“They are definitely bringing down a fair quantity of goods, all crated up. There are large flat ones being carried by two men and some smaller boxes, all different sizes and shapes. Some are long, some are squat and flat.”
“Where are they bringing them from?”
Cesare tilted the binoculars upwards.
“They seem to be coming from those little trulli houses. It’s like there’s a whole mini business going on there.”
“One that Makso doesn’t want anyone to know about. Are they loading the stuff straight on to the boat?” she asked.
“No. They’re putting everything on the floor of that cave as if they’re getting it ready to load on the boat in one go. The cave’s obviously a storage place, easy to hide. There’s only a small entrance, well camouflaged with overhanging bushes, but when you focus on it, you can see there’s a heavy set of lockable gates.
“There’s another couple of guys who are bringing some sort of supplies off the boat and loading them into the trulli houses,” he continued. “I guess until they load all those things in, they won’t have enough room to take the other things out of the cave and into the boat. Tell me if you see anyone you recognise.”
Mel took the binoculars. Their little boat was drifting away to the side of the cave, out of the way. She studied the moving figures.
“Well, I’d say that tall rangy guy pointing and ordering everyone around is definitely Makso. He’s right at the centre of everything. I can’t say I recognise any of the others.”
She scanned around the cave and on the beach. Then, catching something else on the thermal imager, high above the cave she frowned.
“Wait, I think there’s a dog or something cowering in the bushes above. No, it’s a person lying down. They’ve just stood up. It’s a man; he looks familiar. It’s Greg Brodie! What on earth is he doing skulking round there? Do you think he’s acting as look-out?”
“Let me see.” Cesare took the binoculars as the figure began to wave.
Without the binoculars, the sky was so dark that Mel could see very little. Then she saw a tiny beam of light flashing on and off at them through the bushes.
“What’s going on, Cesare?” she whispered. “Is that Morse code or something?”
Cesare waited, quietly focusing on the light flashing on and off.
Then, moving swiftly, he tucked the binoculars back in his jacket, reached to the side of the boat, grasped one of the emergency oars which sat on hooks inside the boat, and thrust it into her hand.
Mihovil’s grandfather and Mel stared in amazement.
“We’ve got to get out of here now,” Cesare hissed. “It’s not safe. Paddle quickly but don’t splash. Don’t make a sound.”
So saying, he grasped the other oar, pressed his fingers to his lips so that Mihovil’s grandfather understood not to start the motor, and started paddling away, retracing their route back towards the harbour.
As soon as they were at a safe distance Mel looked at Cesare.
“Could you read the signal?”
“No, I couldn’t.”
“Then shouldn’t we have stayed to find out more about what was going on? Or call the police?”
“Don’t worry, I’m going to call them myself. Mel, I want you to do nothing. I want you to act perfectly normally when you go back to the Villa. Please don’t do anything untoward.
“Don’t mention what we saw to anyone and don’t challenge Makso or Greg or anybody else, do you understand me?”
“I’m going to drive you back now, and on the way you’re going to go through everything again: the notes thrown on to your balcony, everything that’s happened with Ryan Peacock. Don’t leave out a single detail. I’m going to contact my superiors and extend my leave. I’m going to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.”
* * * *