The French Riviera formed a lazy crescent from Nice to Menton, a town close to the Italian border. At the turn of the 19th Century, tuberculosis victims sought its lovely climate in the hope of defeating their devastating illness. In WWI the palaces and villas sheltered soldiers recovering from war wounds. Menton’s storied past included liberation from the Nazis by the Devil’s Brigade, a US—Canadian Special Forces unit.
Tall, pastel-colored buildings with red tile roofs, punctuated by a baroque church tower, clustered between the sea and the mountains. The address of the safe house took Anne north of the city to a grey-shuttered, salmon-pink villa. Rain poured from the roof and art-deco balcony. From the driveway, around the corner of the building, she glimpsed the Mediterranean, its angry grey swells pounding the beach in front of the town. She lifted Naomi who was sleeping in her car seat, the donkey clutched under her chin, and rushed in.
Quite luxurious for a safe house, she thought, given her limited experience—balconies and a view of the sea. She searched for a light switch on the wall in the dark interior.
A lamp across the room switched on. Who? A cold shiver ran through her. She clutched Naomi and turned her away from the man in the chair. All the running and there sat Sergio, with his gun pointed at her.
“Put her down,” he whispered.
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