Karen had managed to put the incident at the shop out of her head. It was Tuesday night, and she had a date with Antonio. Taking the new dress she had recently purchased, Karen put it on. It was of shimmering silk and a creamy light-brown in color, tastefully splashed here and there with shades of rose. The bodice was pleated, and the full sleeves were gathered in attractive buttoned cuffs below her elbows. A mandarin collar with two fabric-covered buttons in rose, identical to those on the cuffs, gave the dress an elegant look. Karen loved the full, flowing skirt, which swished around her ankles as she walked. A pair of earrings--small ivory daisies--and three ivory bracelets were the perfect accessories. Karen wasn't fond of high-heels, so she had bought a pair of satin skimmers with a matching clutch purse, and these she had dyed the same shade as the buttons on the dress. Surveying herself in the full-length mirror, Karen spun around a couple times, a smile on her face. Not only did she look pretty, but she felt pretty.
On the short side at only five-foot two, and with what her mother called a flourishing figure, Karen knew she wasn't a raving beauty. Pretty was the most she could ever hope for. She kept her brown hair short and swept back at the sides. Bangs fell loosely over her forehead. Her features were not in any manner unusual. Brown eyes, straight nose, thin lips, oval face. Certainly not the striking features that would earn a second look.
However, what Karen may have lacked in stunning good looks, she made up for with a spirited personality. Like a train steaming down the side of a mountain, she was almost obsessed with keeping busy. Her boutique was immaculate. She frequented a host of conventions exhibiting the latest wares of fashion designers and artisans. Hardly a month went by that she wasn't attending an auction or estate sale. Karen was outgoing, pleasant, and had an aura of excitement about her. Her knowledge of antiques was commanding, and once you met her, you didn't easily forget her.
Tonight they were going to the concert hall where Adrian Fleming would be performing Beethoven's Appassionata. Dinner and a night of music had been Antonio's idea. The evening was delightful, cool and clear with a full moon glowing, the kind of night that spelled romance.
Antonio arrived promptly at 6:00. In his tailored suit he looked so handsome. Karen's heart beat a bit faster.
"Hi Antonio," she said softly.
For a moment, he could only gaze at her. "Sometimes, Karen, words are just inadequate." His words were spoken seriously, and Karen knew they were sincere.
She lowered her eyes demurely. "Thank you."
Karen invited him in, and he took a seat in the living room. There were a few more things she needed to do, so she urged Antonio to make himself at home and look around.
Thanking her, he got up and made his way to a glass curio cabinet. Inside were at least a dozen exquisite paper weights, and Antonio was singularly impressed. All were beautiful, but the one he liked best had a multi-petaled red flower inside. A slip of paper lying in front stated that is was an antique St. Louis Dahlia. Intermixed with the paperweights were a number of antique cameos. Especially pretty was a blue one. Antonio read the description: Antique Wedgewood Cameo Compact by Josiah Wedgewood.
A shadowbox was nearby, and inside were eight pocket watches with similar descriptive tags. One in particular caught Antonio's attention: a Swiss cylinder escapement pocket watch in a sterling silver case with red and gold trim, made around 1870. It was the most beautiful pocket watch he had ever seen.
When Karen returned, she found him standing at her Victor phonograph. "Do you like it?" she asked.
"I've never seen anything like it, not with such a large horn. It must be quite old."
"Yes, it is. This one is an original Victor phonograph with external horn, manufactured probably around 1905. Not all the Victors had solid wood cabinets, but this one does."
"I've seen that dog before," Antonio remarked. "I believe his name is Nipper."
"Why, Antonio! I'm astounded! Not many people could have come up with his name. There's a story that Nipper is sitting on his owner's coffin listening to his voice while it's played back on the phonograph. Take a look at this dataplate. See how Nipper's head is in proportion to his nice slim body? On the Chinese rip-off dataplate, his head is too small and his body looks pudgy. You can't imagine all the fakes out there touted as Victors or Victrolas. It pays to do a lot of research before buying. Well, guess I'm ready."
Antonio helped Karen into the Mercedes, and they left for the Fox & Hounds. Following at a discreet distance was Jeff in his Cutlass. He had obtained Karen's last name by reading her ad in the yellow pages. After that, it had been merely a matter of locating her name and address in the phone book.
* * * * * * * * * *
"That was such a delicious dinner, Antonio. Thank you." They had finished their meal and were enroute to the concert hall. "That's the first time I've ever been there."
"It was mine too," Antonio responded. "I love eating out. Maybe we can find some other place to try tomorrow night. What do you say?"
"I'd love it! I'm a terrible cook, so just about any place would be better than eating at home," Karen said laughingly. "I gather that you don't eat much at home?"
"No, in fact I don't. Living, in a way, all by myself, I prefer the convenience of eating out."
"Then you don't live with anyone here in Lynley?" she asked nonchalantly.
"Not exactly. Some friends of mine have a guest room over their garage, and I'm staying there until I firm up my future plans. I take it Lynley is your hometown. Am I right?"
"That's right, but what made you think so?"
"Well, first, you have your own business. Second, you're rather young, probably in your early to mid-twenties. And third, your boutique appears to be doing considerably well, which tells me that it's probably been open for several years at least. Now, if we go back any further, we'll find you can't be much beyond the first year or so of college. And since you've either forsaken your college career or never entertained one in the first place, I'm led to believe that you're a local girl."
"You amaze me. But to hear you explain it, it does seem rather obvious."
When they arrived at the concert hall, Karen was delighted to find they had seats close to the front, close enough so she could see the pianist's fingers fly over the keys. She had taken piano lessons herself for many years, but her proficiency had hit a roadblock in her teens, and she accepted the fact that she would never be anything but mediocre. Still, she loved the piano and took great delight in following the piano score when she played her favorite CDs.
The performance was flawless, and the audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.
"Oh, Antonio, wasn't he just wonderful? I love that building of tension at the end, almost like he feels a desperate urgency to finish. I think it's Beethoven's greatest work, and Adrian played it with such emotion. Oh, what I would give to play like that!"
Antonio took her hand. "Adrian, is it?" I didn't know you knew him so well!"
Glancing up, she noticed his twinkling eyes and squeezed his hand affectionately.
On the drive home Karen commented on how much her mother would enjoy hearing the concert, and maybe she would encourage her dad to take her.
"Oh, do your parents still live here?"
"Oh, yes. My parents live about ten miles away. Close enough so we see each other quite often."
"Sounds like you're really close to them. Tell me about them and what it was like growing up here. You probably have lots of memories."
He was right. Karen had a great many fond memories of her early years with Patsy, Steve, and Keith. It had been a long time since she had thought about those good old days, and it didn't take much persuading for her to tell Antonio some favorite stories. The rest of the night was spent in joyful reminiscing. He was a good listener, and Karen couldn't remember when she had enjoyed herself so much.
It was close to midnight when Antonio parked in front of her house. He helped her out of the car, and hand-in-hand they walked to the front door. He kissed her tenderly then hurried down the stairs.
At the car, he called back. "Oh, Karen. Did I mention how beautiful you look tonight?" And he was gone.
* * * * * * * * * *
Wednesday morning Dr. Richardson dialed the cell phone number Antonio had given him and was surprised when he answered. "Hello, Antonio, it's Dr. Richardson. Hadn't heard from you, so thought I'd check and see if things are progressing smoothly."
"Oh, yes, Dr. Richardson, I'm afraid I've been a little remiss in keeping in touch. So sorry about that."
An uncomfortable silence elapsed until Dr. Richardson asked, "Have you made any progress?"
It took another few moments before Antonio answered. "Yes, I have, but not as much as I would have liked. It's an awfully long story, but the bottom line is that possibly by this Friday I will have acquired the rest of the research."
"You never really told me what happened to Dr. Savarin's papers after his death, Antonio. I mean, how in the world did some of it end up in Lynley and some of it remain here in Hampton Heights?"
"Well, you see, that's where the long story comes in. It really was a huge mixup that occurred when Mrs. Savarin was getting ready to move. But I've figured out what happened, and, like I said, the remaining papers ought to be in my hands by Friday. Then I'll give you a call and let you know when I should be back home. I don't mean to sound rude, Dr. Richardson, and please excuse me if I do, but I'm on my way to an important appointment and don't want to be late. So I'd better hang up now, but I will call you again on Friday, if that's okay. Take care, and I'll keep in touch. Bye."
Dr. Richardson was not surprised at this brushoff. It seemed quite obvious, and also confirmed Ben's suspicion, that Antonio was definitely not planning to cooperate. Dr. Richardson would leave for Lynley on Friday. A number of appointments of his own prevented any earlier departure. He picked up his cell phone and called his uncle, who answered immediately.
"It's me, Len. I'm leaving for Lynley on Friday, but I want to get everything planned ahead of time. My guess is that most of the research is here in Hampton Heights, but the most crucial part of it is in Lynley. If I should be able to acquire the portion relating only to the key itself and not all the rest, do you think it will be enough for you to get started?"
"That's hard to say without seeing it. But even if it weren't enough, my own feeling is that it would be better to at least have it in hand. Would you be able to bring it to me in Paris?"
"Yes, I have to be there for the next couple weeks and am leaving tomorrow. You could fly over and stay for a short visit. You know, visit your old stomping grounds and whatnot, then fly back home at your leisure. I definitely don't want any of the papers out of your or my sight at all, if you should get them."
"Well, I suppose I could. That means packing a lot more than I had planned."
"Not necessarily. You can pack for the short trip to Lynley, making sure to include your passport. Anything else you need we can get for you once you land. That way you won't have to bother with checking your luggage."
Leonard mulled this over. "Okay. It might be sort of fun at that."
"Good. Keep me posted."
* * * * * * * * * *
Friday night Jeff parked his car down aways from Karen's house. Any minute now that smooth-talking thief would be pulling up in his Mercedes. He wondered where they would be going for dinner tonight. Tuesday night had been a disaster. Jeff didn't have on the proper attire to be seated at the Fox & Hounds, so he had called it a night and gone home. Wednesday, now properly attired in suit and tie, he had lost them in traffic. Thursday, wearing his suit, he had followed them to the Harbor Lights Restaurant. But once seated, a careful perusal of the menu had made it all too clear that he really couldn't afford to eat there. Nevertheless, he had ordered an appetizer and managed to prolong its consumption for a full hour. Finally, Karen and Antonio had departed, Jeff unobserved in their wake. He had left a paltry tip, so had hurried out with his eyes cast down. Plus, his table had been too far away to overhear a word. But if it had been close enough, then Karen probably would have recognized him.
Jeff knew he was probably wasting his time following them around, but he had to do something. He couldn't let her be taken by a con man. So, once again he was dressed in his suit, which was looking rather rumpled, and waiting.
The Mercedes came to a halt in front of the house, and Antonio jumped out dressed in blue jeans and a sweatshirt. Hurrying lightly up the stairs, he rang the bell, and in no time at all it was opened by a smiling Karen, also in jeans. She had on a long-sleeved, expensive-looking sweater the color of limes with an orange bandana tied around her neck. A jacket hung over her arm, the night being on the chilly side. Around her wrist several bracelets glittered in the setting sun. Jeff had to admit she looked quite attractive. Yet, much to his annoyance, it obviously meant that a fancy restaurant wasn't on tap for the night. Would his suit be totally out-of-place?
He followed them to the Pioneer Steakhouse. Jeff had never even heard of it. Underneath the name, the neon lights flashed, The ultimate in steakhouse dining. Giving them time to get inside, he cautiously made his way to the entrance. Upon stepping through the doorway, he took a minute to notice how everyone was dressed. Evidently casual clothing was a requirement because he didn't see so much as one suit. He would have to get rid of his coat and tie at the minimum and so turned to leave.
A large group of people dressed in jeans were just entering and blocked his way. They jostled forward like a herd of cattle, pushing Jeff ahead of them. There was nothing he could do but keep moving to where a waitress was stationed with a menu in her hand. Jeff was over six feet tall, and in his rumpled suit he felt about as inconspicuous as a cockroach sitting atop a vanilla ice cream cone.
Making a futile attempt to hold back a giggle, the waitress inquired, "Will there be anyone joining you, sir?"
"No, not tonight," Jeff grumbled.
"Well, follow me please," and she led him to a table in a faraway corner.
* * * * * * * * * *
Dr. Richardson arrived at the Holiday Inn late Friday afternoon. He had called ahead and reserved a room, so he took his small suitcase in hand and briskly walked to the office where he finalized his arrangements. The lady at the desk was friendly, and Dr. Richardson nonchalantly asked if Antonio Kamil was registered. "If he's already here, would you be so kind to ring his room and tell him I've arrived."
She typed for several seconds on her computer and shook her head. "No, I don't see his name. There is no reservation either." She gave him a questioning look.
"Well, perhaps something has held him up, or he's forgotten the name of the motel. Thanks anyway for checking." He gave her a smile and left to find his room.
Opening his suitcase, Dr. Richardson removed the meager collection of essentials he had packed for the trip: three sets of underwear, a casual shirt, one dress shirt and tie, one additional pair of slacks, one Bic shaver, some shaving cream, an almost-empty tube of toothpaste, a rather beat-up looking toothbrush, deodorant, and his passport. A notebook containing phone numbers and addresses completed the ensemble. His idea had been to bring only the most basic necessities.
A small flyer for Pizza Hut lay next to the phone. Dr. Richardson dialed the number and ordered a large thin crust, pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Since it would be about thirty minutes before the pizza arrived, he went and got some ice from the machine and bought two cans of Sprite. Returning to his room, he dialed Antonio's cell phone number. No answer. What was that guy up to? he wondered.
Dr. Richardson had absolutely no idea how to get his hands on the research papers. The only feasible option was to talk Antonio into working together. But how could he do that? Antonio seemed to have taken an uncooperative attitude. Dr. Richardson spent the next several minutes focusing his thoughts on the problem. If he couldn't get the key itself, the last few pages of the research might be all that was needed for deciphering the code and finding the ancient crown. Savarin had been methodical almost to a fault in his work, so Dr. Richardson couldn't imagine him not keeping everything in strict order. If he really needed, say, only the last ten pages, perhaps he could remove them without Antonio knowing it.
His pizza arrived. After giving the delivery girl a generous tip, he set the pizza down and poured out the Sprite in preparation for enjoying his meal. He opened the cover of the pizza box. Inside was not the pepperoni and mushroom pizza he had ordered but a pizza loaded with every ingredient imaginable. "Wouldn't you just know it!" he griped under his breath. Fastidiously he removed all the jalapeno peppers and put them on a paper napkin. After doing the same with the anchovies, he rolled the napkin up and threw it in the trash. Dr. Richardson had a great mind to call Pizza Hut back and have them send over another one, but because his time needed to be spent more profitably, he ate the pizza half-heartedly while watching The Weather Channel. It took the second can of Sprite to totally obliterate the taste left behind by the peppers and anchovies.
* * * * * * * * * *
After a week of utter failure, Jeff looked forward to spending Saturday at his mom's. He had called to see if she'd like some company.
"Oh, honey, I'd love it! Plan on staying for dinner now."
When he arrived earlier than expected, he found her outside cutting mums for a flower arrangement.
Irene hadn't heard the car nor noticed that he had taken a seat on the concrete bench. Watching her affectionately, Jeff's thoughts became absorbed in scenes from the past: skating on the frozen pond with his two brothers, helping his dad rebuild a carburetor, opening Christmas presents. His had been a wonderful home life filled with laughter and warm feelings for each other. Squabbling had been rare between the three brothers, and to this day there were still strong feelings of loyalty and affection.
Irene turned and was surprised to see him sitting there. "Honey! I didn't know you were here. Supper won't be ready for close to an hour, but perhaps you would like some iced tea while we're waiting."
"Thanks, Mom, but no. There was something I thought we might talk about."
Noticing his serious look, Irene hurried over. "We'll sit right here, and you can tell me what's got you all knotted up inside."
Jeff told her the main story from the time he ordered his pastrami sandwich at the deli to when Karen came close to giving him the bum's rush. Irene sat in earnest thought for close to half a minute.
"Well, Jeff, you've made a mess of it to be sure, but what's done's done, so no point fretting over it. We all make mistakes, if that's any comfort. But what to do now, that's what we need to pursue. I have an idea."
Jeff felt relieved. "Mom, anything you can offer will be more than welcome."
Sitting up straighter, Irene turned and looked Jeff square in the face. "A girl doesn't like someone saying anything, how should I say it, unseemly about her boyfriend. Now, from what you've told me, Karen's infatuated with this Antonio. Is that right?"
"Yes, I'd say so," Jeff agreed.
"Okay. What you need to do is apologize. Now I know that's probably not the advice you were hoping for, but trust me, it's the right route to take. I'll fix up a big bouquet of mums, and Monday you take them to the boutique. Walk right in with the flowers and apologize for having made yourself a nuisance. Let her know how sorry you are that you annoyed her. If I know girls, and I think I do, she's going to feel guilty herself since she was rather rude. I think you'll find her more than willing to forgive you. And once you're on good terms, ask her to step out for a bite of lunch. You know, a little token of your gratitude."
"Mom, you're right. It's not what I was hoping for, but I have to admit, I like it. Such a thing would never have crossed my mind."
Irene laughed. "Now, absolutely do not bring up the subject of Antonio or antique whatevers. You're simply interested in learning more about her. If she brings up his name, brush the subject aside and lead her on to something more neutral."
Jeff felt as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Now he couldn't wait for Monday.
* * * * * * * * * *
Sunday started out with a steady rain. Unlike most people, Jeff loved a rainy day. It was not unusual for him to grab an umbrella and an old pair of shoes and go outside for a brisk walk. But today he grabbed his umbrella and hustled to the car instead to pick up his mom for their trip to the mall. They went to the Mall of America once a year. His mother preferred doing her own personal shopping at the local thrift stores, but when it came to Christmas presents, it had to be something new. And since she hated the crowds during the Christmas season, she insisted on getting her shopping done early.
When he arrived, he was surprised to find Maddy visiting. He thought she was supposed to be away on an assignment of redecorating the windows at one of the Martin Delaney stores. This was a chain of high-priced clothing and home-decor stores that Jeff never frequented.
Maddy was looking lovely in a pale green skirt and blouse. A silk scarf, in a brilliant shade of blue, was around her neck, and it set off her long auburn hair to perfection. Jeff, who had never thought much of himself, wondered why it was that Maddy seemed to genuinely care for him. He didn't possess much of an outgoing, lively personality, and was, to his mind, a rather plain guy. He was also shy, and so it was no surprise to him that he wasn't popular with the girls. But Maddy liked him fine enough, and someday they probably would get married.
"Hi, Maddy! I thought you were out of town."
"Well, I'm actually getting ready to leave in about an hour. There's a convention in Chicago that I have to attend."
Irene jumped in. "Jeff dear, since we're on our way to the mall, I thought we could drop Maddy off at the airport. It's right on our way."
"Why, of course we can," Jeff heartily responded. "Whenever you're ready."
Dashing to the car, Irene got in the back seat before Maddy could, so Jeff courteously opened the passenger door and Maddy slid in. Jeff liked Maddy a lot. Sometimes he thought he was in love. Once or twice his mom had hinted that Maddy couldn't be expected to wait around forever and he needed to get his act together. If he didn't, someone was going to snatch her away. Although his mom never pried, Jeff knew she was losing patience with what she referred to as his lackadaisical attitude toward marriage. He would never find a finer girl than Maddy, she would remind him. Not only was she good and kind, and beautiful besides, but she was unassuming and quiet.
Upon arrival at the airport, Jeff escorted Maddy into the terminal and stayed with her until boarding. She picked up her overnight case to board, and Jeff fondly gave her a kiss and wished her a good time. Maddy put down the case and gave him a quick hug. "I'll miss you, Jeff." With that she grabbed the case and was out of sight in a matter of seconds.
Jeff sighed. Why didn't he just ask her to marry him? What was he waiting for anyway?
The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping. After a bite to eat, they left for home. Jeff helped his mom carry in her packages and waited while she put them away. The bouquet of mums was wrapped and resting in a vase.
"Keep them in the vase until you get to the boutique. Karen will take care of them after that."
After giving his mom an affectionate hug, Jeff left.
At home, he relaxed in the front room with a can of Vernors. The remote was nearby, so he turned on the news.
...lows in the 40's. Tomorrow will see a high of 65 with clear skies as high pressure will be moving in and most likely stay entrenched for the week. Enjoy the mild weather while it's here. A bitter cold front is right around the corner.
Thanks Phil. After a quick break, we head to Gaziantep. Don't go away.
The commercial break afforded an opportunity to put a few things away. Jeff hung his jacket in the closet and put the wet umbrella in the garage. On the way back to the front room, he took another can of Vernors from the fridge.
Temperature is not the only thing that's hot in Gaziantep. We hear now from our middle east correspondent, Craig Mitchell.
Thanks, Jim. That's exactly right. Tempers are sizzling here in Gaziantep. Early this morning a European team accused an American team of searching one of their tents. The Americans denied it, and they in turn claimed that their camp site was searched and some papers stolen. This led to ugly words all around, and a brawl ensued, sending three men to seek medical attention. The Turkish government is thinking of rescinding all permits if matters cannot be handled in a professional manner. Concerning the whereabouts of the deciphered code, or perhaps calling it the key to deciphering the code would be more appropriate, no one has of yet claimed to be in possession of it. However, I have heard from an unnamed source that a man connected with a Greek import/export organization who goes by the name of Midas has revealed that he knows the whereabouts of the key and will have it in hand within the week. Things are quiet for the moment. It's 2:15 in the morning and not much can be done in the dark. We'll see what comes with the breaking day. Live from Gaziantep, this is Craig Mitchell for NBC News.
Jeff turned off the set and shook his head. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
* * * * * * * * * *
Antonio smiled to himself and turned the volume down on the television. He didn't know whether this leak to the press would upset any apple carts or not, but he'd keep his fingers crossed. Hopefully, it would give Flori something else to think about.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Max, what do you make of that?" Patsy asked.
"Things are getting out of control I'm afraid. It wouldn't surprise me if the Turkish government boots them all out of there."
* * * * * * * * * *
Dr. Richardson couldn't believe his ears. He picked up his phone and called his uncle.
"Ben, have you heard this latest news about some Greek claiming he is on the verge of getting possession of the key to the code?"
"Yeah, but we know it can't be true. I mean, not unless Antonio has gotten hold of it and is taking it overseas or something. Have you been in touch with him?"
"Not since arriving here in Lynley. I've managed to find out where he's staying and will be checking into his motel tomorrow. I'll see what I can find out."
* * * * * * * * * *
Karen didn't like this latest news. Some Greek named Midas knew where the key to the code was and would have it in hand within the week. Did that mean by the end of this coming week? If it was her key that they were talking about, then he knew she had it. But how could he possibly know? She had told absolutely no one, not even Patsy. Patsy had been told only that Karen was bringing Max a surprise that she had gotten at an auction. And she hadn't told Antonio, even though any reservations she had entertained about him had been dismissed. No subject even remotely related to a code and its key had come up since their first date last Sunday night. No, there wasn't a soul who knew she had a paper relating to the key. The paper was safe. Nonetheless, before retiring she made sure all the windows and dead bolts were locked.
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