Soon after her father’s disappearance and the brutal killing of his two business associates, Maria Scmitt, terrified by Arkady Demitriev’s sudden appearance at the family’s law firm in Belize City, decided there was no time to lose, it was time to get out, and get out quick.
The next morning she slipped her passports into her handbag, dropped a file containing the papers she had prepared in case of such an eventuality into a small carry-on with a few other essential items, and quit her apartment. She walked a couple of blocks, ditched her cell in the Haulover Creek, then hailed a passing cab and instructed the driver to drop her at Goldson International Airport, there she boarded a flight for Panama City.
Late that same afternoon Maria checked-in on a transatlantic flight, her destination Ibiza, Spain.
Her plan was to find Pat Kennedy, a rich banker, and claim payment for the rare 16th century codex her father had discovered hidden in one of the many strongroom at the Geneva Freeport in Switzerland.
Demitriev suspected Maria and her aunt, May Grafton, were hiding valuable works of art, bought by her father’s associates with money skimmed from the offshore accounts they’d set-up for a clique of corrupt Kremlin insiders. It was money Igor Vishnevsky, a former Russian banker, should have been ploughing into speculative real estate investment schemes in Belize, Cancun and other tourist destinations in the Caribbean on behalf of the Kremlin racketeers.
Unknown to Maria and Demitriev, the codex, compiled by Aztec healers under the supervision of Franciscan friars, soon after the fall of Moctezuma’s empire, described how certain medicinal herbs and plants were prepared for the use of the emperor and his high priests.
Research by Anna Basurko, a historian and archaeologist, friend of Pat Kennedy, reveals that the Franciscan monks, who supervised the compilation of the codex, lived to unusually great ages, in a time when life was short, very short.
Kennedy instructs his scientific team at LifeGen, a research centre specialised in gerontology and longevity, to study the plants described in the codex. Their work identifies an unknown molecule which in the course of tests demonstrates its capacity to regenerate cells and reverse senescence in laboratory animals.
Kennedy, diagnosed as suffering from potentially debilitating side-effects following a brief Covid-19 infection, insists he participate in a clinical trial of the molecule, the results of which are astonishing, within a few weeks not only does his general well-being improve, but visible signs of rejuvenation appear.
MARIA SCMITT HADN’T HUNG AROUND to see what happened next. By the time Demitriev realised the bird had flown, she was already checking into the Mirador de Dalt Vila, a boutique hotel overlooking the Mediterranean, ten thousand kilometres from Belize City, on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
There, after inspecting her room, Maria carefully locked the door, double checked the security latch, then collapsed onto the bed and slept until early evening.
The journey from Belize to Panama City, London, Madrid and finally to Ibiza had been long, exhausting and filled with apprehension following Demitriev’s intimidating visit to the law offices of Young & Simmonds three days earlier.
The Russian had appeared shortly after Henrique da Roza. The visit of the Brazilian, or whatever he was, had already been alarming enough. But what had really put the fear of God into Maria was the disappearance of Barry Simmonds’ passport and documents relating to Cavendish Holdings, which she discovered on arrival at the law firm the following morning.
Maria was very meticulous and immediately sensed something was not right, her files were not exactly in the order she had left them. For ease of mind and to alleviate her suspicions she carefully checked her papers, the drawers of her workspace, Simmonds bureau, the doors and windows. Nothing had been forced, but there was absolutely no doubt the office had been visited by intruders, and not the careless local amateur kind, there were no visible indications of an intrusion apart for the missing documents.
When Simmonds business start to go sour, as his sister May Grafton predicted it would, he was forced to admit his concerns to Maria, afraid of what might happened if his Russian friends became threatening. In particular he warned Maria about Arkady Demitriev, who was no simple attaché at the Russian Representation in Belize City, but an intelligence agent, and an extremely dangerous one at that.
Soon after the mysterious disappearance of her father, Maria, fearing the worse had prepared a plan. With Demitriev’s sudden eruption at the law firm’s offices, she did not intend to wait around and see what happened next. She grabbed several important documents she had put to one side in the apartment situated above the office which her father had been in the habit of using before his disappearance, stuffed them into the overnight bag she had prepared, just in case, ready with a change of clothes and a few other necessities, locked the office and headed towards the Swing Bridge.
Along the way she extracted the SIM card from her cellphone, which she crushed under her heel, then on reaching the Haulover Creek she discreetly dropped the phone into its murky waters, after which she hailed a passing taxi and instructed the driver to take her to the Goldson International Airport, ten kilometres to the west of Belize City, where she arrived in time to catch the midday flight for Panama City.
On arrival at Tocumen Airport, she presented her UK passport at the British Airways counter and bought a one-way ticket to London on a flight leaving later that afternoon. The twelve hour non-stop flight arrived at London Heathrow early the next morning where Maria headed for terminal 5, there she bought a ticket on the first flight to Madrid, presenting her Belize passport, with a connection to Denia where she boarded the ferry for Ibiza.
The next day Maria headed down to the BBVA branch in Ibiza Town to pick up the poste restante bank statements held for a holiday rental company—Maya Sol Villas S.L.—that managed her father’s retirement villa, situated just outside of Santa Eulalia del Rio, which until then had been rented to English and Northern European holiday makers, however, outside of the high season and what with the pandemic, it had found few takers.
Maya Sol Villas was owned by a British Virgin Islands trust, also set up by her father, a structure that offered numerous advantages for foreign residents.
Completed and furnished a year earlier the villa was in perfect condition, the pool and gardens maintained by a local agency, leaving Maria little else to do than settle the maintenance charges, collect the few belongings she had brought with her from Belize and move in.
Simmonds also held foreign resident bank accounts with the BBVA, in his own and Maria’s name, which allowed Maria to install herself without attracting to much attention. Her plan was simple—keep a low profile whilst she figured how and when she would make her next move, that was to meet with Sir Patrick Kennedy and claim what was due on the Wallace Codex.