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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 48


* * *
“I need to talk to you alone,” Elaine whispered to her mother, after they completed a dangerous, narrow stretch of the path where everyone had to walk single file. Alex had then clambered far ahead, and was leading the front of the group.
Kathy motioned to the last three tourists in the group who were still on the narrow stretch. “Watch out there!” she called. “Stay to the right, stay to the right!”
As soon as they were safely across, Kathy turned and continued up the hill.
“Did you hear me?” Elaine whispered, keeping up with her.
Kathy still didn’t respond.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” Elaine snapped. “If you’re mad at me about something, say so!”
Kathy came to an abrupt stop and whirled towards her.
“Mad at you?” She glanced ahead—Alex was now far away. “You and your stupid ‘undercover’ operation! You’re going to get us both killed. You have no idea what my husband is capable of. Even some stranger thought we were mother and daughter just now! Spyro could notice how much we look alike any second.”
“That German guy only thought that because of the way I stuck up for you back there. I shouldn’t have done that—it was a mistake, I admit it.”
Kathy only grunted.
The words ‘stupid undercover operation’ were still ringing in Elaine’s brain, and they stung. “Well, I’m sorry, Kathy, but we can’t just throw your husband in prison because you don’t like him. We need concrete evidence that will stand up in court.”
“I gave you all that information from his safe! I know some of those companies are involved in illegal stuff. I don’t see why—”
“There’s not enough evidence, I told you that already. And so did Nick and Luna.”
“But my husband threatened to kill me! I know that’s a crime.”
“You’re right, technically speaking, but you said nobody but you heard it, and it’s your word against his. People threaten each other all the time in arguments—”
“But he meant it! Trust me, honey, he meant it literally—he’s killed before, I’m sure of it!” There was desperation in her mother’s eyes.
The German man was catching up, and they both stopped talking. They sped up a little to maintain their lead, and Elaine decided to take another tack. “Look, Kathy, do you see me standing here arguing with you about how volcanoes are formed?”
Kathy glanced at her, looking confused. “What are you talking about?”
“You obviously know a lot more about that subject than I do, and I’m truly impressed. Proud of you, actually. I wouldn’t think of arguing with you about volcanoes because I don’t know a damn thing about them myself.” Elaine motioned to her. “I would appreciate the same respect from you regarding my knowledge of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”
Her mother looked over at her with a half-smile. “You’re proud of me, honey?”
“Yes I am.”
“Really?”
“Really.”
Elaine actually thought Kathy was going to start crying right there on top of the volcano. What Elaine had said was true. It was probably the only thing about her mother that she was proud of.
“I’m sorry, honey,” Kathy whispered. “I’m just so stressed out about you being here—I’m afraid for you more than I am myself.” She sniffled, regaining her composure. “What did you want to talk about?”
Elaine glanced over her shoulder to make sure they were still out of anyone else’s earshot, and then discreetly pulled the burner phone from her pocket. “There are photos of five men on this phone that you need to look at—you need to tell me if you recognize any of them.”
Kathy glanced down at the phone, then quickly took it and stuck it into her jacket pocket. Now they had reached the crater rim and the tourists ahead had stopped walking, looking unsure of whether to go farther, waiting for Kathy and the rest to join them.
When they were all together, huddled in front of a big, black shiny boulder, Kathy silently counted the heads to make sure no one had been left behind.
“Okay, everyone!” Kathy shouted. “You can walk around the rim by yourself for twenty minutes. It’s not dangerous up here—all the slopes are gentle—but remember not to stick your hand in any steam that you see rising from the rocks, because it can burn you.” She raised her left arm in the air and pointed at her watch. “Meet back at this spot, in front of this boulder, at three-forty five sharp.”
“Come on, Patricia!” Alex shouted at Elaine. “I want to show you, it’s really cool!”
“You go ahead,” Elaine said. “I’ll catch up with you in a couple of minutes.”

* * *
As soon as everyone wandered away, Kathy glanced around and then turned her back to the sea below, facing the interior of crater.
“He has a telescope,” she said.
“Alex has a telescope?”
“No, Spyro. It’s in his bedroom. He can see us both right now, and he could be watching.”
Elaine turned and looked across the water at Santorini Island, which occupied a good portion of the horizon. It took her a moment to identify the white-washed houses of Oia, cascading down the cliffs.
“Do you really think so?” she said, but her mother was already looking at the pictures.
Elaine moved closer and watched over her shoulder. Her mother peered for a few seconds at the first man, who stared blankly at the camera, then the second, then at the third...
When she swiped to the fourth picture, she let out a little gasp.
“That’s him!” she said.
“Who?”
“The man who came to blackmail Spyro! The man who...”
“Killed my father?”
Kathy looked at Elaine. “Yes.”
The photo was of Lonnie Hendrix.
“How did you find him?” Kathy said, sounding both excited and scared. “Who is he?”
Elaine hesitated. Her mother was already nervous enough as it was. “My partner identified him by talking to the guard who found the body, in person. He was a prisoner on the same block as Patrick.”
Kathy’s eyes widened in fear. “Are you telling me Luna went to Pittsburgh?”
“Yes, but—”
“Spyro could find out—oh my God! Are you crazy?”
Elaine didn’t know what to say—her mother was right about this.
Kathy suddenly turned and started walking along the crater rim, shaking her head. “I knew I shouldn’t have come to you, I knew it!”
“Even if Spyro finds out someone is lookin into Patrick’s death, there’s no way he can connect it with me.”
Kathy stopped in her tracks and looked at Elaine. “Connect it with you?” Kathy pounded her fist into her chest. “He’ll connect it with me!”
“How?”
“He just will—do you think he’s stupid? He has to know I’m tryin’ to find a way to leave him, he has to know.”
“Kathy—”
“Oh my god oh my god we’re both going to get—”
“Mother, pull yourself together!” Elaine hissed. She reached out and grabbed her mom’s shoulders and gave her a shake.
It was the first time she had ever called her “Mother.”
Kathy’s mouth hung open as she stared back at Elaine—she looked stunned. Elaine didn’t know if it was because of how she’d just been addressed, or that her own daughter was trying to shake some sense into her as if she were a child.
Elaine said, “Do you really think you can put a man like your husband away without taking any risk, Mom? I need you to be strong and confident. I know you can be that way, so start acting that way!”
Kathy was breathing hard. She peered uncertainly at Elaine’s face, then looked down at the phone in her hand.
“I need you to look at the last picture and tell me if you recognize that man, too. Okay? You only looked at four—there are five mug shots, I told you.”
“But who would the other man be?”
“Just look at the picture, Kathy. Please?”
Her mother raised the phone again and swiped to the last photo. Elaine knew that the last one was of Thomas Tutter. Elaine glanced over her shoulder, glancing in the direction of Santorini Island—she sure hoped that Spyro wasn’t watching through his telescope, that her mother was just being paranoid.
Kathy only looked at the photo of Tutter for a second before handing the phone back to Elaine. “No, never saw him before. Who is he?”

Chapter 56

After the tour was over, Costa drove Elaine, Kathy and Alex back to the villa. During the ride, Elaine concluded that she had yet another problem to worry about—the emotional state of her mother. After the way Kathy had acted on the tour, Elaine realized that the woman couldn’t be relied on for any kind of help, that her mother would be doing well just to behave normally at the villa and not panic. Elaine thought that part of the problem was, despite the fact that she herself was a highly trained Secret Service agent with considerable experience under her belt, her mother could not help seeing her as a little girl. All parents were like this to some degree, Elaine knew, but the tendency in Kathy was probably even more pronounced since the two of them hadn’t been around each other since Elaine was ten years old. Elaine was still little “Lainie” to her.
The best thing to do, Elaine decided, was simply to keep an eye on Kathy and involve her in the rest of the operation as little as possible.

* * *
When they all went inside the villa and were in the foyer, Spyro heard them and stepped out of the library.
“So how was the tour?” he said. He was looking at Elaine when he said this, so she assumed he had directed the question to her.
“Very interesting,” she said. “Your wife certainly knows a lot about volcanoes.”
Kathy brushed between them, her knapsack over her shoulder, and wordlessly headed up the stairs. Alex followed her, and Costa walked down the hall towards the den, leaving Elaine and Spyro standing there alone.
This made Elaine uneasy, as she still had the disposable phone in her pocket.
“Costa?” Spyro said, looking past Elaine.
The big man was just turning towards the door to the den, presumably to go through the other door and out to his cottage, but he stopped and faced Spyro.
Spyro merely nodded to him, and then said something in Greek.
Costa lumbered towards her, and Elaine’s blood pressure spiked higher and higher with each passing step.

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