Back at the Villa Lavanda, Greg Brodie was keyed up that Wednesday had at last arrived.
He was doing his best to play the part of dutiful groundsman. His nerves were stretched as taut as a string on a guitar.
You’d never have known to look at him, fixing the lawnmower on the cool green grass next to the villa, his tools laid out in precision order.
This was the perfect place to be. He could hear what was going on in the kitchen with Severina and Ivan. He was also well placed to see Makso and Hiroko’s bedroom, and could observe the front gate to see who was coming and going.
Mel was out of the way, having gone to Pula with friends of hers, and that was a good thing. She was far too inquisitive and intelligent for his liking.
She wasn’t the sort of girl to be inactive, so to have her out of sight gave him some relief in his difficult task.
Nothing must go wrong. Their big chance was coming, the moment he and his accomplices had been waiting for for months.
The day he’d worked towards with quiet precision, keeping in the background, making himself useful, recording things mentally and feeding them back. Now the time was nearly here, he could feel his heart pound with tension.
The only thing was, unlike Makso with his Croatian hot-headedness, Greg couldn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He couldn’t show how keyed up he was.
Makso’s temper had been rising like a gathering storm for days now. He’d picked fights with everyone.
Part of Greg’s job was to keep everything as low key as possible, not to rock the boat. Greg must keep an eye on all the players and make sure everything went according to plan.
Greg’s time in the Marines stood him in good stead. He’d been trained to observe everything and everyone.
He’d been an expert psychologist, taking a keen interest in his men and ensuring the weaker ones were supported, but that they were taken out of the line of action if they couldn’t cope.
Greg was the one who watched and listened, learned and acted. He was the one who was always cool whatever the heat.
He smiled a wry smile as he tinkered with the lawnmower and watched his own sweat drip onto the machine.
The heat of the day mirrored the heat of this whole operation. But he would keep cool inside; his nerves were pure iron.
He remembered the motto of the marines and it comforted him: Per mare, per terram – by sea, by land. He had kept everything on land ticking over and the operation this evening was moving to the sea, his spiritual home.
If he had his way, nothing would go wrong.
He had observed Mel constantly. He knew her movements like he knew everyone else’s at Villa Lavanda. You had to make sure there were no weak links in the chain.
As he tinkered and oiled, undid screws and tightened them, he heard Makso come down the stairs and grab his keys.
“I’m going out now,” he barked in Greg’s direction. “Make sure you trim those laurels.”
“Will do,” Greg answered, always the dutiful servant. Always playing the part.
He heard Makso’s car roar into the distance. All was quiet until Greg heard another car approach. That would be Mel returning from Pula.
He heard her say goodbye to her friends, her voice drifting to him on the lavender-scented air.
“See you down at the harbour in Fazana, Cesare.”
“Looking forward to it,” a deep Italian voice replied.
It was good she was going out later with that Italian. They must be going for dinner in Fazana. That would keep her right out of the picture and out of danger on this most important of nights.
He heard the car drive off, and Mel’s key in the front door. Then Greg’s ears pricked up – another car.
They weren’t expecting any deliveries or visitors. He was hoping for a quiet afternoon to get his thoughts together, but it wasn’t to be. The doorbell rang – an insistent, impatient chiming.
“I’ll go,” he yelled, jumping up, not wanting Mel to answer it.
If he was going to keep a lid on things today, he had to control them.