A toddler had separated from her family. Running by, she tripped on a tuft of grass. Ryan righted her as if she were no heavier than a fallen skittle, then turned her to run back to her mother.
Would Ryan be a man who wanted children? Somehow Mel thought not, as she watched him forget the child and turn back to his guidebook. He was well read and well travelled; she couldn’t imagine him wanting to curtail his career by having children.
“This amphitheatre isn’t as elaborate as the Colosseum in Rome, but I prefer it. It’s perfectly sited here with the breezes off the sea. Now, here’s a thing: Wembley stadium is based on the original Colosseum. Isn’t that amazing? That we’re still designing buildings to the specification of the ancient Romans. Those guys sure knew engineering.”
Being unable to have children, Mel couldn’t help feeling a partner who had other interests would be ideal, even if he did spend half his life travelling the world looking for art.
Ryan was a universe away from Cesare, who was shorter and stockier. Cesare wore his hair shorn and his chin clean shaven, whereas Ryan had a wealth of hair and a beard.
Cesare was always caring, sometimes serious and a total romantic. Ryan was fun and breezy and didn’t worry about a thing. Even now, he was chatting about chariot racing and superheroes from American comics.
The two men were chalk and cheese, and Mel felt her heart in a ping-pong match, weighing up the two of them. She wanted Cesare, but he wanted children. Ryan had told her how pretty she was and had asked her out, but he spent his life globe-trotting.
They left the amphitheatre and began strolling again.
“You’re deep in thought,” Ryan commented.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I was just thinking.”
They wandered through the triumphal Arch of Sergius into the tight-packed streets of the old town. People with shopping bags hurried to and fro, while tourists dawdled.
Now his tone was serious.
“Were you thinking about the note that was thrown on to your balcony?”
“Oh, yes.” In fact Mel had forgotten all about it, she was so enjoying herself.
She dug deep into her bag, handing the note to Ryan.
“‘Please help me’. Hmm. It is strange, and worrying. Have you shown this to anyone else?”
He rubbed his beard, and nodded.
“I have a friend – now, don’t laugh, but he’s a private investigator. Joshua helped me find a lady who bought some valuable paintings from me then did a moonlight flit without paying. I couldn’t get my money and it looked as if I was going to lose thousands of dollars.
“It took him a while to find her, but not only did he get the paintings back all in one piece, but she was also indicted for fraud. Joshua’s a good guy and he’s holidaying this way with his wife, Kaylee. They’re stopping off on a cruise ship at Rovinj tomorrow.
“Would you like me to show him the note? His ship docks at ten a.m. I can get the note to him and he can do a bit of detective work on it. Never goes anywhere without his little flight case of dusting powder and brushes. He’s got chemicals in there that can test for saliva, blood, anything.”
“I don’t think he’ll need anything like that!” Mel was alarmed. “Nothing ghastly’s happened to anyone at the Villa Lavanda.”
Then Mel thought back to Makso’s dog, which had attacked Mihovil’s father, Ivan. She shook the thought out of her mind. That was just an accident.
“Sorry, Mel, I didn’t want to frighten you. I let my imagination run away with me. But my friend will be in Istria all day. If you fancy it, we could meet him for drinks in the afternoon before his ship leaves, and he can tell us his opinion. What do you reckon?”