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Thursday, May 4, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 34


Chapter 45

Elaine was up at six-thirty the next morning.
By seven a.m., she had showered and dressed and was sitting at the “teacher’s desk” in the den, sipping a cup of coffee she’d made for herself in the kitchen, preparing for her first day of home-schooling with Alexander. Fenia came in about eight and helped her get a fire started to warm up the room. There was a charming wood stove between the desk and the picture window. Like most houses in the Mediterranean, the villa had individual heating/AC units for nearly every room, but the fireplace heat was, as Fenia said, “much warmer and very cozier.”
Preparation for Alex’s Grade 3 lessons was harder than she imagined. Pretending to be familiar with the Atlas Education System curriculum may have scored points with Spyro during the interview, but it made her feel stressed. In truth, she had only skimmed through the sample Atlas materials online. Fortunately, the previous governess always planned out the boy’s lessons two weeks in advance, and she had left the schedule behind along with the rest of the materials, so that part was done for her, at least for the next ten days. Teaching math, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, art, social studies and so on to an elementary school child was all new to Elaine. She hoped she could appear experienced enough to make Spyro think she knew what she was doing.

* * *
The “eight-thirty sharp” breakfast started just when Spyro said it would, a little after nine, Greek time. Fenia rang a small dinner bell in the dining room that softly echoed through the house to signal that the food was ready.
When Elaine left the den, she walked through the hallway that led past the library and the Jackson Pollack painting that hid the wall safe behind Spyro’s desk flashed by the corner of her eye. Elaine had to make an effort not to glance at it or look into the room. Kathy had given her the combination of the safe before leaving France, and from her mother’s description, some of the contents besides the financial statements could be useful, even incriminating. Kathy said there were life insurance policies, income tax returns, certificates for stocks and bonds, birth certificates, and a bundle of passports which she thought were probably fake. Before traveling to Marseilles to see Elaine, Kathy had simply snatched the envelope that contained the financial statements, an envelope she had seen Spyro pull out and replace many times, and fled.
But it would be a while before Elaine made any attempt to access the safe. With all the servants moving around the house as well as the property outside—maid, cook, gardener, driver, etc.—she would first have to know all their daily patterns well before she took such a risk.
Kalimera, Patricia!” Spyro said, when she entered the dining room. Elaine said good morning back in Greek and glanced around—the room was huge, and housed a long table, obviously designed for banquets. The table itself was unusual, made of polished oak.
“What lovely chairs,” Elaine commented, as she sat down. They were upholstered in mauve velvet.
Kathy gave a short laugh and glanced at Spyro. He merely grunted and looked away. Apparently there had been some friction about the choice of furniture.
As Elaine seated herself, Alexander and Kathy were already filling their plates—Fenia served the breakfast buffet-style, the center of the large glass table filled with dishes of eggs, bacon, toast, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, yogurt, honey, jams, and some croissants, along with freshly squeezed orange juice and Greek coffee. Though Tony would never have approved, Elaine was beginning to like the Greek coffee already. Similar to Turkish coffee, it was made on a stove top using unfiltered coffee grounds and was thick and foamy, with plenty of caffeine kick.
Kathy made her feel like an unwelcome interloper, avoiding eye contact and radiating an almost palpable coldness towards her. Elaine had never thought she had inherited any good qualities from her mother, but now she realized her proven ability to take on undercover assignments and impersonate other people might have been passed along through the genes—Kathy was an excellent actor. Elaine thought it was crystal clear to Spyro, Costa, Fenia, and probably even Alexander that she despised the pretty and much younger new governess.
On the other hand, if her mother was such a good actress, maybe she’d been acting with Elaine, too? She told herself that she had to be careful with Kathy.
While they ate, Spyro made small talk about the weather. His prosthetic hand whirred softly every now and then when he changed from a knife to a fork or picked up his glass. Now she could see why her mother never mentioned it—he was so adept at using it that it was scarcely noticeable.
After a few minutes, Costa appeared in the hallway, rolling a carry-on size suitcase behind him. Evidently he had come in through the villa’s back door, which led to the guest house where he and Fenia lived.
Spyro wiped his mouth on a napkin, said, “Excuse me,” and then rose from the table and joined Costa out in the hallway. He walked the security chief towards the front door, speaking softly to the man in Greek. It sounded like he was giving Costa instructions.
Elaine then heard the front door open and close. Out the window, she glimpsed the limo pulling around, presumably to take Costa to the airport.
Spyro came back into the dining room and sat back down, not looking at Elaine.
She wondered where Costa was going.

* * *
At 10:30, Elaine and Alexander were in the den, sitting side by side at the teacher’s desk. Elaine was already hard at work, going over his math lesson, encouraging him, making him do some of the exercises by himself, but math was his best subject, and it was easy. Reading was his worst—he didn’t like it, thought it was “boring.” Apparently this was a source of contention between the boy and his father, who obviously valued reading very highly and prided himself in how much he had educated himself by reading on his own, according to Kathy.
Elaine noticed that throughout the lessons, Spyro occasionally appeared near the doorway, listening. He hovered at the threshold for a couple of minutes, checking her progress, she thought, and then went away. Even though she did not have any credentials or formal experience teaching children, she did feel a certain confidence about her ability, as she’d spent a good bit of time teaching Ryan the past few years, preparing him for kindergarten.
At noon they took a break. Alexander led Elaine by the hand into the library to pick up the Atlas Reading Supplement that had arrived in the mail. Spyro had told her about them and said that they usually arrived by mid-week.
The envelope was on Spyro’s massive desk along with a neat stack of letters.
Elaine stopped after taking only one step inside the door as Alexander approached his father’s desk. She hadn’t seen Spyro for the last half an hour and had no idea where he was.
Alexander picked up the AEI envelope and gave a heavy sigh as he ripped it open, dragging his feet as he walked back to her. He pulled the booklet from the envelope, barely looking at it as he handed it to Elaine.
It was titled, How Do Airplanes Fly?
“You’re not interested in how airplanes fly?” Elaine said.
“No. Are you?”
“Well, it would be nice to know.” She thought of Luna when she said this. “I’m always a little nervous when I fly.”
Alex gazed at her with amazement, looking her up and down. “Wow, you can fly?”
Elaine laughed. “I meant on airplanes.”
He reached out and took her hand in a surprisingly masculine way. “Don’t worry, Patricia, I’ll protect you.”
Elaine chuckled, and she gently pulled her hand away. He was adorable, she had to admit, and already a little flirt, too. She had to be careful not to get too close to him. This thought, and the feelings they stirred inside her, gave her another short bout of Bad Mother Guilt, but she pushed it aside.
She gazed past Alex, at the abstract painting behind the desk. The Jackson Pollack “drip painting” style was immediately recognizable. This particular work was a continuous, angry-looking mass of wobbling, crisscrossing red, blue and yellow lines. If there was a signature on it, Elaine couldn’t see it, but she guessed it was an original Pollack and worth millions.
“Do you know who painted that?” Elaine said. She said this mainly as a stall to better assess the room, especially the windows that looked out over the garden—the curtains were wide open.
“Yeah, I know who painted it,” Alex said, turning to look at it.
“Who?”
“Jackson Polock.”
Elaine frowned. “Jackson Pollack,” she said, pronouncing the name properly. She was embarrassed by the ethnic slur. “That other word you used isn’t nice, Alex.”
The boy laughed good-naturedly. “I know. That’s just how Kathy says it.”
Now Elaine felt even more embarrassed, but of course Alexander had no idea that Kathy was her mother.
“And what do you think of my masterpiece, Patricia?” Spyro said from behind them.


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