Brock watched his wife flip the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jane never looked more beautiful. Her warm brown hair seemed richer than mink. She was happy, the pregnancy had been confirmed, she was six weeks pregnant. They hadn't had a clue until she had a routine check up. She appeared to glow now. He kept his eyes on her face and smiled.
“Have you spoken to your father?” he asked.
Jane looked up from the newspaper she was reading and shook her head.
“I wonder what he’s up to.”
Brock tried to sound nonchalant. It wasn’t out of the ordinary not to hear from Devon. It was Brenda he was really concerned with; she hadn’t returned his calls for close to a week. He didn’t know what the hell was going on or why it was taking so long for her to gather any information. She'd been in Callicoon long enough to have uncovered something. He’d tried her cell phone several times, until her message bank was full. He didn’t want to alert Peter by appearing too over anxious to speak with Brenda, but he had an ominous feeling. He didn't want to leave Jane but he knew he had to get a flight to New York.
The doorbell jarred them both and Brock glanced toward the window.
“Who the hell is that?” he asked.
Jane got up and looked out. “A man in a blue suit.” She turned to him. “He looks serious.”
“Really? I’ll get rid of him.”
Brock led a tall, dark handsome man into the library and closed the door behind them. The man produced his badge. “John Carelli,” he said. “FBI, Stolen Property Division.’
“Can I see that more closely?” Brock asked slowly and watched as Carelli flipped open his wallet again. Brock started at the picture ID. The ID appeared to be real.
Brock was startled and stepped back several feet.
“Your wife here?” Carelli asked. “Jane, isn’t it?”
Brock felt his heart accelerate like a Spalding on a Tennis court; he was taken off guard.
"Yes, she’s resting."
"That’s good. I want this between us."
“Have a seat, please.” Brock led John to a large leather chair, the color of deep red wine.
John sat and looked around. “This is nice,” he said.
Brock sat in a matching leather couch and stared back at him.
“Let’s leave your wife out of this for now.”
Brock was relieved he didn’t have any merchandise. He wasn’t Devon or Peter, who felt they had to hold on to things of value. He had nothing to fear, but his hands were still sweating despite it, what the hell had he meant, leave his wife out of what?
“That’s good,” Brock said. “She’s pregnant; I wouldn’t want to upset her.”
“That's great. I’m going to get right to the point, I don't have a lot of time.”
“I wish you would.”
“One of your colleagues has been reported missing. I believe her name is Brenda Loring.”
Brock felt weak but he stood anyway; perhaps too quickly. “Missing? What are you talking about, who reported her missing?”
“You know a man named Peter Reece? Says he can't get through to her and she always checks in.”
Peter would never inform the FBI of anything, not even a missing colleague. Brock stared at him and wondered if he should mention that.
“I know Peter Reece slightly,” he said.
John leaned back in his chair and gave Brock a strange look.
“That’s interesting; he says you’re his niece’s husband.”
“Yes, but we don’t see much of him.”
Brock walked to the window. The block curved down to the water and he could see the street below, the lights in his neighbor’s window … the Bay Bridge in the distance. He could see the stars. He wished he were on one. He put his hand on the wall for support. Who the hell is this creep, he wondered.
“When was the last time you spoke to your colleague?”
“You mean Brenda?” He turned from the wall and leaned against it.
“About a week ago.”
“And is that unusual?”
"So you had no idea she was missing?"
"No, of course not," Brock said.
“I’m going to get right to the point. Peter Reece has given us names, men and women responsible for selling stolen art and jewels. Your name and your wife’s top the list, along with the missing woman, Brenda Loring … and of course, his brother, Devon Reece, and a number of others.”
The room spun. Brock needed to sit. He went to his desk drawer and lit a cigarette, something he hadn’t done in five years. He noticed that his hands were shaking. Why the hell would Peter do this?
“I am entitled to a lawyer, aren’t I?”
“I hope you won’t need one.”
Brock felt nauseous. After only one drag he put the cigarette out. It was old and stale. He knew he was showing his nerves and he tried to regain control. He sat on the edge of the desk and stared at John Carelli. He felt his hands shake and clutched them firmly together.
“You want me to believe that Peter sold out his own brother, his own niece, not to mention the rest of us?”
“I don't care if you believe it. If you go to Reece he'll deny it, I'm sure. But that's not why I'm here, Brock. It's not really about the missing woman, local police are looking into that.”
Brock couldn’t make sense of it fast enough. Why would Peter destroy the organization, put his own brother behind bars, much less his closest colleagues? He must have found out about the bullshit Yellow Diamond buy. But still, why would he take it out on the rest of them, completely destroy a business that went back years … annihilate people he referred to as family? All he had to do was break ties with Devon.
John stood up and walked to Brock. “I’ve been told the Eagle Diamond is in Callicoon, New York,” he said. "Mr. Reece told me there's a bid out on it. Some prince wants it. It surfaced through some local channels out there."
Brock was startled but he managed to laugh. “Don’t tell me you believe that? It’s a hoax.”
“A hoax? No, I don't think so. You see, one of our own men worked the case, way back when the diamond was originally stolen, so you understand why we're taking this seriously? The guy was from upstate New York. Strange coincidence.”
“In 66’, right? The guy is still around?”
“Seems he had a friend in Callicoon, spent a lot of time there. We believe he got the gem from one of the robbers, and he kept it. His friend was probably the lucky recipient of the Eagle after our agent passed away. That’s what we think.”
“This agent … he was FBI?”
“I guess we’re not all on the up and up. If the diamond is out there, then he kept it.”
“Why didn’t he cut it up and sell it, for God’s sake?”
“Cold feet? Anyway, he died in 72’. The Eagle wasn’t found after his death. And we don’t know who this friend of his was, but the person who leaked the existence of the Eagle Diamond might have the answer.”
"You think the person that leaked the buy for the diamond actually has it?"
Brock felt his heart. It had stopped pounding. It was still, deadly still. The Eagle Diamond was a reality or this asshole wouldn’t be standing in his living room.
John Carelli put a hand on Brock’s shoulder. “We know Peter is going to send you to Callicoon. We want you to find the diamond, Brock.” John punctuated his request with a hard eyed look. "Find the man that put out the buy and find the diamond...for us."
"You’re not locking me up, you’re putting me on the tail of a diamond?"
"Peter is helping us get to Devon. That’s our deal. It doesn’t have anything to do with you as far as we’re concerned. Our deal with you is to get us the diamond."
"But the Yellow Diamond was a hoax, hand delivered from Devon to Peter, did you know that?"
"I know everything."
“And if I refuse this mission?”
“I’ll arrest you for messing up my plans, then I'll throw the book at you; it’s that simple.”
John smiled. He was broad shouldered and appeared to be in his early forties. He looked more like a rogue himself than FBI. His clothes weren’t bought off a rack either. Brock felt oddly comforted, but somewhat suspicious, even though the badge was legit, he wasn’t sure Carelli was.
“I want you to understand something, Brock," he was saying. "You work for me now, whether you like it or not; you don’t have a choice. Peter Reece doesn't need to know about our arrangement, nor anyone else for that matter. I'm putting you undercover.”
Brock moved away, back over to the window. This was the craziest thing he’d ever heard. He tried to think his way out of it.
“Let me see if I have this right, you want me to work for the FBI?”
“I can’t do that,” Brock said. “You’re asking me to screw people.”
“Ah, I see; you had loftier plans.”
Brock felt his life melting into rainwater at his feet.
“With Peter gone and Devon behind bars, it would all fall to you, wouldn’t it?”
Brock swallowed hard, maybe murdering this guy was an option.
“What about my wife?” he said instead.
“What about her?” John went back to the chair.
“I want your solemn word that she’s safe.” Brock rubbed his hands on the insides of his pockets. “I don’t want her touched.”
“I hear she's one of your best negotiators.”
Brock brought his head up sharply. “I hope you're not thinking of Jane? She'd never work for the FBI." He knew he appeared nervous now, but he didn’t give a shit.
“We'll keep it on hold for now. She can't be trusted until after Devon's arrest. He is her father, after all.”
Brock closed his eyes and held on to a table for support. He felt the room spin, must have been the cigarette. “What does Peter know?” he asked quietly.
“Peter gave us names. He knows nothing else, really, not that I've contacted you, and not that there's an FBI connection to the Eagle Diamond. Peter Reece is no longer our problem.”
"What do you mean?"
"We're not concerned with Peter Reece. We want Devon Reece."
“So to get Devon you're going to send me on a bullshit mission?”
“It isn't a bullshit mission, Brock. That's the point."
"Look, I've already put someone on this. She’s got to know the truth."
"Who, Brenda Loring?"
“Yeah." Brock put his head down.
"So, you and Miss Loring were working together?"
"You could say that."
"You might have gotten her killed, Brock. The Eagle Diamond’s whereabouts is going to bring every thief in the world converging on that town."
"I should have gone with her."
"You have to be honest with me from this point on. By the way, what Peter knows or doesn't know is irrelevant.”
Brock nodded his head. He wished he hadn’t put out the cigarette.
“I’ll be in the area, working with you. I’ll be using an alias. Joe Carpenter.” He tore a piece of paper out of a small leather pad and handed it to Brock. “Cell tower signals are lousy in the mountains but there are places you can tap into them. Find them. Keep in touch with me.”
Brock folded the paper and put it in his trouser pocket.
"Why are you using an alias?"
“Devon hasn’t been indicted yet?”
“No, he’s under surveillance. We’re baiting him back to the States. We'll take him when he shows up for the diamond.”
"What makes you think he's going to show up? If he does know about it, he'll think its bullshit. He's probably the one that planted it with Peter, the same way he did with the Yellow Diamond. Don't you get it man? He's bringing Peter down with bullshit bids. As much as I want to believe the Eagle exists, I don't."
"Devon is on your tail. He keeps close tabs on you. If you go to Callicoon he's going to believe the diamond is really there. He thinks a lot of you, Brock. Now, don't make me repeat myself. Devon will show up in Callicoon the minute he finds out your whereabouts. That's when we'll grab him."
"He'll have Glen take care of it. He won't show up."
"He won't trust Glen enough to take care of it. Glen is a loose cannon."
Brock got up because he couldn’t help it.
“Why the hell would Peter do this, destroy the entire operation, incriminate his own family … just because he hates his brother?”
“He's dying of cancer. He no longer has a vested interest in anything, I guess.”
Brock fell back. He reached out to support himself with the first thing he could feel. He couldn’t believe it. Brenda mentioned he looked sick … but dying?
“Will he be arrested?”
“An eye for an eye; he gave us Devon, he walks … for as long as he has.”
“Shit, why me?”
“He said you were his best man and that you’d probably want to take over the organization after his death.” John raised his eyes. “I guess he didn’t want you to have it.”
Brock couldn’t believe what he was hearing; he must have looked dumbfounded when he stared back at Carelli; Carelli was smiling.
“I own your life now, Brock,” he said. “You're a very talented man. You’re going to recover stolen property for me, for the FBI, because we need you, not only gems but also all that artwork, that incredible artwork. You, and your lovely wife will be in my employ. We're going to be spending quality time together. Any questions?”
“A partnership is a partnership. I hear you two work well together.”
“What about Brenda?”
John held his gaze. “We’re working on it. Any chance she absconded with the diamond?”
"No. Look, Glen Morby was supposedly working with Devon, against Peter."
"Then you need to watch him closely. He might have something to do with Brenda Loring's disappearance."
"I feel like killing Peter right now despite the fact he's dying."
"You say one word to Peter about any of this and our deal is off. You better play dumb, Brock. He wouldn't believe you anyway. "
Brock glared at him and then sat in the comfort of his large leather chair. “The information you have is not reliable and you’ve never proved that that FBI agent had the diamond either. You have nothing but a theory.”
“Like I said, I have inside information, Brock. Find the guy who put out the buy, then find the diamond.”
“Don’t get in my way. Don’t start playing cops and robbers on me.”
John laughed. “Hey, you’re the expert.”
Brock climbed the stairs. Life as he knew it was gone. He sat at the edge of the bed.
Jane turned sleepily and opened one eye.
“My God, have you been smoking?”
He put his hand on her arm; Carelli’s words kept repeating … I own your life now, Brock.
“A baby is going to change everything,” he said. “For the better.”
“If you smoke again I’m going to bar you from the house.”
He took her hand and bent to kiss her. “I promise, I won’t.”
“Who was that that came?” she asked.
“He gave me some information about a landscape, German artist … nice piece. There’s a bid on it.”
Should he tell her the truth? He thought but quickly decided against it. It was too upsetting … and she was pregnant, and Carelli told him not to. Would she forewarn her father? Perhaps. Shouldn’t he at least tell her that Peter is dying? No, he thought, no, it will upset her.
Jane took the cover to her chin and closed her eyes. He stared at her. She was asleep within three minutes. He was glad he'd kept his mouth shut. Besides, she’d never work for the FBI. Then what would they do?
He kissed her forehead and whispered, “I love you.”
The next morning he awoke early and used the phone in the den. He dialed a number for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C.
“Agent Carelli,” he said.
The voice at the other end paused only a moment. “He’s on assignment; you want his voicemail?”
Brock felt his body sink. It could still be a setup, he thought. But then he remembered the badge and the photo in his wallet, unmistakably Carelli. He reached for one of the stale cigarettes and lit it. “Shit,” he said as he inhaled the nasty taste, like poison blades of grass. “He’s real,” he whispered as the old musty smoke attacked his lungs, and a wave of nausea lingered in his gut. "Maybe."
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