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The Greek Trilogy, Book 2 (Lust, Money & Murder #11)

The Greek Trilogy, Book 2 (Lust, Money & Murder #11)

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The Greek Trilogy, Book 2 (Lust, Money & Murder #11)

Length:
348 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 17, 2017
ISBN:
9781370992102
Format:
Book

Description

After winning Spyro Leandrou's trust, Elaine is sent on a dangerous assignment to a war-torn region of Eastern Ukraine to smuggle out illegal materials needed for the Panacea clinic. This story features Elaine Brogan, Luna Faye, Nick LaGrange, Dmitry, and Tony as well as Kathy Brogan and the notorious Giorgio Cattoretti.

Note: This book was previously titled: Lust, Money & Murder, Book 11 - Panacea

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 17, 2017
ISBN:
9781370992102
Format:
Book

About the author

Mike Wells is an author of both walking and cycling guides. He has been walking long-distance footpaths for 25 years, after a holiday in New Zealand gave him the long-distance walking bug. Within a few years, he had walked the major British trails, enjoying their range of terrain from straightforward downland tracks through to upland paths and challenging mountain routes. He then ventured into France, walking sections of the Grande Randonnee network (including the GR5 through the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean), and Italy to explore the Dolomites Alta Via routes. Further afield, he has walked in Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Norway and Patagonia. Mike has also been a keen cyclist for over 20 years. After completing various UK Sustrans routes, such as Lon Las Cymru in Wales and the C2C route across northern England, he then moved on to cycling long-distance routes in continental Europe and beyond. These include cycling both the Camino and Ruta de la Plata to Santiago de la Compostela, a traverse of Cuba from end to end, a circumnavigation of Iceland and a trip across Lapland to the North Cape. He has written a series of cycling guides for Cicerone following the great rivers of Europe.


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The Greek Trilogy, Book 2 (Lust, Money & Murder #11) - Mike Wells

(series)

Chapter 1

Santorini Island, Greece

Hey Kathy? Alexander cried. Did you hear what happened this morning? Patricia saved my life!

Kathy Brogan froze with the butter knife in her hand, looking across the dinner table at Elaine. Really?

Elaine tried not to squirm in her chair. She, Spyro, Alex and Kathy were seated around the dining table having their usual Sunday dinner at the villa.

Before Spyro could stop Alex, the boy said, And she beat up a guy, too!

That’s enough, Alex, Spyro said.

He was bigger than Dad, too! Alex said. "And he was Russian!"

Spyro smacked the tabletop with his real hand and said, Alex, I said that’s enough! He then motioned to Kathy and explained. The stupid man forgot to put on his parking brake and the car rolled down the hill and almost hit Alex. Just a careless mistake.

What hill?

In Ekkara, where we go for ice cream.

Oh. Kathy glanced at Elaine again, with just a trace of suspicion in her eye. A big Russian guy, huh?

Elaine wanted to give Kathy a hard look to shut her up, but she couldn’t, not with everyone watching. It had only been a few hours since she and Dmitry had pulled off the staged scene in Ekkara, and she was still shaken by how close the SUV had come to hitting Alex. And she never quite knew how her mother would react to anything or when she might blow Elaine’s cover as a governess.

It was nothing, Elaine said awkwardly.

Let’s not discuss this anymore, Spyro said. No one was hurt, which is all that matters.

* * *

When they were finally finished with the main course, Fenia cleared the table and brought dessert—baklava and Greek coffee.

After a few minutes of munching in silence, Spyro motioned to Elaine with his prosthetic hand and causally said, Patricia, may I have a word with you in the library after we finish? When Kathy glanced at him, he added, I’d like to touch base about next week’s lessons, see what you have planned.

Of course, Elaine said.

Kathy pushed her chair back. I think I’ll go read.

Chapter 2

A few minutes later Elaine was seated in the library in a comfortable leather chair, but she felt anything but comfortable. The culminating moment of this undercover operation, the moment she had anticipated ever since she and Luna had started planning it, had finally arrived. She had no idea what kind of work Spyro was planning on offering her. She only hoped he didn’t see her as too prudish to involve in the darker side of whatever he was doing. As Patricia Carter, she had presented herself to be a straight-laced, conservative type. But that was exactly how Spyro Leandrou had presented himself to her as well. Which meant this conversation might be awkward.

How about some cognac? he said casually.

Without waiting for an answer, he pulled an elegant silver tray down from one of the bookshelves and poured just the right amount into two glasses. Elaine had grown accustomed to the whirring of his prosthetic hand. But now, as the mechanical fingers slowly enclosed one of the delicate crystal brandy snifters, she remembered how easily they had shattered the base of the heavy glass tumbler during the job interview.

To extra duties, Spyro smiled, and they clinked glasses. He sat down behind his desk and opened his mouth to say something, then seemed to change his mind. I do have a sticky business problem that you might help me with, Patricia, but…

But...?

Well, it’s just that you’re a West Point graduate, and seem like a person with high principles…

She smiled. Oh, sure, I have high principles, Mr. Leandrou. Beating up a poor Russian guy for forgetting to put on his parking brake.

You have a temper. That’s different.

Well, I would like to think I have high principles. I also know that we live in the real world. Sometimes rules have to be broken for the greater good.

Then we’re on the same page. He paused. Are you familiar with stem cells?

Elaine was caught off guard by this question and had to think for a second. Aren’t they special cells that can turn into all kinds of other cells, like skin cells, liver cells, brain cells, et cetera?

That’s right. They’re proving to be extremely effective in treating a wide range of diseases and injuries—diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis... They’re also used in various rejuvenation and anti-aging treatments.

I see.

Spyro rose from his desk and began slowly pacing the floor. One of the businesses I own is a combination wellness spa and medical clinic.

Aha, Elaine thought. Panacea.

Our clients are wealthy, highly educated people who want the latest health treatments available, regardless of bureaucratic agency approvals. At our facility, we offer the most advanced stem cell treatments in the world. There was a great sense of pride in his voice. Of course, this whole branch of medicine is new—many of our treatments are not yet approved. In fact, the stem cells themselves are illegal in some countries. Spyro shrugged. But the people who seek out our clinic are sophisticated enough to weigh the pros and cons of any particular treatment themselves. If they’re suffering from a terminal or debilitating disease, we think they have the right to decide whether they want to take the risk of the new cure.

I can certainly understand that.

Elaine wondered where the clinic was located, exactly. But she had no reason to know, not yet.

Unfortunately, he said, the problem is getting enough stem cells. There are no suppliers at all in Greece, so we have to smuggle them in from other countries.

Spyro Leandrou had just admitted to his first crime.

Elaine said, Are stem cells illegal in Greece, or—?

No, but the customs office paperwork required to import or export them is a nightmare. Spyro sighed. We have no choice but to smuggle them in. We have to save lives.

Of course.

Lately, we’ve been importing them from a very reliable hospital in Ukraine that is willing to break the customs rules. But it has become more and more difficult to get the product over here. There are some nasty thugs operating in Ukraine who work for our competitors—mostly smaller, less reputable clinics—and the lowlifes have started to physically threaten and even attack our couriers. The last container we purchased was stolen right out of our man’s hands, at gunpoint! Spyro said this as if he’d never set eyes on a pistol. We not only lost the stem cells, but the small fortune we paid for them as well—they’re ridiculously expensive.

Spyro stopped pacing and looked directly at Elaine. After seeing how well you can handle yourself, I wondered if you would be interested in flying to Ukraine and picking up our next shipment?

Me? she said, as if the thought would never have occurred to her.

Yes, why not?

Well I just…may I ask where exactly in Ukraine you would want me to go?

Donetsk.

Elaine didn’t know that much about the current conflict in Ukraine, but she did know one thing: Donetsk was right in the middle of the war zone. She reminded herself that she was Patricia Carter and would presumably know even less than she did. Isn’t that where the conflict is going on with Russia?

The situation has settled down—it’s pretty quiet over there at the moment. Spyro took note of the doubtful look on her face. You wanted extra duties, and this is something I think you can handle. You speak fluent Russian, you’ve been to that part of the world—seems to me this is a natural for you.

I don’t know…it sounds awfully dangerous.

Spyro looked surprised. After the way you handled yourself this morning, I wouldn’t think a little danger would bother you. He touched his finger to his lips. But in all fairness, there is something you should know before you make a decision.

What’s that?

The Russian guy you beat up this morning?

Yes…

I think the Ukrainian gang that’s giving me trouble in Donetsk may have sent him here.

Really? she said. It was the last thing she’d expected him to say.

Yes. I think they hired him to kill me, or Alex, or both, or maybe kidnap Alex—I’m not sure what his plan was.

What makes you think that?

Because it’s just too much of a coincidence, that’s why. A Russian ‘tourist’ just happens to wander over to Ekkara this morning, at the same time we were there, and just happens to ‘accidentally’ leave his parking break off when he stops to buy a cigar? I don’t buy it. I called the chief of police here to have the guy investigated.

Now Elaine was worried about Dmitry—she had to fight to maintain her composure. And what did he find out?

Spyro shrugged. Nothing. The man has no criminal record, has never been arrested—the chief talked directly to the Moscow police about him. Costa got his full name and passport number from the rental car company. Spyro sighed, looking troubled. I think this Russian guy is either very innocent or very dangerous. I’m not sure which.

Elaine did not respond. She knew she should remain silent—anything she said might make him suspicious of her.

Spyro said, What’s even more incriminating is that he suddenly left the island this afternoon—supposedly he had a death in the family and had to go back to Moscow.

Now Elaine felt panicky. What the hell had happened to Dmitry? That wasn’t what they’d planned! She could only assume that he knew he was being checked out and had called Luna, and she’d told him to leave the island. It was a good thing he’d gotten away. But it was a strange way to handle it—a death in the family?

Anyway, Spyro said, we’ll probably never know for sure who the guy really was or why he was here. He raised an eyebrow. So are you interested in making the trip to Ukraine? What do you think?

Elaine had to again remind herself that she was Patricia Carter. She had told him that, as a governess, she wanted to build up a big fat nest egg so she wouldn’t have to work when she had her own children. She needed to look a little greedy. How much is the pay?

Spyro smiled magnanimously. The pay is excellent—it more than compensates for the danger, I think. Thirty thousand euros for just two days’ work.

Hmmm, Elaine said, pretending to be tempted by the amount.

If you do well, he said, you could make a trip every few months and quickly build up that nest egg of yours. And in your case, the risk would be minimal. You have some strong advantages over anyone else we can send, or have sent before.

Such as…?

First, you’re a woman. Spyro smiled and glanced down at her long legs. Obviously. Second, you’re tall, blue-eyed and fair-skinned—in other words, you don’t look remotely Greek. The gang that’s interfering with my shipments have learned a lot about how I operate, and they know I only hire Greeks, mostly family, for this kind of work, and always men. He motioned to her. On top of that, you’re new and an outsider—they would never suspect you, especially with the cover identity I have in mind.

Elaine sat there for a moment and sipped her cognac, taking this all in. It was exactly the opportunity she was looking for to dig into his illegal activities. No telling what was inside the container he wanted her to pick up—he could be smuggling anything.

Question—how exactly would I get this container through customs on the Ukrainian side? It’s not like the United States, as I’m sure you know—they have customs control in both directions, coming in and going out. Won’t they want to look inside a container like that being taken across the border? On her Patricia Carter CV, she had mentioned traveling once to Russia and Ukraine as part of her Russian Studies program at West Point.

The Ukrainian customs people are a non-issue—we’ll bypass them altogether.

Elaine had her doubts. If it’s so easy, then why are you offering so much money?

Spyro gave a sly smile. So do you accept?

She took a deep breath and said, I want fifty thousand for the first trip and then I might accept thirty for future runs.

I could maybe pay thirty-five for the first one.

Forty, Elaine said. That’s as low as I’m going.

He let out a dramatic sigh, as if she were a fantastic negotiator, and extended his prosthetic hand. Deal.

* * *

Elaine spent the next half hour listening to Spyro outline more details of his plan—she had to admit, it was solid and well thought out. She would first fly to Athens to pick up her forged passport, then fly on a commercial flight to Zaporizhia Airport, the nearest working airport, and be ferried back and forth to Donetsk to pick up the container, and then she would be picked up again at Zaporizhia and flown back to Santorini on one of Spyro’s private jets.

It was obviously a dangerous job. But what bothered Elaine more was that now, the tables had completely turned. Ever since he’d hired her as his son’s governess, she’d been pressing him for extra duties. Now, he was the one pressing, trying to convince her to make this stem cell run. She wondered if it could be a trap to get rid of her—could he have somehow figured out she wasn’t who she said she was?

When he finished, she said, What about the driver to take me from Zaporizhia to Donetsk and back?

Not a problem—I know several drivers I can hire in Ukraine.

Drivers you’ve used before, you mean?

Yes, of course.

But the gang that’s interfering with you might know them, too.

There was no way that she would trust some driver she didn’t know to cart her around that warn-torn area, especially one that Spyro Leandrou arranged—it would be too easy to simply make her disappear, especially traveling under a false passport.

Taking a risk, she said, I would prefer to use my own driver.

Excuse me?

I happen to know a very good man who lives in Warsaw. He could fly down to Zaporizhia and we could rent a car—he could take me back and forth. He’s ex-military, top notch.

Now Spyro looked not only astonished, but suspicious. How could you possibly know such a person?

I have relatives in Poland—he’s my cousin.

He eyed her doubtfully. Carter? That’s hardly a Polish name.

It’s actually Karski, Elaine said, spelled with a K. My great-grandfather Anglicized it when he immigrated to the States, to fit in. She was making all this up as she went along. She prayed she wasn’t going to paint herself into a corner. My cousin’s name is Tomek Karski. He doesn’t look remotely Greek, either.

Spyro’s mouth dropped open. "Are you telling me you and your cousin are related to Jan Karski?"

More synapses fired in Elaine’s brain—Jan Karski—who the hell was that? Then she remembered: she was pretty sure he was a famous Polish soldier who had warned President Roosevelt long in advance that the Germans were exterminating Jews, but Roosevelt hadn’t listened. She had read it somewhere, or maybe Nick had told her about it.

Yes, we’re all related. Distantly.

Now Spyro was peering at her with more respect. But he still looked suspicious. What makes you think this cousin of yours would be interested in doing this kind of work? How old is he?

He’s my father’s age. He escaped from Poland when it was under communism and lived with us for a few years in the States. She was sure Dmitry could be passed off as a Pole. After the Soviet Union fell he moved back to Warsaw, but we stay in touch. He’s retired now. He used to work for a security firm.

And you trust him?

Totally. He’s family.

She thought Spyro could certainly relate to the family angle. But after taking a sip of his cognac, he shook his head. Sorry, Patricia, but I don’t think I can trust someone I don’t know on this job, even as a driver.

"Well, I don’t think I can trust someone I don’t know on this job, especially as a driver. This is the most dangerous part of the operation—my ass will be on the line over there."

Spyro rotated his snifter, studying her—she thought she had him now.

The problem is, we don’t have much time. I’m supposed to have the package picked up two days from now or the hospital will sell it to someone else. Stem cells are perishable, have to be used very soon after they’re produced.

I can email my cousin right now, Elaine said, standing up.

Well, if you want to use him as your driver, you’ll have to pay him out of your cut. Your very large cut. And I can’t get him a passport or any ID—that’s totally his problem, and if he gets in trouble he’s on his own.

I understand.

* * *

Elaine went directly up to her room to send the email. Knowing that Spyro would probably monitor all of her calls or messages, she had not used her phone since the first few days she was at the villa, when she sent the fake texts to her friends informing them of her new governess job in Greece.

She picked up the phone from her dresser, unplugged it from the charger, and sat down on the bed to compose the message. There was a special email address that she, Luna, Nick, and Dmitry could access, mainly for the purpose of communicating with Dmitry. It was the Internet-age equivalent of a dead drop, which Nick still sometimes used with his CIA handler. All four of them had the password and could log in and check on a daily basis, could write messages, and of course delete them immediately after they were read.

Elaine thought for a couple of minutes and then started keying the message.

Chapter 3

An hour later, Spyro Leandrou was sitting in the library, talking to Costa, who had just plopped down in the chair across from him.

So, what do you think? Costa said.

Spyro looked back at his computer screen and reread the message that had been picked off the villa’s private cell network:

Dear Tomek,

I hope you are well. Guess what? I just got a new governess job in Greece, on Santorini Island! In a few days I’m going to Ukraine on an errand and I badly need a driver. I’ll be flying in to Zaporizhia and need to be picked up and driven to Donetsk and back, with no stopping. I’ll supply the vehicle. It might be a little dangerous because of the military conflict, but I don’t think that’s a problem for you, and I can pay you very well—two thousand euros? I hope you can do it! Please respond as soon as possible.

Patricia

Looks legit to me, Spyro said, glancing up at Costa.

You don’t have a problem letting her use her own driver?

Not really—I think it’s worth the risk. Do you have a problem with it?

Costa shrugged. I guess not, as long as neither one of them can be connected back to us.

What about the Russian? Spyro asked, referring to the man who had nearly let his car roll over Alex this morning.

Nothing, Costa said, shaking his head. If the Ukrainians sent him to do you or Alex harm, they covered their tracks well.

Chapter 4

The following day, during her lessons with Alex, Elaine checked her email on her phone every so often, but did not hear back from Luna, Nick or Dmitry. She prayed they would understand the message she’d sent and know that she wanted Dmitry to pose as Tomek, her Polish cousin, and would send back a message, supposedly from Tomek, in which he agreed to meet her in Ukraine and be her driver. She also was anxious to find out exactly why Dmitry had left the island. She didn’t like being here alone—she felt vulnerable and trapped.

Now that she’d had time to sleep on it, she no longer thought the plan was some kind of sneaky trick on Spyro’s part to get rid of her. Sending her to Ukraine and making all the arrangements for her false identity, which he was doing now, was a lot of trouble to go through simply to make her disappear.

* * *

While she and Alex had lunch, Spyro was there. He called her out into the hallway and quietly asked if she’d heard anything from her cousin.

Not yet, she said. He’s not very techno-savvy, but I’m sure he checks his email at least once a day, so it shouldn’t be long.

We really can’t wait much longer, Patricia. I need a decision today.

The only way for her to safely contact Luna was to use the burner phone hidden inside the mattress in her bedroom. Unfortunately, using the phone would require her to leave the villa and get far enough away to pick up a public cell service signal. At this particular moment, just before she left for Ukraine, it was too risky a move. It might make Spyro suspicious.

* * *

Elaine worried all afternoon until Alex finished his home schooling lessons at three o’clock. Alex knew she was planning to be away for a couple of days doing something personal, but asked no questions, as he was fortunately well-mannered enough not to pry.

As she started to leave the den, Alex said, Today’s Climbing Day, still bubbling with energy. He tugged on her sleeve. Come climb the wall with us, Patricia!

Climbing Day was once every two weeks, when some of Spyro’s wealthy Greek friends—a few fathers and their sons—came over and practiced under the supervision of two rock climbing instructors. Spyro had built a professional thirty-five foot rock-climbing wall on the back side of the property, though Elaine had never ventured over to that area to look at it.

It occurred to Elaine that the climbing wall was located partway up a hill. The land behind it might be elevated enough to pick up a signal from one of the island’s public cellphone service providers.

I’ll come watch, Elaine said, but I don’t have time to climb today.

See you there! Alex scampered off to fetch his equipment and meet his friends.

* * *

Elaine went up to her bedroom and changed into jeans and a long-sleeved top. It was sunny outside, but had grown much colder overnight—unseasonably cold for Santorini Island, even in winter. The wind had kicked up. It whistled eerily around the sliding glass door as she moved about the room.

She quietly locked her bedroom door, then retrieved her burner phone from the underside of the box spring mattress. She hid the device in the inside pocket of her wool overcoat, as she had done before, and then went downstairs and out the front door.

Apparently Alex and the group were already well on their way up the hill to the wall—over the buffeting of the wind, she could hear the excited shouts of the other boys and the occasional clank of climbing equipment.

Elaine moved in the direction of the voices, following a wide gravel path that led through the immaculately kept

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