It seemed almost everyone was on the lower deck of the Alcmene now. Lined up, and waiting get on the island. Bags and totes in hand or at their sides. Neve eyed them all, guests and crew alike.
Captain Portelli limped about, giving instructions to his crew in his tongue. There was the golden-faced first mate Antonio, and another crewman, laughing and joking, with a cigarette caught in his lips. It made Neve want one for herself, as the tendrils of smoke found their way to her. Quickly she dashed her craving and refocused on the passengers, starting at the front of the line.
He looked older, but used to being first and at the head of the queue was a confident businessman with a starched suit full of ego.
Next was some tough and disinterested bodyguard holding more than her share of luggage and someone else’s too. In fact, the bags of a countess’ daughter she wagered, judging on the cat carrier and the young woman’s beautiful clothes, as she stood beside her. The Lourdes girl. She seemed worried, but then again, so did most of them deep down. Sweating in the summer heat. Even Neve felt strange about making the trip.
Then there was the soldier, based on his posture. Every so often he had his head in the clouds, looking shell-shocked, but he’d snap out of it once in a while, and watch everyone as well. Sussing out all the dangerous parties and his escape routes.
After that, Neve guessed was a modest philosophy professor. She had a damn heavy weight on her shoulders and damning weight in her tote bag the way she hugged it tight. But then she silently reprimanded the teenager beside her, the one who’d changed from her slutty garb not minutes ago, and made small talk with herself in her room. Father issues, and something else. ADHD? OCD? the detective thought in silence. However, the way the professor snapped at the girl, made Neve consider English Lit.
The last crewmember was another Portelli by the look of her. Neve wanted to say: younger sister. And hitting on her was some profound and introspective reporter, based on the ink in his nail beds, and his pandering, flattering conversation.
Old reliable Llewellyn Cruickshanks was next, fiddling with a penny. Murray’s devious defense counsel. And he finally noticed her standing back, staking everyone out.
As they were a minute away from disembarking, he strutted over to chat with her, a smile all over his face.
“Councillor,” greeted Neve.
“Detective Sawyer,” he said.
“Actually it’s ‘officer’ now,” she growled.
“Oh,” he replied feigning shock, “a demotion? Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You know, I’m not sure you are,” Neve said coldly, crossing her arms as she did. “In fact, I know you and your boss had something to do with it.”
He smirked again, sensing Neve wasn’t interested in talking after all, and confessed. “You got me. That was mine and Mr. Murray’s recommendation. After your… spat.' Frankly, I’m surprised you accepted his invitation. Do you have some other motive in mind, aside from being cordial?”
Neve leaned closer, with a threat in her blue eyes, “Walk away, Crook. Just walk away.”
The lawyer obeyed, and backed away with his hands up. A smug look on his face.
She did wonder why she’d come. After all, the water at Malibu was nice this time of year. There was no reason to come all the way to Italy in search of good weather.
Portelli called out. The time had come to alight, and Neve made her way to the back of the line, though kept well enough away from Murray’s lawyer.
Suddenly, she heard a stumble behind her. A man with fresh gauze around his hand, though more blood starting to seep through. He’d been cut deep. And he was pale, but not from blood loss. He seemed to be the most terrified person on the island. Neve assumed it was nerves, or seasickness.
Behind them all, still on the upper deck, she noticed someone having difficulty with his phone. So much so, he considered, for a moment, throwing it off the balcony and into the sea. After that, he began directing one of the crew with his luggage, which he had a lot of. It made her laugh and think of home. Think of Hollywood.
Finally, Neve stepped off the Alcmene and onto the jetty at last, and followed the guests ahead of her. Espying the rickety boat house, then the steps up the hill all the way to Casa de Murray. The old man’s island getaway. Literally.
Though he was living in some sort of self-imposed exile now, Neve learned long ago that Linden had bought the islet knowing it was not just in the middle of the Mediterranean, but the middle of political limbo as well. Which meant he could never be extradited for any crimes, and could spend his final days on earth... right there.