“YOU THINK I’M CRAZY? The canvas is falling apart, and the hull’s crying for caulking and paint. No fishing permit, so what does the patrol think about a boat like this? Eh? You’re making pleasure trips?” Peter snorted.
The man scowled, flicking his plastic worry beads. He gripped them in his fist. “They would also ask what kind of trip it is you make in her.”
“True.” Peter shrugged. “So it’s better no one tips them off.”
The man flung out his hands. “You would take the bread from the mouth of my poor mother?” He gestured past the wooden boats in the cove, toward the side of the cinderblock building where early morning light picked out faded letters: Kafenion Psari. Fish Café. A woman shrouded in the standard-issue black sat in front at the water’s edge, impassively beating an octopus carcass on the rocks.
The boat owner checked Peter out again, gave a big sigh. “Okay. For gold certificate dollars, eight hundred, bottoms.” His gaze flicked uneasily over the empty decks of the fishing caiques.
“Sold. If you find a new sail by noon, when I get back.”
He started to protest, then rubbed a hand over his greasy black curls, raised martyr’s eyes heavenward, and nodded.
Peter counted out some bills. “The rest later.”
The man bit his lip, examining the illegal tender. He stuck the bills hastily in his pocket. “My cousin Costas, he will have a sail.”
“No talking to Costas either.”
“Hush hush, okay.” He hurried down the beach, bills probably burning a hole in his pocket already. He could get twice the Athens bank value on the black market, but he looked nervous enough to keep quiet for a while.
Peter turned to run an eye over the splintered hulk he was shelling out a sizable chunk of his emergency stash for. Moored next to the caiques with their electric motors and bright coats of primary color, the old sailing dinghy looked even more of a derelict. Nothing much but an open hull and a mast. He’d gone over it, should get them to the mainland. He wasn’t thrilled with the shallow draft, but it was beamy for its length and the centerboard was weighted for a little more stability. At least, sailing, they’d be relatively sonar silent.
His lips pressed into a bitter line. What had they done with Nereid, on the opposite side of the island? What the hell was he doing here?
He climbed the slope of coarse sand into the glare of the rising sun, striding along the dirt track toward town. He’d left Ariadne sleeping in the room he’d decided to rent from an old couple. She’d looked about done in from the hike through the mountains, across Crete to the northwest coast. They’d been sleeping in caves and orchards so nobody would trace them, but he’d finally figured what the hell, there seemed to be some kind of celebration working up in town, people coming in on trucks and busses, and nobody was paying any attention to another poor goatherder and his wife.
He looked down at the baggy trousers and no-longer-shiny boots Demetrios had given him. As long as he didn’t talk much, which he hadn’t until the boat deal, he could pass.
Hopefully Demetrios was taking some heat off them, obeying the Tyrannos brother’s “invitation” and heading down the south coast to where he could get passage to the Cyclades. He’d be “leaking” the story along the way about Ariadne gone south to Africa.
Would anybody swallow it? Everything out of control. And Ariadne—half the time she wasn’t even there, like she crawled inside those crystals of hers and when she came out she was exhausted. And plastered over with Do Not Enter signs. She wasn’t talking about what was going to happen up north on Mount Parnassos, at Delphi—the navel, the center of the ancient world. If they made it there.
Etse k’etse. Way the world was going, his cozy little routine couldn’t have lasted much longer, anyway. Might as well go out with a bang as a whimper.
“Kyrie?” A tug on his sleeve.
A little girl was smiling shyly up at him, holding out an armful of wildflowers woven into circlets—like the daisy crowns Ginnie used to make when they were kids. Blinking, he registered the town outskirts sprouting up around him, people already hiking in from the countryside with lunch baskets, some of the young women wearing the flowered crowns. He’d asked Ariadne the night before if it was some kind of holiday, but she hadn’t known of one.
“Deca drachs.” The girl’s bright eyes were fixed on his.
He dug out some change and gave it to her, chose a circlet of delicate red poppies threaded with yellow blossoms. He hurried up a side road past shabby block houses, let himself in a side gate and around to the back, and tapped on the unpainted door.
Ariadne was dressed, eyes still glazed with sleep. She stepped back silently to let him into the tiny compartment walled off with thin pressboard from the old couple’s livingroom and almost filled by the sagging bed and a rickety nightstand with a cracked mirror, water pitcher, and washbowl.
“You got some sleep? Good. No more of those nightmares?”
She raised her hands and shoulders in a pastel take of a technicolor Demetrios gesture.
He cleared his throat, bringing the flower circlet up from behind his back. “Here. Happy May Day, or close enough.”
She smiled, reaching out for the poppies. Her hand checked, face clouding for a moment. Then she gently touched a crimson petal. “Efcharisto, Petro.”
“Here.” He laid it carefully on her head, arranging it over her coiled braids and inhaling her elusive scent, hints of wild herbs and the seashore. She sat still as stone under his hands.
As he turned away, he caught a glimpse of his reflected face in the dresser mirror, a sun-hardened, grim-looking stranger with the fringed Cretan headscarf and thickening dark beard. “A man with no family.” Hell, they wouldn’t even recognize him.
He said brusquely, “I found a boat. We better get going
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish