Misguided Angel Page 2

She followed Jack to the edge of the platform. Iggy had tethered the little boat to the yacht, and Drago reached forward to help Schuyler step down. But Jack slipped ahead and brushed Drago aside so he could offer Schuyler his palm instead, ever the gentleman. She held his hand as she climbed over the rail and into the boat. Drago shrugged and steadied the boat as Iggy brought the last of the provisions onto the bow--several picnic baskets and backpacks filled with blankets and water. Schuyler patted her bag, confirming that the Repository files with Lawrence's notes were in their usual place.

Schuyler turned to look closely upon the rugged Italian coast for the first time. Ever since they had learned of Iggy's affinity for the Cinque Terre, they had been advocating for this little day trip. The Cinque Terre was a strip of the Italian Riviera populated by a series of five medieval towns. Iggy, with his broad face and fat belly, spoke longingly of running along the paths along the cliff edge before coming home to outdoor dinners overlooking sunsets above the bay.

She had never been to this part of Italy and did not know too much about it--but she understood how they could use Iggy's affection for his hometown to their advantage. He had not been able to resist their suggestion to visit, and allowed them a day off of their floating prison. It was the perfect spot for what they had planned, as trails ended in ancient stairs that stretched upward for hundreds of feet. The paths would be abandoned this time of year--tourist season was over, as fall brought cold weather to the popular resort towns. The mountain trails would lead them far from the ship.

"You are going to love this place, Jack," Iggy said, rowing vigorously. "You too, signorina," he said. The Italians had a difficult time pronouncing Schuyler.

Jack grunted, pulling on his oar, and Schuyler tried to affect a festive air. They were supposed to be getting ready for a picnic. Schuyler noticed Jack brooding, staring at the sea, preparing himself for the day ahead, and she swatted his arm playfully. This was supposed to be a long-awaited respite from their time on the ship, a chance to spend a day exploring.

They were supposed to look like a happy couple with not a care in the world, not like two captives about to execute a prison break.

TWO

The Getaway

Schuyler felt her mood lift as they pulled into the bay at Vernazza. The view could bring a smile to anyone's face, and even Jack brightened. The rock ledges were spectacular and the houses that clung to them looked as ancient as the stones themselves. They docked the boat, and the foursome hiked up the cliff side toward the trail.

The five towns that formed the Cinque Terre were connected by a series of stony paths, some almost impossible to climb, Iggy explained, as they walked past a succession of tiny stucco homes. The Venator was in a jubilant mood, telling them the history of every house they walked past. "And this one, my aunty Clara sold in 1977 to a nice family from Parma, and this right here was where the most beautiful girl in Italy lived"--Iggy made a kissing noise--"but . . . Red Blood lady you know how they are . . . picky . . . Oh and this is where . . ."

Iggy called out to farmers as they walked through the backyards and fields, patting animals as they strolled past their pastures. The trail wound back and forth from grassland to homes to the very edge of the sea cliffs.

Schuyler watched tiny rocks tumble over the side of the hill as they made their way forward. Iggy kept the conversation flowing, while Drago nodded and laughed to himself, as if he had taken the tour one time too many and was merely humoring his friend. The climb was hard work, but Schuyler was glad for the chance to stretch her muscles, and she was certain Jack was too. They had spent too much time on the boat, and while they had been allowed to swim in the ocean, it wasn't the same as a good hike in the open air. In a few hours they had moved from Vernazza to Corniglia and then Manarola. Schuyler noticed that they passed the day without seeing a single car or truck, not a phone line or power cable.

This is it, Jack sent. Over there.

Schuyler knew it meant he had judged their distance to be nearly halfway between the last two towns. It was time. Schuyler tapped Iggy on the shoulder and gestured toward a craggy outcropping that hung over the cliff side. "Lunch?" she asked, her eyes twinkling.

Iggy smiled. "Of course! In all my exuberance I forgot to let us stop and eat!"

The spot Schuyler had led them to was in a peculiar location. The trail stretched out toward a promontory so that there were cliffs on either side of the narrow path. The two Venators spread one of the Countess's spotless white tablecloths over a grassy plateau between the rough stone, and the four of them crammed into the small space. Schuyler tried not to look down as she snuggled up as close to the edge as possible.

Jack sat across from her, gazing over her shoulder at the shoreline below. He kept his eyes on the beach as Schuyler helped unpack the basket. She brought out salamis and prosciutto di Parma, finocchiona, mortadella, and air-cured beef. Some of the meat came in long rolls, while others were cut into small disks and wrapped in wax paper. There was a loaf of rosemary cake, along with a brown paper bag full of almond tarts and jam crostata. It was a pity it was all going to go to waste. Drago pulled several plastic containers filled with Italian cheeses--pecorino and fresh burrata wrapped in green asphodel leaves. Schuyler tore off a piece of the burrata and took a bite. It was buttery and milky, equal to the view in splendor.

She caught Jack's eyes briefly. Get ready, he sent. She continued to smile and eat, even as her stomach clenched. She turned briefly to see what Jack had seen. A small motorboat had pulled up to the beach below. Who would have known a teenage North African pirate from the Somali coast would prove to be such a reliable contact, Schuyler thought. Even from far above she could see that he had brought them what they had asked for: one of the pirate crew's fastest speedboats, jerry-rigged with a grossly oversized engine.

Iggy popped open a bottle of Prosecco, and the four of them toasted the sun-drenched coastline with friendly smiles. He lifted his hand in a wide gesture as he gazed down at the midday feast. "Shall we begin?"

That was the moment she had been waiting for. Schuyler sprang into action. She leaned back and appeared to lose her balance for a moment, then bent forward and tossed the full contents of her wineglass into Drago's face. The alcohol stung his eyes, and he looked baffled, but before he could react, Iggy slapped him on the back and guffawed heartily, as if Schuyler had made a particularly funny joke.

With Drago momentarily blinded, and Iggy's eyes closed in laughter, Jack moved to strike. He slid a shank out from his shirtsleeve and into his palm, flipped it around and drove the knife deep into Drago's chest, sending the Italian sprawling to the ground, bleeding. Schuyler had helped Jack make the blade from one of the deck boards. He had hollowed out the back of a loose stair tread and carved it against a stone she'd found on a dive. The shank was made from ironwood, and it made for a dangerous and deadly little dagger.

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