“I understand that there are perhaps a half dozen safecrackers in the world who could break that particular model.” Abby smiled a little, let her gaze drift to Kat. “I suppose one of them must have been here tonight.”
“Yes.” Mrs. Calloway gripped the base of her throat, as if feeling for a necklace that was no longer there. “I was…It wasn’t what I was expecting. But I must admit I was grateful. I don’t know what they would have done to me.”
“I understand.” Abby reached to pat the old woman’s hand. “Just one more question. I wonder how the men knew the necklace you were wearing wasn’t the real Calloway diamond.”
“Well, I suppose they could just tell,” Mrs. Calloway said, but there was a new doubt in her voice. This was a question she hadn’t thought to ask.
“But they brought equipment to get into the safe, which makes me wonder if maybe someone might have told them that you wouldn’t be wearing the real necklace tonight?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head and looked at her son. “Michael?”
“Really, Agent Cameron.” Michael Calloway placed an arm protectively around his mother’s shoulders. “We have been through quite an ordeal tonight and—”
“It wasn’t with them,” Abby said, cutting him off. “The Calloway Canary wasn’t with the men when we searched them.”
“Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” Mrs. Calloway said.
“I know, right?” Abby told her. “Why break in, go to all this trouble, only to leave the grand prize behind? Unless”—Abby lingered on the word—“leaving it behind was the plan all along.”
“I…” Mrs. Calloway started. “I don’t understand.”
Abby stood and walked around the room. She eyed everything—the tables strewn with forgotten plates of food and burned-out candles; the stage, which was still covered in instruments the band hadn’t yet returned to claim. And finally Abby’s gaze came to rest on the long table covered with clipboards and items up for silent auction.
“Ooh,” Abby said, looking down at one. “A week in a Tuscan villa? Jealous.” Abby giggled a little. She sounded more like a young woman than a government agent as she walked slowly down the table, fingering each item in turn.
“Oh, look,” she said, stopping. “You won this one, Mr. Calloway.” Abby picked up the antique clock that Hale’s mother had been examining earlier in the evening. She glanced back down at the clipboard. “Looks like you were very aggressive. You must have really wanted it.”
“Well, I did,” the son said proudly. “Eighteenth century. Not terribly valuable, but I’m a collector, so I couldn’t—”
“Oops,” Abby said as she dropped the clock and it shattered on the floor. “I’m such a klutz,” she said, but no one was listening to the words—they were too busy staring down at the pile of rubble on the floor with the yellow necklace lying in the center.
“Well,” Abby said, “I guess now we know why the gunmen didn’t have the necklace with them. It looks like the man who planned the heist was meant to take it home all along.”
There were protests and excuses, calls to attorneys and proclamations of innocence, but none of it really mattered at that point—not to Hale and not to Kat. Not even to Macey, who walked, barefooted, with her two new friends out of the elevator and into the palatial lobby of the Athenia Hotel.
As the NYPD officers led the handcuffed man outside, only the tall dark-haired woman in the very trim suit seemed to look the three teenagers’ way.
“Macey,” Abby Cameron said as she strolled in their direction, “your mother and father would like a word with you. They’d also like to give their thanks to Mr. Hale….” Abby eyed him skeptically. “Evidently, they are under the impression that he fought valiantly to save you. For the sake of your cover I would recommend you not correct them.”
“I never do,” Macey said, and started to saunter off. But at the last minute Macey stopped and turned.
“Thanks, Kat,” she said, then quickly added, “Just so you know, I’m not a hugger.”
“That’s okay, Macey. Neither am I.”
And then Macey McHenry flashed Kat a million-dollar smile. She looked like royalty as she asked, “What are you doing next?”
Kat shrugged. “I might go to Rome. There’s a Raphael there I kind of need to…acquire.”
“That’s funny.” Macey laughed. “There’s an ambassador’s son there I kind of need to kidnap. Maybe we’ll see each other around.”
“Yeah,” Kat said. “Maybe we will.”
But as Macey and Hale walked across the lobby, Kat was certain that no one was going to see Macey—the real Macey—on first glance. And Kat smiled at the fact. She totally knew the feeling.
“So, Kat,” Abby said slowly. She looked Kat squarely in the eyes and it was like the lobby went still. Abby had that effect on people and places, Kat had realized. Of her many secrets, one of them had to be that she had the power to make time stand still. “It was a pleasure working with you tonight.”
“You too,” Kat said. “Without you…”
“You would have been fine,” Abby said; then she seemed to realize the weight of the words. “I mean it.”
“Thanks. But we might not have gotten this.” Then Kat reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a diamond necklace so bright and pure and brilliant that it seemed like the entire city of New York had to stop and watch it shimmer.
“Is that…” Abby started slowly. She seemed almost afraid to reach out for the stone.
“Oh,” Kat said. “This is the real thing, all right. Here.” She held the necklace out for Abby to take, dangling ten million dollars away from her like she was worried the temptation might be too much. “See that it gets back where it belongs, okay?”
“So you did swap it out for the fake?” Abby said as if part of her had been wondering.
“Of course,” Kat said. “Hale and Macey slipped me the fake and then I left that for Reagan and his crew just in case. Plan D,” Kat said by way of explanation.
“Tell you what, Kat, I’ll trade you,” Abby said, taking the necklace and slipping a piece of paper into Kat’s small hand. “It’s my card.”
“‘The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women…’” Kat read. “It’s a school?”
“Part school.” Abby cocked her head, considering. “Part sisterhood.”
“And you’re a teacher?” Kat didn’t try to hide the skepticism in her voice, but Abby didn’t seem offended.
She just let her gaze drift across the room, a slow smile spreading across her face. “Something like that.”
Kat tried to read Abby’s expression, but like so many things about her, it was shrouded in secrets. Still, Kat was certain there was far more to the story. She glanced from Macey to Abby and back again. “Exactly what kind of school is the Gallagher Academy?” Kat asked.
“The kind that would welcome you in a heartbeat.”
Abby folded Kat’s fingers over the card and turned to leave. Neither of them spoke again. Neither of them had to. There was a subtle understanding already coursing between them.
Maybe Macey was right and they would meet again. Then Kat thought about her new friends on the right side of the law and wondered whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing. But in the end she merely shrugged, knowing at the very least it would be interesting.
Knowing, in her gut, it might just be the beginning.