Authors: Siren from the Sea
HE WAS A LONE
figure, small but straight and dignified. In honor of Alice she was dressed in black; the only color about her was the beautiful auburn of her hair, a streak of sunset beneath the black of her hat and veil.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …
She wasn’t going to cry. She had promised herself that she wasn’t going to cry again. Alice certainly wouldn’t want her to do that.
But she felt so alone.
She had just lost her last living blood relation and the birds were still singing and the sun was actually shining …
She turned and walked away. Blindly, she almost stumbled. Someone caught her hand, and she turned to see the kindly eyes of Inspector Brice Holden.
“I’m fine,” she promised softly, but he insisted on seeing her back to her aunt’s flat, and promised again that he would do everything in his power.
But a month later, Brittany Martin still lingered in London, and nothing had been done. She kept calling back home, back to the beach, and asking that they extend her leave of absence. She’d worked for the state for a long time and she knew that she was one of the best lifeguards on the beach—but she was still pushing her luck. They wouldn’t hold her job forever. But she didn’t really care. She couldn’t leave, she couldn’t go home, she couldn’t pick up her life again. She had to wait, she had to know that the man would be brought to justice. For the hundredth time, she picked up the phone and called the inspector.
“Brittany?” Brice Hopkins answered her query.
“Yes, Brice. I want to know if you’ve got anything yet.”
A long sigh was her answer, then, “Brittany, you know that I would do anything in the world for you. And you know how very sorry I am. I cared for Alice deeply.”
“But you’ve got nothing.”
“Not quite.” Brice hesitated. “I’m pretty sure our man has flown, Brittany. We can’t touch him.”
Brittany frowned. “What do you mean—you can’t touch him?”
“Brittany—whoever this man is, he’s cleared out. British fugitives have a habit of disappearing. Usually to the Costa del Sol.” He hesitated. “One of your aunt’s necklaces appeared in a shop there. Pawned. So we’re certain our man has several fences down there, we’re equally certain that he’s living in a decent style down there. We’ve been watching the activities of several men. Men with established residences there, too. Who come in, strike, flee quickly. You see, we have no extradition agreement with Spain.”
Brittany felt a chill settle over her.
“You mean he may get off scot-free?” she inquired incredulously.
“I’m afraid so.”
Brice kept talking, then he hung up. Brittany must have given him some kind of reply, she couldn’t remember.
She spent the night tossing and turning, and in the morning she went into the police station. Brice’s assistant was a very young man who was easily charmed, and Brittany talked to him for a long time, hoping to glean some information that Brice might be holding from her.
When she was about to give up, the young man was suddenly called out of the room, and while he was gone, another officer came in. He smiled, she smiled. He dropped the papers he was carrying and Brittany quickly bent to help him collect the sheets.
The papers were listings. Listings of British nationals who had come in from the Costa del Sol on the same date that her aunt had died. Men who had departed swiftly, immediately after.
The second was a listing of British nationals living in Costa del Sol whose incomes were questionable. Men who might be having financial trouble. Men who simply didn’t explain on paper exactly where they procured all their money …
The officer left the papers on the desk and Brittany studied them thoroughly after he’d gone. She memorized the names that appeared on both lists then she fled. As soon as she returned to the flat, she wrote the names down.
And she started wondering about how to go to Spain. As a regular, economy-class tourist? Oh, never! The thought was so ludicrous that she laughed out loud. She would never be given the time of day. These men were the jet set. They moved in society circles, they reeked of money and of all the things that money could buy.
She sat back in the overstuffed armchair beside the hearth and sipped her tea, staring idly at the newspaper she had dropped.
And then she wasn’t staring so idly, because the paper seemed to be mocking her thoughts in black and white print.
… Costa del Sol …
Brittany grabbed the paper. It was an article on a man named Colby. Flynn Colby.
She scanned the picture first. The man had been caught by the photographer while deplaning from a small twin-engine jet. He was a striking individual: dark-haired, tall and straight—handsome features severe with annoyance at the interruption. But if he smiled … if that rugged sense of steely determination about his features was gone, he could be charming.
And someone very charming had conned Aunt Alice. Out of her life’s savings, her jewelry—even her silver. Perhaps twenty thousand pounds in all. Not a vast fortune—but a life’s savings for Alice. Put enough of those life’s savings together, and it did become a vast fortune.
Money didn’t matter; silver didn’t matter. Jewels didn’t matter; they were just things.
Alice was no longer alive. No longer smiling, laughing, baking wonderful things, spouting off against the Prime Minister or demanding to know from Brittany just what the American president was up to. She was no longer keen and bright and beautiful. No longer—here.
Brittany warned herself fiercely. It could still make her cry. It was much, much better to be furious. Furious, and determined that something must be done.
Flynn Colby was wealthy. He wouldn’t need to steal money from elderly ladies.
All the suspects were wealthy! she reminded herself. Horribly, disgustingly wealthy. And one of them was staying wealthy by stealing from elderly ladies.
Flynn Colby. She had seen the name before, even before today. She had seen write-ups on him before. Once, when he had been dating a Swedish film star. Once when he had won the cup in a yacht race outside of New York City. He was rich; he moved around the world like the wind …
She quickly began to read this article. It didn’t say much. Just that Flynn Colby had been in London for “business purposes” and was intending to spend the summer at his home in Spain.
At Costa del Sol.
And it mentioned his passion for yachting.
Brittany continued looking through the paper. On the society page she learned that an Ian Drury of London had also been in town for a gala event; he had just returned to his summer home at Costa del Sol.
And on the business page, she discovered that a Joshua Jones, of Hampstead Court, was opening a new office for his import firm—
At Costa del Sol.
Three names. Three names that had been on the lists in the police station.
She closed her eyes. It was insane. The only way to reach these people would be to arrive as jet setter as they were themselves, and she couldn’t do that. She hadn’t the money and she didn’t know a thing about what the “filthy rich” really did. She could never feign money or wealth; it was impossible.
It would be absurd and dangerous.
Go home, Brice had told her over and over again. Go home, and forget. But how could she forget such a thing? If the police could do nothing, someone had to.
The paper was on the floor. She stared at the back with tears fogging her eyes again and then she paused, because again
Costa del Sol
jumped out at her.
She grabbed the paper and began to read the article. “Modern-day Pirate Plagues the Coast of Southern Spain; Sea-robbers Harass Costa del Sol.”
It was a warning to British citizens who might be planning a trip to Spain’s playground. It was brief, and Brittany wasn’t sure why she read it, reread it, and reread it again. And somewhere within it all, her plan was born. A frightening plan, a foolhardy plan—but the only one she could come up with. She told herself that it was ridiculous and dangerous, but then again, she knew that she could take to the sea, that she could swim like a fish … That she could feign anything in the water.
She shivered and tossed and turned all night and in the morning she was still shivering.
“You can’t do it!” she wearily told her mirror image.
“You have to try,” it pleaded in return. “It’s a God-given opportunity. It will be easy. It will explain why you haven’t any money, it will bring you close to one of them. It can cast you into their social sphere. It’s the only way.”
“It’s insane. I can’t pretend to be rich.”
“You have to try …”
“You haven’t the charm to con a man like that. Like Flynn Colby. He’ll see through you in the first second. You are no debutante, Brittany Martin!” She continued to argue with herself.
“You can fake it. You have to fake it! He is the one! The one with the passion for yachting. And he’s young, and surely, you do know how to flirt!”
It was a wild, absurd scheme. It was the only one that she had! Alice was dead. Brittany didn’t want revenge; she wanted justice. She could not forget.
Insane or not, she had to play her dangerous game. She had lost her last relative in the entire world to a careless swindler and no one would help her …
“You can’t …” her common sense argued.
“You have to …” her heart answered.
And she knew that she would. There was simply no other way.
E PAUSED IN HIS
labors with the rigging and stared southeasterly, smiling, feet apart, and hands upon his hips. He was a young man, but one who had lived all his years fully, and betrayed that character in the set of his jaw, and in the faint web of lines about his eyes that appeared when he laughed. His eyes, scanning the water, were the type that gave away nothing; and yet there was a shrewdness, an astuteness, about them that might warn the observant that he saw everything. Behind those eyes was a mind that worked ceaselessly; bright, as sharp as a whip, and as finely honed as a seaman’s body, accustomed to action. His face was an interesting one, riveting, nicely featured—but his attraction was not so much in his looks, but rather in his movement, or even the lack thereof. Even in repose, he seemed exceptionally alive; energy spun about him like the heat waves spun from the sun.
At the moment, though, he wasn’t thinking about action—of any kind. There had just been something about the view that had called him; nature held him there in a bit of awe. He had been called by her tune as any man might, and he felt a touch of magic in the view.
It was a beautiful day: warm and balmy, but touched by breezes. The ocean was at its shimmering best. To the south and the east, deeper waters were gleaming indigo against the clear horizon; here, the indigo paled to turquoise and green-glittering, dancing, filling the senses with the varying mood of the sea. Salt clean and fresh, fantastic beneath the sun. The sun—yes, today was one of those occasions that gave credence to the land mass behind them. Costa del Sol; coast of the sun. Today belonged to the sea, and to the golden orb of the fiery sun. To Neptune, and to all the various gods of the seas.
“Flynn! What are you doing?”
He turned about with a dry grimace. “I’m not real sure. Daydreaming, I think. Fantasizing.”
Juan Perez—his best friend and first mate aboard the
—shook his head and swore lightly in his native Castilian Spanish. “Fantasizing,
? Most men would say that you live a fantasy. You don’t need to fantasize, especially when you are supposed to be pulling in the mainsail.”