Key of Light Page 67

“She took off hours ago.”

“Hours?” Malory passed a hand over her face as if coming out of a dream. “I lost track of time.”

“Happens to me regularly. Want some coffee?” He glanced toward the empty pot on the counter. “All you have to do is make it.”

“No, I really need to . . . You’re working. I’m sorry to interrupt.”

“No problem. I’m having one of those days where I fantasize about having an alternate profession. Like being a lumberjack in the Yukon or a bartender at a tropical resort.”

“Pretty disparate choices.”

“Either of which seems like more fun than what I’m doing.”

She noted the empty coffee cup, the half-full ashtray set beside the jazzy laptop on a secondhand picnic table in a stupendously ugly kitchen.

“Could be the ambience isn’t particularly conducive to creativity.”

“When things are going well, you can be in a sewer with a notebook and a Ticonderoga.”

“I suppose that’s true, but I’m wondering if you’re set up in this . . . unfortunate room because you’re watching out for me.”

“Depends.” He eased back, fiddled with his dwindling pack of cigarettes. “If that’s okay with you, sure. If it’s going to piss you off, then I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She cocked her head. “And if I said I had to leave now, that there’s something I want to check out?”

He gave her an easy smile, one she thought might pass for innocent on a less wicked face. “I’d say, is it okay if I tag along? It might do me good to get out of the house for a while. Where are we going?”

“The Gallery. It occurred to me that the key must be attached to art, to beauty, to the paintings. It’s the most logical place in the area to look.”

“Uh-huh. So, you’re going to walk into a public place of business, during business hours, and nobody’s going to mind if you go on a scavenger hunt through the stock and/or office areas.”

“Well, when you put it that way.” Deflated, she sat across from him. “Do you think this whole thing is just some kind of lunacy?”

Jordan recalled watching several thousand dollars appear and disappear. “Not necessarily.”

“And if I said I might have a way to get into The Gallery after business hours?”

“I’d say you wouldn’t have been picked to be a part of this unless you were a creative woman with a flexible mind who’s willing to take some chances.”

“I like that description. I don’t know if it always applied, but it does now. I need to make some phone calls. And, Jordan? I think it shows a strong sense of character and loyalty for a man to waste his day looking after a stranger because a friend asked him to.”


MALORY took the keys from Tod and gave him a huge hug in return. “I owe you big.”

“I’ll say, but I’ll settle for any sort of an explanation.”

“As soon as I can. I promise.”

“Honeybun, this is all getting really weird. You get fired, then you hack into Pamela’s files. You turn down the invitation to come back to home and hearth with a substantial raise. And now you’re going to skulk around the place after closing.”

“You know what?” She jingled the keys in her hand. “That’s not the really weird part. All I can tell you is I’m doing something important, and with the best intentions. I’m not going to do The Gallery or James, or most especially you, any harm.”

“I’d never think you would.”

“I’ll have these back to you tonight. First thing in the morning at the latest.”

Tod glanced out the window to see Flynn loitering on the sidewalk. “This doesn’t have anything to do with sexual fetishes or fantasies?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s a shame. I’m walking away. I’m going to have a lovely martini, maybe two, and put all this completely out of my mind.”

“Do just that.”

He started out, then stopped and looked back at her. “Whatever you’re doing, Mal, be careful.”

“I will. Promise.”

She waited, watched Tod stop to speak to Flynn before sauntering off. She opened the door, gestured Flynn in, then locked it, set the security code. “What did Tod say to you?”

“That if I got you into any sort of trouble he’d hang me up by my balls and then snip off various other body parts with manicure scissors.”

“Ouch. Good one.”

“You bet.” He peered out the window to make sure Tod was gone. “And let me tell you, if I was thinking about getting you into any sort of trouble, that image would be a very strong deterrent.”

“I guess, when it comes down to it, I’m the one who could be getting you in trouble. There’s the legal angle, the criminal angle, and your reputation as publisher and editor in chief of the Dispatch on the line here. You don’t have to do this.”

“I’m in. Manicure scissors are those little pointy ones that curve, right?”

“That’s right.”

He hissed out a breath. “Yeah, I was afraid of that. Where do we start?”

“Upstairs, I think. We can work our way down. Assuming the keys in the painting are in proportion, it’ll be about three inches long.”

“Little key.”

“Yes, a fairly little key. The business end is a single, simple drop,” she continued and handed him a small sketch. “The other end is decorative, this complex pattern. It’s a Celtic design, a triple spiral called a triskeles. Zoe found the pattern in one of Dana’s books.”

“You three make a good team.”

“It feels like it. It’s gold, probably solid gold. I can’t imagine we won’t recognize it when we see it.”

He glanced toward the main showroom with its vaulted ceilings and generous space. There were the paintings, of course, and the sculpture and other artworks. Display cases and tables. Drawers and chests and counters with infinite cubbyholes.

“A lot of places a key might hide in here.”

“Wait until we get into the storage and shipping areas.”

They started in the offices. Malory set aside her guilt at going through drawers, riffling through personal items. This wasn’t any time for delicacy, she told herself. She crawled around James’s desk, searching under it.

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