HELM FOUND HIS WHITE linen jacket hanging in the wardrobe. His jeans had been shortened and pressed. Everything had happened in less than twenty minutes, suggesting that the tailor and his staff worked on the premises. The artist, a dark-haired young man with a serious expression, arrived as Helm was admiring himself in the full-length mirror. The artist, also in a white suit but his needed pressing, looked straight out of college. He left after twenty minutes with reasonable likenesses of the men who had been burned to a crisp in the taxi and the Mafioso with the shotgun.
Yawning, feeling tired suddenly, Helm changed into his jeans. He put the white suit in a zip-up carrier, which was also hanging in the wardrobe. Roger Gladwin arrived to watch the rest of his packing and to make sure that Helm had no opportunity to sneak away.
"How come Erlich still has a job when Makronotis fired that maid?" Helm asked between yawns.
Gladwin lit a small cigar. "He's too useful to sack. He's got a lot of good connections in the Fatherland. And Austria, too. His old man was in the SS. A pal of the boss's old man. And Erlich knows where a lot of bodies are buried. And the maid panicked, not him."
"And he got the girls back in one piece?"
"That too. Put your hat on."
Helm rejoined the crew of the USS Enterprise. "Where do we catch the chopper? On the roof?"
"Don't be a plonker! This isn't New bloody York. The pad's about half a mile away. Keep your shades on in the car. And don't look out the windows, okay?"
"I wish people would stop giving me orders. It's like being in the bloody army."
"Where do you want to end up? The villa or the nearest cop shop?"
"Okay, we do things your way." Helm surrendered with another yawn.
"You all right?" frowned Gladwin.
"I feel shagged out. I need something to eat or that's me for the rest of the evening."
Gladwin made a quick phone call. Helm carried his own luggage to the lift and down to the garage level. He put cabin and flight bags in the back of the car. A waiter delivered a high-class Greekburger on a white plate as he was getting into the front with Gladwin.
The security advisor told him that people, meaning cops, would take an interest in someone riding alone in the back of a car belonging to the Makronotis organization. They passed several policemen on the way to the heliport. Most offered a half-salute to the car but none took any notice of the front-seat occupants. The fourth helicopter ride of Helm's life took him out to the middle of nowhere.
The burned-out taxi had gone. A red marker flag made the site look like a one-hole golf course. The helicopter zoomed low over the scrubland, raising a dust storm. To Helm's surprise, there were a lot more rocky outcrops than he remembered. He became quite good at scrambling out of a hovering helicopter to search down-draught-lashed bushes in dust-fog. His Greekburger had dispelled his earlier tiredness.
Helm found the body at the eighth attempt, amid building waves of scepticism from Gladwin. When he waved and pointed to the ground, the pilot drifted away to a flat landing place. The helicopter continued on to the villa with the body aboard, zipped up in a plastic mortuary bag. Helm knew from watching cop shows on television that moving a body is a cardinal sin. In this case, however, there was no mystery about the circumstances of the death.
When the former tenant of twelve stones of decaying flesh had been identified, and his clothes had told forensic scientists as much as possible about his movements, his remains would become an embarrassment. Helm hoped that they would be incinerated quietly, or dumped in the Saronic Gulf to feed the fish.
The helicopter dropped him at the villa, then returned to Athens at once with Gladwin and the body. An Imperial Guardsman showed Helm to a bedroom and told him that dinner would be served at seven-thirty, in half an hour. Helm worked out the time difference and discovered that evening surgery had just started at his local health centre.
As soon as he identified himself, the receptionist asked him to hold the line. A minute or so later, Helm found himself talking to Dr. Bennett, which was an unexpected privilege. The doctor told him that he was booked in at West Kent General Hospital for an exploratory operation at ten o'clock the following morning. The implication was 'turn up or else he would have to find another doctor'.
Helm found Ianos Makronotis in a ground-floor sitting room, listening to a CD of an opera in German. Held offered a simple ultimatum: no operation, no co-operation. Ianos held high-level talks over a private line to the Hotel Renga. Then Helm went back to his room to pack his Olympic Airlines flight bag for a quick trip home.
A uniformed chauffeur found him sitting on the bed with his flight bag on his lap. He drove Helm to a part of Athens airport away from the airliners and main terminal buildings. When the light aircraft was in the air, Helm noticed that it was flying away from the sunset. He tried to tell the young pilot that he was going the wrong way. The conversation ended with a frown and a shake of a lightly bearded head.
Their destination turned out to be Khios, a quarter-moon-shaped island just a few miles off the Turkish coast. Helm was nervous about landing in the dark in an area defined by a double row of small lights. He considered closing his eyes as the pilot lined himself up and swooped toward the ground. Then he decided that he might as well get his money's worth if they were going to crash and burn and get killed.
The pilot grinned a farewell as Helm climbed down to the strip of dusty ground. Helm was just one of a long string of nervous passengers. The next leg of the journey was even more frightening a Jeep ride at high speed in the dark over rough terrain to the coast.
Helm enjoyed the sea voyage in a cabin cruiser. It was a still night and the dark water looked perfectly level under the stars. The friendly captain even let him have a turn at the wheel when there was nothing close on the radar screen. The crew fed him coffee laced with brandy and let him share their heroic sandwiches when he had nothing to do. Having missed dinner at the villa, Helm found that he was starving and starting to flake out again.
The harbour master at Çeme welcomed him to Turkey and just glanced at his Irish passport. The name John Scott meant nothing 140 miles east of Athens. A car with a Turkish driver was waiting to speed him to Izmir airport. Helm flew to Istanbul airport aboard a Learjet wearing an unfamiliar company logo. He had an hour to kill before his midnight flight home. He spent most of it in a crew canteen, where he ate an international-standard hamburger, drank coffee and glanced through Wednesday's Washington Post.
A man with a French accent brought him a blue overall and delivered a briefing. Helm found that he had joined an air-freight company in a supercargo capacity. The Makronotis organization had found him a seat on a cargo flight from Istanbul to Gatwick. Helm sat in the DC-10's third pilot's seat and listened to the crew swapping horror stories about life in the air.
This is real jet-setting, he kept telling himself leaping across Europe at a moment's notice despite minor considerations such as being wanted by the Athens police. It was something that he should be enjoying, no matter how tired he felt. This was the life that went with his advertisement.
Flying west recovered the hour and a half lost on Wednesday. The DC-10 splashed through puddles at Gatwick at two a.m. on Friday morning. Steady light rain made Helm glad of his Greek anorak. A customs officer had a good root in his flight bag when he saw the Irish passport. The bare essentials of clothing, and washing and shaving gear, seemed to convince him that John Scott was a bona fide traveller. The description 'engineer' in his passport was vague enough to include working for an air-freight company.
There was a car with a driver waiting to take him home. Helm set his alarm for eight o'clock and went straight to bed. Maddeningly, sleep eluded him for ages. He remembered looking at his watch at a quarter to four. Then the alarm was dragging him out of a confused dream about flying without an aeroplane.
He felt surprisingly alert after a shower and a shave. In daylight, the scratches on his face made him look like one of Baron Frankenstein's less successful experiments. He had just a cup of tea for breakfast on the morning of his operation. He had lost his appetite.
The range of papers at the newsagent's was overwhelming. If he wanted current news in Greece, the choice was usually between the Marseilles-printed Mediterranean editions of the Mail or the Telegraph, or the less frequently available Guardian. Helm had almost forgotten how relatively cheap the British papers are at home.
He had a nine o'clock appointment with Dr. Bennett. The receptionist looked at him as if she had lost a bet when Helm called at her window. Her ability to put the right name to his face without prompting was a depressingly sure sign that he was locked firmly in the embrace of the NHS now. He had become a regular customer.
"Aha, the extremely elusive Mr. Helm," said Dr. Bennett when he entered the consulting room. "Have a seat. What happened to your face?" he added with a lop-sided, tipsy grin. "Dragged through a hedge backwards?"
"It was a thorn-bush," said Helm. "But yes, I was going backwards at the time."
"Greece. I'm working there."
"The District Nurse has you top of her hate list. She's been trying to catch up with you to remove the stitches from the last op."
"She doesn't have to bother. They're out."
"Not a do-it-yourself job?" the doctor said severely.
"By a doctor in Greece. While he was checking me over."
"Oh, what was wrong with you? Doric Diarrhoea?"
"I don't know if it was on the news here, but there was a bomb in a café in Athens on Monday. I caught an edge of it. The doctor took the stitches out while he was pulling bits of glass out of me."
"A lucky escape? I don't remember hearing about it."
"Small bomb in Greece," Helm quoted. "Not many killed. Not any killed, in fact. Just a couple of French women had their legs blown off below the knee."
"Yecch!" Dr. Bennett pulled a face. "That's when your face was scratched?"
"No, that was on Wednesday."
"The day we nearly had this conversation?"
"I had to go back to Greece to get blown up again," Helm told him apologetically.
Dr. Bennett decided that there was no answer to that and got down to business. "The reason I wanted to see you is to put you in the picture about today's op. And tell you about the blood results. You know the last lump was non-malignant?"
"Yes, the news got through eventually."
"I'm hoping you'll get the same result with this one. If not, we'll have caught it in the very early stages and the prospects for clearing it up are excellent. Your first set of blood tests were normal for what we were testing for so I need some more blood for the next series. These should confirm what's gone wrong. And your haemoglobin level's down a fraction since the result from the blood transfusion people, so I'm going to put you on iron capsules."
Helm took off his anorak and pushed up his sleeve, resigned to being constipated in a good cause. Dr. Bennett filled another large syringe with dark blood. Then he applied a dressing to the puncture. "Well, that's it for the moment," he said. "The message is: don't worry unduly."
"I've got more serious things to worry about than the possibility of a malignant lump," said Helm casually.
Dr. Bennett glanced at him, noticing again the scratches on his face, and realized that Helm might not be joking. "Well, I'll see you again. Do you have to go back to Greece?"
"This boss doesn't take no for an answer," smiled Helm.
The hospital was a mile away. Helm had plenty of time in hand before his appointment. He took his prescription to the local chemist before heading into town. He received a three-month supply of what looked like cold-cure, time-release capsules rather than the white tablets that had given Mrs. Stowe constipation.
Giving him so many capsules showed that Dr. Bennett had an optimistic outlook on his chances of surviving the plague of waxy lumps and whatever else was wrong with him. The doctor, of course, didn't know about the trouble that Helm was getting himself into for the sake of jet-setting cash.
When he reached the centre of Maidstone, Helm headed diagonally left for the library instead of diagonally right to the hospital. He soon reached the conclusion that the Encyclopaedia Britannica deserves an 'X' certificate. In the absence of any concrete information from a doctor awaiting blood test results, finding out more about anaemia seemed to open up worse and worse prospects.
When he reached the hospital, he knew that anaemia is better than Heinz because it offers one hundred varieties some temporary, some permanent but controllable and some plain killers.
Causes ranged from large blood loss through deficiencies of iron and vitamins to the horrendous. The worst cause was cancer cells migrating to the bone marrow and preventing the production of red blood cells. Helm had stopped reading at that point.
Dr. Bennett had commented on his pale face and his pale, bluish lips at the first appointment. Helm began searching his memory for the symptoms of oxygen deficiency buzzing in the ears, dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath. The only time his ears had buzzed recently had been after he had been blown up. Being chased by armed terrorists had left him breathless but he could hardly blame that on his anaemia.
Other symptoms included indigestion, sleeplessness and tiredness, which were hardly convenient conditions for a man of action. At best, his treatment would involve taking iron capsules for a while. At worst; Helm tried not to think about corrosive cancer treatments, which would leave him hairless rather than bald no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no nothing.
He was ready to sit down when he reached the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if he would end up reduced to a cadaverous, six-stone weakling just because he was a bit short of haemoglobin and prone to develop waxy lumps.
After an hour in a plastic chair, he was yawning when the nurse told him that they were ready for him.
He actually dropped off to sleep while the consultant and her nurse were using the X-ray scanner to guide the probe to the correct area. Helm impressed them later by explaining that he had spent half the night flying home via Turkey.
He arrived home via a convenient taxi at twelve-thirty with two more stitches in his side. He decided to have something to eat, if there was any food in the house, then go to bed. He had been swept off his feet by a rapid current of new experiences. His tired blood needed some relief from them. He could afford to write off Friday and start afresh on Saturday morning.
He had to think about the history of the eggs and bacon in the fridge. Then he remembered that he had bought them on Wednesday, which made them two days old. He was trying to decide whether to have his eggs fried on both sides or thoroughly scrambled when his doorbell gave a long ring. Helm was genuinely surprised to see the dark green cap when he opened the door.
"Make it quick," he said. "I'm off to bed when I've had some brunch."
"Guess again," smiled Gladwin. "You can sleep on the plane."
"I've just had major surgery," Helm protested.
"Suits you," Gladwin told him, ending the discussion.
Helm sighed heavily and asked himself what would happen if he refused to leave the country. A crack on the head, a needle in the arm and a trip to Athens in a crate addressed to the third floor of the Hotel Renga seemed most likely.
Gladwin helped him to polish off the perishables. Helm unplugged the empty fridge as a reflex economy measure. Paying electricity bills was no longer a problem. Getting off the mad merry-go-round so that he could spend his earnings to date had become his number one concern.
His route out of the country was a new one, as far as Helm was concerned. Gladwin's car took him east along the M2 then via Canterbury to Marston aerodrome. A Learjet with red trim took them to Paris. Helm had bought half a dozen thick paperbacks on the way. He was immersed in a science fiction epic about humans struggling to exterminate native life forms on an alien planet when their commercial flight to Greece was called.
He had surrendered completely to Gladwin. When the security advisor said move, he followed. At other times, he sat and read his book. Despite evidence to the contrary, he had convinced himself that their Air France flight was heading for Istanbul. He sat up with a start when they were in the air and the captain started talking about the weather in Athens.
"Where the hell are we going?" he whispered urgently to Gladwin.
"What the hell d'you mean, where the hell are we going?" Gladwin frowned at him. "You know bloody well where we're going."
"We can't go direct to Athens. I'm wanted there, remember?"
"Oh, that," grinned Gladwin. "Makronotis took care of it. See?" He took a copy of The Times out of his black raincoat and turned to an inside page.
A brief article in the bottom-left corner mentioned that the IRA connection with the Arab terrorists in Athens was a false alarm. The owner of a driving licence found at the scene of the burning taxi had reported it stolen with his wallet four days earlier.
"Isn't it great when you're worth a zillion quid and you've got influence?" Helm remarked as he returned the newspaper.
"It was just a matter of waiting a while, then slipping a piece of paper into the system for someone to find."
"As long as they've been told I'm okay at the bloody airport," Helm said before returning to his book.
He dropped off to sleep before he finished the page. He woke up in response to a dig in the ribs, on the other side from his operation, as the airliner was approaching Athens airport. Gladwin called him a regular Weary Willy. Helm pointed out, with great dignity, that perfect health and an ability to stay awake weren't demanded in his contract of employment.
The immigration officer on the ground asked John Scott if the police had returned his driving licence yet, proving that some of them kept up with who was currently on the list of suspected international terrorists. Helm said that he hoped to collect it in the city later on and tried not to look too guilty about travelling on a false passport.
He trailed Gladwin to the car park, where they collected an unremarkable Volkswagen commuter car. Gladwin took an envelope from the dashboard and handed it to him. Helm found himself reading a copy of the statement that John Scott had made to the police about his stolen wallet and its contents. He learned that his alter ego had lost a brown leather wallet containing about 20,000 drachmas, £20 sterling, his driving licence and a few postage stamps, both British and Greek.
It was getting quite dark when they reached the city centre. Gladwin parked just off Kotzia Square. The police station faced the main post office. Gladwin did the talking and a little interpreting. Helm showed his passport to confirm that he was John Albert Scott, signed three forms and recovered his false driving licence. He accepted with a shrug the news that his wallet had gone forever. A figment of someone's imagination was no great loss.
Gladwin put his foot down when they left the built-up areas. In a cocoon of headlight, he charged along the road to Rafina, giving an old truck a fright when he completed an over-taking manoeuvre with an abrupt peel onto the road to the villa. They arrived at nine p.m., local time bedtime, as far as Helm was concerned.
He noticed that bigger weapons come out after dark. The gate guard's neat submachine gun had become an M-15 rifle with a bulky night-sight. Helm had no idea whether this was normal or extra security because four of the kidnappers, at least, were still at large. He decided against asking Gladwin, who wasn't known for giving him straight answers.
The guard checked the occupants of the Volkswagen before opening the gates. Gladwin roared up to the main door of the villa. When Helm and his flight bag had left the car, he waved farewell and zoomed back across the courtyard to the gates. Roger Gladwin had no intention of spending his Friday night stuck miles from civilization.
The door opened when Helm pushed it. There was no one in the hall. Luckily, he remembered the way to his room. He found a white paper bag with a µ logo on the bed. His laundry had caught up with him. His white suit was still hanging in the wardrobe and his cabin bag had been tidied to a shelf above the clothes rail. Helm unpacked his flight bag and lined up his paperback library on a bedside unit.
He took the opportunity to look up the Greek for 'medicine from my doctor' in his tiny reference library. He wanted to be able to explain his iron capsules. With a jolt of alarm, he realized that it was just as well no one had searched his pockets at the airport. A sticky label with the patient's name on it had sealed the paper bag containing three blister packs of capsules until Helm had removed two of them. That name read 'Mr. R. Helm' when he was supposed to be 'Mr. J. Scott'.
He worried at the self-adhesive label with a thumbnail until he was able to tear off a sizeable chunk. He wanted to keep it looking like a chemist's label while creating the illusion that the name had been lost innocently when he had unsealed the bag.
Despite a meal on the flight from Paris, his stomach began to grumble fiercely. Going to bed became a daft idea with all that noise to keep him awake. He wondered whether it would be better to wait for someone to notice his arrival or just to look for the dining room. He had forgotten where it was, but finding any room on the ground floor was just a matter of opening doors off the hall. He decided to drink one can of lager from his fridge first. If he was still being ignored when his can was empty, he would use his initiative.
His window faced north. He could see a glow behind a hill, which had to be the lights of Rafina, two lighthouses on islands in the channel and moving lights on the sea. A normal, non-decorating Friday night meant the pub with a group of friends and casual acquaintances whenever he wasn't concubined, as Frank Zappa put it.
Life had been anything but normal for the last three Fridays. He had spent them in Greece, for a start. He was wondering for how much longer his life would remain abnormal when someone tapped on his door.
"Come," he called regally.
"Hi, I'm Klara, with a K. I'm assigned to you. Sorry I'm late."
Helm turned from the window to see a woman of about his own age. "Hi, I'm... please to meet you." He had forgotten who he was for the moment, but he assumed that Klara with a K would have been told his name during her briefing.
Klara offered a hand with blood-red nails. Her frizzy, brunette hair came up to about Helm's eye-level, which made her quite tall for a woman. Her even, white teeth looked as if they had cost six months' salary and a couple of months in the dentist's chair. Helm put straightening a couple of his own teeth, which had become buckled, at the top of his spending list. He could afford such extravagances now.
Klara's accent was a husky New Yorker and her voice rose to give most statements the flavour of a question, as if she was seeking approval constantly. She looked like the second lead in an American TV series the heroine's faithful side-kick, who either faints or drools if a man notices her existence. Helm's immediate reaction was to want to get to know her extremely well.
"A snafu with your arrival time," continued Klara. "I thought I had it in Paris time and I was adding half an hour on."
"It's okay." Helm offered her a chair. "You're here now. What do you mean, you're assigned to me?"
"Mainly orientation and companionship."
"Sounds interesting. Can I offer you a can?"
"Thanks." Klara took a notebook from a side pocket of her summery dress. "Is there anything you need?"
Helm pulled the ring from the can, then looked around the room. "Some glasses, for one thing."
"That's okay. I can drink out of the can. Anything else?"
"I could do with something to eat. But I must have missed dinner by now." Helm's stomach added its own plea for food.
"No problem," smiled Klara. "I can order something from the kitchen."
"Can they manage steak and chips? Medium steak?"
"Sure. Do you want wine with it?"
"This will do me." Helm raised his own can, aware that his tired blood had a severely reduced alcohol tolerance.
Helm discovered that Klara spoke fluent Greek. She too had missed dinner. She joined him in the dining room for a decent-size steak with a token helping of fries. Helm wondered if she was on an unnecessary diet. There was nothing wrong with the figure in the light, summer dress. He found that an attractive companion was as effective as food for keeping him awake. Everything he said or did during the evening was designed to impress Klara with a K.
Companionship didn't extend to sharing his bed but Klara stayed with him until one o'clock, when yawns and fatigue swamped him. She encouraged him to give her a goodnight kiss, as if it were the custom of this foreign land, and she responded thoroughly enough to set his tired blood galloping.
Helm got to know his new friend quite well during an inactive Saturday certainly much better than any other member of Phileros Makronotis' staff. Most of them were little more than a name and a job description, usually the catch-all 'security advisor'.
The man himself was fat and cheerful, but with his money, Makronotis could afford to smile. His wealth allowed him to command obedience from a significant cross-section of Athenian society. He was a man to whom 'yes' was the only possible answer. His past, like his present, was a matter of choice.
His foster-father, or his uncle, was a pistol-packing, opera and gangster-film lover with a twisted sense of humour. Helm hadn't forgiven old Ianos for hanging him up by his wrists in a dungeon in the early part of the week. But getting his own back seemed a forlorn dream.
Dieter Erlich, the local security advisor, was the son of a former SS-man, according to Gladwin, and a devious member of a master race. He was also suspected of being one million dollars richer after Wednesday's adventure with the kidnappers. He had also come close to writing off John Scott on two consecutive days.
Roger Gladwin, alias Bateman and Lane, was just as devious. Helm knew where he was with Gladwin the man wasn't to be trusted and he was also responsible for putting Helm through the twin ordeals of a terrorist bomb and the car crash caused by his brainless satellites Alex and Yani and their dead donkey. Even so, Helm quite liked him.
Tsai Yuan-lin, a woman of unknown nationality whose father was Phileros Makronotis, had a certain charm too and she seemed to like John Scott. Her first loyalty was to the boss, however. Helm fancied her but he knew that she was a lost cause. She worked for Craven Kaiser, whom Helm had yet to meet. According to Gladwin, Kaiser's father had been a leading member of the Ku Klux Klan before turning FBI informer and then becoming a bounty-hunter for that agency. Makronotis seemed to pick his security advisors from the worst possible backgrounds.
Klara Amercott, born in Buffalo on the shore of Lake Erie, a few miles from Niagara Falls, had moved to New York at an early age. Her father was in the construction business. He had moved back to Buffalo when only-child Klara was in her teens. Her dad had become fed up with paying a significant chunk of his profits to the Mafia.
Klara had celebrated her thirty-second birthday earlier that week on Tuesday, Helm's day of rest between being blown up in the café and the million-dollar suitcase bomb. She had been married for a couple of years to a real estate agent in Buffalo, but he had run off with a Las Vegas showgirl after a convention in Nevada. Helm was glad to hear that the ex-husband was currently serving five to ten years in gaol for fraud at a penitentiary near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After the divorce, Klara had reverted to her maiden name and moved back to New York City, where she had found a job with a Makronotis satellite firm as a legal advisor. She had been in Greece for eighteen months. She was well paid and completely loyal to her employer, which surprised Helm in a cynical sort of way. He had earned £75,000 that week but he felt no loyalty at all to the Makronotis organization. Klara had suggested that she was too well paid to be corrupted but no one had ever used her for unscheduled target practice.
Helm let Klara do most of the talking, which suited her temperament. They spent part of Saturday wandering about Athens, and part in the shade of an umbrella on the villa's cliff-side terrace, near the cell where Helm had been strung up by his wrists on Klara's birthday.
She had a habit of leaning toward him when she spoke, as if everything was a confidence. Her assignment seemed more pleasure than duty. Helm felt the heat of a Greek summer speeding the chemistry of his naturally leisurely attraction process. In a sense, he was living the life of a gladiator, lusting for a quick fling before Phileros Makronotis prodded him into the arena to do battle with assorted killers. At the same time, he was reluctant to press Klara to move to quickly in case he put her off. Robert Helm's inhibitions were cramping shooting-star John Scott's style, threatening to keep him frustrated until it was too late.
Yet another part of himself was able to view what was going on around him with a strong sense of unreality. If he was doomed, there was little point in trying to store up pleasant memories, for they count for nothing in the long, black night of death. If he had just a few months, or even just a few hours of life left, then nothing really mattered to the gladiator.
Helm was enough of a gentleman not to let Klara see his black view of the future. He was able to entertain her by showing off his newly acquired skill of beating a blindfold when they were alone, baffling her with his ability to navigate in a room full of furniture.
He dropped a few details of John Scott's biography when he was unable to avoid talking about himself. He also shared Gladwin's attempt to pair him off with a female impersonator, but he was deliberately vague about when and where it had happened. Just before dinner, Klara fixed him with her wide, blue eyes and leaned closer than usual to tell him that she knew he was no more Irish than herself. His story was full of inconsistencies, but that was the fault of his completely inadequate briefing. He knew nothing about Ireland but Klara had actually been there.
Helm recovered from a moment of shock by telling her that John Scott was the sort of Irishman who had lived all his life in England. If he had said anything about Ireland he had just been repeating what others had told him and none of it had been intended to be personal reminiscences, which left her rather embarrassed by the failure of her detective act.
Klara's insight reminded Helm that he was just an untrained hired hand, unskilled in the art of creating biography on the fly and it might be a good idea if he stopped talking about himself. Klara knew that he was in Greece on a dangerous assignment connected with the security department, and she knew that she needed to know nothing more.
Sunday, inevitably, was another hot and sunny day. Klara took Helm out in one of the Jeep-clone runabouts to look at some interesting ruins further down the coast. They returned for lunch to find a crowd on the lower terrace. Erlich peeled Helm away from his companion and steered him over to the boss.
Phileros Makronotis was drinking champagne with a rather skinny woman in a white dress and a lot of diamonds. She gave Helm a predatory smile even though she was old enough to be his mother. She made him think of a Roman matron looking over a gladiator to see if he was worth bedding before some huge barbarian scragged him in the arena.
"This is the young man I was telling you about," said Makronotis as Erlich passed a tulip glass to Helm. "John Scott of the Special Assignments Detail of our security department."
Helm put on a 'first I've heard of it' expression.
"I read your interesting advertisement, Mr. Scott," said the woman, holding her predatory smile. "I admire your spirit." She had a purring voice with a trace of a German accent. "The English bulldog spirit."
"Mr. Scott is Irish, in fact, but he lives in England," said Makronotis. "May I present the Gräfin von Arlberg."
"Call me Renate," said the countess generously. "Philo, it is so good of you to lend me a young man who has no regard for danger."
Helm gave the outstretched hand a polite squeeze, blinded by the flashing diamond bracelet, hoping that his polite smile didn't look too sick at the edges. Makronotis had installed him in the private security army like a piece of replacement machinery, and with as much consultation. John Scott was in Greece to be used, or to be loaned out to friends until he broke.
The whole object of the advertisement had been to secure either a lot of money or a quick death. Now that he had a lot of money, he was being denied the chance to enjoy it. Those around him with the really big money were treating his life with about the same respect as he had for a disposable razor.
While he was sure that his sister would make good use of the fortune that she seemed destined to inherit from him, he couldn't help but find it grossly unfair that Steph had inherited all of the family's lucky genes.