Three weeks later.

Three weeks later.

Paros, Greece, Kalypso Suite, Hotel Yria.

“I don’t give a damn about your valise – I want my daughter found!” A heavy fist crashed on the hundred year old desk, taking its toll on the ancient cypress wood. At 1.9 meters, 120 kilos, Count Pirenzi was an imposing figure even when in a pleasant mood. And while ‘pleasant’ might be a word used to describe the jasmine scented breeze drifting in through the large window to the Count’s left, it would ill-describe his current demeanor.

The large window was glassless, as were many on the island. This morning the shutters had been thrown open, as they were every morning, to provide not only ventilation but also the daytime illumination for the white-washed room. Through the square opening poured the rays of crystal sunlight that also baked the pictaresque seascape of nearby Parikia. If one stepped up to the window and looked to the west one could see the throngs of sweating tourists and villagers who had flocked to the church of Katapoliani for the Feast of the Dormition of our Lady. If one looked north one would see the quiet solitude of a venetian castle, brought to ruin by centuries of salty air. Looking down one would see the brown-red brick of the courtyard and the broken heap of flesh that had been an elite member of the Count’s bodyguard – until he had caught the brunt of the low ebb of Pirenzi’s less than pleasant mood.

None of these sights, the August fete, the ruined castle, the unfortunate guard, nor the Count’s pulse-throbbing tantrum were of any interest to the slim figure who sat cross-legged on a straight backed wooden chair. The chair and the slight man faced the count from their position – one meter back from the quieter side of the desk. The man sat in his wool, chalk-stripe suit, holding his pale straw hat casually in his lap. Despite the August heat and his heavy clothing he did not perspire. He was quiet. His eyes were shut – not tightly, not in the fear one might expect from such a small man faced with the raging behemoth that was the Count. No the quiet figure was quite composed, and keenly listening. Listening beyond Pirenzi’s bombast, beyond the buzzing green insects that flitted and dipped into the spreading red stain that surrounded the corpse two flights below. His focus was 2.5 kilometers away at the steps of his beloved church. And then the sound his listening ears had been waiting for greeted him and he felt for a moment the touch of the Lady who brought him his only peace. The one that he knew would forgive him when it was time. And with the second peal of the bell, a new breeze graced the room – this time mingling a delicate hint of basil behind the heady scent of the jasmine.

Pirenzi did not hear the churchbell. He did not smell the jasmine. He did not see that the quiet, slender man had opened his eyes. He continued to stomp and slam and rage – demanding that his innocent, lost child be found, be rescued, be brought back to his arms. It was not until the thin figure stood, the grey-white lines of his dark wool suit straightening as he simultaneously placed his pale straw hat over his thick dark curls, it was not until that moment that Pirenzi’s storm ceased to bluster.

“You are a fool” – the first words to break the silence of the quiet man. “The valise is everything. Your daughter is nothing.”

With blistering red eyes the count sprang from his chair and heaved-over the 100 kilo desk which crashed down just a few centimeters from the tips of the quiet figure’s cordovan loafers.

“Need I remind you of your position, number seven?” If the slender man was agitated, nothing in his body-language or his tone gave any indication, but his words had made an impact – much the same as when a tightly rolled newspaper is struck across the muzzle of a barking dog.

“No, number three, I understand my position” the Count’s shoulders were slumped, his eyes would not meet those of his superior.

“Your daughter was taken by Tereshkova – she is most likely dead. Unpleasantly dead. If she is alive it is only because Svetlana thinks she can use her. She is a pawn, and pawns are expendable.”

The words were crisp, matter-of-fact, unemotional, but they made Pirenzi’s body physically shudder. Yet the larger man did nothing, said nothing.

“Now find my valise.”

The count continued to stare at the ground, but despite the obedience described by his posture he could not mask the hatred in his words, “Yes, number three.”

The quiet man stepped out into the crystal sunlight and thought that without discipline there is no order, and without order there is no profit. Then as he strolled across the courtyard, passing the corpse whose scent had begun to foul the jasmine laden air, he thought of the Lady and the time of forgiveness.

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