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Friday, May 26, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 50


* * *
One long hour after Elaine returned to the church, Spyro Leandrou apparently decided that he’d had enough spirituality to last him until the next Sunday morning. He led Costa, Alex, and Elaine out to the street and they walked several blocks to the seafood restaurant he had mentioned. The Greek eatery was packed with wide-awake churchgoers and sleepy-eyed tourists who had just climbed out of bed, some of them showing telltale signs of hangovers.
Breakfast lasted two more long hours, with Spyro getting up from the table at least a dozen times to make the rounds of the crowded tables, chatting with friends and acquaintances. Alex was able to keep himself halfway entertained by playing games on his phone, the volume turned down so that it was barely audible.
Elaine spent the entire time thinking about what Luna had said. As usual, her friend had been right. Elaine had to win Spyro Leandrou’s trust, somehow. Trust and loyalty were the “x-factor” missing in their relationship, no question about it. The almost intimate way Spyro interacted with Costa, and with Fenia, and even with his cook and the gatehouse guards, was different than with Elaine. The difference was subtle, but it was there, in his facial expressions, body language and a general ease and confidence.
How could she prove her loyalty to a man like Spyro Leandrou? Wasn’t loyalty a quality that always took a long time to prove to someone you just met? Didn’t that usually take years?
Unfortunately, Elaine did not have the luxury of years to work with in this situation.
What kind of opportunity could she create?

* * *
This troubling problem was still on Elaine’s mind as the group finally piled back in the car and headed to the village of Ekkara to indulge their vices, as Spyro had said.
The hamlet was on the east side of the island, where the land tapered gradually down to the sea, with only modest hills and cliffs at the shore. As they neared Ekkara, Elaine noticed that there were two large structures right on the seaside that looked like abandoned hotels or apartment complexes.
“This is an interesting little village,” Spyro commented, as they wound along a road that led beside the sea. “Those two huge crumbling buildings were once some of the most luxurious sanatoriums on the Mediterranean, frequented by the rich and famous. At the beginning of the last century, a month or two stay at a good sanatorium was a common prescription from a doctor to treat a variety of infectious diseases—plenty of fresh air, walks along the beach, saltwater baths, nutritional foods, and so on. But with the advent of antibiotics, such methods of treatment began to fade, and so did the concept of sanatoriums. Now, they’re on the rise again, but they’re called ‘luxury spas’ and they focus on the wellness aspect more than the treatment of diseases.”
Elaine wondered if this was a reference to his own mysterious “spa,” Panacea. So far, she had not one shred of evidence that he was connected with it, or that it even existed—she’d taken Giorgio Cattoretti’s word for all of it, which also troubled her.
Just as the car neared the sea, Costa turned left and they drove along a pothole-littered road that ran along the shore, scattered with towering eucalyptus trees on either side. They passed a few boarded-up concrete buildings and houses.
Spyro said, “This little village boomed while those two sanatoriums were in operation. Now, the place is almost a ghost town. But the tavern I mentioned is still here—the owner caters to the locals, who mostly come here for the ouzo. Every now and then some tourists stumble across it, though. The man is ninety-five years old and struggles to survive.”

* * *
A few minutes later, they had parked and were inside the tavern. The owner was standing behind a counter with three tubs of homemade ice cream—chocolate, strawberry, and pistachio—and preparing Alex’s cone.
Efcharistó,” Alex said, his eyes shining with delight as he took the cone in his hand. The owner knew that Elaine didn’t speak Greek and simply motioned to the three containers. His face was heavily wrinkled and sun-scorched, but he did not look anywhere near ninety-five years old. She would have guessed seventy-five, at most. The relaxed pace of the island, the clean air and water, added many years to people’s lives.
“Strawberry,” Elaine said, pointing to the container with the pink ice cream. “In a cone, please, like Alex’s.”
As soon as Elaine had her treat in her own hand, she followed Alex outside. Spyro stayed behind with the owner to have his ouzo. Costa had gone up the street to buy his weekly Cuban cigar.
The tavern had a small terrace with cloth-covered tables and red umbrellas, where Elaine thought Alex was going to sit down, but the boy led her across the street. There was a crumbling sidewalk that ran along a wall that overlooked the desolate beach, which was rocky and about fifty feet lower than the street. Alex climbed up on the wall, which was about two feet wide, and began walking slowly along, licking his ice cream cone.
“Be careful,” Elaine said.
The boy merely nodded, gazing out over the sea.
Elaine glanced up the empty street. It was lined with abandoned-looking shops, most boarded up, with paint peeling from their walls. Except for the sound of the surf and seagulls cawing softly overhead, it was perfectly quiet outside. There wasn’t a soul around. Spyro told her that by mid-afternoon, the tavern would start filling up with locals and that by dinnertime would be packed, which was hard to believe.
Costa had almost reached the top of the hill now. The big man turned right, into the only shop that looked open, a kind of mini-market with a big hand painted sign that said CUBAN CIGARS.
As Elaine stood there, gazing up the hill, a clever plan for winning Spyro Leandrou’s trust came to her in a heady flash of inspiration. It was one of those ideas that arrived unbidden, in raw, crude form—crazy seeming at first, little more than a random thought—yet maybe not so crazy after all...
In a matter of two minutes the idea snowballed in Elaine’s mind into a fully-formed, impressive plan that seemed to be the perfect solution to her problem.
The plan involved Dmitry.

* * *
An hour later, after Spyro had finished his ouzo and Costa had tossed his half-smoked Cuban over the wall and they all climbed back into the Lexus, Elaine was so excited about the plan that she was chomping at the bit to contact Luna and get it underway.
If all went well, it would take place in Ekkara, directly in front of the tavern, next Sunday morning.
Everything had to be choreographed perfectly, down to the finest detail.
It would be extremely dangerous for both her and Dmitry, and it could very well backfire.
But she knew she had to try it.


Chapter 59

Luna Faye woke up early Monday morning and found that she had a text message from Elaine:

Your phone call inspired me. I need you to contact Dmitry immediately and buy him plane tickets to Santorini Island to arrive no later than next Saturday afternoon. Please book him at a nice hotel in Fira and come up with a good cover story about who he is and why he would be on a Greek island for a few weeks—a Russian businessman recovering from surgery, maybe? I have a plan about how to win S.’s loyalty and will be emailing you a detailed set of instructions shortly, which you should forward to Dmitry. He must memorize and follow the instructions to the letter next Sunday morning.
Thanks and wish me luck! E.
P.S. Also have Dmitry bring along a set of electronic items like the ones I had to leave in London. They may come in handy later.

The message surprised Luna—she was pleased that she had triggered an idea in Elaine’s mind that would allow her to win Spyro’s trust, although she had no idea how she’d done it. In any case, it was progress. That was good.

* * *
A few minutes later, Luna called Dmitry on his cellphone.
Da?” he said, and he sounded like he was shouting. Wind was howling in the background.
“Dmitry, it’s Luna.”
“Ah, Luna,” he yelled. “Hyello!”
“Where are you?”
“On Moscow River. Very cold today—minus twenty.”
Minus twenty? Luna thought, but then realized he was giving the temperature in Centigrade. She had become somewhat comfortable with that scale now, after living in France. Still, -20 C was somewhere around -5 F. “Are you aboard a boat, or what?”
Dmitry laughed. “No boat. River always frozen in winter. I fishing.”
 “Fishing? But if the river’s frozen—”
“Make small hole in ice.”
Like Eskimos, Luna thought. “Well, that sounds…” She could not find a word.
“Not so strange,” Dmitry said. “Today many people swimming.”
Swimming?”
Da.”
“But if the river’s frozen, how—”
“Make big hole in ice.”
O-kayyy, Luna thought. Russians were crazy. “Listen, I hate to drag you away from all that fun, Dmitry, but Janet needs you down in Greece for a few days.”
“Janyet?” he said warmly. “Of course I always hyelp her! When must I go?”
“First, I need you to do a little shopping.”

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