A Croatian Adventure – Episode 28

Cesare had finished lunch, a dish of ravioli stuffed with hazelnuts nestled in a parmesan and cream sauce.

When his best young detective, Tomasso, came into the Sorrento bar and sought him out, Cesare shook his hand warmly.

“I knew you’d be here.”

“No better place to be at lunchtime,” Cesare wiped his lips with his napkin. “You have found out something useful for me?”

“Yes. You asked me to investigate Makso Yurcich, the American Ryan Peacock and the Englishman Greg Brodie. I have made some very interesting discoveries. There is a lot going on at the Villa Lavanda, and not all of it very savoury.”

“Tell me more.”

“I can find no record of a Greg Brodie living in Southampton. None of the shipyards have had him signed on as a welder or anything else. He is the original man of mystery.”

Cesare rubbed his hand across his forehead.

“Mel is living practically in the same house as him. That is worrying. Are you sure?”

“Of course. You have always told me I am too thorough, but I cannot help it. I have a contact in Interpol; we were at police college together. I’ve asked her to run his image and what little we know through their computers – strictly off the record, you understand. But I get a bad feeling about him.”

“And Makso Yurcich?”

“He seems above board. The land he farms was owned by an aunt who left it all to him in her will. It had fallen into disuse, and he seems to have turned it around in record time.

“He has transformed barren stony ground into fertile land, has money-making olive trees, and is talking about a factory to process the lavender oil into soaps and toiletries.

“He is quietly growing an empire. He is known not to suffer fools gladly and he knows who to cultivate in local politics. Apparently he is a tough negotiator and many people do not like him, but that’s often the way in business.

“He is the sort of person who is shaking the lazy government officials who were used to a regime which meant they could sit on their behinds all day and achieve nothing. We could do with more of his type round here.”

“And Ryan Peacock?”

“I am waiting to hear back on him. My American contact was tied up on a big drugs case but he has promised me something shortly.”

Cesare patted Tomasso on the back.

“You’ve done well.” He grasped his jacket off the chair. “I cannot let Mel stay there another moment in the company of a man like Greg Brodie without going over to Croatia to find out what’s really going on.”

“But, Commissario, isn’t that a bit of an over-reaction? At least let me find out more about Ryan Peacock before you set off. I’m expecting something by tomorrow.”

“Maybe.” Cesare was torn.

He didn’t want to alarm Mel by turning up on her doorstep unannounced.

He wasn’t a man to sit around, though, and in a second his mind was made up.

“I am off to the Hotel Girasole to see Caroline and Antonio. If you hear anything more, radio me right away.”

Cesare’s car sped round the hairpin bends, the Bay of Naples glistening below as he drove higher into the hills towards Caroline and Antonio’s hotel.

When he got there, they were holding an introductory drinks reception for a group of Canadians in the foyer.

Cesare paced up and down, thinking.

As soon as they were free, they came over and kissed him on both cheeks, the continental way.

“Can we go into your office, Antonio?”

“Of course. You look worried, Cesare. What’s up?”

He told them everything.

“I must go to see Mel immediately. I have leave due to me but I need an excuse so I don’t cause her any upset. I know she loves her job out there and my suspicions could be groundless, but I get the feeling that the Villa Lavanda is like an iceberg, with only the uppermost tip exposed. So much more is going on there and I want to check she is safe.”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!