2. A Genuine Artifact

Madison, Wisconsin – June 12th, 2004

“Hello, you’ve reached Grad Central Station. We’re all out working very hard on our theses right now, honest. No, stop giggling, it’s TRUE! We really are!  Leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we come up for air and ramen.  Hopefully soon, but you know how it is. You know the drill….”

“Good grief—“  Diane Webster hit the pause button on the answering machine and gave her roommate her patented over-the-glasses Are you shitting me?  Look, though she still found it hard to totally suppress her smile.  “You were drunk when you recorded this, Lisa, don’t try to deny it.  Come on, shouldn’t our message be a bit more, I don’t know, professional?”

“You’re welcome to record the next one if you want,” Lisa said loftily.  “Go on, listen to the message.  Maybe someone wants to ask you out—someone with a sexy British accent.”

“Yeah, right,” Diane replied.  “He’s my boss, he’s not allowed to ask me out.  Okay, hush, let me hear it.”

She pushed play again.  The voice that emerged was male, a pleasant light baritone, and did indeed have a distinct British accent that could have come straight out of Masterpiece Theater.

“Oh, I’m supposed to talk now, aren’t I?  Right.  Well. This is for Diane, of course.  I was just wondering if you and Thomas would like to take a closer hands-on look at the new pieces I’ve acquired from the Drayer Foundation. They just arrived today, and I’m uncrating them this evening.  Come by the office around… let’s say, ten? Give me a call when you arrive and I’ll come down and let you into the building.  Well. Hope that’s sufficient enticement to lure  you out on  a Saturday night.  Hope to see you soon, then….”

“See?”  Lisa grinned.  “What did I tell you?  Nothing like a late night secret rendezvous over ancient Egyptian artifacts—so romantic.”

“Stop it,” Diane let a bit of annoyance show in her tone—the joke was getting a bit old now, and Lisa really did know better.  “Besides, if TJ is there, and he will be there if he gets the same message, this is going to be work. What time is it—ten-thirty?  Oh, shit, I’d better get a move on—“

“What—going in to work now? Can’t this wait until, you know, Monday?” Lisa asked.  “Or at least normal working hours?  Are you crazy?”

“No, I’m an archaeologist,” Diane said, scooping up her car keys and cell phone.  “Besides, if he did get some pieces from Drayer, no way am I gonna let TJ hog all the fun.”

“You have a really weird idea of fun.”

“Oh, like I’ve never been told that before,” Diane said, grinning. “I’ll see you tomorrow, don’t wait up—“

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1. Luck Swings Both Ways

Chicago, Illinois – June 7th, 2004

It was a stroke of luck, or so Charles Edward Hewitt liked to think of it later, that he even found out about the estate sale.  He’d known the deceased, of course. Mr. Alfred Drayer had been somewhat of a collector, starting with pieces his father, the General, had rescued from a Nazi hoard back in ‘45, and over the years the historical foundation the family had founded to handle the growing art and antiquities collection had occasionally called on Dr. Hewitt’s services as an appraiser and authenticator.  That such appraisals only took place after dark, never during the morning or afternoon, was not something Mr. Drayer ever thought to question.

By the same measure, the Foundation’s secretary did not question a kind request from Dr. Hewitt to review the list of artifacts now being offered for public auction from the collection.

The catalog listing for the sale had already been published, but it only took minor persuasion from Dr. Hewitt to convince Mr. Drayer’s secretary and estate executor to allow him (in light of their long-established business relationship and personal friendship, of course) to privately purchase a few of the less valuable artifacts two nights before the auction was scheduled to be held.

And so it then followed that when certain other less well-connected but very determined parties broke into the auction house’s secure storage facility, looking for certain artifacts listed in that catalog, they were not at all pleased to find the items they were most interested in acquiring (without proper compensation, naturally)  had apparently already been sold. And due to the Foundation’s secretary having taken the paperwork home with him, there were no records as to who had even purchased the items in question.

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