The helicopter pilot was flying as low as he dared over the island, skimming the tree tops, trying to avoid the punishing winds. Even at that altitude the air was filled with turbulence. In the distance ahead the pilot saw the mountain peak of Porto Cervo. Max saw it at the same moment. "There it is!" Max shouted. "I can see the villa." And then he saw something else that made his heart jump. "It's on fire!"
On the balcony Elizabeth heard the sound of the approaching helicopter over the wind, and she looked up. Alec paid no attention. He was watching Elizabeth, his eyes filled with pain. "It was for Vivian. I had to do it for Vivian. You see that, don't you? They have to find you in the fire."
Elizabeth was not listening. She could only think, It wasn't Rhys. It wasn't Rhys. All the time it had been Alec. Alec had killed her father and had tried to kill her. He had stolen the report and then tried to frame Rhys with it. He had terrified her into running away from Rhys because Alec had known that she would come here.
The helicopter had disappeared from sight now, beyond some nearby trees.
Alec said, "Close your eyes, Elizabeth."
She said fiercely, "No!"
And Rhys's voice suddenly called, "Drop the gun, Alec!"
They both looked down, and on the lawn below, in the light of the flickering flames, they saw Rhys and Chief of Police Luigi Ferraro and half a dozen detectives, armed with rifles.
"It's finished, Alec," Rhys shouted. "Let her go."
One of the detectives with a telescopic rifle said, "I can't shoot at him unless she moves out of the way."
Move, Rhys prayed. Move!
From behind the trees across the lawn Max Hornung came hurrying up to Rhys. He stopped as he saw the tableau above. Rhys said, "I got your message. I was too late."
They were both staring up at the two figures on the balcony, puppets, backlit by the rising flames coming from the far side of the villa. The wind was whipping the house into a gigantic torch, lighting the surrounding mountains, turning the night into an inferno, a blazing Valhalla.
Elizabeth turned and looked into Alec's face, and it was a mask of death, his eyes unseeing. He moved away from her toward the balcony door.
On the ground the detective said, "I've got him," and raised his rifle. He fired once. Alec staggered, then disappeared through the door into the house.
One moment there were two figures on the balcony, and then only one.
Elizabeth screamed, "Rhys!"
But he was already racing toward her.
Everything after that happened in a quick, confused kaleidoscope of motion. Rhys was picking her up and carrying her down to safety and she clung tightly to him and could not hold him close enough.
She was lying on the grass, with her eyes closed, and Rhys was holding her in his arms, saying, "I love you, Liz. I love you, my darling."
She listened to his voice washing over her, caressing her. She could not speak. She looked into his eyes and saw all the love and anguish, and there was so much she wanted to tell him. She was filled with guilt for all of her terrible suspicions. She would spend the rest of her life making it up to him.
She was too weary to think about it now, too weary to think about any of it. It was as though it had all happened to someone else in some other place, at some other time.
The only important thing was that she and Rhys were together. She felt his strong arms holding her close, forever, and it was enough.