PUBLICATION DATE 30TH JULY 2020
Eveline ‘Bunny’ Sadeghi was smiling happily as she sailed to her death.
The sun had been rising behind them as they left the harbour at Sami yesterday. Now a glorious sunset was welcoming them to Syracuse, only an hour away. The winds had held steady and they had the sea to themselves. As they sailed westwards across the Ionian Sea there seemed to be more planes going their way than ships. Her brother-in-law’s yacht, Mahsheed, was not as sturdy as her own beloved Bunny Hopper, which she had left safely moored at home on the Solent, but it was a lot more comfortable. As they approached their destination, her husband Davoud was down below fixing a welcome gin and tonic.
Bunny had enjoyed their few days in Kefalonia although Davoud’s brother, Behzad, was not an easy man. His villa, some miles inland from Sami, enjoyed spectacular views but she was never able to completely relax there. The isolation was total. Despite the heat of the sun the villa always seemed cold, the accommodation whilst spacious was rough and masculine.
Behzad seemed to have no need for female company, he shared the villa only with his driver, and Shahryar whose role never seemed clear. Two women from the village came in to cook and clean but Bunny had never seen Behzad talk to them, hardly surprising as he seemed to have made no effort to learn Greek and they could certainly not speak Farsi.
On Sundays, which the two women had off, Shahryar would disappear somewhere and return with a parcel of books and letters and a mountain of kebabs and rice he had presumably picked up in the village taverna. Behzad certainly read voraciously and Bunny enjoyed their conversations about opera or Russian literature, but sooner or later Behzad always turned to politics and her heart would sink. It was not a subject that gripped her at the best of times and it brought out the worst in her brother-in-law. Behzad’s paranoia would be comical if it were not so overpowering. Everyone was out to get him. Usually it was the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK. He insisted that when he was at home in Paris they kept him under constant surveillance. Here on the island SAVAK apparently had paid informants everywhere. And if it wasn’t SAVAK it was the Israelis, and if not them the American CIA or even, heaven forbid, the British.
She had asked her brother, who was now something high up in Intelligence, whether there could be any truth in any of it. It had been just ten days ago at their niece’s wedding. Gordon had just laughed and said that he could imagine all sorts of conspiracies in the feuding world of Iranian exiles but one thing he could guarantee was that the Shah did not maintain a nest of spies on an inconsequential Greek island in the Ionian Sea.
Bunny’s thought drifted in a different direction. It had been a lovely wedding. Julia was her favourite niece and the last to marry. Her new husband was not at all what Bunny would have expected, a minor civil servant of undistinguished pedigree.
‘Thomas has a First from Durham and is fluent in four languages,’ Julia had indignantly proclaimed after deciding that Bunny was insufficiently welcoming.
Certainly his wedding speech had been surprisingly impressive and genuinely amusing. Whether he took after his pugnaciously argumentative father or rather dreary Westcountry mother time would tell.
Julia had looked enchanted and enchanting. Bunny smiled broadly at the memory, tightening the mainsail as the wind had dropped.
Right ahead she spotted a small fishing boat seemingly becalmed. As she drew closer Bunny could see two men standing by the tiny wheelhouse, looking in her direction, and another man inside. She waved but there was no cheery response. As the boats came closer, perhaps eight or ten yards apart, the fishing boat’s engine sprang into life. Bunny was startled and instinctively steered away. She looked up to see one of the men point his hand at her, but it was not just his hand. She saw the gun just as it fired and registered the thought ‘Pirates’ in the instant before the bullet struck her thigh.
The force of the bullet knocked her back against the tiller and the yacht slewed around directly towards the other boat. Davoud, emerging with two gin and tonics, was thrown on to his side. His first thought was that they had crashed into something. Then someone seemed to have thrown a cricket ball at him. He didn’t have time to register that it was not a cricket ball: the grenade exploded with such force that yacht, crew and very nearly their attackers disappeared in a storm of splintered wood, metal and shredded sail.