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Authors: Chris Knopf

Cries of the lost

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ALSOBYCHRISKNOPF

SAM ACQUILLO HAMPTONS MYSTERIES

The Last Refuge

Two Time

Head Wounds

Hard Stop

Black Swan

JACKIE SWAITKOWSKI HAMPTONS MYSTERIES

Short Squeeze

Bad Bird

Ice Cap

ARTHUR CATHCART

Dead Anyway

STANDALONE THRILLER

Elysiana

CRIES

OF THE

LOST

CHRIS KNOPF

Copyright © 2013 by chris Knopf

All rights reserved. No part of this publication, or parts thereof, may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotes in a review, without the written permission of the publisher.

The events and characters in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to any person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

For information, address:

The permanent press

4170 Noyac Road

Sag Harbor, NY 11963

www.thepermanentpress.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Knopf, Chris –

Cries of the lost / Chris Knopf.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-57962-332-6

eISBN 978-1-57962-373-9

1. Murder—Fiction. 2. Loss (Psychology)—Fiction. 3. Grief—Fiction. 4. Revenge—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3611.N66C75 2013

813’.6—dc23                                                              2013034367

Printed in the United States of America

Acknowledgements

This is a work of fiction inspired by the experiences of my son’s Basque grandmother, Juana Maria Guruceta Iglesias. She and her family left Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and subsequently settled in Nicaragua. They were compelled to leave that country as well because of the threatening behavior of the dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia, and his son, the future dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

All the characters are made up, and while much is based on historical events, the story is completely fictitious.

Spanish translations were the work of Ellen Willemin and Randy Costello. Gracias. For French, staff translator Paige Goettel did her usual stellar work—with additional contributions by Mark Bonnot. All things Italian were guided by Gelsomina-Lolaluna (nom de plume), a Milanese friend who has a family home in the Lake Como region. Andrew Wood, Birmingham lad, consulted on East End vernacular.

Digital technology assistance was provided by Bob Rooney and Mark Bonnot at Mintz & Hoke. Frank Gomes told me about all the crazy things you can do these days with telecommunications technology. Al Hershner set me straight on microphone capabilities. Any technological errors, omissions or oversimplifications are my responsibility.

Fritz McPherson at the Royal Bank of Canada, Grand Cayman, provided insight into the Caymanian banking system, some of which I messed with in the service of storytelling. Duane at the Turtle Nest Inn on Grand Cayman chipped in with local intelligence.

Dave Newell, president of the Wills Agency in Bennington, Vermont kept the facts straight on the insurance biz; Sean Cronin continued as staff weapons expert; Henry Ciccone captured the essence of Albany’s municipal architecture; and my son James Gyre threw me the names of a few dubstep luminaries.

Readers this round included veterans of the Wesleyan Writers Conference, Lucille Blanchard, Marjorie Drake and Jill Fletcher. Thanks as always to veteran readers Randy Costello, Bob Willemin, Sean Cronin and Mary Jack Wald. All indispensable.

Abiding thanks to Judy and Marty Shepard and their team—Susan Ahlquist, Joslyn Pine and Lon Kirschner—for bringing the book into the world.

Thanks, of course, to Mary Farrell for her enduring patience, and Jack and Charlie for saving me from the burden of excessive concentration.

CHAPTER1

The tropical sun hung hugely over Grand Cayman Island. We were inadequately shaded by a wind-rustled palm tree overhead. We sat in our rented Suzuki Swift in a remote corner of a parking lot that served the First Australia Bank. The car was small enough to nearly hide below a trimmed hedge. I had a foolish urge to crouch down in my seat.

“What could go wrong?” I asked.

“Is that a rhetorical question?” Natsumi asked back.

“Sort of. Though I’d like your opinion.”

“Nothing and everything.”

“Talk about rhetorical.”

“Philosophical. Remember, I’m a child of the East.”

“We don’t have to do this,” I said.

“You’re right. We could leave the safe-deposit box where it is and never learn what’s inside.”

“What’s the likelihood of that?”

“For you? Less than zero. Was there ever a more curious person?”

“Or paranoid,” I said.

I’d recently discovered that my late Chilean wife Florencia had a secret bank account at First Australia in George Town—the capital of the Cayman Islands—swollen with money and unanswered questions. Armed with the proper codes, IDs and verifications, and without leaving my computer in America, I’d been able to scoop out and secure most of the liquid assets. Not so with the damn box. They wanted me there when it was opened. I understood why, but handling transactions in person was counter to proper clandestine behavior. Behavior that had thus far kept me and Natsumi Fitzgerald alive, out of jail and fully operational.

“Fair enough,” said Natsumi. “Which is why we’re still debating this and not zooming forward like we normally do.”

“Sometimes we debate as we zoom.”

“I’m not used to seeing you conflicted, Arthur. It’s not that endearing.”

It was good she couldn’t hear all the conflict raging in my head, perceptive woman that she was. The decision to stop off in the Caymans on the way to Chile—where most of the withdrawals from Florencia’s secret account had been routed—probably seemed last minute to her, but I’d been chewing on the idea the whole time we’d been in New York preparing for the trip.

While thoroughly absorbed in securing false passports and drivers’ licenses, opening bank accounts in strategic places around the world, setting up international phone coverage and web access and winnowing electronic gear, clothes and other essentials down to single carry-on bags, there was always room in my brain for a little obsessive deliberation.

To be fair to myself, having learned that my wife had a secret offshore account—stuffed with millions of dollars—the safe-deposit box seemed inconsequential at the time. It was only when I tried to extract the contents, and was refused, that my hyper-curiosity kicked into gear.

“How did Florencia get whatever’s in there, in there in the first place?” asked Natsumi. “You said she rarely traveled.”

“You can send the bank anything you want and they’ll stick it in a box. It’s the getting out part that’s hard. You got to be there in person.”

“We’re wearing disguises. Does that help?”

It amazed me how easy it was to change your appearance with simple, off-the-shelf theatrical cosmetics. It just took patience and decent hand skills, which Natsumi had in abundance. Yet I never trusted it. Maybe to fool third-grade mobsters and private citizens, even regular cops. But I held us to higher standards.

The hunted could only survive by outwitting the best of the hunters.

“It does,” I said. “Though I like you better as a girl.”

She pulled aside the rearview mirror to check her handiwork. “I thought it was easier to switch gender than race. The sport coat isn’t the best choice for the climate, but I needed something baggy.”

I cleverly chose a black wig, moustache and some basic prosthetic enlargement of my nose—not a small thing to begin with, now a commanding presence.

“So what’s the plan?” she asked.

“We walk in and ask for the safe-deposit manager. He, or she, takes down all the account information, pulls the file and asks for the passport and driver’s license of the person whose name is attached to the account. This is verified by the account manager within the bank, who will accompany us. Assuming everything’s in order, we’re taken into the vault and given access to the box.”

“Surely someone knows it’s Florencia’s box. Someone higher up, or people in the back office who manage the vault.”

“They think it belongs to Kirk Tazman, an imaginary senior vice president of Deer Park Underwriters, the shell corporation Florencia used to manage the account. I have Kirk’s passport and driver’s license in my pocket. The Caymanians have gotten a lot stricter on verifications since I pulled the liquid assets, but they can’t probe every transaction, not when all the paperwork looks legit.”

“This is feeling really sketchy,” said Natsumi.

“Indeed. Should we abort?”

She looked over at me, questions flickering in her eyes. “That’s not up to me.”

“It has to be partly up to you if you’re going in there with me.”

“I’ve never asked that of you,” she said.

“I know. But you should have a vote. It’s only fair.”

“Oh, great. A monumental interpersonal issue to sort out on top of everything else. And me dressed like a boy.”

I just sat there and waited her out. It didn’t take long.

“Okay, then this is easy. Let’s go,” she said, getting out of the Suzuki. I had to walk briskly to catch up to her. Not a simple thing for me, old bullet wounds in my head and leg still asserting their influence. I was getting there, but it was frustratingly slow.

“Why easy?” I asked.

“I’m not going to prevent you from doing what you know you’d do for sure if you were on your own. Not taking that on, thank you very much.”

We walked in silence until we were nearly at the front door of the bank.

“I guess I put you in a bad spot,” I said.

“Don’t feel bad,” she said, swinging open the door, “the good intentions are noted. Smile for the security cameras.”

The bank’s lobby expressed all the scrupulous professionalism of any big city bank, though in a more cheerful color palette. The tellers and people at desks along the periphery were all Caymanians of African/European descent, in a variety of shades—young, crisp and earnest. We picked a short line behind a small flock of Dutch tourists. Only one entered into a transaction. Maybe he felt more secure running in a pack.

When we got to the counter, I slid a piece of paper in front of the teller and said, “We’d like to access the safe-deposit box under this account number, please.”

She picked up the paper with two hands and studied the number. Then she looked at us, one at a time.

“Have you spoken to Mr. Etherton?”

“We haven’t,” I said. “I was told to make my presence known at the bank and you’d direct me from there.”

“Mr. Etherton manages the safe deposits,” she said, picking up her phone. “I’ll get him for you.”

I nodded agreeably. Natsumi nodded along with me.

“That would be splendid,” I said.

Mr. Etherton was a tall, light-skinned black man with a bald head and movie-star looks, only slightly marred by the severe cast of his face. I’d call it a scowl with a bit of curiosity mixed in.

“You are the people who presented this account number?” he asked us from the teller side of the counter. Far more nervous than curious, the young woman teller nodded, looking from us to Mr. Etherton.

“We are,” I said. “Is there a problem?”

He looked from the slip of paper to our faces and back again, as if searching for a family resemblance. I felt my heart rate begin to ramp up, with intimations of fight/flight tickling at my nerves.

“Please wait,” he said.

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