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The Eagle Chronicles 36: Eagle's Hope

Title: Eagle's Hope
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 9,659
Summary 1997: Steven is with his daughter and is reminded of a past "case"
Notes: A fascination with the subject along with the new home for the item in question inspired this one. It's a major jump in the timeline but the only way I could fit it in. It just means I'll have to fill in the missing years.




36. Eagle's Hope


September 1997

The limo drove along the Mall in the direction of the Washington Monument. The Union Jacks flapping on the hood announced it the property of the British Embassy. It stopped in front of the National Museum of Natural History where a red carpet cut a path down the stairway. The limo door was opened and out stepped an older man who looked to be somewhere in his seventies in evening dress with a cane in his right hand. With his left, he reached into the car and helped out a young woman in a deep blue evening gown and wrap. She looked at the man with a smile and the two walked up the steps and into the museum.

They were greeted in the Rotunda by a giant stuffed elephant. The couple followed the other guests upstairs to the gallery where the new exhibition was opening, the reason they were there: the Janet Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. He leaned over and spoke so only she could hear. "I want to thank you for asking me to join you, Kendra."

"I knew you had to be here, Grandfather. Just keep your hands in your pockets." He grinned and she realized that he was still handsome with his sparkling blue eyes, tan face, and peppered hair. It was hard to believe he was nearing 80.

"Just look at all this glittering finery. Ah, to be young again."

"Ah, but if you were young, I doubt they would have let you near this room."

"I'm sure I would have found a way." He stopped in front of a pair of pear-shaped diamond earrings. "They're rather nice. What do you think?"

"Yes, they are nice, but we're not window shopping." She read the plaque nearby. "Says they once belonged to Marie Antoinette."

"Must have been while she still had a head for it."

"Oh, that was in real poor taste," she groaned. She looked over at the next case. "Will you look at these? They're absolutely gorgeous."

Her grandfather looked over her shoulder at them. "The Napoleon necklace. What I wouldn't do to hold those."

"Not tonight. This is a social event, remember?" Kendra looked about at the other milling guests and the waiters and waitresses weaving through them with champagne and hors d'oeuvres. She smiled. "What would they do if they knew the infamous Eagle were here?"

"Probably toss me out and bar the doors."

Kendra smiled. "I doubt they'd throw out a British royal duke."

"That fact has saved me on a number of occasions." James Stuart, duke of Edinburgh--who had spent the early part of his life ignorant of his past under the name of Steven Taylor--hailed a passing waiter and took two glasses of champagne and handed one to his granddaughter. "Shall we continue?"

They meandered through the exhibit. It had been arranged by geological type or the benefactor. Steven would tell her some anecdote from his past regarding a similar gem or other stories he had heard. They headed back to the Winston Gallery and stood trying to figure out what to do next. The crowd that had been there virtually since they had arrived parted and he stared at a piece that took him back years.

Kendra excitedly took him by the hand and led him over. "My God, it's the Hope! I've always wanted to see that!" She gazed at the blue diamond resting on the velvet. "It's so beautiful. I'm just dying to hold it. Aren't you?"

"No, not really. I had forgotten this was here."

"You of all people should be itching to touch this."

"I already have done."

"No way."

"As a matter of fact, I stole it."

"Really? Tell me about it."

"It all started in early '47 when I was here in Washington. . ."

* * * *

Washington 1947

Steven Taylor looked out over the cream of Washington society. He ran a finger around his shirt collar in an attempt to loosen it. Normally he prided himself on his ability to blend in, but as his hostess had used his presence as a drawing card for this particular gala, anonymity was virtually impossible. Such was the price of fame, he had been told. He yearned to have a "normal" life again, but his hadn't been that way since high school. Most would say their lives had changed once the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but he'd had a few years' head start when he robbed safes in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. It changed once again when he was given the choice to help the French Resistance or serve his full prison sentence. That decision led to his presence here tonight.

Two fellow members of Intelligence brought him out of his reveries. "Well, look at you in a tuxedo," said Scott Adams. "At least we know there'll be photos of this major event."

"How I let you guys talk me into this, I'll never know."

"What were you thinking about?" asked the second man, Rick Johnson, a former New York City detective and friend from their days in France.

"Just everything that brought me here. Hard to imagine that five years ago I would have needed to scam and invitation to something like this."

"Yes, well, having a world renowned jewel thief on the guest list might have kept a few people away," laughed Scott.

"I was known to help keep the police on their toes."

"Don't remind me," said Rick, who had almost been dismissed after one of Steven's escapades in New York.

"What happened?" asked Scott.

As Rick filled him in, Steven's eyes wandered around, examining the room for alternate exits as well as the guests and their possessions. It was a habit developed during his years as a thief, which then became a matter of survival during the war. As he observed the guests, he mentally estimated the cost of their jewelry. He began to tire of the "game" and the he saw It. The one piece outside a royal collection that was considered the dream heist. He couldn't believe that he was in the same room.

"Isn't that right, Steven?" asked Rick.

"Hunh?" He couldn't pull his eyes away.

"What is it now?" asked Scott. "Have you spotted some young socialite?"

"No, that wouldn't do it," said Rick. "They chase him, remember? Ah, I think I've spotted it. No wonder you're acting this way," he commented with a little laugh. "I'm surprised you're not hyperventilating."

"Can you blame me? Christ, I thought I was seeing things."

"Guys, let me in on this, will you?"

"Let's see, I guess you could say it's the jewel equivalent to the Holy Grail. Is that a good comparison?"

"Just short of the Crown Jewels, but yeah, I guess you could say that."

"Now I have it. Mrs. McLean is here. I don't know why she keeps that thing. I mean, it's an invitation to all kinds of lowlifes. Oh, sorry, Steven."

"No offense taken. I think that despite the pull of the diamonds, thieves know that no fence would possibly take it as it's too well known."

"And cursed," added Rick.

"Well, there is that, too."

"You don't mean to say that you believe in that stuff?"

"Too much has happened to past owners to put it all down to coincidence. But, if I remember correctly, wearing it is bad luck, not necessarily owning it."

"Mrs. McLean has had a run of bad luck herself since acquiring it. Her son died in a car accident, her husband's in a mental institution, and, earlier this year, her daughter overdosed on sleeping pills."

"Must be quite a woman to keep wearing it. I don't think I could have."

"This from a man who practically lived with Hitler for five months."

"Hitler was something you could see and understand. This 'curse' is intangible. You have no true idea what you're dealing with."

"Still, you're dying to get your hands on it, aren't you?"

"That obvious, am I?"

"You forget, we're professionals, trained in observation."

"Ah, there you are, Mr. Taylor." Steven turned to see his hostess fast approaching. "I have a number of guests who want to meet you. You will excuse us, gentlemen?" she asked as she led Steven away.

Steven was then forced to make small talk with a number of Washington's elite. It seemed they all wanted to know about his time with Hitler. Maybe there was some fascination wondering how one man could enthrall a nation.

A voice belonging to an older woman greeted his hostess. "So, this is your guest of honor. He's much younger than I would have thought."

"Evalyn, dear, I'm so glad you could make it. I was sorry to hear about your daughter. But where are my manners? Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, may I introduce Mr. Steven Taylor."

She held out her hand. "An honor, Mr. Taylor. It seems you are the talk of the town."

"It's not the first time," he said with a smile as he took her hand and kissed it, Continental-style. "From what I understand, you have held the same unenviable position in the past."

"Yes, and not for the best of reasons, either." She fingered the gem at her throat.

"Ah, yes. Owning something with a provenance like that could be a burden."

"I had almost forgotten your knowledge of gems, Mr. Taylor. It does wonders for starting conversations. Would you care to. .?" she asked as her hands reached for the clasp.

"Lord, no. Not here. I'd be afraid of anything happening to it."

"Are you sure that's what you're afraid of?"

"You mean the curse? Perhaps. It's just too much coincidence."

She smiled knowingly. "Very well. We can arrange something else, I'm sure."

"That would be wonderful, Mrs. McLean. Thank you." He looked around the room. "Now I mustn't take up any more of your time. I'm staying at the Hay-Adams should you wish to contact me." Steven made his farewells and left the party.

* * * *

"Wait a minute," said Kendra. "You mean she was ready to hand you the Hope then and there and you refused?"

"Yep." Steven pulled his gaze away from the blue diamond and looked at his granddaughter.

"It couldn't have been the curse, so tell me the real reason."

"Everyone there knew my past and for me to be examining a gem like that, they would have all been examining me. I wanted a chance to view it without that extra pressure."

"So, what did you do after the party?"

"Wandered about Washington, taking in the city by night, before heading back to the hotel."

"That's another thing. Why were you at a hotel? Surely they would have put you up at the White House?"

"They offered, of course, but I wanted to be able to come and go as I pleased."

"So, what happened next?"

He was just about to continue his story when it was announced the speeches were soon to begin. "It'll have to wait. Let's go find a good spot, eh?" They made their way close to the podium and listened to the same speeches that were always made at such occasions. Steven's eyes wandered among the crowd and soon he recognized a face, one he hadn't thought to see in years.

Kendra saw him tense. "What is it? What's wrong?" she whispered.

"Nothing really. I was just taken by surprise by someone I haven't seen in years."

"Does it relate to that story you were telling me?"

"Yes, he does."

* * * *

The following day Steven decided to take in some of the sites before meeting Rick and Scott for lunch. They waved him over to a quiet table in the corner. He could see that they were anxious to hear about last night, but they waited until the waiter had taken their orders for drinks before asking.

"So, tell us what happened?" asked Scott. "We lost track of you after that gaggle of senators got a hold of you."

"Is that what they're called? I thought it would have been more like a murder."

Rick smiled. "What did they talk about? It seems you were with them for quite some time."

"Basically they were grilling me about Hitler and his mates. Bloodthirsty lot, really. The senators."

"What happened afterwards?"

"I did meet someone rather interesting before I left." The waiter chose that moment to return with their drinks. They placed their orders then the others begged Steven to continue his story. "Evalyn. Walsh. McLean."

"Really? I've never gotten to meet her," said Scott.

"You're not the toast of the town," Rick said with a smile.

"I am not the toast of the town." Steven sipped his whisky. "Anyway, Mrs. McLean seemed a very lovely lady. I understand her daughter died recently."

"Drug overdose," supplied Rick. "Her son died from a car crash while still a child and her husband's in a psychiatric hospital."

"Looks like the Hope's done its job."

"So you got to see it up close?" Scott asked.

"Yep. I could barely concentrate on our conversation with it so close. She even offered to take it off and let me hold it. We decided it would be best if I stopped by her place for a 'private viewing'."

"How could you refuse?" teased Scott.

"I didn't. She's gonna call the hotel when she wants me to stop by."

"But why would she go out of her way to have you look at it? You're not an appraiser," put in Rick.

"Not professionally, no, but it does help to have some knowledge."

"Maybe she's going to ask you to steal it so she can collect the insurance," remarked Scott.

"Does she have it insured?"

"I don't know. I was just saying that. I mean, she's pawned it in New York when she's needed the money."

"That's interesting."

When the waiter returned with lunch, they changed to conversation to lighter topics.

The following afternoon Steven received the phone call from Mrs. McLean. "Mr. Taylor, if you haven't anything planned, would this evening be a good time?"

"I do have an appointment at 9:00," he lied, "but I could stop by at about 7:30. Would that be all right?"

"Certainly. I'll send my car for you."

"Mrs. McLean, that's not--" he heard the dial tone-- "necessary."

He wrote a couple of postcards home as promised then went out to the museums before his appointment with the Hope and its owner.

That evening he carefully prepared his wardrobe. He chose a charcoal grey suit which the hotel had ironed giving his trousers a razor-sharp crease. Normally, he wouldn't take such pains, but as this was high society. . . He looked in the full-length mirror and declared himself presentable just as the phone rang. It was the front desk announcing that his ride had arrived. On his way out the door he grabbed his hat.

He was escorted into a parlor where Evalyn Walsh McLean was waiting for him. She sat regally in a wing back chair and held out her hand. "Mr. Taylor, I'm so glad you could come."

He took her hand. "I couldn't very well refuse, especially when you dangle the Hope in front of me like a carrot." He noticed she didn't have it on.

She smiled and motioned to the velvet case on the table. "I knew you would want to examine it." He hesitated reaching for it. "Go on."

Steven eagerly picked up the box, placed it on his lap and opened the lid. The diamonds caught the lamplight and cast prisms about the room. He gingerly lifted the Hope Diamond from the velvet and just savored the moment. He then examined the setting. Surrounding the Hope itself were 16 smaller white diamonds and they were attached to a platinum chain bearing about 46 more diamonds. "Winston?" he asked her.

"Yes. I wanted something stylish." A maid brought in a tray bearing two glasses and a selection of liquor in carafes. "Would you care for something to drink, Mr. Taylor?"

"Steven, please. 'Mr.' makes me sound older. Whisky would be fine." The maid poured him a glass and smiled shyly at him before leaving.

Steven patted his jacket pocket and pulled out his loupe. "Do you have a nice bright light I can use?"

"Perhaps. I can send someone to look."

Steven, not wanting to give the household staff something else to do, said, "I think we can make due, that is, with your permission?" She nodded and he looked about for the most inexpensive lamp he could find. There was one on a table opposite from where Mrs. McLean was seated. He unscrewed the shade then held the necklace up to the exposed bulb. He looked through the magnifier. "God, this is marvelous. Trying to imagine this as three times larger just awes me. It's easy to believe that it was once part of a Hindu idol, according to the stories, anyway."

"You've done quite a bit of reading, haven't you?" She watched him in fascination as he turned the gem over in his hands. For one so young, he seemed very knowledgeable.

"I've done my share," he answered, looking up from the jewel. "It was a fascination of mine--or should I say 'is'. Never thinking I'd get to see it, I researched everything I could find. I could name you all the owners from Jean Baptiste Tavernier to three French Louis, to possibly Queen Maria Louise of Spain, a Dutch diamond cutter, Henry Hope--hence the name--an Eastern European prince--"

"I'm well aware of its colorful past, Steven."

"--a Greek, and then you. Sorry, but once I get going. . ." He took a swig of whisky. "I just wonder at what this stone--and all the other high profile gems--have seen, the history they've witnessed, or even been part of."

"You are quite the romantic."

"I guess I am." He smiled and put the lamp back together then reverently placed the necklace back in its case. "I hate to be nosy, Mrs. McLean--"

"Evalyn. If I'm to call you Steven, you must call me Evalyn."

"All right, Evalyn. How do you protect the Hope when you're not wearing it?"

The older woman smiled. "Do I keep it in a safe, do you mean? As you very well know, Steven, that would be the first place a thief would look. I have many different hiding places throughout the house for an item such as this. Your concern does you credit. Personally, I don't think there's much call for 'cursed' jewels these days."

Steven smiled as he looked at his watch. There was still some time. As if reading his mind, Evalyn asked, "Would you like to see the rest of my collection?"

"I'd be honored."

* * * *

Steven listened to the speeches with one ear while he kept an eye on the man who had tried to ruin him fifty years ago. Once the speeches were over, he'd work Kendra towards the door in an attempt to escape before there was an unwanted confrontation. It didn't go exactly as planned.

"Lady Kendra, how lovely to see you again. What do you think of this little collection?"

"Quite beautiful, Mr. Adams. Tempting, even." She noticed the look exchanged between Adams and her grandfather. Something must have happened. She had to hear the rest of the story. "I think you know my grandfather."

"Yes, we've worked together in the past. How long has it been?"

"About fifty years. And isn't it ironic that the Hope is in the vicinity?"

"Isn't it? Give me a call later when you want to arrange that meeting, Lady Kendra. Until then. Goodnight."

Steven watched Scott's retreating back and heaved a sigh. "That went horribly."

"What happened between you two? I thought you said you were friends."

"Why do you want to know about Scott Adams?" Steven asked as they left the exhibition.

"He's asked me to do a job for him and I think it best that I should know of his past."

"A job? Does that mean what I think it does?"

"He is the security consultant for the museum and he's asked me to run a little test."

"Let me guess: steal the Hope. Oh, he's good."

"What do you mean?"

"That's what he got me to do fifty years ago."

"You definitely need to tell me."

* * * *

Steven spent his free time back at the hotel drawing up plans of how he would get the Hope. He knew it was just an exercise, but the adrenaline was pumping through him like it was the real thing. A few days after his visit with Evalyn, Rick and Scott caught him before he could hide the papers.

"What's this?" asked Rick. "Are you not as reformed as we thought?"

"No, um, well--"

Scott grabbed one of the sheets from his hand. "Looks like a sketch of floor plans, too. Does this say 'Freedom'? You're planning to rob Mrs. McLean?"

Rick looked at him in disbelief. "You're not?"

"No, I'm not. It was just to keep my mind nimble."

Scott looked closely at the plans. "So, can it be done?"

"I think so. Not that I would, of course." He took the plans back. "I think it's like retired generals recreating old battles."

"Basically because they're too old to continue," remarked Scott.

"Are you saying I'm too old? Out of practice? I'll have you know I helped foil a bank robbery a few months ago using my safecracking abilities along the way."

"Maybe, but that's totally different from breaking into a house with the occupants still there, getting what you want, then sneaking out unnoticed."

"Excuse me, but do you think you could do any better?"

"Guys, I don't think we really need to go into this," said Rick, trying to calm them. "After all, you said you weren't going to do it."

"I might just change my mind," Steven said with a look at Scott.

"Don't think you need to so it because of me."

"Maybe I need to do it for myself." He opened up the plans on the table.

"I take it I can't talk you out of this," said Rick.

"Nope."

"Then I guess I'd better help out so you don't screw up."

"It would be appreciated."

* * * *

"He played you like a fiddle, didn't he?" asked Kendra once they were in the limousine back to the Embassy.

"He knew exactly what to say. He knew my pride wouldn't allow me to be washed-up at 26. He threw down the gauntlet, and, like an idiot, I picked it up."

"So you went through with it."

"My plan worked all right and the Hope was where I thought it would be. I couldn't just hide it elsewhere; Scott had to see it to know I had taken it. Rick had spoken with the police just in case something came up. I showed up at the appointed place and time and Scott was waiting. He asked if I had the Hope and I said yes. Next thing I know, there were police with guns aimed at me."

"What did you do?"

"Put my hands up like any sane man would do. As the police put on the cuffs, Scott took the Hope from me. He was about to pocket it for himself when the police took it for evidence. As I was driven away, I looked back at Scott and could have sworn he was grinning."

"I thought Rick was supposed to have taken care of the police."

"So did I. I found out later that Scott had told Rick that he would handle it. I think he had it planned from the moment he learned Evalyn asked me to her house. Anyway, I tried to explain everything to the police, but, for some reason, they refused to believe me."

They arrived at the Embassy and were fussed over until the staff was sure they were comfortable. After Kendra had checked security, she asked her grandfather to tell her the rest of the story.

* * * *

Lying on his cot in the holding cell, Steven tried to understand why Scott would turn against him. It didn't take long. He knew that diamonds and any other "get rich quick" could ruin friendships. He wanted the Hope and Steven was his key to it. He had no concrete proof of this, which meant Scott would get away with it. He gave the cell door a glance. God, that would be so easy. But no, I'll be out of here in the morning. With a smile, he went to sleep.

There was a clang on the bars as the officer approached the cell. "Hey, Hero! Time to get up! You're wanted." He inserted his key into the lock.

"Don't bother," Steven said as he opened the door. "I unlocked it last night. In case of emergencies, you know." Dumbfounded, the officer followed.

Steven ignored the stares and whispers as he was escorted to the officer in charge of the case. With a quick glance, Steven placed him in his forties, possibly a career man. The nameplate on his desk read: Off. T. Hanson. He looked up wearily from his paperwork. "Never thought I'd be doing this. Take a seat."

"Believe me, neither did I," Steven said as he sat in the chair facing the desk. "I can explain this."

"Of course you can. I'm sure you thought of one the same time you drew up your plans to take the Hope."

"Oh, have I been condemned due to past transgressions? What I've done for this country means nothing? You won't even hear me out?"

"It's too early for this yelling, Mr. Taylor. Let me just do my job, okay?"

"Fine, if you won't listen to me, perhaps you'll call a friend of mine with the Intelligence Department, Richard Johnson. He was supposed to have called you guys before all this started to explain what I was doing."

"Why would I trust what he says when he was working with you?"

"Wonderful."

The phone on the desk rang and Hanson answered it. "Yes, he's right here. Yes, ma'am, we have it in custody." There was a long pause as he listened. "Is that true, ma'am? No one is forcing you to say this? Very good. Yes, he's free to go. We'll have someone escort it back to you. Good-bye, ma'am."

"That was Mrs. McLean calling to see if you had the Hope, wasn't it? I could have saved you the embarrassment had you let me explain."

"She said you were testing her security to see how protected her jewels were." Awe colored his tone.

"An item like that deserves special protection. I offered my services." He stood. "I'm free to go, right?"

"Yes, Mr. Taylor. You have my apologies."

Steven collected his possessions then headed out the front door. Rick was coming in. "I just heard that you were brought in last night for stealing the Hope. You okay?"

"Yeah. Scott won't be after I get my hands on him."

"Scott? Am I missing something?"

"I must be moving a little slow. It didn't come to me until lying on my bunk last night."

"I can't believe they locked you up."

"They came upon our little rendezvous last night and Scott told them that I had the Hope. They brought me in."

"I'm sorry about that. Scott convinced me that he would call the police. He's been planning this some time."

"You know, now that I think on it, he did try to plant the idea in my head when we had lunch the day after I met Evalyn Something about stealing it for the insurance."

"How did you get out?"

"I left a note for Evalyn explaining it all to her; that it was a challenge and that I did plan to return it. I also told her to call the police if she didn't hear from me in the morning. You see, I'm so used to working alone that I knew there was room for error the more people were involved."

"You didn't trust us?"

"It was Scott I was unsure of."

"There's no concrete evidence against him in this."

"I know. We'll just have to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't try something like this again. We'll get him at some point."

* * * *

"Maybe I should just call the whole thing off," said Kendra. "He's planning on using me just as he did you."

"But we know what he's planning this time. We have to catch him. We can't let him give thieves a bad name."

"You really want to get him back, don't you?"

"Yes, I do. He almost put me away for years. If you think about it, he would've changed all our lives."

"So how do we do it?"

"Go ahead and plan the job as normal. I'll work out the other details."

"You're sure you don't want to join me?"

"I'm not up-to-date on all that high-tech stuff. It'll help a little with the plans if you hit a snag, though. We'll do it in the morning."

* * * *

The next morning over a light breakfast, they outlined their plans for the day.

"I have to do some work for the Embassy, but I'll call Mr. Adams and arrange a meeting. I think he might want to pass over the detailed security plans. What about you?"

"Pay a visit to some old friends to find out how Scott's been keeping busy."

"CIA?"

"CIA. Bombay Club at 1:00 for lunch?"

"Sure. Be careful. You don't need to make enemies."

"Who'll notice one more?" With a smile, he left the room.

Kendra grinned and wished she could have seen him at his height. She had heard the stories, mostly from other sources, as her grandfather was not one to boast. Clearing her head, she took her coffee to her office and began to sift through paperwork.

* * * *

Steven decided to take a taxi to CIA headquarters, as he didn't want to risk walking--Lord only knew what was out there--and the limo would attract unwanted attention. Dressed casually, he was just another body to be turned away without an appointment. Until he gave his name. As it had done in the past, it opened the door for him.

Few of the agents he had known in the past were still there, but he lucked out in the fact that his godson was assigned to Washington. Rick had even named the boy after him.

Steven Johnson welcomed him into his office. "I saw your photo from the opening last night."

"Kendra thought I'd want to be there."

"How's she doing? I heard she was attached to the Embassy."

"She's doing well. Likes work a lot. But I'm not here on a social visit. I need you to look someone up for me, a former agent."

"We don't exactly keep tabs on someone once they've left," said Johnson as he tapped at his keyboard. "Is it someone I know?"

"No. He left before you started. Your father knew him, though."

"Okay, what's his name?"

"Scott Adams."

"Oh, him," said Johnson as he typed. "I remember Dad talking about him. Didn't like him too much."

"Neither do I," remarked Steven.

"Says here that he was called up regarding 'actions not in accordance with procedure'. It appears he also registered some complaints against Dad. Said it was like he was under surveillance." He looked at Steven for an explanation and Steven gave him the condensed version of the story he gave Kendra. "Well, that could explain it. You want to know if he's done something similar between then and now? It seems they did keep a record of some of his activities. I guess they didn't trust him after all. He did quite a few jobs as a security consultant--"

"Let me guess. He arranged for security, left town, and then the place was hit."

"Right. He also did some international freelance jobs. For some powers, having the CIA on your résumé means an immediate hire."

"So now he's gotten the Smithsonian to hire him and he plans to use Kendra to get the Hope."

"You're going to let her go through with it?"

"Scott'll suspect something if she doesn't. Once I learn the details, I'll contact you. We're gonna need some extra support."

* * * *

Kendra met with Adams as arranged. He stood from behind his desk and greeted her. "Lady Kendra. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to meet with me."

"Your offer is intriguing. Not many people can say they stole the Hope Diamond."

"Yes, well. This is all for a good cause, not personal profit."

"Of course not. I wouldn't be here otherwise."

"Skills such as yours must be greatly sought after."

"To a degree, since I don't work for my own gain."

"Following family tradition is always a good thing."

"I like to think of myself as a blend of my father's diplomatic skills and my grandfather's Intelligence work."

"Which brings us to the topic at hand." Scott pulled out the diagrams of the new exhibition hall with the monitors and alarms marked in red. "This should help you plan your way. After today, we will not talk of this again."

"Right." Kendra looked over the prints. "You'll contact the police to let them know what we're doing, right? I don't want this to escalate out of hand."

"Of course. You're sure your grandfather has no idea of what we're doing?"

"He was wondering how we knew each other and I just told him that you were asking my opinion on some security measures."

"And he believed you?"

"Mr. Adams, he's had no reason to doubt me. Why, doesn't he trust you? When you met last night, he looked like he wanted to throttle you."

"It was something that happened years ago. I've practically forgotten all about it."

Yeah, sure you have. Kendra turned her gaze back to the plans. "Okay, give me about three days. Should there be any change, I'll notify you."

"Discreetly, of course."

"Of course." Kendra rolled up the plans. "Good day, Mr. Adams."

"Lady Kendra."

She left his office and a shiver crept up her spine. I hope you know what you're up to, Grandfather. She walked along the Mall and looked over at the Washington Monument. She smiled as she saw the two different colored stones meet. One thing about Americans, they don't give up. They wouldn't let a war get in the way of honoring a past hero. She then wondered if her grandfather would ever be honored in such a way.

Kendra met her grandfather at the restaurant and related her morning to him. "The fact that he's so arrogant can be a great asset to us," said Steven when she was done. "It won't even occur to him that we know his plans."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Didn't he strike you that way? Sure of himself and his plan?"

"I guess. How did your visit go?"

He told her of all the things he had learned from Johnson. "Seems he didn't have too stellar a record and they've been keeping an eye on him since he left."

"You think they'll be more help than the police?"

"Sure. Even if the police do show up, the CIA can say they were aware of the whole thing; that it was part of a plan to get him."

"It pays to have connections," she remarked with a smile.

"You would do well to cultivate some of your own--or at least keep contact with mine."

"You're not trying to play matchmaker, are you?"

"Whatever gave you that idea? I'll introduce you to a few friends and you can cultivate them for your own."

"As long as that's the case."

After lunch they made another trip to the Smithsonian to see the gems with a "real" crowd. As they observed, Steven remarked, "You could always hide in a broom closet then leave with the cleaners in the morning."

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not Audrey Hepburn. Hiding ahead of time is a plausible idea, though. I'll give the floor plans a quick glance."

"And take your leave in the morning?"

"The less you know the better. Besides, I thought you planned to set Scott up."

"I think I may have come up with something. When did you tell him you'd do it?"

"In three days."

"Can you do it in two?"

"I might. What did you have in mind?"

"We leave Scott a little present."

"And he can't accuse us without implicating himself," she said as she caught on. "Brilliant!"

* * * *

Kendra wandered through the museum, killing time before it closed. Her black outfit was with the current fashion and would easily serve its second purpose. A few moments before closing, she sneaked into an "Employees Only" area and quickly removed her wrap-around skirt revealing tight black leggings underneath. She threw that into her satchel and then removed a black ski mask that would cover her face and hair. Placing the bag across her shoulder, she entered the air duct.

She crept along quietly, the map of the system in her head. She reached the gem hall, got into as comfortable a position as she could, then timed the guards on their rounds. If Scott's information were to be believed, the alarm panel used by the guards would be within reach of the duct opening. She slowly unhitched the grate and let it swing to the side. She peered out. Yes, there it was! Using a telescoping rod, she keyed in the code that would clear the alarm.

Knowing timing was limited, Kendra retracted the rod, and cautiously stepped out onto the floor. She immediately headed for the Hope's display case. Scott's intelligence told her that there were no alarms set on the case, but she felt for hidden triggers anyway since Scott's information was part of a plan to set her up. She cautiously lifted the lid. It wasn't as heavy as she thought. She tilted it to one side, propped her body close to steady it, then snaked her hand inside and grabbed the diamond. Wishing she had more time to savor her success, she wrapped it in the velvet bag she had brought along and placed it in the satchel.

She returned to the duct, turned the alarm back on, replaced the grate, and braced herself for the alarms to start. They didn't disappoint. She ignored the blaring noise and kept to the path to the outside she had memorized.

Once outside, she kept to the shadows. As soon as she could, she changed into her skirt then wrapped herself in a long coat. With a deep breath to steady her racing pulse, Kendra then called her grandfather. Thank the Lord for mobile phones. "Yes, I'll be a little late for the party. He's there? Wonderful. I just need to make one more stop before I join you."

Kendra shut off the phone, put it in the bag, then waited for the bus that would take her to Scott's office. The Smithsonian would be sure to call him so her time at the office would be limited. She had to think of a good hiding place for the diamond; something not too obvious, yet not too obscure.

She got off the bus and walked down the street to the building that housed his office. Using a picklock, she opened the front door. She took the stairs and stopped at the fifth floor. She opened the door and peered out. Good. No sign of the guard. She crept along the corridor and used the picklock on the office door. Closing it quietly behind her, she took out a small flashlight and approached the desk.

Normally, she would avoid the desk, thinking it too obvious, but Kendra knew that one of the bottom drawers hid a safe. The perfect place! She picked the lock to the top middle drawer, which then enabled her to open the lower right drawer. She lifted out all the papers, pulled up the false bottom, and was surprised to discover the safe used a key. She had expected a combination. No matter. Just makes my job easier.

She opened the safe, placed the velvet bag inside, put the bottom back--making sure there was a small crack visible--then replaced all the papers. She closed the drawer and made sure the room looked the way it did when she entered. Turning off the flashlight, she cautiously opened the door to the hall. No guard. She turned the lock and closed the door before heading to the stairs and back outside.

Once away from the building, she called the Embassy limo so she could arrive at the party in style. The driver knew of her clandestine dealings and didn't question the reasons. He pulled up to the curb and she climbed in. "Everything go all right?" he asked.

"Didn't get caught," she answered with a smile as she pulled back her hair.

He stopped and replaced the flags on the hood. When he started up again, he looked in his rearview mirror and saw her applying makeup. He smiled and felt honored that she trusted him with her secret. Besides, if he were ever caught in a lie for her, he could always say he was acting under orders. He pulled into the driveway to a mansion. "We're here."

"Okay." She checked her reflection in the mirror one last time. "How do I look?"

He turned around and grinned. "Perfect."

"You're too kind."

He parked the car, got out, and walked around to help her out. "I'll be 'round the side if you need me," he whispered.

Kendra nodded and smiled her thanks before stepping through the portal.

* * * *

Steven sat in the back of the Embassy limousine and wondered if he was doing the right thing, making Kendra part of his revenge. He was beginning to second- guess his actions. Granted, it was too late to do anything about it.

They pulled into the drive and he put his worried thoughts aside. There was a chance that Scott would be here and Steven needed him to believe the story for Kendra's absence. When the car stopped, he reached for the door handle.

"Let me get that for you, sir."

"Is that really necessary?"

"It's expected."

Steven sighed as Ellis came around and opened the door. "You'll pick up Kendra?"

"She'll call me when she's ready," he whispered. "Enjoy yourself, sir."

Steven entered the mansion and was immediately set upon by the hostess. "How kind of you to join us, your grace," she gushed. "You must have received many invitations."

"Not as many as you would think," he remarked with a smile. "I've been trying to keep a low profile this trip."

"But where is your granddaughter? I was under the impression hat she would be accompanying you."

Out of the corner of his eye, Steven could see Scott. "Just as we were getting ready to leave, something came up that needed her immediate attention. She insisted I go along ahead. She will be coming."

"Wonderful. She's such a lovely young lady. You must be so proud of her."

"Oh, I am."

"Don't let me monopolize your time. I'm sure there are others just dying for a chance to speak with you." With a smile, she was gone.

Steven meandered through the guests, smiling and making small talk when required. He stayed away from politics in case any of his comments would be misconstrued as being the views of his sister.

His cell phone rang and he went to a private corner. "Kendra? Everything all right? Scott overheard me tell your story. Okay. Be careful." He shut off the phone and sighed.

It was here that Scott found him. "I'm surprised you're still here," he remarked.

"I thought I'd wait for Kendra," he replied, acting dense. "Oh, you mean in Washington. I'm in no hurry. The weather's nice and Kendra asked me to stay a little longer."

"Where is your granddaughter? It's not like her to be late for a party."

"You know her well?"

"We've met a few times at functions. She's been helping me with a current project. Quite a mind. She reminds me of you."

"Thank God she has her father's temperament. I was never any good at diplomacy. I'm not one to suffer fools gladly." He heard a faint beeping.

"Oh, my phone. Please, excuse me."

Steven turned away to give him some modicum of privacy but watched from the corner of his eye. It was not good news. Scott blanched then turned angry. He shut off the phone and shoved it in his pocket.

"Bad news?" questioned Steven, all innocence.

"Yes. There's been a little problem I must see to. Enjoy your evening." Scott headed for the stairs.

Steven smiled as he watched him leave. It looked like Kendra had done it. He tried to hide his elation and concern as he returned to mingling. He hoped she was out of Scott's office before he even got near the building. Lord, this waiting is horrible. Did I put everyone who knew about me through this?

About fifteen minutes later, he heard a small commotion. Someone had arrived. He looked to the doorway to see Kendra walking towards him, a smile on her face. "Glad you could make it," he said with a smile after giving her a welcoming kiss.

Kendra smiled in return. "Yes, my desk is clear. Did I miss much?"

"No, not much. A little while after your call, Scott got one of his own. Had to be the museum. He was none too pleased. He had to have put two and two together. I guess we can be expecting a visit from the police regarding this. Your story set?"

"All prepared. Let me go mingle." She checked her watch. "When do you want to leave?"

"As soon as possible."

"Okay. Forty-five minutes. An hour, tops."

"Oh, if you insist."

"I'm sure you can find something to amuse yourself until then. Deduce people's lives by their clothing like Sherlock Holmes?"

"That is not some parlor trick, that is a science!" he hissed. "Already did that," he added. "Though maybe I could calculate the total worth of the jewels in this room. Haven't done that in some time." He didn't notice her leave.

* * * *

They returned to the Embassy and saw an unfamiliar car waiting outside. It was the police. The gates opened upon seeing the limo and they drove through. "Scott didn't waste any time," remarked Kendra.

"He probably mentioned that he consulted with you regarding security, so..."

"So he's hoping they'll find a hole in my alibi."

The Under-Secretary to the Ambassador met them at the door. "Your Grace. Lady Kendra. The police were here wishing to speak with you. They wouldn't tell me why. I told them you were out and they chose to wait in their car."

"Yes. We saw them," said Steven. "They'll be at the door soon. We'll see them in. . ." He looked at Kendra.

"My office should be good. It's not a social call, after all."

"Certainly." He left them to inform the guard to allow the police in.

Steven and Kendra went up to her office. "Will Scott be with them?" she asked as she opened the door.

"Hard to say. Yes, he is with security for the museum, but yet, he doesn't have a perfect record. If he is, don't let him throw you. He'll try to make you forget yourself. Just stay calm and we might get him to incriminate himself."

They heard footsteps on the stairs. "Here they come." Kendra sat behind her desk and Steven took a place in one of the comfy chairs, pretending to read a magazine.

There was a polite knock on the door and the two police were shown in. Plainclothes detectives. Steven guessed them to be in their mid-thirties and knew they had to be good in order to land such an important assignment. "I'm Detective Fletcher," said the dark-haired man, "and this is Sgt. Hilts. Sorry to disturb you so late, but we're investigating a theft at the Smithsonian."

"Such audacity," remarked Kendra.

"Yes, well, the U.S. likes to think it raises only the best," said with a pointed look at Steven.

"Thank you for the compliment, but I do believe these escapades are behind me now."

"We're not here to accuse, your grace," said Fletcher. "We were informed that Lady Kendra had been acting as a security consultant."

"And you think I might be able to shed some light on how it was done."

"The thief knew exactly where to go, had the code for the alarm, then slipped out in the confusion."

"So you think it's an inside job. How kind of you to come to me first."

"We questioned Mr. Adams at the museum and he seemed rather preoccupied, so we plan to fully question him later at his office."

"I might be able to help you if I knew what was taken," said Kendra. "The Smithsonian is a big place."

Fletcher looked directly at her. "The Hope Diamond."

Kendra was speechless while Steven casually remarked, "The Hope, eh? At least they have taste. It does call out to you."

Hilts looked at him, wondering what he was talking about, but nodded. "That's right. You took it yourself once. When was that? '46? '47?"

"Around then. I think your culprit either did it for the notoriety or for a buyer with a private collection. There's no way that could ever be sold without rumors flying about."

"They could always cut it down, break it up," said .

"Then it wouldn't be the Hope," put in Kendra. "That's the whole reason behind it. Knowing that they have the infamous Hope Diamond."

"Good point," said Hilts. "I knew you would be able to help us out." They headed for the door. "Thank you for your time. Should we need to. . ."

Kendra took one of her cards from the holder on the desk. "Certainly. Feel free."

"Oh, before you go, just one little point of interest. When I took the Hope, Scott Adams was around then, too."

Fletcher nodded as he absorbed this new information. "Good night." The two detectives left.

Kendra waited before turning to Steven. "Nice little hint about Scott. Think they'll pick up on that?"

"Hopefully, it'll give them something to think about while questioning him." He stifled a yawn. "I'm going to head for bed."

"You don't think they're going to question him tonight?"

"Even if they do, I don't plan to go. I'm not as young as I used to be. Besides, I don't need to be there to see it. He'll know."

"If he does suspect us--and I'm sure he does--won't he want to check his office?"

"He might not have a chance. Going alone this late might attract attention. He'll probably wait until the morning so there's no need to worry until then."

"Good night then, Grandfather."

* * * *

The following morning, Steven read the paper over his coffee wondering if the story had been released about the diamond. He wasn't surprised to see it had not. The museum would want to keep as low a profile as possible on this. The gallery didn't officially open until Saturday, so there was time to recover it.

Kendra shuffled into the room, stifling a yawn. She poured herself a cup of coffee and picked up some toast. "How do you do it?" she questioned as she sat across from him.

"Do what?"

"Look like you slept all night in only five hours."

"Especially at my age, you mean?"

"No, I didn't mean it that way."

"I know you didn't. I think it's become second nature to me. Started early on, grabbing what sleep I could and making the most of it."

"Wish I could do that." She took a long sip of coffee. "Anything in the paper?"

"No. Museum's keeping a lid on it."

She ran a hand through her hair. "Do you think they've gotten Scott yet?"

"I'm sure we would have heard."

One of the maids entered the room. "Excuse me. There is a car from the police. She was told to wait for you."

"I guess this is what we've been waiting for." Steven stood and took his jacket off the back of the chair. "Tell her we'll be right out," he said to the maid.

"Very good, your grace." She left.

"I'd say we're off to Scott's office. What do you think?"

"I'd agree. Rather surprised as to why they waited for us, but I won't argue."

They went out to the drive were a uniformed female officer was waiting for them. She had been sent, she told them, by Detectives Fletcher and Hilts who were waiting for them at Mr. Adams' office.

Steven and Kendra exchanged glances. "Do you know why they want us there?" asked Kendra.

"No, ma'am. I wasn't told."

The rest of the ride passed in silence and soon they reached their destination. Kendra got out first and looked around. It was business as usual. They hadn't confronted him yet. Her grandfather stood beside her. "Shall we go?" she asked.

They took the elevator up to the fifth floor and Scott's office. The door was open and they walked in. The door to the inner office was closed and Scott and both detectives were waiting. looked up when they entered and a small smile crossed his face. seemed to be fed up with waiting and Scott's glare could have killed.

"Now that we're all here." unlocked the door to the inner office and they all walked in.

"I don't know what you hope to find," said Scott as he walked around to his desk.

"The thief had inside information," said . "Maybe some of your papers are missing or out of order. Anything that might give us a lead."

"Why did you have to wait for them?" he asked with a nod towards Steven and Kendra.

"Let's just say we have a vested interest," replied Steven before had a chance to answer.

"They've been very helpful so far," said. "And they might be able to shed some light on this." He moved over to stand behind Scott as he unlocked the desk.

Steven and Kendra sat in the only other chairs and watched as the police searched the office. Steven attempted to make small talk. "Nice place, Scott. Good neighborhood, too."

"I've done all right," he answered without taking his eyes away from the search of his desk.

"Surprised you're still at it. Heard you've done quite a bit of work. But I guess demands won't let you retire."

"Not all of us can fall into something cushy. Hey, watch out! Those papers are important!"

"You know who I saw the other day? Steven Johnson. You know, Rick's son?"

"Rick. He never left me alone. Kept watch over me, waiting for me to screw up."

"Or perhaps do something 'not in accordance with procedure'?" Steven had his full attention now.

"What--?"

"We had a very enlightening conversation."

"Oh, ho, what have we here?" Hilts asked upon discovering the safe. "The key, if you would."

"Do you think I'd put it in the safe?"

"The key, please."

Scott handed over the key. "There's nothing in there but some papers of a delicate nature."

"Oh, really? Then what do you call this?"

Scott stared as the man pulled out a velvet bag.

"Looks like something you keep valuables in to me," said Fletcher.

"Um, that was something entrusted to me for safekeeping," Scott said nervously.

"You can come up with something better than that, Scott. You always were a quick thinker," commented Steven.

Fletcher opened the bag and poured the contents into his hand. "Safekeeping, hunh? I don't think that excuse is gonna wash, Mr. Adams. You'd better come with us."

"But I couldn't have done it. I was at a party. People can vouch for me." He looked at Steven. "You were there! You saw me!"

"Yes, I did see you. However, I know from experience that you get others to do your work for you. You get the goods and they take the fall."

Hilts led Scott past Kendra on the way out the door. "Sorry our association was so brief, Mr. Adams. Maybe you just weren't cut out for this line of work."

Fletcher came up behind them as they watched Scott being taken away. "Your friend in the CIA called and told us to keep an eye on Adams. He also said to make sure you were here when we caught him. Any idea why he would say that?"

"None at all, Detective," said Steven.

Fletcher grinned. "Thanks for your help. Oh, and, Lady Kendra, please let us know when you plan to do something like this again. It could avoid any unpleasantness." With a small nod of farewell, he left.

Kendra wrapped her arm about Steven's. "Do you think he knew all along?" she asked as they walked down the hall.

"He might have had an inkling. I think you may have found a friend, there."

"You think? Maybe I really am following in your footsteps."

He gave her arm a squeeze. "I'm flattered. Just don't tell your father."

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