Jane Eaglemount the head housekeeper, walked into the office she shared with Helen Muster, her employer's personal assistant. She made straight for the painting of the villa that hung over her desk, and took it down. After laying it carefully on her office chair, she ran her fingers along the edge of one of the pine panels that had been hidden behind the painting. She was almost on her tippy-toes before her fingers found the secret latch concealed beneath the pine. She pushed gently, and an entire section of the panel sprang open, revealing a security safe and three locked stainless steel filing drawers built into the wall. She dialed in the numbers for the safe's combination lock, and the door opened.
She put her purse in the deep space, and looked through the papers inside a thick manila envelope that was now torn, and the paper rubbed thin with usage and age. She pulled out the Decree Nisi document that finalized the divorce from the only man she had ever loved. With a deep sigh she put that aside and rifled through several pages provided by her ex husband's attorney that effectively took away everything of value that she had owned at the time. It was all because of a clause in the prenuptial agreement she had signed before she married her rich fianceé, that dissolved the marriage in case of her infidelity.
She hadn't cheated, she had been raped, but she couldn't prove it. That disgusting womanizer Linden Murray had put something in her drink at a party that she and her husband were hosting. Whatever it was, it left her dazed and semi-conscious. She didn't know what was happening until she woke up naked in the bed of an unused guest room in her house. Her husband met her at the breakfast table in a fury over a video that had been anonymously emailed of her and an unidentified man having sex. She didn't know who was behind the malice that had ended her marriage until much later, when she hired a detective to find out for her. It was Linden Murray. He did it because she had rejected his advances again and again, and it apparently threatened his manhood. She swore she would get even someday, somehow.
It was simple serendipity the day she saw the ad in her local newspaper that was looking for an experienced housekeeper for the villa on Isola di Fiori Mortali. She had been working part-time for several wealthy families in Sicily, and they all gave her glowing recommendations when she left for the full-time job on the island. When the old prick interviewed her, he didn't recognize her. She had gone to great lengths to change her appearance, but he wouldn't have noticed, anyway. He had used and abused so many women in his life that their faces were pretty much a blur to him, except for the most recent ones.
She put the papers back in the envelope and swore once again that she would make the bastard pay for ruining what had been her very happy marriage. She locked the safe and unlocked the top filing drawer. She took out a folder labeled 'Guest Lists' and locked the drawer. She closed the secret panel and replaced the painting on the wall. She was going through the folder at her desk when Helen walked in.
"Hi Jane," she greeted her co-worker.
"Hi yourself," Jane replied with a smile. "I've got the list ready for all the invited weekend guests, with their assigned rooms. The dining room is being prepped now for tonight's banquet."
"Oh, good. May I see the list, please?"
When Jane handed it to Helen, she read the list out loud.
“Let's see now … In the East Wing tower, we have Tassia Evesong, Oliver Gutierrez, and Cecil Lourdes, who will be sharing her two bedroom suite with her bodyguard, Naida Georgiou. On the second level of the East wing we have James Clarke in E10, Llewellyn Cruikshank in E09, Jackson DeQuin in E08, Hmmmm … Someone is supposed to go in E07, but it's scratched out. Ohhh ... wait. There's a notation on the side of the typed page. A Neve Sawyer is to go into room E07. Whose handwriting is that? I'll have to ask Mr. Murray if he knows. To finish off the second floor, Henry Locke goes in E06. Now for the lower level of the East Wing ... David Strife will be in E03
Helen let out a long put-upon sigh and put the list on Jane's desk.
“Captain Portelli called and said there were two unexpected passengers. It seems that Meredith has shown up – again, without so much as a peep to warn anyone. Not only that, but she's dragged along a professor Eleanor Abernathy. They can go in rooms E04 and E05, I guess."