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51

Fleeced

Tea, Miss Regan? Maldwin asked as he ushered her into Lydias living room, where Daphne, Lydia, and Thomas were enjoying their second cup. It was now three-thirty in the morning.

Thank you, Maldwin, she said as she sat down on a love seat next to Daphne.

Well, whats going on over there now? Daphne asked.

The police are finished. They dusted for fingerprints and secured the apartment. Theyre locking the front door with a special padlock. Thomas, weve got to get the old locks changed first thing in the morning.

Of course, Regan. Do you want to stay in my apartment tonight?

Oh Id offer, but my apartment is a mess, Daphne jumped in. Getting ready to do the movie was so hectic. Theres stuff thrown all over

You must stay here! Lydia insisted. Theres a maids room off the kitchen with a pull-out Castro convertible couch. Its safe, secure, and all yours.

Maybe Ill take you up on that, Regan said. Shed slept on many a Bernadette Castro special in her day.

The room is rather small, so I didnt want Maldwin to have to live in it, Lydia explained. But its perfect for your purposes.

Thomas had filled the others in on the break-in at Bens. Of course, he had sugar-coated Janeys little drop-by. She hates to see things go to waste, he had explained.

Regan, with all thats been happening, maybe we should have more security around here, Daphne suggested.

We cant have armed guards walking the hallways, Lydia answered. This is supposed to be a place of refinement.

You cant be refined when youre dead, Daphne shot back.

We cant afford it, Daphne, Thomas cried. Unless a miracle happens and we get those diamonds, or if the cast of Ben-Hur decides to join the Settlers Club, Im afraid were in deep, deep trouble. We just may have to close down.

My dating service! Lydia moaned.

My butler school! Maldwin choked.

What about me? Thomas asked. This is more than a job to me. It was my dream to bring this club back to life. Make it a vibrant place for gracious living and art appreciation. I even imagined wed have a five-year waiting list for people to get in!

Five years is what it would take for me to find another decent apartment in New York City, Daphne commented, her voice rising. I like it here and I want to stay. The SettlersClub has been my whole life for the past twenty years

Listen, everybody, Regan interrupted. Theres no sense in arguing. We all want the same thing. I suggest that we join forces and go all out to try and make it a fabulous party tomorrow night. Its the clubs one hundredth anniversary. Stanleys coming with his television camera, right?

Lydia nodded. Hell be so mad he missed all this excitement.

Well, we dont want this in his piece, Thomas pointed out. We only want the good stuff about the club.

Ill ask my parents to come, Regan said. My mothers running a crime convention, and maybe she can get some of her author friends to drop by.

Thomas bit on his handkerchief. Good idea, Regan.

We have to put on a good show. In the meantime, Ill be working with the police. Whoever broke into Nats apartment tonight has to be stopped. They may be very dangerous. So keep your doors locked.

What a day. Daphne sighed. Although for me, it wasnt all bad.

Thomas stood. Dont forget. We want those sheep back for the party. Maybe theyll be our good-luck charms.


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