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69

Fleeced

You may take a lunch break now, Maldwin announced to his little group of four.

Thank you! Harriet said cheerfully. Can I bring anyone a sandwich from the deli?

No, said Albert.

Nah, echoed Vinnie.

Im not very hungry, Blaise said as politely as he could. He felt like wringing Harriets neck. She was like the kid in school who always reminded the teacher to give homework assignments.

Okay, Harriet said, wrinkling her little pug nose. Maldwin, Ill come back in a few minutes and do any extra work that might need doing around the apartment.

Take the whole hour off, Maldwin urged her. Do me a favor, he thought. Do us all a favor.

Vinnie whispered to Albert, Lets go get a beer. This is going to be a long day.

Good thinking.

Blaise went over to Maldwin. Do you think I could have the key to the park? I just want to sit outside.

Its cold, Maldwin sniffed.

Blaise smiled. I have a hat.

Maldwin shrugged. Why not? He went into the kitchen and retrieved the key that was only given to residents of Gramercy Park. The lock was changed every year, and residents had to pay to get a new key. On a cold day like today thered hardly be anyone there, so who could complain about a nonresident using the park? Enjoy the fresh air, he said, handing the key to Blaise.

Outside, Blaise went directly to the park and unlocked the gate. He was getting that feeling of claustrophobia he always experienced when things started closing in on him. It was cold and gray, but he needed to be outside. I want to go back to Florida, he thought, reaching in his coat pocket and pulling out the stretchy wool hat that he used when he went skiing. He looked around as he pulled it down over his hair. No one else was in the park.

He took a seat on the first bench and reached again into his pocket, this time for his cell phone. Flipping it open, he saw that he had a message. Probably Georgette with a new complaint, he thought. He pressed in his code, and when he heard her news he jumped up out of his seat. Frantically he started pacing as he dialed her cell number. Where are they? he screamed when she answered.

In the sheeps eyes!

What are you talking about?

Well, I was sitting here with Buttercup, feeling kind of sorry for myself, and then I leaned back and-

Get to the point!

The point is that those two stuffed sheep Nat has in his living room are where the diamonds are. These glass stones were in their eyes. He must have switched them.

What a nut case.

Dont I know it.

Wait a minute. Where in his living room are the sheep?

Right in front of the window.

No theyre not.

Yes they are.

No theyre not, my little Buttercup, Blaise repeated sarcastically. They were absolutely not there last night.

Well then, where are they?

How am I supposed to know?

Georgette started to cry. I feel like Little Bo Peep.

Blaise sat back down on the bench. Yeah, well, her sheep werent worth millions.

That remark made Georgette really sob.

Listen, Blaise said in a comforting tone. Ill go back in there and do my best to find out where they went. He didnt need Georgette falling apart. Now dry your eyes and get dressed up for tonight. Because when we leave the party, something tells me well be walking out of there millionaires. Youd better stick the gun in your purse.

Okay, Georgette said, nervously. I guess we might need it.

Well need it if anybody tries to stop us. When he hung up, Blaise rolled his eyes. Little Bo Peep, he said aloud.

He didnt know that Stanley had just walked up to the gate and was filming him.


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