Georgette Hughes and Blaise Bowden sat in glum silence as they sipped their morning coffee at the tiny table in their dingy rented room on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
“I’m sorry!” she blurted.
“I didn’t say anything,” he growled.
On display in front of them were the four glass stones that Nat had removed from Dolly and Bah-Bah’s eye sockets.
“I can’t understand it,” Georgette whined. She was a short, ample-bosomed woman with long brown hair streaked with blond highlights who had a penchant for strong-smelling perfume and big earrings. Her brown eyes could display warmth, but her face could turn wicked in an instant. “I saw the diamonds the other night. When I rang the bell, Nat was surprised to see me. He had all the jewelry out. I’m telling you, the four diamonds were there.”
Blaise picked up the four glass stones and threw them on the floor. “You could buy these in the five-and-ten.” He was a large man, tall, sandy-haired, attractive and smooth, yet underneath it all, not as sly as Georgette. Georgette’s sister had dubbed him “the cardboard box.” But for Georgette he was the perfect match. They were partners in crime. Drifters. Opportunists. Two con artists who’d been together for six years, ripping people off all over the country. “I’m stuck in that idiotic butler class for another couple of weeks. I hate it.”
“Do you think those singles parties I go to faithfully are any treat? How many more times can I stand that horrible small talk? And how about all the time I spent wooing old Nat? He was a nice man, but he didn’t exactly ring my bell. And now he’s dead and I’ve got nothing to show for it.”
Blaise stood up. “Look at this dingy dump. We haven’t had a score in so long it’s pathetic. You should have taken some of his wife’s jewelry.”
“I thought I had four diamonds worth millions, and besides, I happened to be carrying a very small purse. I went in to his apartment when I heard the gossip about him selling the diamonds. I was frantic. Did I know that last night was the night I’d have to grab them? If I had, I’d have carried a bigger purse, I’ll tell you that right now.”
“Well, what are we going to do?”
“For right now, you go to butler class. If you manage to graduate, that’s going to come in handy. You’ll have access to all those grand homes that are just aching to be robbed.”
“I can’t take all the pressure. And I can’t stand any more of Maldwin Feckles’s endless preaching about butlering hints and tips and do’s and don’t’s. ‘A butler should be eager to serve.’ ‘A butler should display good breeding.’” Blaise’s voice rose as he continued. “‘A butler should always greet his employer with the proper respect.’ ‘A butler shouldn’t question any requests.’ I want to yell Shut up!”
“Please, Blaise, you’re giving me a headache.”
“And I hate it when you go on dates with other guys.”
“Don’t get me started,” Georgette protested. “You think I like it, going out with those losers to see if they have anything worth stealing? And if I didn’t accept any dates, Lydia wouldn’t keep on inviting me to her parties. That was the only way I got to sneak over and see Nat. I should have hit him over the head and taken the diamonds the first time I saw them instead of planning to replace them with fakes.”
“Don’t even joke about hitting him over the head. It looks like someone did.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I was there. When I heard the back door open, I nearly died. I ran out of there as fast as I could. And you have the nerve to ask me why I didn’t grab his dead wife’s jewelry.”
“You could be charged with murder.”
“Blaise! Stop it! I didn’t do anything to hurt him.”
“We’ve got to get back in that apartment and look for the diamonds. They must be in there.”
“Well, I can’t go back there until tomorrow night-for the club party. Lydia ’s next soir'ee isn’t till next week. You take the key. If you can get in there today, do it!” Georgette stood up and put her arms around her lover.
“You smell good,” he said as he buried his face in her neck.
Georgette stroked the back of his neck. “We’ll get those diamonds, you’ll graduate, and then we’ll go on a nice vacation.”
Blaise laughed. “Where I won’t have to polish the silver.”
“No, honey, your job is to steal the silver.”
They embraced, and then Georgette watched as Blaise put on his coat and gloves and headed out the door to butler school.