John Phillips sat back in his armchair, sighed deeply and took a sip of whisky. As the warm peaty liquid slid down his throat, he became oblivious to the tiresome shouting of the other person in the room.
John cared little what other people thought of him. He wasn’t a popular man and was used to having abuse hurled at him. However, his business was successful and he had a healthy bank account, so what did it matter at the end of the day?
Putting down his glass, John picked up a cigar. He ran it appreciatively under his nose, savoring the bouquet and smiling with satisfaction, then took out his lighter. He wished his visitor would leave so he could enjoy his whisky and cigar in peace.
Although just fifty-two, John was already starting to show signs of good living. His stomach overhung his belt and he often seemed out of breath. His doctor had diagnosed both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but unfortunately John was reluctant to take any steps to lower either. However, he was tall, his eyes were a clear deep blue and his dark brown wavy hair had not a hint of gray. If only he didn’t drink so much or overeat, he could still be thought of as a handsome man.
It had been a good day for John. He was an estate agent on the island of Crete, Greece, and he also organized the building of new properties. Despite the current recession, today he had succeeded in selling two houses.
However, he had unfortunately fallen behind schedule on completing a new home for one of his clients, Eve Masters. She was arriving from England the following day, so he thought it best to keep a low profile. She was definitely a tough cookie and he could only imagine her reaction on discovering that her dream property was in less than perfect move-in condition. To top it all, his unwanted guest would just not shut up.
Finally, John decided that he’d had enough of the tirade, so he turned round to say something to his visitor. However, as he looked up, he saw something decidedly unexpected - his ornamental miniature statue of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, bearing down towards him.
John tried to both move and shout at the same time, but everything happened so quickly that his glass went flying and his cigar fell to the floor just before Aphrodite connected heavily and sickeningly with his head. The last thing John Phillips saw was the furious expression on his visitor’s face turn into a broad smile.
The hot air enveloped Eve as she got off the plane. It was early August in what was turning out to be a particularly hot summer in Greece. Some of the passengers were fanning themselves with their passports and complaining, but Eve was smiling. She thought of the rain she had left behind in England, and how everyone back home would be jealous.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Eve said to a man standing next to her. “I can’t wait to get on the beach.”
“Seems a bit too hot for me,” he replied, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.
Eve turned away, not wanting to let anyone spoil the first day of her life on Crete. What did the man expect? Rain in Greece in August?
Half an hour later, Eve was in a cab, driving towards her new home. She had come in February to search for property and had chosen a house that was one of John Phillips’ new projects. It had just been a shell at the time, but it was perfectly situated at the edge of a village within walking distance of a couple of shops and tavernas. It had beautiful views of both the sea and the White Mountains, and Eve was excited to see the finished product.
This was a new beginning and she couldn’t wait to see what the future held, but although she knew that Crete was the largest of the Greek islands, she hadn’t given enough thought to the fact that there might not be enough to occupy her. She was used to the hectic atmosphere of London and she loved the pace of life there. Would she be happy without the theatres, art galleries and up market restaurants that she used to visit regularly? .
The cab suddenly overtook on a blind bend and Eve sat up abruptly.
“Hey there, be careful,” she shouted at the driver.
He just grunted.
“Probably doesn’t understand a word of English,” Eve said quietly to herself. “You’d think they’d make the effort.”
She didn’t acknowledge the fact that she hadn’t bothered to pick up more than a few words of Greek and had little intention of learning the language.
Eve settled back in her seat and closed her eyes, thinking it was probably safer if she didn’t see what was going on.
Eve Masters was forty-three years old and had decided to move to Crete, the most southerly of the Greek islands. She had enough money to give up her job, having been a successful showbiz agent in London. Eve was an attractive and petite woman, with blonde hair and green eyes. Her body was perfectly toned and she always wore smart and expensive clothes. However, her outward appearance concealed a slightly overbearing personality. She could be bossy, finding it easy to alienate people, and although she thought she was popular, most of the people in her social circle were just business colleagues. Eve had never been married, and while men were initially attracted to her, they were often put off by her aggressiveness. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize it was her fault and went into each relationship with the same attitude. However, Eve did have a soft side and if she were given the chance, it would surface. A difficult childhood with parents who cared more about their careers than her had made her wary of other people, but she desperately wanted to be liked. She just didn’t know the right way to go about it.
The cab screeched to a halt and Eve looked out of the window. The wall looked half-finished and the yard was a mess. The cab driver got her luggage out of the boot and didn’t seem at all happy when she didn’t give him a tip.
“Well, what does he expect, driving like that?” she muttered.
Eve opened the front door.
“At least the electricity works and the furniture is in,” she said out loud, “but I’m not happy about the state of the yard, not happy at all.”
Eve returned to the front door for her luggage and then went to unpack. Most of her things were coming with a removal firm, but she had brought her personal essentials. She had also asked for some basic furniture to be put in the house to tide her over until her own arrived. She decided that a good soak in the bath would help calm her down before confronting John.
I don’t believe it she thought, when she entered the bathroom. They’ve not finished tiling. I’m going to have a lot to say to that John Phillips tonight. I can’t abide shoddy workmanship. He’s got another think coming if he imagines that he can take me for a ride.
At least the solar panel was working and Eve could relax in a warm bath. Closing her eyes, she suddenly felt homesick.
* * * *
An hour later Eve walked into the local bar, The Black Cat, feeling refreshed, all thoughts of England having faded away. It was still warm and she had put on a tight fitting sleeveless turquoise dress, being both slim and fit enough for it to look stunning. Eve had gone to the gym regularly in the U.K., realizing that now she was in her forties, nature would take over if she didn’t do something about it. She was pleased she’d gone to a tanning salon a few times before coming to Crete. Eve knew she looked good with some color, and although she occasionally thought about skin cancer and vowed to keep out of both the sun and the salons, the resolution never lasted long. She hated being pale, and looking around The Black Cat, it seemed as if the majority of people had also put the adverse effects of the sun to the back of their minds.
The bar was about ten minutes’ walk from Eve’s new home and was in the next village right next to the sea. It was the regular haunt of the British ex-pats and was run by Ken and Jan Stewart, a couple in their mid-thirties who had moved from their native London four years previously. Ken was short and chubby, with blonde spiky hair, while Jan was lanky and towered several inches above him. They had been married for six years, and despite the light hearted banter they exchanged while working, they seemed to still be very much in love.
Eve couldn’t spot John Phillips anywhere and thought he was probably avoiding her, knowing that she was arriving on Crete today. She then saw Laura James, her holiday rep from the year before, sitting with her Greek boyfriend, Yiannis Neonaki.
Laura was in her mid-twenties and was small and pretty, with fair hair and big blue eyes. Eve noticed that Laura seemed quiet and sad, while Yiannis was ignoring her and having a loud conversation with people at the opposite end of the bar. Eve wondered if she should have a word with Laura about her house. After all, when she had professed an interest in buying property, Laura had recommended John, but as she approached her, Eve thought she saw Laura wipe away a tear. Eve felt uneasy. Laura had changed since she had first met her and Eve felt sure that this was due to Yiannis. Eve didn’t like him. He was loud and didn’t seem to respect women. The previous summer Laura had been a happy and fun loving girl, but she had started going out with Yiannis during the winter, and when Eve had visited Crete in February, she had already noticed a difference in her. Laura had been miserable, and once or twice Eve had seen her crying. Eve had a bad feeling about her relationship with Yiannis and decided she would talk to Laura on her own when the opportunity arose. Eve thought of herself as an intuitive person, always having had the ability to recognize star quality in her clients back in England.
Eve’s thoughts were interrupted when she spotted Annie Davies chatting to David Baker. She felt her heart rate quicken and immediately forgot about both her house and Laura.
Eve had initially met both Annie and David in February. Annie had moved to Crete with her husband, Pete, two years previously. He had been a police officer and she a teacher in England. They were both in their mid-fifties and Eve found them a very likeable couple, although she felt Annie could make more of an effort with her appearance. Annie was tall and slim, but she didn’t bother much with make-up or with styling her hair.
Eve remembered the first time she had met David. She had been sitting in the bar wondering if her days really could revolve around village life. However, just as she had been about to get up to return to her hotel, David had walked into the bar. He was stunningly handsome, being at least six feet tall, with jet-black hair and piercing blue eyes.
“Who’s that?” Eve had asked Annie, suddenly coming back to life.
“That’s David Baker,” Annie had replied, smiling. “He’s an actor, although he doesn’t work much now. Occasionally he goes back to England for small TV parts, but recently he’s been concentrating on writing a novel.”
“Is he married?” Eve had asked Annie.
Smiling again, Annie had thought that Eve wouldn’t hesitate going after anything or anyone she wanted.
“Divorced,” Annie had replied. “I don’t think the marriage ended well. His wife had an affair and he was terribly hurt. I think it’s made him wary of women.”
Although nothing had happened between Eve and David in February, she had thought of him many times in the past six months. She was delighted that he was in the bar on her first night back on Crete.
“How wonderful to see you again, David,” Eve gushed, kissing him on the cheek and sitting in the chair next to him.
Annie grinned, thinking how little Eve had changed.
“It really is good to be back. I’ve missed you all,” Eve said, staring directly at David.
David was starting to feel uncomfortable, finding it impossible to think clearly when Eve was around. She had gone through his mind many times in the past few months, but his feelings had always been mixed. Sometimes he thought of how brusque and bossy she could be, but then he thought of those cat-like eyes of hers and the smile that brightened her face. He had imagined taking long walks with her along the beach and kissing her under the stars. The stars were spectacular on Crete because there was hardly any light pollution, and after a hard day writing, David would often sit alone on his balcony, gazing at the sky. Recently, realizing that Eve would soon be returning to Crete, she had crept into his mind more often. However, he told himself he didn’t need any distractions. He had been getting on well with his novel and it was almost finished.
Suddenly, the door burst open and Betty Jones rushed into the bar, looking distressed. Everybody turned to look at her and David was relieved that Eve’s attention was taken away from him.
Eve groaned when she saw Betty. The two women had taken an instant dislike to each other when they had first met in February. Betty and her husband, Don, were both in their sixties and had lived on Crete for many years. Betty had formed her own clique of friends who met in The Black Cat for a drink, and Eve had heard that she liked to take charge of the British community in the village. Eve had decided from the beginning that Betty was manipulative and bossy.
“Here, come and sit down,” Annie said. “What’s happened? You look terrible.”
“You haven’t heard then? John Phillips has been murdered.”
“What?” Annie exclaimed. “I don’t believe it. I only saw him yesterday.”
“One of his builders went to his house this morning and found him dead,” Betty continued, trembling. “He’d been hit on the head and the house ransacked. His moneybox had been forced open and the police seem to have decided that it was a robbery gone wrong. From what I’ve heard, they’re not taking that much interest. As you know, a few houses have been broken into lately and they haven’t arrested anyone.”
“Typical,” Eve grumbled. “I bet if it was a Greek that had been murdered, they’d be on the job straight away.”
David sighed, wondering why Eve had moved to Greece. She didn’t seem to have a high opinion of the people, nor of their way of life.
“I’ll get you a drink, Betty,” he said. “G and T?”
“Thank you. Make it a large one.”
David grinned, knowing that all Greek measures were large. Sometimes you could get more gin than tonic!
“I don’t suppose I’ll get my wall and yard finished then?” Eve sighed.
Annie was shocked at how selfish Eve could seem in such circumstances, but she acknowledged that many other people would also now be worried about their homes being completed.
“There’ll be lots of people with unfinished houses,” Betty broke in.
“Really?” Eve said, becoming intrigued.
“Even Don and I had problems with John. I don’t know why we didn’t keep the first house we bought here, I really don’t. Instead we were stupid enough to have a house built through John’s property business,” Betty continued. “He kept charging us more than he quoted to complete the house, and if we didn’t pay up, work stopped. There are still things waiting to be done. And you, Annie, your patio still isn’t finished, is it?”
“No, but I’m sure it was on his list.”
Eve remembered Annie making excuses for John back in February.
“You’re too nice, Annie,” Betty went on. “You need to toughen up a bit or people will walk all over you.”
Annie didn’t bother to reply, knowing that once Betty started ranting, she stopped listening to anyone else.
“Mind you, what with all the problems John’s caused, there won’t be many tears shed over his death, I can tell you,” Betty said, getting even more worked up.
Ironically, Eve was starting to feel alive. She had been having decidedly mixed feelings about moving to Crete. While the possibility of getting to know David excited her, she had begun to worry that village life might be too dull, but at the moment it was nothing of the sort.
“You know that John made a pass at Laura a few days ago,” Betty dropped her voice, hoping that Laura and Yiannis wouldn’t hear her. “She turned him down flat, but as you can imagine, Yiannis wasn’t too happy about it, and there was almost a fight in here. And then John owed Ken quite a lot of money. He kept putting off paying his tab, making all sorts of excuses. No, there won’t be many people sorry he’s gone.”
“My goodness,” Eve said. “If we were in an Agatha Christie novel, there’d be a long list of suspects.”
“Yes, and you would be one of them,” Betty quipped before the seriousness of the situation overcame her and, breaking into sudden sobs, she rushed off towards the Ladies.
“Oh dear, I’d better go and see if she’s okay,” Annie said. “I don’t know what brought on the tears. She’s probably worried about getting her house finished.”
“I was still in England last night, so how could I have killed him?” Eve demanded crossly, turning to David.
She paused for a moment, thinking, and then smiled broadly, a brilliant idea suddenly coming to her. She took David’s arm and stared excitedly into his eyes.
“Well, this is all very interesting, isn’t it?” she whispered. “I’m sure there’s more to this than the police think. How do you fancy a bit of amateur sleuthing?”
“I think that might be a bit risky, don’t you? I’m pretty sure it was only burglars, but if it wasn’t, then we could end up in trouble. I’d hate for you to get hurt.”
Eve thought David must care about her to be worried for her safety, but she didn’t think of thanking him and hurried on, carried away with her idea.
“Oh come on, David, I can tell that you do enjoy a bit of adventure. After all, there’s not much else to do here, is there?”
As Eve turned to talk to Pete, David shook his head. He still couldn’t fathom why Eve had come to live on Crete. She seemed bored already, and he couldn’t understand why she had stopped working at such a young age, thinking that although she didn’t seem to have money problems, she did need excitement. Crete was ideal for people who wanted a quiet existence, but this wouldn’t suit Eve. She was a passionate and complicated woman who needed to live a full life. He also wasn’t sure if she would be able to embrace the Greek way of life. It was very different to English customs, and David didn’t think she had the patience to try and understand it. However, he was fascinated by Eve’s beauty and energy, but unfortunately she was taking his mind off work and he wished he could stop thinking about her.
“What do you reckon, David?” a voice echoed in his ear.
“Sorry, I was just thinking about John,” David lied.
He knew Eve wouldn’t like it if she knew he hadn’t been giving her his undivided attention.
“We’re going to Annie and Pete’s for a drink and a chat. It’ll be quieter there.”
“Sorry, I can’t. I have to go home and get on with my writing. Only a few more chapters of my novel to go.”
With that remark, David got up and left, feeling out of his depth with both the murder and with Eve’s arrival. Whenever things got too much for him, he just wanted to be alone.
Eve was stunned by David’s abrupt departure. How rude he was, going home without even saying goodbye! She had been expecting him to be delighted to see her after so long, and she was more disappointed than she liked to admit by his apparent coolness. Perhaps he wasn’t worth bothering about after all. Well, she wasn’t the type of woman to chase after a man, and if David wanted her, he would have to come and find her!