The Brooch and The Pooch
©2020, Joseph L. Thornburg. All Rights Reserved.
|Caesar Campbell||BaxCam Coffees|
|Dainty Busch||citizen at large|
|The Roving Heirloom Show|
|Chitra Gupta||show producer|
|Dale Tuonela||show host|
|Laverna Davies||friend of Dainty|
|Orcus Davies||brother of Laverna|
“Welcome to this week’s edition of The Roving Heirloom Show. I’m your host, Dale Tuonela, and this week we’re at the Katherine Ker Convention Center in East Kingsley.” Dale stepped out of the shot while a cameraman panned past a long line of people holding various treasures: a 17th century Korean musket, a painting that might be by van Gogh, a painting that was definitely not by van Gogh (no matter how much the owner insisted), an 18th century umbrella by Jean Marius, an elegant wooden Chiwara mask with horns from Mali, and so on.
Outside, a bright yellow taxi was disgorging four occupants, one of whom immediately made a run for the big double doors of the convention center. Upon reaching the reception desk, Laverna Davies struggled to remove her coat and keep a small box from dropping from where it had been stuffed under her armpit. In her haste it hadn’t occurred to her to put the box on the desk. She jumped around so much that the event greeter, a Mary Lethe, was having a hard time pinning a name badge on Laverna’s blouse. “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous!” stammered Laverna.
“It’s okay, just relax,” said Mary. “Everyone is always a little nervous when they come to the show. You’ll be fine.” Two more of Laverna’s fellow taxi passengers, Dainty Busch and Caesar Campbell, had caught up to her.
Caesar was nearly as excited as Laverna. “I love this show!” he said to Mary. He turned to Dainty. “I’m sorry Junnosuke has the flu but not sorry you let me have his ticket!” Mary tried to pin a name badge on his shirt, but he took it from her and pinned it himself with a flourish.
“Is someone missing?” Mary asked, looking at her monitor. “It says here you ordered four tickets.”
At that moment, the final member arrived—Laverna’s brother, Orcus. “That would be me,” he said.
“What kept you?” asked Laverna.
“I’m famished. I stopped at that restaurant by the convention center to see if I could get something to eat, but it hadn’t opened yet.”
“Well, if you hadn’t overslept this morning you would’ve had time for breakfast, and we wouldn’t be running late!”
“I didn’t oversleep, I had to make a call.”
“Why didn’t you do that on the way? And yes, you did oversleep!” Laverna looked at her companions. “He was out late at the casino. Again.”
“Oh, did you win anything?” asked Dainty, who stood still while Mary pinned her badge.
“Well, we had to take a taxi, didn’t we? No Rolls yet for me.”
“Maybe you should spend less time at the casinos and more time looking for a job.” said Laverna.
Mary moved closer to Orcus to pin his badge. Orcus regarded it and rolled his eyes. “Is this really necessary?”
“Oh, yes, sir,” said Mary, brightly. “You won’t be allowed in without it, and you don’t want to miss out on the excitement, right?” Orcus snatched it from her and undid the pin. When Mary turned her back to return to her desk, he mimed jabbing the pin in her back. “Do you suppose they have voodoo dolls here?” he wondered aloud.
“Orcus, there’s no need to be peevish,” said Laverna. “Why did you even want to come today? I wouldn’t think antiques would be your cup of tea.” She looked at the box she was carrying. “Oh, I wonder if I’ll be on TV?”
“Maybe!” said Mary. “You’ll want to enter the main hall, and the line for appraisals will be on the left. Good luck!” When the foursome entered the main hall, they saw a long line of people. Laverna made a beeline for it.
“Looks like this could take a while.”
“Let’s look around,” said Caesar. “We can catch up to her later.” They walked past several tables, all roped off, with various appraisers. Caesar ooh’ed and ahh’ed at all the antiques. In the adjoining exhibit hall, vendors had set up booths. Caesar was practically drooling by now.
“See anything you’d like, Julius?” asked Dainty, her Cockney accent rendering “anything” as anyfing and “like” as loyk. Caesar had long given up on dissuading her from using that nickname.
“Oh, well, sure, but nothing in my price range.” He looked wistfully at a booth selling vintage teddy bears.
“Don’t you worry about that. If you’re a good boy today, Auntie Dainty will treat you to something.”
“Oh, you can’t do that! I wasn’t trying to …”
“Never mind that. I was going to get a little something for Junnosuke and Benjy, too, so why not?”
Caesar looked uncertain. Of course he would love to go home with a little goody but didn’t want to seem like a leech, especially since Dainty was so generous with her tips at BaxCam Coffees. Finally, he said, “Well … thank you. That would be really nice.” He gave Dainty a hug.
“How sweet,” said Orcus. “While you two are sharing warm fuzzies, I’m going to look for food. There’s got to be something to eat here. Ta-ta!” And he strolled away.
“You can help me think what Benjy might like,” said Dainty. “But let’s see how Laverna’s doing.” The two went back to the line in the main hall. It had moved noticeably, and Laverna was now about sixth in line. She was holding her box in one hand and a dog leash in the other. On the end of it was a rather anxious lhasa apso, gazing towards the right. Laverna was chatting with two people behind her, a man and a woman. The woman was carrying a small pink shopping bag, and the man had a long, narrow cardboard box.
“Hello Laverna!” said Dainty. “Who’s your little friend, then?”
“This is Anubis. His owner was standing in line in front of me and had to run to the restroom.” The mention of his name only momentarily distracted the dog from his vigil. Caesar followed the dog’s line of sight and sure enough, to the right, in one corner of the main hall, were the restrooms. “I hope she gets back soon,” continued Laverna. “She might miss her turn!”
“I’m Yomi.” said the woman behind her.
“And I’m Donn Flanagan,” said the man.
“By the way,” said Laverna. “Where is Orcus?”
“He went to find something to eat.”
At that moment, Orcus returned, carrying something. “This is what they call a ‘hot dog’, which puzzles me, for it is neither hot nor made from a dog.” He took a bite and made a face. “At least, I hope it isn’t.” Anubis had picked up the scent of the hot dog and was looking up at Orcus. “Oh, who is this? Does widdle man want a bite?” Anubis wagged his tail hopefully.
“Don’t,” said Laverna. “His owner will be back in a minute. I don’t think we should give him any food.” But Orcus had torn off a piece of the hot dog. He knelt beside Anubis and held it out. Anubis sniffed it and was just about to take it when Orcus snatched it away.
“Orcus, that’s mean!” said Laverna.
“But you said not to feed it! We wouldn’t want to upset its owner, right? It might not be good for the dog, right?” He ate the piece and tore off another. He offered it to Anubis, who again tried to take it, but Orcus popped it into his own mouth. “Oh, I nearly forgot, I’m not supposed to feed you. I’m sorry, widdle man, but big mean sister says you can’t have any.”
Dainty was about to box Orcus across his ears, but just at that moment a woman with a backpack walked up to them. “Oh, thank you for watching Anubis!” said the woman, taking the leash from Laverna. Orcus stood up suddenly, the picture of innocence. Seeing the three new arrivals, the woman said, “Hi! I’m Tia Ruddock.” Dainty and Caesar introduced themselves and shook hands with her.
Tia offered a hand to Orcus, who jumped back. “Oh no. Greasy hands.” He waved his hot dog by way of explanation and shrugged. Laverna rolled her eyes.
A bearded man in a navy sports jacket came up to Tia and escorted her to an appraiser’s table. “I’m next!” said Laverna.
“May I ask what you’ve brought?” asked Donn to Yomi. She opened her bag and pulled out three necklaces.
“These are layered seed bead necklaces from Japan.” She held them up. “These were made in the late 40s, during the Occupation. Goods made in Occupied Japan are worth something.”
“Yes, they are,” said Donn, fingering the beads. “But not those. Those are worth about twelve dollars apiece.”
Yomi snatched the beads away from Donn. “Are you saying these are fakes?” she cried.
“No, not fakes, but they’re still not worth much.”
Yomi stuffed the necklaces back into her bag. “And what about you, Laverna?” she said, though she was less interested in what Laverna brought than in making a show of ignoring Donn. Laverna began to lift the lid of her box. Yomi caught a glimpse of something glittering inside, but just then the bearded man returned.
“Your turn,” he said to Laverna. She put the lid back on. “Follow me. We’re going to table 34.” The man saw Laverna’s companions. “I’m sorry, only those who have something to be appraised can come to the tables. You can stand outside the ropes and watch if you’d like.” He led Laverna away.
“Shall we?” said Caesar.
“Yes,” said Dainty. “Are you coming, Orcus?”
“In a minute.” He abruptly ran off.
“I suppose you have something worth millions in that box of yours!” cried Yomi, suddenly deciding she didn’t want Donn to have the last word.
“Maybe,” said Donn coolly. “But I’m certainly not going to show it to you.”
Dainty and Caesar shrugged, then left to find Laverna. But they hadn’t paid attention and weren’t sure which way to go. After wandering around a few minutes, they asked an usher for help. The usher led the way to table 34. Like all the other tables, the area surrounding it was roped off, but they could get close enough to see and hear easily. Laverna was seated at the table. Except for the cameraman, she was alone. She looked around, and then at the cameraman, who shrugged. She waved at her friends, and Caesar crossed his fingers and smiled.
Finally, a distinguished man in a tasteful plaid jacket came walking up, then sat at the table. He mouthed the words, “Sorry to keep you waiting.” He pointed to the cameraman, who began filming.
“I’m Richard Pluto, welcome,” he said cordially. “Nice to meet you. I run The Antique Boutique. We specialize in small British antiques, like jewelry, letter openers, hand mirrors, and so on, all from the Tudor period and onward. So let’s see what you have.”
Laverna pulled a brooch out of the box and put it on the table. Her hands were shaking so much, Richard clasped them gently in his and said, “There there, now. Try to relax.” He picked up the brooch. It was golden and star-shaped, with a large diamond in the center, surrounded by a halo of smaller diamonds. Little stems protruded from between each ray of the star, and at the end of each stem was another diamond. It resembled a tiny elegant chandelier, and the diamonds caught the lights in the hall and sparkled.
“Now, tell me what you’ve brought today.”
“This was given to me by my mother,” said Laverna, “and I think her grandmother had given it to her. Our family is British so maybe it’s Victorian? Anyway, I think it’s beautiful and I wanted someone to look at it.”
“Any idea what it might be worth?”
“I never really thought about its value. With all the diamonds, I don’t know, a couple thousand dollars, maybe?”
Richard pulled out a loupe and placed it over one eye, then held the brooch up to the light. “Well, I agree, it’s beautiful, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is just imitation. The diamonds are quite convincing and the details on the brooch design are impressive, but …”
“Convincing? You mean they’re fakes?” Laverna looked disappointed.
“You said your mother got it from her grandmother?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I think that’s what she said.”
“I’m afraid it’s not Victorian.” He picked up the brooch and turned it over. “See how the pin is shaped here?” He pointed. Laverna nodded but didn’t really understand what he was trying to show her. “This is definitely 20th century. It’s a remarkable imitation of Victorian jewelry, and for that it’s worth a little something.”
“Oh. Uhh, how much?”
“A collector might pay $200 for it.”
“Oh,” said Laverna, clearly disappointed.
Richard took her hands in his again. “I’m really sorry. Are you okay?”
Laverna suddenly felt vulnerable in front of the camera, which was filming her disappointment for all the world to see. Richard turned to the cameraman and waved him away. Laverna tried to force a smile. “It’s not just because it’s not worth very much, but I was so excited about being on the show, and now …” Her voice trailed off.
“I feel so bad!” said Richard, squeezing her hands reassuringly. “Honestly. It happens from time to time. Not everything brought in is a treasure. Look, you don’t have to sign the release for the video, so it will never be on TV.”
Laverna smiled more sincerely. “I appreciate that.” She took the brooch and dropped it into the box and put the lid on it firmly.
“Okay, now take a deep cleansing breath and try not to let this get to you too much, okay?” She nodded and stood up. Richard also stood and shook her hand. “Take care now, Laverna.” He unlatched the rope so she could step out. Dainty went up and gave her a big hug.
“We heard everything, darling. I’m so sorry!”
“Me too. Oh well, c’est la vie, I guess.”
“Look, here comes Orcus. Let’s grab something to eat. My treat, everyone.”
“How about that restaurant next door?”
The restaurant had outdoor seating, and since it had warmed up considerably since they first arrived, Caesar suggested they eat al fresco. They were led to a table and handed menus.
“Wow, this looks amazing,” said Caesar. “Early morning special, every day, 6am to 8am, twelve ounce steak, eggs, hash browns, coffee, only twelve dollars.” They all continued to peer at their menus.
“Hello again,” said a voice. They looked up—it was Tia and Anubis. “Time for lunch?”
“Yes,” said Dainty. “Why don’t you join us?”
“Thank you. Outdoor seating is good when you have a dog.” A server saw Tia and brought a chair from another table and set it between Dainty and Orcus. Tia tied the leash to her chair and sat down. Anubis started sniffing at Orcus’ hand. Orcus was about to kick him when Dainty grabbed his arm.
“Don’t you bloody dare kick that dog.” she hissed under her breath so Tia wouldn’t hear.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” smirked Orcus. But by now Anubis had climbed up Orcus’ shin and was humping it. Orcus grabbed him by his dog collar and was about to yank him off his leg when Tia saw what was happening.
“Oh dear, I’m so sorry. Anubis, naughty! Come sit next to Mama.” Orcus let go and Anubis curled up at Tia’s feet.
At that moment, Yomi came running up to the table. “Hello, Laverna. Did you have any luck? Can I see what you brought?”
Laverna shrugged and showed her the brooch. “I’m afraid things didn’t go very well,” said Laverna. Yomi plucked the brooch out of the box and admired it, a gleam in her eyes.
“Laverna?” It was Richard Pluto. “I’m sorry to interrupt your lunch, but do you mind if I talk to you for a moment?”
“No, not at all.”
“I wanted to make sure you’re okay. You seemed so upset.”
“Yes, I was, but it’s okay, you were just being honest.”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Yomi, moving to stand between Laverna and Richard. “Would you sell me this? I’d like to have it.”
Richard looked at her. “Oh. How funny.” He turned back to Laverna. “I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“You want to buy it? But you said it’s a fake.”
“It is a fake, but I think I have a customer for it. It is a good duplicate, after all.”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe.”
“I’ll give you a seventy-five for it.” said Yomi.
“She’s not selling it.” said Orcus.
“I was going to offer you two-fifty, cash.” said Richard.
“Good idea, sis,” said Orcus. “Take the money.”
Laverna ignored him. “Two-fifty? But I thought you said it was only worth two hundred.”
“It is, but I could probably get three-fifty for it from my customer. She’s a regular and would love something like this, even if it’s a copy. Consider the extra fifty as my way of apologizing.”
“There you go, sister dear. You can’t beat that.” said Orcus.
“But I asked first!” said Yomi. “You said she wasn’t going to sell it!”
“She’s not selling it to you.” said Orcus. “This nice gentleman is offering much more than your little bid.”
Laverna shrugged. “Well, that’s two-fifty more than I had this morning. Okay, Mr. Pluto, you have yourself a deal. I’m sorry, Yomi.”
Orcus snatched the brooch away from Yomi and put it back in its box. Richard reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He handed it to Laverna, and Orcus handed the box to Richard. “Now, if you’ll just sign this,” said Richard, handing her a receipt book and pen. Yomi tried to grab them, but Orcus blocked her hands with his arm.
“I’ll give you a hundred!” cried Yomi.
“But I’ve already made up my mind to sell it to Mr. Pluto here.” She showed Yomi the now signed receipt.
“You … you can’t! I must have it!”
“I’m sorry, but it’s Mr. Pluto’s now. Maybe he’d sell it to you.”
“Sorry, but I already have a buyer.”
“But I want it!” Yomi thought furiously. “If you give me some time I might be able to match your buyer’s price.”
Orcus stood up and took Yomi by the elbow. “Now, now, let’s not make a scene. Time to say bye-bye, thanks for dropping by, have a nice life.”
Yomi wrested her arm away. “Let go of me!” She looked at Richard defiantly. “Give it to me!”
Poor Mr. Pluto, thought Caesar. He’s upsetting all the ladies today.
“Really, I bought this for my customer. It’s not for sale.”
Yomi glared at him, then at Laverna. Finally, she turned on one heel and stomped off back towards the convention center.
“And I must get back to the show too,” said Richard. “Thank you again, Ms. Davies.” And then he too headed back towards the convention center, only in a less stomping manner.
“My goodness, what was that all about?” asked Laverna.
“I guess she really liked your brooch,” said Dainty.
“I bet she’s used to getting her way,” said Caesar.
“Spoiled brat,” added Orcus. Everyone pondered the irony of his opinion.
The server came and the group ordered. Tia had a little plastic container in her backpack with some food for Anubis, though she did ask the server for a bowl of water. They dined and chatted at a leisurely pace. Orcus helped himself to several Bloody Marys. Laverna looked at Dainty apologetically, who shook her head and said, “You just enjoy your lunch.” Eventually they finished. Once Dainty paid the bill (“Madame is far too generous,” said the delighted server), she suggested they all go back to the vendors’ hall.
“You go ahead,” said Orcus. “I must find the little boys’ room. One too many drinks, I’m afraid. I’ll catch up.” He left.
“Sure,” said Laverna to Dainty. “Let’s go.”
In the vendors’ hall, Caesar was considering some mid-century teddy bears. “Which one would you like?” said Dainty. Caesar was torn between two: one was a dark brown Schmuco bear that had an elaborate lavender ribbon around its neck, the other was a light tan Stieffen bear wearing a green sweater. But Caesar knew if he took too long to decide, Dainty might end up paying for both, so he showed the Stieffen to the vendor.
“I’ll take this one, please.”
“What are you buying?” said Orcus, coming up to join them.
“Dainty has very graciously offered to buy this bear for me.”
“How nice. You should give it to A-Nui-Sance. He could use it for a chew toy.” Fortunately, Tia didn’t hear this, for she had move on to the next booth, admiring an Imperial Aarhus porcelain figurine of—what else? A lhasa apso.
“Now what about Benjy?” asked Dainty. “What might he like?”
Caesar was about to answer when a commotion began in the main hall. A hubbub of voices chattering all at once, getting louder and louder. Some were shouting. Convention center employees in the vendor hall were suddenly all on their walkie-talkies. And then, the sound of sirens outside. Dainty trotted off towards the main hall. Caesar went chasing after her.
They entered the hall and looked. The commotion was coming from the corner where the restrooms were situated. A group of paramedics came in, followed by several police officers. They pushed their way through the crowd. Dainty, not one to miss an opportunity, followed in their slipstream into the men’s bathroom. There, at the urinal furthest from the entrance, was Mr. Pluto. His throat was cut, and a dagger lay nearby. One hand was on the rim of the urinal, as if he had tried to haul himself up. The paramedics tried to revive him, but judging by the amount of blood all over the floor, that wasn’t going to happen. A small cloth bag lay near him, almost completely soaked with blood. Finally, one of the police officers noticed Dainty. “Hey! You can’t be in here! Get out!”
She exited the restroom. Just outside the door was Caesar, who had made his way through the crowd. Donn was also there, talking to an officer, who was taking notes. Donn was still carrying the long, narrow box.
“… and when I went into the bathroom, there he was,” said Donn.
“Was he still alive?”
“I don’t think so. I saw the blood and panicked. I ran out here and called for help.”
“Did you see what might have killed him?”
“Yes. It was on the floor next to him, an antique dagger.”
“Dainty, did you see anything?” asked Caesar. “It sounds like someone got murdered.”
“It was Mr. Pluto!”
“Oh geez, we just saw him at lunch!”
The officer happened to hear this and approached them. “Sir, just how long ago was that?” Caesar told him about how Laverna had sold Richard the brooch at the restaurant. After asking a few more questions, the officer went into the restroom.
“Julius,” said Dainty, “Something tells me that bleedin’ brooch is gone!”
“I wonder if Donn had that dagger?” said Caesar. He pointed at the box in Donn’s hand.
“And he found the body. He could’ve done it himself. But why would he steal that worthless brooch?”
“Maybe it’s not so worthless.”
“But how did he even know about it? Only the four of us, plus Tia, were at the restaurant.” said Dainty.
Caesar’s eyes suddenly widened. “And Yomi.”
“And she was pretty bloody intent on getting it!”
“But would she kill him for it? She knew it was a fake. Seems hardly worth killing someone for a fake.”
“If it was a fake,” said Dainty, echoing Caesar’s earlier thought.
The officer returned and said, “Well, if he had that brooch, it’s not on him.”
“Wasn’t there a bag?” asked Dainty.
“How did you know about … oh, right, you’re the woman they chased out of there. Well, it had a few antiques in it. A brooch—a cameo style, not the one you described—an old notebook, a gold band.”
“Interesting,” said Caesar. “The thief only took the brooch, not the other items.”
At that moment, Laverna had found them.
“Laverna,” said Dainty. “It’s Richard Pluto. He’s dead. Murdered!”
“Oh, my god!”
The officer spoke. “Ma’am, were you the one who sold Mr. Pluto a brooch while you were having lunch?”
“Ah. My superior officer will want to have a word with you.” He led her into the restroom. Now Orcus came up to them.
“Can we go now?” he pouted. He looked around. “Where’s my sister?”
“She’s in the loo talking to the coppers. Oh, here she comes now. I say, Laverna, what did they want?”
“Never mind that, let’s just go!” Orcus put his hands on his hips and tapped his foot.
Laverna ignored him. “They just wanted to ask about the brooch. I showed them the receipt and the cash. Well, hello—it’s Anubis.”
They all looked down. Sure enough, Anubis had come up to them. He stood next to Orcus, looking up at him and wagging his tail. His leash trailed behind him. Caesar looked around: “Where’s Tia?”
“He must’ve gotten away from her.” said Dainty. She watched Anubis as he began climbing Orcus’ leg once more. “There’s no accounting for taste. He’s been nothing but mean to that poor dog.”
Orcus overheard her. “Not nearly as mean as I’m about to be.” He shook his leg hard, and the tip of his shoe caught Anubis in the side. Anubis yelped and sat down. He regarded Orcus quizzically, but kept wagging his tail.
“I can’t believe that dog still likes him,” said Caesar.
“Stupid dog,” said Orcus. “I’ll make a hot dog out of you.”
“Hang on a bloody sec,” said Dainty. “Didn’t you say that restaurant was closed this morning.”
“Yes, of course.”
“But they’re open for breakfast,” said Caesar, remembering the early morning special.
“So,” said Dainty, “It sounds like you didn’t actually go this morning. Otherwise you would’ve known it was open.” She shot a look at Caesar, who nodded in return.
“Again, I say, so?”
Suddenly, without warning and as quick as a flash, Anubis lunged and sank his teeth into Orcus’ crotch. Orcus made an odd wheezing sound, trying to inhale to get out a good scream, but not quite able to draw in enough air. He waved feebly at the group with one hand, and pointed the other at Anubis, who had a surprisingly good grip. Orcus tried to say something but could only gasp.
Dainty looked at Caesar. “I don’t see anything, do you, Julius?”
Caesar suddenly found the ceiling of the main hall fascinating. “What kind of lighting do you think they use here?” Dainty too suddenly found the ceiling fascinating, and they both studied it, saying “Hmm.” repeatedly.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Laverna. “Not that you deserve any help, brother.” She knelt down close to Anubis and tried to pet him, which was difficult, considering how he was swinging to and fro, his body dangling from Orcus’ crotch like the pendulum of a grandfather clock—a grandfather clock with a particularly distressed face. “Now, now, I know you think my brother has something tasty in there, but I’m sure there’s nothing worth getting excited about (despite pretending to be absorbed in the ceiling, Dainty snickered), and if you let go of him, I promise I’ll find something better for you.”
Anubis considered his options, then slowly let go, landing rather gracefully on all fours. The pants were ruined, shredded all around the crotch. Orcus fell to his knees, and there was a metallic clinking sound. Something had fallen out of Orcus’ torn pants pocket and bounced across the floor several times before coming to a stop—at Yomi’s feet. She bent down to snatch up the item but Anubis dashed over and beat her to it. He picked it up in his teeth and brought it to Laverna.
“My brooch!” exclaimed Laverna. Dainty and Caesar abandoned their examination of the ceiling to take a look. “But … what were you doing with it?”
Orcus was lying in a fetal position, moaning and shaking. Dainty took the brooch from Laverna. “Oy, coppers!” she called out. She prodded Orcus in his ribs with the end of one of her lime platform wedge mules. “No wonder you were in such a bloody hurry to leave!” The officer who had spoken to Laverna earlier came over, followed by Donn.
“Where did you find that?” said the officer. Dainty indicated the still-trembling Orcus. The officer hauled him to his feet. “Well?” he demanded.
Orcus cleared his throat. “Fine, I confess. I did it. Killed Richard, stole the brooch.”
“But why?” said Laverna. “It’s worthless, isn’t it?”
“Not so,” said Orcus. “You see, sister dear, I always suspected that brooch was worth something. When you said you were coming to The Roving Heirloom Show, I contacted the jewelry appraiser. He was to pretend it was a fake, buy it from you cheap, then resell it, and he and I would split the proceeds.”
“Ah,” said Caesar. “No wonder you weren’t going to let Yomi buy it.”
“So what happened?” asked Laverna.
“I bet that call this morning was to Mr. Pluto,” said Dainty. “When we arrived and Orcus said he was going to the restaurant, he was actually trying to find Pluto. Then when he dashed away from the line it was to let Pluto know Laverna was on her way.”
“Oh!” cried Laverna. “Is that why Mr. Pluto was late for my appraisal?”
“Probably, “ said Caesar. “And then after lunch, Orcus took off again.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” snapped Orcus impatiently. “I went to see him. He was going to double cross me. He said he was keeping it for himself. If I didn’t leave him alone, he’d go to the police. We argued, then I followed him into the restroom. I tried to take that bag from him but we fought over it and that dagger fell out.”
“So the dagger wasn’t Donn’s,” said Caesar.
“Why?” said Donn. “Did you think I murdered Pluto?” He opened his box. Inside was a green narrow band with a woman’s face carved on one end. “I know a lot about antiques, but this I couldn’t quite figure out, so I brought it in for an appraisal.”
“Probably a fake.” seethed Yomi.
“It’s beautiful,” said Laverna. “May I?” She took it out and admired it.
“Antique my foot.” said Yomi, a bit more loudly.
“Turns out it’s a Chinese hairpin,” said Donn. “Jade, 18th century, worth about five hundred.”
“Five hundred pennies, maybe!”
“Look here! Just because you brought worthless trinkets doesn’t mean the rest of us did.”
Dainty had taken the hairpin from Laverna and held it up to her hair. “How does it look?” The cool jade color made a startling though flattering contrast with Dainty’s blaze of red hair.
“It suits you,” said Caesar. Laverna and Donn nodded in approval. Dainty began parading around with it, gesturing grandly. Everyone, even a few passersby, clapped.
“Excuse me, may I finish?” barked Orcus. Donn put the hairpin away. Orcus cleared his throat again. “I slit his throat with the dagger, then took the brooch.” He looked at his crotch. “There, I’m done. Now would someone get me a doctor?” The police began to lead him away. “Not so fast!” he barked again to the officers, as he hobbled along. “Wounded man here!”
“Are you Ms. Davies?” said a new voice. The group turned to see a man and a woman standing behind them, both wearing suits. The woman stepped forward. “I’m Chitra Gupta, executive producer for The Roving Heirloom Show. I heard what happened, and I want to apologize for Mr. Pluto’s unethical behavior.”
“I’m afraid he’s paid for that, the hard way,” said Laverna.
“Nevertheless, I am not going to have any scandal attached to this program.” She turned to indicate the man next to her. “To make amends, let me introduce Erlik Jacoby, another jewelry appraiser.”
“May I see the brooch?” he asked. Laverna handed it to him. He pulled a loupe out of his pocket and examined the brooch. Everyone held their breath, except Anubis, who had decided to take a nap. Finally, Erlik said, “This is definitely Victorian, definitely authentic, and the diamonds are definitely real.”
“My goodness,” said Laverna. “How … how much is it worth?”
“I’d say, ten, maybe eleven thousand dollars.” Laverna swooned. Caesar and Donn stepped forward to steady her.
“That could’ve been mine.” grumbled Yomi.
“I will speak to the police, see if there’s any way you can get the brooch back,” said Chitra. “After all, Richard committed fraud to get it.”
Just then, Tia came running into the hall. “Anubis! Anubis! Where are you?” The dog heard his name and ran over to her. “There you are! Naughty boy making Mama worry!” She got a firm grip on his leash and looked at the group. “Oh, did you find him? I hope he wasn’t any trouble.”
“No trouble at all,” said Dainty. She told Tia what had transpired.
“Well,” said Tia, petting Anubis. “Aren’t you Mama’s clever boy?”
“After all the teasing he got from Orcus, and especially for finding that brooch, I think Anubis deserves a special treat,” said Dainty.
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” said Tia, tugging playfully on Anubis’ leash.
“I insist. It’s the leashed I can do.” And they all went back to the restaurant—except Yomi, who went home and sat in front of her collection of faux Victorian jewelry to have a good sulk. Dainty treated Anubis to a twelve-ounce steak. As it was past eight o’clock in the morning, she had to pay full price for it, but she could well afford it.