The team sail quickly from Mersa Fatma, worried about trouble following them out of the desert. They board a small, shabby cargo ship heading for Valletta and breathe a sigh of relief.
Over four days they rest and talk through their experiences, and slowly sleep better.
Valletta is a busy port inside steep walls rising from the limestone peninsula. Hundreds of ships, small and large, plough the sheltered inlets. The ship lands early in the morning, and the team get ashore and find a good hotel in a better residential area. Martin stops in the City Records office and starts their search for Montgomery Donovan among the paperwork.
While the others unpack, shower and take lunch, he quickly finds the ownership records of Donovan’s townhouse, a commercial warehouse and private yacht, named the ‘Elegance’. The records are present and complete, but the bare legal minimum. The clerk is taciturn and unforthcoming.
That afternoon, Fox and Martin head down the hill to the docks looking for more information on the Elegance. The harbour is packed with luxury yachts and fishing boats, and the master is harried, but Fox manages to get into conversation, and asks about the Elegance.
“That’s it.” he said pointing out across the bay, to a white yacht anchored directly in the main shipping channel.
“It’s kind of in the way there, why don’t you ask him to move it?” Fox said.
“Donovan’s a major cargo shipper. His ships do good business for the port. And he’s a decent guy.”
Phipps arrives with newly purchased binoculars and the three move up to study it from the shore. The Elegance is a luxury yacht, 50’ or so, a bridge on second deck, and large glass windows around the main deck. No-one is visible, and no dinghies are docked. It bobs quietly in the swells from other boats.
They walk back via the commercial docks. Donovan’s warehouse is a large, 2 story building on the seafront. It is surrounded by a wire fence, with a clear gravelled-space between the fence and the building. A guard hut sits by the entrance gate and car-park, and two armed guards walk back and forth along a path. Small windows are high the walls, and more guards on the roof.
Kent is asking around expensive hotels and casinos in central Valletta, and not getting much luck. If there are private members clubs, the English expats here are keeping them quiet. He’s pointed at the Navy officers club across on the dockyards, but the British Navy has recently changed its base to Gibraltar.
Walking back he passes the Royal Opera House and spies an engraved stone on the wall.
“For my darling Portia, cruelly taken from us. 4th July 1936”
They take the rest of the day easy, eating good food and discussing their options.
Early the next morning the four headed to the shore and found a boat hire shop. Soon they were rowing out to the yacht. It was clearly quiet, with no signs of life on board. Rowing around, out of sight of land, they boarded and explored the used, but dusty rooms. The yacht was expensively furnished, the main deck surrounded by glass, and a white sofa. Stacked in the sink were dirty glasses and the bar had been drunk dry of whiskey and brandy. In the main bedroom wardrobe hung expensive dresses, next to empty spaces where men’s suits should be. Alongside one side of the bed was a pile of well-read romance novels.
Further long was a smaller bedroom, decorated with locomotives. Stuffed toys were scattered on the bed and drawers contained boy’s clothes for a 6 to 8 year old.
Fox spotted a motorboat bouncing off the waves as it zoomed towards them. There were three big men in it, one clearly carrying a rifle. They prepared their guns, and when the launch bumped against the stern, the three guards were shot and killed, one falling into the water. The team stole the motorboat, pulling their rowboat away to shore, via a long way round.
They hole up for the rest of the day alert for trouble. That evening they walk by Donovan’s house.
The house is a four-storey town house, in a smart area. The front door and rear garage door were heavily fortified, Fox notes, which was unusual.
There were bars over the lower windows, but the fourth floor had a large window overlooking the city to the sea. Phipps noted that the building is a lot cleaner than others. The stonework had been washed recently, and Kent spotted engravings of eyes and protective symbols. On the ground floor corners are gargoyles, a different stone from the building. Electrical power came up the side in a vulnerable cable.
Phipps mentioned that it was likely a house this age had underground entrances, Malta has withstood many sieges. As they watch a dark windowed limousine swept along the road, around and down into the garage. A guard swung the door down behind it. Finally, staff left through the front door and headed away through Maltese streets to their own houses.
Over a fresh fish dinner they questioned the waiter and discussed what to do. The waiter knew Mr Donovan, he ate regularly at the restaurant, but no more.
The team decided the warehouse was the next step and prepared their break in.
The warehouse was busier in the evening, a large ship the Thysus was docked, and light streamed from the small windows and cargo doors. Guards patrolled the roof and path.
“I think I know what you are after” said an mans’ voice from the dark. “Meet me tomorrow at the café by the Knights Fountain”. The speaker was an aged, refined gentleman. He had grey hair and a long beard. He looked at the warehouse, “That place is dangerous.”