by Michael Berg
Translated from the Dutch by Josh Pachter
The flight from Amsterdam to Corfu had landed half an hour ago, but Nikos Boutsis hadn’t yet spotted Anke Boersma. Camera in hand, he watched the glass exit doors leading out from the Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport. Had he gotten the date wrong? It was August 12, the anniversary was August 13, Mrs. Boersma always flew down a day early. Perhaps she’d heard the news and decided not to—
No, there she was, in a stylish pantsuit and high heels, decorated with jewelry, wearing sunglasses that covered the upper half of her face. A skycap struggled along behind her with two large suitcases.
Nikos raised his camera to his eye.
“No!” she cried, before he could press the shutter. “No pictures!”
He lowered the camera and handed her his card. “We exchanged e-mails,” he said apologetically. “I’m with Enimerosi, the English-language newspaper.”
She removed her sunglasses and studied the card, frowning.
“You’re a reporter?” The question sounded skeptical.
“Yes,” he said, “and photographer.” He laughed. “It’s a small paper.”
She sighed, already regretting their prearranged interview. “Have we met before, Mr.—” she read his name from the card “—Mr. Boutsis?”
“It’s possible. It’s not a very big island. And, after all, this isn’t your first visit.”
She nodded, slipped the card into her trouser pocket, and looked absently around the airport’s exterior. Long ago, her husband had died on Corfu. Ever since, she had come to the island every year on the anniversary of his death to memorialize him. This was her twenty-fifth such visit, and the newspaper’s editor had decided to publish a piece on the wealthy Dutch widow—who had been, before her marriage, a well-known fashion model—and her annual pilgrimage.
“We e-mailed,” Nikos said again. “You remember?”
“Yes, yes.” Another sigh. “Take your pictures.” She posed for the camera with a professional smile.
Nikos clicked off frame after frame. Through the lens, he admired the smoothness of her skin. Not a wrinkle to be seen. At forty-seven, Anke Boersma remained an attractive woman. He zoomed in closer. Was her blond hair dyed? It was impossible to tell. He stepped back for a longer shot. She was as good-looking as he remembered her.
“Do you have what you need, Mr. Boutsis?”
He smiled. “I do. Shall we?”
She looked at him in surprise. “Dimitrios is supposed to pick me up.”
“You haven’t heard? Dimitrios died, three days ago.”
“Yes, Dimitrios is dead.”
“My God.” The news and its consequences seemed to dawn on her slowly, and it was difficult for her to keep her face under control. “What happened?” she asked, recovering.
“A heart attack.”
She pursed her lips. “Perhaps, then, I should find somewhere else to—”
“Antigone insists that you stay in your usual apartment. She knew I was planning to meet you at the airport and asked me to bring you to Travelers’ Rest.”
“How do you know Antigone?”
“Everyone in Dassia knows everyone else.”
Anke Boersma, shifting her sunglasses from one hand to the other, seemed hesitant.
“Are you coming?” Without waiting for an answer, Nikos headed for the bus stop, where he had left his car, an old Opel that looked ready for the junkyard. He watched the skycap lift her luggage into the trunk and accept a tip. A generous one, to judge by the old man’s reaction. Nikos opened the passenger door for the Dutch woman, then circled around the front of the car and slid in behind the wheel.
“You’re from Amsterdam?” he asked, pulling away from the curb.
“And you’ll be returning to Amsterdam?”
He thought he could detect a hint of relief in her voice.
“When?” he asked, glancing at her.
She shrugged. As soon as possible. He could see the words cross her mind, though she said nothing aloud.
“What’s your plan for tomorrow?” asked Nikos, turning his attention back to the road.
“The same as every year. In the morning, I want to—”
Her voice caught in her throat for a moment.
“Will there be a boat for me, Mr. Boutsis? I mean, with Dimitrios gone?”
“It’s all arranged.”
“Who’s the captain?”
“I’m a jack-of-all-trades,” Nikos said, managing to keep himself from grinning. “Here on the island, we have to be.”
She forced a smile. “And when would you like to do the interview?”
“When we get back from Lazarett?”
They drove on in silence. The sky above the sea was gray. The mountains on the mainland were barely visible. From the corner of his eye, Nikos watched Anke Boersma gaze out the Opel’s passenger window. What was she thinking?
He turned left before the supermarket and followed the steep road up into the hills. There were olive groves and vacation homes on both sides. Finally, near the top, they came to the Travelers’ Rest. The woman stirred restlessly in her seat. Their eyes met for a moment, but then she looked away.
They turned onto the property, and he parked before the main building and helped Anke Boersma out of the car. He collected her luggage from the trunk, and they went together into the lobby of the four-story hotel.
Antigone sat at the reception desk in a black dress. Her face betrayed the tears she had shed over the past three days. When she saw them, she stood up and put out her hand. “Welcome, Mrs. Boersma. Welcome back to Travelers’ Rest.”
“Thank you,” the Dutch woman said, taking the offered hand. “I’m so sorry about your husband.”
Antigone ducked her head.
“I hope my arrival isn’t a problem,” Anke went on quickly. “If it’s inconvenient, I can find—”
“No, no.” Antigone’s voice was resolute. “Everything is ready for you, as always. Your usual apartment, your usual view. Dimitrios would have wanted it this way.” She rang an old-fashioned brass desk bell on the counter.
“Do you need my passport?”
“Not necessary. We know you.”
The women exchanged polite smiles. Anke Boersma stood uncomfortably until a bellboy arrived to take charge of her suitcases.
“Yannis will take you,” Antigone said.
“May I come along?” asked Nikos. “Perhaps a few more pictures?”
“All right,” Anke said. “Come.”
He followed her a hundred yards up the path to the apartments Dimitrios had added to the property in the mid eighties. Two one-story buildings, each comprised of four side-by-side units. Dimitrios had never visited the United States, but he was a fan of Hollywood movies, and he had had the buildings designed to look like an American motel of the forties or fifties. Wooden buildings, air-conditioned. Each unit had a living room facing south, a bedroom on the north side, a kitchenette and bathroom in between. The living room opened out onto a terrace with a view of the Ionian Sea. Private entrance and parking space on the north.
Yannis carried her suitcases inside and set them down. As he left, Nikos saw Anke Boersma hand the boy a ten-euro note for his trouble. Nikos followed her in. There was a large bouquet of white roses on the coffee table in the living room. On the wall hung a photo of Lazarett, the tiny island off the coast of Corfu where Jaap Boersma had drowned.
“You want to take more pictures?”
“Yes,” Nikos said hurriedly. He pulled his camera from his shoulder bag.
“Where shall I stand, Mr. Boutsis?”
“By the window? Looking out?”
“At the sea?”
“If that’s all right with you.”
He snapped several shots.
“Are you finished?”
He packed away his camera. “When would you like me to pick you up in the morning?”
“Ten, please.” She turned away, dismissing him.
Copyright © 2020. Travelers' Rest by Michael Berg