Authors: Leena Lehtolainen
ALSO AVAILABLE BY LEENA LEHTOLAINEN
In The Bodyguard Series
In The Maria Kallio Series
My First Murder
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2011 Leena Lehtolainen
Translation copyright © 2015 Jenni Salmi
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Previously published as
by Tammi Publishers in Finland in 2011. Translated from Finnish by Jenni Salmi. First published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2015.
Published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonCrossing are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Laura Klynstra
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014922270
There are no lynx in Tuscany. If you’re lucky, you might encounter a wildcat in the southern hills. As I drove southwest from Florence in my gray rental car, the only animals I saw were swallows and pigeons, whose cooing I could hear while navigating the narrow roads.
I could see Montemassi from afar, perched on a hill a thousand feet above sea level. The fortress was awe inspiring, just like in Simone Martini’s fresco where Guidoriccio rides into town. The narrow northern tower was long gone, and the roof and walls in the center of the fortress had collapsed. I shifted to a lower gear when the road leading up to the fortress village became steeper. This was my first time in Italy, but when I lived in New York, I went to Little Italy often enough to learn some everyday vocabulary that I was now trying to recall. My Italian classmate at the Queens security academy also made sure I knew the essential curse words.
It had been almost six months since I’d last seen David. He’d sailed in on his boat from Spain to meet me in Kiel. Chief Constable Teppo Laitio from the National Bureau of Investigation, a couple of Finnish politicians and trusted colleagues at Europol, and I were the only ones who knew that he had survived the explosion in the Baltic Sea. Nonetheless, someone leaked the information, and David had to abandon his former hideout near Seville.
David had no idea who was after him, but it was clear to both of us that we were being followed. We had become accustomed to observing people, looking through their masks, noticing objects in places where there should be none. This time, whoever was tracking David had made it clear he was being hunted: the paths outside David’s hut were covered in new tracks each morning, and once, when we were out for a walk, the kitchen window had been smashed in. He also received odd phone calls despite changing his phone number frequently. Someone was trying to scare David and force him to make a move.
When David asked me to go back to Finland, we had a huge fight. I needed to visit Finland to take care of some personal business, but I had expected to just drop in and then return to Spain. I had run out of money, so I was planning on selling some of my belongings. I had quit my former job as a security screener at the airport without giving any notice, which foiled my chances of receiving unemployment benefits. I hadn’t made any attempts to find another job and instead spent several months being a beach bum in southern Spain. When I returned to Finland, they gave me my old job back; they always needed security screeners.
The week we spent in Kiel was just a short getaway, which made me miss David even more. I hated that my moods were so dependent on hearing from him. He only contacted me sporadically, his e-mail addresses and phone numbers changed often, and sometimes I didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time. My brain told me to forget about him, but my heart didn’t want to let go just yet.
David had been traveling with a Swedish passport and a new Swedish-Italian identity: Daniel Lanotte. I loved the last name but feared that his chosen first name was too revealing. After all, he’d used his real middle name. David wasn’t worried though; he figured there were plenty of Daniels in the world, and at the moment, it was associated with Swedish royalty, if anything. It looked like David had finally found a better hideout, and he felt it was safe enough for me to visit him in southern Tuscany, which drew a variety of foreigners, so a lonely Swede like him didn’t stand out too much.
I knew David had made a bold move when he’d gone to see his family in Tartu, Estonia, and I later received text messages from all over Europe: Poland, France, southern Germany. He’d tried to shake his stalker off his tracks and seemed to think he had been successful. He never told me the identity of his enemy; the less I knew, the safer I’d be, he’d said.
David had found Montemassi by sheer coincidence. I don’t know where he met Brother Gianni, a monk living in the nearby Abbey of Sant’Antimo, but he’d helped David find a place in the village, right next to the fortress. All four apartments in the building were empty; they’d been listed for a while because the recession in Tuscany had hit the real estate market hard. Brother Gianni knew a real estate agent and had convinced him to rent an apartment to David.
“The abbey is not safe for me,” David had said. “Too many people visit the place, and it just seems like an obvious hideout. Instead, I’ll be a half Swede who has suddenly struck it rich with stocks and escaped the hideous winter sleet of Sweden to Italy, where he can fulfill his dream of becoming a writer.”
Although David had warned me that he didn’t look the same as when I’d last seen him in Kiel, I still had a hard time recognizing the man leaning on a stone wall in the central square of Montemassi. During his recovery from the explosion, he had lost some of his muscle mass, and his new stooped posture seemed to add years to his age. He wore sunglasses. His thick, curly black hair was the same wig I’d seen him wear in the lobby of Hotel Torni in Finland. His thin mustache and ridiculous goatee were also pitch-black. His dark-blue sweater and gray jeans were baggy on him, and I was surprised that the back of his hands were covered in black hair. But it seemed that this thin, tall stranger was indeed David.
I parked my car at the edge of the square and got out to stretch. I had let my hair grow enough to tie it in two short pigtails, but otherwise I looked the same as ever. I looked like an impostor in my flowery dress, but it was fitting for a tourist visiting Tuscany in the spring with hopes that the late March sun would be warm enough. I pretended to be curious about an ugly modern bronze statue that looked out of place, and then I moved over to study the tourist information.
I had used my own passport to get into the country, as I didn’t see any reason to use forged papers. I was a security professional working outside of official organizations, currently employed by Airpro Inc. Before that I had worked as a private bodyguard, but I gave up that line of work when one of my employers was murdered right after I quit and the other was kidnapped despite the measures I had taken to prevent it. I was happy with my job’s easy shifts, and the greatest danger was pompous travelers throwing a temper tantrum. If I was in need of danger, I could always rely on David.
,” I heard a familiar voice say in Italian.
I asked if he knew any English, and when he said yes, we switched languages. We had agreed beforehand to pretend not to know each other; we were just two people who were immediately attracted to each other. A Finnish tourist would lure a local man into showing her the fortress, and it would end like a romance novel or a B movie: love at first sight under the blue Tuscan sky. If the people who were after David had looked into my background at all, they’d know that I wasn’t too particular about my companions; if I wanted to have sex with someone, I did. Sometimes even when I didn’t really feel like it.
We both knew that if I was followed as a way to get to David, even the best of disguises wouldn’t take us very far. Still, I’d chosen to take that chance. I couldn’t resist David, and I would have followed him on a much more treacherous road than the one to a Tuscan fortress town.
David wore new cologne, but I could smell him through it. He asked where I had come from, and I answered like any tourist would. We began the climb toward the fortress and walked past a black cat sleeping on a stoop in front of a blue door. A tractor buzzed in a faraway field. It was early evening, and the village was empty.
The Montemassi fortress had only two towers left. The ruins between them that used to have rooms were overgrown with flowers; a tree about my height, resembling a mallow; strange-looking clovers; poppies; a mintlike plant whose dark-purple flowers Uncle Jari would have enjoyed. Although he never deemed it an appropriate pastime for a grown man, he had been a plant enthusiast, and I had learned plant names and classifications through osmosis. Any information that could save a life would come in handy, and when kids in grade school tried to make me eat mezereon berries, I knew they were poisonous. I didn’t squeal on them; instead, I carried the berries in my pocket for a while, wrapped up and ready to be mixed into the bullies’ lingonberry pudding at lunch.
The fortress opened up with views in all directions, and I saw the rolling hills in the south, widening toward the sea. The only movement down in the village was a mangy dog, carrying a piece of unrecognizable meat.
It was strange to speak English with David, but it was for the best. Our mutual language had usually been Swedish, and only after David disappeared had I learned about his Finnish skills—one of the many things he had hidden from me, despite all we had been through. He had learned Spanish effortlessly and seemed to be at home with Italian as well. Maybe language skills were a replacement for life insurance for David in a world ready to ambush him at any moment.
We pretended to get to know each other. I talked about myself as truthfully as I could: I lived in Helsinki, rented a room from Mrs. Voutilainen, and worked at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as a security screener. I had never married, I had no children, and I had no pets. David on the other hand was creating his character as we talked. He claimed to be the son of an Italian father and a Swedish-Finnish mother, and to have spent most of his life in Sweden, where he came into some money and then moved to Tuscany to live his dream of becoming a novelist.
“Quite a cliché, huh? As if writing is somehow easier here than in Sollentuna or Småland. But the scenery here is something else, isn’t it? Would you like to see the view from my writing room? I could make you an espresso.”
It was a classic pickup scene: an Italian man hitting on a tourist—and I said yes. David’s place was only sixty feet below the fortress, and the view from there was gorgeous. The vantage point was also handy for keeping an eye on the traffic from the south and the east.
Once we got inside, David asked if I knew any Swedish. When I said yes, he switched languages.
“We should be safe here. I’ve checked this place daily, and so far I haven’t found any cameras or bugs. Still, speaking Swedish is less risky than speaking English—only a fraction of English-speaking people would know Swedish. I’ve never heard anyone speak it here—only once in Roccastrada, and I quickly moved to the other side of the street. Once I saw a tourist group from Skåne in Sant’Antimo, but they all seemed harmless. Retirees.”
“You of all people should know there’s no such thing as a harmless group of people,” I told him. “A group of retirees would be the perfect smoke screen for an enemy to hide in. And why are you afraid of other Swedes? Do you think a Swede is after you?”
David took a step closer. We had not yet touched. In Kiel we’d hardly made it inside the sailboat before we were pulling each other’s clothes off. This time there was an invisible wall between us that we couldn’t climb over.
“I don’t know who my threat is,” David said. “That’s why I can’t tell you anything. Maybe it’s one of the lucky ones who have inherited Vasiliev’s place in the hierarchy, and he’s upset about the SR-90 isotope being in the wrong hands. Or maybe it’s Ivan Gezolian, who delivered the isotope to Vasiliev. Maybe they’re actually after the isotope, not me.”
David had never told me what happened to the isotope. When I’d learned the previous winter that he was still alive, nothing else seemed important. Only after returning from Spain had I started thinking about all the secrets David was keeping from me. The past year hadn’t been enough time to find everything out.
“You have to trust me,” he said. “Let’s not ruin this time we have together by worrying over nothing. So far I’m safe here, and so are you.” David pulled me into his arms, and I let myself go, shutting off my brain and any sense of self-preservation, as none of it mattered then. His goatee tickled my skin, and the rough black hair was unfamiliar under my fingers, but the way David touched me was the same as ever: his kisses demanding, the heat from his now wiry body inviting.
These were the carefree days in late March. Fruit trees were in bloom, leaves grew rapidly. The sun was occasionally so warm that we could walk outside in short-sleeved shirts, although the Monte Amiata peaks still boasted enough snow for skiers. We drove from one small village to another, hiked along the hills, exchanged kisses within the walls of abandoned churches, and marveled at modern sculptures in art parks. Although I was happy, I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t real. I had been cast to play in a movie that David was directing, and he’d never told me the plot; I only knew that surprising twists might be around any corner.
David had two locked drawers, and I had not managed to find their keys despite searching for them furiously on those few occasions when he had left me alone in his apartment. I was sure he knew what I was up to, since we stayed together most of the time.
I’d been in Montemassi for a couple of weeks when David got a phone call. We were having dinner. David had prepared freshly picked artichokes, and their dark-purple leaves covered our plates.
,” he said, greeting his caller, then switched into English. “Yes, this is Daniel Lanotte. Who is this?” He got up and walked into the living room. I heard him ask again, but the caller hung up.
“Damn it,” David said in Finnish. His eyes had an odd look to them, maybe even a hint of fear. When the phone rang again, David answered in English. “What sort of games are you playing? Who is this?”
I got up and dumped the artichoke leaves into the compost bin. Our main course, lemon risotto, was bubbling on the stove, so I walked over to stir it. David couldn’t go outside to talk, but he wanted to talk as far away from me as possible. I heard him march into the living room and close the thick wooden door behind him, which muffled his voice.