Armed with a printout of the picture from Lisa’s computer, Matt had visited every hotel in town, from the scummy Pensione Casa Guillermo to the palatial Hotel San Pietro.
“All reservations are confidential,” said the snooty receptionist at the San Pietro. “We don’t give out information on our guests, past or present.”
“Never seen her,” said the bored desk clerk at the Casa Guillermo.
“Don’t think so. But fifty euros might jog my memory,” said the fat manager of the Britannia Guesthouse, rubbing his hands together hopefully. Matt demurred. It was clear the greasy-vested idiot didn’t recognize Lisa. Besides which, Matt could not imagine Lisa ever checking in to a dive like the Britannia, no matter how broke she was.
Carefully wrapping the last of the bread in a plastic bag and stuffing it into his backpack, Matt headed back into the old town. He had one last contact to see. If that came to nothing, he would leave Positano, perhaps go back to Hong Kong and see what he could dig up there.
The contact had come from a maid at the San Pietro. Witnessing Matt’s curt dismissal by the reception staff, she’d taken pity on him and followed him out to his car.
“If it’s gossip about the guests you’re looking for, you ought to talk to Michele,” she told him. “Michele saw everything. Heard all the secrets.”
Michele, it transpired, had worked as a barman at Positano’s grandest hotel until late last year when he’d been fired for petty theft. Unemployed since, he had a serious drinking problem and a major grudge against the San Pietro’s management, neither of which made him a very reliable source of information. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, and at this point Matt Daley was definitely a beggar, both figuratively and literally.
Michele lived in town in a run-down apartment above a fishmonger. Matt found the place easily. Even without the San Pietro maid’s directions he could probably have smelled his way there. The stench of mackerel and sardines, mingled with sweat and human piss from the alleyway running alongside the building, was bad enough to make him gag.
“Come in. Valeria told me you were coming.”
The man who opened the door was younger than Matt expected, and considerably more attractive. He’d been expecting a middle-aged, drunken slob, but other than a five o’clock shadow of stubble and faintly bloodshot eyes, Michele Danieli seemed to be in good shape.
“I hear you’re looking for someone.”
“Yes.” Inside the apartment, evidence of a life in disarray became more apparent. Take-out boxes littered the floor, along with empty beer bottles and old newspapers. A half-empty bottle of Scotch was plainly visible next to the kitchen sink. How did a fit, handsome kid like this get so down on his luck? Matt found himself feeling sorry for Michele.
He handed him the printout of Lisa’s photograph. The barman’s reaction was instantaneous.
“Yes, I know them. They stayed for five days or so.”
“When?” Matt asked breathlessly.
“Late summer, two years ago.”
The summer before she married Miles Baring.
“Absolutely,” said Michele. He pulled a cigarette out of a pack on the coffee table and lit it, blowing smoke in Matt’s face. “I never forget a lover.”
Matt inhaled sharply. He felt like he’d been hit over the head with a baseball bat.
“A lover? You slept together?”
Michele nodded. “Just once.”
Clearly, there was much about Lisa’s past that Matt didn’t know. He’d accepted that fact long ago. But the idea that she would go on vacation to Italy with one man, then jump into bed with the first good-looking barman who asked her…that hurt. It wasn’t the Lisa he remembered.
“The guy was a total asshole,” Michele continued. “Violent, depraved. I was bruised so bad the next day, I couldn’t go to work.”
It took a few seconds for his words to sink in.
“You mean…the man was your lover?”
Michele laughed. “Of course! I don’t do women, sweetheart. Can’t you tell?” He winked at Matt flirtatiously, but a few seconds later his mood darkened. “I’m sure it was him who complained to the hotel about the missing cuff links. Like I’d want to touch his stinking jewelry after the way he treated me.”
“Just to be clear. You’re saying the man in the picture was gay?”
“But he checked into the hotel with this woman? As a couple?”
“Uh-huh. Married. Don’t look so shocked.” Michele laughed. “It happens all the time.”
Matt sank down onto the filthy, litter-strewn couch. After ten days of coming up empty, he was getting more from two minutes with Michele Danieli than he’d bargained for. If Danieli was telling the truth, and Lisa’s mystery “lover” was actually gay, he couldn’t be the Azrael killer. Whoever butchered those old men also raped their wives. He got off on sex with women.
“Do you remember their names, this couple?”
“He told me his name was Luca. His wife called him something else though. Franco, Francesco…something Italian. I never knew their last name, but the hotel should have records.”
Not any that they’ll show me, buddy. Interpol, though, could probably find out easily enough, if Matt decided to come clean and share this new information with Danny McGuire. Danny’s team also had money to pursue new leads, something Matt Daley sorely lacked. But McGuire had admitted that he was cooperating with Inspector Liu, and Inspector Liu wanted to frame Lisa. For practical purposes, this made him dangerous. The enemy.
“What’s your interest in this guy?” Michele piped up. “If you don’t mind my asking.”
“It’s the woman I’m more concerned about,” said Matt. “I have reason to believe…I’m afraid she might be in danger.”
“If she’s still with Luca, I’d say it’s a certainty.” Michele lit another cigarette. Matt noticed that his hand was trembling. “That guy was strange. Scary, actually. I got the feeling she was intimidated by him when I saw them at the bar, but it wasn’t till after I slept with him myself that I realized why. I honestly thought he might kill me that night.”
“Is there anything else you remember about them, anything at all that might help me find this man? Did he talk about his home, his friends, his job at all? Did she?”
Michele shook his head. “Sorry, man. Nothing springs to mind.”
Matt got up to leave. When he reached the door, Michele called out, “Oh! There was one thing. It’s probably not important, though.”
“The woman, Luca’s wife. She was lonely, I think. Anyway, she became friendly with another guest, especially during her last few days here. He was an old man, superwealthy, and he was here on his own. Anyway I remember at the pool, the old guy asked her where her family was from. And she said Morocco.”
Matt froze. “Morocco?”
“Yeah. Which was weird, because this girl was as American as apple pie. I mean, like, if she was North African, I’m from Nova Scotia.”
“Would you recognize the old man if I showed you a picture?” Matt asked, his voice shaking.
“Don’t need a picture,” said Michele. “He was the biggest tipper I ever had, so I remember his name. It was Baring. Miles Baring.”
DANNY MCGUIRE PULLED HIS PUFFY JACKET more tightly around him and braced himself against the cold as he walked through the busy streets of Queens. It was only late September, but New York was already in the grip of its first fall cold spell. Above Danny’s head, russet leaves tipped with frost shook in the chill northeasterly wind. On the corner, three homeless men huddled around a burning oil drum, warming their gloved fingers over the flames. It felt as if it might snow. The FBI had been generous with their time, bending over backward to help Danny dig into Lisa Baring’s early life. But it was like hunting the proverbial needle in a haystack. All they had to go on was what Danny gave them—Lisa’s photograph, her blood type, her presumed age (based on the date of birth on her passport) and a range of dates during which she might have lived in the city as a child.
“You got anything on her family?”
Danny shook his head. “We think she had a sister, but no details on that. Parents believed dead. That’s it.”
The assistant director shrugged. “It’s not much to go on.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Give me a couple of days and I’ll see what I can find.”
While the FBI worked away, Danny spent the next forty-eight hours ricocheting around Manhattan like a deranged shuttlecock. He made a total of 116 phone calls to various high schools, for which his only reward was 116 “sorry, no such name in our records.” He’d gone in person to the DMV, a Social Security Administration branch, the head offices of six retail banks and numerous administrative offices of eight major hospitals. He’d e-mailed Lisa’s picture to the Times, the Daily News and the Post, on the off chance it might ring a bell with someone, and completed an exhaustive search for local news stories about orphaned sisters and/or any references to Morocco and children. Absolutely nothing.