Makso frowned at Mel.
“Then you come into my house and she forms a vile alliance against me.” Makso’s tones clanged in Mel’s ears like the church bell at Vodnjan.
Nothing felt normal. She put her hand to her head, but she was so disorientated, that the act unbalanced her until she felt herself topple off the chair. By then, though, all feeling had escaped her and Mel barely even felt her numb limbs as her body crumpled, unconscious, on to the carpet at his feet.
* * * *
When Mel woke, she felt a hard wooden slatted bed beneath her.
It took a while for her eyes to adjust; it was so dim with the only light coming in through a small high window.
She was in a tiny, barely furnished room with just a table under the window and, on the other wall, a further bed. The only sounds which came to her were seagulls outside and the rush of the sea against the shore.
When her eyes did finally focus, she realised she wasn’t alone. There was a figure, motionless, on the other bed. She pulled herself together and rose unsteadily to her feet.
As she peered over the motionless figure, she saw sleek black hair and a familiar face.
“Severina?” Mel reached out and shook the figure and was full of relief when she heard Severina moan gently as she came into consciousness. “Severina, wake up! Where on earth are we?”
* * * *
Cesare hadn’t slept all night and now he was waiting, as instructed, in the front pew of the deserted church in Vodnjan. Greg Brodie had been too security-conscious to talk to him over the phone last night, preferring to meet face to face.
Cesare heard the huge wooden door bang behind him and turned to see two men enter the church. One, with blond curly hair and a determined gait led the way. The other, taller, smoother, with a sharp suit and a beard followed.
“Thank you for coming, Commissario Mazzotta.” The curly-haired one looked intently at Cesare. “I’m Sergeant Greg Brodie, formerly with the Met in London and now with the International Crimes Task Force, and this is my colleague Sergeant Ryan Peacock of the City of New York Police Department.
“We’ve been working here undercover for some time, but are pleased to have the help of one of our Italian colleagues. That is, if you’re willing to come on board to help us defeat Makso Yurcich.”
“Of course,” Cesare replied. “Tell me everything.”
Cesare listened intently as the two men told of their comings and goings, of their covert operations and the evidence they had gathered. At the end, Cesare found his shoulders tensed with the effort of taking it all in. It was some operation.
“Surely it’s time we told Mel what’s happening at the Villa Lavanda, don’t you think?” Cesare asked.
“Yup,” Ryan agreed. “It is time now. We wondered for a while if she were one of Makso’s accomplices. It took us a while to check her out, but now you’re on the scene to vouch for her, things are different. Have you spoken to her this morning?”
“No,” Cesare replied. “Not yet. I’ll try her now, and get her to come here to meet us. For her own safety, she needs to be out of there.”
He tried the number, then his face fell.
“Her phone is dead. She never switches it off. She always answers when I call, and now there’s nothing.”