The Eyes of Ishtar
Chapter 2


"Good morning, Ma'am." Antonio addressed the lady at the desk with all the charm he could summon.

Her greeting was friendly in response. "Good morning to you, young man. And what can I do for you this fine day?"

Antonio had given considerable thought as to how he would approach the subject. He really didn't want to tell an outright lie, yet neither did he want to divulge the real importance of the papers.

"A couple of weeks ago my aunt arranged for your warehouse to pick up a large number of boxes and other furnishings she no longer needed. She was moving and wanted to empty her house without the least delay. Unfortunately, I was out of the country on business at the time so was unable to help her. You sent over a truck, and four men removed everything she had designated from the house. Among the boxes were seven file boxes, and included among those seven file boxes, completely by accident, was one of my own. It was, I'm afraid to say, an extremely valuable collection of essays from which I am writing a book." And here Antonio's face became a helpless expression of confusion, designed to break the hardest heart. "My aunt was extremely upset over her mistake and suggested I come here," he concluded, looking hopefully into the woman's eyes.

"My dear young man, how simply awful! I'm so sorry. However, there is no need to fret. I'll do everything possible to locate the auction house where the boxes were sent, since that's undoubtedly what happened to them. It's one of our sidelines, so to speak, sending off wares for auction. We'll find it," she spoke reassuringly.

"Oh, I'm so glad." Antonio looked relieved. "You see, Ma'am, my uncle died while I was away, and my aunt was too overcome with grief to wait until I returned before she started boxing things up. She just started packing boxes and putting them in the den, not noticing my own box that was already there."

"I know how that it is, indeed I do. My own Jimmy passed on two years ago this month, and I can still remember how, shall we say crazy? I became right after. Started cleaning out all his tools from the garage so I could at least get my car in and out without seeing him sitting there working on some project." Silence fell, her thoughts recapturing this image of Jimmy. "Yes, yes, it was a sad time to be sure. And believe you me, I do regret that rash action now, I surely do. But we can't take time back now, can we?" She lowered her head to hide her tear-filled eyes.

Antonio felt ashamed. Tenderly he placed his hand upon the woman's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, truly sorry," he spoke kindly. All attempts at pretense now aside, he suggested, "Perhaps another time would be better. I can come back tomorrow, Mrs.?"

"Oleszkiewicz. Martha Oleszkiewicz." She pulled a tissue from the box on her desk and dabbed her eyes. "Nonsense. No, young man, we shall look into it right this very minute." Martha arose and marched over to a file cabinet. "Can you give me a more exact date, Mr.?"

"Kamil. Antonio Kamil. It was sometime around the middle of August. I'm sorry I can't be more precise."

"And your aunt's name, Antonio? Or may I call you Tony?"

"Oh, Tony's fine. It's Margaret Savarin. S, A, V, A, R, I, N."

Martha spent the next ten minutes thumbing through numerous folders, all the while mumbling to herself. "Found it!" Triumphantly she held up the folder, and, repossessing her chair behind the desk, she opened the folder with something of a flair. "The boxes were sent to McMahon's Auction Emporium in Lynley, a small city on the outskirts of Minneapolis."

Antonio clasped her hand and thanked her profusely, all the while looking intently into her eyes.

The relief on his face was so genuine that Martha almost started to cry again for happiness. "I'm so glad for you, Tony. Good luck, I hope you can get it back."

Antonio ran to his car. Lynley was a good 200 miles from Hampton Heights. If he left right away, maybe he could still get back by nightfall.

* * * * * * * * * *

The stranger entered the building where Antonio lived. The apartment he wanted was on the third floor, and he took the stairway up. Apartment 320 was at the end of the hall. He knocked on the door and waited, but there was no answer. A look down the hallway satisfied him that no one was watching, so he took a leather case from his pocket and extracted a small tool. Picking the lock took no more than half a minute. The tool was replaced in the case, and after donning a pair of gloves, he entered the apartment.

The apartment was in apple-pie order except for a number of file boxes on the floor. Strewn about the boxes were magazines and papers. The stranger picked through them, and finding nothing of interest, moved on to the desk in the corner. A handful of papers were lying on top, perfectly aligned and square to the corner of the desk. He glanced through each page and replaced them in exactly the same position. A few cubbyholes in the desk offered nothing of interest.

The stranger entered the bedroom. Here again was evidence of a man meticulous in his habits. Not a wrinkle appeared in the coverlet on the bed, no dust whatsoever lay on the surface of the dresser, and not a streak was visible on the mirror. He approached the bedside table with its two drawers, and opening them looked inside. The contents were simply what could be expected in a man's bedroom. Continuing through the apartment, he found both the bathroom and kitchen neat, clean, and orderly. If there was anything in them pertaining to his search, he didn't find it. Turning to leave, he noticed the telephone on a nearby table. He hit the redial button and waited until a voice answered. It was Mrs. Savarin, so he hung up without saying a word. He played back the old phone messages and found them to be innocuous messages from friends. It was time to leave.

Easing the door open a fraction, the stranger peeked into the hallway. About ten feet down the hall a woman had just entered her apartment and was closing her door. He waited thirty seconds. Then turning the lock on the knob, he left the apartment. He hurried down the hallway on silent feet, unnoticed except by the woman now peering through her security peephole.

* * * * * * * * * *

"What are you doing out here, honey?" Patsy had found Max in the garage standing atop a stool and feeling around in the rafters.

"I'm looking for a box of microscope slides."

"Up there? Why on earth would you have put them up there?" Patsy sounded slightly bewildered.

"I didn't put them up here," Max responded a mite sharply. "It just so happened that they were in my hand when I thought of something I needed up here, and I set them down and forgot about them, that's all."

Max was never one to sound peeved, so it wasn't hard for Patsy to sense that something was wrong. "What is it, Max? Why don't you come down here and tell me what's bothering you."

Max let out a sigh, jumped off the stool, and sat down across from Patsy, who was now sitting on a packing crate. "Do you remember Harold Manning? The guy who wrote that article on Akkadian lampstands?"

Patsy screwed up her face in an attempt to remember. "No, not really. Why?"

"He died this morning. I got an email about it just a little while ago. You know, he was only forty-five years old?" Max's lips tightened and he raised his eyebrows.

"So what? Sad to say, but a lot of people die at the age of forty-five. It doesn't mean you will too." She leaned forward and gave his knee a loving squeeze.

Max looked defensive. "Oh, come on now, Patsy. It could happen, and you know it. And then where would you be? A young mother and a little girl left all alone."

Patsy put her hand alongside her chin and tilted her head. "Where would I be? Well, I certainly wouldn't be sitting around here moaning about you. No sir, no indeedy. I'd take the insurance money and find myself a handsome, rich, AND young bloke, and we'd set sail for Hawaii. Parisa, well, maybe I could pawn her off on your folks."

Max looked irked at this light-hearted response.

"Max, forget it. Now, listen to this, because it's good news. Karen called and said she's coming for a visit around the beginning of October. And," leaning forward, Patsy lowered her voice into a conspiratorial whisper, "she's bringing you a big surprise." Patsy straightened back up and clapped her hands enthusiastically. She noticed Max's eyes take on a sparkle and his face break into a smile.

"Really? What is it?"

Patsy became secretive. "Can't tell you. Won't tell you. And you can't make me either."

"Oh, you think I can't, do you?" Max arose from the stool. "You've been asking for a good paddling for a long time, you know that, don't you? In Assyria a man would have...." And Patsy dashed out of the garage, Max in mock pursuit.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lynley had a population of about 60,000. The McMahon Auction Emporium was situated on the outskirts of the city across the street from a relatively new industrial park. Once again Antonio assumed his most charming manner, and upon entering the building walked straight to the reception desk. It was being manned by a middle-aged, skin-and-bones, extremely tall woman. She had to be close to six feet tall, and from the look on her face, she had eaten a pickle for breakfast. Her name tag read MINERVA PHELPS.

"How do you do, Ma'am". No response while she glowered at him. "I was wondering if you could assist me?" Antonio smiled and looked expectant.

"That's what I'm here for. What is it?"

She continued to look him directly in the eyes. Antonio had this same mannerism, but now finding himself on the receiving end of it, he felt just a bit intimidated. "Well, quite recently you received a shipment of goods from Nelson Brothers Warehouse in Hampton Heights. In this shipment were a number of cardboard file boxes, but among them was one that should not have been included." He gave her what he hoped was a winning smile.

"So?"

"Well, I was hoping you would be kind enough to give me the name of the person or persons who purchased one or all of these boxes. I would then contact each one and see if perhaps I could buy the box back."

Silence followed while Mrs. Phelps inspected him like she would a piece of moldy cheese. Antonio was beginning to despair of success. However, not one to surrender easily, he straightened his shoulders and leaned forward, his blue eyes boring into hers.

An uncomfortable few seconds passed until she looked away and said, "I have no authority to give out any names. You'll have to talk with the owner. He's over there," and she flung her bony hand in the direction of where a portly man was bent over a cedar chest.

"Thank you, Mrs. Phelps. Thank you so very much." Relieved and feeling a trifle smug, Antonio turned away and with renewed hope made his way toward the portly gentleman.

Mr. McMahon was altogether a cordial man. "How can I help you, sir?" Antonio gave him a succinct summary of what had happened.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I do recall the boxes. There were seven of them I believe. They were sold the following day to an auto mechanic right here in Lynley."

"Excuse me, did you say an auto mechanic?" Antonio asked in disbelief.

Mr. McMahon shrugged his shoulders. "It does seem quite absurd, I know, but Todd is known around here as a pack rat. Normally, I do not give out names or addresses of our clients. In this instance, however, seeing we are speaking of something fairly valuable, I can make an exception."

The directions to Todd's were quite easy to remember, so Antonio thanked the manager and made his way to the door, bypassing the sweet and lovely Mrs. Phelps without so much as a look in her direction.

Antonio found "Hot-Rod Todd's Garage" with no problem. It was a large establishment and obviously doing a good business. There were five bays, all of which had a vehicle inside for servicing.

A mechanic noticed Antonio and came out with a smile on his face, wiping his hands on a dirty rag. "Good afternoon, sir. What can I do for you?"

"I'm looking for Todd. Is that you?"

"No, Todd's over yonder with that man there." He pointed to where two men were standing by a blue Cutlass. "It shouldn't be a long wait." The mechanic noticed the Mercedes. "Wow, nice car. Having some problem with it? We service all vehicles here. Perhaps an oil change?"

Antonio saw the name printed on the man's shirt. "No, Jason, no problems. I just need to see Todd on another matter."

"I'll let him know you're here. HEY TODD, A MAN HERE TO SEE YOU," he yelled.

"Thank you, Jason. I'll wait right here. Please don't let me keep you from your work. Nice to have met you."

"Sure thing." Jason returned to the garage bay, stuffing the rag in his back pocket.

Todd and the man with whom he was speaking walked slowly in Antonio's direction. "Thanks Todd, I'll bring it by in a few weeks when it's due for an oil change. Might as well get both jobs done at the same time."

"Okay, Jeff, sounds good."

Jeff veered off in the direction of the Cutlass with an appreciative glance at the Mercedes.

Approaching Antonio with a friendly smile, Todd offered his hand after wiping it on his leg. "Yes, sir. Todd Gerard here, but everyone calls me Todd. Was there something I could do for you?"

"Yes, Todd," and Antonio took Todd's hand in a firm shake. "My name's Antonio Kamil. I'm from Hampton Heights and am here in Lynley in search of some file boxes of mine. They were mistakenly auctioned off at McMahon's. Mr. McMahon told me you were the one who purchased them."

"Yeah, that's right. I bought 'em. Haven't had a chance to look through 'em though. You say they're yours, huh?"

"Yes, they are. A couple of weeks ago my aunt disposed of a number of boxes of clothing and household goods at Nelson Brothers Warehouse in Hampton Heights, and these seven boxes of mine were included by mistake. Mr. McMahon bought the boxes, and he told me you bought them at a recent auction. They're full of research materials I'm using for writing a book, and I really do need them back. I'll be glad to give you double what you paid for them."

"What kind of book are you writing?"

"It's a book on the pyramids of Egypt."

Todd contemplated the situation and glanced over at the Mercedes. "You say you'll give me double, huh?"

"Yes, most certainly."

He came to a decision. "Okay. Like I said, I never even looked into the boxes. I got them for ten bucks. They're over here in the back."

Antonio followed Todd through the garage area into a large room at the back. His heart sank when he saw his boxes. They were lined up against the wall, apparently substituting for a worktable. Myriads of greasy, oily auto parts were heaped on top. The floor of the room was dotted with oil puddles. Todd stepped over to a box and began removing parts off the cover.

"Todd, one moment please. Maybe I had better get some plastic to put down in my car before we put the boxes in. Do you know a store nearby where I can get some?"

"Sure, round the corner is a Dollar Store. They probably have garbage bags that would work. You can walk there as quick as you can drive."

"Thanks, I'll be right back."

Antonio ran to the Dollar Store and within ten minutes was back with a box of heavy-duty garbage bags. While Todd watched, Antonio placed some bags in the trunk, meticulously covering every square inch of the floor. He did the same inside the car, smoothing the plastic over the entire back seat and securely tucking in the edges.

"Okay, Todd, all set. I can help you carry them. Or perhaps I should drive back there?"

"No need for that. I can manage. No need for you to get your clothes greasy."

Todd retraced his steps through the work area and returned in a leisurely saunter carrying one of the file boxes propped up on his shoulder. He placed it in the trunk. The remaining six boxes were carried over in the same manner, and Todd put three more in the trunk and three in the back seat.

"Todd, I'm amazed. You're not even the least bit winded." Antonio looked at him with admiration. "Those boxes are heavy."

"Ah, it was nothing. Lugging around auto parts all my life, well, I guess it's sort of like lifting weights in a way." Todd smiled at him. "Sorry the boxes are a little dirty."

"Don't worry about it. I'm just so thankful to get them back. Here," and Antonio handed him two twenty-dollar bills. "That was a lot of work, and I appreciate it."

Todd graciously took the money. "Mighty kind of you, Mr. Kamil. Thanks. And any time you need work on that car of yours, I'll be glad to do a good job for ya."

Antonio got into the Mercedes for the drive back home to Hampton Heights. At the first rest area he stopped and gave Mrs. Savarin a call.

She was overjoyed when she heard that he had retrieved the boxes. "I don't know how to thank you, Antonio. You can't imagine my relief."

"I'm going to get busy finding someone to help me get Dr. Savarin's work ready for publication or submission to a journal. You realize, don't you, that I'm not qualified to do it myself?"

"Yes, I suppose you will need some help. When you find someone, let me know. And please, once you've finished, be sure your name is included in any acknowledgments. Michael would have insisted on it."

Antonio promised to keep in touch. After merging onto the interstate, he glanced over his shoulder at the boxes and shook his head. He would have to stop by the office supply first thing in the morning and get some new ones.

* * * * * * * * * *

"I'm leaving, Mom," Jeff called out. "Do you need me to pick up anything on my way home?" It was Monday morning, and he was standing in the open door with his keys in his hand, his mother out of sight in the kitchen. Jeff had his own house about five miles away, but every so often he would stay with his mom for a few days helping out with repairs around the house. Tomorrow he would return home.

"No, honey, can't think of a thing. You run along," Irene called back. "Oh, I'm going to make a pie this afternoon. Which would you prefer, lemon meringue or apple crumb?"

Jeff gave this a moment's thought. Making his way to the kitchen, he asked, "You know what we haven't had in a long time?"

"No, tell me."

With a twinkle in his eye, he answered, "Your chocolate banana-cream pie. Your blue ribbon, chocolate banana-cream pie."

"That's right, we haven't had it in a long time, have we?" She thought for a moment. "You know, honey, the county fair is only a couple weeks away, and maybe I should enter the pie contest again. What do you think? I could come up with something really different."

Jeff could almost see the wheels turning in her head.

"Yes! Forget the lemon meringue and apple crumb. We're going to have a surprise tonight!"

It was a ten-mile drive to Fidelity Bank in downtown Lynley, and Jeff hummed a tune while he drove. The sun was blazing in a clear-blue sky, and it was hot for early September, but Jeff didn't mind. Winter came soon enough in Minnesota. His thoughts turned to the winter ahead. Would it be nasty with one ferocious storm after another, or would they be lucky and have a mild winter when, a week before Christmas, people actually prayed for snow? Jeff definitely preferred a wild snowstorm on Christmas Day.

His day of work at the bank sped by. It always did. When he was still a boy, his father had told him, "Money isn't everything. Get a job where you'll be happy, because the time will literally fly by."

Upon arriving at his mother's after work, Jeff caught the scent of a freshly baked pie and noticed that the dining room table was set with special linen. This could be nothing but an omen that victory had been achieved in the kitchen.

His mom came out of the kitchen carrying a pan of lasagna. She gave Jeff a girlish smile and instructed him to sit down. Putting the lasagna on the table, she returned to the kitchen and came out with a bowl of salad. With an impish grin and sitting on the edge of her seat, she said, "Go ahead, dear. Help yourself."

Jeff started dishing out some salad when he noticed the empty water glasses. "Here, Mom, let me get some water," and he pushed his chair back from the table.

Irene jumped up. "No, no. I'll do it. I'll get the water." Scurrying to the kitchen, she returned in no time at all with a pitcher of water and filled both their glasses.

Jeff could hardly keep from laughing, but he didn't want to spoil her fun, so he told her about his day. She listened intently, watching him all the time.

Finally, the dishes were cleared from the table, and she casually asked him if he would like some dessert.

"Are you having some too?" he politely inquired.

"Of course I am," she chuckled. "Have you ever known me to pass up dessert?"

"Then by all means, bring out the dessert!", and Jeff lightly hit his palm on the table.

Irene scampered to the kitchen and reappeared in a minute carrying a round tray covered with a lacy paper doily. On the tray rested her latest triumph. "My pumpkin surprise custard pie," she beamed. "Would you care for a piece, sir?"

Jeff held out his plate. "I would indeed, Madam."

* * * * * * * * * *

There was no doubt any longer. One page was missing. Antonio pulled out the last sheet in the box and read it again, his hands trembling ever so slightly. It ended in the middle of a thought, and the tone of the sentence definitely indicated that what followed was the final solution to something. It bothered him that he didn't know precisely what Dr. Savarin had been working on, but Antonio didn't have time now to read through all the papers to discover it. He had to find the missing page.

Back in his apartment, Antonio was feeling in something of a panic. Two days had been spent looking over every single page in all seven boxes trying to find one out of place. He had even climbed into the dumpster to retrieve the greasy boxes. Now he searched through the papers one more time. But everything was in order without a page missing or an extra one inserted. There was a knock on the door. It was his neighbor from across the hall.

"Mrs. Vanderveen, do come in."

"I'll only take a minute, Antonio, since I'm on my way to the grocery store. I just got back from visiting my sister for a couple days, but I wanted to let you know that there was a man in your apartment last week. I would have told you earlier but you were gone, and I had to leave myself for a bit, so this is actually the first good chance I've had to tell you."

Antonio couldn't have been more surprised. "I can hardly believe it. Did you recognize him?"

"No, he was a complete stranger. I didn't see him go in. You see, I was down in the laundry room, but when I got back up, I was in the middle of closing my door when out of the corner of my eye I saw your door open a tad and then stop. So I pushed my door shut, put down my basket quicklike, and looked out the peephole." She hesitated for a moment. "I hope you won't think I'm some kind of a busybody or something. You know, keeping track of your comings and goings?" Her face took on a slight blush.

"No, certainly not. We're too close of friends for me to think such a thing."

"Oh, good. Well, anyway, like I was saying, it seemed odd to me to see your door open a little smidgen like that and stop. So I looked out through the peephole and saw this strange man leave your apartment. He had gloves on. I should have said something, I know, but I'm ashamed to say I was kind of afraid. Forgive me, Antonio, I'm really sorry about that now."

"No, no, you did the right thing. In this day and age you can't be too careful, not when there's so much danger of someone killing you at a whim. Could you tell whether he took anything?"

"He wasn't carrying anything that I could see. Not a single thing."

"What did he look like? Can you describe him?"

"Yes, I can. I even wrote it down." Mrs. Vanderveen took a piece of paper from her pocket and looked at it. "He was nicely dressed in a suit and short, about the height of the apartment manager I would say. And pudgy. Had a dark, swarthy complexion. Sort of like the kind of man who'd play some rat on one of those old movies. You know, like Edgar G. Robinson. He was wearing a dress hat, one of those kinds with a brim, and it had a red feather in the band. He was also wearing dark gloves. I know that's not much to go on, but I did notice one other thing that might be important. He had this really big ugly scar on his chin. The skin looked sort of puckered up around it. And I watched from the window to see if I could see him get into a car, and sure enough, I did. It was a brand new red Camry." Mrs. Vanderveen beamed at Antonio.

"Very good!" Antonio exclaimed. "Maybe you should have been a detective."

She laughed. "Thanks, I hope it's helpful. I'll keep an eye out for you when you're not home. Gotta get going now. Bye." She handed Antonio the piece of paper and ambled down the hall.

Antonio sat down on the couch to think. Nothing had appeared out of place in his apartment. He had nothing of value to speak of. When the stranger had searched his apartment, the file boxes filled with sewing paraphernalia were the only items of possible interest, and they in themselves would be of no value to the average man. Maybe his interest was in the boxes that should have been here, Dr. Savarin's research boxes.

Antonio carried the first set of seven boxes, those containing magazines and clothes, to his basement storage closet. The remaining seven boxes holding Dr. Savarin's research materials needed to be stored in a safe place. Stephen's Self Storage was about five miles away. Antonio loaded the boxes into the Mercedes and drove straight to Stephens, with one stop on the way to buy a padlock. At Stephen's he secured a small unit and placed the boxes inside. Before leaving, he looked all around to see whether anyone was watching him. There was no one, and Antonio let out a great sigh of relief. The safety of the papers was paramount, and with them hidden away, he could now pursue his own search with much less anxiety. Still, knowing that a stranger was interested in him was most unsettling.

* * * * * * * * * *

Antonio felt depressed; the missing page had not been found. All that work tracing down the boxes only to come to this! How could it have happened? Dr. Savarin wouldn't have neglected putting his final page in with the rest, not a man so methodical. "I wonder if Todd could have lost it?" Antonio asked himself. He shuddered at the memory of walking into the back room of Todd's garage. But Todd claimed he'd never even looked in the boxes, which must have been the truth, because Antonio did not find so much as one solitary, greasy smudge on any paper. There was only one place left to look: Nelson Brothers.

Antonio raced over to the warehouse, hoping to get there before it closed. Taking a parking spot smack in front of the door, he hurried into the reception area. With a sigh of relief, he saw Martha at her desk.

"Martha, you don't know how glad I am to find you still here."

She looked up from the paper she was reading. "Why, Tony, what a nice surprise to see you. Is anything wrong? You look all worked up."

"Something quite dreadful, I'm afraid." And he filled her in on the search for his box. "And would you believe there is one page missing?"

Martha was most sympathetic. "Oh, you poor young man! Here, sit down and take a breath. I'll get you something to drink." She rushed off but returned in a flash bearing a paper cup filled with water. "Drink this, take a deep breath, and then we'll put our heads together and see what we can come up with."

Antonio took a couple sips. Martha pulled a chair over, and scrunching up her face, began to mumble. "So one page is missing. Let's see now, how could one page be missing?"

Antonio finished the water and threw the cup into the wastebasket.

After a minute of thoughtful mutterings, Martha looked at Antonio. "You need to speak with Shorty. He's the one most likely to have crated the shipment to McMahon's. Follow me." With a purposeful stride, she led the way to the shipping department, keeping up a cheerful chatter the whole way.

Shorty was soon spotted, and Martha called out, "Oh, Shorty! Here's someone who needs to speak with you." Introducing Antonio, she excused herself and left.

Antonio found Shorty a talkative, friendly man, so had no hesitation in telling him of his current plight. After he finished, Antonio noticed Shorty's face begin to redden.

"Shorty, what's wrong? Are you all right?"

A chair was nearby, and Shorty sat down. "I'm so ashamed. I don't know how to tell you." He bent over placing his head between his hands. "If the bosses hear about it, I may lose my job."

Antonio could feel the man's remorse, and his heart went out to him. "Tell me, please. I promise you I'll not mention it to a soul."

Shorty told him the whole story. "I couldn't get my mind off the cancer, you see. It was all I could think about. I didn't mean to do anything wrong, honestly I didn't."

"Shorty, listen to me. It's okay. You say you put it into a jewelry box, right? Well, Martha will be able to track it down, I'm sure of it. Don't worry about it, please don't worry. Just take care of yourself and get better."

"Thank you," he responded with a sigh of relief. "Yes, I'm going to be all right. It wasn't cancer after all. In three weeks I'll be retiring and taking my pension after thirty-five years of service. I'll be praying that you find your paper," and he grabbed Antonio's hand between both of his, thanking him again for his kindness and understanding.

Martha was in the process of putting on her coat when Antonio shouted her name. "Martha, Martha, one minute please."

"Was Shorty able to help you?" she asked pleasantly.

"Yes, he was most helpful, thank you." Taking a deep breath and resting his hands on the counter, Antonio continued. "Martha, I'm almost embarrassed to intrude upon your time once more, but if the situation wasn't so urgent..." and he looked at her helplessly.

"Now, let's not get ourselves into a dither," and she gave his hand a comforting pat. "What did Shorty tell you?"

Once again Martha searched through her files. "Here it is, right where I thought it would be," and she whipped open a folder. "You'll need to speak with Edward Boswell at the Martindale Auctions & Estate Sales. It's on the outskirts of Martindale. You know where that is, don't you?"

Antonio confessed that he did not, and Martha gave him directions.

"As a general rule, we don't list every individual item we pack, but in the event it is a large object, like your file box, or a valuable item, like this exquisite jewelry box, well, then we make a note of it. This helps us decide on the appropriate charge to make to the auction house."

Antonio took her hand. "You've been simply wonderful, Martha." He spoke the words slowly and seriously, looking directly into her eyes.

"Tony, you're too much," she laughed. "Get on with you now, and good luck."

Antonio left feeling quite jubilant, and not simply because he finally knew what happened to the missing paper. No, it was more than that. It was meeting two people whom he liked very much. Yes, Antonio was happy.

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