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Thursday, May 25, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 49


Spyro found out about the burner phone and Costa’s going to search me! Elaine thought. Maybe Spyro had actually been watching through the telescope.
As Costa came up behind Elaine, she held her breath, waiting for his hands to start patting her down...but there was no contact from him at all.
She finally got the courage to turn around.
Costa had bent down and was picking up a leather carrier that was stacked with firewood by the front door. She hadn’t even noticed it when they’d all come into the house.
“It’s supposed to go down to near freezing tonight,” Spyro said to Elaine, as he watched Costa carry the wood away and turn into the den. “Has your room been warm enough?”
“It’s f-fine,” Elaine said, a shiver running up her spine, but it wasn’t because she was cold. She took a step towards the stairs.
“What about church tomorrow morning?” Spyro said. “You said you wanted go with us?”
“Yes, that would be nice.”
“Well, you might want to reconsider when you find out what time it starts.”
“What time?”
“Seven o’clock sharp. And when I say sharp, I mean it —-church is the only thing on this entire island, maybe in this entire country, that actually starts on time. So we have to leave at six-thirty.”
Elaine laughed nervously, still shaken from what had just happened, or what she thought was about to happen. “I can handle it.”
“Good. If you don’t mind, wake Alex up at six. It takes him a long time to get ready.”

* * *
By the time Elaine reached her bedroom, sweat was running down her sides. You’ve got to stop being so paranoid, yourself, she thought, and quietly locked the door.
She pulled the burner phone out of her pocket. She had to text Luna and tell her that Kathy had identified Lonnie Hendrix and failed to recognize Thomas Tutter...and then she frowned, staring at the phone’s display.
No service!
Not even one bar’s worth of signal!
“Oh, no,” she groaned softly, as she moved about the room, trying to see if the little meter in the display would change.
She stepped into the bathroom and held it near all the windows.
Nothing!
She may as well have been underground.
“Damn it,” she growled under her breath. Now she understood why Spyro had to build his own cell phone tower—it wasn’t just because he wanted to monitor the phone calls of everyone on the property. The location was simply blacked out from cell phone service. This was probably due to the position of the villa on the hill—Elaine had noticed that it sat underneath a ridge, and that the rock formation must have cut off all the signals from the commercial towers on the island.
That’s just great, she thought. Now she wished she would have texted Luna from Nea Kameni Island. There, she had noticed the signal indicator reading four bars. She wouldn’t be able to text Luna without leaving the villa...which meant she would have to find a way to do it in the morning, when the family went to church. Why had she agreed to go? She couldn’t back out now.
In the meantime, she had to find a hiding place for the phone and the charger, and a damn good one.
She glanced around the interior of her bedroom, trying to think of the best place to hide it, along with the auto cigarette lighter charger, until tomorrow.
She had no strong tape in her room, and had no idea where they might have kept any, so attaching the devices to the underside of a drawer or the space under the sink, or the water tank lid on the toilet was out of the question.
She went back into the bathroom and looked around—it would be impossible to hide it in the toilet kit that concealed her gun. There simply wasn’t any room or way to do that.
She stepped into the bedroom again, and pulled up the sheets and covers from the foot of the bed. Unlike most European style beds, it consisted of a mattress on top of a set of box springs—Spyro must have imported it from the States. Hiding the phone under the top mattress was too obvious, and Fenia might find it when changing the bed or if she decided to turn the mattress.
Elaine got down on the floor, rolled over on her back, and slid underneath the bed. The box springs had a layer of thin fabric over the bottom, and through the fabric she could feel the horizontal slats inside the mattress that supported the springs.
She got up, retrieved a pair of manicure scissors from the bathroom, and then slid back under the bed and carefully cut a slit in the fabric that was just large enough to feed the phone and coiled-up charger through. Fumbling a little with her fingers, she managed to position them both on top of the nearest slat, wedged up tightly against one of the springs.
Hopefully nobody would find it there.

Chapter 57

The alarm clock went off at six a.m. the following morning.
Elaine groaned, rolled over, and slapped the snooze button. A second later she sat up in the bed, remembering that she had to go to church with Spyro and Alex.
She groggily threw on her bathrobe, opened the door, and padded barefoot down to Alex’s room.
After knocking and hearing nothing, she cracked the door open but did not look inside.
“Alex? Time to get up for church.”
“Oh,” the boy said sleepily, and with no enthusiasm. Still without looking inside, she reached through the door and flicked on the light. “You’re getting up, right?”
“Yeah, yeah.” She heard a long, drawn-out yawn and then the sound of his small feet hitting the floor padding towards his bathroom.
Elaine continued down the hall, noting that the door to Spyro’s bedroom was already open, and the light was on.
As she reached her room, Spyro stuck his head out of his door, his hair wet. “Is Alex awake?”
“Yes, he’s up,” Elaine said.
Spyro smiled. “Make sure he stays that way. He tends to fall back asleep halfway through getting dressed.”


* * *
At six thirty-five, Spyro, Alex, and Elaine were in the Lexus, with Costa at the wheel, all of them quiet and still sleepy-eyed. Costa looked about as happy to be going to church at six-thirty in the morning as if he were on the way to attend his own mother’s funeral.
The sun was up now. As they turned onto the highway that led to Fira, the trees cast long shadows along the pavement.
Elaine had retrieved the burner from the hiding place in the mattress, it was in her inside coat pocket.
After a few minutes, Spyro turned and said, “After church, we always have a big breakfast at a nearby restaurant, and then we drive over to the other side of the island for ice cream.”
Alex’s eyes opened from their half-shut state “Ice cream, yay!”
Spyro chuckled and reached back and ruffled his son’s hair. “That woke you up, huh, Superman?”
Alex smiled. “I love ice cream,” looking over at Elaine. “Do you love ice cream, Patricia?”
She smiled back. “Of course I do. Who doesn’t love ice cream?”
“What’s your favorite kind?”
“Strawberry.”
“I like pistachio!”
“We go to a little tavern down in this seaside village called Ekkara,” Spyro explained. “That damn restaurant is the best kept secret on Santorini. The owner makes his own ice cream from goat’s milk using some secret family recipe that goes back generations. It’s absolutely delicious, so rich and creamy it even makes Italian gelato seem watery.”
Elaine could not help but think of Tony. He would contest that claim, she thought, and this made her feel homesick.
“It’s fantastic,” Alex said.
“Best cigar shop on island in Ekkara, too,” Costa said, in a rare moment of loquacity. “Cuban cigars, very fresh. And cheap.”
“And the best ouzo,” Spyro added, with a guilty smile. “Brewed right there in Ekkara.” He chuckled and looked at Elaine. “So, you might say it’s a tradition for us, even thought it’s a bit paradoxical. Every Sunday we spend a couple of hours at church, cleansing ourselves of our sins, and then the three of us go over to Ekkara and indulge our vices like there’s no tomorrow.”
Elaine laughed. “Nice tradition, I think.”
“Vices?” Alex said. “What does that mean?”
Spyro said, “Vices are...” and then he turned and looked at Elaine, wanting to see how she would define the term.
Elaine thought for a second and said, “Vices are the things we enjoy doing, but that are bad for us.”
“Oh,” Alex said, but from the look on his face he clearly didn’t understand.
“Like eating ice cream,” Elaine explained.
The boy looked puzzled. “But why is ice cream bad for you?”
Elaine hesitated, but again Spyro waited for her to answer. “Because if you eat too much of it you’ll get fat.” She reached over and playfully jabbed a finger into his flat stomach.
He giggled.
Spyro smiled approvingly and faced the front again.
Evidently, Elaine had just passed another of his tests.

Chapter 58

The church service seemed to drag on forever. There were no seats in the crowded cathedral except for those with special needs, and everyone else had to stand the entire time. The hymns were sung in the local language. The liturgy, which Spyro explained hailed directly from the Byzantine church tradition, was not even held in Greek, but Third Century Greek. There was a lot of icon-kissing, candle-lighting, silent prayer, and genuflecting. The entire church service lasted over three hours, and apparently it was perfectly fine for members of the congregation to simply come and go during the process at any time they pleased.
Elaine felt like a fish out of water. She had never spent much time at church, though her mother had made her go to a Baptist church and Sunday school every now and then in Pittsburgh. She had never been to a Greek Orthodox Church service before, it was all foreign to her.
In any case, her mind was not occupied with the contemplation of religion or spirituality—her grey matter was working overtime, trying to think of some way to get away from the group so that she could call Luna and report the results of showing Kathy the photos.
After about an hour had passed, in between hymns, Elaine leaned close to Spyro and said, “Is there a ladies room around here that I can use?”
Spyro whispered back, “There’s a public pay toilet, but I think even the women’s side is probably filthy. The best thing to do is just walk into any of the nicer restaurants up the street and act like you’re sitting on the terrace, they won’t say a word to you.”
“Thanks.”
As soon as Elaine stepped out of the cathedral, she spotted a decent looking Greek restaurant almost directly across the street.
Elaine followed Spyro’s instructions. A waiter gave her a curious look as she went inside through the door that let out to the terrace, but no one else said a word to her. She spotted the restroom sign at the bottom of a flight of steps and went upstairs.
Fortunately, she found the women’s side unoccupied, and she immediately whipped out the burner phone.
When she turned it on she was relieved to see that the signal strength indicator showed four bars.
She immediately called Luna’s number.
It was past midnight in Pittsburgh.
Luna answered on the first ring, sounding a little sleepy.
“I don’t have much time,” Elaine said quickly, in a voice just above a whisper. “Kathy ID’d Lonnie Hendrix, but she didn’t recognize Tutter.”
“Okay, that’s progress. Did she say anything else?”
“No—what do you mean?”
“I just thought seeing Lonnie Hendrix’s picture might have jogged her memory about more details—we need everything about him that she can remember.”
“No, she didn’t mention anything else.”
“Okay, that’s fine. What about progress on your end? Have you taken on any extra job duties yet?”
“Nope,” Elaine said, frustrated. “The man is a total roadblock.”
 “Look, I think this is about loyalty. That’s the key. He has to believe you’re completely loyal to him, that he can totally trust you to put his and his family’s interests first, even before yours. Otherwise he’s going to keep you strictly in the governess role.”
“Yes I know that.”
“You need to find an opportunity to prove your loyalty to him.”
“Or stage an opportunity…”
The restroom door opened.
A pudgy Greek woman walked in. Elaine quickly turned and faced the wall on the other side of the sink, the phone still to her ear, and let the woman enter the stall.
“Okay, um, I’ll think that over,” Elaine said vaguely, and Luna got the message.
“Good luck, then. I’ll report back via the email address on my progress trying to track down Hendrix.”
Elaine put the phone back into the inside pocket of her coat and went out the restroom door.
She nearly ran smack into Costa.
The pockmark-faced man had just reached the top of the narrow stairs, and he looked up at her, his brown eyes boring into hers.
For a split second she thought he had come after her, but he merely grunted, stood back, and let her pass by him.
As she reached the bottom of the steps, she glanced back over her shoulder and just glimpsed him disappearing into the men’s room.

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