Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One.
They were met at Denver International Airport by Andrew Tanner of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. With him was Captain Matthew Weaver, of the Denver Police Department. The two men were clearly surprised to see two women on the FBI team.
Tanner nodded at Alex, handing back her identification. He looked at Teren's, then gazed up at her.
"Says here you're CIA."
"That's correct. Currently I'm on loan to the Bureau." Teren stared at him. " Is that a problem, Mr. Tanner."
"That's Agent Tanner, ma'am, and no. If these folks think you can help, I have no problem with that."
Captain Weaver didn't seem to agree with him, but he said nothing. He shook David's hand firmly, and offered a lighter handshake to Alex. He was going to do the same to Teren, but the former spy gripped his hand firmly, displaying her strength. Weaver raised an eyebrow but returned the pressure.
"We got you folks rooms at the Hilton Airport. It's close to DIA but pretty far from the crime scene and all. Hope that's alright."
"Thank you, Captain, I'm sure that will be fine."
"Do you folks need to go to baggage claim?"
"No, we didn't check anything. Unless something else happens we're to be on a plane back to Washington late tomorrow night."
"Alright then, we've got a van waiting for us out front. If you'll follow me?"
Alex took the lead with the two Colorado men on either side of her. Teren and David followed. "Agent Tanner, I believe you have a file for me?"
"It's in the car, ma'am."
Alex smiled at Tanner. " Please, call me Alex. Ma'am makes me feel older than David is." She pointed her thumb over her shoulder at him. David gave a mock glare to his partner.
Everyone chuckled and Tanner gave her a grin. " Okay, Alex. I'm Andrew."
"Good. Now, what can you tell us? Is Seffren still alive?"
"Yes, and it looks like she's going to make it just fine. Unfortunately, one of her friends was killed in the attack."
"You mean the shooter missed Seffren and hit someone else?" Alex frowned. " Doesn't sound like the kind of thing a professional would do." She glanced back at Teren.
Teren knew what Alex was asking, and she shrugged. " Everyone misses sometime, Alex."
The frown stayed, but Alex nodded her head. " And the shooter? He's in custody at the hospital?"
Agent Tanner looked over at Captain Weaver, who cleared his throat before speaking.
"Uh, well, Agent Reis, it seems somebody messed up. Somehow, the guy got ahold of a cyanide capsule. By the time anyone got to him, it was too late."
"The guy killed himself?"
"That's right, Agent Reis."
Alex didn't speak again until they reached the car. The she turned and gazed at Weaver. "Captain, did you search him while he was in the hospital?"
"Yes, of course we did."
"And yet he managed to somehow keep you from finding a cyanide capsule."
"No, Agent Reis. He was thoroughly searched. Before and after his surgery. And no, we could't have missed it." Weaver glared back at Alex.
"Then, Captain Weaver, someone slipped it to him. I want a record of any and all personnel, from your staff or the hospital's, that went in and out of his room."
"Are you saying one of my men gave it to him?"
"I don't know, Captain, did anyone other than your men go into his room?"
"Then no, I'm not accusing your men. But someone gave him that capsule, Captain, and I want to know who."
Weaver blinked at her, still staring after her when Alex climbed into the backseat of the van. He walked around to the driver's door, muttering.
Teren looked at David. " Is she always that aggressive?"
David nodded. Teren smiled.
"Cool." She climbed into the very back seat, leaving David the spot beside his fuming partner.
Alex let her body sink into the chair by the table in her room. She took a long swallow from the glass of wine that she'd ordered with dinner, and let her head drop against the back of the armchair. It wasn't, she thought, that she hated flying. It was the jetlag she could do without. By Colorado time, it was just before eleven at night. In DC it was nearly one in the morning. Alex tried not to think about it.
She looked around her room, both happy and disappointed that Teren had chosen not to stay in her room. Alex had told her that she was welcome to share, but the tall figure had simply given her a smile and replied, " That's not a good idea, Alex. I'm a light sleeper, and if you even rolled over in your sleep, I'd be drawing my gun."
Alex had decided Teren was right. It would be better for each of them to have their own room.
Finished with her dinner, Alex pushed the tray off to the side, and reached for the file Andrew Tanner had given her.
The first page was a report on the shooting, detailing the events. As Cliff had told them, the shooter had been on a nearby roof, and had fired four shots into the small group among which Ann Seffren had been standing. Then he had retreated into the building, fleeing down a back stairway. His car was outside waiting, though there was no driver. He had come out of the back door, only to run into the middle of a drug bust. The police, seeing the rifle in his hands, had fired, thinking they were under attack.
A couple of things puzzled Alex. One, never before had anyone else been hit by the bullets of the assassin. And two, this guy was acting completely alone. There had been no getaway vehicle, and no one to warn him that he was about to walk into the arms of the cops.
While she agreed with Teren that even a professional might miss once in a while, this didn't sound like a simple stray bullet hitting someone rather than the intended victim. Out of the four shots, only one had hit Seffren, and that had been in the shoulder. Another bullet hit the woman standing to Seffren's right, killing her instantly. A third bullet lodged in the leg of a bystander, and the fourth had hit the ground close to where the women had been standing. In Alex's mind, this was far from a professional hit.
When she turned the page, she found she was right. The shooter had been a man by the name of Keith Halloran. He lived in Colorado Springs, and worked at a digital communications company on the north side of the city. He was new to the city, however, having moved there several months ago from Philadelphia, when he was transferred to the Micon Digital, which had been newly acquired by Atlantic Properties. Before his transfer, he had worked at East Penn Telecom, where his supervisor had been one Kyle Brogan.
"Gee, Kyle, you sure get around a lot." She noted the connections on her pad, reminding herself to send a fax to Ken. This would be another item to add to their list of questions when he and Rick confronted Brogan.
The gun, she noted, was of the same type used in Baltimore, a Colt Carbine, semi-automatic. She looked closely at the serial number, realizing she'd seen it before. Pulling her laptop closer to her, she called up the files on the case, and opened the one containing all the information on the Baltimore killing. The serial number of the rifle in Colorado was different from the number on the Baltimore rifle by only two numbers. When she checked it against the list of stolen rifles, she was pleased to find it was indeed listed as having been stolen by Darryl Wilford.
Grinning, she made another note to have Ben show Halloran's picture to Ricky Wilford. She had a feeling Halloran was one of Darryl's buddies.
The question was, she decided, what was he doing in Denver? Did he have orders from Brogan to shoot Seffren? Or did he just decide to do it on his own? She frowned as she thought of that, but had to admit it was possible. After all, coincidences did happen.
But somehow, she doubted it.
Realizing she wasn't going to get much else done tonight, Alex put the file back on the table, and stood up. She stretched as she headed for the bathroom. A bed, she decided, was a good thing, and she would crawl into it as soon as she brushed her teeth and changed.
Once again, David showed up at Alex's door with breakfast, only to find her still mostly asleep. This time she'd managed to get a shower before he arrived, but one look at her eyes told David she was lucky she hadn't drowned. She dropped down into the chair, picked up her fork and started to eat in absolute silence.
She hadn't even noticed that Teren was right behind David.
Teren looked over at David in confusion. " What's with the zombie?"
"She's always like that in the morning. We have a deal; I bring food to help her wake up, and she doesn't say a word 'til she does."
Alex raised her head and glared. " Cause I'm a bitch in the morning. Pass the jelly."
David grinned and slid a small pack of strawberry jelly over to his partner. Teren shook her head, hiding her own smile.
She watched Alex closely as she ate her plate of eggs and hashbrowns. There were no wasted movements, she noticed, no hesitation, and no time to savor any of the flavors that might have accompanied the food. This was simply nourishment for Alex, nothing more. Teren was amazed at the difference between the sleepy eyed eating machine in front of her, and the pleasant and cheerful dinner companion of two nights before.
David noticed that Alex was beginning to wake up, and he leaned back in his chair waiting for the characteristic slam of the cup that meant Alex was finally alert. When it came, he winked at Teren and nodded.
"The beast is awake. Good morning, Alex."
"Good morning. Are you ready for some interesting news?"
"You can't tell me you already have something. You only woke up a minute ago."
"It's from last night, David. It was in the file that Tanner gave me, though he didn't know that it was important."
Teren leaned forward. " Care to share?"
"And good morning to you too, Teren. Yeah. The killer's name was Keith Halloran, and he's from Colorado Springs, which I understand is about an hour south of here."
"Of course, Mr. Halloran hasn't lived here very long. He moved to Colorado about three months ago, when Atlantic Properties acquired a new communications company. Before that, he was living in Philadelphia, and working at East Penn."
David shook his head. " That couldn't be a coincidence."
"I didn't think so either." She put her plate back on the room service tray and picked up the folder. " His supervisor at East Penn was a Mr. Brogan."
"Nope. Plus, there's something else. The rifle Halloran used is another one of the five that was stolen from Riley's in Baltimore."
"That means he knew Wilford."
"Right." Alex leaned back. "So, we now know for sure that this has to be connected to the other murders. The question is, who hired him?"
"And who killed him," Teren added.
"And who killed him. Anybody want to go talk to the hospital crew?"
David nodded. " I'm game."
"No, I have a couple other things to do. I'll give you the number to my cell phone. Make sure you give me a call before you head for Colorado Springs; I'd really like to join you."
David looked at her, confused. " Why would we be going there?"
"Well, that's where you'll have to go if you want to check his house, right?"
Alex nodded. " Okay. This is how the day looks to me. First, we've got about ten or twenty minutes before Tanner knocks on the door. We'll have to wait for him since he appears to be our driver for the duration. Then, we'll meet with him and Weaver at the hospital, and go over the personnel there. I especially want to know if any of them are from the Philadelphia area."
"Good idea," David agreed.
"Then lunch, and we head south." She looked at Teren. " Since you've indicated you won't be joining us this morning, any idea where you will be?"
"I plan on visiting a couple of people I know. They keep track of hate groups in the area, and I was wondering if they'd had Mr. Halloran on their radar screen."
Alex nodded. " How will you get around?"
Teren shrugged. " I'll manage."
There was a knock at the door, and David went to answer it. Alex took that moment to lean forward across the table and fix her gaze on the woman facing her.
"Just remember, Teren, you're part of a team. No maverick stuff, okay?"
Teren gave her a grin and a mock salute. " Yes, sir."
Alex laughed and shook her head. She looked up to see Andrew Tanner behind David. " Andrew, you didn't know it, but the information in the file you gave me connected your shooter to the killings back east. In fact, I've already faxed parts of it back to Washington, and to Philadelphia. I'm hoping it will help us lock the door on one of our suspects."
David looked shocked. " When did you do the fax? Last night?"
"Actually, this morning. I wasn't fully awake, so I didn't put any message to it, but the papers went to Cliff and Ken." She grinned. " I thought he could use one more little fact to help put the pressure on Mr. Brogan."
Tanner grinned. " I'm glad I could help. Where do we go from here?"
"Well, the hospital. I expect Captain Weaver will be joining us?"
"Yep. He said he'd be there first thing, with a list of personnel and visitors."
Alex had been placing the last few items in her briefcase, but she suddenly stopped. She turned to Tanner with disbelief on her face.
"Visitors? You mean he allowed his suspect to receive visitors?"
Tanner frowned. " I don't think he meant it the same way you do. He means like a lawyer. No way did he get to see friends or anything like that."
Alex sighed and shook her head. " And did he think to search the lawyer?"
The frown deepened. " I don't know. It happened before we came on the case so I wouldn't be able to tell you."
She shook her head. " Well, let's get down there." She rubbed a hand across the back of her neck. " Hope to hell they have a coke machine."
They did have a Coke machine, and Alex gratefully took the first few swallows from the can. That was enough to shake the final cobwebs out, and she felt ready to face Matthew Weaver.
Who was fast approaching, with a clipboard, and a very big frown.
He stopped in front of Alex, trying to use his six foot height to intimidate her, and thrust the clipboard at her.
"Here. The first sheet has the names of all police personnel who entered the room after the last search was conducted. The next one is the list of hospital staff, and the third is the list of visitors, which numbered a total of three." He jabbed the list at her.
What he completely failed to realize was that Alex didn't really ever become intimidated. Even when Davies was yelling at her in Philadelphia her reaction had been rage, which she carefully clamped down on. She had disliked the man, but never felt intimidated. The only person she could remember being intimidated by, was Teren.
Alex smiled at the police captain. " Good morning to you, too, Captain Weaver. Thank you for meeting us so early in the morning, and being so prompt in filling our request for these lists."
Her smile, and the gentle way she said it, caused confusion to settle on Weaver's face. He had been expecting either anger, or fear, but not the angelic smile she wore.
"Uh, you're welcome."
Alex took hold of the clipboard, and began looking through the names. She waited until he had backed up a step or two, then spoke.
"Yes, Agent Reis?"
"At this point in time, my only concern here is how Keith Halloran might be connected to events on a national level. His death is a matter for the Denver PD." She looked up from the papers. " However, that could change in the blink of an eye. And if I sense less than full cooperation from this department, I will call in enough federal agents to fill every hotel at the airport." Her smile was still in place. " Do I make myself clear, Captain Weaver?"
Weaver nodded, swallowing hard.
"Good. Just remember that we're on the same side, from different angles. You're looking for the killer of a sniper. I'm looking for the leaders of a conspiracy that has taken the lives of at least seven people." She looked back down at the board in her hand. " You remember your manners, and I'll remember mine. We'll both be a lot happier, don't you agree?"
She could see him nodding out of the corner of her eye.
"Okay, then." She flipped the papers back down and looked up at him. " Let's get to work on these lists. I trust you can run an initial check on each individual, correct?"
"Yes, ma'am, we've already started that process. You want the results when we finish?"
"Please. Between then and now, I'd like to talk to as many people as possible. David is checking the room, and talking to nurses at the desk." She gave a grin to the Captain. " He's very good at getting women to talk to him. Can't imagine why, can you?"
He returned the grin, surprising both of them. He was thinking that she wasn't at all what he expected a female agent to be.
"Would you like to speak to officers first, or the staff?"
"There're only four officers on the list. Are they all here?"
"I think two of them are here, and the others are either off today, or back at the station. I'll give a call and make sure."
"Great. If you could have them come here, I'd appreciate it. David and I will be heading down to Colorado Springs this afternoon, so it would make it much quicker if we didn't have a lot of stops to make."
"Right. I'll call the station." He pointed down the hall. " See that officer with the mustache, in the jacket? That's Martel. He's on the list, and he probably knows where Simmons is."
"Thank you, Captain."
"No problem, ma'am."
"Don't call me ma'am."
Weaver grinned. " Yes, sir."
Alex tilted her head and grinned back. " That's much better." She headed down the hall to where Officer Martel was standing.
Weaver shook his head. " Never knew a female cop with balls before."
At that moment, Teren was stepping into a bookstore on East Colfax. She noted that it hadn't changed since the last time she was there, three years ago. The stacks of books were everywhere, making it difficult to navigate through the crowded aisles. There was a desk, with more shelves in the front, to the right of the door, and Teren recognized the same round figure and gray hair that she'd known previously.
The old man looked up from his book, then let it drop to the counter in shock. He stood up and edged around the desk, grinning madly.
"Why, you just get yourself over here and give me a hug, young lady. What the hell are you doing here, Teren?"
Teren couldn't help but smile at him, and she let him wrap his arms around her. Then he pulled back and looked at her.
"I heard about Perry. I'm damned sorry, girl."
She lowered her head, but was able to keep the smile. " I know. I was too." She looked at him. " He deserved better."
"He sure did. I'm damn glad you got your ass out of that mess, though." He shook his head. " I swear, if I ever get my hands on Mather, I'll rip his lungs out."
That turned the smile into a grin. " Somebody beat you to it, Carl."
He looked at her. " Yeah? Who? You?"
"I wish. Nah, somebody blew him up in a car." Teren put a hand on the old man's shoulder. " That's part of the reason I'm here. Mather was tied to a lot of bad people. And those people just might have been the ones behind the Seffren shooting."
Carl's eyes went wide. " No shit? Damn. I was afraid it wasn't just a nutjob."
"No. It's connected to Fletcher in New York, and Dabir in Philly."
He frowned. " I thought you weren't gonna stay with the firm, Teren."
She smiled at him. " That decision hasn't been made yet. But I'm not here on Agency business. I'm helping someone at the Bureau." She looked towards the back. " Do you have time for a chat? Sitting down, I mean?"
"Sure." He moved around her, limping toward the front door, and locked it. He hung up a sign that said he'd be back in an hour.
"Go on. You know you're way. Ain't much changed since the last time you were here." He limped towards the coffee pot as Teren took her jacket off and walked down an aisle to the very back of the store.
Carl was right, she mused. Nothing much had changed in three years. The sofa still had holes in it, the coffee table rocked, and there were magazines and books tossed everywhere. She chuckled and sat down, remembering the last time she and Perry had been here.
"You still take your coffee with sugar?"
"Yes. I'm surprised you remembered."
"Shoot. I can remember plenty of things. Like when you and Perry were here, and he was ragging on you because you wanted to ask that girl out and wouldn't. You remember?"
"Yes. I remember."
"What was the girl's name?"
Teren smiled. Carl knew the name, but he wanted her to say it.
"Ann, and you know it."
"Oh, right." He nodded, smiling. " Now, you want to tell me what the shooting of your old girlfriend has to do with the killings out east?"
David and Alex almost felt like they were chasing their proverbial tails. They had checked everyone that had been in or out of Halloran's room in the hours between the search and the time he died. So far, they had nothing.
All medical personnel were searched before going in. The four cops had all gone into the room in pairs, and had been there for very short periods. The visitors, of which there were only three, had all been searched as well. There was nothing to show how Halloran had gotten hold of a small glass vial holding cyanide.
Before leaving for Colorado Springs, Alex wanted to look through Halloran's personal effects. She and David got a ride with Tanner down to police headquarters, and went through everything Halloran had been found carrying.
There wasn't much, just a wallet, car keys, an extra magazine for his rifle, a watch, and a silver necklace with a large silver cross pendant.
Alex was looking at the police list of effects when she noticed something. She called Tanner and Captain Weaver over.
"Captain, this list is incomplete. It doesn't have the necklace listed."
"Oh, yeah. That's because his land lady brought it to him. He had his lawyer call her, and she brought it up to him in the hospital. It was included after he died." He handed her an updated list. " See? There it is."
Alex looked over at David who was staring at the Captain. They both made a grab for the necklace. David was a split second faster.
"Shit, Alex, it's gotta be."
He fumbled with it, looking for catches, or indentations. Anything that would indicate a hiding place for a small glass vial.
"Um, someone want to explain?" Tanner asked.
They ignored him. David finally handed the pendant to Alex. " You got any ideas?"
Alex took the piece in her hand, examining it slowly. She noticed that there was a slight bulge in the middle of the cross, and when she looked at the back she could make out a very fine line.
She grabbed hold of the bottom and top of the cross and bent them back towards each other. They didn't bend easily, but they finally opened up, separating from each other to reveal a small hole that ran down the inside of the cross.
"There's your killer, gentlemen." She handed it to the Captain. " You said it was given to him by his land lady?"
"Yeah. She runs an apartment house on the north side of the Springs. She's a nice old lady, about sixty-five or seventy." He looked at Alex. " You don't think she had anything to do with it, do you?"
"I've no idea, Captain. But since we're gong down there, we'll ask her, alright?"
Alex turned away and left the property room in disgust.
Teren had borrowed Carl's car to finish her errands, and was just pulling into a space at the hospital when her cell phone rang.
"It's Alex, where are you?"
Teren bristled at the agent's tone, but she chose to ignore it for the moment.
"I'm in the parking lot, just got here."
"At the hospital?"
"Great. We're on our way back there. Don't move. I want to be on our way to Colorado Springs as soon as possible."
Teren decided to take a chance.
"I take it things aren't going well."
"Teren, they let someone hand him a necklace without checking it out. The vial was hidden inside it. And the fucking cop was standing right there when it happened!"
Teren winced as the last part was nearly yelled into her ear. " So, do you know who gave him the necklace?"
"His landlady. Can you believe that?"
"Un-huh. So, are you going to arrest her, or just browbeat her 'til she talks?"
She thought for a moment that the line was dead. Then she heard Alex take a deep breath, and let it out.
"I'm over-reacting, aren't I?"
"I don't know. But tell me this. The shooter is dead, but his victim is still alive. Have you thought of talking to her, or even checking on the security measures in place?"
"I checked security for Ann Seffren as soon as we reached the hospital this morning. And as far as talking with her, I'd rather do that after we get back from his apartment."
"I see. Any reason?"
"No. Maybe just because I don't feel like dealing with it right now. You might have noticed my temper's a little on the short side at the moment."
"I can hear that. Let me know when it gets bad enough that you're pulling guns on people." She heard Alex laugh at that, and felt better herself.
"Thanks, Teren, I needed that. Tanner says we're about two or three minutes from the hospital. You want some lunch before we go south?"
"Sure. Anyplace but McDonald's."
"You mean I can't have a happy meal?"
They actually stopped at a Burger King, and lunch was eaten in the van, while Tanner drove. He took them past the scene where the shooting happened, and then through the alley where Halloran had been shot.
Teren was quiet through much of the ride. Carl had given her plenty to think about.
Alex noticed the darker woman's silence, but decided not to bring it up. She wasn't feeling particularly talkative herself.
They reached Halloran's apartment house a little before one in the afternoon. It was a small building, only two stories, with outside entrances for every apartment. It had the appearance of a renovated hotel. There were police cars stationed out front, and yellow tape across one of the apartment doors. Tanner led them to an officer standing beside the taped up door.
Everyone showed their badges and signed the log, then the tape was held up and they entered. Alex nearly gagged on the odor of sweat and mold. When her eyes adjusted to the light inside, she could see why it smelled so bad. There were dishes in the sink that appeared to be at least a week old, and dirty laundry was piled beside an overflowing hamper. An even more obnoxious odor was drifting up from the kitchen garbage bag, which hung from a cupboard handle, right below the sink.
"He probably killed himself so he didn't have to come clean his apartment," David muttered.
"Right. Let's just be glad we don't have to do it," Alex replied.
At least in this apartment there were no booby traps, though David continued to be apprehensive about opening closet doors. He did so, however, to reveal a number of weapons. Besides rifles and handguns there was a crossbow and several knives. One of them had a swastika emblazoned on it.
"Alex? I think you should see this."
"What?" Alex joined David at the closet and took the dagger from him. " Jeez, not again." She slipped the knife from its sheath. " Okay, this is a replica. A pretty bad one, too, it looks like. Somebody welded this swastika on the handle. Other than that, it's an ordinary knife."
"So, this isn't something he'd keep as a sacred symbol or anything?"
"No. As a matter of fact, he probably did the welding himself."
David put the knife back in its place in the closet. Other than the weapons and a few clothes, the closet was bare, and after a quick check through the pockets, David closed the door, and turned back towards his partner.
"What are we looking for, anyway, Alex?"
"Don't know. Maybe something that will tell us how to connect this to the other killings. So far, we have no solid proof that Halloran was anything but a nut case."
David sighed. " Yeah. Well, I'm not sure I'd know what I was looking at. How about I go talk to the landlady, huh?"
"Good idea. You're pretty good with little old ladies."
"Hey, I'm good with all the ladies."
"Watch it, or I'll tell Miri you said that."
"Oh, please don't." He patted Alex's shoulder and left the apartment. He took a deep breath as soon as he got outside, trying to get the stench out of his lungs.
Alex found Teren scanning the book shelves in the living room. They were filled with pamphlets, and books by little known authors and publishers. Several carried swastikas on the cover. Others were more mainstream, but were still far right of the center.
Teren held up a pamphlet she'd found. In bold letters on the front cover it said, The Death Penalty for Homosexuals? It's in the Bible!
"Oh, fuck. Just what I wanted to see." She examined it, noting that the author was a Pastor Roger Pitt, and it was published by the Aryan Power Church. It really was nothing more than a photocopy, but it's simple construction did nothing to detract from the obscene message on the cover.
"Makes you wonder about people, doesn't it?" Teren said quietly.
"Yeah. Anything else here?"
Teren pointed to a book on the top shelf. " This looks a little out of place, doesn't it?" She pulled it off the shelf and showed the front cover to the shorter woman. " He doesn't really remind you of a family man, does he?"
The title of the book was Families and Christ: How to Teach Your Family to Be Christian. Alex shook her head.
"No, but I suppose anything's possible."
Teren reached up to replace the book on the shelf, when Alex suddenly grabbed her arm.
"Wait a minute. Let me see that again."
She took the volume from Teren and pointed to the author's name. " Dr. Jacob Dawkins. Didn't you say he was on the board of CMF?"
"Yes, he helped found it. He's on the boards of several groups around the country."
Alex opened the front cover and looked up at her friend. " Guess who Halloran visited three days ago?"
Teren raised an eyebrow. " He didn't." Alex held the book up for her to see. Inside the front cover was a short message, the date, and Jacob Dawkins signature.
"I think we should have a talk with Dr. Dawkins, don't you?"
Teren nodded. She took the book, and looked at it much more closely. She frowned, feeling something move in the spine.
"Alex, I think there's something in here."
Teren took the jacket off the hard back book, and carefully pinched the spine. She slapped the book hard against her hand, and an object slid out, hitting her hand before falling to the floor.
Alex bent to grab it. She felt a wave of deja'vu as she recognized what it was.
She showed it to Teren. " That look like a safety deposit box key to you?"
The key was to a box in the First Bank of the Front Range, and though it was Sunday, Tanner put the pressure on to get someone there that morning. It wasn't long before the box was opened. It contained a silver goblet, secured inside a wooden box lined with velvet. Alex couldn't be certain of its origins, but she thought it was at least a century old.
Andrew Tanner suggested they stop at an antique dealer in the center of Colorado Springs. The Leister Antiques store had been a resource for him before, when dealing with stolen art objects and rare antiques. If anyone could tell them about the goblet, he was certain it would be Anthony Leister.
They decided to split up for the time being. David and Teren would visit the offices of the Religious Family Association, and attempt to speak with Dr. Dawkins. Alex and Tanner, after a brief stop at the CSPD for a fingerprint dusting, would take the boxed goblet to the antique dealer. Whoever was finished first would give the other team a call and they would regroup after that.
The antique shop was more like a museum, Alex thought. Larger pieces were roped off, preventing anyone from touching them. Smaller items were in glass cabinets and display cases. It was much different than the type of store she was used to, which was much more hands on. She made this observation to Tanner, not seeing the elderly gentleman approaching them with his cane.
"I agree, hands on is much more fun," he said. " But they," he waved to a couple in fancy clothes, " they don't want to touch a piece until they've paid for it." He shook his gray haired head. " They call themselves antiques lovers. The only thing they love is spending money." Leaning down he whispered conspiratorially, " My real store is west of here, in Manitou. That's where you can touch stuff."
Alex took an immediate liking to the man. His dress was stylish, with impeccable grooming, but the way he acted made it seem that he'd be just as comfortable in jeans and an old sweater. When Tanner introduced them, she shook his hand warmly.
"Mister Leister, thank you for agreeing to see us on such short notice."
"Nonsense, Agent Reis. Andrew here knows that he's welcome to knock on my door anytime. If I can help, I will." He smiled at her and motioned with his hand. " My office?"
He led them down a small corridor to an office rich in woodwork. There was a smell of oak and cedar, with an odor of furniture polish as well. The furniture consisted of bookcases, chairs and a desk, all of which were obvious antiques. There was a shine about them that spoke of age and gentle use.
"Well, Agent Reis, I understand you and Andrew have a goblet you want me to look at."
"Please, call me Alex, Mr. Leister. Yes, we do. It was found in a safe deposit box, and I believe it might have been a form of payment to someone."
"I see. By the way, Alex, my name is Anthony." They smiled at one another. " Well, Andrew, where is this cup?
Anthony had stepped behind his desk, which was where Tanner placed the wooden case. He leaned it back, pulling the lid open. Anthony's eyes went very wide.
"What a marvelous piece! Splendid workmanship." He gently lifted it out of its velvet home and placed it upright on the surface of his desk. He took a magnifying glass and began to examine the details carefully, still mumbling words of praise for the craftsmanship.
It was several minutes later that he finally sat back and looked up at them. " Simply marvelous. I don't remember the last time I've seen such an example of eighteenth century silver."
Alex and Andrew looked at each other. The blond agent recovered her voice first.
"How can you tell?"
"Well, first off, by the markings in the engravings, because they show the use of a carving tool. Also the scene of the goblet, the one of the crucifixion. It has the correct stylized position of the body, and shows the triangular representation that was popular at the time." Anthony raised his head and grinned at them. " Of course, the fact that the date is carved into the bottom of the cup is also a good indication."
Alex's jaw dropped, and she had to gather it back up. Once she had, she shook her head. " A date on the bottom. Right. Is there anything else? I take it, due to its age, that it would be an expensive piece, am I right?"
"Well, that depends. What do you mean by expensive? While all pieces of this time period are usually priced over two hundred dollars, there are certain items that can be less, due to their lack of ornamentation, or more, depending on the artist, and the history of the cup."
"And this particular piece?"
"Along with the date, the artist left his initials." Anthony carefully turned the cup over, showing them the engraving in the wide base of the goblet. " TG. Now I think there was an French artist with those initials. I'll have to look on the data base."
To Alex's surprise Anthony simply turned to a beside his desk, and opened the door. He gently pulled out a sliding platform that held a computer monitor on one tier and a keyboard and mouse on the second. Alex's eyebrows shot up, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tanner grinning.
The elderly gentleman across from her looked up. " What? You didn't think a man my age would understand all this new fangled technology, did you?"
"Um, no. I'm sorry. I'll slap myself later for even considering the stereotype."
They laughed. Anthony pulled the keyboard closer, and began typing.
"I understand, Alex. I have to admit it took me a long time to break down and put everything on this blasted thing. Still don't really like the sight of the thing, which is why I found a way to keep it locked up like I do." He glanced at her. " Now, if they could make the things out of wood, I might be more inclined to enjoy them."
Alex smiled at him. " It does sort of clash with the decor of your office."
"Ah, here we are. Yes, TG, Telford Guignard. He worked in the south of France, and most of his pieces were of a religious nature. There are fourteen of his pieces known to exist." He frowned at the screen. " Unfortunately, they're all accounted for. Seven are in museums, three in churches, and the rest in privately held collections. And none of them have come up missing."
"So, is this a fake?"
"Not possible, I'd stake my reputation on it. I suppose it is possible that another artist, who isn't listed, had the same initials. But since the update last year, it's become extremely rare to find any kind of artist, of any period, that isn't listed." He looked up at both of them. " I would have to assume then, that what you have is an undiscovered piece by Telford Guignard. And if that can be proven, it would be priceless."
"Yes. The last time a Guignard piece was auctioned, it sold for half a million dollars." The antiques dealer stood and motioned to her. " Here, come see for yourself."
Alex moved around behind the desk and peered at the screen. It contained all the information Anthony had just related.
Tanner spoke up from his side of the desk. " Anthony, how would we prove whether the cup is or is not a piece by this Telford guy?"
"Well, that would take some doing, I'm afraid. You would have to find a panel of experts to look at it. Preferably one with experts on French silverworks in the seventeen hundreds. Then, you would have to present them with what you know of the piece's history, how it was located, and why you believe what you believe. Then the panel will convene and examine the article and make its decision. Normally, for smaller pieces, a majority acceptance is good enough. However, because this is a major name, it would probably require a unanimous decision by the panel."
"Sorry, Anthony, you lost me about halfway through." Tanner and Leister chuckled, and then Leister resumed his lecture.
"As I was saying --"
"Um, Anthony," Alex interrupted. " What is this section here, that's marked as lost pieces?"
"Oh, that. Well, there were many pieces by many different artists that were lost during World War Two. It's dreadful, how many just vanished. Many of them appeared on lists of items that the Nazi's had confiscated, yet they were never located."
"It says here that several pieces by Guignard disappeared."
"Yes. If you click on that address it will take you to the web page that lists lost art works." He paused for a moment, obviously considering. " You know, there have been several that have shown up on the market recently, with no record of how they were found."
Alex clicked on the icon, and followed the link to the site. She then checked on the list of artists, finding Guignard, Telford, and clicking on his name. When the page came up, there was a list of items from the artist that were missing, including histories of each item and pictures if they had ever been taken. Alex scrolled down the page, coming to rest a third of the way down.
Anthony leaned over and examined the picture.
"Well, Alex. I do believe you found a missing relic."
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