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Authors: Ekaterine Nikas

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BOOK: The Divided Child
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"Really,
Miss Stewart?
 
You surprise me; you
seem a very astute woman.
 
Don't
you find it curious now?"

           
"Perhaps."

           
He
leaned back in his chair.
 
"Was anyone aware that you were going to the
Paleon Frourion
yesterday morning?"

           
Reluctantly
I said, "No."

           
"So
it is unlikely anyone wishing to harm you could have known that you would be
sitting on that bench?"

           
"I
suppose that's true."

           
"But,
of course, you were not sitting there alone, were you?"

           
"No."

           
"You
were in the company of young Redfield."

           
"Yes."

           
"So
if there truly was an attack, and if the attack was not aimed at you . .
."
 
His voice trailed off, and
he gazed at me expectantly.

           
"Then
it was probably aimed at Michael," I finished.

           
He
nodded, as if acknowledging that this was a possibility to be considered,
instead of the conclusion he'd been pushing me toward all along.
 
"So we must look to see who knew
the boy would be sitting on that bench at that hour."

           
Here
it comes
, I thought.

           
"Would
it surprise you to learn that the boy went to the
Paleon Frourion
to
meet with someone in secret, and that this meeting was supposed to take place
at ten o'clock?"
 
The
expression in his blue eyes had suddenly grown hard.

           
I
hesitated for a moment.
 
"Whom
was he going to meet?"

           
"I
hoped you might be able to tell me."

           
I
hesitated again and then said, "I'm sorry.
 
I can't help you."

           
"Cannot,
or will not?"

           
"Have
you asked Michael about it?"

           
"Yes,
and the boy refuses to answer.
 
The
meeting was not, by any chance, with you?"

           
"No,”
I answered.
 
“Michael is adorable,
but I'm a bit old for him.
 
His
rendezvous must have been with someone else."

           
The
policeman was not amused.
 
"As
of this moment, Miss Stewart, I still classify the events of yesterday as an
accident.
 
If I change my mind,
however," he said, looking me straight in the eye, "I will insist on
serious answers to my questions."
 
He stood up.
 
"Do you
understand?"

           
"Yes,
Lieutenant.
 
I understand
perfectly."

           
"Good,
then you may consider this interview over."
 
He crossed to my chair to escort me out.

           
I
remained seated.
 
"May I ask a
question before I go?"

           
His
expression hovered between irritation and curiosity.
 
"What?"

           
"If
Michael isn't talking, how did you find out about the meeting?"

           
He
gave me a long look and then said, "Spiro’s sister also visited me this
morning.
 
It seems the maid who
looks after the boy found a note hidden in his room listing the time and place
of the rendezvous.
 
She gave the
note to Mrs. Redfield, and Mrs. Redfield gave it to me."

           
"And
when did the maid find the note?" I asked.

           
"What
does that matter?"

           
"You
surprise me, Lieutenant.
 
You seem
a very astute policeman.
 
If the
note was found yesterday morning, then two people besides the person Michael
went to the Old Fort to meet knew he was going to be on that bench at ten
o’clock: the maid and Mrs. Redfield."

           
He
regarded me gravely for a moment and then shrugged.
 
“I suppose that is true.
 
And now, Miss Stewart, I am afraid I have another appointment.
 
You will excuse me?"
 
He crossed to the door and opened
it.
 
I stood up to leave.

           
"Lieutenant,
I hope it's occurred to you that if what happened yesterday
wasn't
an
accident, Michael Redfield may still be in danger."

           
His
plain face looked troubled.
 
"I am quite aware of that possibility," he
said.
 
"Good day."

           
The
door closed behind me, filling me with a profound sense of frustration.
 
So much for the police taking over.

           
I
gazed up and down the deserted hallway.
 
In vain I tried to remember which way I'd come in.
 
I was beginning to contemplate the
irritating prospect of having to ask Lieutenant Mavros for directions, when a
tall man with blond hair, a beautifully tailored suit, and an air of quiet
authority turned the corner and came walking down the hall toward me.
 
Something in his manner tempted me to
pour out all my woes to him, but in the end I settled for asking him
directions.

           
"
Parakalo
,
Kyrie
--" I began.

           
"
Den
. . .
mylao
. . .
Ellinika
," he replied, with an apologetic
shake of his head.
 
"I'm
afraid I don't speak Greek," he repeated in English.

           
"Oh,
sorry," I apologized, switching to English myself.
 
"I was just wondering if you could
give me directions out of here."

           
He
had an aristocratic face and the meticulous grooming of a diplomat, but his
hazel eyes were friendly and the grin he flashed me put me immediately at
ease.
 
"It is a bit of a maze,
isn’t it?
 
I don't know about
directions, but I think I might be able to lead you out the way I came in.
 
Will that do?"

           
I
assured him it would.
 
"I hope
I'm not taking you away from anything important," I said, as we wound our
way back through the labyrinthine corridors.

           
"Not
to worry.
 
The matter's not urgent
as far as I can tell, only odd."
 
We walked some way before he added, more to himself than to me,
"Yes, decidedly odd.
 
Still,
accidents do happen."

           
"Accidents?"
I said sharply.

           
He
flashed me a curious look, then explained, "A client of mine, the son of
an old friend, had a mishap yesterday.
 
I was on my way to speak to the constable in charge of the matter when I
met you."

           
We
emerged out into the lobby.
 
"This client of yours,” I said, “he doesn’t happen to be a boy of
nine or ten?”

           
I
had his full attention.
 
“He’s a
lad of nine."

           
“And
his name is Michael Redfield?”

           
He
frowned.
 
"It is," he
replied, "though I’m at a loss to explain how you come to know that, Miss
--"

           
"Stewart.
 
Christine Stewart."

           
His
eyes widened.
 
"What a
coincidence."

           
"Not
as much as you might think, Mr. --"

           
"I’m
Robert Humphreys," he said, holding out his hand to me.
 
I took it, enjoying the cool firmness
of his clasp.

           
"Who
is the policeman you were on your way to see?"
 
I asked.

           
He
pulled out a thin leather portfolio from the inside pocket of his coat and
opened it.
 
"Hmmm.
 
A Lieutenant Mavros."
 
He looked up and nodded.
 
"Ah, I see.
 
I suppose you had just finished with
him?"

           
"I
don't know if I’d finished with him, but, yes, he had definitely finished with
me."

           
He
gave me a considering look.
 
"Miss Stewart, do you think we could go somewhere and talk?
 
I found Mrs. Redfield's narrative a bit
difficult to follow, and I'd appreciate hearing a clearer account of what
occurred yesterday before I speak with the Lieutenant myself."

 

*
                                 
*
                                 
*

 

           
We
stopped for coffee at a nearby café, or rather, I had coffee and he had
tea.
 
Greeks make good coffee and
lousy tea, but Robert Humphreys expressed neither surprise nor disappointment
when he poured the weak brown liquid from a small, stainless steel teapot and
took a sip.
 
He must have noticed
my questioning look, because he shrugged ruefully and explained, "I've
grown accustomed to what passes for tea here."

           
"Have
you been on Corfu long?" I asked.

           
He
shook his head.
 
"I arrived
today.
 
But I've visited before,
and as a boy I spent several summers here with the Redfields at
Ithaki
."

           
"I
suppose you flew in after you heard about the accident?"

           
"No,”
he said, with a slight frown, “actually I came because there were some papers I
needed signed by Michael’s stepmother.
 
I only learned about his close call after I arrived at
Ithaki
.
 
I asked to see Michael and was told he
didn’t feel up to a visit. That’s when Demetra Redfield told me what happened
yesterday.”

           
I
pressed my hands flat against the cool metal of the table.
 
"I can imagine what she said about
my part in it all."

           
He
smiled reassuringly.
 
"Don't
worry.
 
I'm quite aware of her
tendency toward histrionics and accusation.
 
Believe me, I take everything she says with a rather large
pinch of salt.
 
Which reminds me
--" he raised his hand to flag down a waiter, "I've changed my mind
about the tea.
 
It tastes as if
it's been brewed in sea water."

           
The
waiter arrived, and Robert ordered us baklava and two more coffees.
 
Then he settled himself to listen and
said, "Now, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to hear your version of
events."

           
I
told him everything I’d told Lieutenant Mavros.
 
When I'd finished, his expression was somber.
 
"It seems Michael is quite lucky
you happened along."

           
"That's
what worries me."

           
"I
beg your pardon?" he said.

           
"Have
you spoken to Michael's uncle?"

           
"Geoffrey?"
he exclaimed, sounding puzzled.
 
"No, not yet."

           
"Well
I think you ought to, and soon.
 
You see, he doesn't believe that what happened yesterday was an
accident."

           
He
swore softly under his breath.
 
"Not again!"

           
The
waiter picked that moment to appear with our coffee and baklava, so I had to
wait until the waiter had gone to ask him what he meant.

           
Reluctantly,
he explained, "Geoffrey's brother was killed in a car crash two months
ago.
 
William was driving in a
thick fog and went over a cliff.
 
A
passing bicyclist saw the accident and reported it, but by the time they
retrieved the car, William was dead.”

           
Robert
sighed.
 
"Geoffrey did not
handle the news well.
 
I think the
senselessness of it all was hard for him to bear.
 
He refused to accept the inquest's verdict of accidental
death and instead insisted foul play was involved.

           
"He
kept after the police, and he even engaged a private detective, but neither
found any evidence to substantiate his suspicions.
 
Eventually, he shifted his attention from William's death to
Michael's future.
 
I took that as a
hopeful sign.
 
But now . .
."
 
His voice trailed off.

BOOK: The Divided Child
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ads

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