Monday, May 8, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 36

“Nice to meet you,” Nick muttered. Boy was this guy’s face scary. It was so pockmarked that, up close, it might have been the surface of the moon as seen through a powerful telescope.
Nick closed the door and motioned to the left. “We can talk in here,” he said, and led the man into the living room.
“Nice house,” Costa grunted, glancing at the fireplace, then out the back window. For a horrible moment Nick thought he had forgotten to look outside and make sure there were none of Amelia’s toys out in the sandbox, but that wasn’t visible from the living room.
“Have a seat,” Nick said, motioning to one of the chairs, but Costa had already moved towards the couch.
Nick winced as the huge man lowered himself into the cushions. His weight made the couch’s frame give a couple of sharp cracks, one of which was probably from the glass in the picture frame.
Costa didn’t seem to notice this. He pulled a notebook from his pocket as Nick sat down in the chair adjacent to him.
“Now what else do you need to know?” Nick said impatiently. “I’m very busy.”
Costa glanced down at Nick’s T-shirt, and Nick realized he was no picture of beauty himself. His hair sweaty, sawdust scattered through it and across the front of his sweat-stained shirt. He brushed the sawdust away.
“I simply need know if Patricia Carter honest person,” Costa said.
“Yes of course she’s honest.”
“Did she ever stealing anything?”
“No, nothing.”
“What about she saying lies?”
“No, no lies.”
Costa jotted something in his notebook. “What about staying out long, late coming back from day off?”
“No problems there, either. She had Saturdays and Sundays off and was always back Monday morning and was never late. She’s a very responsible person.”
“Ah, yes, this is word—responsible.” The big Greek man made another note and looked up at Nick again. “Drinking, drugs?”
“She never drank alcohol when she worked for me except a glass of wine at dinner, which I encouraged her to have. And she’s just not the type to do drugs.” Nick paused, getting ready to stand up. “Satisfied?”
There was a thump from somewhere upstairs.
Costa glanced up at the ceiling, then looked at Nick. “Where your children now?”
Nick frowned. “None of your damn business, that’s where.”
“You having no governess now?”
“No, they don’t need a governess now. I told the search firm that, I’m married.”
“We must check everything.” Costa glanced towards the hallway. “Where is wife?”
“Look, buddy, my personal life is none of your business. Comprende?”
“Please, Mister LaGrange, I only try to do my job. My boss very important man.” He said this as if Nick was not, which ruffled Nick’s feathers.
“Only two more questions, okay?”
Nick sighed. “What?”
Costa poised his pen over his notebook. “Will you give me please your children’s names and birth dates? We will ask Patricia this for security check.”
“Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?”
“I no making jokes. I very serious man, Mister LaGrange.”
Nick shook his head with disgust. “Who is this guy you work for, anyway, head of the Greek mafia?”
Costa remained stone-faced. “I am head of security for Mister Spyro Leandrou. If Patricia working as governess, I must protect Mister Leandrou, his son, his wife, his home staff—everyone.”
Nick pointed at him. “And you’re going to protect Patricia, too. Right?”
“Well of course I will protect her, too, after security check.”
“You better,” Nick said. He gave the man a hard look. “Patricia worked for me for four years and she’s a very good friend of mine.”
Costa remained unfazed. “The names and birthdays, please? Only month and day, no year necessary.”
Nick hesitated, but couldn’t really think of a reason not to give out this information—Elaine could answer this question easily enough and had to be cleared by this ape to do her undercover work. “Ryan, November twelfth. Amelia, March twenty-eighth.”
The man jotted this down, and Nick rose from his chair. “Now, if you don’t mind—”
“I said two more questions,” Costa said, raising a thick finger in the air. “I only ask one. Second question: what Ryan’s favorite subject in home schooling?”
“Excuse me?” Nick said.
“Your son’s favorite subject when Patricia home schooling him?”
Nick felt a rising panic...Ryan had only started could he possibly know how Elaine would respond to this question?
“Surely you must remember this,” Costa said, frowning.
Nick glanced downward, trying to think of some way out without looking like he was hiding something. To his horror, under the couch, not three inches from Costa’s foot, was a bright green baby pacifier.
The unexpected sight of it made Nick jump ever so slightly.
Costa noticed this and looked down at his own feet. “I step on something...?”
He spotted the green plastic handle of the pacifier just behind his left heel. Reaching between his legs, he carefully picked it up, then glanced back at Nick’s face as he held it in the air. “You having more children?”
“That belongs to my niece,” Nick said, snatching the plastic object out of his hand. “My sister’s kid.”
“Oh.” Costa paused, the pen poised over his notebook again. “You son’s favorite subject in home-schooling?”
“Art,” Nick blurted, without even thinking.
“Yeah, drawing, coloring, painting, all that stuff.” He honestly didn’t know why he’d said that. In his panic he could hardly even remember what subjects grade school kids studied. Math? Reading? Geography? Ryan wasn’t interested in any of that yet, not that he liked drawing yet, either. What he loved most was playing outside.
“Thank you very much,” Costa said, and he eased himself off the couch.
Nick realized he had completely screwed up.

 * * *
A moment later, Nick was anxiously watching the security console screen as Costa turned his car around and drove back out through the gate, beating himself up for his mistake and clumsy handling of the situation. He simply hadn’t been prepared, and neither had Elaine or Luna—how the hell could any of them have predicted that Spyro Leandrou would send his head of security here for a face-to-face confirmation of the Patricia Carter reference?
 As soon as Costa’s car rolled out into the street, Nick pressed the button to close the gate and called out, “You and the kids can come down now!” to Tony.
He walked back into the living room and raised the couch cushions—he found that the glass on one of the picture frames had indeed cracked. There was an X shaped fracture caused by the Greek’s butt that intersected right on top of Elaine’s smiling face.
The symbolism was not lost on Nick, and a dark feeling swept over him.
He quickly pulled his phone from his pocket. He had to call Luna so they could figure out what to do.

Chapter 47

The moment that Costa had shown up at Nick’s house, Luna Faye was at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, boarding a transatlantic flight to JFK Airport. From there, she would pick up another flight to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she planned to spend a few days investigating the alleged suicide of Patrick Brogan.
After nine excruciatingly long hours, the huge airliner touched down in New York with a scary series of jarring thuds. As Luna rolled her carry-on bag down the jetway, her hands shook and her legs felt like jelly. Man, did she loathe flying! She never got near an airplane without vividly remembering the nightmare of her final case at the FBI, when she had ended up trapped with Agatha Blunt on a small jet, and the pilot had to fly the plane upside down to keep it from crashing!
Still, this flight hadn’t been that bad. Except for a brief anxiety attack she experienced when the big jet descended into the airport, when the snow was streaking past the windows and the fuselage was rocking side to side, she had remained relatively calm. In fact, she’d been quite proud of herself until the landing.
As she moved from the jetway into the crowded airport corridor, she pulled out her phone and turned it on. As soon as it picked up the cell signal, the device suddenly went crazy, vibrating continuously in her hand. A large batch of text messages was being downloaded.  She watched the total increase...14...15...16.
The number display finally stopped at 17 TEXT MESSAGES RECEIVED.
She quickly scrolled through them, fearing that Elaine was having some kind of crisis in Greece, but she could see that almost all of the texts were from Nick. A few were from Walter.
She opened the last one from Nick.
Luna stopped walking and rapidly skimmed through the summaries—she could see that Nick had gotten in touch with Walter, and they were both trying to get a hold of her now.
Just as she was about to open the most recent one from Nick, her phone starting ringing and vibrating again.
It was Nick calling.
When she clicked the button to answer, her heart was pounding almost as hard as it had been during the descent to the airport, wondering what could have gone wrong.
“What the hell’s the matter?” she said. “I just landed at JFK.”
“That goddam Costa showed up at our house out of the blue, about ten hours ago, asked a bunch of questions. We have to get in touch with Elaine and warn her. It may already be too late! If he’s already gone back to Greece—”
“Okay, okay,” Luna said. “Tell me exactly what happened, every word that was spoken between you and Costa.”

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