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Authors: Paul Johnston

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The Silver Stain

BOOK: The Silver Stain
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Table of Contents

 

 

A Selection of Titles by Paul Johnston

The Alex Mavros Series

DEEPER SHADE OF BLUE

(also known as
CRYING BLUE MURDER
)

THE LAST RED DEATH

THE GOLDEN SILENCE

THE SILVER STAIN *

The Quint Dalrymple Series

BODY POLITIC

THE BONE YARD

THE WATER OF DEATH

THE BLOOD TREE

THE HOUSE OF DUST

The Matt Wells Series

THE DEATH LIST

THE SOUL COLLECTOR

MAPS OF HELL

THE NAMELESS DEAD

* available from Severn House

THE SILVER STAIN
An Alex Mavros Mystery
Paul Johnston
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
 

First world edition published 2012

in Great Britain and the USA by

Crème de la Crime, an imprint of

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2011 by Paul Johnston.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Johnston, Paul, 1957–

The silver stain. – (Alex Mavros novels)

1. Mavros, Alex (Fictitious character) – Fiction.

2. Private investigators – Greece – Fiction. 3. Suspense

fiction.

I. Title II. Series

823.9´2-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-211-5 (ePub)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-018-8 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-523-7 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

To

John Connolly

in friendship and gratitude

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Mavros has been confined to a wooden box (file) for the last seven years. I didn’t want to him to age so much and, accordingly, the action of this novel takes place in 2003, the year after his last outing,
The Golden Silence
. Anyone wanting depictions of life during the Greek economic crisis that started to bite hard in 2010 should look elsewhere – or wait for future volumes in the series. On the other hand, the roots of the catastrophe were already deep in 2003 and the 2004 Olympic Games fertilized them copiously.

Greek is a much less difficult language than many think, but readers should note the following:

1) Masculine names ending in –is, –os, and –as lose the final –s in the vocative case – ‘Mikis, Yiorgos and Nondas are drinking your health’; but, ‘Drink the readers’ health, Miki, Yiorgo and Nonda!’

2) Feminine surnames end differently from masculine ones: Alex Mavros, but Anna Mavrou; Haris Tsifakis, but Eleni Tsifaki.

3) The consonant transliterated as ‘dh’ (e.g. An
dh
roniki, Fe
dh
ra,
Dh
rakakis) is pronounced ‘th’ as in English ‘these’.

4) Chania is pronounced ‘Chan
yah
’ with the stress on the final syllable; likewise, Kornaria is pronounced ‘Kornar
yah
’.

School’s out.

ONE

M
avros was sitting on the large, plant-festooned balcony of his mother’s flat with the orange juice he had just squeezed. Normally a late-riser – the boon of being self-employed – he had woken before dawn, for no apparent reason, and been unable to get back to sleep. The early sun had appeared over Mount Imittos and was casting tentative rays over the grey-white apartment blocks of the Athenian sprawl. To the south, the Aegean still retained the last of its dawn darkness, stretching away towards the islands and the Peloponnesian peaks. A northerly wind ensured that the air was relatively clear, and the sound of traffic and drivers quick on their horns was already ascending the slopes of Lykavittos. The view, taking in the Acropolis and its scaffolding-clad temples, was glorious, but Mavros was struggling to come to terms with it.

Bare arms slipped round his shoulders. ‘Still missing the old flat, Alex?’ Andhroniki Glezou’s soft cheek rubbed against his stubble and then her lips sought his. Their tongues briefly touched. ‘Oh no.’ Niki said firmly. ‘I was just saying good morning. I’ve got an eight o’clock meeting.’

Mavros smiled. ‘I don’t know what you mean. I was just saying good morning too.’

‘Uh-huh. And what’s that?’ Niki pointed to his groin.

‘Don’t take it personally, my love. Morning glory answers to no woman.’

Niki slapped him on the arm. ‘Charming. You haven’t answered my question.’

Mavros looked back over the city. The flat on Pikilis, just north of the Acropolis, had become too expensive for him to continue renting at the end of 2002. That coincided with his mother suffering a stroke that had made her frail, so she had left the large flat in Kolonaki, the most exclusive area in central Athens, and moved in with Mavros’s sister in Anna in the northern suburbs.

‘If only you charged reasonable fees,’ Niki said, ‘instead of waiving them half the time.’

Mavros frowned. ‘Now you’re running my business too, are you?’ He knew as soon as he said the words that he was in trouble. Although he and Niki were closer than they had ever been, her extravagant temper was never caged for long.

‘Don’t take that tone with me,’ she said, glaring. With her dark eyes and tousled hair, she had the look of the mythical Gorgon that dealt stony death, though no part of Mavros’s body was hard any more. ‘You don’t let me run anything, never mind your business, Alex. And what kind of a business is it, exactly, tracing missing people?’

‘I seem to remember finding a girl you managed to mislay,’ he muttered.

The reference to the daughter of a Russian-Greek immigrant family that Niki had looked after as a social worker shut her up, but not for long. ‘You didn’t even charge the Tratsous the going rate.’

‘They aren’t exactly the Onassises.’

‘No, but you . . . oh, what’s the point, Alex? You don’t even tell me about most of your jobs.’

Mavros shook his head. Niki’s ability to overlook the dangers his work entailed and the damaging secrets he uncovered never failed to irritate him. ‘You nearly got shot in the Tratsou case. You were in hospital with a police guard, remember?’

‘And you nearly got killed several times on that case,’ she riposted. She was leaning over him, her long legs visible to the residents of the block across the street and her shapely breasts fully in evidence to him down the neck of her T-shirt.

He laughed, never the sensible option. To his surprise, and after a pause long enough to move his hands down to protect his crotch, Niki laughed back.

‘Why do we do this?’ she murmured, cheek against his again. ‘I love you.’

‘And I love you,’ he replied. ‘We just have—’

‘Different ways of showing it.’ She kissed him on the lips. ‘I know. I’m going for a shower.’ She raised a finger. ‘And no following. Wait till tonight.’

‘So stern,’ he said, as she turned away. ‘And so desirable.’

Niki swung her hips seductively as she disappeared inside.

She was right, Mavros thought, looking back out across the city. Although his mother’s flat was large and well-appointed, he still hankered after the rundown single-bedroom place in Plaka, the rock wall of the Acropolis louring over it like a stone tsunami. He had been there for five years, but he always knew that his days were numbered. With the Olympic Games little more than a year away, owners had been taking advantage of grants to upgrade their properties and, of course, raise the rents.

He went inside. That wasn’t the only reason he had come to Kleomenous, despite his dislike for the gilded but acid-tongued neighbours. His mother Dorothy, the Scottish side of his dual heritage, was still running a successful publishing business, and owned the flat, meaning he didn’t have to pay a single Euro of rent. Not that he felt at home. He insisted on sleeping in the larger of the two guest rooms, feeling that taking over the master bedroom would make his residence permanent. That irritated Niki, despite the fact that the guest room was larger than both his old bedroom in Pikilis and the bedroom in her flat in the southern suburb of Palaio Faliro. And it was true that the exclusive address had impressed the kind of clients that he would have preferred not to work for, except he needed their money. But there was still another, more important reason.

‘Ta-dah,’ Niki said, taking a twirl in a short, well-cut skirt.

Mavros looked down at his groin. ‘No, sorry, nothing doing.’

She came at him with her bag, a large, file-filled object that he had been hit with before. He sidestepped her and grabbed her arms.

‘Tonight,’ she said, keeping her freshly painted lips out of range. ‘Tonight I’ll show you a really—’

The sound of a key turning in the front door made Niki’s eyes widen and her smile depart quicker than a bribe slipped to a tax inspector.

‘Your obese friend,’ she groaned. ‘I thought I’d seen the last of him when you moved here.’

Not for the first time, Mavros regretted having given Yiorgos Pandazopoulos a full set of keys. Then again, if he’d done what he’d often urged his mother to do and put the chain on, Niki’s tantalizing farewell wouldn’t have been so rapidly terminated.

‘Morning, Alex,’ Yiorgos said, taking in Niki’s presence. ‘Morning, Andhroniki.’ This was a recent tactic, calling her by her full Christian name. Designed to wind her up, it was highly effective.

‘Morning, Fat Man,’ Niki responded, even though Mavros had frequently told her that the nickname was for his use alone. ‘Have a busy day, the pair of you.’ She strode towards the door, her head high.

The Fat Man waited till it closed behind her. ‘What got up her—’

Mavros gave him a full-on glare.

‘Nose?’ Yiorgos completed.

‘You wouldn’t understand,’ Mavros said, wondering if Niki would now follow through on her interrupted promise.

From
The Descent of Icarus
, an unpublished memoir by Rudolf Kersten:

May 20th 1941 has lived with me all the days of my life since.

We were drenched in sweat, having been fully kitted up since 2 a.m. – padded parachutist helmets, flying service blouses, jump smocks over combat trousers, knee pads, machine-pistols, grenades, Lugers, bayonets and gravity knives, as well as the bulky RZ16 parachutes. I wasn’t the only one who slipped a hand inside my smock to finger the jump badge with its silvered wreath of acorn and oak leaves beneath the gilt diving eagle that was the
Fallschirmjägers
’ talisman. I also repeated under my breath the commandments written for us by the Führer – ‘You are the elite of the Wehrmacht, for you combat shall be fulfillment . . . be nimble as a greyhound, tough as leather, hard as Krupp steel . . .’

BOOK: The Silver Stain
2.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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