Kaylee and Joshua were strangers, an unknown quantity. Besides, Ryan hadn’t seen his friends in a while and she didn’t want to dominate the conversation.
“I feel bad,” she said. “Joshua shouldn’t have spent part of his holiday working to sort out my problems.”
“Don’t worry. The guy’s addicted to his work. Believe me, he jumped at the chance to avoid more shopping. He’s seen enough mediaeval Croatian towns to last him a lifetime. Hopefully he’ll have some news on who penned that note that was thrown to you.”
A couple appeared at the top of the gangplank and started waving at Ryan, making a beeline for him.
Kaylee was a flawlessly made-up woman with clipped blonde hair and shocking pink gel nails.
“How utterly lovely to meet you.”
She looked like a model. Taking off her sunglasses, she gave Mel the sort of smile and warm hug a sister might on greeting a brother’s new fiancée. A glistening sapphire ring twinkled on Kaylee’s finger.
“I love this place. We’ve seen some fabulous sights in Croatia.”
Joshua slapped Ryan on the back and gathered him into a bear hug. Cappuccinos were ordered all round.
After some chat about the weather being as hot as southern California, they got down to the serious business of the fingerprints.
“So whose are they?” Ryan asked.
“Well, it was an interesting conundrum for me,” Joshua began. “You presented me with a variation of different surfaces, a real challenge. Paper isn’t the easiest surface to detect fingerprints on, but I used a small quantity of silver nitrate.
“Sodium chloride turns black in light. When we sweat, particularly in a hot country or when we’re under stress, we produce sodium chloride. I applied silver nitrate mixed with a little distilled water. When the note was exposed to light the print turned black,” he said with a flourish. “The writer’s identity is exposed.”
“And?” Mel was on the edge of her seat. “Whose print was it?”
“It belongs to Severina.”
Of all the people Mel could have imagined, Severina wasn’t one she had put near the top of the list.
She’d been convinced it was Mihovil or Hiroko as the two people in the household with the least power, the ones most likely to need help. Severina always looked calm, collected and together.
What on earth should Mel do with the information now she had it? She hadn’t thought that puzzle through.
Could she tackle Severina direct and risk embarrassing her, or worse still, having her clam up once she was challenged?
Clearly Makso’s housekeeper needed Mel’s help, but what kind of help, and why? Mel was baffled.
All the while Joshua had been talking, the light had grown more mellow in the late afternoon. Kaylee took off her sunglasses and left them on the table.
“We can’t stay till the evening, as our boat sails shortly. We’re off to Italy; won’t that be fun? Perhaps we can chat more about what’s been going on at Villa Lavanda. You look troubled, Mel.”
Mel appreciated the kind gesture. She talked about Severina, Ivan, and the obvious tension between Makso and Ivan. It gave her a chance to think things through.
“You need to tread carefully. Just do your job and don’t put your head above the parapet. If Severina needs someone, she knows where to find you. You don’t want to lose your position, and this Makso sounds like a piece of work.”
“The only thing I can say,” Joshua piped up, “is that sometimes doing nothing is a perfectly reasonable option. You need to know when to make a move, when to push things forward. At other times you need to know when to sit back and wait for things to reveal themselves.”