She exhaled a short breath, shaking her head as she looked at the pieces now, with the knowledge that Reginald Crowe had been no mere human with a taste for fine things and the deep pockets to go along with it. As an Atlantean—an ageless otherworlder—he would have been amassing his wealth and treasure for centuries. If not longer.
He must have thought he was invincible. For a while, he had been. But the Order had thwarted him before he’d had the chance to unleash his worst.
Now, the Order needed to stop the rest of his Opus Nostrum associates.
Carys’s curiosity was piqued as she studied Crowe’s private collection of art more closely. Something was different here. The inventory codes on the placards of each painting had been modified since she had seen them a couple of months ago. That was . . . odd.
Carys opened her tablet and brought up the museum’s donor database. Her security access level to that kind of data was limited, but she’d once been in a meeting with Jordana and the MFA’s chief curator as they’d reviewed another private collection. It took only a moment’s focus to recall the tap pattern of the curator’s access ID and password.
With no one to see her now, Carys entered the credentials and watched as the database opened for her. She scanned in the inventory code from one of Crowe’s paintings—a rare little Renoir. The catalogue record was locked, but the date on it had been recently updated.
She tried another code. Another locked record, also updated recently.
The dates on those two records—and on every one of the half-dozen catalogued pieces she now pulled up—had all been modified. The date stamp read two weeks ago.
Immediately after Crowe had been slain by the Order.
Footsteps echoed in the gallery promenade. Carys’s head snapped up at the intrusion. Her instincts automatically stirred the shadows around her, but she held her ability at bay. She gave the strolling security guard a pleasant smile as he poked his head into the exhibit gallery.
“Working late tonight, Ms. Chase?”
“Not too much longer.” She held her tablet close to her chest. “Just a few more things to wrap up, then I’ll be heading out.”
The uniformed human nodded, returning her easy smile. “You have a pleasant evening. If you need anything before you head out, just let me know.”
“Okay, I sure will. Goodnight, Frank.”
After his steps faded down the other end of the museum floor, Carys casually left the Crowe collection and returned to her office. She shut the door and locked it behind her.
Seated at her desk, she went back to the catalogue records on her tablet. There had to be a way to find out why those items had been modified. There had to be a crack somewhere.
It took a couple of hours, but she kept digging, utterly absorbed in her search for answers. She scoured the item entries for every priceless painting, sculpture and artifact on record that belonged to Reginald Crowe.
With no luck at all.
Not until she realized there was another item she recalled was on loan from the billionaire that wasn’t among those on active exhibit. There was a piece missing from the count. On a hunch, Carys tapped over to the restoration catalogue and found the very crack she’d been looking for.
One of Crowe’s paintings had been flagged for conservation maintenance several weeks ago. It was still out of circulation, and not part of the locked-access catalogue.
Carys brought the painting up on her tablet and immediately noted the same date of modification recorded on the piece. The change to the catalogue record referred to a transfer of ownership. No doubt, she’d find the same notation on all of the other, locked records as well.
The new registered owner of Reginald Crowe’s entire collection was a private trust, not his widow or any of his five ex-wives.
What the hell was going on?
Either someone was looking out for Crowe’s interests, or had stealthily moved in to claim some of his most valuable assets for their own.
Excitement zinging through her veins, Carys called her father’s private number in the command center. He picked up immediately. “Is everything okay? Tell me where you are.”
After being home again last night, hearing the concern in his deep voice now didn’t annoy her in the least. Just the opposite, in fact. “I’m fine, Daddy. I’m at the museum.”
“So late?” Still a note of caution in his tone. “It’s going on midnight.”
“Is it? I didn’t realize how long I’d been here.” The time had sped by in the thrill of her pursuit of information. Shit. She’d planned to be at La Notte by now to watch Rune’s match. If she didn’t leave soon, she was going to miss the first few rounds. “I ran across something interesting here tonight. Does the name Hayden Ivers mean anything to you?”
“No. Why, should it? What’s this about, Carys?”
“I’m not sure, but that’s the name of the manager on a private trust that controls Reginald Crowe’s art collection on loan to the MFA. A trust that just assumed ownership the day after Crowe was killed. Do you think this person could be useful to the Order?”
Her father blew out a curse. “I think it’s a damn good start. Seeing as how we’ve turned every other lead inside out and come up empty on Crowe, this could be our best break yet. Excellent work, Carys.”
At his praise, she couldn’t hold back her smile. “I hope so. I saw something strange on some of the catalogue references for Crowe’s art down here, and I decided to dig a little deeper.”
“Excellent work, Carys. I want to hear all about it. Lucan will be pleased to hear this too. Why don’t you head home now, and you can be the one to relay the intel to him personally when we call headquarters with the information?”
She bit her lip, hating that she had to disappoint him. “I’m, uh . . . I’m actually just on my way out for a while . . .”
He kept his answering grumble low, as if it took some effort for him not to demand she report to the Darkhaven because he said so. Instead he cleared his throat. “Very well. I’ll bring this to Lucan now, and we can talk some more tomorrow, then.”
“Okay. Goodnight, Daddy.”
He grunted. “I suppose one of these nights I’m going to have to meet this fighter of yours.”
“I’d like that,” she said. “And his name is Rune.”
Another grunt. “What kind of name is that, anyway?”
Carys smiled. “I’ll see you when I get home.”
She ended the call, then closed up her equipment and office and raced out of the museum to head for La Notte. Rune would already be in the cage, but she’d only miss the first couple of rounds.
Except when she got to the red-brick, former church that housed the underground club, instead of hearing the pulsing throb of music the place was quiet. Instead of seeing excited crowds bursting at the seams of the building and spilling out onto the street, people were leaving. Most didn’t look happy about it.
Carys wove her way through the thinning streams of exiting patrons at street level, then headed to the arena below. Only a handful of stragglers remained in the cavernous space, and even those were focused on making their way out.
The cage was empty too. And through the dark of the arena, she spotted Rune crouched in front of a sobbing blond woman seated on one of the couches in the lounge. He glanced Carys’s way as she came inside, a brief but intense look to say he knew she was there and that his business with the other woman was just that.
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