Golden Ring Threads

The Golden Ring Thread

Chapter 1 One Ending leads to Another Beginning

Entombment

The winter sun shines softly through the ornate stained glass window its opaque colored tiles taking the brightness to subdued tones.  The window depicts a blue river running through deep green valley.  The river falling over two sparkling waterfalls then into a shimmering pool at the base of the window.  Along the banks of the stream and hillsides are trees.  They are tall, slim and green like trees in an ornamental garden.  Around the bottom corners of the window are intricate vines of gold and green with purple grapes.  The blue, green and golden glow of the window shines upon the white marble sepulchre beneath it.  In large bronze letters across its front is a single name, Tammish.

Alicia Templeton stood on the steps of the white marble mausoleum staring at the window and the glow it created on the white walls of the crypts within.  Each side of the mausoleum held six long rectangular covered niches.  Seven of which had the brass plates of its occupant affixed to the center of their covers.  The farthest upper niche nearest the stained glass window was open, its cover leaning against the niche below.  The interior was darker not the same white marble of the interior of the mausoleum, but the darker granite that the mausoleum was made of.

Alicia stepped in, her high black heels and matching knee length black dress swishing about her hips.  She had her long red hair lying down over her shoulders unlike her usual pony tail or bun.  Jinie her assistant stopped at the door behind her.  Alicia looked back at her smaller assistant, with heels on Alicia was almost six feet tall.  Her little black haired assistant with the same heels might have gotten to 5’3”.

Alicia looked at Jinie who had a solemn expression as if she was afraid to break the silence.  Jinie looked at the simple pewter urn in Alicia’s hands.  This caused Alicia to look down also.  This simple urn she held gently in her hands were the remains of her friend of over twenty years, Oscar Tammish.  She looked back up at Jinie’s dark brown eyes then tried to force a smile.

“Come on in J, just a few last things to do for Oscar”

Alicia moved to the open niche and placed the urn softly on the dark stone within.  She turned back toward her assistant.  Jinie had turned her attention back to the stained glass window.  Alicia turned to it as well, “It’s a Tiffany from 1908 according to Oscar.  It depicts the river of life from birth until death.  We are going to be the last people to see it in its original splendor.”

Alicia stepped back beside her assistant admiring the window again, “Once Oscar’s crypt is sealed then the workmen will arrive to remove the window.  He wanted it to go to the museum because his family line is ending with him.  Oscar feared that someone would steal it sometime down the line.  It’s worth several hundred thousand dollars.  The museum will do conservation work on it and we can have it mounted in the section about the Tammish family.”

Jinie looked over at her boss, “What will they put in its place?”

Alicia smiled, “Oscar had a modern version made but it just doesn’t have the light and texture of the original.  They will replace the window and back light it from above.  Then the mausoleum will be sealed.  The workmen will actually weld the two bronze doors shut.  The family line of Tammish forever sealed inside.

Jinie looked back at the crypt with Oscar’s urn, “He had no other family?  That’s so sad Alicia.  I only met him the last few years and he was sick, but he was so sweet to everyone.”

Alicia reached up and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, “Yes he was.  Oscar was the most gentle and caring person I’ve ever met.  I hope I learned well from him, he was my moral compass and now I have to continue to run his foundation without him.  I have to run it not as I would like to, but as Oscar would want me to.”

Alicia wiped her eyes again, “Now I can’t ask him anymore what he would do.”

Jinie handed Alicia a tissue which she accepted, “You’ll do great boss, just like you always have.”

Alicia gave a small snort, “You don’t know how many times Oscar kept me from being a bitch.”

“Well he trusted you with it boss, so I think I’ll go with his judgment.”

Alicia grabbed her hand for a second and gave it a squeeze, “Thanks J, let’s head back.”

Alicia turned toward the mausoleum door and Jinie followed behind.   The clicking of the two sets of high heels echoed through the vaulted stone ceiling, a last echo of an era that was ending.

Last Bequest

Alicia walked up to the door to the glass enclosed office.  It was a large office even larger than her own with a large ebony L shaped desk.  There was also a high light table against the far wall covered in artifacts and antiquities.  The light under the table was off at the moment.  A high black leather upholstered stool set before the table its back toward the table as if someone had just left it.  She could see Griff sitting at his desk turned to his left typing busily on his laptop, Alicia considered him for a moment.  Griff was a tall man just over 6’2” with medium length sandy hair and clean shaven.  He was broad across the chest and shoulders.  If you met him on the street you would think he had once been an athlete who still stayed in fair shape.  Today he was dressed in light red khaki shirt and she knew if he stood up his ever present jeans.  She knew he would turn 38 soon, still young she thought.  Alicia hadn’t quite figured Griff out yet.  She knew something in him was broken.  She just couldn’t quite put her finger on it, yet, it would come.  Alicia walked into the office with the leather satchel in her hand.  As she approached Griff turned and smiled at her.

“Hi Alicia, what’s going on?”

Alicia looked into his light blue eyes they gleamed as he smiled.  He had a nice smile and a pretty gentle face with slightly crooked nose, below his left eye was a light horizontal scar perhaps an inch long.  She felt herself smile back.

“I have one last bequest from Oscar that I need to fulfill.”

The smile left Griff’s face to be replaced with warmth and concern, “I’ve been meaning to offer my condolences.  Though I never met Oscar I know you were close.  He left behind some wonderful work and a magnificent collection.”

Alicia set the brown leather satchel on Griff’s desk sliding it toward him slightly then sat in the black leather arm chair before his desk.

“Oscar asked me to give you this satchel.  It was one last project he said and thought you would be perfect for it.”

Griff reached for the satchel and started to open it when Alicia held up her hand, “Wait until I leave.  Oscar told me it was a private matter for you to deal with and I was to just give you whatever resources and support you required.  You can decide whether to let me know what it contains or not it’s up to you.”

Griff looked intrigued now weighing the satchel in his hand.  Alicia watched him closely, Oscar had been right he was hooked.

“If you need anything else let me know.  I’m off to a board meeting for the trust.”

Alicia rose and turned toward the door.

“You have no idea what’s in here?”

Alicia did not turn but continued toward the door, “Oscar asked me not to look but told me you would need my help to figure it out. Again let me know what you need.”

She glanced back at him through the glass walls of his office as she turned.  Griff was already opening the satchel.

Who am I really?

Griff sat behind his desk looking at the laptop screen before him.  The emails had all been read and dealt with.  He looked at the stack of papers on top of the leather satchel beside the laptop.  The black jewelry case containing the ring was on top.  What did the old man want from him?  He looked up beside them to the stack of business cards on a small stand.  Griff picked one up and examined it.

Griffin Robert McEntire PhD
Director of Pre-Columbian Studies
Oscar Tammish Museum

A simple title, one he had only held for 11 months.  He had only a month left in his position.  Griff had only taken the job in New York to see where his relationship with Katy would go.   That had ended badly in the last several weeks and he wondered what was next.  He missed her.  Her dark eyes when she was staring up at him, her odd laugh and intense concentration when she was excited.  He didn’t miss the lows of her personality though.  When Katy was up she was the most loving person you could be with.  But her dark side was dark indeed.  Katy could be destructive, petty, jealous and condescending to an extreme. He continued to think of Katy, if he wanted to see her he could always go down to conservation but he didn’t feel up to it.  When the job was offered for her to be chief conservator for a new museum founded by the now late billionaire she had begged him to take the other available position.  He had talked to the chair at the University of Washington about taking the position for a year.  The sabbatical had been granted rather quickly.

Griff laughed to himself.  He was an expert on Mayan and Aztec culture and arts.  Griff thought it must have been an easy decision for the university to give him a sabbatical.  He was a rather odd archeologist as it was.  He had never been outside the country to dig in Central America where his chosen area of expertise lay.  Griff’s field training had all taken place in the Pacific Northwest on Native American sites.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to join expeditions to Central America.  He had been invited and turned them all down.  The reason was pretty simple.  He’d met then married Lena when he entered his first year of grad school.  She wouldn’t travel and loathed it whenever he did.  She even had a hard time when he dug local sites where he was gone over night.  Lena had been an anthropology student in her junior year when they’d met.  By the end of their eight year marriage she wouldn’t leave the house.  The diagnosis of agoraphobia came when they’d been married for only three years.  He’d stuck it out for five more.  Lena had finally been the one to seek a divorce.  It had come suddenly at about the same time she broke with all reality outside of her home.  He was suddenly no longer welcome.  She said he didn’t belong there any longer.  Each time he would come home she would have a panic attack screaming for him to leave.  Sometimes he could calm her down but in the end he just wouldn’t come home so as not to cause her pain.

Lena’s mother Angela had finally moved in with her.  She could stay the entire day with Lena and became part of her reality.  When Lena asked for a divorce Griff was actually relieved. Griff still kept track of her through her mother.  Angela sent him pictures and filled him in on her therapy.  None of the therapies had actually accomplished much yet but they were still trying.  Griff sent her a birthday card each year.  Angela said she always enjoyed them then would ask who he was.  There were times he missed the old Lena intensely.  She had been such a gentle person, tall and lithe with auburn hair and green eyes.  Lena wrote children’s books now with several of them being published in the Seattle area.

Griff had thrown himself into his work and academia after his divorce.  He spent a year at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge then another at the Dumbarton Oaks collection in Washington DC.  He’d returned to UW to teach and continue to do research.  He started dating again when he got back to Seattle.  Nothing had taken until he’d met Katy.  She had just returned from a fellowship as a conservator in Rome.  They had clicked right away.  She had a love of Pre-Columbian art and artifacts.  He had the knowledge and expertise to put the items she loved in a historic and cultural setting.  Katy was short for Katrina, her descent from ethnic Mexican Mayan Indians very clear in her features and small stature.  Katy with high heels on just topped out at 5’4”.  She had been born in Southern California of Latino parents who could trace their line back hundreds of years in California and Mexico.

Griff looked over at the stack of papers and the jewelry box again.  He thought again of the old man who had given it to Alicia for Griff on his death bed.  The papers and the package wrapped in an old leather bag tied with a leather thong.  Oscar Tammish had been dying slowly of bone cancer for almost two years by then.  He had inherited then added to a massive collection of Aztec and Mayan artifacts and art as well as expanding into conventional art of old masters and modern works.  The private Pre-Columbian collection had been started by his grandfather in 1910 and expanded by his father Raymond then by Oscar himself.  The riches of the Tammish family had been made from the backs of coal miners, seaman and in the end the financial markets and banking.  Oscar’s grandfather Malcolm had walked with the likes of J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and the other robber barons of the 19th century.  Griff had a feeling the wealth was even older than that probably dating back to the civil war or even earlier.  The last of the Tammish line was Oscar.  He had been more of an academic than his forefathers.  Oscar’s family fortune amassed by them he had left to professionals and managers then followed his star in the arts and antiquities world.  The idea of the museum and an endowment to make sure it would perpetuate into the future had come to Oscar years before he had become ill.  Now here was Griff at the moment where it would all soon become public feeling sad that someone he’d never met wasn’t there to see it.

The collection Oscar left to the world was immense.  There were over fifty thousand items.  Unlike many private collections the Tammish collection was mostly meticulously documented though many pieces were in need of restoration.  Griff’s job had been to review the collection and perform his specialty.  He identified the pieces with their place in Mayan or Aztec history then helped the curators and art directors create exhibits that made sense of the artifacts.  Then he went on to his other talent researching the provenance of the unknown pieces.  Griff could find the history and origin of items.  He had a knack for the research and work required.  Oscar had wanted the museum to not just show the most beautiful pieces but a collection that blended together as a whole.  Griff had signed on for a year and now it was almost over.  The collection and the opening of the Museum set for August 1st of this year six months from now.  Oscar Tammish had succumbed to cancer finally two months earlier.  The museum and all of Oscar’s wealth in trust to support it was now controlled by Oscar’s oldest and dearest friend, Alicia Templeton.  It was Alicia that had interviewed and hired Griff. It was Alicia that handed him the leather satchel today along with a letter from Oscar.

Griff picked up the letter and read it again:

Dear Dr. McEntire

I have seen the results of your work this past year and with your help the curators have created some truly stunning and wonderful displays of my family’s collection. This last artifact is different and was not given to the museum as part of the collection. This artifact is the one of the first artifact that my family ever acquired.  This odd ring of gold and stone with ancient Mayan glyphs was acquired by my grandfather.  He used it to marry his 3rd wife.  My father used it to marry my mother.  I was never fortunate enough to be able to keep the woman I loved with me.  Though I loved her with a passion and fire that consumes me still, she was promised to another you see and I was prevented from intervening.  She went from this world all too soon and it has been a grayer place for me because of it.  Your task is to find out what you can about the ring.  It’s defied most expert attempts at dating it.  I’m sure you can do better.  When you are finished there is one final task, find and deliver it to the granddaughter of my beloved if this cannot be achieved then do with it as you will.

Thank you Dr. McEntire

Oscar Tammish

Griff set the letter on the top of the laptop then sat back staring at the jewelry box, “Well I’ve got a month left on the contract, and two things to track down.  What is this ring about and who the hell was his lover and for that matter who was Oscar Tammish really.”

Chapter 2 Sides Drawn

Decisive Decisions

Alicia sat at the head of the long mahogany table with Jinie to her left with her laptop.  Before her around the table were the 6 board members of the trust at the far end was the empty chair that Alicia had always sat in before.  The chair she sat in now had been reserved for Oscar.  He had always been at the meetings until the last 3 months when he was too sick to attend.  Even then he would join by conference call and Alicia would run the meetings from the other end of the table.  Her old seat she thought, no need to actually fill it she supposed.  The other board members would find out why soon enough.  She looked at their faces four women and two men seated about the table.  There was only one who held her attention.  Her problem child on the board, B.T. Lofton III, the B. T. short for Bernard Trenton.  He had inherited his seat when his father had passed away a few years before.  Oscar had loathed the father but he had always maintained that you should keep your enemies close.  The Lofton family and the Tammish family had been intertwined for years in the banking and business world.  Alicia steeled herself slightly for the battle about to come.

She opened the folder in front of her and the other member’s followed suit, “Jinie you can start taking the minutes.  The first item on the agenda tonight is the new governance charter for the trust that was put in place by Oscar last month.”

Alicia turned the page in the folder as did the other board members.  She let them all read through the next several pages of the new charter.  Alicia was waiting for a response and she knew who would start the discussion.

BT looked up at her.  She looked at his perfectly groomed black hair and brown eyes.  The surgically corrected nose and perfect teeth as he sneered.

“Oscar was obviously not in his right mind when this was drafted.”

Alicia gave him what she knew was a menacing smile, “Oscar had this drawn up and finalized along with his latest will over three years ago.”

BT snorted, “So the board is rendered moot and you have absolute power over the trust.  We are strictly an advisory body to the head of a trust worth over two billion dollars?”

Alicia looked at the other board members, most were still reading through the document, “Just as Oscar was before me this trust was meant to be directed by a single person.  Like Oscar I will bring any major decisions to the board and will take your input into consideration.  The governance of the trust remains the same with a single decider. I am now that decider.  I hope you all decide to stay on but I will understand if any of you wish to resign now.”

Alicia meant the comments for everyone but she stared intently at BT.  He blanched slightly then looked back down at the folder.

Alicia knew the time was right, “So with that in mind are there any objections to the change in the charter to be noted and would any of you wish to resign?”

Alicia looked at each board member.  Each shook their heads slowly.  She looked at BT.  He glared for several seconds at her then shook his head no.

“Jinie let the minutes reflect that there are no objections to the charter changes and no resignations from the board.  Now let’s move on to other business.  The next item is the financial reports of museum expenses and insurance.”

Alicia continued to stare at the top of BT’s head for several moments, this isn’t over yet I’m sure.

Building Blocks

Alicia slide behind her light cherry wood desk in her office next to the board room.  The office was one of the few in the building without glass walls.  Alicia always felt those kind of offices were like fish bowls though the architect had done them throughout the rest of the building.  She also hated the distraction of people walking by as she worked.  Her eyes wandered around the office and landed on the architect’s picture of the museum on the wall. The glass structure with black and white columns had taken almost 3 years to build.  Alicia looked at the fourth floor where her office was and tried to picture which set of windows were hers.  Let’s see the boardroom is in the south corner so she must be the set of windows next to it.  The museum was a high tech modern marvel.  It had four stories above ground and three basement levels below.  The building was LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), certified and the recipient of the highest awards for its size and type.  The exhibit halls were on the first two floors along with a snack bar and cafeteria.  The third floor was the Tammish library with over 30,000 rare books and manuscripts.  The fourth floor was office space for the trust and museum staff.  The B1 level basement was the conservation labs and preparation areas. The B2 level was the archive of the Tammish family papers and other historical documents.  The B3 basement level was the vault where all the art and artifacts not on display were stored.  This building had been her baby.  Oscar had approved the plans but the nuts and bolts of getting it built had been all her.  She was very proud of it.

Jinie stuck her head in the door, “I’ll email you the minutes to approve pretty soon. Can I get you something it’s getting pretty late?”

Alicia considered for a moment, “Chamomile tea would be nice J with a little cream.”

Jinie smiled, “Coming right up boss.”

Alicia sat back and looked over at the clock on her desk it was almost 8:30.  Beside the clock was the picture of her husband Jonathan.  It was an old picture when he was still in uniform.  The green of an army dress uniform with all his ribbons and combat infantry badge on his chest.  The silver eagles of a full colonel on his epaulets.  Alicia felt her eyes start to water.  Jonathan was now confined to a wheel chair in the final stage of Multiple Sclerosis. Her warrior as she thought of him could no longer speak or feed himself.  It was only a matter of time until respiratory and more severe neurological symptoms would mean the end.  Jonathan Templeton was ten years older than Alicia.  She wondered if he would reach his 63 birthday this summer.

They had met in Washington DC when Alicia had been clerking for Justice O’Conner after her last year at Harvard Law.  She had known at once that he was someone she could spend the rest of her life with.  Their connection had been instant and lasting even their first date had turned into a twenty four hour affair.  Not a romp in the sack but just spending time together, the Smithsonian, he taking her sightseeing around the capitol.  They’d had dinner then breakfast spending the entire night and the next day together.  Then he was back on duty at the Pentagon and she didn’t see him for a week.  When Alicia passed the bar exam for New York two years later he had requested a transfer to West Point his alma mater. They married the next spring after she had gone to work for a law firm in New York City.  Her second year at the law firm she was chosen by a very special client to be his full time council.  That had been when she met Oscar Tammish and from 1989 on they had become close friends and confidants.   In 1991 she had left the firm to work for Oscar and the trust full time, first as general council then executive director and now director.

Jinie came in with the cup of tea and small pitcher of cream, “I just sent you the minutes.” She said as she set the tea and cream on the desk.  Jinie looked over at her boss, “I thought Mr. Lofton was going to have a stroke in the meeting.  Why didn’t he resign?”

Alicia poured a touch of cream in the tea then took a sip, “It’s harder to bring a lawsuit if you aren’t on the board anymore.”

Jinie looked surprised her dark brows jumping upward, “He’s going to sue you?”

Alicia smiled and took another sip, “Oh yes, not me personally but the trust and he’ll have the support of a least three other members.  There is too much money involved not to.  BT will be afraid I will start liquidating positions especially the ones that are with his bank and hedge funds.  Once he files the suit I may very well do just that.”

Jinie sat in the chair in front of her desk, “Can he win?”

Alicia shook her head, “No the law and the charter are on our side, but he’ll use it to try and pressure me to agree to keep the investments status quo.  Oscar knew it would happen there are two law firms with ten million dollar retainers each in place and ready for the challenge.  One will defend the suit from BT, the other will counter sue BT and the board members involved.  You see Oscar had a very wise attorney.”

Jinie smiled, “That would be you.”

Alicia just smiled and nodded.

Time’s Up

Griff sat the jewelry box with the ring inside it on the light table then spun his stool around before sitting.  He took two thin latex gloves out of the box on the table and looked closely at the case.  It was made of fine leather most likely alligator that had been tanned and dyed black.  He opened the box to reveal the odd ring.  Griff pulled the magnifier over and turned on the light table with the pedal under the table.  He gently lifted the ring out of the case then activated the Bluetooth mike in his ear.

“The ring is very unusual its base is apparently dark stone with a central jeweled glyph of the jaguar with small red jeweled eyes.  The band of the ring is wrapped in a very fine gold wire.  It will need to be cleaned to make out more detail.  The glyph itself is of the second age there is a hint of more glyphs under the wire.  That may mean that the wire may have been added later perhaps even post-colonial.  Analysis of the gold should clear that up. The first task will be conservation and cleaning of the artifact then testing of the gold wire.  If it proves to be post-colonial in nature it’s removal may be considered to see the rest of the glyphs. End of paragraph.”

Griff reached up and turned off the mike, “Great I’m going to have to get Katy to work on this, just what I wanted to do.”

Griff smirked and shook his head as his phone buzzed on the desk.  He knew it was his 9:00pm alarm.  Ever since he had broken up with Katy he’d been working too many hours.  Griff really hated going home to the empty apartment they had shared.  It was wonderful apartment that the museum had provided, a large affair on Park Avenue overlooking Central Park.  When Katy had decided to move out the museum had provided her with another two floors below theirs.  Griff grimaced, he should really be thinking his now.  He kept thinking that maybe he should ask for something in another building without the memories.  Griff shook his head it was only another month he’d just stick it out.  He placed the ring gently back in the box then removed the gloves and turned the light table off.  Griff took the ring to his desk and locked it in his safe along with the satchel and papers.  He grabbed his phone and started for the door grabbing his old black leather jacket off the coat tree by the door.  He closed the door behind him and headed for the elevator.

“If I was going to stay here I’d have to get a cat or something, hell with my luck I’d get a psycho cat that tore up the couch and treated me like crap.”

He chuckled to himself along the way.  The small aside of laughter didn’t make him feel better just very alone.

Chapter 3 Double Envelopment

Tactics

Alicia walked into her husband Jonathan’s study that had been converted to his bedroom.  The night nurse and attendant had got him into bed.  He was sitting up in the bed at a slight angle.  His condition would not allow him to lie down any longer.  She looked at his close cropped grey hair and clean shaven faces protruding from the top of his egg shell blue pajama top.  Alicia thought he was asleep for a moment until his voice box on the laptop spoke.

“Hey honey home at last.” came the electronic voice from the small speaker next to laptop on the bedside table.

Alicia went to the bed then lowered the rail before sitting beside him.  Alicia leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.  She sat back looking at his clear dark blue eyes.  Alicia felt herself lost in them for a moment, some things don’t change.

“Hey Johnny, yeah it was a long day.  I gave BT and the board the new charter tonight.”

Jonathan’s right hand tapped on the keypad for a moment.

“Oh a frontal assault how did that work out?”

Alicia smiled and held his left hand.  It was a gnarled claw now.  The fingers turned in on the palm forever grasped tightly shut.  She did know he could still feel her touch there so she held it firmly rubbing her thumb softly over the back.

“No not exactly a frontal assault, I think you would call it a probe.  If any of the board or BT sues then we’ll hit them from both flanks.”

Tapping, “A double envelopment, very good tactics love.”

Alicia smiled and looked into his eyes, “Want me to read to you for a while tonight or are you tired.”

Tapping, “I know you have to be tired, so off to bed.  If I feel better I’ll jump up and join you.”

Alicia looked at his face a very faint smile played across just the corners of his mouth.  She leaned over and kissed his lips.

“Okay, I’ll be looking forward to that.  Goodnight my warrior”

Alicia slid off the bed as Jonathan closed his eyes again.  She pulled the rail up and walked out the door.  The night nurse was at her table with the silent vital sign monitor next to her.  She made a note in the log book in front of her.  Alicia smiled at her, “Goodnight Trish, see you tomorrow.”

Alicia walked deeper into the large dark house toward the grand staircase and her upstairs bedroom.

Reflections

Griff walked to the window of his apartment and stared out.  On most evenings when he looked out he would see Park Avenue below, the park and the city’s skyline in the distance.  It had been a wonderful view all spring and summer.  But it was snowing tonight, the clouds and fog not letting you see the park and city but simply reflecting his living room and himself.  Griff stared at himself and took another sip of scotch from the tumbler in his hand.  He sat on the leather couch behind him far enough away that he could see the snow but not his own visage He reached up touching the scar under his eye, its roughness a subtle reminder of where he had come from.  The scar was from a fight long ago when he was in high school.  A broken beer bottle had done the deed.  Griff had grown up in a lower middle class neighborhood on the Eastside in Portland, Oregon.  He had been a white kid playing in the same streets as Crips and Bloods then.

There were times he wondered how he survived growing up where he did.  His father was a low level yard employee at the Union Pacific railroad while his mother cleaned hotel room’s downtown.  His father had worked hard usually four twelve hour shifts in a row and then three days off.  Those three days were always the best for Griff.  His father though just a yard worker who had not finished high school took him to the library or museums on those days off.  He had always pushed Griff to learn in subtle ways.  Letting him find what interested him then encouraging him to ask more questions.  Then finding ways that he could learn what there was to know about a subject.  His father would learn too and was always seeking to expand his knowledge.  Griff had met many professors in his life that didn’t know half what his father knew.

Griff felt his eyes getting teary as he thought about his father.  When Griff had gone off to college with a full scholarship he had been so proud.  It had been a shock when later that year he had been killed on the job. His mother had his father’s insurance and pension then she had re-married several years later to an optometrist.  He was a nice guy that treated his mom and little sister well.

Griff suddenly realized he missed the libraries of his youth.  They weren’t the same anymore.  Most of what you looked for was now available online.  It was easier to find and better cataloged than it had ever been.  But it was kind of like dealing with artifacts. You could look at the pictures of an artifact from every angle but until you held it in your hands you really couldn’t get a feel for it.  How much it weighed, how hard it was, density and texture.  The same thing was true of the old books and manuscripts he loved.  You never knew when you looked at the image of an old hand drawn map on the computer screen what morsel of data was handwritten on the back that had been missed.

Griff looked around the large living room that faced out the large windows.  Behind it was the kitchen with its stainless steel appliances, oak cabinets and black marble countertops.  To his right was the gas fireplace with a modern gray slate mantel.  He’d turned it on when he came home and now he stared into the flames.

Griff looked at the flames then the snow falling outside the window, “Fire and ice, just like Katy”

He had said it softly almost afraid to hear himself speaking.  The doorbell startled Griff.  He looked toward the door to the apartment.  He hadn’t buzzed anyone up so it could only be one person.  He listened as door was unlocked and Katy stuck her head in the door.

“You should answer the door Griff.  I just came by to drop off the key.”

Griff looked at Katy as she walked into the apartment in a short light blue skirt, black high heels and a white silk button up collared top.  Katy dropped the key on the kitchen counter and walked slowly over to the couch.  Her hair was down jet black and flowing across her shoulders.  She smiled at Griff then sat on the opposite end of the couch near the fireplace.  Katy crossed her legs the skirt ridding high up her thigh.  She slowly wagged the foot and high heel up and down.

“You know my new place doesn’t have the fireplace but has got a bigger shower.”

Griff nodded not being able to take his eyes off Katy’s upper thigh and crossed legs.  He finally looked up to the mischievous smile on Katy’s face.  Griff could have easily moved over toward her, pushed her down on the carpet in front of the fireplace and had sex with her.  He knew the look in her eyes.  Griff swallowed hard.

“You could have left the key with the doorman and he would have given it to me.”

Katy frowned suddenly, “I thought it would be nice to see you.  Maybe I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

Griff smirked at her, “What happened, the real estate guy dump you?”

Katy’s face went to anger suddenly, “I was never with him.  We were just dating.”

Griff just nodded, “You know Katy I could sweep you up and take you off to bed but tomorrow it would just be awkward with neither one of us knowing where this is going again.”

Katy bit her lower lip, “What’s so bad about that Griff?  It’s awkward already at least we could have sex and be together for a while.”

Griff considered this then his eyes narrowed to slits, “Because that was never enough for either one of us Katy.  We’ve already done enough damage to the other.  In another month I’ll be gone, you’ve got a least another year of work here maybe two.  The last 10 months pretty much showed that we aren’t right for each other.”

Katy ran her hand up Griff’s thigh staring into his eyes, “Can’t we just be friends that have sex?  You know like in the movies?”

Griff put his hand on hers gently, brought it up to his lips and kissed it, “That would work until one of us started seeing someone then we’d hurt each other.  Why don’t we just be the friend’s part?  I’ve got a new project for you that I got today.”

Katy let him hold her hand, “Alright suit yourself, what new project?”

Griff smiled, “A ring”

Last Gasps

Griff kissed Katy on the cheek as she left.  She looked into his eyes one last time almost pleading.  Katy reached up placing her palm against his cheek.

“It’s a shame this never worked out right Griff.”

He smiled at her as she turned and walked down the hallway.  Griff closed the door softly behind her.  He was proud of himself in some odd way.  She had tried again of course after he’d made her a drink and they sat together eating crackers and spinach dip in front of the fire.  Katy had been intrigued by the ring and the work so that would go easier tomorrow.  Griff felt a longing for her suddenly, wishing he had not turned her out and just taken her to bed.  He resisted the thought of going after her but with difficulty.  Griff knew something about Katy, he’d probably known it for a long time.  She wasn’t the one.  Lena hadn’t been the one either though at one time he thought she was.  Deep down Griff knew he was a romantic.  He knew the love of his life awaited him he just hadn’t met her yet.

Griff poured himself a rather generous scotch and drank it down quickly knowing he might pay for it in the morning but a certain amount of oblivion was required.  Griff turned out the lights and fireplace before heading toward his bedroom.

Flowers for the Dead

She pushed hard on the mausoleum’s brass covered doors and they swung in slowly.   She knew they would be sealed soon enough and her visits would cease after that.  Her low flats made almost no noise as she walked down the aisle between the crypts.  The flashlight in her hand played across the new stained glass window at the far end.  She walked up to Oscar’s crypt and laid her hand upon the brass plate bearing his name.  Then she looked at the unmarked crypt below his at ground level gently running her hand across the smooth white marble.  Slowly she laid the bouquet of lilies and lilacs against the lower crypt. She stared at the blank white marble before turning to go.

Chapter 4 Search Patterns

Passing on the work

Griff entered his office then set his large paper coffee cup on his desk before taking off his coat and tossing it on the coat rack. Griff had on a white shirt with small blue pinstripes and a black suit vest along with his usually jeans. He sat behind his desk then took a sip of the very hot black coffee from his cup.  Griff turned to the laptop on the desk and checked his email.  That was one of the things it had taken a bit to get used to on the East coast, the lack of email in the morning if you worked late.  When you lived on the West coast you were always greeted with emails from friends and colleagues that you worked with on the East coast.  He read the few emails that were there then started rooting around his desk drawer for the Ibuprofen bottle.  That last big scotch had done the trick and put him to sleep last night, but the dull thump behind his eyes this morning was the price to be paid.  He was in early as usual just before 7:00.  That was another change he’d never quite accomplished here.  In Seattle he would have ran for an hour, showered then rolled into his office at UW about 9:00.  He really did need to start running again soon, but he only had 30 days left then back to Seattle and he could get back into his old routines.  He missed the security of routine. Even if you were alone there was always the routine.

It was like his life was now on hold.  The promise of spring and summer with Katy had turned into waiting for winter to conclude and a return to his old life.  The familiar places and faces of Seattle would be nice, the coffee vendor at Pike Place, the nice lady at the bakery for a morning roll or croissant, the staff secretary at the university.  The steep hills of downtown Seattle to test your legs or the waterfront for a long stretched out run and walk.  The smell of the salt air from the Puget Sound, even the wet morning fog would be welcome.  Griff reached under his desk and opened the safe removing the ring and documents from it.  He opened the jewelry case and set the ring on his desk then started to peruse the documents.  He was at a loss for how he would give the ring to conservation.  The ownership was clearly outside the collection from Oscar’s letter.  Normally any item going out of the vault to preservation, display or anywhere else would be signed out and documented in the database.  This item wasn’t even in the database.  Griff was at a loss for a moment then turned to his computer and wrote a quick email to Alicia.  He was surprised when it was answered almost at once.

So it’s a ring, interesting.  Griff technically at this point it is your possession.  Oscar wanted you to have it and to deal with it so it’s yours.  You could loan it to the collection and have it cataloged into the system then you can treat it like any other object.  The cost of any work must be accounted for separately and will be paid out of the estate by the executor.  I’ll have Nancy from Collection Control draw up the paperwork and catalog it into the system.  If you want to talk more about Oscar’s bequest I have time after lunch say 1:30.

Alicia”

Griff sat back and looked at the screen re-reading the email.  She had been anticipating this he thought.  Alicia seemed to always have her hand on the pulse of the place.  He sat up and replied that 1:30 would be fine.  Griff then went to work on the other paperwork that had come with the ring. The first thing he unfolded was a hand drawn family tree of the Tammish family.  The hand writing quite clearly Oscar’s neat and tight printing.  There was Malcolm, Oscar’s grandfather married three times, Oscar’s father Raymond being the only surviving child of Malcolm’s second wife Winifred.  There had been other children some had died in childhood, several as young adults in 1918.  The flu had been very unkind to the Tammish family.  No mention was made of the death of Malcolm’s third wife who had apparently survived him when he died in 1927.  Oscar had been the offspring of his father Raymond’s first wife Gwen who had died when Oscar was still a child.  Griff suddenly realized Oscar had a half-sister from his father’s second wife.  Her name had been Ellen and she died in 1993 at age 56.  It was the final line of the tree that interested Griff now.  A set of dashed lines to a single name, Anita Craig, there was a birth and death for her 1934 to 1955.  Griff looked back up at Ellen his half-sister.  She had married and had a child.  Her spouse was a BT Lofton II, there child had been BT Lofton III born in 1967.  The name was familiar to Griff but he couldn’t quite place it.  Griff started to make detailed notes on his laptop of the family tree.  It wasn’t complete by any means, first names only for Malcolm’s wives and others.  They’re marriage dates and other dates missing but it was a start.

Griff started making notes of resources he might check for more information.  He’d start with the microfiche stacks at the New York Public Library.  The society pages from the 1920 through the 1970’s should do it along with births and obituaries.  For more information on the ring he would revisit the documents that were already on line here at the museum and then reach out to other institutions. He needed to get a firm date on when Malcolm Tammish married his third wife.  The ring would have been acquired before that. Griff pulled up the staff chart of the Tammish Museum and found the name, email and phone of the person he would contact next about this.

Emily Wilson, Head of the Tammish Archives.

Post Lunch Coffee

Griff walked into the outer office of Alicia Templeton’s office suite.  The outer office had the same glass walls as the rest of the floor.  Alicia’s office whose door was open behind her assistant’s desk were not glass but standard walls painted a light shade of maroon.  Alicia assistant was nowhere to be seen so Griff stuck his head in the door.  Alicia was seated on the brown leather couch to the side of her desk.  Alicia’s small dark haired assistant was placing a silver coffee service tray upon the top of the dark mahogany coffee table.

Alicia looked up and smiled, “Come in Griff and join me over here on the couch.  I’ve heard you’re a coffee drinker. I am as well so I took the liberty of getting us set up.”

Alicia poured the coffee as her assistant stood up and gave Griff a small grin as she left closing the door behind her.  Griff went over to the couch and took a seat.  Alicia was dressed in a dark blue business suit with a scarlet silk collared blouse peeking out from the jacket.  She smiled up a Griff her green eyes shining, her red hair back in a ponytail.  Alicia picked up a cup of coffee off the tray then sat back and crossed her long legs.  Griff noticed she was wearing black stockings with a grapevine pattern running along the side.   He took a breath and reminded himself this was his boss.  She was a fine looking woman for her age he thought.  He looked at her face and saw a sincere nice person staring back.  Griff knew better though.  Alicia was as hard as nails when she was in a confrontation.  He’d seen it with architects, designers and the curators of the museum.  You could argue with Alicia but there was no backing down in her.  She would listen until everyone was done then tell them what she wanted.  There was no discussion after that.  Those people who continued to push a point after a decision found themselves being shown the door.  He remembered a meeting early on with an interior designer and the other curators.  The curators had not liked the colors and textures recommended by the designer.  Alicia had joined the meeting and stopped the agenda.  Griff still remembered how she handled the meeting:

Alicia had sat at the head of the table and smiled at everyone then stated, “This is how it’s going to be folks.  The designer will present her design then each of you in turn will comment on it.  There will be no talking over anyone and no talking out of turn. When you’re all done I may have some questions then I’ll decide.  There is only one decider in this room and there will be no appeal.”

Alicia had decided against the designer who promptly resigned and another was brought in. Griff took a sip of his coffee and smiled back.

“Is that the ring?” Alicia asked pointing to the box and papers Griff had sat on the coffee table.

“Yes I thought you might like to see it before I send it down to conservation.”

Griff reached over and opened the case then offered it her.  Alicia accepted it then looked very closely at the ring without touching it.  She handed it back to Griff then accepted the letter from Oscar he now offered.  Alicia read the letter, Griff thought she had actually read it twice then handed it back.

“Well Griff you have quite the little mystery there.  I do love seeing Oscar’s handwriting again.  He never did learn to type.  Oscar either dictated or hand wrote everything.  He even dictated both of his books on art.  What can I do to help?”

Griff took the letter back, “Well you’ve done quite a bit already just helping me get it into the collection.  That went very smoothly by the way Nancy photographed the piece and did all the paperwork.  I’m going to have to do some research on Oscar and his family.  So far there is no access to the Tammish Archive directly only requests that they fulfill.  I may need some help with Ms. Wilson.  I’ve heard she’s pretty guarded about the archive.”

Alicia nodded, “Yes she is by my orders I might add.  The Tammish family has been in business a long time Griff.  There may be certain aspects of their history that appear let’s just say unseemly.  There will be a confidentiality agreement that will need to be executed and I’ll talk to Emily about access.  Griff is the ring historically significant?”

Griff considered this, “It’s really too soon to tell.  If we can remove the gold wire that covers the band it very well could be.  It’s the second part of the bequest that may prove the most difficult part though.  I need to identify who his love intrest was all those years ago.  Do you know if Oscar was one to keep a journal?”

Alicia was very still and Griff saw a small smile creep slowly across her lips.

“Yes he kept one throughout his life.  He also made several starts on a memoir.  They are all in the archives now.  Though the journals have only been there since his death.  I’m sure Emily hasn’t even had a chance to go through them yet.”

Griff brightened up, “That should help.”

He picked up the family tree then handed it to Alicia. “He also put this in with the other papers.”

Alicia looked over the paper and her eyes suddenly grew wide.  She looked up at Griff, “According to this BT Lofton the third is Oscar’s nephew.”

Griff nodded quickly, “I saw that also the name’s familiar who is he?”

Alicia handed back the paper and reached for her coffee cup, “He’s a member of the trust board and as of this morning he’s brought suit to take control of the trust.  I wonder why Oscar never mentioned their relationship or for that matter that BT the second was his brother in law.”

Griff could see that Alicia had gone on to some other problem.  Her face was no longer somber but a certain strain and intenseness showed around her eyes and forehead.  Griff was surprised she suddenly looked her age.  The cares and concerns of her position suddenly making her look older and wiser, still beautiful he thought but intense.  It worried him for some reason.

Chapter 5 Horns of a Dilemma

Confidential Concerns

Griff got up from the light table as he turned it off.  He looked down at the Aztec piece that was sitting on the table.  A stone mask with a hideous leer stared back up at him.  It was one of the few pieces of the Tammish collection that had a rather clouded past.  The paperwork suggested it had arrived in the collection sometime around 1915 but its original origin was still quite murky.  Griff sat at his desk then wrote a quick email to Collection Control to come pick up the piece so it could be returned to the vault.  Griff turned to see her standing in his door.

She had on black form fitting pants that disappeared into black knee high boots with a 3 inch wedge heel.  Griff followed the legs upward to a black silk sweater over a light blue top to the woman’s face.  Griff tried to gauge her height quickly with heels she was just short of six foot tall.  That would make her about 5’ 8” more or less.  The next thing he noticed was her hair in a ponytail that lay over her left shoulder.  Her hair was exceptionally long and golden blonde.  The thick ponytail of hair reached five or six inches below her waist.  Griff stared at the face trying to remember to smile and not let his mouth drop open.  She had a long straight nose that sat above her rather full lips.  The lipstick she wore was a mauve that seemed to suit her somehow.  The rest of her face had a thin layer of makeup or none at all.  She was tan to a dark golden bronze color.  It was her eyes that finally intrigued him.  They were a very dark green with just a hint of gold.  Webb made himself smile.

“Hi what can I do for you?”

She stepped further into his office a file folder in her hand, “Hello Dr. McEntire I’m Emily Wilson the head of the archive.”

Griff motioned to a seat in front of his desk.  Emily stepped to the chair and took a seat.  She finally smiled back at Griff, just a grin really but there was a playful nuisance at the edge of her lips.  Griff returned his gaze to her eyes.  He felt his heartbeat quicken.  This woman has amazing eyes.

Emily slid the file folder across his desk, “This is your confidentiality agreement.  I need you to sign it then I’ll witness your signature.”

Griff opened the folder and started to read the several pages of the document within.  Each page had a place for him to initial and the final page a signature line.  The document was very specific and the penalties for disclosures were very severe.  In fact the monetary penalty was twice his current contracted salary and there were additional financial burdens depending on the disclosure.  Griff read the document twice.  The second time through he initialed each page as he went.  He got to the last page and looked back up at Emily.

“This is a pretty strong document did you have to sign something similar?”

Emily nodded the smile still on her face, “Pretty much the exact same document actually.”

Griff grinned back at her, he knew it was that goofy grin he had sometimes.  He’d seen pictures of it, a slightly crooked looking smile, what he thought of as his dorky grin.  Griff also knew he just couldn’t help it.  It showed up whenever he was nervous.

“Has it been worth it?”

Emily stopped smiling, “Yes, it’s a remarkable archive.”

Griff looked at her face the lovely bronze color and her eyes again, “You’re not from New York are you?”

Emily chuckled the smile returned, “Oh I grew up here when I was very young but I’ve been in San Diego for quite a few years.  I came back to take this position.”

Griff smiled brightly, “Keeping your tan up?”

Emily sat back still smiling, “I just came back from vacation, the Cayman Islands for two weeks.”

Griff smiled brightly, “It suits you.”

He signed the last page then slid the folder back to Emily who signed the witness line then dated the document.

Emily took the folder but continued to sit and look at Griff.  He felt that she was evaluating him and suddenly felt a little self-conscious.   There was something there he knew.  A connection of some kind but he couldn’t tell what it was.  He overcame his reservations.

“We’re going to be working together on something.  I’m going to want to review Oscar’s journals have you had the chance to look at them yet.”

Emily looked surprised, “No I just received them.”

Griff seized the opportunity, “Well what time do you get in we could have coffee and talk about what I’m looking for tomorrow morning?”

Emily seemed to consider it for a moment, “How about 8:00 in the cafeteria?”

Griff was pleased and little hesitant but elated, “I’ll see you then.”

Emily nodded then picked up the folder, rose and started to walk toward the door, “See you tomorrow then”, she said over her shoulder.

Griff was still staring at her behind as she left.  He managed, “See you then.”, but his thoughts were elsewhere.  It was something about her smile and her eyes.  Griff shook his head.  He tried to return to his work but it was hopeless.  He was smitten and just continued to think about her eyes.

Positional Adjustments

Bernie hung up the conference call with his attorneys then sat back into the plush black leather of his office chair.  He looked across his desk at the banks in-house council who also handled all of Bernie’s funds.  Maynard Malloy was older than Bernie by over twenty years.  He was pushing 66 now and he showed it.  What was left of his wispy white hair was in a comb over to hide the bald spot on the back of his head.  Bernie would not like to see Maynard with his hair down.  He held Bernie’s gaze steadily.

“So Maynard she’s counter suing me and the other four board members.  I think at least two of them will drop out of the suit.  Do you think she will start restructuring the investments?”

Maynard put the forefinger of his left hand on his chin, “I would if I was her.  Ms. Templeton will look to punish anyone suing the trust as severely as possible.  The kind of damage that will have on the bank is probably minimal.  The trust owns almost 30% of the bank, even more than your family does.  She won’t want to bring the price down.  The hedge funds though could severely damage you financially.  The fact is BT if she were to demand to withdraw all the funds at least two of the hedge funds would not be able to cover the calls.  The current values of the assets they hold are just too toxic at the moment to bring in enough cash.  If the market were to recover another 20% or more then you’d be all right.  BT you should negotiate and settle with her.  The Tammish trust is liquid to almost three quarter of a billion they will bury us unless we can put the assets of the bank behind you. The bank’s board will never allow that risk. If she were to push a proxy fight she might even get you removed as chairman and take control of the bank.”

This was not what Bernie had wanted to hear but it was a reasonable assessment.  Bernard Trenton Lofton III was well versed in the markets and banking.  He was comfortable in the society of the upper classes, business, finance and corporate takeover.  He knew his blind spots, family and friends had never been something he could be called accomplished at.  His name and what people called him was a good example.  Only his close friends called him Bernie and even they were not all that close.  Everyone else called him BT or Mr. Lofton even his first wife had started calling him BT when they neared the end of their marriage.  Bernie almost laughed, “First Wife”, he’d never been married again or even close so maybe just ex-wife was more apropos.

He looked back at Maynard, “Start the negotiations with her attorneys.  Let them know that as long as she maintains the status quo on the investments that we’ll talk.”

Maynard nodded before rising and leaving Bernie’s office.  Bernie turned to his tablet and checked his schedule for the evening.  He had a dinner meeting with two Swiss bankers then a function for the performing arts center.  His escort would be waiting in the limo when he left the dinner to accompany him to the event.  He hoped it was Roxanne tonight she was beautiful and a good conversationalist.  Bernie got up to head into the attached suite and change into his tuxedo for dinner.

Home not Home

Emily pushed her way into her three story brownstone home on the upper west side.  The door was dark stained ancient oak and very heavy.  She closed the door behind her and set her large maroon shoulder bag on the dark walnut intricately carved table beside the door.  Then she heard her.

“Is that you Emily would you like some dinner dear?”

Emily smiled and slid out of the long tan cashmere coat, “No just a hungry burglar Nana but he’d like some dinner.”

Emily turned as the older lady came around the corner and into the hallway.  Nana was dressed in a light blue dress covered by a pink and yellow floral apron.  Her hair which had been blond when she was younger now fully white though her hairdo was perfect without a hair out of place.  Nana’s pale blue eyes emphasized the smile she had on her face.

“Sassy and funny just the way someone raised you.  Did you have a good day at the museum?”

Nana handed Emily the mail then Emily leaned over and kissed the much smaller woman on the cheek.

“It was fine as usual.  I see you got to the hairdresser today, very nice.”

Nana grinned then followed Emily into the first room to the left.  The parlor it would have been called in the old days.  Now it was Emily’s office with a large bay window behind her desk that she could turn toward and look out upon the street.  Her desk and the whole room were very modern.  The desk itself a glass and metal affair with her black webbed chair behind it and her laptop sitting off to one side.  The carpet was a light tan and covered the hardwood floor that was original to the home.  Opposite the desk was an overstuffed brown worsted leather couch that was angled slightly to face both the desk and the gas fireplace built into the wall.

Emily placed the mail on the desk as she picked her laptop up then moved to the couch followed by Nana.

Emily looked at her companion as Nana sat next to her on the couch.  She realized the move to New York had been hard on her old nanny.  She had left all her friends in San Diego behind.  Nana said she was making new friends here but Emily knew she couldn’t wait for her to get home each day.  Nana had been with her for the last twenty-five years ever since she was ten.   She was as close to a mother as Emily had ever really had.  Nana had helped raise her along with her grandmother since she’d been little.  Her grandmother was gone but Nana was still there.  Nana wasn’t even all that old really she had just turned 66 this year.

Though Emily was tired she knew that Nana had gotten her hair done for a reason, “So are you ready for a movie tonight?”

Nana smiled brightly, “There’s a new Jennifer Aniston movie we could go to, I always like her movies.”

Emily smiled and opened her laptop, “Okay let me know when dinner’s ready and we’ll go after we eat.”

Nana patted her leg as she got up and moved back toward the hall.

Emily opened the laptop and glanced at her email.  There was a meeting request for coffee with Dr. McEntire.  She accepted the meeting then pulled up her browser.  Emily had the Google screen up in a few seconds.  She was typing Griffin Robert McEntire into the search line as Nana called out that dinner was ready.  Emily hit enter then stood to head for the dining room.  She thought about meeting Griff today, what was it about those blue eyes of his?

Chapter 6 Researching the Researcher

Back Ground Check

Emily had returned to her laptop on the couch after getting home from the movies with Nana.  Nana had gone off to bed a short time later sticking her head in the room to let Emily know.  She had looked up and smiled then gone back to her research.  Emily had worked her way through the basic Google information she had received pretty quickly.  It was mostly announcements regarding Griff’s personal and professional life.  There was the notice of the acceptance of his thesis at UW, his divorce, several short profiles from the universities site about him.  There was a press release about him joining the Tammish.  His name had even showed up as being the person Katy Menendez was in a relationship with on her Facebook until recently.  He had a twitter account he rarely used.  He had shot skeet and trap competitively for a time when he was in Seattle.  Emily logged into her alma mater to continue the research.  Emily had received her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from USC.  She could use this account to access any academic work that Griff had published.

Emily was immediately surprised at the number of papers and articles he’d published.  She was working through them now, reading the synopsis of the articles and marking those she would review later.  It was while doing this that she had come upon an article being referenced in a court case.  The legal case was sealed but the article was still available.  She selected it and waited for it to come off the deep archive.  Emily switched back to her email.  The criminal background check she had ordered was in.  Nothing much was there, speeding tickets, parking violations and two small accidents with no injuries.  A pretty boring guy in that regard, just the way she liked her men, now.  There had been a time when a bad boy would interest her.  She had overcame her thoughts of rescuing a man years before.

Emily went back to the browser and saw the article was available.  She brought the file up then started reading:

Questionable Artifacts and Appropriation of Pieces at the Cleveland’s Chamberlin Museum of Pre Columbian Art

The collection of pieces at the Chamberlin Museum though in many cases rare and significant may well have been acquired from articles stolen from Mexico City in 1937.  There is also some cause to believe several of the most renowned pieces are fakes.  In the process of re-dating many pieces of the collection it has come to the reviewer’s attention that several of the pieces appear to match items reportedly stolen from the Aztec and Mayan collection of the Mexico City Heritage Museum in 1937.  The pieces were at the time off display when they had gone missing over a several year period.  The documentation at the Chamberlin shows these pieces being acquired in 1940 from an artifact dealer.  They supposedly had been retrieved from an excavation done in 1939.  The papers and journals of this expedition archived at the Smithsonian show no such artifacts.  These inconsistencies led the Chamberlin to take a closer look at the entire collection.  The most renowned piece in the collection, the jade mask dated to the early Mayan classical era was found to have modern tool marks.  It will require further expert analysis to determine if the piece is fake or has just been modified.

Emily scanned the rest of the paper.  Griff had documented the pieces matching them up to descriptions from the museum in Mexico.  He even had gotten the documentation of the original finds from the Mexican museum.  It was very convincing.  The mask and several other jade pieces had been pulled from display and were being examined by experts.  The paper was from 2010 almost three years ago.  Emily pulled up a new browser tab and searched for fakes at the Chamberlin Museum.  There was an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer explaining that the mask and several other pieces had been found to be fakes.  They had been taken off display but there was no mention of Griff or his paper.  Emily returned to the Griff’s paper.  The summary spoke volumes about both the fake pieces and stolen objects.  They were all acquired at the same time in 1940 from Pennington and Blessing Antiquities of New York.

Emily stopped reading and pulled up her database of the Tammish archive.  She searched for Pennington and Blessing Antiquities.  It came back almost immediately with several entries.  Pennington and Blessing had been acquired by Malcolm Tammish and Bernard Lofton in 1920.  Emily froze for a moment.  She wondered if this was part of what Griff was wanting to research in the archive.  It didn’t appear that he had an axe to grind from the original article.  He wasn’t even named in the lawsuit.  She looked at the lawsuit title, Chamberlin v Dawkins & Harper.  Emily tried for several minutes to find more on the lawsuit before deciding to call it a night.  She started to get up then tried one more search.  Emily entered Dawkins and Harper into the Tammish Archive.  The search returned fourteen items.

Emily sat back and said softly to herself, “Shit, I wonder what new hell this is.  It’s a shame he had really kind eyes.”

She saved the search then turned off the light to head up to bed.

Skyline

Griff sat before the fireplace alternating between staring at the city skyline outside and the flames from the gas fireplace within.  He had restrained himself from Googling Emily when he’d gotten home.  He had read her staff page at the Museum though.  She had received her degrees from USC then worked for the Getty Archive in Los Angeles before coming to the Tammish. The page didn’t have her picture which he thought was a shame.  Griff pulled his laptop onto his lap and read through his email.  The note from Angie caught his attention.  Lena had actually left the house that day and walked around the acre wooded lot the house was on.  She had left the front door open and always had the house in view but Angie thought it was a huge step.  Griff was glad for the news.  Lena had always loved the property their house sat on.  They had bought the small house because of the evergreen trees growing on the property as well as the view of the sound and Bainbridge Island.  Griff thought about it then looked up seeing his smile reflected in the window and city lights beyond.

Suddenly Griff felt a long way from home, out of place and out of time.  Sadness gripped him for a moment then something else popped into his head.  Emily’s dark green eyes were staring back at him in his mind.  Her smile with one side of her mouth slightly higher than the other made him grin.  They had flirted with their eyes nothing inappropriate was said or hinted.  Maybe it was just his imagination, no they had a connection.  It was connection like he’d never felt before.  Griff suddenly feared that it was one sided that it had been just him that had felt it.  He shook his head and reached for the small glass of Amontillado sherry he’d poured for himself earlier.  No scotch tonight for him and no throbbing headache in the morning.  He sipped the lightly brown colored sherry admiring the smell of almonds and the rich creamy consistency on his palate.

Griff’s mind went to the ethical questions of dating someone where he worked.  She was not his subordinate, nor did his work directly affect hers.  But still was it appropriate?  Griff’s mind went to the countdown he had started to the end of his job.  Even if she was the one, was there a future in it.  Griff knew there was only one way to find out.

He’d work with her this week then maybe he’d have a feel for it.  The inner part of him knew that with so little time left he would probably never get past his shyness to ask her out.   It had taken him weeks to ask Katy out.  Griff closed his eyes and leaned back on the couch.  Two dark green eyes in his head stared back at him.

Gliding Home

Bernie sat back as Roxanne kissed him lightly on the cheek before exiting the open door of the limo.  He really wouldn’t mind sleeping with her he thought.  But she was not that kind of escort.  Strictly a business companion to be seen with, she was well paid to be beautiful, charming and intriguing to those who he wished to impress.  Roxanne he knew was well educated, demure, and poised.  He could have asked her out for real but that would have been too personal for her and him.  Bernie wondered if she had a man in her life.

The door was closed and the driver was back in the car.  Bernie hit the intercom button, “Take me home please.”

He would have said the drivers name but had forgotten it the moment the driver introduced himself.  Bernie thought it was just as well.  He preferred the people around him to be nameless.  Bernie couldn’t tell you his maid or any of his house staff’s names.  Well except for his butler Jacob.  He’d been with his father before him.  It would be hard to forget his name.  The man had been a fixture in his life since he was a boy.  The limo only took a few minutes to arrive in front of the brown stone mansion he and his family had called home for over a hundred years.  The driver opened the door and Bernie stepped out handing him a hundred dollars for a tip and went up the stairs to the house.

The door opened for him as he approached, Jacob in his ever present morning suit holding it for him.

“Good evening sir”

Bernie said nothing as he let Jacob take his long black overcoat from his hands.  He started walking toward his study to the right of the door.

“I could use a large bourbon Jacob.”

“Yes sir”

Bernie moved into the study with its dark walnut paneling, huge fireplace and mantel on the far wall that held no fire.  He moved to the large ornate walnut desk sitting behind it looking at the computer screen to his right. He logged in quickly and looked at his email.  There was only one.  It was from Maynard earlier that evening.

She said no, we either drop the suit immediately or she will start restructuring the trust investments this Friday.  We have two days.”

Bernie knew he should feel scared but as things often happened in his family he was furious instead.  He got up and strode around the study then stopped before the portrait of his great grandfather Samuel over the mantel.  It was a large painting the face staring out very serious.  Unlike the later portraits of his grandfather and father this one was not painted with the characteristics of his family muted.  Most portraits of them had shown small ears tightly to their head, their nose slim and hawk like.  This portrait looked like they really looked in the odd photograph that they were captured in.  Samuel’s ears were large and sticking out from his head, his nose bulbous and red tinged.  The city of Savannah Georgia was in the background along with a tall ship over his other shoulder.

Bernie looked at the pre-civil war painting of his ancestor.  A slave trader with a huge fleet at one time, he had continued to bring slaves to the new world even after the southern states had ended the importation.  There had still been markets in South America to service.  The civil war would have ruined him if it had not been for Malcolm Tammish’s desire to compete in the cargo market.  The black eyes of the painting bore into him as he stared at it.  What would Samuel have done?  For that matter what would his grandfather, the first BT, have done?  They would have found a way.  It may have been immoral and illegal but they would have found a way to neutralize Alicia Templeton.

Jacob arrived with his drink.  Bernie picked it up off the tray taking a large sip.  He continued to stare at the portrait as he finished the drink.

Bernie sat the glass back on the tray, “Perhaps the old ways are still best.”

Jacob looked at his master, “Sir?”

Bernie turned toward the old butler, “Just get me another Jacob.  I have plans to make.”

Chapter 7 Sideways Connections

It’s only Coffee, or is it?

Griff walked into the cafeteria of the museum ten minutes before his meeting with Emily.  He’d had a hard time sleeping last night and hoped it didn’t show too much.  He’d actually worn a wool sports coat with his jeans today.  The brown of the wool going well with his white button down dress shirt that was open at the collar.  He wore a blazer, suit coat or sports coat occasionally throughout the year at the Tammish.  Usually on days with meetings where he thought he should look the part of the West coast laid back professor. It was a part that Griff actually played very poorly.  He was at his core a pretty shy person.  He could be extroverted with colleagues and friends once he got to know them.  Griff was always the quiet one in meetings though, preferring others to talk.  He entered the discussion after he figured out who all the players were.  Griff also waited for that decisive moment when what he wanted to articulate would be best received or most needed.  There were of course times where that moment never came.

Griff thought he would be early and have to wait for Emily.  He was wrong she was sitting in the booth opposite the door with two cups of coffee sitting in front of her.  She was intently studying her tablet and hadn’t noticed him enter.  Griff noticed how she sat her posture was perfect, dressed today in black slacks with black high heels and a bright yellow silk collared shirt. The shirt was short sleeved and her tan slim arms rested on the edge of the table as she read.  Her hair was down today though it was draped over the side away from him.  Griff started to walk over when she looked up over at him.  She smiled brightly at him. He felt its warmth from across the room.

Griff thought to himself, “Why does this feel like a first date? Christ why am I nervous.”

He slid into the booth placing the file folder he had with him on the table, “Good morning Ms. Wilson”

She continued to smile and held his eyes with hers.  There it was again almost like being shocked.  He could feel his own smile then forced himself not to look away. It was almost a staring contest then she blinked.

“It’s Emily”

Griff finally look down then reached for his coffee, “Okay Emily, please call me Griff.  I thought I was going to be the early one today.”

Griff stared at her face for a moment.  Her long blonde hair was in fact draped over her right shoulder.  He could see her small left ear with a large golden hoop earring.  Her ear was almost pointed like a pixie.  Griff noticed the little things he’d missed yesterday.  Her left eye was just slightly lower than her right.  Emily’s smile went up just a little more on the right as well.  Her nose was perfectly straight but was rounded on the end.  She had very high cheekbones and very light eyebrows.  Then of course there was her green eyes flecked with gold.

“So Griff it’s your meeting what is it you’re going to research in the archive?”

Griff took a sip of his coffee then opened the folder to remove a picture of the ring, “This is part of it.”

He handed the picture to Emily then took a copy of Oscar’s letter from the folder and slid it across the table.

Emily watched Griff as he produced the picture.  She went immediately to the scar under his eye then back to his light blue eyes staring back at her.  Emily suppressed a little shudder, what was it about his eyes and his face?  He had such a quiet demeanor, his eyes kind but with a certain fire behind them.  When she reached for the photo their hands had touched.  Emily passed it off but she was fascinated that it excited her somehow.  Emily looked at the photo of the ring.  She looked back up at Griff. There it was again that funny smile he’d had on his face the other day.  Emily suddenly had an image of that smile from the pillow next to her.  She shook her head then looked back at the photo.

“It’s really beautiful.”

She picked up the copy of Oscar’s letter recognizing his handwriting at once.  Emily read through the letter then looked back up at Griff.  He had his head down sipping his coffee looking up at her.

Griff smiled again, “It is rather distinctive isn’t it.  If we can find out what is under the golden wire it may even be significant.”

“So from reading Oscar’s letter I see what you may want to research.  You’ll need to see if you can figure out how the ring was acquired and about Oscar’s personal life.”

Griff nodded, “Exactly.  I think I’ll be spending some time figuring out the family tree.  Oscar gave me one to help with the research but it’s rather sketchy.  It was like he did it from memory.”

Emily was intrigued now, “Really? We haven’t even started on the genealogical side of things in the archive yet.  There’s just been too much to catalog.”

Emily felt a sigh of relief in some way.  He wasn’t looking for dirt on some of the past business dealings of the family.  But he was going to look at the family tree and heritage.  That was bound to lead to some uncomfortable places for the Tammish and herself.  I’ll just have to keep him rather focused I suppose.

Emily smiled at Griff again, “Where would you like to start?”

Griff took another sip of coffee and looked in thought for a moment, “I thought I’d start at the public library and try to fill the family tree out a little better.  Then I can provide you with the years I’m interested in.  If you could identify Oscar’s journals and memoir drafts for say 1945 to 1965 then I could start with them.  That would give me a much better idea of who Oscar was and who his mystery lover may have been.  Then I’ll be looking at his grandfather Malcolm somewhere between 1910 and 1927 he acquired the ring.  I assume he married his third wife sometime in that period.  Then we can narrow it down and see where this piece came from.”

Emily nodded slowly, “So when are you going to start?”

Griff’s smile got very wide, “Today, after this I’m off to the library.  I’ll check with conservation and see if they’ve dated the gold wire yet.  I should have some information by late this afternoon.”

At the mention of conservation Emily immediately thought of Katy who she had met only once before.  She was very attractive.  Emily knew that Griff would not ask her out, he just wasn’t that kind of guy.  She decided to take a leap of faith and take the initiative.

“Griff since you’ve been in New York have you had a home cooked meal?”

Griff tilted his head slightly puzzled, “No not really, I might make a stir fry in the apartment but mostly I eat out or bring it home.”

Emily tried to give him her warmest smile, “Well, why don’t you have dinner at my house tonight.  Guaranteed to be home cooked by my very own housekeeper and friend.  You can fill me in on what you’ve found out and I’ll have some information for you as well.”

She watched his deer in the headlights look that only lasted an instant.  Then Griff got that silly little smile again, “I’d love to, what time?”

Emily typed on her tablet for a moment, “How’s 7:00, I’ll email you the address it’s on the upper West side.”

Griff started to stand, “Sounds good, I’ll see you then.”

Emily smiled as she watched him leave.  He’d left her the folder with the letter and photo.  She sat back and smiled to herself, happy and nervous at the same time.

Afternoon Coffee

Griff sat down at the small window table of the little coffee shop.  It may have once been a Starbucks but now it had the cute descriptive name “Sundollars Coffee”.  It was silly in some odd way.  The shop had probably been too small for the big chain.  They had sold it off and built a large shop down the street somewhere.  Griff liked it, small and cozy with only 10 tables or so.  The deciding factor had been the “Really Fast Internet” sign in the window.  Griff had worked in the library through lunch then he had gotten a large coffee and scone from the young barista behind the counter.  Griff fired up his laptop again then started reviewing his morning research.  He was filling the family tree out pretty well.  The big find of the morning was Malcolm Tammish’s third marriage.  His third wife had been Ethel White and they had married quietly when he was sixty years old in 1911.  She had survived him by two years and died in 1929.  The other interesting fact was Malcolm’s first wife.  She had been Juliette Lofton, the oldest daughter of Samuel Lofton. They had married 1880.

Griff was starting to get interested in the Lofton family tree as well.  It had been after this first marriage that the two families were mentioned together in the social columns, business and finance.  Though as he looked back he could see that the families had become linked financially in 1866 just after the civil war, it appeared the marriage had sealed the bargain.  Juliette had died in child birth in 1889.  Malcolm had re-married within the year to Winfred Vanderbilt Hall.  It was to her that Raymond and five other siblings had been born.

Griff had just started working on Raymond when he realized that his first wife Gwen was also a Lofton.  She had been Samuel Lofton’s youngest daughter, BT Lofton’s younger sister and the mother of Oscar Tammish.  So that meant Oscar was both a descendent of the Lofton and the Tammish clans.  The other was BT Lofton III.  They had been distant cousins as well as BT III being Oscar’s nephew.  Griff realized he couldn’t figure one family out without doing the other.  It was more of a family bush than a tree.  The archive might have more information on the business side of things.  Emily could help with that.  Griff continued to look through the material he’d amassed at the library today.  There had been a falling out in the family.

It looked like it started in 1975.  That was two years after Oscar’s half-sister Ellen divorced BT Lofton II.  There were suddenly lawsuits between the families over business and banking concerns.  Most were settled with no details but it was clear that ownerships and control of companies changed hands.  Griff checked his email again.  Finally the email he’d been looking for all day was there.  Emily had sent a short email with her address.  She had stated that dinner was 7ish, no need to be right on time.

Griff leaned back, his mind went to dinner.  Was this a date?  It felt like a date, but maybe she just was looking for a friend, someone else from the West coast to hang out with. Griff thought it over, nope it was date.  He smiled then heard the chime for a new email come in.  It was from Katy.

“Griff, where are you?

I was in your office they said you were doing outside research today.  The assay of the gold wire came back today.  It’s too pure, turn of the century at least.  Can I un-wrap it?

Katy”

Griff replied at once, “I’ll be there in an hour, wait for me.”

Griff started packing up his laptop and woofing down the scone. He threw the backpack with his laptop and notes on his back then picked up his coffee before heading out the door.  The barista behind the counter watched him leave.  Then she saw him re-enter placing a five dollar bill on the table for a tip.  He looked up giving her a slightly goofy embarrassed smile then was back out the door.  She walked over to the table and picked up the tip.  She smiled at it as she cleaned off the table, “Gee he already tipped me when he got the coffee.”

Chapter 8 Face of Time

De-threading

Griff looked over the shoulder of Katy’s white lab coat as she worked.  The stone ring was in a small rubber jawed vice the band upward so the red eyed jaguar was facing down.  The very fine tipped tweezers in her gloved hands worked slowly un-wrapping the thin gold wire from the band. Katy kept her head down to the eyepieces of the microscope she was using.  Griff watched her work on one of two screens mounted to the table.  He could see exactly what she saw on one screen.  The other screen showed the close up view of a camera on a flexible stalk arm. The first new glyph on the stone was coming into view. There was something else, under the wire a thin flat filament of gold about 1/8 of an inch wide was wrapped against the inside of the band.  Katy touched it with the tweezers gently tugging it.

She looked behind her at Griff, “I’m not sure what it is but it’s not budging.  It could go all the way around the inside of the ring.  Do you want to continue?”

Griff came around to the side, moved the stalk camera that was pointed at the ring very close to the gold filament.  Griff looked up at the screen the camera was feeding to.

Katy nodded, “It’s modern unless the ancient Mayan’s used the small letter g.”

Griff looked over at her smiling, “Nope, keep going”

Katy continued to slowly un-wrap the thread from around the stone ring. A few minutes went by until a new glyph could be seen.

Griff touched her lightly on the shoulder, “Stop right there for a moment.”

Katy stopped and Griff moved the camera closer to glyph and looked closely at the screen.  He stepped to it and traced his finger across the screen over the glyph.

Katy looked over at him, “Which glyph is that?”

Griff looked back at her, “It’s tecpatl, it means flint or stone knife.  It can also represent a number or day of the month.  But it’s not Mayan it’s Aztec.”

Katy looked very surprised, “I thought the glyph on the front was Mayan?  Didn’t you date it to mid classical period, 500 AD?  The Aztec didn’t show up until almost 1300 AD.”

Griff just nodded his head up and down still staring at the screen, “Yeah and this glyph is closer to the style of the 1400AD period.  Wow and Oscar thought this had been in his family a long time.  This could be a connector piece between the two civilizations.  The family or clan that held this ring may have lived through the fall of the Mayans into the rise and fall of the Aztecs.”

Griff looked down at his watch then back over at Katy, “I have a dinner meeting tonight and I need to get going.  Can you send me photos of each glyph as you uncover them?”

He looked over at Katy whose mouth was now hanging open.  Griff continued quickly, “You can call it a day if you like and we can do the rest tomorrow?”

Katy closed her mouth, “No I’d like to finish it.  This must be some meeting to get you away from this?”

Griff could feel himself blushing he covered it by looking back at the screen, “Yeah it’s important.  It’s with the head of the archive Emily Wilson trying to build some good will there.”

The lie had come too easily to his lips.  He stopped and thought about it. Griff would have never left something like this before.  He could always call and re-schedule.  That’s what he would have always done before.  He would have done that to Katy or even Lena.  Griff started to walk to the door to the conservation lab.

Katy turned her head and watched him leave then turned to her assistant Leo, “That would be the Emily Wilson with the long blonde hair down to her ass?”

Leo nodded, “Actually mid-thigh, California girl.”

Katy turned back to microscope, “I’m a California girl Leo, a real California girl, from long before the gringos.”

Leo grimaced and watched her work.

Shielding Others

Griff picked up his bag and jacket from his office then headed toward the elevator.  He could see its door starting to close as he turned the corner.

“Hold the elevator please”

He saw a black high heel step into the doorway that caused it to open back up.  Griff took a couple of quick steps then into the elevator.  Alicia Templeton was standing there with her foot and leg in the door.  She had on a black wool coat that came to her knee, with black shear nylons and black heels.

“Hello Griff, you’re leaving early. I heard you had plans tonight.”

Griff was shocked for a moment then smiled back, “Oh Emily told you she invited me to dinner?”

Alicia’s smile turned into a teasing grin as the door closed and the elevator started down.

“Emily filled me in on what your plan was for the archive research.  I’m glad you took her up on the offer.  She’s a very sweet girl and really has no friends here in New York. I believe you’re in the same boat.  You two should have a pleasant evening.”

Griff went into a shy mode, “I hope so.”

The elevator opened onto the first floor lobby and they both headed for the front glass doors.  The guard at the desk waved at them both as they walked by.  Griff nodded his head as Alicia waved back, “Night Charlie”

Griff could see the Mercedes waiting out front for Alicia.

“Can I drop you off Griff?  Both your place and Emily’s is on my way home.”

Griff stumbled for words, “That would be great. I was going to go home and get a shower before I went to Emily’s”

They walked together through the sliding glass doors, Griff slightly behind her.  The man stepped from the right side of the entrance portico as they did.  He was tall in a long brown overcoat, something was wrong with his face.  Alarm bells suddenly went off in Griff’s head, this was wrong.  A telescoping baton was suddenly in the man’s hand and he rushed at them. Griff used his left hand to shove Alicia to the ground then swung his back pack from his shoulder into the man. He heard the sickening crunch of his titanium laptop making contact with the man’s shoulder and head. Dammit not my laptop went through his head.  It was like slow motion to him now.  The man reeled to his right then started to turn toward him.  Griff went into a headlong rush at the man feeling the baton make contact with his left hip as he crushed his right shoulder into the man.  They were both falling with Griff on top, the man underneath hitting the concrete first.  Griff heard the grunt then scrambled to get up, but his hip was on fire so all he could do was crab walk backward.  The man rolled on his left side then was up and running.  The baton was on the ground beside Griff.  He watched him running down the street then across it.

Griff sat down onto his right side the left still throbbing but getting better.  Slowly he turned to look for Alicia.  She was up now moving toward him.  He looked to his left as the driver exited the car and hurried over.  Griff heard the door open and Charlie was there.  He noticed Charlie actually had what he thought was a gun in his hand then realized it was a phone.  Alicia was suddenly on her knees beside him.

“Griff are you alright, where did he hit you?”

Griff moved his hand to his left hip, it was still throbbing but he could move.  He rolled onto his butt finding Alicia staring into his face.  Her look was concern and shock but calm.

Griff tried to smile, “Jesus that guy was going for you Alicia, what the fuck was that about.”

Griff looked as her face became very hard, her eyes were steely and she looked furious.  Then Alicia’s face just as quickly became only concern again, a small smile on her lips.

“I believe you’re right, good thing you were here.  Can you stand?  Let’s get you back inside until the police arrive then we’ll get you checked out.”

Griff started to stand, as he put weight on his left side he faltered. Charlie and Alicia both caught him holding him up.  He winced and put some weight back on his left side.  It was better.  He limped back into the lobby with their help.

Questions

The police officer looked at his notebook one last time.  He was a tall black man in his late twenties.  The name Murphy was on the pocket opposite his badge.

“That’s about it Dr. McEntire, it sounds like the guy had on a nylon stocking so you couldn’t see his features very well”

Griff got it at last.  That’s why his face looked kind flat and squished.  He wasn’t’ sure why he hadn’t realized it earlier, a nylon stocking mask like out of an old movie. The officer moved toward Charlie who had put the front camera surveillance video on CD for him. Griff looked around the lobby.  He was sitting on one of the padded benches next to the entrance.  A different officer was talking to Alicia who was standing by the guard station.  The driver was waiting patiently by the front door.  Griff rolled slightly onto his left hip it was only sore now and no longer throbbing.  He stood slowly stretching his hip as he got up.  Griff took a step and winced then retreated back to the bench to sit down again.  He gently sat on his right side.  Alicia looked over at him then started walking toward him.  Griff started to rise and she held up her hand.

Alicia sat down next to him, “You just stay there, are you sure you don’t want to go to the ER and get checked out?”

Griff shook his head then looked down at his watch, “Crap it’s almost seven.”

Alicia smiled and covered his hand with hers, “It’s alright Griff I called Emily.  She knows you’re going to be a little late.”

Griff smiled and patted her hand with his, “Thanks, and how are you doing?  It’s not everyday someone comes at you with a club?”

Alicia’s face grew serious, “Perturbed might be a little too mild a word but I’m going to go with it.  I need to think about what the proper response should be.  I believe someone was trying to send me a message.  They’ve succeeded but the results will be quite different than they expect.”

Griff looked into her face for a moment, “You may need a bodyguard?”

Alicia smiled a playful smile, “Oh are you volunteering?  That will be taken care of as well.  But let’s get you to your dinner with Emily shall we?”

Alicia stood and offered her hand to Griff who let her help him up.  The hip was stiff and he was limping slightly but able to walk.  Charlie walked over and handed Griff his back pack.

“Thanks Charlie”

“My pleasure doc, I’ll walk you two out.  Ms. Templeton the two men you requested are at your residence waiting for you to arrive.”

Alicia nodded, “Thank you Charlie”

Griff’s phone buzzed with a message. It must be the next glyph. He pulled it from his jacket pocket only to see the screens glass had been shattered.

“Dammit”

Alicia slid her right arm in his left arm then walked him slowly through the door, “We’ll get you another in the morning Griff, unplug tonight and get to know Emily.

Griff put the phone back in his pocket and smiled, “Sounds like a plan.”

Chapter 9 Getting a Feeling

Slightly Awestruck

The car drove up the tree lined well lit street of old well maintained three and four story brown stone houses.  Griff thought it must be lovely in the summer. The green leaved trees casting shade and shadows over the street and sidewalks.  Griff realized at once that it was a very upscale neighborhood.  He looked over at Alicia in the seat beside him.  She was looking out her side of the car at the street.

“I like my apartment Alicia but this street is charming.”

Alicia turned and smiled back, “It’s one of those old neighborhoods where the rich built there brownstone townhouses.  A very desirable part of Manhattan, Emily’s family has owned a home here for several generations on her father’s side.  She moved back in when she came to work for us.”

The car pulled up in front of a three story brownstone. The façade was a mustard yellow stone with stairs leading up to a large dark door.  To the left of the door extending up two stories were rounded bay windows extending outward from the house, each floor having three windows looking outward.  The top story of the house was flat across with 6 arched windows.  The brick of the window sills and roof line were ornate. To the right of the door were two large windows with rounded tops.  These also extended up two stories.  The symmetry of the old building was perfect with small flood lights lighting the roof line shining down upon the façade.

Griff looked back over at Alicia, “You sure you’ll be alright getting home tonight?”

Alicia smiled and nodded, “It’s all taken care of, now up the stairs and enjoy your dinner.”

Griff got out of the car with his back pack as the driver held the door. He smiled at Alicia one last time then started up the steps.  He saw movement in the bay window to the left.  A flash of black and blond hair, he wondered if that was her as the large door at the top of the stairs swung open.  Emily was standing in the door.  She had a lovely smile on her face, a simple black dress coming down to just above her knee, her long hair loose hanging down her back.  Griff took several more steps.  He hadn’t noticed he was limping slightly but she had.

Emily stepped out then wrapped her arm under his left arm helping him toward the door, “I see you’re a little worse for wear.  How bad does it hurt?”

Griff shrugged, “It’s really just kind of stiff.  I’ll be fine really.  Sorry about being late for dinner.”

Griff could feel her hand on his forearm.  He could smell her now that she was so close.  It was a mixture of things, cherry blossom and vanilla.  He wondered if it was body oil, perfume or shampoo.  Griff found it pleasant, soothing in some way.  He instantly regretted not getting home for a shower and shave, suddenly feeling rather rumpled and sweaty.

She led him through the door into the house.  Griff wasn’t surprised to see the black and white marble tiles on foyer floor in a diamond pattern.  To the right of the foyer there was a staircase leading upward and a set of open double doors onto a darkened room.  The marble floor continued under a carpet down the long hallway to the left of the stairs.  To his immediate left was another double wide door opened onto brightly lit room he’d seen Emily come from.  Griff was surprised that the walls were bright white with a remarkable intricate crown molding in oak around its top.  Emily closed the door behind him as he started to take off his coat.

“Wow Emily this is beautiful,”

Emily took his coat and back pack from him as Griff continued to look around.  She placed his coat on the table beside the door then placed his backpack on the floor below it.

“Yeah, it’s starting to feel like home again. I grew up here until I was ten then I went to live with my Gram in California.”

Griff wondered what had made her leave.  He figured she’d let him know soon enough.

Emily put her hand through his left arm again lightly placing her hand on his forearm, “Come on let’s get you dinner and introduce you to Nana she dying to meet a hero.”

Griff felt himself blush, “Hero might be a little strong.  I just tackled the guy.  It happened pretty fast.”

Emily started walking him down the hallway, “The way Alicia tells it you pushed her out of the way, put yourself between the attacker and her then rushed him.”

Griff nodded still blushing, “Well yeah I guess that was about it.  I just kind of reacted really.  When I was a kid if someone came at you then you went for him, unless there was a bunch of them then you ran like hell.”

Emily turned him through a door on her left.  It was the dining room with a long cherry wood table with three chairs on each side and one on each end.  Plates were set for three at the far end. In the far wall was set a door that Griff assumed went to the kitchen.  The light above the table was very modern and matched the table.  Griff was sure at one time a huge chandelier had once hung in this room.  An unlit fireplace and large mantel were on the wall opposite the door with a side table on each side.

Emily laughed, it felt like music to his ears, “Well I guess Alicia was lucky there wasn’t a bunch of them then, running in high heels is rather difficult.”

She led him to his seat at the head of the table then took the seat beside him.

“Nana he’s here and we’re ready to eat”

Comparing Notes

Griff sat on the couch in what he assumed was Emily’s office and study.  The fireplace on the wall was lit with a low flame.  He waited for her to return with an aperitif but he thought she was probably talking to Nana about him.  Dinner had been wonderful.  Nana had made a homemade shepherd’s pie with fresh baked soda bread and a nice salad.  The meat in the pie had been lamb so Emily had paired it with California Zinfandel from Amador County.  Griff had rarely eaten this well in a couple of years.  The conversation had been a little awkward.  He’d had to relate what had happened earlier that evening to Nana.  Who he’d found out actually was named Jean.  The conversation had moved from there to talking about the movie Jean and Emily had gone to the night before.  Then they all had reminisced about the West coast and the differences between there and life on the East coast.  It made them all a little bit homesick he supposed.  Though New York City is surrounded by water they all missed the ocean.

Emily came into the room with two brandy snifters.  Griff watched as she handed him one then curled up on the opposite end of the couch near the door.  Emily wrapped her long tan legs beneath her.  She smiled at Griff and their eyes met, neither spoke for a few moments but neither looked away.  Finally Griff broke the silence.

“Thank you so much for dinner.  You were right it’s the first home cooked meal I’ve had in years.  Jean is a wonderful cook.  How many years has she been with you?”

Emily took a sip of her brandy then a mischievous grin spread across her face, “If I tell you then you have to promise not to make fun of me.”

Griff grinned, “Promise”

“Nana has been with me since I was eleven years old so that would be over twenty four year.  She was my nanny and caregiver when I moved to the West coast with my grandmother.”

Griff felt the surprise on his face, he nodded, “You must be very attached to each other.  Can I ask what happened to your parents?”

Griff expected her face to change, it didn’t.  She’s answered this question many times he realized.  He instantly wished he’d have let her bring it up.  That’s what you get for talking first he thought.  He endeavored to fix it.

“Wait, don’t tell me right now.  Tell me some other time when it’s your idea.”

Emily now appeared surprised, “Alright, but what made you change your mind?”

Griff decided he should be honest, “I don’t want the edited version.  It would be like me talking about my first marriage.  You’d get the well-rehearsed version not what really happened.”

Emily got a wide grin on her face, “You’re right of course.  I have to tell that story every time I let someone get close to me.  So it is the least painful version of it.  Why don’t we start with what you came up with today at the library?”

Griff started to tell her about what he’d learned.

Clearing up

Emily walked into the large kitchen at the back of the house.  Nana was busily wiping down the gray slate counter tops.  Emily liked this kitchen. It was smaller than the one in California.  The appliances all matched the off white antique cupboards and cabinets.  They were all new as she’d bought them when she’d moved back in.

Nana looked up, “He’s gone then?”

Emily nodded, “Just put him in a taxi to head home.  It’s almost midnight Nana I see you’re still up.  Go ahead and ask.”

Nana stepped to the sink and rinsed the towel she’d been using, “Did you kiss him?”

Emily thought about the kiss.  They had stood on the top of steps just outside the doorway. Both nervous as the taxi arrived. He was going to kiss her on the cheek.  Emily had moved her hand to his face.  She looked into his eyes then guided his lips onto hers.  It had been a soft kiss but she had made it last several seconds.  It was if lightening was jumping through her. When she pulled back he’d opened his eyes and was looking into her eyes again.

She had smiled at him, “Just so there’s no misunderstanding about tonight Griff.”

The smile had spread slowly across his lips then, “I’m glad you made that clear, coffee tomorrow?”

Emily had nodded, “Same time, same place.”

Emily smiled at her Nana, “Yes I kissed him.”

Nana smiled back, “Good.  He seemed like a very nice man.  Do you think things will go any further?”

Emily held her hand out to Nana.  She took it and they started to head out to the hall, “Oh I think so.”

Partial Blindness

Griff turned the corner into the hallway from the elevator.  The note on the door surprised him for a moment and then he thought about the shattered cell phone in his pocket.  The note was in Katy’s neat handwriting, “Call me when you get in.”

He let himself in and turned on the kitchen lights.  Griff would have called Katy but his cell phone was smashed and there was no other phone in the apartment.  He decided to do the next best thing he could and retrieved his laptop from his bag.  He turned it on, noticing immediately that the entire right corner of the screen was not working.  The system itself started up.  Working around the blind spot in the corner he wrote Katy an email.

Katy

Sorry my phone is out of action.  The laptop is not in a lot better shape or I would have gotten in touch sooner.  Did you get the wire all the way off?”

Griff walked into his bedroom and stripped off his clothes.  He proceeded to the bathroom to have a look at his hip.  Near his left buttocks and toward his pelvis bone an ugly blue bruise could be seen.  He touched it softly with his finger.  It was tender and very sore.

He spoke to himself in the mirror, “Well there’s the meaning of the phrase; that’s going to leave a mark.”

The email chime surprised him.  He walked back into the kitchen then moved the email around on his screen so he could read the whole thing.

Are you alright, Leo told me about what happened?  Yes I got all the wire off. There are a total of 4 other glyphs.  I texted pictures to your phone.  I also got the gold filament out.  It had a name on it.  It said Pennington and Blessing. Are you sure you’re alright, I can come up?”

Griff furled his brow, Pennington and Blessing, I know that name.  He looked back at the email and hit reply.

No really I’m fine.  I’ll see you in the lab in the morning and look at the glyphs.

Thanks Katy”

He sent the email then closed the laptop down.  Griff started for bed searching his brain for Pennington and Blessing, nothing came.

Chapter 10 Tactical Retreat

Analytic Contemplation

Alicia sat up in her bed propped on several pillows.  She sipped her herbal tea slowly insuring she wouldn’t dribble any down her baby blue silk pajamas.  Alicia stared out at the bedroom without seeing.  It had once been the room she shared with Jonathan, his clothes and uniforms were still in the walk in closet off the bath.  She had only the bedside lamp on now, its stained glass shade casting colored shadows across the room.  Downstairs she knew her new guards would be sitting at the front door and in the kitchen.  There were three of them to take rotating shifts to guard the house.  Tomorrow two of them would accompany her to the office.  One would stay in the lobby at the guard station the other in her outer office.  Jinie would have company for a change.  It had actually been rather simple to arrange the security.  One of the trust’s old businesses had been a security firm named Rampart United.  Oscar had rolled the business out on its own last year as he was making final preparations for the trust.  The company still provided the background checks for the trust and museum employees.  A single phone call and a few minutes on hold had gotten a senior executive Frank McNeal on the line.  The body guards had been dispatched minutes later and waiting at her door.

Alicia thought about the reason for the attack.  How badly leveraged could the hedge funds be that BT would try something so desperate?  If they had succeeded in injuring her at most it would only delay things.  Alicia considered how real the danger must be.  She knew BT, had known his father as well.  They were both capable of going outside law, they always had been.  But how far would he go?  Alicia knew only one way to deal with it.  She would ask for a meeting tomorrow with BT at the museum.  Alicia had no wish to destroy BT before, but she was changing her mind about it.  She would make that abundantly clear tomorrow.  What would she offer him?  Alicia knew the answer.  He would drop the lawsuits and she would withdraw the trusts investments slowly from his funds.  That would give him a chance to stabilize them as the funds were moved.  She would even offer to leave a certain amount in place to show confidence in the hedges and positions.

Then Alicia knew what would happen next.  He would get greedy and sue the trust again or not, it really didn’t matter to Alicia now.  When the positions on the funds were corrected, as much as possible of the trusts investments safe, then Alicia Templeton would destroy Mr. Bernard Trenton Lofton III.  Oscar had seen it coming, between the trust and her personal portfolio they had a controlling interest in the bank.  BT would always have a certain amount of wealth but he was about to be downsized.

Alicia smiled as she finished her tea then turned out the light.  She laid her head on the pillow wondering if BT has worked out that as Oscar’s nephew he could make a claim to the estate and trust.  A very valid claim if the current executor were to have a fatal incident.  She wondered if he’d gone that far in his thinking.  He wouldn’t win of course but the board would be in power again.  Oscar must have known this. Oscar would have had a plan.  Alicia closed her eyes and wondered what it could have been.  It struck her suddenly. Why had the security firm seemed as if they were waiting for her call?  Had Oscar prepared them?  Alicia tried to get to sleep but she was restless and her mind would not shut off.  She got out of bed then wrapped herself in her black robe.  Alicia started downstairs knowing the only place she would be comfortable tonight was on the couch next to Jonathan’s bed.

The Breaks

Bernie picked up the throw away cell phone off his desk on the second ring. He’d had Jacob pick up three of the pre-paid phones this morning.  He had given two to Maynard and kept this one for the call he knew would come.

“Hello sir, I take it we have more time now that she’s laid up?”

The voice on the other end was very calm, “It didn’t work out.  Some Good Samaritan stepped in and our guy never got close to her.  Our assailant has a broken collar bone and a couple of cracked ribs.  I didn’t ask for more details.  I’m sure you don’t want to try again?”

Bernie was suddenly dejected.  He looked up at the portrait of Samuel Lofton it almost seemed to be mocking him.

“No, she’ll be prepared for it now.  You won’t get close to her.  We really had only one chance.  A random mugging puts her in the hospital for a few weeks and gives us time to maneuver the board in her absence.  What do you think she’ll do?”

Maynard’s voice didn’t change it was still calm and quiet, “One of two things are going to happen.  She’ll retreat and negotiate or she’ll try to crush you.  She may do both.”

Bernie got a very cold feeling.  He’d been on the winning end of many hostile takeovers, greenmail attacks, and proxy fights in his time.  He didn’t want to be on the losing end.

“How bad will it be if she comes after us?”

Maynard voice was a little more edgy now, “She’ll come after you.  If she was to go to the wall then you would have three hedge funds collapse, lose control of the bank, and a large chunk of your assets that are tied to the funds.  I could have the accountants run the numbers but I’d say you’d have maybe ten percent left after litigation.  No one in the financial world would ever do a deal with you again.  But ten percent is still a healthy number say around a hundred million.  It might get worse if the Fed gets involved.”

The wheels in Bernie’s head started turning.  He could feel that old anger welling up in his stomach.  His neck muscles knotted and his jaw was now clenched tight.

Maynard’s soft voice brought him back, “Don’t even think it.  I will be no part of it beyond this.  It’s one thing to play middle man to the thugs but beyond that and I’m out.”

Bernie realized Maynard knew exactly what he’d been thinking.  He suddenly longed for the days of his grandfather.  When there were people in their employ that could make that kind of thing happen.  His father had moved the family and business away from those less than legitimate enterprises after prohibition.

He thought about Maynard suddenly waiting for a reply, “Of course not”, he’d almost said Maynard’s name and stopped himself, “I wouldn’t consider that a valid option at this point.  Do you have any other ideas?”

Maynard was quiet for a moment, “It’s not a valid option at any point. Yes, I have some ideas, but not on the phone, let’s talk tomorrow over lunch.”

“Fine”, Bernie ended the call then gently laid his head on the desktop.

Black and Strong

Griff sat at the same booth Emily and he had shared the day before with two cups of coffee sitting before him.  He’d already had a large coffee on the way into work this morning.  Griff had thought about going down to conservation and looking at the ring.  He’d decided to wait for Katy, who normally didn’t arrive until after nine.  Griff looked at the partial screen of his laptop.  It was getting worse than it had been last night.  The IT departments didn’t start until eight so he was stuck using about two thirds of his screen.  He was trying to answer an email as Emily slid into the seat across from him.

Griff looked up at her smiling face, her green eyes locking onto his. He could feel the smile spreading across his face, “Good morning, you got here first yesterday so I didn’t know if you took cream or sugar.  I brought both.”

Emily reached for a cream still looking in his eyes, “Just a little cream thanks.  Are you feeling better this morning, still have pain?”

Griff felt himself blush, “Just a little, I’m not limping today at least.  I wanted to thank you again for dinner it was wonderful.”

Emily tossed her head as she laughed, “Oh it was Nana’s pleasure she’s quite taken with you.”

Griff watched her reach back to pull her long hair to one side then drape it over her left shoulder.  She picked up her coffee and took a sip.

“I’m glad she liked me, is that a test to see if you’ll date someone”

Emily laughed again then held his gaze again, “It wasn’t years ago, but I guess it is now, yes.  She’s not the only one kind of taken with you.”

Her grin was beaming as she reached across the table taking his right hand with her left.  Griff took her hand in his.  It was soft, the nails short but manicured with a clear coat.  He marveled how good her touch felt for a second.  He looked up from his hand to her face.  It was more serious now, her eyes searching his.

“Do you feel that Griff, it’s so comforting to hold your hand, comforting and exciting at the same time.”

Griff nodded, “I know I feel the same way when I look in your eyes.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before.”

The smile spread back across her face, “Well it could just be lust, but I think we should look into it doctor.”

Griff almost laughed then smiled back, “Oh that would be both my professional and personal opinion.  What did you have in mind?”

Emily’s face got a rather mischievous look, “Why don’t you pick me up at 7:00 tonight and let’s find out.”

Griff was startled for a moment, “I’m not even sure what you like to do yet, but I’m game. I guess I’ll just have to figure it out.”

Emily let go of his hand and started to get up, “Come down to the archive today if you get a chance and I’ll show you around.”

Griff smiled up at her, “I’ll be there.”

Griff watched her walk away.  She was wearing long dark grey pants today with red stiletto heels, her blouse a bright red that matched the heels.  Emily’s long blonde hair cascaded down her back halfway down the seat of her pants.  She stopped at the door to the cafeteria then turned looking back at him.  She gave him a rather lascivious smile then was gone.

Griff sat back thinking to himself, she was making sure I was looking.  Then he went into near panic mode, “where am I going to take her tonight?”

Faces Dark and Gloomy

Griff found Katy sitting at the same table as she had been at yesterday.  The ring was now held in the same vice but now the jaguar glyph was up.  Katy was using magnifying glasses and gently cleaning the glyph.  Griff moved to her side looking at the ring.

Katy did not look up, “Good morning, I forgot to ask last night how the date with Ms. Wilson went?”

Griff thought about denying it was a date then changed his mind.  It was clear from the cafeteria that Emily had no intention of hiding anything.

“It was nice.  I got a home cooked meal and a chance to relax for a bit.  Like I said it was nice.”

Katy did look over at him now.  Her face was guarded giving away nothing.

“How’s your leg?”

Griff leaned closer to the ring trying to see the glyphs on the side, “It’s my hip actually.  It’s much better this morning.  I iced it down last night, just a deep bruise really.”

Katy sat back from the ring and removed her magnifying glasses. Griff looked down at the table.   Next to the ring was the golden wire that had been removed from it. Beside the wire was the small filet of gold with lettering he’d seen just the edge of yesterday.

Katy sat back then turned to the laptop on her right.  On the screen on the opposite wall 4 glyphs appeared.  The first glyph he’d seen yesterday was there, tecpatl, the stone knife.  Griff looked closely at the others.

“They are all Aztec of the same period.  He pointed at one that looked like a small house, this one is calli, this means house or home.  The next one is miquizli that means death or sickness.  The last one is atl it means water. Hmm, I wonder what they mean together.  It could be a protection spell, the jaguar spirit to protect our home from death and war.”

Katy looked back at the ring, “So why did Pennington and Blessing wrap the band in gold wire?”

Griff was still intently staring at the glyphs on the screen, “The Tammish family used this as a wedding ring.  I believe a ring of gold is more fitting.  So they had Pennington and Blessing wrap the wire around it.  There is even a dual purpose there it makes it look like a purely Mayan artifact.  If you look at it from a value aspect they would see the Mayan artifact as being much more valuable.  Though now in this era, I think we see that a mixture like we have here, it is even more valuable.  The two cultures were thought of as separate at the time it was discovered.”

Katy watched Griff as he stared, she saw him jerk as something occurred to him, “So what have you got?”

Griff suddenly had it.  He smiled over at Katy, “Pennington and Blessing weren’t jewelers.  They were antiquities dealers.  They were also not the most reputable firm to do business with.  Though back then no one would know.”

Griff started to walk toward the door.  Katy turned watching, “What now?”

Griff looked back, “Go ahead and clean it up for display.  I’m heading down to the archives.  Now that I know who they bought it from maybe I can get some history on the purchase.”

Chapter 11 What Remains Hidden

Unnecessary Evasion

Emily took a sip of the peppermint tea she was drinking in her office in the archive.  She had originally been assigned to a larger glass walled office with the rest of the staff on the fourth floor.  She’d requested this space in the archive be remodeled from several cubicles into her office.  The furniture was simple, just your standard modular gray office desk with a light brown top.   It was U shaped, a long table with a round end between her and the door.  Her laptop was on the desk behind her with a connecting desk to her right between the desk and the table.  It could be any office space in any business, a little larger perhaps.  A very utilitarian office was just what she liked. There was a large window looking out into the climate controlled archive beyond.  Rows of movable storage shelves in long lines were within.  Two cataloging stations could be seen at the far end.  Her two archive staff busily cataloging stacks of paper, ledgers, and various items into the system.  The work on the archive was well along before Oscar’s passing.  His death had brought several new pallets of documents and personal papers to be added to the archive.  Each item was reviewed then an entry created with a short description of its type, dates if possible then put in a predefined category.  Once everything had been cataloged a more detailed review that Emily had already started would go into full swing.  Items would be identified that should be scanned and put online, or in some cases marked as restricted.  It all depended on the content

Emily looked up from the old ledger on her desk as the door buzzer for the archive went off.  She turned to the security monitor beside her laptop then was a little surprised to see Griff here so early. Emily had expected him this afternoon.  It was only eleven but there he was.   She reached for the button to unlock the door when he smiled into the camera.  There was something else there.  This wasn’t entirely a social visit or just work.  His face had an intense look like he was solving a puzzle.  She liked the intensity of the look but it made her apprehensive as well.  Emily pressed the button then got up from her desk.

It was only a couple of steps to the door from her office.  Emily stuck her head out as Griff entered through the heavy steel door.

“Hey Griff, for a minute there I thought you couldn’t wait to see me but you look like you have something urgent.”

Griff almost blushed, “Well I have to admit that I do have a little research to do but I also had the motive of seeing you again as well.”

Emily smiled and motioned him to the rarely used single chair before her desk.  She went behind it and sat back in her leather office chair.  The one item that was more luxurious than the rest of the office.  Emily noticed that Griff had wool slacks on today, perhaps a little out of character.  He still had on the white button down collared dress shirt she’d seen that morning.  Then it hit her, the pants were looser than the jeans she’d seen him in before.  His hip must still be hurting. The looser pants would help when he sat down.  She watched him sit gingerly on the chair.

“Your hip still hurts doesn’t it?”

Griff shrugged, “Yeah it’s a little swollen yet but it’ll be fine.  So I have the name of the company that I think the Tammish family bought the ring from or had the gold wire wrapping done by at the least.”

Emily was surprised, “How did you find that out?”

Griff was all smiles now, “Inside the wire wrapping was a thin filet of gold with the name of the antiquity firm, Pennington and Blessing.”

Emily felt the shock come onto her face.  She thought she covered it quickly but Griff had caught the look.  Emily saw a quizzical look on his face.

“I see you’ve heard the name before.  Malcolm Tammish would have acquired the ring sometime before 1912 when he used it to marry his third wife.  I was hoping you might have a bill of sale or even some other documentation in the archive.”

Emily had done some basic research on Pennington and Blessing after she had read Griff’s paper.  She had looked at the acquisition in 1920 as well as its sale to Dawkins & Harper in 1970.  The Tammish and Lofton families had held the firm for over fifty years.  Then Oscar Tammish had sold his share to BT Lofton II the year after his father died.  This request was before they ever owned the firm, at least publicly.

Emily smiled, “So you’d like me to look for a purchase record from before 1912?”

Griff nodded then looked up at her, “I’d like to know anything they acquired from them ever but let’s start with that.  It’s not the first time that name has come up in my career though it took me a bit to
remember.  They dealt in Pre-Columbian art and some of it was not exactly legal but that’s pretty standard for antiquity firms.  To this day there is a certain segment of that trade that is under the table, black market may be a good term.  This is the first time the name has come up with any item in the collection.  Now that I think about it I’m surprised, they were a major dealer at some point. Some of the Tammish items may have come through them but I’ve never seen evidence of it.”

Emily nodded, she felt like her face was guarded but there it was again, he could read her.

“Emily you’re very uncomfortable, what is it?”

Emily strove with herself for a moment or two.  She watched Griff.  She saw concern in his eyes a certain wonder as well.  The decision came to her that instant.  She trusted him,

“Griff, Pennington and Blessing were owned by the Tammish and Lofton families.  From what I can tell since at least 1920 but maybe before but I haven’t really looked back that far.  There may be a very good chance all of the Tammish collection came through that firm or its successor Dawkins & Harper that bought them in 1970.  They may still be around today.”

Griff sat back in the chair.  She saw him fidget onto his right side a small look of pain crossing his face.  Griff’s face had become serious.

“We are going to have to see what we can find out.  All the pieces I’ve researched are solid I’m sure.  I’ve tracked the artifacts back to the expeditions and digs most of the time.  Though there are about 30 pieces or so that the provenance is still murky.  None of them are on display because of that but now it makes me wonder.”

Emily looked at his face again.  He was serious but the look in his eyes showed sadness.  She reached across the table for his hand.

“Okay let’s start digging.”

Dickering

Alicia didn’t rise from behind her desk as BT entered her office.  She had her office phone to her ear as she motioned him to one of the two chairs in front of her desk. She could see behind him in the doorway stood her uniformed security guard watching.  Alicia sat the phone back onto the cradle and looked over at the guard.

“Thank you Pierce, close the door please.”

BT sat in the chair, she looked him over carefully.  He was wearing a very expensive charcoal grey suit with a black shirt and tie.  BT’s black hair was perfect with just a touch of grey at the temples.  He had a smile on his face, perfect teeth smiled back at her.  Alicia controlled her urge to confront him directly.  She smiled a gracious smile at him and held his gaze.  It took effort but finally BT looked away.

“Thank you for coming Bernie.”

She used the familiar address on purpose.  He seemed to relax slightly.  It would make things easier if this was a smooth meeting. She suddenly wished she’d had lunch today.  Doing this on an empty stomach made her slightly queasy.

“Bernie I just got off the phone with the financial folks.  We have a problem with the investments in your hedge funds.  To be frank we don’t think the assets in the funds will cover our withdrawals.  They tell me the Dawkins & Harper fund will completely fail, as well as the World Finance hedge.  The third fund Lofton Pratt financial is over leveraged as well but might survive. I assume you are aware of this?”

BT nodded but also shrugged, “Like most funds we took a beating as the market fell the last few years.  The world fund is heavily invested in the European economy.  The other two had a lot of mortgage based securities that we are still clearing.”

Alicia already knew all of this.  She also knew he was under reporting just how bad it was.

“I have a proposal for you that will come from the trust this afternoon.  We will agree to withdraw the investments slowly over the next 24 month from Lofton Pratt and Dawkins & Harper.  The trust will take control of the World Finance fund and liquidate it over time.”

BT looked stunned for a moment, “What kind of withdraw schedule?”

Alicia could see he didn’t expect a softball approach.  Well so much for the carrot now for the stick.

“It’s in the agreement, if the market performs as it is right now over 24 months both funds should be solvent though much smaller.  We’ll leave 10% in each fund to maintain the hedge and confidence.  If it looks like it will take longer and you have not stabilized the funds then liquidation will need to take place.”

She saw BT was about to speak but she cut him off, “There’s more Bernie.  You’ll drop the lawsuits against the trust and you and the other members bringing suit will resign from the board.”

She could see he was growing angry.  Alicia could feel her own neck getting warmer as well.  Now was the time.

“Bernie I need to let you know one other small fact that should help you decide the matter.”

Alicia picked up a piece of paper from her desk and offered it to him.  BT accepted the paper and looked down at it then with a shocked look back up at her.

“You have control?”

Alicia felt the smirk creep onto her face, “Yes Bernie, as of this morning between the trust and my own portfolio we have a controlling interest in the bank.”

“My family built that bank,”

“Your family and the Tammish family built that bank Bernie.  When your father died, he left his shares to you.  Just under one quarter of the shares.  But Oscar controlled over one third, I own just under an eighth and the trust just acquired enough shares to total up to 51%.”

BT looked stunned, “But I’m also a Tammish, I could contest Oscar’s will.”

Alicia shook her head, “All the shares were put in the trust years ago.  Today’s acquisition just completes that leverage.  Even if you contest Oscar’s will you’ll only find less than fifty million that he has slated for various charities and defense against such suits.”

BT leaned forward aggressively, “I will get you bitch.  This family has never rolled over for anybody.”

Alicia put a cold smile on her face, “You’ve already tried that BT, you missed.  This offer is good until tomorrow morning at 9:00.  If you decide against it then the trust will demand payment of investments, loans and margins tomorrow.  The trust and I will start the process of taking over the bank as well as ask the SEC to look at all of your financial activities.  BT the time has come for something Oscar had wanted for a long time.  The dissolution of all business ties between the Tammish and Lofton families.  It can be an orderly slow dissolution or not.  The only reason you got this offer is because you were Oscar’s nephew.”

Bernie was shocked again. It had been one of his hole cards, not an ace but a solid jack.  He could show a relationship to contest Oscar’s will, maybe even the trust though it was a long shot.   It had been Maynard’s idea that they could add pressure to get a resolution with the threat or an actual suit.  Now here she was offering a deal similar to what they wanted.  But it was deeper now, he’d started buying shares in the bank last week but it was too late.  She had him.

What else was there that Bernie could do.  He couldn’t fight her but he could tarnish the trust.  He could tarnish the name of Tammish and her beloved museum.  Bernie knew where the bodies were buried, quite literally in some cases.  He knew the family secrets on both sides of his heritage.  Bernie just had to figure out how best to use it.

He stood glaring at Alicia before turning toward the door.  He didn’t turn as he spoke, “I’ll let you know this evening after we’ve looked at the proposal,”

If he’d bothered to turn he would have seen a vicious grin on Alicia’s face.  It would have scared him, frozen him to the bone.  Instead he was trying to figure out where she’d got the rest of the shares.  He’d been buying up all the shares he could find, where had the rest come from?

Chapter 12 Scratching the Surface

Searching

Emily turned from her laptop back to see Griff staring at his new phone.  She could see he was slightly irked.

“Still getting used to it?”

Griff smiled up at her, “Yeah, I got the new model and it’s a little different.  I wonder if my new laptop is ready at least I’m getting my email and texts now.  Did you find anything?”

Emily smiled back at him, “Oh yes, perhaps too much.  It seems the business goes back to the antebellum south.  Pennington and Blessing were a trading company based in Savannah Georgia.  The company had an entire fleet of ships.  We have about 50 journals available from the pre 1900’s regarding the ships and trading.  Then from about 1905 onward they seem to be totally based in New York and New Jersey.  We have ledgers and corporate documents all the way until 1970 when it was sold.”

Griff looked excited, “So where do we start?”

Emily pointed out the window.  One of her assistants was already stacking large bound books from the shelves onto a hand cart.

“I have my people bringing samples from each era about 10 years apart.  I also had them bring everything from 1910 and 1911.”

Griff grinned, “So our first date is going to be neck deep in old documents?”

Emily shook her head, “Oh no, we are out of here promptly at 5:30.  That’s the nice part of working in an archive it will all be here tomorrow.”

Griff smiled and stared into her eyes.  They were little different right then.  Her green eyes shined as always but there was a smoldering there.  He could feel it.  She held his gaze as she leaned forward across the table.  Griff could see the curve of her breasts inside her silk blouse.  The grin on her face had gone to a very sultry and inviting smile.  Griff just continued to stare.

“I still have no idea what we’re doing tonight?”

Emily eyes just sparkled for second, “We’ll figure something out.”

Suddenly her assistant wheeled the cart into the office beside the table.

The Dark Trade

They had split the workload between them with Emily looking at the oldest records and moving forward in time.  Griff had started with the newest records and started moving back in time.

Griff was working his way through the ledger from 1911 when he heard Emily, “Oh that would explain it.”

Griff looked up at her.  She had turned to her laptop and was making notes, “What did you find?”

Emily did not look back over, “I’ve got a pretty good idea of what kind of company this was before the civil war.”

She turned back looking at Griff.  He could see sadness in her eyes. Griff tilted his head slightly then she began.

“They had fourteen ships, ten of which were designated for the Africa to the Caribbean trade.  They were slave ships bringing slaves from Africa to the seasoning camps in the Caribbean.  In 1886 the ships were refitted in New Jersey.  The cost of the refits are in the ledgers, even the amount that was received for the scrap iron of chains, manacles, and neck collars is recorded.  The cost of the refit to general cargo vessels was provided by the Tammish Trading Company.”

Griff came around the table and looked over Emily’s shoulder at the large old ledger, “Well that means the Tammish family actually wasn’t involved in the slave trade.”

Emily nodded, “Not that we know of, but these transactions don’t tell us when the two families started doing business together.  They could have been doing business a long time.  Pennington and Blessing were slave importers and slave traders.  Based on the dates, they were importing slaves from Africa to South America even after the last country banned it in 1831.  That’s 35 years of smuggling slaves out of Africa and into the new world.”

Griff nodded, “You seem to be taking this pretty hard.”

Emily turned a page of the ledger, “There is a potential that all the wealth of the Tammish and Lofton families came from slavery and misery.  It makes me rather sad to think about it.”

Griff looked at her face, “Well they just pay our salaries.”  It hit Griff suddenly. Why he hadn’t thought of it before, “You’re a member of the family?”

Emily looked up at him.  Her face a mask of sadness, “My maiden name is Lofton-Sikes, my grandfather was BT Lofton the second, my great great grandfather was Samuel Lofton the owner and chief trader of Pennington and Blessing according to this.”

Griff was speechless.

Reconciling the Information

Griff came back around to his chair.  He sat then looked across the table at Emily who looked up then smiled shyly.  Griff could feel himself chewing on the inside of his cheek.  Something he always did when he was solving problems.  He forced himself to stop then smiled back.

“So that’s why you left the Getty and California for a chance to put together this archive?”

Emily nodded.  The smile left her lips and her eyes hardened slightly, “I needed to know some answers to questions my grandmother would never answer.  So I took the job.”

Griff watched as she softened again, “So did you get any answers?”

“I got some of them from great Uncle Oscar and more from Alicia.”

Griff turned the page in the ledger in front of him as Emily did the same.  He didn’t look up, “No answers from your Uncle Bernard?”

Emily didn’t look up but he could hear a certain amount of angst in her voice, “We don’t talk.  Though I did try when I first got here, it has something to do with the break up between my grandmother and my grandfather.  Uncle Bernard never spoke or communicated with my grandmother after that.   My grandmother said it was a price she paid to be free of my grandfather. “

Griff thought about his research and wished he had his laptop.  It came to him as he visualized typing in the small coffee shop, “Your grandmother was Ellen Tammish.  That would make you both a Tammish and a Lofton.”

Emily looked up now but past him at the door, “Gram, I should say Ellen Tammish-Lofton was my step grandmother.  My actual grandmother was my grandfather’s first wife.  She died right after my mother was born in 1955.  Her name was Anita Pratt Craig.  My grandmother Ellen knew her and said she was very sweet but fragile.  I never have figured out what fragile meant.  My mother was Elizabeth Lofton and though not her mother my Gram considered her to be her daughter and raised her.  My mother was married right after my grandfather and grandmother divorced.  My house was where my family lived after they were married until the accident.”

Griff watched as Emily reeled herself back in.  She looked at him then smiled a soft and subtle smile, “A car accident when I was ten.  I was at a sleepover at my friend Julia’s house.  My parents and my older brother Jason were coming back from Vermont. A truck driver had either fallen asleep or was drunk.  He crossed the center line and hit them head on.  He died as well.  My parents died at the scene but my older brother lasted for a few days before he died as well.  Those few days were the only time in my life that I was ever with my grandfather.  I stayed at his home with a maid looking after me until my Gram came.  Then I moved to California to live with her.”

Griff just continued to watch her.  He watched her eyes and could see the sadness behind them.  He was quiet and unsure what to say.

Emily suddenly brightened up, “Well my Gram always said I was lucky I looked more like my grandmother Anita than my grandfather.  Uncle Oscar said the same, that I was her spitting image.”

Griff smiled at her as the sparkle returned to her green eyes, “Your grandmother must have been a very beautiful woman then.”

Emily snickered then blushed, “Do you always know the right thing to say?”

It was Griff’s turn to blush now, “Almost never, I’m the king of foot in mouth disease.”

Emily gave him a sideway glance, “Somehow I doubt that’s true.”

Moving the Lines

Alicia sat back from her desk as the phone rang.  She looked at the clock on her desk it was almost 8:00PM then at the caller ID on the phone.  Alicia hit the speaker button on the phone then spun to look out the window behind her.  The snow was just starting to fall.  The city lights silhouetted in the background with the flakes glistening in the street lights outside as they fell.

“Hello Maynard, I figured BT would have you call.  He was rather tense when he was here earlier.”

Maynard’s voice came from the speaker polite and cordial, “I gathered that from when I talked to him.  He has calmed down since then and has agreed to your terms and signed the papers.  I wanted you know there is nothing personal in this with me I’m just looking out after the funds and the bank.”

Alicia shook her head.  She could have retorted about having someone attack me with a club was very personal but instead decided to be polite.  It seems Maynard may be trying to play both sides.

“I’m sure it wasn’t Maynard.  I didn’t bring it up to BT but would he rather have a proxy fight over control at the next quarterly board meeting or just cede control of the bank at the end of this month?”

She thought she could almost hear Maynard clicking the mute button as he conversed with BT who she was sure was in the room.  Alicia shook her head smirking at the games.  When Maynard answered she actually thought she could hear the click again.

“I think BT would probably like it to be part of the normal order at the quarterly meeting.  That way it won’t look as if he is being forced out.”

Alicia grinned now, “But he is being forced out Maynard.  I’ll consider what it is I’d like and let you two know.  Those signed and notarized agreements need to be to the trusts lawyers by nine.  I also expect to see his resignation from the trusts board as well.  I’ll expect the other resignations by end of business tomorrow.”

There was no pause this time, “They’ll be there.”

Alicia’s grin became a smile, “All right then, goodnight Maynard.”

Alicia didn’t wait for a response but spun her chair around pressing the speaker button to hang up.  She leaned back over to her laptop to reread the email that Emily had sent her at six.

Alicia

Griff and I have found something interesting in our research that we will need to restrict.  It appears that the Pennington and Blessing Company were in the slave trade.  The Tammish family’s involvement appears to be post-civil war but it’s too soon to tell.  Though this is not rising to the level of what happened in the 1930’s with Dawkins and Harper it would still be something you might want to contain.  I have a date with Griff in an hour but we can talk about it tomorrow if you like.

Emily”

Alicia pulled up the assets of the trust report and looked again at the hedge fund named Dawkins & Harper.  She had no way of knowing where the original assets had come from but it wasn’t a great stretch to jump to a simple conclusion.  Alicia could feel it.  Either BT II or BT III had rolled the assets of the import/export and shipping company into the hedge then liquidated the holdings.  They had laundered the money through it as well perhaps.  Alicia closed the lid on the laptop and stood.

It was time to call it a day, but she made a mental note, Maynard needed to go as well.

A Glimpse of Something Wonderful

Emily rolled over then felt the unfamiliar shape beside her.  She had always had a problem sleeping the first night in a strange place.  Let alone with a new man.  Emily looked over at the clock on the night stand. It read 2:00 AM.  She looked at the sleeping form lying next to her watching his chest rise slowly as he breathed.  Emily reached over and ran her hand through the dark hair on his chest.  She snuggled back up to him resting her head back into his shoulder where it had been a few minutes ago.  Emily closed her eyes and sleep came with her thinking how incredibly nice this felt.

Chapter 13 Renderings of a Story

Snowy Daylight

Emily awoke to a shadow on her right side.  The early light grey of morning was starting to filter in through the opening in the drapes of the window.  She could see the snow was falling steadily against a grey sky but the sky was starting to lighten.  It took Emily several seconds to realize Griff wasn’t between her and the window.  She was on the right side of the bed looking out across the sheets.  A pillow with the distinct impression of where his head had been was there but no Griff.  Emily raised her head then lay it down as she continued to stare out the window.  She was considering their evening together last night.  She had not realized that their date would be on Valentine’s Day when she had tasked Griff with finding something for them to do yesterday morning.  He had gone above and beyond once he’d picked her up.  There in the taxi was a picnic basket and blanket.  They had gone to a private art gallery uptown.  The owner had been there to meet them.  His name was Scott and after a brief embrace with Griff he’d led them into his gallery.  Griff had explained that Scott had been a friend from his childhood.  They had gotten together a few times since he’d been in New York but this was his first time at Scott’s gallery.

The place was theirs to browse and enjoy until the cleaning crew came at 10:00.  The art was glasswork, subtle and fantastic with amazing colors and depth of beauty.  It just wasn’t vases and displays but furniture and works of a modern flavor.  They had spread their blanket on the lobby floor.  Griff had spread the feast of hummus, cheese, crackers, chips and fine deli meats out before opening the first bottle of champagne.  A lovely Cristal from 2000 was poured in the flutes then they proceeded to admire the art.

Emily thought about their first kiss before the opaque chair and lamp combination on the second floor.  Their lips had met very cautiously at first then she had melted into his arms.  Griff had held her tight against his chest as his hands had wandered slowly rubbing the small of her back just above her bottom.  It would be a first kiss she would always remember.  It only lasted a few moments but it seemed so much longer then led to another immediately.  When the cleaning crew arrived it had been her idea that he should show her his apartment.  Emily remembered the smile and comfortable look on his face.  They had held hands in the elevator then once inside the apartment she’d practically attacked him.  She was sure her long coat and short black dress was still beside the couch next to his trousers and shirt.  First there in front of the fireplace which at some point he’d turned on then onto the bedroom.  She could feel a dull ache in her hips and lower back.  It had been a long time and she was sure she would be sore today but the ache felt good.

Emily heard the door open softly behind her then could smell the coffee.  She feigned sleep listening to Griff as he padded softly across the carpet then set a cup on the night stand.  Emily felt his hand softly move her hair behind her ear then his lips gently kissed her just below her ear lobe on the neck.

“Good morning”

Emily placed her hand over his which was now on her shoulder before rolling toward him.  The sheet slipped down to her waist as she turned.  He was looking into her face.  Griff had a slightly crooked grin.  He was leaning over in a long blue robe.  Emily grabbed his hand then started sliding over pulling him back into bed.  Griff got the idea and let her pull him onto the bed.  Emily’s hand let go of his, sliding into his robe which Griff shed as he got under the sheet beside her.  He pulled her close and Griff’s lips found hers.  Griff was very close to her his hand on her bottom pulling her into him.  She ground her hips against him.  He responded at once, her hand slowly working its way down his chest then his side to his hip.

Emily broke the kiss, “How’s the hip today?”

Before Griff could answer she slid the sheet down them both before sitting up and looking.  Griff’s hip had a huge purple bruise extending downward onto his thigh.  Emily’s fingers gently touched the bruise.

Griff didn’t flinch, “It’s getting better though it doesn’t look it.  The swelling is down I should be back in jeans today.”

Emily’s hand moved over, “I see this is still pretty swollen, perhaps I can help with that.”

Her hand moved as she watched him lean back closing his eyes.  A sharp breath and exhale came from his lips.

Emily grinned and started kissing his chest, “That is unless it’s too painful”

She nipped his chest with her teeth but continued moving her hand slowly.  A small groan escaped his lips as Emily’s kisses continued down his chest.  Griff’s hands were in her hair now.  She loved the feel of his hand on her head running through her hair as she moved lower.  Emily felt herself becoming more and more excited.  She would have to control herself she thought just a little.  She felt his right hand leave her head and slide down her back.  Emily shifted herself so he could reach then felt his hand on her.  She lifted her head and felt the moan escape her throat.

Her mind went to something she hadn’t thought about in California, a snow day.  That’s a great excuse to be late for work.

Misty Mornings

Emily stood under the hot shower for a few moments longer.  Griff had left the shower a few minutes earlier.  She smiled softly remembering how he’d washed her hair.  Griff’s hands gently shampooing her long hair then using the hand held shower head to rinse it.  He had continually kissed and nuzzled her neck.  His hands had moved down and over her body with the soft soapy sponge.  Then he’d kissed her the entire time he washed her back while she faced him enmeshed in his chest with her arms up under his arms pulling him close.

Emily turned off the shower then stepped outside the black tiled enclosure.  The rest of the bathroom was in white tile with small black triangles every few feet.  She wrapped herself in the large light blue towel that was beside the sink.  There were two there now, when they had gotten in the shower there had been none.  The man did think ahead, she thought.  Emily wrapped her hair in the other towel then walked into the bedroom. Griff’s robe was on the bed but she headed for his closet instead.  The walk in closet had both drawers and racks for hanging clothes of stainless steel.  She notice immediately that is was exactly three quarters empty.  That would have been where all of Katy’s clothes had been shot through her head.  She looked at Griff’s clothes on the hangers, six jackets three light and three heavy, two suits, a dozen dress shirts, all button down white with various colored patterns.  He was pretty conservative in that regard.  Most of the clothes still had the cleaner’s tags on them.

Emily picked a white shirt with thin black pinstripes set very close together.  She slid the shirt on buttoning it up to the top button then unbuttoned it down a few.  Next the sleeves were rolled up several turns so her hands stuck out.  It felt very sexy to her somehow.  She admired herself in the floor length mirror taking her hair from the towel.  It was still damp so she pulled it down her back and behind her ears.  She was sexy she decided, time to show this off.

Griff looked up from the kitchen to the bedroom door as Emily entered.  He could feel himself smiling.  She looked incredibly sexy in his dress shirt with her wet hair hanging loosely down her back.  The smile on her face was wide as her green eyes sparkled at him.

She moved over to the couch and wrapped her long tan legs beneath her then turned still smiling at him, “I take it you like?”

Griff heard the toaster ding behind him, “Oh I like.  In fact we may never get out of here today.  Would you like cream cheese on your bagel?”

Emily felt herself blush, “Please, I’m starving.  We can’t leave until I have Nana send me some clothes over anyway.  I’m not doing the walk of sham in what I wore last night.”

Griff turned and started smearing cream cheese on the toasted bagel halves, “You know considering the weather we could take the day off?”

He turned back toward her to see her looking at her phone, “Um, snow day, I like that we were thinking the same thing.  Okay Nana will send a bag over for me by courier.  Now would you like to do something for me I’ve never asked a man to do before?”

Griff sat on the couch close to her offering her a bagel off the plate, “Oh, what would that be?”

Emily held up her hand, it contained a brush, “Will you brush out my hair?  It takes a while.”

Griff reached over taking the brush as Emily turned her back toward him the bottom of her feet pointing up at him.  He sat the plate with his bagel on the couch and started to brush.

He wondered, so he asked, “So I’m the first man to brush your hair out?”

She turned her head toward him, “The first one that wasn’t in a salon.  You’re the first person I’ve felt this comfortable with.  I’m really not sure why that is.”

Griff continued to brush, “Well it’s a first for me as well I’m never this comfortable with a woman.  Not that there has been that many anyway.  I’m usually pretty shy.”

Emily laughed, “I kind of figured that out.  That’s why I decided I’d just make the first move.”

Griff leaned over and nuzzled her neck, “When did you decide that?”

Emily felt a moan escape her lips, “The first time we met actually, it was the way you looked in my eyes.  I knew something was there.  Then at coffee the next day there it was again.”

Griff sat back then continued to brush her hair, “I know what you mean. I had some intense connection that first moment.  Why did you think you needed to make the first move?”

Emily giggled, “I was right wasn’t I?”

Griff shook his head, “Yeah, you were right. I would have taken weeks to ask you out, but was it really that obvious.”

Emily turned all the way around to facing him, her hair wrapping across his shoulder.  “Griff I get hit on all the time.  I can see it in a guy’s face as soon as I meet him.  You though, I saw something else.  The way you just stared in my eyes was your tell.  You didn’t do a double take then look me up and down several times.  I never saw you thinking about a line.  It also came down to something Alicia told me about you when she ask me to take the agreement down that day.  That made my mind up.”

Griff was puzzled, “What did Alicia say?”

Emily reached her hand up to Griff’s cheek and pulled his lips to hers.  She kissed him very softly the tip of her tongue just touching his a moment.

“Alicia told me that you were leaving soon.  That you were quiet but that she trusted you somehow and that like me she saw something missing in you that was missing in me as well.  I was pretty skeptical until I walked into your office and you smiled at me.  Then I just knew.”

Griff nodded, “What does Alicia think is missing in us?”

Emily leaned her head into his chest, “Someone to love us, she called it the missing piece.  Though we have both been married and loved someone.  We somehow missed being loved ourselves.”

Chapter 14 Cut Short

A Light Lunch

Bernie looked up across his desk at Maynard.  He looked older today, Bernie thought, like someone had beaten the fight out of him.  Bernie signed the final document in front of him.  He looked back up at Maynard who reached across the desk for the folder.

“Well that’s it then, control of the bank, my resignation from the trust and control of the World fund.  Maybe I should just wrap up my balls and messenger them along with rest to the bitch.”

Maynard nodded slowly a pained expression of sadness across his face, “Don’t feel alone I’m sure my days are numbered at the bank as well.  I’m actually thinking of resigning before she can fire me.  Do you want to do lunch now?”

Bernie shook his head, “No, I’m not standing still. I have a meeting with one of the board members at Goldman.  I put some feelers out for a position to bring the remaining funds with me and do acquisitions.”

Maynard looked slightly shocked, “Do you know if they will have you?  I mean you just gave up control of your own bank.”

Bernie smiled, “Oh we have business going way back.  That’s why I couldn’t let the bitch ruin my reputation.  At least until I made a move.  I’ll tell you Maynard she hasn’t heard the end of me just yet.  I’ll get set up at Goldman then start nibbling around the edges of the trust.  The right kind of rumors in the right place and she’ll have some explaining to do.”

Maynard nodded slowly, “I think I’ll just retire and raise horses.  Who knows maybe I’ll get married again.”

Maynard stood with the stack of file folders in his hands, “I’ll get these over to the trust’s attorneys.”

Bernie watched Maynard leave then rose from behind his desk.  He looked around the large mahogany paneled office.  The art works were exquisite but they all belonged to the bank.  Well except for this oil next to the door.  He’d had it since he’d graduated from business school.  It had been a gift from his father.  The painting was Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael.  It had gone missing in 1940 Poland and was assumed destroyed.  Bernie knew no one would ever recognize it here in his private office.  Even if they did they would assume it was just a print.  It was easily worth 100 million if he could sell it, which of course he couldn’t.  The truth was Bernie really never had an appreciation for art. It had a lot more to do with its value and the fact that it was a secret masterpiece that enthralled him with it.  His father like his uncle had been consumed by art and antiquities.  Bernie’s passions were for business and the deal.  He loved to take the risks.  Perhaps having this stolen masterpiece hanging on his office wall was one of those risks.

He would have the Raphael packed up and sent home along with his other personal items from the office.  Bernie took his long cashmere coat from the closet before wrapping it around himself.  He had a wicked thought of giving the painting to the trust and letting them deal with the fall out.  The chuckle this provided carried him out of the office to the elevator.  He rode the elevator down alone to the ground floor almost whistling aloud.  Bernie left the elevator then walked out into the parking garage and the waiting limousine.   The driver held the door for him as he slid into the seat.  The door closed as Bernie noticed another driver was in the seat in front of him. He looked over to see who had closed the door then back toward the driver.  The man was older, short cropped grey hair protruded from the driver’s cap on his head.  He had turned all the way around looking at Bernie.  Bernie saw his flat boxer’s nose on an old wrinkled face and two almost black eyes.  In the man’s hand was a large bore automatic pistol pointed at Bernie.  Bernie heard the gun roar twice.  He expected to be pushed back in the seat but there was nothing.  His chest felt like he’d been struck, not pain but pressure.  The face of the driver showed no emotion as the world went black for Bernie.

The security camera in the garage would show a man with a dark long coat and drivers cap get into the passenger seat of the limousine.  It then slowly left the parking garage.

Thawing Out

Emily came into the living room in long black leggings under a dark blue short dress.  She had black high heels in her left hand with her phone up to her ear with the other.  Griff watched her smile at him on the couch.  He had put on the dress shirt she’d had on earlier with a dark black vest and a pair of low cut designer stone washed jeans.  Emily looked wonderful with her hair still in the long braid she had instructed him to put in.  Griff felt the smile widen on his face as he listened to her talk on the phone.

“Yes Nana you packed just what I asked for even the shoes are right.  No don’t worry the earrings I have will be fine.”

She looked over at Griff and caught him smiling and admiring her.  She smiled back, “Oh Griff says hi as well, yes I’ll ask him.”

Emily pulled the phone down to her chest, “Nana would like you to come over for dinner at the house tonight.  I’d like it too, we could stay there tonight.  I have a huge tub that you could soak your hip in.”

The smile on her face had gone to slightly wicked with a gleam in her eyes.

Griff nodded, “Tell Nana it sounds wonderful to me.  I’ll bring a change of clothes.”

Emily brought the phone back to her ear, “He’d love to.”

Emily got a funny look on her face, “Nana how’s my room?  Oh thank you, see you this evening.”

Emily ended the call then started toward the couch.

Griff almost laughed, “Did you just ask Nana to clean you room?”

He saw her cheeks flush in a small blush, “We have an old rule that I keep my room clean and she takes care of everything else.  I went through quite few clothing combinations before our date last night.  It might be a bit disheveled, I really can’t remember.”

Emily sat on the couch next to Griff then slipped her heels on.  She leaned into him crushing her lips to his then pulled back, “I remember everything else about last night though.  My best Valentine’s Day ever I should add.  It’s almost 2:00 should we make an appearance at work?”

Griff just held her close to his chest, “It has started to thaw out and I’d like to get a start on Oscar’s journals.  We could go in for a few hours”

Emily ran her hand up his chest, “Well now being right here I’m not so sure.  I’m pretty comfortable and content at the moment.”

Griff ran his hand down her braid, “Yeah, I can do this the rest of the day too.”

Emily giggled, “Okay we have the rest of the weekend, let’s go in.”

Next of Kin

The phone on Maynard’s desk rang as he put the final touches on his letter of resignation.  He picked it up off the cradle then put the black handset to his ear as he hit the record button on his phone.

“Maynard Malloy, General Counsel”

“Mr. Malloy, this is detective sergeant Collins of the NYPD. I understand that you are the General Counsel for the First New York Import Bank and Trust.  I take it you know the president of the bank a Mr. Bernard Lofton?”

Maynard felt a chill, what could this be about? “I know Mr. Lofton quite well of course.  What’s this call regarding?”

“Mr. Maynard we have a tentative ID on a body in a limousine over on 23rd street of Mr. Lofton from the credit cards in his wallet.  I have a couple of uniforms on their way over to the bank now.  We’d like you to come with them to identify the body.”

Maynard almost dropped the phone, “What happened? Was there an accident?”

“I’d rather not say at this point, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Maynard was growing increasing ill, his heart was pounding. “I’ll wait for the officers to arrive.”

“Thank you sir, oh and do you know who Mr. Lofton’s next of kin is?”

“Yes I think so, maybe, I’m not really sure.”

“Well if you had that for us as well it would help things along, see you in a few minutes.”

The phone call ended.  Maynard set the phone gently back on the cradle.

A Lasting Image

Alicia sat behind her desk reviewing the latest proposal for the opening of the Museum.  It was a full packet of press releases, posters, internet, social media and other media.  She leafed through the packet slowly making sure they had a consistent look and feel.  Jinie stuck her head through the door.

“Alicia there’s a detective Collin here along with Mr. Malloy from the bank.”

Alicia wondered at this as she picked up on the unsettled body language her assistant had, “Send them in J and bring some coffee”

Alicia closed the proposal in front of her and rose behind her desk as the two men entered the room.  There was Maynard looking decidedly stricken in his dark charcoal suit.  His face was drawn with a shocked frown upon his face.  A piece of his comb over was even out of place.  The detective was a tall man in his late forties.  He had a ruddy complexion his hair jet black with a touch of white throughout. Alicia took in his brown suit and dark black overcoat.  It was not a good match. In fact she figured Maynard had paid more for his shirt and tie than the detective had paid for his entire suit and coat.  He looked at Alicia with tired brown eyes but managed a slight smile.

“MS Templeton I’m detective sergeant Collins of the NYPD.  I understand you know Mr. Malloy here.  We’re here about Bernard Lofton.”

The detective seemed to be waiting for a response.  Alicia didn’t bite, “What can I do for you detective?”

The smile left the detective’s face, “Mr. Lofton was murdered earlier today.  We understand you know how to get in touch with his immediate next of kin.”

The detective pulled a notebook from his pocket, “A Miss Emily Wilson so Mr. Maynard tells me.  She works for you?”

Alicia pointed at the two chairs before her desk and sat down.  She watched them take a sit.  Alicia concentrated on watching Maynard.  He slumped into the chair.  She could see now that he was overwrought.  Bernie had been his friend she supposed, she wasn’t aware Bernie actually had many friends.  She picked up her phone and dialed an extension.

“Is Miss Wilson in yet? Okay please have her call me as soon as she gets here.”

Alicia looked at the detective, “Miss Wilson was delayed by the weather today.  She did call and will be in shortly.  I could call her on her cell phone if you like.”

The detective shook his head, “I’ll wait.  In the meantime you could tell me how you know Mr. Lofton and why you have an armed guard outside your office?”

Alicia could feel herself steel to the moment.  She switched into a very calculated mode.  Oscar had always called it her assassin mode.  Alicia tried not to think about that.  She began very simply by getting right to the point.

“Mr. Lofton and I had business interests in common.  He was the nephew of Mr. Tammish and until today on the board of the museum’s trust.  Our relationship was rather adversarial lately.  The guard is for my personal protection as I was attacked a few days ago.”

Alicia had turned to Maynard as she said the last sentence.  The detective was busy scribbling in his notebook.  She could almost see Maynard squirming in his seat.

“So how did Bernie die Maynard?”

The detective did not look up, “Someone shot him in his limousine.”

Alicia could feel the hair on her neck stand up. She knew of only one person who would have set that up, but Oscar was dead.

Chapter 15 End of Mourning

May 1970

Oscar Tammish sat back in his black leather chair sipping the single malt scotch from the tumbler in his left hand.  The study around him paneled in dark mahogany seemed bigger and emptier than usual.  The large stone fireplace set into the wall in front of him was just a cold grate today.   He looked at the ring case on the table to his right.  The stone Mayan ring with its gold wrapping stared back at him.  The ruby eyes of the ring glinting from the table side lamp the only illumination in the room.  Oscar was in a quiet reflective mood.  The visit that morning to the family crypt everyone thought had been to visit his recently departed father had quieted him.  Oscar though knew the visit had been about her.  It was today that she would have been thirty five years old.  In a few more days Oscar would himself turn forty.  He loathed the thought, though his friends were throwing him a party anyway.  Oscar knew BT would be there.  Their friendship had been over for years but he knew he would still be there.  The act of civility between them would continue.  Even after the events of 15 years ago, just to appease the family and of course business.  The fakeness of the whole relationship was like a small nagging sliver in his body.

Oscar set his drink on the table then picked the stone and gold wrapped ring up from its case.  He let it roll heavily in his hand.  The rings weight was perceptible to his mood.  That he kept it instead of burying it with her was still haunting him.  If he had done so 15 years ago perhaps he would be free of it.  Oscar could not do it then, it would have meant giving up the anger and rage.  He held on to those things even as his father had counseled otherwise.  The business and family needed to come first.  BT Lofton II was the head of that family now and an integral part of their business.  Oscar picked the drink back up shifting the ring to his right hand.  His father was dead now.  The time for moving away from the old relationships would start in earnest.  Oscar considered how it would affect his sister Ellen now married to BT. He knew he’d have to move slowly.

Oscar had intentionally put mangers into all facets of the business between himself and Lofton family the last few years.  Though his father had been there he had made the moves subtly.  His father Raymond had always pushed Oscar to be more directly involved.  He would have been surprised had he known how closely Oscar followed things.  Oscar now only held two positions now, the head of Pennington and Blessing Antiquities and the new Tammish Trust.  In a few short days he would relinquish Pennington and Blessing by selling it to BT’s firm of Dawkins and Harper.  He had assumed his father’s other board responsibilities quietly moving them under the trust.  Those businesses he brought into the trust being all legitimate and above board.  Oscar would slowly start divesting himself of every illegitimate activity of Tammish Partners.  BT would be ecstatic as he gained more control over enterprises that Oscar knew were fading with the times.  BT would just see more power and money

Oscar took the last drink of his Scotch and held the ring tightly in his hand.  A single word escaped his lips as he closed his eyes.

“Anita”

He could see her in his mind now.  Anita had been tall with long slim legs.  She had been considered rather skinny for the 1950’s but now would have been considered very attractive.  Anita’s face had an angular quality to it with a sloping nose that came to a sharp point, below which had been a sparkling smile which created dimples in each cheek and her chin.  Her eyes had been a deep blue that from distance could seem almost black but up close were a dark sapphire.  Oscar could almost remember what her flaxen hair felt like in his fingers.  They had been fine soft tresses that she had worn long at a time when bouffant hairstyles had been the norm.   He thought about how her hair had framed her long face.  Oscar could almost see her smile as he closed his eyes.

It struck him suddenly as he could see tears in her eyes now, anguish on her face.  Oscar could see the purple bruise on her jaw.  The tears continued as she rushed into his arms.  She had trembled as she sobbed.  Her husband, his childhood friend had done the math.  The child she’d delivered only weeks earlier was not his.  BT Lofton II had beaten her then raped and degraded her.  The reward for being a slut wife he’d said.  BT told her to expect more of the same.  Oscar remembered crying with her, holding her throughout that night.  Then the next day she’d went back.  Two days later she was dead.  The coroner had ruled it suicide.  The details still in his head though Oscar wished he could forget.  Anita had taken a bottle of sleeping pills then cut one wrist.  The coroner determined that blood loss was the final culprit.  She had most likely been asleep in the end.  There had been no note.  She had given the baby to the nanny and went off to bed early.  BT had not been home that day and in fact had been with Oscar that night.  The two of them had spent the day with their fathers working on the latest merger of some crushed company.  The two twenty-five year olds learning in this case how to cut shareholders throats in business.

BT had been furious at Anita.  He said she’d not even given him the choice to divorce her as he intended.  Oscar had watched his friend closely.  He knew BT was lying, he hadn’t even been that surprised.  Oscar’s father had trained him well.  Even as BT vented and dramatized how he’d been wronged Oscar sat with his poker face.  It was at the end that Oscar had suggested he take care of the funeral arrangements.  BT had scoffed and agreed as long as Oscar buried her someplace his family wouldn’t know about.  Some unmarked corner of an upstate graveyard would work he’d said.

Oscar had just nodded then asked the fatal question, “What are you going to do about baby Elizabeth?”

BT had fumed for a minute, “She’s part of the family now so we’ll raise her. My father and mother will have it no other way.”

Oscar considered this for a moment then nodded again.  BT’s last remark had made his blood run cold then, it still did today.

“Has Ellen got back from finishing school yet?”

That had been the first glimpse that BT had been interested in his sister.  He knew that Ellen had always liked BT, had even been jealous when he announced his engagement to Anita last year.  Oscar was seething inside but from all appearances totally sanguine.   He had held himself together throughout BT and Ellen’s courtship, engagement and marriage.  When they were married in 1956 Oscar had taken BT aside after the reception.  They had both been a little heavy with champagne and brandy.  Oscar had looked over the glass he was sipping from.

“BT I need you to know something.  I know you drove Anita to what she did to herself.  You mistreated her and perhaps you thought you had a reason.  She had no one in the world except us and our families.  If you mistreat my sister, ever, I’ll know BT.  Then I’ll come for you and your whole family.”

BT had looked stunned.  Oscar knew with the passing of BT’s own father that year that he was vulnerable to the Tammish family.  He also knew that Oscar would be looking for blood. BT also knew that the Tammish family had the means to extract it. He sat his glass on the table, nodded slightly at Oscar and returned to the party.  That had been the last private words the two friends ever had together.

Oscar poured himself more scotch from the decanter, took a sip then settled back into the chair.  He went over the visit to the crypt in his head.  Oscar had stared with wonder at the Tiffany stained glass for a long time.  Looking down afterward at the crypt below the one he would one day occupy.   He had been the only one there when it was sealed with Anita inside.  But he had told Ellen that Anita was there.  She would pass it on to her lovely step daughter.  Ellen was smart and she was a caring person.  She knew that Elizabeth was more than just her step daughter.  Someday perhaps she would tell her who her real father was.

Oscar placed the ring back into the case and snapped it shut.  He felt a tear slide down his cheek.  Today he ends his mourning for both his father and Anita.  Tomorrow he would change his world and make sure the future was protected as well. He would do his utmost bury the past basis of his families fortune.  The offshore bank accounts would be brought home as he divested the illicit trading and shipping companies.  The drugs, antiquities, diamonds, cash, armaments and even people smuggling would be at an end.  The shippers and customers would find new ways.  BT could still dabble in that business with the remaining shipping and trading companies.  He knew BT was more the corporate raider type anyway.  The chase and takeover much more his pleasure than planning how to smuggle a ship full of arms into Ireland or some third world country.

Oscar planned to stay in the art and antiquities world.  The last of the misappropriated items would go with the sale of Pennington and Blessing.  The Tammish family’s personal collection was mostly above reproach by now anyway.  He would add to it, expand it in directions he had dreamed of with his father.  Oscar had decided to keep one aspect of the old company.  The last of what his father called his four horsemen.  They had been with the company as it smuggled arms into Ireland.  Those four Irishmen had owed his father.  When one had been killed and the others arrested he had seen to their families.  They had come back and continued to work for the family after that.  All except Angus McNeal, he had died in an English prison.  His son Frank had taken his place.   Oscar’s father Raymond had made all of them part of his household.  They posed as drivers, handymen or whatever was required.  Their true purpose was to protect the family and to do its bidding.  Frank was actually several years younger than Oscar.  He had been with Oscar since then.  At first Frank was his companion and friend then later his bodyguard and muscle.

He had never used Frank as muscle but his father had used all four men as he saw fit.  They all were hard men that were fanatically loyal to the family.  Raymond had integrated their families so closely with his own that they were like his brothers and sons.  Raymond had used them from time to time.  The tasks they performed brutal and even deadly.  Those families were integrated into the trust as well. The sons and daughters of the horsemen were given good educations and opportunities both inside and outside the company.  The families were tied to the Tammish as solidly as any retainers in the old country.  Three of the four were approaching there old age but Frank was still hale and strong.  He had maintained the ties into the underworld that were needed for the business.

Oscar finished the second scotch and laid his head back in the chair.  He looked at the other empty chair on the other side of the table.

“Frank grab a glass and join me, I really shouldn’t drink alone.”

From out of the shadows to his right the tall figure of Frank McNeal walked slowly toward the chair.

Chapter 16 More Pieces

Present Day

Frank McNeal settled in behind his old beat up desk in the warehouse office.  His nephew Colin slumped down on the couch opposite the desk.  Frank looked out the window at the warehouse.  It was full of vehicles.  There were black and white vans for moving client shipments from place to place or to drop-off/pick-up of security teams at various locations. Then there were the SUVs and limousines for high end clients and their guests as well as two surveillance trucks that could be made to resemble Con-Edison or some other municipal truck.  Each vehicle did have one factor that was the same, a small red RU sticker about the size of a stamp on the driver’s side window that marked the vehicle as a Rampart Untied vehicle.

Frank picked up the phone on the desk then dialed a four digit extension.

“Angela darling, I’m back in the office should the need arise.  Yes me darling, I know not to call you darling in front of the staff.  Give you old da a break young lady. I’ll see you at dinner tomorrow.”

Frank hung up then turned his attention Colin, “Nice work today my boy, not that it required a great deal but then again 90% of this job is keeping your cool”

Colin’s voice was gravel compared to Frank’s soft rhythmic brogue, “That guy was clueless he never even looked at me.  It must have been quite surprise to see you sitting there with a big bore pointed at him.”

Frank didn’t smile.  He’d never enjoyed killing it was just business, “He never had no time to be surprised by then he was dead.  This guy was just like his da full of himself and full of shit.  That would have never happened to Oscar.  For one thing one of us would have been with him and Oscar got to know all the people close to him.”

Colin nodded silently sensing his uncle’s more solemn mode.  He looked at the old man who was over 70 with his cropped white hair that made his head almost appear square.  If you added his square jaw to the mix the word blockhead might have been applied but Frank had always been rather handsome.  He had a long slim nose between his dark eyes set above his mouth with perfect teeth.  Even at 70 he looked both in good shape and was still huge at over 6’5” with wide shoulders and a narrow waist.  Frank’s face had no scars his hands though told a different story.  People who shook his hand were amazed how big they were but when you looked at them they were gnarled and scarred. Frank always told his people his hands were well used.

Colin was proud to be one Frank’s people.  They were all employees of Rampart United over 200 of them actually but 20 of the employees were different.  The rest ultimately reported to Angela the CEO who was Frank’s daughter. Those 20 though reported to Frank and no one else.  They were all family members of the original four horsemen, they were chosen for various reasons.  But the highest reason was loyalty to the family and Frank was the patriarch now.  They were Frank’s horseman, they were elite, and they also got the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs.  But one thing was certain Frank would be there with them.  Up until Oscar’s death half of the horsemen protected and acted as aides to Oscar.  Frank had always called Oscar boss, it appeared that even after he died there were still things to do for the boss.

Colin had been around a lot of business that was legally questionable. People had to be intimidated from time to time for a client.  There was the ex-husband or boyfriend that needed to be shown the error of threatening their former spouse. Business disputes where one side needed to be persuaded that the best interests of all would be served by backing off.  None of that work had ever been for Oscar but for the firm itself.  The level of illegality reasonable and deniable, today though Colin knew there was no question.  This had been a hit.  Uncle Frank had let him know up front that it was a murder he was about to commit.  The first one he’d had to do in almost 40 years.  There had been others back in the bad days.  Frank had told Colin about how certain gang members and other associates had not always been pleased with Oscar’s effort to sanitize the Tammish family holdings.  Whenever threatened with force Oscar would always strike first harder and without mercy.  Frank had said they couldn’t get it through their heads that Oscar had no one to lose so he knew how to threaten the rival’s families and had no qualms in doing so.

Colin was proud to be a horseman, but was hoping this was the last of the things that Oscar would need done.  He had no qualms about his part today.  Uncle Frank had done the actual dirty work.  But he had been prepared to if it became necessary.  He was a horseman after all.

Memorandums of Understanding

Griff wondered when Emily would return but he continued to work through the ledgers of the many companies setting on the desk.  He found the ones for Pennington and Blessing quite revealing in some interesting ways.  It seemed that they never actually bought items on the open market.  All of the artifacts that came into the inventory came from three trading houses that did international shipping.  The items bought in bulk from the companies.

Griff had started making notes slowly realizing that the trading companies were all owned by the other companies that had ties to the Tammish group.  The cargo manifests were interesting.  A cargo of sugar from Cuba would come with 10 cases of Aztec and Mayan artifacts.  A ship laden with coffee coming from Honduras with 20 cases of mixed Mayan pieces.  These companies never showed expenditures for the artifacts.  They were just on the lading bills then transferred to Pennington and Blessing for a nominal fee as general cargo.

He was starting to connect the dots now or more like puzzle pieces.  The Cuban revolution in full swing artifacts looted from the uprising come to the US.  It was the same in Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua.  During civil strife in those countries the largest shipments of artifacts came into the hands of Pennington and Blessing.  The inbound shipments were from other countries never directly from the US.  The ships were all owned and operated by the Tammish Trading Company.  The ships had left the US with cargos of textiles and machine parts.  They would stop at another country before going to their final destination.  The cargos from these foreign ports were described as machine parts, hundreds of cases of bolts and washers, springs.  Why these parts would be made anywhere but the US and why were the ships never full?

It hit Griff then what they really were.  They had to be arms. The inbound shipments were tiny compared to the loads of commodities that were shipped out.  They were straight trades no money changing hands just goods.  The governments or rebels paying with what they had.  The antiquities and art just something to sweeten the deal.  Griff started to search for offshore companies.  There they were foundries, steel mills, and munitions plants in Chile, Argentina, South Africa even Spain and Algeria.  Into the 1960 the shipping started to focus more on Africa and Asia.  With each returning shipment came artifacts that were then sold by Pennington and Blessing.  The businesses and companies involved became more obtuse.  The direct records from the 1960’s of shipments now become more muddled.  It was now harder to match up what went out to what came in.  In 1970 Pennington’s records ended.  The sanitizing of the Tammish Trust began in earnest and the other companies slowly evaporated.  They were merged with other companies or sold outright.  Many were sold or merged to companies that had once been shared assets of the Tammish and Lofton families but after 1972 were strictly owned by the Lofton’s various trusts and funds.  It was clear that Oscar had decided to take the family totally legitimate.

Griff sat back in his chair looking down at his notes.  There were circles and lines connecting companies, countries, and shippers and trading firms.  He knew that there were also multiple banks as well both domestic and foreign.  Griff also knew that this was just one small piece of the old Tammish Partners Company.  It struck him then that though the Trust had divested itself over fifty years ago it was still tainted with the proceeds. The confidentiality agreement weighed heavily suddenly.

Griff heard the door open behind him.  Emily looked shaken her face in disbelief and slightly ashen.  He watched as she sat in her chair opposite him.

“Emily, what’s wrong, what happened?”

Emily pulled at her long hair twirled it in and out of her fingers.

“I just had a meeting with the Police and Alicia.  My uncle Bernard has been murdered.

Griff could feel his mouth hanging open.  He could only think of one thing he could do.  Griff stood and held out his arms.  Emily almost leaped into them and was enveloped.

Being Retrospective

Alicia sat quietly at her desk after Emily had left.  The police and Maynard had followed now she was alone with her thoughts.  Jeanie had offered to get her something and she had declined. A question had rolled around in here head since they had been there.  Oscar had set up a plan to protect her and the trust.  The attack on her must have triggered that plan.  It reeked of the way Oscar worked.  She had never questioned him about the dealings of the family before she came.  But he was ruthless when someone attacked one of his companies.  Oscar would go from a seemingly disinterested party to a predator with a vast knowledge of the threatened company and its market.  The attacker was not just deflected but hunted by him until he ruined them or the company involved.

Alicia had always admired that in many ways.  Oscar in business was very soft spoken and low key.  He was never one to target a company in an unfair way.  If he thought that an acquisition that one of staff had brought forward was good for both the Tammish Trust and the other company he would make sure everyone was a winner.  The old stock holders taken care of, management retained when it was doing a good job or let go on good terms financially.  The acquired company merged into the family of companies and nurtured for growth.  Oscar loathed the funds that would acquire a company then saddle it with debt destroying the company only to reap short term gains for the fund.  When a fund tried to do that to a company he had an interest in he would destroy that fund.  Then he would go after its managers and backers doing his best to destroy them as well.  It was well known in the market place that you didn’t mess with a company Tammish had an interest in.

Alicia had always been supportive but this thing with BT had been beyond anything she would have imagined possible or Oscar capable of.  The man she knew was so gentle and stoic when it came to business.  He had stayed her hand dozens of time when she would have been ready to crush some party to a dispute.  Then again this wasn’t just business.  The attack on her was personal.  Whatever Oscar had put in place would be the same way he always did business.  There would be varying responses planned to the adversary depending on their moves, but before Oscar always had the final say.  Now someone else had called the response.  She had responded to the lawsuit the way Oscar would have, with an iron fist and secured the trust.  Now someone had responded to the personal attack on her the same way, but in the most extreme way.

Chapter 17 Great Ventures

December 1950 East Hampton New York

Arrival

Oscar laid his head back into the seat of the limousine as it made its way past Maidstone Golf club on Dunemere Lane in East Hampton.  The golf course fairways and greens covered in snow from the most recent storm.  The Tammish family estate was a few more miles ahead off Further Lane.  Oscar thought about the house in his head.  It was a huge grey stone affair situated closer to the beach than most.  It was a magnificent mansion to behold from the long winding drive to its front steps.  He had stayed in the main house with his family when he’d been younger.  They had Christmas here and then the long summer vacations from boarding school.  Since graduating prep school and going off to Princeton he normally stayed in the family brownstone in the city.  But if he ventured out to Long Island he’d taken to sleeping in the boat house cottage.  He would come out to East Hampton then to get away from everyone.  If the family was not in residence only the caretaker staff would be there.  The boat house cottage was much cozier with its single bedroom, kitchen and bath. Its name always struck him as funny as the family neither had boats or a pier but that’s what it had always been called. The living room of the cottage had a large stone fireplace well stocked with wood.  Before it were two overstuffed brown leather couches facing each other and old matching easy chair right next to the fire.  Oscar looked forward to some quiet and privacy until the family arrived tomorrow for the holidays.  Life at Princeton was comfortable but it was busy with a constant rush of people both scholastically and socially.  Oscar craved some alone time to clear his head.  This would be the perfect place as usual. The car slowed as it neared the large black gates to the estate.  Oscar looked out the window at the brass plaque set into the right stone gate post.  It had the name of the house in large black letters, “Great Ventures”.

The gatekeeper opened the gate for the limo and they continued up the curved drive that ran like a serpent through the small wood behind the gate.  Oscar watched as they exited the wood to see the snow covered lawns and gardens that the road curved through as it headed toward the house.  Beyond them was the hulking three stories of grey granite that was Great Ventures, smoke from many of its chimneys was evident.  The staff was warming the house up getting it ready for the family.  The house had steam heat as well but by lighting the fireplaces it would warm much quicker.  Great Ventures was a classic old style mansion with a central house facing North that had two large front doors set into the wall above a long flight of steps up from the drive.  The central section had two towering columns to each side of the door.  Off of the large cube which was the central section lay two long wings running East and West.  The South side of the central section opened up to patios, gardens and a large rectangular pool that looked out on Long Island Sound.  The entire house was a symmetrically angular collection of cubes and squares from its windows to doors to its black slate roofs. The great architect Stanford White had designed the house for Oscar’s grandfather Malcolm in 1903. It could have been a study in turn of the century grandeur. Oscar leaned forward next to his driver.

“Angus I’ll stay down at the boat house cottage until the family gets here.”

Angus just nodded.  When they were close to the oval front driveway Angus veered down a gravel road to the right of the house.  After a few minutes more the boat house cottage appeared. Angus pulled the limo beside the cottage and turned it off.  Oscar was out of the limo with his leather duffle bag over his shoulder before Angus could get out.  Angus looked up questioningly at Oscar.

“I’ve got everything thank you Angus, I’ll see you at Christmas.”

Angus smile and leaned back into the seat.  Oscar headed into the house almost laughing.  He and Angus had only exchanged maybe ten words since he had picked him up at the train station. But that was the kind of guy that Angus was.  Oscar knew if he’d wanted to talk Angus would have complied and even enjoyed it.  Oscar had seen Angus tell a tale or two when Oscar was younger.  The four Irishman that worked for his father could become quite boisterous when a little whiskey had been consumed.  Oscar had snuck downstairs when he had been younger to see what the fun was.  They had sat in a circle talking and singing as well as telling tales of Irish woe.  Oscar had always been struck that right in the middle of them was his father.   Raymond had loved every second of these moments.  He sang with them and drank with them as if they were also his sons, Raymond a decedent of Scotsmen among the boys of Erie as if he were some clan leader.

Oscar thought about his father from those days and even now.  In the city and among his peers he was haughty even perhaps a bit snobbish.  But out here or at home in the city he would sit with his lads as he called them and act as if he were one of them, outcasts of their homeland.

Oscar headed into the very cold cottage immediately turning the valve on the long radiator that ran along the wall to the right of the door.  He could hear the steam hissing into it as he moved toward the fireplace.  A fire was laid in the hearth just as he had left it months earlier.  Oscar leaned in and opened the flue then struck a match from the holder on the mantle.  He touched it to the tinder in several places.  The dry wood shavings igniting under the kindling as the fire started to build.

Oscar turned to his left and went through the bedroom door beside the fireplace tossing his bag on the double bed before turning on the valve to the radiator here.  He returned to the living room then started warming his hands before the now crackling fire.  Oscar looked to his right into the kitchen then to the liquor cabinet above the counter.  A drink was in order he thought as he stepped to it.  Oscar found the bottle of scotch that was half full in front where he’d left it.  He took down a tumbler then half filled it with the golden caramel colored liquor.

Oscar returned to the fireplace sitting in the old overstuffed brown leather chair.  He kicked his loafers off and put his feet before the fire.  What he loved about this place was it felt like it was his very own.  No one else used it or even visited him there. He had an overwhelming feeling of peace.

The scotch had the desired effect as he finished the tumbler.  Oscar was suddenly tired from the train ride then the long commute out to the Hamptons.  He set his tumbler on the table then leaned forward throwing another log on the fire.  Beside the chair was the long woolen blanket folded neatly on the arm of the couch.  Oscar pulled it to him over his legs up to his waist then leaned back in the chair closing his eyes.

The knock on the door came as quite a shock.  It startled him out of his near sleep.  A scowl spread across his face.  Perhaps he’d needed to hang his tie on the door so he wouldn’t be disturbed like at college jumped into his mind.  He found it slightly funny that no one here would recognize that signal.  Oscar pulled himself to his feet as he dropped the blanket onto the chair before striding to the door.  He opened it wide then stepped back, shocked.  There she was.

A Visitor

Anita smiled up at him dressed in a long black felt coat that came to her knees.  Her hair was back in a ponytail with her small ears without adornment visible.  Oscar looked at her smile and sparkling blue eyes.  “How long had it been?” ran through his head.  It had been just last Christmas so not quite a year ago. Oscar had missed thanksgiving at home this year having spent it with his Princeton pals in Atlantic city.  She had been the young girl going back to her second year at boarding school in New Haven the last time.  Now before him was a woman.

“Anita, what are you doing here, has the family already arrived?”

Oscar stepped back, “Come in out of the cold, it’s still warming up I just got here.”

Anita stepped through the door, “I know Angus told me you were down here when he came in the main house.  I got in a few hours ago direct from New Haven.  I took the train then the ferry to Sag Harbor. The gatekeeper Mr. Clegg picked me up.”

Anita took her coat off as Oscar shut the door.  He put his hand out for it but she causally threw it over the arm of the couch. She had on a woolen black skirt that came to her knees and a tight light blue sweater with a string of pearls around her neck.  Anita walked to the fireplace, warming her hands before turning and sitting on the hearth before the fire.  Both her hands went across her chest to her shoulder as she wiggled in front of the heat.

Oscar just stood beside the door looking at her his head slightly tilted to one side.  She smiled a little bit wider at him before she spoke.

“Oh this is much better; the main house is still an ice cube.  I can see why you like it here it’s very cozy.”

Oscar walked over and sat back down in his chair beside her.  Anita swiveled slightly to face him, her face tilted upward toward his.  Oscar was taken with how beautiful she was now.  It rattled him a little.  Anita Pratt Craig had been part of their family since she was nine.  Her father Gerald Craig had been the general manager of an investment fund that was part of the Tammish Group.  He had died young from what the doctors called brain cancer when she was eight.  Her mother had been inconsolable and in the end was committed to a hospital in Connecticut the next year.  She had never left, having died there from pneumonia when Anita was twelve.  Oscar didn’t know all the particulars but Raymond had adopted her when no other suitable family could be found.  Raymond loved Anita as his own and doted upon her and his younger daughter Ellen.  Anita called him papa Ray which Raymond seemed to enjoy immensely.

Oscar suddenly was reminded of his stepmother Helen.  His own mother had died when he was two.  Helen had been his nanny at first and when he was six his father had married her.  Oscar now knew that it had been quite the scandal then but his father cared little for the social scene.  Helen had died in child birth the next year when his sister Ellen had been born.  The three of them were raised by nannies and governesses, his father had never remarried.  The only child that had ever known Helen had been Oscar.  There had been other women in Raymond’s life after that but he rarely introduced them to the children.

Oscar studied Anita for a few moments, she grimaced slightly, “So what are you thinking about?  Is my lipstick smeared or something?”

Oscar smiled and shook his head, “No it’s perfect.  It’s just you.  You’re so grown up now.  Whenever I think of you I see this little girl I was saying goodbye to when I went off to prep school.  You were still little then and so sad that I was leaving.”

Anita blushed and looked away a moment, “I’m glad somebody noticed.  Papa Ray was not to happy when I told him I was traveling here by myself.  My god I’m almost seventeen years old.”

Oscar almost laughed but sensed it might not have been a good moment.  Instead Oscar furled his brow and waited for her to look back at him.

“Well it would have been worse if he’d seen you.  He’d probably want to have somebody with you to keep the men away.  I can see Angus or Sean following you around through the train station.  Beautiful young blonde woman accompanied by a huge Irishman giving all would be suitors the evil eye.”

Anita blushed and grinned at him, “You think I’m beautiful?”

Now it was Oscar’s turn to blush, he looked at the fire then back at her.

“Yes I do”

Anita looked into his eyes and held them, a small smile appeared on her lips then she said one word.

“Good”

Chapter 18 Compression

Safe House

Griff walked Emily up the steps to her brownstone not knowing quite what to say or if he should come in.  Emily made the decision for him by not releasing his hand as she went through the door.  He closed the door behind them before she let go to take her coat off.  Griff did the same placing his coat on the coat rack beside hers.  Emily walked into her study to the left and sat on the left edge of the couch.

Griff walked in watching her.  She was rigid at first as if she was sitting up and paying attention to some intricate point that the thin air was making.  Slowly she settled back into the couch.  Her shoulders relaxed then she turned her head looking at Griff.

Emily patted the couch beside her, “Right here buddy, I’m okay really just freaked out would be a good description.”

Griff took the seat beside her with enough room so he could turn toward her but didn’t lean back.

“So where is Jean at?”

Emily looked around then seemed to think for a moment, “We’re early it’s not even five yet.  I’ve been encouraging Nana to get out and make some friends.  This afternoon was her bridge game at the community center. She’ll be home soon.”

Emily reached for Griff’s hand lacing her fingers through it.  She looked up with sad eyes into Griff’s.  The glance tore at his heart.  He tried to become more detached but couldn’t.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Emily continued to look at him for a moment then began.

“I gave you the particulars the police told me.  Alicia may know more but she was rather stunned herself.  Things have been I guess different since uncle Oscar died.  BT never did want to have anything to do with me. After meeting him I felt the same way he had no interest in me as family at all.  I have no idea what has been going on within the trust but I do know there was a struggle between Alicia and BT.  Just this week Alicia asked me to give her proxy to the shares of the bank that I own.  I thought some huge lawsuits was about to begin.  When I came out to see if I wanted the job last year Alicia had taken me out to long island to visit Oscar.”

Emily stood and walked over the gas fireplace then turned it on.  She turned around looking above Griff’s head for a moment.  A smile formed on her face then she looked back at Griff.

“He was wonderful to see Griff.  Oscar was thin and frail but still getting around the cottage he was staying in.  I’m not sure why he wasn’t staying in the main house.  Maybe it was too big for just one person but instead he was staying in the little cottage down by the edge of the beach.  He was so sweet to me.  Oscar told me I looked just like my mother.  He had tears in his eyes when he said it.  I hadn’t seen him since my Grandmother Ellen’s funeral.  He had sat with me for a while telling what a wonderful woman she had been. He told me how proud he was of how she’d raised me when my family was killed.  He told me that I would always be a member of the family.  Then he gave me an odd warning to never trust the Lofton men.  The Lofton women were kind and well-meaning but the men were flawed.  He kissed me on the cheek and then he was gone.  It was only the third or fourth time I’d met him.  None of the Lofton’s had even bothered to show up so I took his advice seriously.

But back to the meeting, Grandmother Ellen left me a block of stock in a bank.  Oscar asked me that day that if Alicia ever asked for voting rights to those shares that I provide them.  He said that Ellen would have been for it and that a time may come where Alicia would need them.  I agreed after he told me it was to protect the trust.  Then he asked me to make sure I protected the family names both Pratt and Tammish.”

Emily walked back over to the couch and sat very close to Griff.  He lifted his arm and she buried her head into his shoulder.

“There are things about these families that are pretty dark Griff.  I’m not sure where to start”

Griff pulled her closer, “I have a little bit of an idea after looking at Pennington and Blessing’s ledgers today”

Griff proceeded to tell about what he’d found.

Back Seat Revelations

Jinie came through her door just as Alicia was preparing to leave.  She had a large brown envelope in her hand as she walked up to the desk.  Alicia was just standing up reaching for her bag.

Jinie extended the envelope toward her, “It must have came by courier I it was on my desk when I got back from the supply room.  Are you expecting something, its marked personal?”

Alicia took the envelope from her putting in the same hand as her bag, “No but I’ll open it on the way home, probably some new papers from the attorneys.  J why don’t you take off early as well it’s almost 5:00.  Just forward the phones to the service.”

Jinie smiled and turned for the door Alicia walking around her desk behind her.

Alicia exited the elevator following behind her guard Justin.  He advanced into the lobby his head scanning from left to right.  Alicia could see the other guard standing outside the front door.  Behind him was the black SUV that would take her home.  She walked through the lobby waving at the guard behind the desk.  Justin let her go ahead of him through the doors as the outside guard opened the SUV rear door for her.  Justin stayed right behind her until she was in the vehicle.  He leaned in and smiled.

“It’s the end of my shift Ms. Templeton, Mr. Ryder here will be riding home with you.”

Alicia returned the smile, “Thank you Justin, will I be seeing you tomorrow?”

Justin continued to smile as he backed out of the car, “Yes mam I’ve got the day shift again.”

Alicia saw Mr. Ryder roll his eyes for a second as Justin closed the door.  Mr. Ryder got quickly into the front passenger seat as Alicia put on her seatbelt.  She looked up at him as he did the same.

“Mr. Ryder, do have a first name?”

She looked at him more closely as he turned.  Alicia really hadn’t noticed how broad he was before.  Mr. Ryder was not tall but barrel chested, burly Alicia thought.  He had dark brown eyes set into rounded face with a dimpled chin.  His brown hair was cropped short to his head not quite a crew cut but close.

“It’s Colin, Mrs. Templeton nice to meet you.”

Alicia held his glance, “I saw you roll your eyes when Justin said he had the day shift.  What was that about?”

Colin smiled almost laughing, “It’s the way of things at Rampart.  If you’re married you tend to catch more day shifts.  It’s kind of a running joke with us.  Want a good night sleep get married and have kiddies.”

Alicia nodded as she leaned back in the seat.  Colin turned back to the front as the car started to move.  Alicia reached for her purse which was on the seat beside her.  Under the purse was the large envelope that had been delivered just as she was leaving.  She looked the large envelope over more carefully.  There was a small courier mark on it, her name with Personal stamped in red.  She opened it to find another letter sized envelope inside.  Not a business size but a smaller one she recognized the stock and writing on the front as Oscar’s at once.  It just had her first name on it and was not sealed.  She looked inside to see a single page.  It was a short note from Oscar, his handwriting distinctive as always,

Alicia

I knew things might come to this.  What’s done is done and is on my head.  Please don’t concern yourself with the why’s and how’s.  It was necessary and regrettable but the only course I could see to ensure your and the trusts safety.

 

Oscar”

 

Alicia could hear him saying these things in her head an audible sigh escaped her lips.  It was very clear and concise.  She had no doubt about what it referred to.  Oscar had reached out from the grave.  Alicia was shocked at first then the analytical lawyer in her took over.  Oscar had set parameters for this to happen or it would have happened sooner.  The attack on her must have triggered this but by who?  She realized why he had written “don’t concern yourself with the why’s and how’s.”  Oscar knew she would go there first.  She looked up to see Colin looking back at her.

“Is everything alright mam?”

She looked up at him, something in his face it was only there for an instance.  Alicia looked down at the letter again she could feel her poker face setting over her features.

“I’m fine thank you Colin”

Colin turned back to the front.  Alicia leaned back further into the seat staring at the back of his head and shoulders.  She hoped her protectors were very good at what they do.

Obligations

Frank McNeal sat back in his chair as Colin took his seat on the couch.  The younger man looked back at him betraying nothing then spoke.

“She’s home safe and sound.”

Frank nodded slowly, “Justin said she took the letter into the car with her.  Did she read it?”

Colin just nodded back slowly, “She did, it must have been pretty short.  She did give a sigh after reading it.  I looked at her. She seemed a little stunned then was right back to normal.”

Frank nodded again, “Alicia is tough.  Oscar’s letter was to the point but without particulars.  I checked before I gave it to Justin to put on her assistants desk.”

Colin looked down at his watch and then back at Frank, “So what other obligations do we have to Mr. Tammish?”

Frank gave him a hard look and Colin withered slightly but held his gaze.

“We have obligations to protect the trust and the Tammish family going forward.  But no more specific tasks that I’m going to go into.  If certain things were to happen then we have actions to take.  Otherwise it’s up to me and when I’m gone Colin it will be up to you.”

Colin was stoic at the remark, “Uncle Frank you’re going to live for a long time yet.”

Frank smiled back at his nephew, “I plan to, but always remember Colin our families will always be tied to the fate of the Tammish family.  We are honor bound to protect it and serve it, now from afar but the obligation will always remain.  It shouldn’t be too much longer before Alicia determines our protective services are no longer required.  But we’ll be watching none the less.”

Frank could see that Colin got the meaning of his words.  He thought about his last moments with Oscar on his death bed.  He was very sick his last chemo treatment had been unsuccessful.  The doctors had done a radiation treatment that eased his pain but it was only for terminal patients.  Oscar had talked about his father and Frank’s.  The bond they shared with each other their fathers had brought into existence.  Oscar and he had expressed their sadness of having no heirs to carry on for them.  The final instructions and letters Oscar gave to him were explicit.  There would come a time when Frank would have to approach both Alicia and the last Tammish.  He would have to let them know of the ties but it could wait.  Oscar’s last words to him would always haunt him, “Protect them Frank as I have protected yours and ours, protect them.”

Frank had agreed as always.

Chapter 19 Rainfall

Spring 1951, Morning

Oscar sat on the couch by the window he’d cracked open in the boat house cottage.  He’d opened it purposely to hear the soft patter of the rain on the awning outside the window.  Oscar brought the hot cup of tea to his lips as he stared out onto the beach and ocean beyond.  The patter of the rain increased for a few moments then ebbed back.  The sound was a soft reminder of music.  It was nature’s music he thought, the soft and subtle background noise of some great symphony.  Oscar didn’t wax poetically too often, but when he did it brought a certain focus to his existence.

I have so much, he thought.  I’m really not risking much. My father will always love me.  I’ve had positions in all the companies since I turned twenty one that made me already wealthy.  I have friends and a good reputation.  But what is she risking.  How would my father react if he found out?  Would he cast her out?  Oscar didn’t think so. He considered again how wise this situation was.

He heard her from the open bedroom door as she started moving about.  Oscar looked from the ocean to the open door as she emerged.  Anita was wrapped in his grey robe still looking sleepy.  Her long blonde hair was wildly askew as she looked around the room.  Anita’s eyes landed on him then she smiled.  The smile she smiled was soft and lovely her teeth gleaming through red lips.  Oscar thought that it was a smile just for him, his smile.

She walked in front of the fireplace to the kitchen slowly with the robe dragging on the floor.

“Is there any coffee?”

Oscar held up his cup, “It should be ready by now.  I’m having a nice cup of tea while it brews.”

Anita continued smiling at him until she turned her back to pour the coffee, “You’re up early.  I would think you college boys would sleep late on Saturdays.”

Oscar leaned back in to the couch slightly looking at how the robe hung on her so baggily.  I’ll need to get her one from the city and leave it here.  Something warm but that fits her maybe yellow or dark blue.

Oscar’s tone was light, “I’ve always liked the mornings.  Didn’t you ever wonder why when you were little I was always up before you?  You’re just a sleepy head.”

Anita came to the couch then slid in close to him with her coffee in her right hand.  Her left arm slid behind his neck then she leaned in and kissed him very slowly.

Oscar’s eyes were still closed as their lips parted.  She must have turned her head to the windows, “Oh, it’s raining and I wanted to walk on the beach today.”

Oscar opened his eyes then reached up and put his finger to her lips.

“Listen”, he whispered softly.

They both listened to the rain staring into each other’s eyes.  Her eyes the darkest of blue staring into his a dark hazel that was not quite brown and not quite green.

Anita’s smile got larger, “It almost sounds like music.  There’s the patter of the rain then larger plopping sounds of the puddles on the patio.  Even the sound of splashing as it comes out the down spouts from the gutters.”

He leaned forward and kissed her again the slow passionate kiss continued for a long moment.  The rain still pattering, plopping and splashing outside as it went on.  Oscar thought it the perfect music to share a kiss.

Anita finally pulled away then slowly stood being careful not to spill her cup.  She walked gracefully toward the bedroom. I’m getting in the tub.  It’s a shame we have no shower down here. “

She was using her free hand to untie the robe then at the door she moved her cup to her left hand.  The robe slid to the floor. Oscar took in her long legs and bottom so perfectly pear shaped.  He was awestruck by how flawless her skin was, her long hair flowing down her back.  She stood a moment longer before turning her head and shoulders toward him.  He could see her right breast silhouetted against the light from the bedroom.  Oscar could just make out the light brown of her nipples.  He followed the lines up to her face.  A different smile was there, this one playful and slightly naughty.

Oscar was entranced as her lips moved, “You could come wash my back we can open the window in here.”

She continued into the bedroom as Oscar got to his feet.  The hot tea spilling down his brown wool trouser did not slow his pace or elicit any response.

Afternoon

Anita ran forward toward the surf waving her arms as the flock of gulls took flight.  Oscar watched her as she stopped just short of the waterline.  She came back running toward him as the wave broke behind her.  Anita had on tan slacks and heavy knit brown sweater.  She was laughing as she ran toward him.

She threw herself at his outstretched arms crushing her lips to his.  Oscar almost didn’t notice the first raindrop on his head.  The weather had been threatening but had so far relented since they first ventured out onto the beach.  The reprieve was apparently now ending.

Anita pulled back looking at his face, “I guess we should head in, at least we have tomorrow maybe the weather will clear up.”

Oscar nodded as they turned still entwined and started back, “Well we actually have the whole week.  Any homework I can help you with before spring vacation is up?”

Anita just shook her head, “I have some writing for my poetry class is about it.  I can’t think of a better place to inspire me, how about you?”

Oscar shook his head no, “End of term at the university, I don’t have anything for another week.  I’ve got plenty of groceries but we could go into town for dinner.”

Anita nodded but added, “No let’s just stay here hidden away from the world.  I’ll cook if you help.  I did very poorly in home economics.  The teacher said I lose focus when I cook.”

Oscar chuckled, “You always did burn the cookies.”

She pulled him closer as they walked on.

Oscar thought about telling her about the coming summer.  He wondered how she would take the news he was going to be in Mexico all summer on his first archeological dig.  He was a business major at Princeton but his minor was in anthropology.  His father and the family collection had finally secured a spot on the team for him.  He would be the greenhorn that was certain.  His father had told him that assistants on a dig meant gofer and sifter.  He was excited about the opportunity but now with Anita in his life very conflicted as well.

Anita must have sensed his mood change.  She pulled him closer then looked up at him.

“What faraway place have you gone?”

Oscar was almost stunned at her, “faraway place”, turn of phrase.  Then he smiled about how connected they were.  Of course they had known each other since they were children.  They had grown up together and now they were growing in a different way.

He summoned up the courage for a moment then faltered, “Oh just thinking of things we could make for dinner.  What you might wear to bed tonight things like that.”

Anita wasn’t buying it, “Oh no, you’re not.  I know you Oscar you have a secret you’re not telling.  So go ahead and tell me besides the only thing I’m wearing to bed is a smile.”

She giggled after she said it but then looked searchingly into his face.

Oscar considered for a moment then told her about his summer plans.  She seemed pained for moment but then smiled.

She stopped him and kissed him then pulled back looking in his face.  The rain was suddenly harder.

What came from her mouth as they started walking again surprised him.

“We need to live this for the moment Oscar.  There are no big plans and no regrets.  I’ve been in love with you since I was fifteen years old.  I have no idea how Papa Ray would take this.  I think he has plans for me when it comes to marriage already.  So let’s take advantage of the time we have.”

They were to the cottage now.  She led the way through the door pulling him toward the bedroom.

“Let’s get out of these wet clothes and under the warm blankets on the bed.”

Oscar let her pull him shaking his head, “Then I’m really going to regret my summer plans even more.”

Anita gave a small snort, “That’s my plan then dinner.”

 

 

Evening

Oscar pushed his plate forward on the table.  They had talked about their family as they cooked dinner but had eaten the spaghetti they’d made mostly in silence.  He looked up to see her staring at him.

Oscar felt self-conscience for a brief moment before she smiled and a comfort returned to him.  It was so unusual for him to be comfortable around a beautiful woman.  He normally would be more introverted at this point.  Anita’s was different not just because they shared so much history.  They had always had some kind of connection even when they were younger.  Oscar had always been considerate of her.  He had never been the mean older brother.  That may have had a lot to do with boarding school.  The first year you were picked on and bullied but as you got older it was your choice if you would be the bully.  Oscar had long ago decided that was not him.  He was a friend to the new boys.  They could count on Oscar to stand between them and the meaner older students.

The times with Anita when he was home on break had always been about her and what she wanted to do.  He had no idea at that time it would lead to this.  He remained silent just returning her smile reaching across the table to take her hand.

Anita finally spoke, “Would you like me to make some coffee?”

Oscar shook his head, “Not unless you want some.  I think I’ll have a scotch on the couch.  How about you what would you like?”

Anita looked at him with grimace when he mentioned scotch then looked as if in thought.

“Oscar I really haven’t got much experience with liquor.  I tried some of them but they all taste, well disgusting.”

Oscar’s grin widened, “Father said it was an acquired taste but you do get fond of it.  I could go up to main house and get a bottle of wine from the cellar?”

Anita smiled back but shook her head, “I’m fine really. Beside you don’t need to get me tipsy to take advantage of me. We’ve already established that.”

Her smile suddenly had a quite naughty look.  Oscar knew she also knew exactly how she was smiling.  When she was younger she had always made various smiles and facial expressions in the mirror for hours.  He made his right eyebrow go up and gave what he thought was a look of surprise.  This was the only expression he had ever mastered.  Anita’s smile returned to normal then she giggled very softly.

Oscar stood and she followed him to the couch.  He let her sit down then went to the fireplace.  Oscar stoked up the low fire adding wood to get it crackling and hot again.

He sat next to her on the couch then lifted his right arm onto the back of the couch.  Anita immediately snuggled into his right side.  Her hand on his thigh, head pushed into his shoulder.  She was very quiet for a while staring at the fire.

When she spoke it was in a very soft voice.

“Oscar I just realized I told you I was in love with you but not that I love you.  I do with all my heart.”

Oscar felt his own heart almost catch in his chest.  He’d heard her say it earlier but the context had been so different.  Now as she said those words he could feel himself almost panicking.  He took a deep breath.

“I love you Anita”

Oscar realized he might not get to Mexico this summer after all.  This was all so complicated.

Chapter 20 Sifting

Progressions

Emily looked up across her office desk at Griff who was engrossed in a large thick ledger.  Before her was a thin bound notebook from Oscar’s personal papers.  She started to read the poem from the notebook out loud making Griff look up.

“The shadows are setting softly upon the rain soaked beach.
My thoughts wander aimlessly toward our parting.
Oh to be able to stay and keep my love forever within reach.
But dreams are like the drops of rain upon the sand.
There for just an instant before into the sand it will leach.
The sand and rain drop forever changed until
the sun of tomorrow dries it back to sand on a windswept beach.
But what of the dream my little raindrop did seek”

Griff looked at her curiously, “Its lovely, one of Oscar’s?”

Emily continued looking at the notebook then shook her head, “It was written by my grandmother Anita Craig.  The poems name is Pattering from March 1950 at Great Ventures.  That’s the house in East Hampton it’s the Tammish estate.  The notebook looks like a prep school journal.  She got a B+ on the poem.”

Emily handed the notebook to Griff who stared at it for a few minutes.  He went back a few pages, “Well it was an improvement that’s for sure, she never got above a C+ before that.  Why would Oscar have it?”

Emily looked in thought but came back at once, “Anita was Oscar’s adopted sister.  She married BT Lofton II gave birth to my mother then died.  My grandmother Ellen told me when I got older she had taken her own life.  It could have been quite the scandal but Uncle Oscar stepped in to keep it quiet.  He had her interned in the Tammish family mausoleum.  She’s in the crypt just below Oscar’s but he never had it marked.  I went to see both of their crypts before they sealed the mausoleum just last week.”

Griff raised both eyebrows, “I wonder why he didn’t mark her crypt was it that big a scandal?”

Emily nodded, “It was something more between Uncle Oscar and my grandfather Bernie.  Anita and Oscar were very close according to Ellen ever since they were children.  Grandmother Ellen was the youngest.”

Griff stared back at the notebook, “What year was that?”

Emily thought for a few moments, “She died in 1955 same year my mother was born.  Anita was really young when she died maybe twenty-three or four. “

Griff typed a note into his laptop that was open beside him.  He was looking through his other notes as Emily took back the notebook.  She leafed through it slowly.  There were more poems for several more pages.  More assignments really some were about animals or nature.  Her grades improved steadily by the end of the school year.  Then it ended with a final entry across the page in a flowery girlish script that was much different than the clipped tight cursive the poems were in, it read.

Okay you wanted to have it so here it is, Love you always and the most my darling, Anita.”

Emily looked up to see Griff grinning at her, “What?”

Griff looked back at his laptop, “Well according to what I’ve pieced together from the library and here.  I think that one of two things happened with Anita Pratt.  She either had to get married because she was pregnant or she got married not knowing she was.  Either way you mother was born seven and a half months after their marriage. “

Griff turned his laptop toward her, “See here’s the announcement about the wedding in the society pages and here is the announcement of your mother’s birth then Anita died when she was about twenty-one.  I can’t find an obituary for Anita but if it was a suicide then they would have kept it quiet.  There is even the possibility that Bernard Lofton the second wasn’t the father.”

Emily was stunned but somehow it seemed to fit.

“My grandmother Ellen said that Uncle Oscar loathed my grandfather.  She said it was one factor in her divorce along with him being in her words a misogynistic bastard.”

Emily handed him back the notebook opened to the salutation from Anita.

Griff’s eyebrows shot up again, “You don’t normally call your brother darling.  Anita was the adopted daughter right?”

Emily shook her head, “Never actually adopted or her name would have changed.  Raymond Tammish was her guardian. I suppose there could have been something between Oscar and Anita. “

Griff wanted more evidence but it was becoming clearer.  The ring may very well belong to the person with the startling blue eyes staring at him now.

Griff thought about how to put it.  He pulled up the scan of Oscar’s letter and began to read the passage out loud, “Oscar’s letter said:”

“I was never fortunate enough to be able to keep the woman I loved with me.  Though I loved her with a passion and fire that consumes me still, she was promised to another you see and I was prevented from intervening.  She went from this world all too soon and it has been a grayer place for me because of it.” 

Griff went on quickly, “If it was Anita he was talking about and they continued to see each other up until her marriage it raises two distinct possibilities.  First is that the ring is supposed to go to you.  The second is that you may very well be a Tammish and not a Lofton at all.”

Griff sat back in his chair she could see he was crunching something in his head.  Emily could feel herself getting nervous and very apprehensive.  Griff must have caught it he suddenly reached across the table for her hand.  It made her feel better somehow she wasn’t quite sure how.

Griff shook his head from side to side and smiled.

“It’s just supposition Emily I’m not sure we could even prove it.  But it is an interesting theory.  We can drop it if you want.  Why don’t you think about it?  It’s almost lunchtime we should get out of here and take a walk.”

Emily sat the note book down nodding in agreement.

Shuffling Papers

Alicia sat behind her desk making notes on her yellow legal pad as she looked through the papers on her desk. A small whistle escaped her lips as she sat back and picked up the pad.

Jinie stuck her head through the door, “Its lunch time boss should I order you something?”

Alicia shook her head, “No I’ll get something later.  Before you go would you bring me the file with the codicils of Oscar’s will.”

Jinie ducked back out then walked into the office with a large brown fan folder.

“Here you go, anything else”, she said with a small smile.

Alicia took the folder then started opening it.  Without looking up she replied, “No have a nice lunch J.”

She never noticed Jinie leave already engrossed in the papers.  Alicia found what she was looking for in a few moments. It was an older addendum that Oscar had made just after he started moving assets into the trust.   Alicia again sat back in her chair.  She started to speak out loud then something stopped her.  Alicia thought she could almost see the shadow of her bodyguard standing just outside her door.  She got up then peeked out to actually see him sitting on the couch in her outer office.

She started to close the door smiling at him, “I need to have a conference call Justin.”

He smiled back then returned to looking at his phone.  Alicia returned to her desk.  She couldn’t bring herself to speak and work through what she’d learned so she started to make notes on her laptop.

“1. Rampart Security was spun off from Tammish industries as we started to move assets into the trust its new name Rampart United Security.

2. Oscar kept a 50% share in the Rampart in his personal portfolio.

3. A codicil in his will left that 50% to Frank McNeal upon his death.

4. When Alicia had called Rampart after being attacked the man she had been put through to had been Frank McNeal.”

She did speak out loud now, “Oh Oscar what else did you not tell me?”

Alicia closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair deep in thought.

Diversion

Griff walked into conservation then toward Katy’s workstation.  She was working on a Mayan stone mask which had fangs and a large tongue thrusting from its mouth. Katy had sent Griff a text that the ring was cleaned and ready for his next step.  Griff and Emily had walked through the cold park down the street at lunch in silence just holding gloved hands.  Finally they had stopped at a street vendor for hot dog.  Neither of them had eaten much of it as they walked back.  The text from Katy had come as they reached the museum.

Griff had invited Emily to come look at the ring but she had demurred then headed back to the archive.  Her silence was weighing heavily on Griff.

Katy looked up from her work at him, “Hey you, you look a little down what’s up trouble in blonde town?”

She had said it lightly but with a certain animosity in her voice.

Griff forced a smile, “Nope just some really heavy research.  Where is it so I can have a look?”

Katy seemed crest fallen for moment that he hadn’t taken the bait but that was Griff.  He was the master of his emotions but she had seen maybe a glimpse of doubt.  She turned from the workstation and motioned to the one beside her.

“Its all mounted up and ready to look at, biggest microscope we have.”

The stone ring was mounted rubber in jaws beneath a microscope with an attached camera.  The mount had small knobs to move it tiny fractions with just a touch.  Griff took a seat on the stool before it and started examining each glyph minutely.  Katy stood behind him watching the flat panel screen as he zoomed in on each carving.

Griff looked for the signs of modern cutting and carving.  The telltale signs that the glyphs had been added in some different era.  He was satisfied of their antiquity but an expert with even better equipment would know for sure.

He pulled back from the eyepieces and looked beside him at Katy.  She was very close to his shoulder.  Griff could smell her distinctive body lotion a wonderful lilac it brought memories flooding back.  Unfortunately first the good sensual ones of sex and lovemaking were destroyed when the others of conflict and harsh words came as well.  Griff slide off the stool away from her.  He turned to look at her seeing a certain disappointment there but she covered it quickly.

Katy tilted her head, “They all look good to me.  I couldn’t even make out scratches from any prior cleaning with a wire brush,”

Griff nodded in agreement, “It’s not a field I’m an expert in but if they were done with modern steel tools they certainly don’t show.  I think we’ll send it off for a mass spec look to see if there is any steel in the grooves.  But it sure looks legitimate.  I think I can date it.  I need to check a few resources but it looks like the end of the Mayan classical era with additions in the early Aztec.  It will be a hell of a find if I can nail down the provenance.”

Katy just nodded, “Should I send it back to the vault?”

Griff thought on it a moment, “No have them send it up to me I want to look at the glyphs a bit more.”

Griff turned then headed out to go back down to the archives and see how Emily was holding up.  From behind him he heard Katy say quietly, “Nice to see you too”

Correspondence

Emily was in the archive looking through the same box that the notebook had come in.  She’d seen what she was looking for earlier and found them quickly.  She turned the items over in her hand gently.  It was a large stack of letter held together with a blue ribbon perhaps six inches thick.  The letter on top was addressed to Oscar at Princeton.  The return address was from Anita Craig.

Chapter 21 Contrasting

End of summer 1951

Letters

Anita sat at the writing desk in the boat house cottage.  She was just finishing up a letter to Oscar in the Yucatan.  He’d tried to back out of going but Anita had pushed him to go.  They’d had a week together after his graduation from Princeton and hers from prep school before he’d left.  She’d tried to write him each week throughout the summer only missing a few times.  He wrote her back every third or fourth letter.

Oscar had written that though there was plenty of time to write the mail only came and went to them every other week.  So Oscar’s letters to her were fewer but longer.  He wrote detailed accounts of the site he was working on and artifacts they’d uncovered.  Oscar wrote that it was hot and very humid with the occasional heavy rainfall that blew in from the Caribbean.  In the last few weeks there had even been a tropical storm that had wrecked the camp.  They had been busy for several days putting it back together.  It was the end of his letters though that she often skipped to, it was here that they were personal.  She smiled, thinking about how he went on about missing her legs wrapped around his waist.  Oscar almost pleadingly asked her to send him a picture of her face.  He said he wanted to desperately look into her eyes.

Anita folded the letter and enclosed another picture of her with the letter in the envelope.  Since he’d asked for one early on she’d always try to send him one.  This one was of both them at Christmas the year before.  The Christmas where it had all started she thought.  They hadn’t made love then with so little privacy but they had talked for hours. Then there were the stolen kisses away from the crowded house.  They had taken long walks in the snow and on the winter beaches constantly ending up in each other’s arm as soon as they were out of sight of the house.  They made love for the first time over spring vacation. The entire week they spent together had been over the top.

Anita’s mind had been a whirl of thoughts and emotion when she had returned to school after that time together.  She had a huge secret that she felt she could tell no one about, some days she felt she would burst.  Their correspondence had really been prolific then.  She wrote to him at least twice a week at Princton.  Oscar wrote back to each letter.  He enclosed poetry with each letter and sometimes a dried flower blossom or some memento.   Anita had placed each of his letters and items into her small jewelry box.  By the end of the last semester she’d had gotten a larger carved wooden box in which she kept them.

The summer had been interesting in a many ways.  The first thing was she was suddenly popular in the social circles back in New York.  Papa Ray had put the announcement of her graduation from prep school in the society pages.  After that Anita was being invited to coming out parties of other girls as well other social engagements they put on.  She suddenly was receiving gentleman callers at the house.  Most of them she knew and were her age but others were older men whose father’s knew Papa Ray as well.

Anita had to admit that she found the attention flattering in many ways.  But there was a part of her that felt as if she had been put on some kind of sales block.  Raymond had actually told her the real reason.  When her father had died, Raymond had continued to pay his salary into a trust fund for her.  He had also matched it each year with even more money of his own.  The fund was several million dollars now.  So Anita was a very eligible heiress.  Papa Ray though had told her his wish was for her to go on to Vassar before marriage.

The second thing was that throughout the summer the visitors came and went.  There was who one continued to show up every week.  He actually was able to take her out for dinner twice that summer and to several dances.  All the events were chaperoned of course but he was persistent.  Then of course Papa Ray was very approving of him.  She had known Bernie Lofton junior since she had come to the live with Tammish family.  He had been one of Oscar’s closest friends growing up.  They had gone to prep school at Andover together.  Bernie had gone on to Yale his father’s school.  He’d graduated with honors, was a member of an elite secret society bones people or some silly thing.  Bernie had come home and started working with his father and Papa Ray at the company.  Bernie was suave and sophisticated.  He had the large bulbous Lofton nose but his ears had been made to lay more on his head when he was young.  Anita also knew that Bernie was calling on a lot of young ladies that summer.

She hadn’t written about the attention Bernie was paying her in any of her letters.  Anita did know one thing that bothered her.  The Lofton and Tammish family tended to inter-marry.  She also knew Papa Ray considered her a Tammish.  Anita now wanted to become a Tammish in another way not a Lofton.

Anita took a red lipstick from her purse and applied it to her lips.  She then kissed the back of the envelope across the fold.  She smiled at the lip marks across the gum seal.  Anita had no doubt she was a woman now, but she still loved the little girl things sometimes.  Papa Ray had been surprised when she’d asked if she could stay at Great Ventures for a couple of days.  His first reaction was to ask if Bernie was going to be there as well. Anita had laughed it off though she did consent to their housekeeper coming along on the trip.  She was spending the evenings in the big house but her days on the beach and in the cottage.

She sat where they had sat, watching the fire crackle hoping for rain to listen to, missing Oscar all the while.  Anita reread all his letters and stared longingly at the bedroom.  She had tried to cuddle up to the pillows in the bed in the afternoons but it wasn’t the same.  Anita put the letter into her purse before turning to the door. She took one last look at the unlit fireplace and couch as she left.

 

 

Past Posting

Anita walked from the main house beside the long swimming pool.  She might come back and take a swim a little later she thought.  The housekeeper Mrs. Wilson had accompanied her into town along with their driver Mr. O’Brien.  She had went by the post office and mailed her letter.  Anita convinced Mrs. Wilson to stop and get a phosphate at the soda fountain.  It had been filled with young people from town and the surrounding area.  She was glad to be back heading for the cottage.  Anita had told Mrs. Wilson she would probably sleep there tonight and that there was food in the cottage.  Mrs. Wilson had just nodded seeming pleased she would not be cooking tonight.

Anita approached the cottage noticing that a light blue smoke was curling out of the stone chimney.  She panicked suddenly that she had left the fire burning.  Anita also knew she hadn’t.  When she got closer she saw a small red sports car parked in front of the cottage.  Anita knew before she opened the door.  Oscar was home.

Anita threw open the door to find Oscar ensconced on the couch.  He turned his head smiling toward her.  He was dressed as if he’d just left a class at Princeton.  A white buttoned down shirt with school tie, grey woolen trousers and dark blue summer blazer.  On his feet were black penny loafers with just a hint of grey argyle socks.  He continued to smile at her.  Anita could feel her mouth was slightly ajar.  She closed it trying to maintain her composure.  It didn’t work.

Anita ran to the couch, throwing herself at Oscar.  His arms had opened up but she still almost knocked him over.  Her lips were on his instantly.  She felt almost like she was trying to devour him.  At last she pulled back staring into his smiling face and soft eyes.

“When did you get back?  I wasn’t expecting you for two more weeks.”

Her voice was almost frantic, she tried to calm herself.  Oscar must have seen this although he didn’t answer at first but waited.  Anita settled into his shoulder hugging on him pushing her face into his neck.  Her breathing started to slow down as she felt his hand rub softly down her back.  When Oscar did speak his voice was soft but had the lyrical ring to it she had longed for.

“I got back last night.  The dig ended early after we had another tropical storm.  They will go back next spring to finish things up.  Dad told me you’d came out here.  So after we had lunch with the Lofton’s today I headed out.”

Anita cringed for second when she heard the Lofton name mentioned.   She tried to keep calm again.

“Which Lofton’s did you have lunch with?”

Oscar almost chuckled, “BT senior and junior.  Bernie junior is quite taken with you it appears.”

Anita pulled her face out of his shoulder looking into his eyes.  She could see he was actually amused.  Her anger started to rise, was he baiting her or making fun of her? She was about to speak when he beat her to it.  His face became softer the smile suddenly caring and concerned.

“I knew he was spending time with you Anita.  Dad wrote me every few weeks and filled me in on all the comings and goings of my family. You are going to have suitors.  I knew that before I left.  This is going to get more complicated.  We both knew it.”

Anita leaned in to kiss him again her lip pressed against his then her tongue softly touching his teeth then his tongue.  She maintained the kiss for a long time.  Anita could feel herself becoming aroused.  She could tell he was as well. Finally she pulled back looking into his face.  This was much better. He looked almost dazed but a hungry look was in his eyes.

“Bernie never got more than a peck on the cheek.”

She’d said slyly almost teasingly.

Oscar said nothing but he slid his right arm under her legs before moving his left arm down her back.  All in one motion she was suddenly being carried in his arms toward the bedroom. Anita pushed her face into his neck kissing and nibbling him.

Anita laid beside him on her right side in the double bed, her left leg across him her foot running softly up his left calf.  It had been furious and fast the first time.  Then he had slowed down when they did it again.  Oscar had been much more gentle but still with a certain urgency that she found immensely arousing.  The truth was she was ready to go again, but she’d let him rest a bit she decided.  She knew the sun outside was starting to set.  The light coining in the bedroom door was more orange and subdued.  She thought about the letter she’d sent today and wondered how long it would be before he received it.  First from her to Mexico then back again.  It could be weeks. Anita closed her eyes and kissed his chest realizing he was sleeping quietly beside her.

Well, she thought as she closed her own eyes, when he gets it then he’ll have a happy day.

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6 thoughts on “Golden Ring Threads

    • I like to tell a story, maybe thats it. Writing gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I do enjoy it when the audience does as well.

      Thanks

      T

      • Nice! I love old cemeteries, You must have some history background? The museum gives it away. 🙂 I’m just getting going on these blogs. Publishing some of my poetry. I do love a good mystery novel. Intrigued by your story so far. Are you in the process of writing this or is this just a teaser for the real thing?

      • Nope like wandering home I write the book i a serilized by chapter on the blog. Then pull it down when it geos to editing and copyright. I leave twenty chapters or so as a preview for folks. Golden ring will be a little slowly because its winter but should be done by summer.

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