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“Why don’t we eat while you tell me how else I might be useful?”


Since they’d eat in her home office for her convenience, she let him pick the menu. She even manned the AutoChef herself for the lobster salad he had a yen for. She decided the sex had burned the alcohol out of her system and allowed herself a second glass of wine as they ate.

“Okay, woman who owns the residence-private town house, Upper East-was out of town for two weeks. A female friend was house-sitting. Owner comes home this afternoon, late this afternoon, sees her living area trashed. Her statement is that the doors were locked, the security alarm set. She goes upstairs. There’s a strong odor, which pisses her off as much as the mess downstairs. She walks into her bedroom, finds her house sitter dead. Dead for five days, according to my on-site. Throat slit. No other visible injuries. Indications are the attack came from behind. The security camera at the entrance was deactivated, disks removed. There’s no sign of forced entry. The victim was wearing a lot of baubles. Possible-even probable-they’re fake, but her wrist unit was a good brand.”

“Sexual assault?”

“My prelim on-scene indicates no. I’ll wait and see what the ME says on that one. She was still dressed in club clothes. When the owner settles down some, we’ll have her check to see if anything was taken. I saw what appeared to be antiques, original artworks, upscale electronics. My initial search of the crime scene turned up some jewelry in a drawer. It looked like good stuff, but I’m no judge. Possibly, it was a standard B and E that went wrong, but-”

“And here you are a judge.”

“It didn’t look like it. It doesn’t feel like it. It looks like, and feels like, somebody breaking in looking for something, or someone, specific. It looked like this woman came home before he was finished.”

“Bad timing, all around.”

“Absolutely. It was known that the owner was out of town. Could be he wasn’t expecting anyone to be there. She walked into the bedroom, he stepped in behind her, slit her throat from ear to ear, and either continued his search or left.”

“No, not your average B-and-E man. They want in and out quickly, no mess, no fuss. No weapons. You get an extra boot on your time if you get tagged carrying.”

“You’d know.”

He merely smiled. “As I was never tagged, or booted, I find that dry sarcasm inappropriate. He didn’t burgle in the traditional sense,” Roarke continued, “so traditional burglary wasn’t the purpose.”

“My thought. So we run Gannon and Jacobs-owner, victim-and see if anything pops that would make someone want them dead.”

“Ex-spouses, lovers?”

“According to the witness, Jacobs liked to play. No specific playmate. Gannon has a recent ex. Claims they parted ways amicably, and no hard feelings, about a month back. But people can be really stupid about that sort of thing, hold grudges, or torches.”

“You’d know.”

She went blank for a moment, then had an image of Roarke pounding the crap out of one of her colleagues and a former one-nighter. “Webster wasn’t an ex. You have to be naked with somebody for more than two hours for them to qualify as an ex. It’s a law.”

“I stand corrected.”

“You can stop looking smug anytime. I’ll run the ex. Chad Dix. Upper East addy.” It wasn’t pizza, she mused, but the lobster salad wasn’t bad. She scooped up more as she flipped through her mental files. “The victim was a travel agent, worked for Work or Play Travel, midtown. Know them?”

“No. Don’t use them.”

“Some people travel for reasons other than work or play. Smuggling, for instance.”

He lifted his glass, contemplated his wine. “To some points of view, smuggling might fall into the categories of either work or play.”

“It’ll get boring to keep saying ‘you should know.’ We’ll look into the travel agency, but I don’t think Jacobs was a target. It was Gannon’s house, Gannon’s things. She was out of town, known to be out of town.”

“Work or play?”

“Work. She was on some sort of a tour deal for a book. It’s the book that interests me.”

“Really? Now you have my attention.”

“Look, I read.” She scooped up more lobster. “Stuff.”

“Case files don’t count.” He gestured with his fork. “But go on. What interests you about this book?”

“Do too count,” she retorted. “It’s some sort of family story, but the big hook is a diamond heist, early twenty-first, here in New York. It-”

“The Forty-seventh Street job. Hot Rocks. I know this book.”

“You read it?”

“As a matter of fact. The property was auctioned last year. Starline acquired.”

“Starline? Publishing? That’s yours.”

“It is. I caught the pitch from the acquiring editor in one of the monthly reports. It interested me. Everyone-well, everyone with certain interests-knows about the Forty-seventh Street job.”

“You’d have those certain interests.”

“I would, yes. Close to thirty million in diamonds walks out of the Exchange. About three-quarters of them are scooped back up. But that leaves a lot of sparkling stones out there. Gannon. Sylvia… Susan… no, Samantha Gannon. Of course.”

Yeah, Roarke was a guy who came in handy. “Okay, so you know what you know. Her grandfather recovered or helped recover the stones they got back.”

“Yes. And her great-grandfather-mother’s side-was one of the team who stole them.”

“Is that so?” She leaned back, considered. “We didn’t get into that end.”

“It’s in the book. She doesn’t hide the connection. In fact, the connections, the ins and outs, are strong selling points.”

“Give me the highlights.”

“There were four known members of the heist team. One was an inside man, who handled the switch. The others posed as clients or part of the investigative team after the diamonds were discovered missing. Each scheduled a meeting with one of the designers or wholesalers upstairs. Each picked up a novelty item planted by the inside man. A ceramic dog, a rag doll, and so on.”

“Back up. A doll?”

“Hide in plain sight,” he explained. “Innocuously. In each blind was a quarter share of the take. They walked in, walked out in broad daylight. Legend has it-and Samantha Gannon perpetuates this in her book-that two of them had lunch a block or so away with their share on their person.”

“They just walked out.”

“Brilliant in its simplicity, really. There’s a retail section, street level. Almost a bazaar. And in those days-still in these from time to time-some of the jewelers walk from store to store, from shop to shop, carrying a fortune in gems tucked into paper cups they call briefkes. With enough balls, data and some inside assistance, it’s easier than you might think to walk off with sparkles in the daylight. Easier by far than an after-hours job. Do you want coffee?”

“Are you getting it?”

“I will.” He rose to go into the kitchen. “They’d never have gotten away with it,” he called out. “There are careful records kept for stones of that sort. It would take a great deal of patience and willpower to wait until enough time had passed to turn them, and careful research and a strong sense of character to select the right source for that liquidation. Human nature being human nature, they were bound to get nipped.”

“They got away with a chunk.”

“Not exactly.” He came back in with a pot and two cups. “Things went wrong almost immediately, starting with dishonor among thieves-as there invariably is. One of the lot, who went by the name of Crew, decided why take a quarter when you can take all. He was a different sort than O’Hara-that’s the great-grandfather-and the others, and they should’ve known better than to throw in with him. He lured the inside man-probably promising a sweeter deal. He gave him two bullets in the brain. They used bullets with alarming regularity back then. He took his dead partner’s share, and so had half.”