ALEXANDRA LOST TRACK OF TIME, waiting for John. She sat in her car with the doors locked, watching her apartment windows and the entrance to her building. In any case, the neighborhood was quiet. Her building was the second to last on a dead-end street, and most of the apartments in her building and the last one on the street were unoccupied. Especially tonight, though, she felt as if she was all alone on this planet. No cars had passed by, and no living soul was anywhere around. The lights on Ms. Baileys’ apartment—located right downstairs from hers—were out, since she was away visiting her daughter in Florida. The accountant living on the same floor with her worked long hours, and most of the time he didn’t come home until almost midnight.
Alexandra didn’t know the people living in the last building on the street, but she knew that only three apartments were occupied. And the lights were out on all three of them tonight. Where is everybody? she wondered, feeling a chill caressing her spine.
From time to time, she would glance in her rearview mirror, scanning the woods stretching across the street, fearing that someone might be hiding there.
She was toying with the idea of starting her car and driving away when John pulled into the driveway and parked his car next to hers. Alexandra breathed out, relieved.
As soon as John saw her sitting in the car, he jumped out of his and rushed to open her door. “What are you doing here?” he asked and raised his head to look at the dark windows of the apartment.
“The door was unlocked,” Alexandra replied. “I was afraid to go in.”
“You did good,” he said and reached for his pistol.
“I probably forgot to lock it this morning,” she answered, feeling uneasy at the sight of the gun. As the daughter of a policeman, she was used to seeing them around, but she never liked them. John had tried several times in the past to persuade her to keep a handgun at the house for her own protection, but she stubbornly refused.
“I’m sure you locked the door,” John said. “You’re really careful about things like that.”
Alexandra climbed out of the car to stretch her aching arms and legs, but John told her to get back in and lock the doors.
“I’ll be back in a second.” He rushed to the entrance of the apartment building, opened the door with his keys, and disappeared inside. A few minutes later, the lights came on in her apartment. Alexandra waited, holding her breath and keeping her eyes open for any suspicious movement.
She waited there until she couldn’t stand still any more. She had to get out of the car. Her throat was closing, choking her.
She opened the door and climbed out, taking some deep breaths. Then, she walked to the entrance and up the stairs. The door to her apartment was wide open. Approaching hesitantly, she could hear John’s irritated voice coming from inside. She walked to the doorway and stopped dead in her tracks… Is this real or a dreadful nightmare?
Chaos reigned over her apartment. Furniture was turned over, and her stuff was torn apart and scattered all over the cream colored carpet, like debris from a shipwreck washed ashore.
John was standing in the middle of the living room, talking on his cell phone. He saw her standing at the door and waved for her to come in.
“Don’t touch anything,” he cautioned her and continued his conversation on the phone.
Speechless, Alexandra heard him talking to Jeff, his partner, telling him to get there as soon as possible. She took a few steps and stood by the window, letting her eyes roam over her apartment—her private space with the things she had acquired over the years. The sofa and the armchairs were turned over, and the bottom of them was ripped open. The cherry wood showcase was thrown to the ground, and her favorite crystal and porcelain miniatures were broken into thousands of little pieces. Drowned in fury and disbelief, Alexandra stared at her violated treasures as the light reflected through the pieces scattered everywhere, creating a surreal atmosphere.
John hung up and took her in his arms. Only then, she realized she was shaking.
“What happened here?” she asked. “What were they looking for?”
Obviously, it wasn’t just a robbery. Whoever it was had turned the whole place upside down. He had even taken the pictures of the walls and ripped the back of them off.
Alexandra stared at John, who kept silent.
“John, what’s going on? Who are they? What do they want from me?”
“Don’t worry,” he tried to sound reassuring. “I’ll make sure you’re all right.”
“That’s not what I asked,” she said, feeling her temper rising. She could tell he was hiding something from her.
“Alex,” he said and squeezed her even closer. “It’s better if you don’t know. I don’t want you getting involved in all this.”
“But I am involved,” she said and pointed at the chaos around them. “I need to know what we’re dealing with.”
At that moment, they heard footsteps running up the stairs.
John pulled her behind him and raised his gun. Jeff showed up at the entrance, with a gun in his hands.
“Are you guys okay?” he asked, worried, and took a quick look around.
“We’re okay,” John reassured him.
“Have you called it in?” Jeff asked.
“Yes,” John replied. “They should be here any minute now.”
In less than five minutes, the whole place crawled with cops. Forensics dusted for prints, and two policemen interviewed any neighbors who might have been around at the time of the robbery.
Alexandra sat on a chair, watching people coming and going. She felt numb inside as the pieces of her life scattered all over the floor were trampled further. She had seen similar scenes in the movies but never realized the emotional turmoil of the victim, having been violated first by the intruders and then by the police turning the place upside down searching for evidence and clues. She sat in her corner speechless, unable to comprehend what was happening. Why? The question burned in her mind. Why did this happen?
By now, she was sure it wasn’t a typical robbery. She had been to her bedroom where nothing was spared from the fury of the intruders— not even her mother’s portrait hanging on the wall. Alexandra was devastated to find it broken in half and tossed aside, right next to what was left of her Tiffany lamp and the crystal miniature of a sailboat she kept on her secretarial desk. Her jewelry box was also thrown on the ground. Breathless, she had kneeled next to it to find that her mother’s diamond-and-sapphire ring, as well as her matching bracelet, was still there, tossed aside as useless pieces of junk. The gold chain with her baptism cross and her diamond earrings hadn’t been stolen either. No, this was definitely not a robbery. They were looking for something specific, Alexandra realized and shuddered.
John had thought the same thing; Alexandra had seen it in his eyes when he walked into the bedroom to find her kneeling on the floor, picking up the pieces of her shattered life. However, he didn’t say anything. He just helped her to her feet and back into the living room where she sat, waiting… praying for the nightmare to end.
The detective in charge wanted to talk to Alexandra, but John took him aside. Absentmindedly, Alexandra watched the two of them talking by the front door. Afterward, the detective left, and John told her he was going to take her to the police station later for her to give a statement.
He disappeared into her bedroom for a while, and a few minutes later, he reappeared with her burgundy, leather carry-on suitcase in hand. He pulled her out of the apartment and down the steps, leaving Jeff behind to take care of things. Alexandra followed him as if in a dream.
Silence stretched in his car as they drove to the police station. There, they met the detective she had seen at the apartment, and Alexandra gave him a statement. The truth was, however, that she couldn’t tell him much.
Two hours later, John and Alexandra climbed back in his car and drove off. Physically and, above all, emotionally exhausted, Alexandra leaned back in the leather seat of his black Firebird. Her eyelids felt heavy, and she drifted off to sleep.
A bump on the road woke her up. “Where are we?” Alexandra inquired, staring around her disoriented.
By then, John was pulling into a subdivision.
“This is a safe house,” John replied flatly, and a warning bell went off inside Alexandra’s head.
“John!” she cried out and stared at him startled.
“I’m not going to take any chances,” he said and kept his eyes on the road until he pulled into the driveway of a small, one-story home at the far end of the subdivision.
He stopped the car and told her to wait. He climbed out, and with a gun in his hand, he walked towards the house and around the back. A couple of minutes later, he came out from the other side and waved for her to come.
Alexandra climbed out of the car and met him at the front steps. She followed him inside, and when he turned the lights on, she saw that she was in a small living room with a few pieces of furniture and a stone fireplace.
John walked through a door in the back, and Alexandra followed him to a small kitchen. He checked the refrigerator and then the cabinets.
“I’ll have to buy some supplies,” he said.
“You’re crazy if you think I’m going to stay here,” she snapped at him.
“Alexandra, we have to keep you out of sight for a while,” he said.
“No!” she protested, stubbornly. “Nobody is going to drive me out of my house.” Turning on her heel, she headed for the door.
John chased after her and grabbed her by the arm.
“Alexandra, please…We need to be careful.”
She turned and stared at him for a moment. She could tell he was pretty worried.
“Why don't you tell me what’s going on?”
“All right,” he said and let out a deep breath. “But please, come sit down first.”
Alexandra followed him to the sofa.
“I’ll make some coffee,” he said and walked to the kitchen.
She sat on the sofa and stared around her. The house wasn’t that bad; it just seemed kind of deserted. She heard John moving around in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets. A few minutes later, he walked back in the living room with two cups of steaming coffee.
Alexandra took her cup and started drinking. Surprisingly enough, it made her feel better. The truth was she’d had nothing to eat all day. I need to stop doing this, she thought. I need to start taking lunch breaks; otherwise, I’m going to get sick.
All of a sudden, she realized John was watching her closely.
“What?” she inquired.
“Nothing,” he replied. “I was just wondering.”
“Wondering what?” she questioned him.
“Wondering if you could go away for a while,” he said, after a small hesitation.
“Go away? Are you crazy?” she asked. “This is no time for vacation. And I’m not going to hide,” she added stubbornly.
“No, I didn’t mean that,” he said. “It’s only that I’m in the middle of something, and I would feel better if you were somewhere safe.”
“You’re in the middle of something?” she asked worriedly. “What is it, John? What have you got yourself into? And what do I have to do with this?”go
“Alexandra, you just have to trust me,” he said. “I can’t talk to you right now, but I think that it might be better if…”
“Stop it!” she interrupted him. “I’m not going anywhere. Besides, I’m in the middle of an important assignment right now.”
“But that’s it!” he said. “The other night you told me you might have to do some traveling to New York. Maybe, it’s time for you to go up there for a while.”
“Are you crazy?” she asked. “I can’t just get up and go. My boss will be the one to decide whether I need to go or not.”
“I’ll talk to him,” John said.
“Don’t you dare!” she yelled at him. “You’re not going to embarrass me at my job. God knows what they might think of me if you tell them that I need to get out of town.”
“But I can explain…” he said.
“No!” she insisted stubbornly. “You stay away from my job!”
“Okay!” he gave up. “But you need to be careful. You’ll stay here for a couple of days, until…”
“I’m not staying here,” she interrupted him again.
“You can’t go back to your apartment for a while,” he said. “And you can’t come to mine, either. It’s not safe right now.”
“Then I’ll go to a hotel,” Alexandra decided. “Anything would be better than here.”
“All right,” he agreed. “I’ll take you to a hotel downtown, so you can be close to work.”
John took their cups to the kitchen and rinsed them off. Then he strode back into the living room to find Alexandra ready to go.
Walking out the door, John locked it behind them. They drove by her office building and pulled up to Ritz-Carlton downtown. He followed her to the reception area and then up to her room.
“You stay here and wait,” he told her.
“Where are you going?” she asked, surprised. It was already after midnight.
“I have to go get some stuff from your apartment,” he said.
“What about my suitcase? I saw you taking it from the apartment.”
“I took your jewelry, your pajamas, and some necessities from your bathroom. But the way it looks, you’ll have to stay away for a while. So I need to go back and get you some clothes,” he added and walked to the door, stopping when he heard her calling his name.
“Don’t worry,” he said, reading her mind. “I’ll bring your briefcase, as well.”
“Thanks, John.” Alexandra sighed.
John gave her a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry! Everything is going to be all right. Lock the door behind me,” he said and left.
Alexandra called room service and ordered some hot milk with honey and chocolate chip cookies. Her order was there in a few minutes. She sat on the sofa by the window, staring outside, drinking her milk and eating her cookies. The events of the day flashed before her eyes like scenes on a movie screen. So much had happened today. Hours later, she finally drifted off to sleep.
The phone at the mansion rang in the early morning hours. Alexandros woke up abruptly and glanced at the clock. It was five-thirty in the morning.
“What on earth?” he cursed out loud, turning on the lamp by his bed. He reached and picked up the phone.
“Who is it?” he asked angrily.
He sat up in bed as soon as he recognized the voice on the phone.
“What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.
He listened for a few minutes, and only his heavy breathing could give away how upset he was.
“How could you allow this to happen?” he barked. “I told you to take care of things,” he continued angrily. Jumping out of bed with a swiftness that was amazing for his age, he threw the covers to the floor. “I’ll be on the first flight,” he said and slammed the phone down.
I hope you have enjoyed the first four chapters of The Heiress of Santorini.
The novel is available here:
And stay tuned for the next giveaway coming up soon...