Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 37

* * *
A few minutes later, Luna was still talking to Nick, and still standing at the same spot in the JFK airport corridor. All the passengers from the plane were long gone, the agents over at the gate checking in passengers for the return flight to Paris.
“I still don’t understand why you said art. Is Ryan artistic?”
“Hell if I know, he’s only five, for god’s sake! Besides, what difference does it make what I said—English, math, science? Elaine wouldn’t know how to answer, anyway—Ryan is only in kindergarten.”
Luna was puzzled by all this. Last night she had gotten a text message from a number with 30 as the country code, the code for Greece, that appeared to be from “Patricia.” It said she was fine, and that her new boss had given her a local SIM card, and she wanted “everyone” to have the number. This message had been planned, and she had told Nick about it last night. They’d both been relieved and assumed that Elaine was safe and sound, and that she’d passed the Alexander test.
But apparently, Spyro Leandrou did not trust the search firm’s background checks and did his own, which was understandable.
“That damn SIM card presents a sticky problem,” Luna said. “We have to assume that Spyro or Costa will read every word we send her in a text or an email, and monitor all voice calls.”
“Obviously,” Nick said.
“Let me think.” Luna glanced at her watch—it was 7:55 p.m. in New York, and Santorini Island was seven hours ahead, which meant it was 2:55 a.m. Elaine would be fast asleep now.
Luna mentally ran through a sequence of ideas, one after another, rejecting them all. She glanced at her watch—she still had to go through passport control and customs to catch her red eye to Pittsburgh, and she didn’t want to miss the flight. But if Elaine’s cover was blown, that would be the least of her problems.
“Are you still there?” Nick said irritably, as she rolled her suitcase along behind her.
“Yes, I’m still here.” Finally, an idea came to her that she thought would work. “Okay, this is the text message I think we should send, and I think it should come from you.” Luna told him what she had in mind.
After Nick had had a few seconds to consider it, Luna asked, “So? What do you think?”
There was a long pause. “I can’t come up with anything better,” Nick muttered. “I hope to God this works.”

Chapter 48

Elaine rose again at six-thirty a.m., exhausted from her first day of home-schooling Alexander. The work had proved a lot more taxing than she had anticipated. Part of the problem was that Spyro had stayed home the entire day yesterday and continued to hover around the door to the den, which only added to her stress level.
But her new boss was only part of the problem—preparation of the lessons took a lot longer than she thought it would, and she hadn’t considered the extra burden of grading all of Alexander’s homework papers every day and being ready to give him feedback and answer all his questions. He was a sharp kid, and he kept her on her toes.
As Elaine dragged herself into the shower, she realized it would take her a few days to get the hang of this kind of work and do it well. She also better understood why Spyro was hesitant to give anyone performing the governess job extra duties.
When she stepped back out of the bathroom and passed by the dresser, she glanced at her phone.
One more text message had been received.
She had received three yesterday morning from “friends” who had responded to her group message giving them her new phone number in Greece, all of which were of course from Luna. But Luna wasn’t supposed to contact her any more unless there was some kind of emergency.
Glancing over her shoulder to make sure her bedroom door was still closed, she unlocked the phone and opened the message.
It was from Nick, and it had come at three o’clock in the morning.
As she started reading, her heart began to pound:

Hi Patricia. Just wanted to let you know that the security guy from your new employer showed up at my house in person to check your reference. I gave you a glowing report, of course! Good luck with your new job—I’m sure you’ll love Greece.
Take care,
P.S. Art and his family send their regards.

Panic shot up from the soles of her feet to the roots of her wet hair.
“Oh my god,” she whispered to herself. Costa had been to her house, in France? She had no idea that’s where he’d gone!
With her pulse quickening and her thoughts jumping around unchecked, she tried to imagine what Nick might have told him, and what questions he might have asked.
She frantically reread the message.
The P.S. at the end made no sense at all.
Art and his family send their regards.
Art and his family?
Who the hell is Art? Elaine thought. Art...Arthur? She didn’t know anybody named Art or Arthur!
She sat down on the edge of the bed carefully reread the entire message again, thinking she must have missed something. It was clear that Costa had asked questions about her—that was the key bit of information Nick was trying to convey. But what had he been asking about? What if she couldn’t answer in a way that matched what Nick said?
Maybe Nick just randomly added the cryptic P.S. to make the message look authentic?
Elaine had become so anxious her hands were sweating. She turned the phone over and looked at the back, considering...she could replace Spyro’s SIM card with her old one just long enough to call Luna...maybe upstairs it would pick up a faint signal from one of the island’s other cell towers...but would Spyro know if she took out his card and then replaced it?
Probably, she thought.
That was too risky.

* * *
An hour later, Elaine was down in the den, preparing Alexander’s lessons, as she had done yesterday, and grading his homework papers. But she was so anxious about the message she’d received, she had trouble keeping her mind on her work.
Art and his family send their regards.
Elaine still couldn’t imagine what that meant.
Nick wouldn’t send extraneous information to make it seem more authentic. He would know that could confuse her. Those words had to mean something.
Everyone except Fenia and the cook were still asleep. After an hour had passed, Elaine took a break and went back upstairs to read the message again, slowly, concentrating on each and every word, but did not glean one bit of new information.
When she came back down to the ground floor, she peeked out the den window at the guest house.  She wondered if Costa had come back from France yet. But there was no way to tell—the curtains were closed on the small Cubist-style cottage behind the garden, the gate in front of it closed as well.
She considered making some excuse to take the “guest car” out and sneak over to the airport to buy a disposable phone. Then she could call Luna and Nick and find out what this was all about. But it would take a long time, throw Alex’s lessons off schedule, and would certainly make Spyro suspicious.
By the time the tinkle of the breakfast bell echoed through the house, Elaine was a nervous wreck, but she willed herself not to show it.

* * *
When Elaine entered the dining room and greeted everyone, the first thing she noticed was that her mother was dressed differently. Yesterday Kathy had been wearing slacks, a sweater, and flats. Today she was in a designer jogging outfit and sported a pair of sneakers. There was a backpack hanging on the back of her chair. It looked like she was prepared to go hiking.
As she began eating, Spyro made his usual small talk about the weather. Elaine noticed that Alex looked as tired as she felt. She realized that having a new governess he was trying to please was probably just as stressful for him as for her.
Elaine hoped that Spyro would mention something about Costa’s whereabouts all through breakfast, but he didn’t say a word.
Kathy suddenly glanced at her watch and rose from the table. “I have to get going. I have a double set of tours today, back to back.”
Elaine had no idea what Kathy was talking about, but the thought of her mother leaving, under these circumstances, scared her. Elaine glanced at Spyro, but he just sat there, eating his eggs.
“Tours?” Elaine said.
“I conduct tours of the volcano,” Kathy explained, pulling her knapsack over her shoulder. “For English-speaking groups.”
“Oh, how interesting!” Elaine said.
Kathy smiled politely. “You’ll have to come along on one sometime,” as if she felt the obligation to make the offer, but really hoped the young, pretty governess would never take her up on it. Elaine was again impressed with her mother’s acting ability.
Elaine felt herself growing tenser, and wanted to ask Kathy when she would be back, but of course she could not do that. She didn’t like the idea of her mother being away when Costa returned—if her cover was blown and all hell broke loose, it would be good to have at least one ally around. That was, as much as Kathy could be considered as an ally. 

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