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48

Fleeced

When a thud sounded from Nats living room, Regan awoke with a start. Her heart began beating rapidly. What was that? she wondered as she sat up and listened. Everything was still. The illuminated clock next to the bed read 2:11.

Regan slipped out of bed, grabbed her robe, slowly walked to the closed door, and cocked her head. She could hear the floorboards creaking. Oh my God, she thought. Theres someone out there! Then the sound of muffled whispers made her realize that there was more than one person.

Regans heart was pounding in her chest. Two people at least, and I dont have anything to protect myself with, she thought. And last night someone was murdered in this apartment. I cant go out there. Who knows what Ill find? She reached over to lock the bedroom door. But her fingers met with a smooth surface. There was no lock. Oh my God. Ive got to get help. Ive got to get help or I could end up like Nat.

She crept back to the bed, where she had her cell phone plugged in to the wall. Grabbing it with shaky hands, she dialed 911. Im at the Settlers Club in Gramercy Park, she whispered. There are intruders in the apartment. There was a burglary here last night.

What is the address? the operator asked matter-of-factly, as if she were taking an order for the local deli.

Its on the park in Gramercy Park. Twenty-first Street.

You dont have the exact address?

No. There may have been a murder here last night As Regan said the last five words, the bedroom door opened. There was a gasp, the door slammed, and Regan heard feet running down the hall.

Please-the Settlers Club-look it up, Regan pleaded. She dropped the phone and ran out into the hall. She heard the back door shut and raced toward the kitchen. By now her heart was in her mouth. If I can only get a glimpse of them, she thought as she ran through the darkness. In the kitchen, she flicked on the light, then yanked open the door. There was no sign of anyone, but she could hear footsteps descending the back stairway.

Running back into the kitchen and down the hallway, Regan picked up the house phone. A sleepy-sounding voice answered.

Hello.

This is Regan Reilly. Im staying in Nat Pemrods apartment. It was just broken into, but the intruders got scared off. Theyre running down the steps by the service elevator.

Oh my goodness.

Well, do something! Regan cried.

They must have gone out the back door.

The back door? Regan said in disgust.

Its only used for emergencies.

Regan shook her head. I guess this qualifies. The police should be here in a few minutes.

Ill send them up, maam.

Thank you. Regan hung up the phone and went around turning on lights. The living room had been ransacked. I must have been sleeping the sleep of the dead, she thought.

Books and pictures were all over the floor, and Nats desk was torn apart. I guess my room was next. She shuddered. What if I hadnt woken up until it was too late? If Id have gotten away with only a Mace attack like Janey, I would have been lucky.

Id better let Thomas know. She went back to the house phone and called downstairs.

Could you please call Thomas for me? Regan asked.

I already did. I was just about to ring you. The police are on their way up.

Thomas was getting off the elevator as Regan opened the door. He had on a crisp linen robe and leather slippers that certainly suggested gracious living. The police were right behind him, their radios squawking.

Regan! Thomas cried as he entered Nats apartment, and for the second time in less than six hours, hugged someone involved in a crime scene.

It could have been a lot worse, Regan assured him. But I dont think they expected to find me in the guest room.

The two cops introduced themselves to Regan. We were here last night, Officer Angelo said. He turned to Thomas. Howre you feeling?

Better, thank you, Thomas said as he and Regan followed them into the living room. I appreciate your asking.

They ran out the back door. Regan explained to the officers what had happened.

No sign of forced entry? Officer Angelo asked.

None that I see, Regan answered.

Just like last night.

What happened? Lydia cried, rushing across the hall with Maldwin right behind. They were both clad in their pjs and robes. Lydias getup, of course, was worthy of a Las Vegas lounge act.

Miss Lydia woke me when she heard noises in the hallway, Maldwin volunteered.

Hellooooo. It was now Daphnes turn to make an entrance. I just got back from my movie shoot and heard at the front desk that there was some excitement up here. She looked at the mess all over the living room. When will it end?

And she doesnt even know what happened at Bens, Regan thought.

Since Daphnes question was rhetorical, no one answered. But Maldwin felt the need to say something.

Perhaps I should prepare some tea for all of us.

Not in here, one of the cops advised. This is a crime scene.

I had no intention of preparing it here, sir, Maldwin replied stiffly. My kitchen and special teapots are across the hall.

Thats a wonderful idea, Lydia said. Do you need any help?

Not at all, Maldwin said. Whenever youre ready, come over.

The sight of him, bowing in his robe before he exited, almost made Regan laugh.

Did you bring the sheep back? Thomas brusquely asked Daphne.

Youll never guess Daphne began.

I guess that means no.

My acting career has just received a renewed blast.

Is Bah-Bah your new agent? Thomas inquired.

I resent that. But the sheep are starring in the movie too. We have more scenes to film tomorrow, so the sheep are spending the night at the directors apartment.

I want them back for the party, Thomas warned.

Theyll be back.

Promise?

Promise.

Why dont you all go across the hall? Regan suggested. Ill be there soon. I want to talk to these officers for a few minutes.

I could use a cup of tea, Daphne said.

After the group exited, Officer Angelo turned to Regan. Whoever did this is pretty determined. I dont think you should stay in here tonight.

I dont want to.

What will you do?

Im sure one of them has a room I can crash in, Regan said as she pointed across the hall.

Angelo smiled at her. Lucky you.


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