How the mighty were fallen—or rather the not so mighty in her case, Lizzie reflected tiredly. All she had wanted to do was provide for her sisters and her nephews, to protect them and keep them safe financially, so that never ever again would they have to endure the truly awful spectre of repossession and destitution which had faced them after their parents’ death.
NO! It was impossible, surely! The apartment block couldn’t simply have disappeared.
But it had.
Lizzie blinked and looked again, desperately hoping she was seeing things—or rather not seeing them—but it was no use. It still wasn’t there.
The apartment block had gone.
Where she had expected to see the familiar rectangular building there was only roughly flattened earth, scarred by the tracks of heavy building plant.
It had been a long and uncomfortable ride, in a taxi driven at full pelt by a Greek driver who’d seemed bent on proving his machismo behind the wheel, after an equally lacking in comfort flight on the low-cost airline.
They had finally turned off the main highway to travel along the dusty, narrow and rutted unfinished road that ran down to the tip of the peninsula and the apartments. Whilst the taxi had bounded and rocked from side to side, Lizzie had braced herself against the uncomfortable movement, noticing as they passed it that where the road forked, and where last year there had been rolls of spiked barbed wire blocking the entrance to it, there were now imposing-looking padlocked wrought-iron gates.
The taxi driver had dropped her off when the ruts in the road had become so bad that he had refused to go any further. She had insisted on him giving her a price before they had left the airport, knowing how little money she had to spare, and before she handed it over to him she took from him a card with a telephone number on it, so that she could call for a taxi to take her into the city to meet Ilios Manos after she had settled herself into an apartment and made contact with him.
Lizzie stared at the scarred ground where the apartment block should have been, and then lifted her head, turning to look out over the headland, where the rough sparse grass met the still winter-grey of the Aegean. The brisk wind blowing in from the sea tasted of salt—or was the salt from her own wretched tears of shock and disbelief?
What on earth was going on? Basil had boasted to her that twenty per cent entitled her to two apartments, each worth two hundred thousand euros. Lizzie would have put the value closer to one hundred thousand, but it still meant that whatever value they’d potentially held had vanished—along with the building. It was money she simply could not afford to lose.
What on earth was she going to do? She had just under fifty euros in her purse, nowhere to stay, no immediate means of transport to take her back to the city, no apartments—nothing. Except, of course, for the threat implied in the letter she had received. She still had that to deal with—and the man who had made that threat.
To say that Ilios Manos was not in a good mood was to put it mildly, and, like Zeus, king of the gods himself, Ilios could make the atmosphere around him rumble with the threat of dire consequences to come when his anger was aroused. As it was now.
The present cause of his anger was his cousin Tino. Thwarted in his attempt to get money out of Ilios via his illegal use of their grandfather’s land, he had now turned his attention to threatening to challenge Ilios’s right of inheritance. He was claiming that it was implicit in the tone of their grandfather’s will that Ilios should be married, since the estate must be passed down through the family, male to male. Of course Ilios knew this—just as he knew that ultimately he must provide an heir.
Ilios had been tempted to dismiss Tino’s threat, but to his fury his lawyers had warned him that it might be better to avoid a potentially long drawn-out and costly legal battle and simply give Tino the money he wanted.