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7 Mr. Harmless

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he viewers of the television program Leda Has the Answer witnessed something that day which had never occurred in the history of television. A man dressed in a suit suddenly appeared in the studio behind the host’s chair. Leda, in this moment, was talking directly into the camera surrounded by some guests of the show. As soon as she sensed the man’s presence she turned towards him, obviously frightened and confused, and just barely managed to say, “Tasos, what are you doing? Tasos, why have you come here?” Before anyone realized what was happening or had time to react and stop him, Tasos grabbed hold of Leda’s arm and pulled her rolling chair off the studio set while the show was still live on the air. The scene became more violent when the chair’s wheels got stuck on a camera cable, dumping Leda onto the ground. Tasos continued to drag her behind him as if she was a sack of potatoes, still keeping a firm grip on her arm. Some of the studio technicians finally sprang into action. They panicked and tried to stop him but he violently shoved them off, clearing a path to the exit, shouting, “she’s my wife you idiots!”

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Leda Bountouris was an accomplished psychologist, known for coming up with solutions to her patient’s problems. Her success led her to the position of hosting her own television show which mainly dealt with the topic of cheating men who belittle or abandon their wives and mistresses, making them suffer due to their bad behavior. The women’s enthusiastic acceptance of the psychologist’s advice rendered her well-loved by her audience as well as quite famous. A problem that Leda Bountouris couldn’t solve was that of her own marriage to Tasos. After the first two years of their 276


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marriage, he became unbearably jealous of her. He was jealous of her professional success and fame, and of the scores of men who had the opportunity to gawk at her. He was even jealous of what they were potentially thinking while watching her, or rather, of what he imagined them thinking. He searched through her cell phone to find any unknown numbers of people who had called her during the day, he smelled her clothes, kept track of the kilometers on her car’s odometer and went so far as to be jealous of the patients she treated in therapy. Leda didn’t really need the money she made from her job, as she was from an affluent family. While her father was on his deathbed, he had named her sole heiress of all his assets, which included a textile company. Leda sold the company, which she had no interest in running herself, and invested the money from the sale. She could live more than comfortably off the dividends and interest of her investments alone. “Why do you work, can you please explain this to me, given that we have no need for the income?” Tasos would persistently ask her this question. The question would inevitably follow her telling him about a patient’s case. The process of psychoanalysis required that her patients divulge details of their personal lives and confide in her about their relationships. The conversation always began something like this: “A patient came into the office today who experiences the symptoms of erectile dysfunction in the bedroom, but never when he is at work. He has sexual urges and erotic thoughts about his colleagues at the bank, or even about his clients. But when he returns home he is unable to perform sexually with his wife or become aroused. Can you imagine Tasos?” “Where did you see him? Did he come to your office?”

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“Well of course, dear. Where else would I see him?” Leda answered. That was all it took for Tasos to begin envisioning erotic situations in which Leda actively participated. If the man she was telling him about was in her office that meant that he could get an erection as well as have lustful thoughts about his wife. Once this thought entered Tasos’s mind, nothing could stop him. His face would turn beet red and his neck would bulge out as he started hurling a list of accusations and criticisms at her. He would accuse her of having a flawed, impulsive character and of flaunting her femininity, which in his opinion, was absolutely part and parcel of every woman’s desire to work and have a career. Tasos Tzorvas worked at a financial corporation, specializing in international investments. This is where Leda met him. They fell in love and married within a year. He too was successful at his job and now he owned and managed his own financial investment firm. There were no dark clouds that hung over their relationship or real reasons that might cause them to quarrel. Leda didn’t have an especially jealous nature, nothing more than what was normal for a woman in love. However, her life was beginning become a misery due to her husband’s terrifying outbursts of rage. It was true that she exuded a certain sexiness. Yet due to the fact that she had received a university education and developed other interests, she didn’t use her sexual appeal as a way of getting what she wanted in her relationships, whether they were friendships or professional connections. She was a modern woman with a toned figure and a cultivated demeanor. She was of average height and had straight blonde hair that just brushed the top of her shoulders in front and was cut so that it slanted down to form a “V” in back, lending her a certain sensuality. Even her appearance had become a matter of 278


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contention between them. When Leda was in London she had gotten a tattoo of little diamond-shaped gems that encircled her neck and throat, like a necklace. She explained to Tasos that every rock symbolized a man that had been part of her life so far. Every time Tasos saw the tattoo a feeling of nausea washed over him. He was upset by the number of little etched gems, but more importantly, Leda had left a gap at the front of the circle. She said that she would fill it in with a larger gem that would stand for the man with whom she would spend the rest of her life. The final rock would close the necklace and the circle of men in her life. The thing was that even though they had since gotten married, she hadn’t filled in the gap with her final missing gem yet. This fact made him terribly, almost unbearably, suspicious of her every move. Anger was the first emotion that soothed the sting of his jealousy. From there, things would get out of control. His outbursts of rage often took place in front of their friends or at social events. Some of their friends distanced themselves of their own accord and others, mostly male acquaintances, were promptly banned from their social circle. The reasons for a tantrum could be anything from Leda’s perceived flirtation, to a typical kiss of greeting from a male friend which was either too close to her ear or mouth. The only innocent kiss from a male friend was that which landed directly on the center of the cheek! Slowly, Tasos’s siege on anyone who even approached Leda drove away all of their friends, since everyone had fallen victim to his jealous accusations at one point or another. Tasos was terrified of losing his wife. He wasn’t after her money, he had enough of his own after all; but his emotional investment in their relationship was huge. He cultivated a feeling of hostility between them that began to eat away at their relationship. He was resentful of 279


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everything in Leda’s past, especially her old relationships, but the same feeling applied to her present life as well, with regard to her work and social circle. When Leda fought back, he would, without hesitation, proclaim his plan of revenge: “Whatever you do to me, I’ll do it back to you, and more!” Because of the tension between them it became impossible for anyone else to be friends with them. Only one man gained Tasos’s approval, and thereby the right to associate with Leda. His acquaintance with Leda came about like this: Even before they got married, Leda skied in the winter and water-skied in the summer. She passed her hobby onto Tasos, who was new to the sport. One night, as they were having dinner at a local restaurant in Arahovas with a group of people from the ski resort, Billy sat down next to Tasos. Billy was his ski instructor and full of energy on the slopes. When he wasn’t skiing he was a shy sort, and everyone knew that he was gay. The conversation around the table had turned into a discussion about homosexuality. At some point Tasos said, completely out of the blue: “I don’t know what it is, but homosexuals have always been attracted to me, ever since I was a kid at school and a boy named Paris sat down next to me and we shared a desk…” Upon hearing Tasos’s comment Billy drained his glass of beer in one gulp. Everyone else at the table—who had made it their business to know everything about everyone—looked at each other without saying a word. Leda gave him a swift kick under the table but Tasos rashly continued. “I mean come on now, you can tell if somebody’s gay from ten meters away. Can’t you Billy?” he turned to face Billy, who was sitting next to him. “I mean you can, can’t you?” Tasos persisted. The group had started to enjoy watching him put his foot in his mouth. Billy couldn’t help himself so he entered the 280


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discussion with mocking, over-exaggerated stereotypical gay mannerisms and a high-pitched, effeminate voice. “But Tasos, darling, how? Do gays smell different or are they a different color?” Later, when he and Leda were alone back at the hotel, Tasos didn’t know how to go about excusing his behavior over what had happened at the restaurant. He did try to make amends by always inviting Billy along when they did something, even when they were back in Athens. Billy became an inseparable family friend because, aside from the fact that he was fun to be around, he was a totally risk-free man for Leda to keep company with. In no time at all he was allowed to sit next to her at meals, come and go freely from their house and even go into their bedroom to give Leda wardrobe advice. Billy had a fine rotation of young lovers, who he never shied away from introducing to the couple at social gatherings. And that is how Tasos confirmed the sexual preferences of the friend whom he had allowed to get close to his wife. Tasos stopped many of his jealous rants and Leda had someone to talk to or go to the movies with. Naturally, having finally found a confidante, she began to reveal the secrets of their relationship to her new friend. Billy, who was a good and willing listener, soon heard all the details of Tasos’s jealousy towards his wife. Tasos hadn’t completely broken his habit, either. For example, the cleaning lady had found a microscopic surveillance camera in Leda’s office opposite the reclining chair that Leda’s patients sat in. Leda herself would sometimes notice that underwear she had thrown in the washing machine had been removed so that Tasos could sniff and examine it. These incidents were linked to the fact that Leda had begun receiving love letters in the mail. Tasos discovered one of them and the jealous scenes started once again. The letters were typed on a computer, and in the place of a signature they 281


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carried an inky, black fingerprint. They were very well written, using exceptionally impassioned turns of phrase, at some points referring to Leda’s sensual nature. Only someone who knew her could have written these letters, someone from her past who couldn’t stop thinking about her, or one of the men that had withdrawn from their social circle. Tasos even considered that the letters could be from one of her patients, but how did he know so many of personal details about her? The fiery atmosphere that started to intensify between the couple was heightened by the fact that Tasos had lost a great deal of money on a bad investment at work. The financial crisis that began with the collapse of bonds at the American banks meant damage to Tasos’s business, but also pressure from his clients who believed he had duped them. Everything became so uncertain that his business was now in danger of bankruptcy.

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Tasos was often away on business in the United States, trying to find solutions for his financial quandary. On this occasion his return flight was booked via London so that he could stay over for a day there and tie up some loose ends regarding his bank accounts. He called Leda late that afternoon and let her know that he had arrived in London, but that a national holiday happened to fall on the next day and for this reason he would take the first morning flight back to Athens, cancelling his overnight stay. That night Leda was too tired to wait up for him any longer, so she popped her sleeping pill and fell into bed without even turning off the television. She wasn’t aware of the shadow watching her from the pine tree opposite the balcony of their apartment on Diamantidou Street in the suburb of Psychiko. After Leda had fallen asleep, the man in the tree retrieved the 282


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collapsible aluminum ladder which he had strapped to his back. He unfolded it, and secured one end to a sturdy pine branch. He lightly placed the other end on the balcony railing, creating a bridge from the tree to the apartment. He carefully crawled across the ladder and hopped onto the balcony. He was wearing soft rubber boots, a stretchy black body suit that completely covered his body, and a black ski mask that only revealed his eyes. He was wearing gloves and on his back he wore a black backpack. As soon as he was safely on the balcony, he approached the sliding bedroom door and discovered that Leda had left it unlocked. He cautiously slid it open without making any noise, just enough so that his slight frame could slip into the room. Leda was peacefully asleep and the television was still on. The thick shag carpet muffled the night visitor’s steps as he moved toward a modern piece of furniture with a mirror, which Leda used as a dressing table. Without any hesitation, he pulled open the second drawer on the right, and removed a coral colored, wooden jewelry box and quickly emptied the contents onto a piece of black velvet that he had laid out on top of the dresser. He folded up the bundle and placed it in one of the pockets of his backpack. Then he proceeded to reach his hand further into the drawer and pulled out a small suede bag, containing something heavy. Without even opening it, he put this into his backpack as well. He glanced at Leda’s sleeping form and slipped out the same way he had come in. He climbed up onto the balcony railing and started to crawl back across the ladder. At that moment, the roar of Tasos’s Porsche Cayenne could be heard as he drove up Diamantidou Street. He turned right into the driveway, so that he could park in the underground garage of the house. The unknown man in the black body suit froze in midair, still only halfway across the aluminum bridge between the balcony and the pine tree. He crouched down to be less visible but at that moment the ladder slipped from the 283


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balcony rail where it had been resting. The night visitor found himself in the space between the balcony and the tree. He hung tight onto the aluminum ladder with his gloved hand as the other end of the ladder got caught on a pine limb. He found himself hanging from the ladder with one hand, swinging in the bright light cast by the Cayenne’s headlights as Tasos prepared to enter the ramp to the garage. Tasos saw the uninvited guest and slammed on his brakes. The man let go of the ladder and landed on the ramp, tumbling down it. Tasos hit the gas pedal and tried to run over the masked intruder, cornering him against the garage door which hadn’t opened yet. The man in the black body suit jumped onto the hood of the car in one movement, like a cat, as Tasos rammed his car into the closed garage door. He scampered across the roof of the vehicle, passing right over the windshield in his rubber boots, and hurriedly jumped off the back. He crossed the street and jumped onto his parked Honda motorcycle. He put the bike in gear and sped away. Tasos watched him go and he quickly put his own car into reverse and backed up onto the street. The black Cayenne thundered to life as the hunt for the unknown intruder began. The little Honda had disappeared by turning into a narrow street at the second block, which cut across the main road. Tasos turned as well, spotting him with his headlights as he cut across the streets of Psychiko, headed in the direction of Arsakeio. In an attempt to close the distance between them, Tasos floored the gas pedal and sped along in hot pursuit of the Honda. The idea of finally catching his wife’s lover made him bite his lip so hard that it started to bleed. He gripped the steering wheel firmly, never letting his quarry out of sight. The Honda crossed over into the suburb of Philothei and sped up the road that led to the gates of the American college. He turned right and followed a road that ran parallel to the school’s walls, which led out to a forest. A Mercedes suddenly 284


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emerged at the first intersection, blocking the road and causing the motorcycle to smash into the passenger’s side of the car. The black-clad rider was thrown into the air, bounced off the top of the car and found himself on the other side, miraculously unharmed. At this point Tasos arrived in his car and continued his chase for the man, who had already started running away on foot. The man entered the forest to the right of the road and started running up the side of the pine covered hill. Tasos forced the Cayenne over the ditch and, bouncing wildly, attempted to scale the hill, swerving like a madman to avoid hitting a tree. They sped through the forested area which came out to a clearing on top of the hill that resembled a sports field. Tasos finally caught up to the unknown man he had been chasing, his car door parallel to the man. For a few seconds the man and the car were moving at the same speed, as Tasos tried to discern the man’s facial features which were covered up by the black ski mask. In front of him he saw that they were reaching the end of the clearing which was followed by a steep hill covered with trees. Tasos flung open his door which hit the stranger running next to the car with full force, knocking him down. The heavy SUV came to a screeching stop at the last possible moment before the steep descent. Tasos opened the door wide and threw himself onto the man in black, dealing him a swift kick to the ribs at the very moment he tried to stand up. With a groan, the stranger doubled over from the force of the blow. Tasos launched into another attack, but the man had picked up a dead tree branch which he brandished around like a weapon, avoiding Tasos’s swinging fists. With one quick movement, the man whacked the branch against Tasos’s ribcage, making it Tasos’s turn to keel over in pain. Before Tasos had the chance to recover from the blow, the man jumped heavily onto him, causing the two men to roll down the precipitous incline 285


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between the trees, finally falling off a big boulder and finding themselves on their backs in a ditch. The man took advantage of their momentary pause and stood up, ready to run. Tasos gathered his wits about him and lunged forward, grabbing the masked man by the leg, throwing him back down to the ground. Their violent struggle continued for a few more seconds as they punched one another with Tasos trying to tear off the hooded mask that hid the man’s face. Then they both heard a horrible noise. The car that Tasos had abandoned on the top of the hill started to roll towards them, gaining momentum as it careened downhill on the slippery bed of pine needles, the trees swiping its sides. The trees did not break its rapid descent but instead flipped the vehicle onto its hood. Then it started rolling down the remaining slope, its headlights still glaring as it headed directly for the two men embroiled in their struggle and unwilling to disentangle themselves. In the last possible instant before the heavy car would have crushed them both, they sprang apart in opposite directions, rolling to safety to the right and left of the muddy ditch. With a deafening sound, the car landed in the ditch upside down, its wheels in the air, its engine smoking. Tasos dragged himself as far away as he could in the direction of the road which lay on the other side of the ditch. A few seconds later the car burst into flames as a result of an explosion in the gas tank, causing the fire to spread to the nearby trees in the forest. The unknown man in black sprang to his feet and took off running, soon disappearing into the dark little side streets of Philothei. Tasos tried to get up but he felt as though his mid-section couldn’t support his body weight. He kneeled on the ground, waiting for help to arrive.

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The police arrived at Leda’s apartment the next morning with a forensic evidence team in tow. They dusted for fingerprints and searched the home for evidence that would give them a clue as to the identity of the intruder. Leda quickly realized that all of her expensive jewelry had been stolen along with three bars of gold she had kept in her dresser drawer. Much of the jewelry had been given to her by her mother and grandmother and other pieces had been gifts from her father and wedding presents. All told, the gold and jewelry was valued at roughly two million Euros. Even though a theft had obviously taken place, at the hospital Tasos had spoken to the police about his wife’s lover, whom he hadn’t managed to catch. No fingerprints were found in Leda’s bedroom or any other part of the apartment, but the police did discover Tasos’s Bluetooth headset in the shag carpet and a glass of white wine with his fingerprints on it. Tasos came home from the hospital a few days later. He had four broken ribs and was badly bruised all over from his altercation. Detective Dritsas dropped by to ask a few questions. He began by showing them Tasos’s headset. “Does this belong to you Mr Tzorvas?” the detective asked, pointing to the plastic evidence bag which contained the headset. “Yes, that’s my Bluetooth headset for my cell phone,” he replied. “Good because it has your fingerprints on it. But tell me, you always have this with you, isn’t that right?” “Of course, I brought it on my trip with me.” “According to your statement to the police, you didn’t go up to your bedroom where your wife was sleeping when you arrived, but chased after the intruder immediately, without even exiting your vehicle. Is that correct?” 287


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“I already told you. I was upset and and I thought he was a…” The detective cut him off and repeated his question. “Alright, I understand. You said you had your wireless headset with you on your trip. Correct? So how did it end up here?” “Well, it obviously must have fallen during my struggle with the intruder in Philothei. You found it. End of story,” Tasos said, without the slightest hint of guilt. “No,” said detective Dritsas. “When I said we found it here, I meant that it was found on the floor of your bedroom.” “How is that possible?” Tasos asked, surprised. “Let me see it again,” he said, taking the plastic bag from the officer’s hand. “Is that it?” Dritsas asked. “Yes, it’s definitely mine,” Tasos said, examining the piece of evidence.”I know that it’s mine because I accidentally scratched it right here, above the Nokia logo.” “That’s not all. We also found a half-empty glass of wine on your wife’s bedside table that had your fingerprints on it.” Leda was observing the conversation, sitting next to him. She nervously lit a cigarette. After a pause, as if the detective was waiting for Leda to finish what she was doing, he continued . . . “The glass with your fingerprints contained a dissolved dose of the sleeping pill your wife takes before going to sleep. But the dosage was not what she usually takes. And, what’s more,” said the detective hastily, as if trying to finish before being interrupted, “your wife has no memory of taking her nightly sleeping pill, because, as she told us, she wanted to stay up and wait for you. Instead, she fell into a deep sleep and was not conscious of anything that happened until we arrived at her doorstep the next morning. Isn’t that right Ms. Bountouris?” “Yes, that’s right . . .” Leda said, hesitating awkwardly while stealing sideways glances at Tasos as she spoke. “But I can’t remember anything at all. I may have taken the pill myself. Since it’s something I do every day automatically, I can’t say 288


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exactly because it hardly registers anymore. That’s why I told you that I couldn’t remember.” “Yes, but you do recall what happened before you fell asleep,” the detective persisted. “Yes, of course. I remember that I was waiting for Tasos to come home from the airport and as I’ve already said,” she continued, glancing sideways at Tasos, “I turned on the television. I definitely didn’t drink a glass of wine and I can’t remember my husband having come into the bedroom earlier and drinking a glass of wine—nothing, nothing like that,” Leda said with irritation, trying to put an end to the conversation. “Detective, you can’t be serious. Is it really that strange to find a glass with my fingerprints on it, in my own home? My fingerprints are all over the house. I mean really, what are you trying to get at?” Tasos said, smiling ironically before continuing. “Are you telling me that if you found a knife in my kitchen with my prints on it, you’ll say that I wanted to stab my wife? I mean come now!” “Wait a minute, wait a minute, Mr. Tzoras,” Dritsas said, in a bothered tone. “It’s Tzorvas please, not Tzoras,” Tasos corrected him, equally annoyed. “Right, Mr. Tzorvas,” he repeated. “Excuse me, Mr. Tzorvas, but what time did your flight arrive at Venizelos airport?” “My plane landed at twelve twenty in the morning.” “Therefore, by one thirty or quarter to two you should have arrived at home. Isn’t that right? Explain how it is that you didn’t arrive here until three in the morning, when the break in and theft occurred. Where were you during that hour and a half, especially given the time of night?” Tasos squirmed on the couch, he was still in pain and his frustration with the detective was evident. He looked over at Leda and she answered first. 289


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“Please just tell them the truth so that the police don’t get the wrong impression.” She said in a serious tone, annoyed with the direction that the interview had taken. Tasos looked at her, put his glass down on the coffee table and said: “Listen, I was parked outside in my car, a hundred meters away, just down Diamantidou Street, staking out my own apartment, because I had suspicions that my wife was cheating on me. I didn’t observe anyone entering the property because I was tired after my long trip and as soon as I got here I fell asleep on the wheel.” “You were parked here, outside?” the detective asked suspiciously. “Right across the street. I woke up and as I was waiting I saw a shadow crossing into the pine tree opposite our balcony. I started the car and found myself face to face with our intruder. Then the rest happened . . . That’s absolutely everything I know detective,” Tasos said curtly. “You have the suspect out there right now and instead of going after him, like I did, you’re here questioning me. That man almost killed me and you come in here wanting to know about a wine glass and a Bluetooth headset?” “And how did your headset end up in your bedroom, Mr. Tzora?” the detective asked suddenly, turning the conversation around. “My name is Tzorvas sir, Tzor-vas” Tasos said indignantly. The conversation appeared to end there because, leaning on Leda for support, he got up and left the room, heading for their bedroom. Before leaving completely, he turned back to the detective and said: “It may have been among the things in my briefcase that fell out of the car. The officers at the scene picked everything up and brought it home to my wife. There are many possible scenarios, but how do you expect me to know,

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especially in my present condition?” he said before vanishing down the hall.

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A woman’s jealousy is possessive, a man’s is egotistical. Ever since Tasos had been forced to admit that he had been secretly watching his wife outside their apartment, his ego was shattered. This became the cause of their latest arguments. “There’s no reason for you to do this. I’m yours but you have to believe that,” Leda told him, in an effort to manage the situation and make him feel secure. He, however, seemed to be put out by the fact that his wife had allowed suspicion to fall on him. “Can you please explain the story behind the headset and the wine glass?” Tasos demanded of his wife as soon as they were alone. “I have absolutely no idea . . . What more can I say? I heard it from the police for the first time. I have no idea what’s going on and it looks like you’re going to have to explain a few things. Fine, say you forgot about the wine glass and I didn’t notice it, but what about the headset? It seems completely unbelievable that it simply appeared . . .” “But didn’t you yourself say that you couldn’t remember whether or not you took a sleeping pill? How’d you come up with that one? You take a pill every night,” Tasos insisted. “I didn’t want to take one because I was going to stay up and wait for you to come home. What can I say . . . maybe I took one out of habit and I just don’t remember.” These kinds of conversations created a kind of coolness in their relationship. Leda, having nowhere else to turn, leaned on Billy who was Mr. Harmless. He wasn’t just a good listener; he also helped her fill in some details she had missed. 291


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“Leda, has it crossed your mind that this could all be your fault?” he asked her in his characteristic manner. “Billy, how could this possibly be my fault?” Leda asked, incredulous. “Look, you’ve made out a will that designates your husband as the sole beneficiary. You also have a life insurance policy from which your husband stands to receive a lot of money, should anything happen to you—knock on wood,” Billy said, rapping his hand on the chair’s wooden arm. “Come on now! First of all how the hell do you know all those things about me?” Leda asked, confused. “Me? Honey, it’s all over the newspapers,” he said, handing her a folder newspaper, pointing to the exact spot for her to read. “Your mummy granted interviews to all the journalists,” Billy told her teasingly. “My mother? What does my mother have to do with this?” Leda asked, grabbing the paper. “Just look. It leaked out that your husband was having financial trouble and the gossip mill started. Don’t you get it?” “Billy, what the hell are you implying?” Leda asked, thwacking the paper against the back of his chair, making him cry out in surprise. “Do you think that Tasos wants to kill me to get out of debt?” she asked angrily. “Look, that’s just what people are saying . . .” he said, dismayed. “How is this fault?” “He chased after the thief or the murderer or whatever the intruder was and ended up injured with a burnt car. How do you explain that if you think he’s my potential murderer?” asked Leda with intensity. “Come on honey . . . He could have put the burglar up to the whole thing. It seems like a set-up to me.”

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“And how do you explain the headset and the wine glass with the sleeping pill in it? Did he plan the set-up to incriminate himself?” “I don’t know. Don’t ask me difficult questions please, Leda my dear,” Billy said as he grabbed his drink and headed towards the kitchen.

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The following afternoon Leda picked up her mail from the box on the way up to her apartment. She flipped through the envelopes in the elevator. One stood out because it was addressed to her but there was no return address. She hastily tore it open. Inside she found a letter, written in a calligraphic script, but printed on a computer. She slipped her bag off her shoulder and sat down on the sofa to read the letter. To the woman of my dreams, I call you this, my dearest Leda, because I know that you’ll end up in my embrace one day. Sex means nothing without love, which is why you wouldn’t remember anything about me, because you have never fallen in love with me. I, however, only have to hear the sound of your voice for my mind to be filled with erotic fantasies about you. I’ve spent many nights, alone, thinking about all the moments we’ve already lost together. However, I and only I will be your last gem that will complete the tattoo on your throat which symbolizes the summation of your male conquests. I know your every secret, even about the bullet which you have tattooed on a concealed 293


Why part of your body, which you are saving for the man who violates your womanhood. Of course, you haven’t had to use it just yet. I even know why you haven’t: because it’s not worth it! It’s not worth wasting a bullet from the pistol your father left you—especially not for the man that you have chosen to stand by your side and who corrupts your exquisite body. It would have been better if his car had crushed him in the recent events while he was pretending to protect you from a thief. I’ll prove to you, yet again, that he is not worthy of your love and I am. I have in my possession a few pictures of your beloved husband in the arms of his assistant and mistress, Mary Hatziskou. She’s that friend of yours from London. It was you who helped her get a job at his office. Some of the photographs show them making love in a hotel, and others show them having a coffee together in a remote little coffee shop in the center of Athens and on the beach. Here’s a little glimpse into one of their romantic trysts (A photograph of two lovers in bed followed; their heads had been cropped out of the picture which also didn’t reveal any distinguishing features). You haven’t realized what is going on behind your back. Your husband isn’t bankrupt; he simply found a way to transfer his money into international accounts, in preparation for running off with his mistress after he succeeds in killing you and taking your money as well. I want to ask you to do me a favor which I know you’ll 294


Why later thank me for. Two days after receiving my letter I want you to consolidate your deposits into one bank account and then I will call you. I will explain what you need to do in order to receive the photographs of your husband in compromising positions with your friend, but first I need the six million Euros you have in your accounts to be at my disposal. I’ll explain how this will occur later . . . You will surely ask what is to become of you, the woman whom I so love, when you are left with no financial means. Nothing will happen! You will simply come to me and we will live together happily. I will be your last gem because you will finally recognize how much I care for you and how much I love you. You will receive a telephone call two days from now and I will explain the rest. Farewell my beloved, my adored, my precious Leda. P.S. I’m sorry that you happen to have such an attractive bank account as well.

This time, instead of a fingerprint, there was an outline of a precious gem, like the ones she had drawn around her neck. Leda had no idea whether the whole thing was a farce of whether it was real. She took a closer look at the photograph. The anatomy of the man in the picture resembled that of her husband but she wasn’t certain that it was him. She had no idea what to do. Should she talk to Tasos directly, contact the police, or seek help from the ever-willing Billy? The letter was the same 295


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as the earlier ones she had received except for the gem in place of the signature, as opposed to the fingerprint. That night she dug out the previous letters and showed them to Tasos. She said, “you know I think we should hand these over to the police in case they are in any way connected to the jewelry theft.” “Why?” Tasos asked surprised “What do these letters have to do with anything? Has something new come up that requires us to air our dirty laundry? It’s bad enough that we’re already the laughing stock because you want to be some big shot television personality and the newspapers are having a field day.” Leda didn’t mention anything of the new letter she had received or what it said and she avoided continuing the conversation. The next day she called detective Dritsas and requested a meeting. When the detective arrived she gave him the previous letters, but not the most recent one. Dritsas picked up the folder with the letters and asked her if she had reason to suspect anyone in particular from their acquaintances who might have some involvement in this, but Leda had nothing more to add. She seemed impatient and told the detective that she had something to attend to and needed to leave immediately. After the detective left Leda went straight to her bank. She transferred all her money into on single account. She liquidated all her assets and transferred them into the same account. The total sum of money amounted to nearly the six million Euros that the mystery writer of the letter had requested. She returned home and called Billy. He came right over as she had asked him to. She confided everything that had happened and told him that she was being blackmailed and was afraid for her life. She showed him the letter and he appeared to be overcome with fear. But there was no time for melodrama . . . Leda asked for his help when the time came to 296


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transfer the money in return for the photographs. She made him swear not to breathe a word of any of it to Tasos or the police. She told him that the police was already investigating the identity of the sender and she was waiting for their call. She went on to say that she desperately wanted to find out the blackmailer’s identity but if word of her husband’s affair with Mary ever got out, he would definitely kill her. Leda proceeded to open her closet and, using her lower drawers as a stepstool, reached up onto a high shelf and pulled down a cardboard box. She opened it up and took out her father’s revolver that she had hidden inside of the box. As soon as Billy saw it he let out a shriek of fright . . . “Oh my God!” he cried, running from the room. “Get back in here you fool,” Leda said. “You need to take this and protect me” She caught his arm in hers and pressed the weapon into his palm, closing his fingers around it. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We need to be patient until we receive the phone call and then I’ll know more. Just be quiet for the time being.” The telephone rang. Leda picked up and listened carefully for a few minutes to what the man on the other end was saying. Billy gestured at her frantically, wanting to know who it was. Leda hung up the phone and said: “Billy, that was the police. They told me that the fingerprints on the love letters belong to Tasos…” The day arrived when the mysterious admirer, who had written the love letters, was supposed to contact her. It was nine o’clock at night and still no word. Leda was at home with Billy, pacing the living room, glancing at the clock every few minutes. At around eleven Leda’s cell phone vibrated, alerting her to a text message. Leda looked at the screen, it said:

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“Drosopoulou square in Philothei. There is a kiosk with a phone, opposite the movie theater. I will call you on that line in half an hour. The man who runs the kiosk will hand you the phone.” Leda got her things together and shoved the pistol under Billy’s belt. She told him to have his cell phone on and follow her every move from a distance in his own car so that he could intervene if necessary. “Ok, Billy?” “Ok Leda, but I’m about ready to die here, it’s too much,” Billy said, making a move to leave. “Billy, pull yourself together. They’re going to kill me. Do you understand?” Leda said, as she grabbed his arms and shook him. They got into their cars and departed for Philothei. Leda pulled over in front of the kiosk, got out of her car and went over to the racks of foreign magazines. She dawdled on purpose, pretending to not know which one to buy, as she waited for the phone to ring. The time was exactly eleven thirty. She finally selected a magazine and paid for it. She was idly flipping through the pages when the phone finally rang. The kiosk owner asked her: “Are you Ms. Leda?” “Yes” Leda said, trying to act surprised “There’s someone asking for you on the phone,” he said, holding out the receiver. Leda snatched the phone and listened to what the electronically distorted voice on the other end was saying. “Hello, Leda. Listen carefully to the instructions that I’m going to give you. If you do as I say all your problems will be solved. You’re going to get in your car and drive to Rafina. When you get to the square, turn right, onto the road that leads to the camping area. The road ends at the beach called Marikes. As soon as you get there I want you to drive over the 298


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sand towards a house that is next to the sea on the other side of the beach. Before you reach the house you’ll see a little stone wall. A laptop will be waiting for you on top of the wall. You’ll enter your bank account number, your bank and the amount of six million Euros into the box on the screen. Then you will press “enter” and the money will be transferred to where I want it to go. I will immediately be able to see whether or not the transaction has been completed. After doing this I will call you at once to tell you where you can find the photographs. Goodbye, Leda.” Before Leda had time to say a word the line went dead. She handed the phone back to the kiosk owner and quickly got into her car. She called Billy and told him to go to Marikes beach in Rafina. She filled him in on a few more details and sped away in her little jeep.

* *

*

She found herself at the little beach at the end of the road in Rafina, just as the caller had described. It was past midnight and even though it was summertime, the beach was completely deserted. She drove her car through a narrow pass and started to bounce along the soft sand towards the other side of the beach. Her headlights illuminated a big old house, just like it had been described, built right next to the sea on a foundation of big boulders. “This is it,” she thought to herself and stopped the car. She saw the glowing screen of an open laptop to her left, sitting on a stone bench. She called Billy on her cell phone. She told him where she was and gave him directions to the other side of the beach. “Billy they’re going to kill me out here in the dark as soon as they get my money,” she said fearfully. “Billy, you’re all I have

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left . . .” she told him anxiously. She hung up the phone and got out of her car. She approached the laptop computer, looking all around her to make sure no one was there. The green screen had the words SOURCE ACCOUNT written across the top in big letters. Leda typed in her bank account number. Underneath was the word BANK. She filled in the space with ΝATIONAL BANK OF GREECE. The next line she had to fill out said AMOUNT. After hesitating for a moment she typed in 6.000.000 and after the word CURRENCY added EURO. A line across the middle of the screen separated the page. Underneath the line the screen was blue and the words DESTINATION ACCOUNT: * * * ** * * * * * * *appeared in big white letters. She desperately wanted to know what the account number was, if only she could just remember a few digits she might be able to trace her mysterious blackmailer’s identity, but in the place of the account number only fifteen asterisks appeared. She was standing undecidedly in front of the screen when her phone received a text message. She opened the text and saw the words “press enter.” Shaken, she let her cell phone fall into the sand and quickly hit the “enter” key, looking around nervously to see if anyone was there, watching her in the dark. When she glanced back to the screen the words TRANSFER PROCEDURE COMPLETE were flashing on the screen. She couldn’t take it anymore. She picked up the laptop and hurled it into the sea with a cry of desperation. At that moment her cell phone rang. She clawed through the sand to retrieve her phone. She found it and put it up to her ear. The distorted voice said, “thank you, I no longer needed it.”

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Leda interrupted him and angrily said, “I’m going to find you. Do you understand? I’ll find you even if it takes me ten years to hunt you down.” “That won’t be necessary. I will come to you as I said I would,” the monotone voice replied. “Where are the pictures you asshole? Where the hell are they?” Leda asked, exploding with rage. “Go to the port of Rafina and buy four sea breams off the fishing boat “Rofos.” When the girl gives you your change, she will also hand you an envelope containing the photographs of your husband. Leda leapt into her car and started driving. As soon as she was off the sand and onto paved road again, she called Billy as she was driving. “Where the hell are you?” Leda yelled. “Calm down, nothing happened. I’m right behind you,” Billy said. “Do you call my wiring six million Euros to a stranger nothing?” “Look, at least your alive,” he said. “Listen, Billy, get over to the fishing boat “Rofos” in the port of Rafina and buy four sea breams. That’s the signal. Pay for them and they’ll hand you an envelope with pictures inside. I’ll give you a call and meet you there.” Billy arrived at the Rafina harbor first. He pulled up in front of the “Rofos.” Leda arrived a few minutes later; she stopped her car on the outer side of the pier, near the sea, and watched the transaction from afar. She saw Billy being handed a bag of fish and an envelope along with his change. He turned around to step off the boat, back onto the sidewalk. At that moment, a man dressed in a black body suit wearing a ski mask over his face rushed at him out of thin air and tried to snatch the envelope away. Billy tumbled over onto the sidewalk, caught off 301


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guard by the surprise attack. The man in black crashed into the tables of the little seafood ouzo restaurant next to him and tumbled onto the ground in a heap. The envelope containing the photographs flew out of his hand, causing the pictures to scatter all over the sidewalk. Billy pulled out the gun and took aim. Then it slipped from his hand onto the sidewalk, triggering it; a shot was fired into the air. Everyone around them panicked and many people took cover or threw themselves flat onto the ground. The masked man scrambled to his feet and tried to amass the scattered photographs. That’s when Billy threw himself onto him and began to pummel him. He slipped out of Billy’s grasp and knocked him over the head with a chair causing him to fall to the ground, before bending down to pick up the rest of the pictures. In that moment, Leda placed the gun, which she had picked up off the sidewalk, against his temple and said, “don’t move or I’ll shoot.” He slowly got to his feet, looking at Leda through the eye opening in his ski mask, which covered the rest of his face. Leda flipped her hair away from her face and in one swift movement she grabbed the ski mask and pulled it off. What she saw left her speechless. “Tasos,” she roared, full of surprise, as she continued to point the gun at him. “Darling, I thought you’d gone out on a date and I followed you,” her husband stammered awkwardly. Some of the curious bystanders had picked up a few of the fallen photographs and had huddled together, examining them and laughing as they pointed to the couple engaged in the throes of passion. When Leda realized what was going on she snatched the remaining pictures out of Tasos’s hands and

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looked at them. Her face fell as she made a futile gesture of anguish. Two police cars screeched up behind them. The police officers jumped out, their weapons raised. They ordered Leda to lower her weapon. She let it drop to the ground and one of the officers slipped cuffs around her wrists, behind her back. They also arrested Tasos and Billy. As they were guiding Leda into the patrol car she finally found the courage to yell to her husband: “I want a divorce. Do you hear me? I want a divorce right away.”

* *

*

Continues in the pages of the book..

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