“That’s why Cutter was holding it, surely,” Avery told Kelsey. He patted her hand.
Kelsey was staring at Jaden, and Jaden looked as if she were about to burst. But she held silent as a waitress came to take their drink order and ask about appetizers.
Kelsey looked at them all and then at the waitress, asking if they could give her the entire order. It was obvious Kelsey was trying to be polite but was far too anxious for many interruptions.
Their puzzled waitress agreed and discreetly moved on.
“Jaden, spit it out!” Kelsey begged. “What else are you trying to say? Cutter was using it in some kind of a spell against evil? That’s why he held the book, too, In Defense from Dark Magic?”
“We need the next book,” Jaden said. She reached into her bag and pulled out another. It was titled Nazi Treasures Secreted from Germany.
“Okay, so the Nazis stole the relic from the monks?” Kelsey asked.
Jaden nodded. “The relic was at a church in Rouen, in the center of the altar. It was taken—not for holy purposes, but for the gold. The relic was secondary—the gold was what they valued.”
Kelsey sat back, puzzled. “I’m lost. Cutter was sitting in the house, the book, the relic and a shotgun on his lap. We’re assuming he was frightened by something or someone. But if the person who had frightened him so badly was there, wouldn’t he have taken the relic?”
“If there was someone there, he might have tried to take the relic,” Jaden said.
Liam spoke up. “All right, wait. He was dead quite a while before I found him. If someone had been there to steal the relic, that person had plenty of time to take it.”
“Yes. But you haven’t heard the rest.” She flipped open the second book. “Herr Hubert Eichorn. She pointed to the picture of a man in a distinguished pose before a fireplace. “He was never in the German military. He was a ‘consultant.’ He was a consultant on how to most quickly and efficiently kill people—he was a chemist. He had left the bunker long before Hitler’s last days, and he knew he had to get out of Germany. He left the country disguised as a priest—carrying the reliquary.”
“All right, so that’s how it left Germany,” Kelsey said. “I’m still—”
“Ahem!” Jaden said. “Here!” She flipped a page in the book. They saw a picture of a brilliant-cut but unset diamond. It was an old picture, and the caption beneath it announced that it had been taken in 1942. “The reliquary is worth ten to twenty thousand dollars. This diamond—called the Koln diamond, a gift from a prince to his princess at the time of Joan’s death, is worth a million or more.”
“They make diamonds worth that much?” Avery said.
“Perfect clarity, perfect hue…nearly ten carats. A size that fit perfectly into the reliquary,” Jaden said.
Kelsey sat back, staring at her. “Jaden, you’re telling me that this diamond was in the casket?”
Jaden shook her head. “That’s the point. The diamond isn’t in this reliquary.”
“So it was taken?” Liam asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Jaden said.
“And why not?” Kelsey asked.
“Because this reliquary is a fake!” Jaden announced, sitting back, flushed and triumphant.
“What?” Liam, Kelsey and Avery asked simultaneously.
Jaden reached into her bag again, producing a little gold ball. “This is your gold ball, Kelsey, or the gold ball from the reliquary. It’s really perfect. The workmanship is incredible. It’s worth ten to twenty thousand, so it seems that a thief should have taken it. But it’s nothing next to the diamond. I don’t know who made this, or why, but our tests have dated it back to the early twentieth century. So, the thief must have figured out that Cutter didn’t have the real reliquary, and so he left it.”
Kelsey stared at her blankly. “That doesn’t make sense. If you were a thief—why not at least take something that was worth twenty thousand dollars or so?”
“I don’t know that,” Jaden said. She fell silent as their drinks were delivered. “I can only tell you what I discovered. There was no sign of bone or ash in the little gold ball.”
“So what was in it?” Liam asked.
Jaden grimaced and produced her last object from her bag. It was a little swastika on a gold pin. “Worth something, I imagine, even if distasteful,” she said.
“None of it makes any sense,” Kelsey said.
“Actually, it does. It makes perfect sense,” Liam said.
They all looked at him. He didn’t explain right away. “Hey, Jaden, I saw that you and Ted visited the rare-book room at the library recently,” he said, sipping his iced tea.
They both looked at him blankly, and then at each other. “Recently, and always,” Ted said. “How do you think we do research? Online, yes, but we have to look at rare books for the pieces we’re asked to restore. Why?”
“Just think back for a minute, did you ever take out a book called Key West, Satanism, Peter Edwards and the Abel and Aleister Crowley Connection?” Liam asked.
It seemed as if the entire table was looking at him as if he had lost his mind.
“I’ve never even heard of such a book,” Jaden said.
“Someone has. It’s missing from the library,” he said.
“And you’re accusing us—of stealing a book?” Ted asked, sitting back.
“No, I was asking if you happened to have it,” Liam said. He noted that Bartholomew was sitting at an empty table near them, studying the reactions everyone had to his questions and comments.
“I have never taken a rare book from the library, and I don’t even know why I would want the one you’re talking about,” Jaden said. “Nor would I know why you would want it, Liam!”
He didn’t rise to the bait. He leaned back casually himself. “I’m interested in the book because it supposedly has a reference to Cutter’s book, In Defense from Dark Magick,” he said.
“Where did you even hear about it?” Ted asked.
“Oh, some old-timers mentioned it. Apparently, there was a connection to Crowley and his interest in dark arts.”
“Aleister Crowley was in Key West?” Jaden asked, still confused.
“No. A supposed relative. I was just asking because your names were on the list of people who had been in the rare-book room. It wasn’t an accusation,” Liam said.
They both still appeared to be confused. “Well, you had best ask the rest of the people on the list,” Jaden said. “I didn’t take it. And if Ted has slipped it out for any reason—which he wouldn’t have!—he’d tell you straight away.”
“Hey! I didn’t take the book,” Ted protested.
“Of course not, dear,” Jaden said, squeezing his hand.
“Who else was on the list?” Kelsey asked him.
“Mary Egans—” Liam began.
“A high-school teacher,” Jaden said, dismissing the possibility.
Liam shrugged. “Barney Thibault.”
“He’d die before he’d steal a piece of gum!” Ted said.
“I agree,” Liam told him. “Someone named George Penner—I don’t know the name, and neither did the librarian. Jonas—”
“Our Jonas?” Jaden demanded.
“Let him talk, please,” Ted said.
Liam nodded. “Yes, our Jonas. Oh, and Joe Richter.”
“Richter!” Kelsey said.
Liam studied her. “What?”
“I—I’m not sure.” She shook her head and hiked her shoulders. “Richter can’t be guilty of anything. He had free access to Cutter’s place. He was the attorney. He had the only access, really, for a while. I mean, once you reported Cutter dead.”
There was something more there, Liam thought, but he’d ask her later.
“Then there was someone named Bel Arcowley. Do you know him—or her?” he asked.
Ted and Jaden looked at him solemnly, shaking their heads.
“Why is the book so important?” Kelsey asked.
“I don’t know,” Liam said. “I’d just like to find it.”
“You know, I can do a rare-book search for you tomorrow. There has to be a copy somewhere else,” Jaden said.
“I can do a search,” Liam said.
Jaden sniffed. “Bet I can do a better search than you!”
He smiled. “All right, then. Thanks. Do a search for me, will you?”
Their food arrived. The tension that had gone around the table eased somewhat. He worried that he might be ruining a long running and close friendship.
He had no choice.
Kelsey toyed with the blackened grouper on her plate. She stared at him and asked, “So what do you think is going on?”
He wasn’t sure. Maybe it was best to just state his suspicions.
He realized that they were all silent, staring at him, including Avery, who was wide-eyed.
“Oh,” he said, and set down his fork. “I have a theory. The thief—or murderer, as he might be—wanted the reliquary. Cutter knew that it was a fake, and that was why he had the shotgun, though, of course, he never used it. When Cutter was dead, the thief did try to take the reliquary, but discovered it was a fake.”
“Still worth money!” Kelsey reminded him.
“But not compared to the real prize,” Liam said. “I’m not sure who did know about it, but I think that Cutter had the fake—and the original. The thief didn’t take the fake because he was determined to find the original. While Cutter sat there, dead but undiscovered, he had a chance to search the house. But then I came when Cutter didn’t pick up the mail. The thief was probably there when the kids broke into the house—and scared them half to death. He was probably there when Gary White and Chris Vargas broke in as well, and went back to work once I had shooed them out. Looking for anything in that house is like looking for a needle in a haystack. He was neat as he searched about, knowing that he was after the real prize. If he gave himself away, how could he get back in to search? Now, however, we have every window bolted and new locks on the doors. And, of course, Kelsey has a cop sleeping with her, as well.”