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79

Fleeced

At quarter to seven, the Settlers Club was ready for what could be its swan song. Dolly and Bah-Bah were on a gaily decorated platform in the clubs window, the grand anniversary cake with all its tiers and ribbons and sprinkles rising proudly between them. The waiters were in the kitchen putting the final touches on trays of hors doeuvres. Maldwin was going over certain rules of etiquette with his students who were standing around in their formal dress, holding silver trays that would soon be filled with drinks. Classical music played on the stereo system, fake fires licked at fake logs in the fireplaces, and Clara, wearing her short-sleeved floral dress and nice-but-sensible shoes, was on a ladder, fluffing the sheeps coats with a pick comb.

Nat would be so proud of you, she said to them.

Here, let me help.

Clara turned her head and looked down. It was Blaise, one of Maldwins students. Thank you, but no, she said firmly.

Are you sure? he asked.

Dont I look sure? Besides, theres nothing left to do. She turned her back on him. It was dark outside, and she could see people stopping in front of the window to look at the sheep. Clara waved at them. Hiiiii.

Down the block, Janey came scurrying with shopping bags full of desserts. She had already made one trip back to the club to assemble the pieces of the anniversary cake. By the time she got home and showered and changed, time had slipped away. Now she hurried into the Settlers Club, up the steps and round the bend into the parlor.

Clara! she cried. The sheep look great up there. I have two of their eyes that fell out! I forgot to put them back in.

Clara had just come down the ladder.

Let me stick them back in! Blaise offered.

Why dont you help her with her bags? Maldwin demanded.

Janey reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the two stones that had been retrieved from the floor of Jacques Harlows loft. Id like to do it, she said as she handed the shopping bags to Blaise. Here are the rest of the cakes and pies and cookies. Take them back to the kitchen, please.

Blaise trembled at the sight of the diamonds in Janeys hand. She darted over to the ladder and climbed up the steps. Wheres Thomas? she asked Clara.

Here I am, darling, Thomas announced from the doorway. Let me help you with that.

No, Ill do it myself. Dolly and Bah-Bah each lost an eye when they were away from home. Janey looked at the sheep. But we found them, didnt we? She reached over and stuck one of the stones in Dollys left eye socket and the other in Bah-Bahs right eye socket. Much better now!

Everything looks just perfect! Clara declared. Now were ready to party.


| Fleeced | c