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13

Fleeced

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.

Im sorry! she blurted.

I didnt say anything, he growled.

On display in front of them were the four glass stones that Nat had removed from Dolly and Bah-Bahs eye sockets.

I cant 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. Im 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. Georgettes 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 whod been together for six years, ripping people off all over the country. Im 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 didnt exactly ring my bell. And now hes dead and Ive got nothing to show for it.

Blaise stood up. Look at this dingy dump. We havent had a score in so long its pathetic. You should have taken some of his wifes 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 Id have to grab them? If I had, Id have carried a bigger purse, Ill 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, thats going to come in handy. Youll have access to all those grand homes that are just aching to be robbed.

I cant take all the pressure. And I cant stand any more of Maldwin Feckless endless preaching about butlering hints and tips and dos and donts. A butler should be eager to serve. A butler should display good breeding. Blaises voice rose as he continued. A butler should always greet his employer with the proper respect. A butler shouldnt question any requests. I want to yell Shut up!

Please, Blaise, youre giving me a headache.

And I hate it when you go on dates with other guys.

Dont 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 didnt accept any dates, Lydia wouldnt 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.

Dont even joke about hitting him over the head. It looks like someone did.

You dont 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 didnt grab his dead wifes jewelry.

You could be charged with murder.

Blaise! Stop it! I didnt do anything to hurt him.

Weve got to get back in that apartment and look for the diamonds. They must be in there.

Well, I cant go back there until tomorrow night-for the club party. Lydia s next soir'ee isnt 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. Well get those diamonds, youll graduate, and then well go on a nice vacation.

Blaise laughed. Where I wont 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.


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