A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 50

SPRING IS HERE again. Shortly after the Maximilian affair, I was offered a new commission. Some European royalty needed something spectacular for their daughter’s engagement with another future royal head of state. It kept me busy for a little while, allowed me to immerse myself into work, work, work, forgetting all the bad things that had been happening in my life lately. Working for hours without end made me realize what was truly important in my life, what I liked. I visited Mom and Dad over Christmas and even took that dreaded short trip to visit Sunny and the kids in Dallas during the convention in February.

Andrew Altward, Paul Faulkner and Benito Salanca were all awaiting trial. Altward was looking at ten years jail time for manslaughter; Benito Salanca twenty years for murder, the pre-trial judge hadn’t really bought the accident story, especially after the crime techs found the bathtub evidence I had seen with my own eyes. Faulkner made a deal with the state, accessory to manslaughter, two years. Billy Bounce had to spend a year in a California state prison for the stunt he pulled in San Diego. They had tried to tie him to the Mexico City murder of Ignacio Hermosa but it didn’t come through; there was not enough evidence. Billy was professional through and through and he never told anyone whom his employer was.

Ron hasn’t called once. We were over each other.

The Maximilian Jewels were stolen from the Museum of History in March, after one month on public display. The scandal flew cloud-high. The loss of the newly found treasure of Mexican collective memory. A bold break-in had managed to bypass all the security measures and removed the Maximilian Jewels. ‘How could this happen?’ had been the choir of the national and international media. ‘Inside job, again’ had been the rumor in the investigative papers. Director Pedro Vasolar, already in the process of handing over the museum business to his successor, lost his job faster than anticipated. Serves him right to have made it so easy for me.

To top it all, it turned out that the Maximilian Jewels had been specifically excluded from the insurance coverage of the museum. I did not receive a thank-you note from Fowler Wynn. But I did not receive a visit from the local police with him in tow, either. We were even on this one.

Thomas Cornelius sent me a thank-you note and a little package, delivered by a courier. It contained one perfectly cut DeBeers diamond of the highest quality, five carats, so pure and so white, the true definition of a ‘gem.’ Something I always had a good use for. And my favorite charity was uberhappy over a large donation, a very large donation, received by an unknown benefactor

I visited Phoebe Eastman’s grave and placed a flower on the headstone. I didn’t kill her but I was instrumental in trigging the events that led to her death. We had only met once, briefly, and I hadn’t had a relationship with her. By exposing Benito as her murderer, I probably reduced my guilt a little bit. But no matter how I rationalized it, I could not, would not call us… even. Her dead face under plastic wrap in my nightmares made sure of that.

And thus became a part of me.

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