”
“You just went on the tour last week.”
“Please, dad? Patricia hasn’t seen it.”
Spyro sighed. Elaine prayed that he would say no—it would make showing her mother the pictures much more difficult. But she had already seen that Spyro Leandrou had a hard time denying his son anything.
“You’re not going without Costa,” Spyro finally said, motioning to him with the prosthetic hand. “It’s too dangerous.”
“I’ll go ask him!” Alex cried, and he darted down the hallway before his father could object. They heard him shoot out the back door, towards the cottage.
“Damn it,” Kathy said, glancing at her watch. “I don’t have time for this—I’m gonna be late!”
“This is Greece,” Spyro said dryly. “The damn tourists can wait.”

* * *
Ten minutes later, the four of them were in the Lexus, with Costa at the wheel. Kathy sat in the front seat and Elaine and Alex sat in the back.
Kathy didn’t look too happy about having the extra people along with her on the tour, but Elaine was even more annoyed. She thought Kathy was carrying the jealous wife act too far. She had the feeling her mother was angry with her about something, and this operation was too dangerous and important to let petty grievances get in the way.
By the time they parked the car in Fira and took the cable car down the hill to the Old Port, they were almost half an hour late for the tour. The captain of the boat was angry, not because it mattered to him, but because the tourists were getting antsy. There were about twenty people waiting at the chained off entrance to the dock, a few children among them. With Alex and Costa tagging along, Elaine knew that it was going to be difficult to show Kathy the photos, but she had to find a way to do it.
As Kathy began to take up tickets and get everyone safely across the plank and onto the boat, one customer, who was German, judging from his accent, was clearly upset.
“Zis tour ees thirty minutes late,” he snapped, glaring at Kathy as she took his ticket.
“This isn’t Germany,” Kathy snapped. “Everything doesn’t run with the efficiency of a concentration camp.”
The man’s mouth dropped open. Elaine’s almost did, too—she couldn’t believe her mother had said that, especially to a customer.
Kathy then apologized to him, telling him that she was just upset with herself for being late, and with that, she glared at Elaine.
The boat’s engine started, and they were soon underway, transiting the short stretch of the Aegean Sea that separated Santorini and Nea Kameni Island. It wasn’t an ideal day for the tour—the pirate ship-like vessel lurched to and fro in the gusty wind, its bow cutting roughly through the white capped waves. Everyone aboard was buttoning up their jackets and pulling hoods over their heads, the German man complaining about the terrible weather every ten seconds. Elaine thought he looked a little ridiculous—he was wearing khaki suspender shorts, a T-shirt with a thin windbreaker over it, long gray woolen socks that came up to his knees, and a pair of Birkenstock sandals. Why anyone would dress like this to hike up a mountain on what was a relatively cold January day, at least for the Greek islands, was beyond her.
Costa sat in the stern of the boat with the captain, looking unhappy about having to spend his afternoon this way.
The wind and waves settled down when they reached the volcanic island, the towering caldera blocking out most of the bad weather.
As the group stepped off the boat and onto the dock, Costa turned to Kathy and motioned to a little tavern that was sitting on the shore, the only building visible on the island. “I have coffee and wait for you,” he said.
Elaine was surprised by this, but then she surveyed the volcanic island. She supposed it was safe enough—the place was barren except for the boat dock and the tavern.
Well, that’s one problem solved, Elaine thought. Now all she had to do was get Kathy away from Alex and the tourists long enough to show her the mug shots.

* * *
Kathy led the way up the caldera, and despite the stressful circumstances, Elaine was awed by the sights and smells around her. The scattered rocks on either side of the gravel path soon turned from black to various shades of red. Steam drifted up from crevices that brought a strong smell of sulfur. With the view of the crater at the top, and with the jagged black rim silhouetted against the sky, Elaine and the group might have been walking on the surface of Mars. The landscape was truly surreal.
Elaine was also impressed with her mother’s knowledge of the volcano, and of geology in general. She had never thought of Kathy Brogan as a smart woman, but her mother clearly had a thorough understanding of volcanoes, or at least the one that had created Nea Kameni Island.
As they continued upwards and approached the top, Kathy explained how the volcano was formed, using complicated-sounding terminology such as “magma,” “scoria deposits,” “pyroclastic flows,” and “igneous rock.” From the authoritative way she spoke, and her body language as she pointed out various features along the caldera, it was clear to Elaine that she wasn’t just parroting the words—she seemed to understand the specifics of what she was talking about.  Elaine noticed that Kathy also stopped dropping her g’s when she addressed  the group, was more aware of her diction.
For a moment, Elaine found herself feeling oddly proud of her mother, who only had a high school education.
As they continued to climb, the German man became more and more annoying, complaining about how difficult it was to walk up the path in his sandals, the gusty wind, and especially that the tour was being conducted only in English. He constantly interrupted Kathy’s monologue to ask for translations, such as, “Deposit—does that mean ‘ablagerung?” and “Flowing—is that Flie├čend?”
Kathy would simply respond with “Probably” or “I don’t know.”
The next time the group stopped for a moment to rest, he said to Kathy, “Why zis stupid tour cannot be in Deutsch?”
“Because we have other tours in Deutsch specifically for Germans,” Kathy shot back.
“Yes, but Deutsche tour cancelled.” He shook his head, glaring at her. “Why?”
“Because the man who does those tours is on a two-week vacation. It’s January, low season now.”
“Lazy Greeks. Probably drinking ouzo.”
Alex giggled at this.
Kathy said, “The guide happens to be named Hans, and I’ll have you know he’s as German as you are.”
“Probably had Greek mother.”
Elaine had finally had enough of him. She stepped forward and yanked a flyer from her coat pocket that she had picked up on the boat and held it up in the man’s face, pointing and reading the bold words printed at the top. “THIS TOUR IS IN ENGLISH.”
“But you see, I cannot read English to know that tour in English.”
Elaine glared at him. “You know what I think? You understand every word she said, but you just like being a troublemaker.”
Alex laughed at this, too.
The German frowned at her, glanced at Kathy, then looked back at Elaine. “Who are you, her daughter?”
Elaine was so taken aback by this question she might have fallen into the crater.
Alex just stood there, glancing from one face to another, also looking surprised.
“What makes you say that?” Elaine said uneasily.
Kathy quickly turned away and muttered, “Stupid man.”
The group continued up the hill.

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