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Search by Robert Weverka Chapter IIIIIII (Final)

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  • actingman6@gmail.com
    VII Ullie sat in glum silence through the helicopter ride to Tallahassee. There they rushed through the terminal and caught a jet for New York. Only a dozen
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2007
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      VII




      Ullie sat in glum silence through the helicopter ride to Tallahassee. There
      they rushed through the terminal and caught a jet for New York. Only a dozen
      passengers boarded the plane, and Lockwood steered Ullie toward the most
      isolated seats.

      "Ullie?" Lockwood said after they were airborne. "Do I look stupid?"

      She gave him a surprised glance. But she was in no mood for humor. "No," she
      said evenly.

      Lockwood smiled and slouched lower in the seat. "I feel very stupid. We've
      been running all over the world looking for those diamonds, and if I had any
      brains at all we could have had them in our hands a long time ago."

      "What are you talking about?"

      "Logic," Lockwood said. "Clean, precise logic. Like Mr. Streeter uses." He
      laughed softly.

      "You think he has it figured out?"

      "I wouldn't be surprised."

      "Then you think the diamonds still exist?"

      "Probably," Lockwood said. He glanced at his watch, switched his TV
      transmitter to his ring, and brought it close to his mouth. "I wonder if
      everyone back at Probe Control has gone home," he said.

      Cameron's voice came on instantly. "I'm here, Lockwood. And this had better
      be good. Calling a code ten is serious business. You're not the only Probe
      out in the field, you know."

      "I suppose everyone has gone home," Lockwood said.

      Ullie frowned at him. "Why are you so concerned about whether or not they
      went home?"

      Lockwood shrugged for Ullie's benefit, then listened.

      "Yes, yes," Cameron said, "I sent Streeter to a hotel out by the airport,
      and everyone else is out of the control room. You have a code ten, complete
      secrecy. Now what's it all about?"

      It would be a lot simpler, and he would not appear to be a complete nut if
      Ullie would go to the ladies' room. But there was nothing he could do about
      it, Lockwood supposed.

      "I'm really not certain," Lockwood said, "and I think I'll need some
      supporting evidence."

      "Evidence for what?" Ullie asked.

      "Go on," Cameron said.

      "I would like to know who the major stockholders are in Johannes
      Consolidated Diamond Exchanges." "Yes," Cameron said, "I can get that for
      you on the computers."

      "Do you feel all right?" Ullie asked.

      "Fine," Lockwood smiled. "And then I'll need Streeter to identify the
      diamonds."

      Ullie stared at him. She shrugged resignedly. Talking to oneself was not the
      worst thing that could happen to a man, she supposed. But it was a little
      disconcerting.

      "Streeter is out at the Airport Stratford Hotel," Cameron said. "He's
      ordering himself a feast, and swilling Chateau d'Yquem."

      "Okay," Lockwood said, "we'll go directly to the Stratford when we get off
      the plane."

      Ullie smiled indulgently and took his hand. "What-ever you say."

      "One other thing," Lockwood said thoughtfully, "I wonder where the Entourage
      Collection was previous to the war."

      "Before the war?" Cameron said. "They were in the museum, of course."

      "I wonder if they ever left the museum, if they were ever taken out to be
      displayed elsewhere. Like a traveling exhibit to some foreign country."

      Cameron sighed. "Just a minute," he said.

      Ullie smiled. "Does talking out loud help you think?" she asked.

      "Oh, yes," Lockwood said, smiling. "You should try it sometime."

      "I'll lock myself in the bathroom first"

      Cameron came back on. "Here it is, Lockwood, the complete record from 1934,
      when it was first assembled, until 1940 when the Germans invaded France. The
      diamonds never left the museum. They were never displayed outside the
      building. Does that answer your question?"

      Lockwood clicked a yes.

      Lockwood was silent and Cameron finally came on again. "Is that all,
      Lockwood?"

      He clicked yes again.

      "Now, wait a minute," Cameron protested. "You still haven't told me what
      this is all about. Do you really think you know where the diamonds are?"

      Lockwood clicked once.

      "Are they here in New York?"

      Lockwood made no response. There was no signal for "I don't know."

      Cameron sighed impatiently. "Lockwood, I sent everybody out of this room
      because I expected you to tell me something secret and vital to this case.
      What the hell are you up to?"

      Lockwood smiled at Ullie and looked across at the window. "It's very pretty
      flying at night, isn't it."

      "Okay, Lockwood," Cameron said. "I'll get the information you want."





      Over Kennedy Airport, the plane took its place in a brief holding pattern,
      and then made its long descent, sounding like an inner tube with the air
      slowly escaping.

      In his confused distress, Cameron had made no mention of sending a car to
      pick them up, so Lockwood got their bags and hailed a cab. The man gave him
      a sour look and reached to turn off the ignition when Lockwood said they
      wanted to go to the Stratford, only half a mile away. But then he growled,
      "Okay," when Lockwood said they would be going on into town after that.

      "You'd be surprised where some people want me to take them," the cabdriver
      said, banging the gears and sliding in and out of traffic lanes. "Old lady
      wanted a ride over't the TWA terminal this afternoon. Told her to walk. Good
      for the varicose veins. Guy can't make a livin' any more."

      His head disappeared out the window. "Git the hell off the public
      thoroughfares, you freak!" he shouted, and brought his head back in.
      "Tourists. Oughta be a law against civilians driving cars."

      "Nice to be home again," Lockwood smiled.

      "Are you going to bring Streeter along with us?" Ullie asked.

      "Yes, I think so. He's much more valuable to this case than I ever
      imagined."

      Ullie gave him a doubtful glance, then gazed out the window.

      In front of the Stratford, the driver pulled in behind three other cabs, a
      hundred feet from the hotel door. "I'd take you up front," he said, "but
      then I gotta circle around again to park. You don't mind walkin', do you?"

      "No," Lockwood smiled, and got out. "It's good for the varicose veins. I'll
      be back in about ten minutes."

      "Listen," the man said leaning across to the window. "You don't came back I
      gotta make this-here broad pay the fare. You unnerstan' that, don't ya?"

      "Right," Lockwood said and strode toward the entrance. He wondered what kind
      of a selection process they used in hiring New York cabdrivers. They
      probably took only flunk-outs from Dale Carnegie courses.

      Mr. Harold Streeter was in suite 322, the desk clerk told him. Judging from
      the man's smile, Streeter had already become the hotel's favorite guest.





      The three-room suite was a prime example of what Lockwood thought of as
      airport modern�all glass, plastic, and air-conditioned. The paintings were
      economy reproductions of modern abstractions, the furniture was all
      vinyl-topped, with fire-proofed, Scotch-guarded fabrics, and the heavy,
      mass-produced lamps were all tilted to the left or right. But Streeter
      seemed to be happy. He was propped up in the king-sized bed, wearing a
      red-satin smoking jacket tied with a black sash. In front of him was a bed
      tray with three kinds of cheese along with several pieces of fruit, and
      beside him on the bedstand were two bottles of wine.

      "Come in, Lockwood, come in," he beamed when Lockwood appeared at the door.
      "You must try this Camembert. Extraordinary, really. Your presence is an
      unexpected treat. What on earth brings you to my humble accommodations?"

      Lockwood smiled at the little man and dropped into a chair. "I was afraid
      you might have gone back to your job."

      Streeter chuckled. "As chief appraiser? When I can eke out a few more
      gourmet goodies on the old expense account?" He gave Lockwood an impish
      smile. "Try this Bel Paese on a slice of pear. And wash it down with some
      Barsac. Smoothes the wrinkles out of your liver."

      Lockwood laughed. "For a man who had such a rigidly disciplined youth,
      you've turned out to be a real swinger, Streeter."

      "Innocent little pleasures," Streeter said.

      Lockwood nodded. "Well, I think you have the right idea. A person should
      learn to enjoy life. Sometimes I think I'm stupid to be running around,
      getting my head cracked."

      "Yes, well, of course that's your job. That is a nasty lump you've got
      there, Lockwood. Have you had it attended to?"

      "No. But I think I'll recover. The only thing that irritates me is the fact
      that none of it was necessary."

      "Oh? Why do you say that?"

      "I think it would have been much smarter to follow your example. Instead of
      jumping into action, a wise man sits down and thinks first."

      Streeter smiled modestly. "Well, when you get to be my age you don't have
      any choice, really."

      Lockwood nodded. "Down at the Regency Crown, I did a little thinking." He
      smiled. "I didn't come up with any conclusive answers, but I did think of
      some interesting questions."

      "Good. You think you're on to something?"

      "Possibly. But I'll need your connoisseur's eye to make a positive
      identification of the diamonds."

      Streeter stopped chewing, his eyes suddenly widening. "You have the
      diamonds? The Entourage Collection?"

      "I think I know where they may be. But I want to be very certain, of course.
      The photograph of the collection shows nine stones, but we know Van Niestat
      has one of them."

      "Yes. The Austrian Yellow, wasn't it?"

      Lockwood frowned thoughtfully, then glanced at Streeter. "Did Van Niestat
      tell you he had it?"

      "Yes, yes. Of course. On the telephone at the Innsbruck Hotel. He told me he
      had something hot. Fourteen, point seventy-three carats. The color of wild
      honey. It had to be the Hapsburg fragment."

      "I see. Another thing that puzzles me a bit, Streeter. I know that you're a
      very hospitable person. I'm certain you must have invited him up to your
      room for a brandy. I wonder why he never came up."

      "Yes, that is curious, isn't it? I did invite him up, of course. But he was
      very anxious to meet you. And then, after what happened on the terrace, I
      presume he left the hotel as quickly as possible."

      "And you said he was reliable."

      "Oh, yes. At least I thought so then. Top-flight stone cutter. Used to work
      in the Kimberly Mines."

      "In South Africa?"

      "Yes. He's a Dutchman. That is, he became a Dutchman after the war."

      Lockwood shook his head as if confused. "Now, how do you suppose a Dutch
      stone cutter ever got hold of one of the Entourage Collection diamonds?"

      Streeter shrugged. "Some sort of payment? For services rendered? That's what
      he told you, didn't he? Having been an SS officer, it seems quite logical he
      might have been in a position to help someone important. Perhaps even
      blackmail. Considering what we know about him now, I don't think we can
      assume any high moral character in Mr. Van Niestat."

      "On the other hand," Lockwood said, "Van Niestat might not have owned the
      diamond at all. Someone may have loaned it to him temporarily. It might have
      been used as some sort of red herring. The bait to send us on our wild-goose
      chase down to the Regency Crown."

      "Ummm. Yes, that's possible, isn't it? But that was certainly a great deal
      of trouble ... and a great deal of risk, I might add, to accomplish such a
      thing."

      "Yes, it was," Lockwood agreed.

      Cameron's impatient voice came in abruptly. "Lockwood, what are you stalling
      around for? I want you here at Probe Control. If you need Streeter, bring
      him along with you."

      Streeter squinted at him. "Are you getting messages in that ear thing of
      yours?"

      Lockwood's expression had obviously betrayed him. "Yeah, you know Cameron.
      He's always in a hurry to get things moving."

      "Do you want me to go along with you?" Streeter asked.

      "Yes, I think it would be a good idea. But first I wanted to ask you about
      something. There's still a couple things that puzzle me. Perhaps you can
      help."

      "Delighted to be of service."

      Lockwood nodded. "When we were driving out to Frau Ullman's chateau, you
      told me some things about diamonds. You also mentioned a few sketchy facts
      about your life. You said you grew up in England, and then went to South
      Africa with your father."

      Streeter smiled cheerfully. "Yes, that's correct."

      "You said you lived a rather dull life. You never had the opportunity to
      visit Paris when you were young."

      "Yes. That was one of the great regrets of my youth. However, I've been
      there several times since. I made up for those deprivations, so to speak."

      Lockwood nodded. "And getting back to the things you told me about diamonds.
      You said many fine stones have a greasy feel."

      "Yes. You have a good memory, Lockwood."

      Lockwood chuckled. "Well, sometimes I'm a little slow. But I usually get
      there. The question that puzzles me, Mr. Streeter, concerns the Chantilly
      Pink. You said it has this particular greasy feel. In fact, if I might quote
      you, you said, `You have the feeling it's going to squirt right out of your
      hand.."

      Streeter frowned curiously at him, then smiled brightly again. "You do
      indeed have a good memory, Lockwood. Yes, that is the sensation one
      experiences with the Chantilly Pink. It certainly is one of the finest
      stones in the collection."

      "You said it was your favorite."

      "Yes. However, that's not to demean any of the others. They are all superior
      stones."

      Lockwood took a long breath and let it out slowly. The time had come, he
      decided. "Mr. Streeter," he said, "if you grew up in England, and never
      visited Paris, and you went to South Africa in the late thirties, how is it
      that you are so familiar with the Entourage diamonds? Between 1934 and 1940,
      the Entourage Collection never left the museum in Paris. And you, obviously,
      never visited the museum. And yet, according to your own statements, you
      have handled the Entourage diamonds. You have handled the Chantilly Pink,
      and had the sensation that it was going to `squirt right out of your hand: "

      Streeter was frowning at him with a look of injured innocence.

      Lockwood smiled coldly. "The only time you could have handled the diamonds,
      Mr. Streeter, was some time after 1940; some time after Goering removed them
      from the museum in Paris. More probably some time after 1945, after de la
      Busse was murdered and the diamonds were taken from him."

      While he was talking, Lockwood heard a tight, "Oh, my God," from Cameron,
      and then Cameron suddenly shouting, calling to his staff for the complete
      identification dossier on Harold Streeter.

      Streeter's frown had now changed to a weary smile and a slow shaking of the
      head. "Lockwood," he said, "I'm afraid that what you said is all quite true,
      in a way. Based on my statements, you have come to some very perceptive
      conclusions." He glanced shyly at Lockwood and shook his head again. "I'm
      afraid I must make a confession. The truth is, I have never handled any of
      the Entourage diamonds. I'm afraid those statements were nothing more than
      the fantasies of an old and lonely man."

      Lockwood gazed at him with hard skepticism.

      Streeter smiled sadly. "I'm afraid I do lead a very dull life, Lockwood. And
      handling millions of dollars worth of diamonds every day can't help but have
      some effect on a man. One dreams. One can't help but imagine what it might
      be like to own beautiful jewels, and what it might be like to handle some of
      the rarest stones in the world. I'm afraid I thought about those things so
      often, I came to believe my dreams. Sad, isn't it? And as far as the
      Chantilly Pink is concerned, my father told me about it. He often visited
      Paris on business. The museum directors were friends and business associates
      of his, and they permitted him to examine the stones. I'm afraid I was so
      impressed by his descriptions I dreamed about having the experience myself.
      That dream became a reality in my mind. And it was an effort to make myself
      feel important, I guess, that led me to tell you I had personally handled
      the stones."

      My God, Lockwood thought, could he be telling the truth? If not, he should
      certainly get the Drama Critics' Award for the year.

      Streeter looked around at his cheeses and fruit, as if bidding them all
      farwell. "Frankly," he said, "this trip to New York, and to Austria, was the
      most exciting thing that ever happened to me in my whole life. It's ironic,
      isn't it, that I should bumble the whole thing; that in my efforts to make
      you and Mr. Cameron think I was important, I cast suspicion on myself?" He
      sighed. "Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted. It will be a colorful little
      story to brighten my life. Imagine being shot at and almost killed�not many
      people have that kind of story to tell."

      Lockwood squinted at him, his doubts making him feel a little sick to his
      stomach. He wished Cameron would come on with some hard information. It
      shouldn't take this long to trace the ownership of Johannes Consolidated.

      "I hate to ruin your story," Lockwood said, "but the man who shot at us from
      the roof of Frau Ullman's chateau either had never handled an automatic
      rifle before, or he was deliberately trying to miss."

      "Do you think so? Hmmph! That is disappointing. In battle, one likes to feel
      the enemy is competent and trying his best, doesn't one? It sort of takes
      the glory out of victory, doesn't it? Why do you suppose the man tried to
      miss?"

      Lockwood stood up and went to the window. "Because he didn't want one of us
      killed, I imagine."

      "Why in the world not?"

      Shut up, damn it, Lockwood thought. He was getting tired of Streeter's
      innocent questions. He needed to think, and he needed some information from
      Cameron. Irritably, he clicked his teeth three times.

      "It's coming, Lockwood," Cameron said promptly, "and I certainly hope you
      turn out to be right. It's going to be very embarrassing if you're not."

      Lockwood clicked once. He gnawed idly at his inner lip and looked out at the
      long lines of lights marking the landing pattern and the steady stream of
      jets coming into Kennedy.

      Behind him, Streeter was still babbling on. "I suppose we'll have to pay for
      these cheeses and things whether we eat them or not. I do wish you'd help me
      here, Lockwood. Although, I must say I don't have quite the enthusiasm I had
      before. But one hates to be wasteful, doesn't one?"

      Lockwood grunted without turning.

      "I can appreciate your disappointment in me," Streeter said. "I'm afraid
      it's my fault you came all the way back to New York, isn't it? Now I suppose
      you'll have to go back to the Regency Crown and pick up where you left off."

      Lockwood was almost certain an hour ago that when they were in the little
      wayside restaurant in Austria and decided to go back and confront Frau
      Ullman, Streeter's return to the restaurant to go to the men's room was
      really an excuse to make a phone call. The call was to warn Frau Ullman to
      get out of the house to avoid any more questioning. And he might have set up
      the phony shooting at the same time.

      And the chat with Van Niestat on the terrace. An hour ago, Lockwood was
      certain that, too, had been set up by Streeter. It all made sense. Streeter
      was getting worried that Lockwood was making progress on the case and he
      wanted to send him as far away as possible.

      But now he wondered. Streeter's explanation about the Chantilly Pink was
      certainly plausible. But then how did Frau Ullman fit into the picture? If
      Lockwood's original theory was right, she must have been working very
      closely with Streeter. And if she came to America, she must have been in
      contact with him. Lockwood glanced off at the suite. There was no evidence
      of any feminine presence�no clothing, no lipstick-stained cigarette butts,
      no extra glasses.

      " .. and having fairly well botched up your efforts already," Streeter was
      rambling on, "I know I shouldn't meddle any more. However, it appears to me
      that�"

      "Lockwood?" Cameron suddenly came on excitedly. "I'm afraid you're one
      hundred per cent right. My God, this is incredible! Can you listen?"

      Streeter was going on about the possibility of the diamonds being in
      Amsterdam because that was Van Niestat's present home. Lockwood mentally
      tuned him out and clicked once for Cameron.

      "We've just done a thorough recheck on Streeter's security ID," Cameron
      said. "In the first place, his fingerprints have, at some time, been
      completely altered. They're a mass of tiny scar tissues. Also his face.
      There is evidence of at least four major operations, including bone
      reformation. You got that, Lockwood?"

      Lockwood clicked, breathing a sigh of relief.

      "Now comes the interesting part," Cameron went on. "The evidence is fairly
      clear that Harold Streeter's real name is Von Konig. And his brother, who
      has also undergone surgery and fingerprint alteration, is Van Niestat. And
      Streeter, or rather Von Konig, was a full colonel in the Schutzstaffel.

      "Now, as to your query about the major stockholders in Johannes
      Consolidated, we got this directly from Mr. Johannes in South Africa.
      Sixty-three per cent of the stock is owned by Mr. Harold Streeter and
      Rudolph Van Niestat. It is their company. Ostensibly they are both retired,
      and do not serve on the board of directors, but when the company contracted
      Probe to try and recover the diamonds, Harold Streeter offered to represent
      the company and serve as liaison with us. The board of directors accepted
      the offer, of course. They didn't have much choice, I imagine. And they
      agreed to let Streeter present himself as one of the company's appraisers.
      His objective, obviously, was to make sure we ran into a series of
      dead-ends." Cameron grunted. "And he did a damned good job of it."

      Lockwood gave him an emphatic click of agreement.

      "And Lockwood? It seems pretty certain that Streeter murdered de la Russe.
      He was last seen in Feldkirch, only a few miles from Cesalpine Pass, on the
      day of de la Russe's murder. I think you'd better be careful, Lockwood.
      We've got all systems on and we're monitoring."

      Lockwood gave him a click and stood silently for a moment. It was fantastic.
      When he first walked into Streeter's room, he was fairly certain of his
      guilt. But secretly he had reservations. It was just too far-fetched to
      think this bumbling little man really did all the things Lockwood suspected
      he did. But now it had been verified. And Harold Streeter was not a meek,
      bumbler, after all. Lockwood turned and walked slowly around the bed.

      "Do you mind if I have a glass of this?" he smiled.

      "Ah," Streeter beamed, "I've finally tempted you, have I? Please help
      yourself. I'd suggest the Barsac."

      Lockwood poured himself a glass and sat down in the small chair next to the
      bed.

      "Well," Streeter smiled, "what do you think of my theory?"

      Lockwood hadn't heard a word of it. "It's very interesting," he said.

      "At least I think it's worth pursuing. From what I gather, you and Cameron
      have about run out of ideas, eh?"

      Lockwood nodded slowly. "Mr. Streeter," he said, "you're really something."

      The man really was something. Transforming yourself from an officer in
      Hitler's ruthless Elite Guard into a convincingly cherubic little gnome was
      quite an accomplishment.

      "I try," Streeter said. "Of course, I don't have to carry out these plans.
      It's easy to sit here drinking wine and thinking about them. But you've got
      the difficult job."

      "Yes," Lockwood said, "it's a very difficult job sometimes."

      "Ah, but I envy you."

      Lockwood nodded. He wondered what Streeter looked like before his facelifts.
      He tried to picture him with the piped, high-fronted Nazi hat and a cruel,
      sneering expression. Colonel Von Konig of the SS. It was impossible. The
      image of the bumbling little diamond appraiser was too deeply etched in
      Lockwood's mind.

      "Mr. Streeter," he said, "do you ever miss the good old days in Germany?"

      Streeter looked up with a startled smile. "I beg your pardon?"

      "The good old days when you had power over so many people's lives. When you
      could just point to someone and they'd be sent to a concentration camp or a
      gas chamber."

      Streeter frowned and gave a short laugh. "What on earth are you talking
      about?"

      Lockwood smiled coldly. "I'm talking about the days when your name was Von
      Konig. The days before 1945. The days when you were Colonel Von Konig in the
      Elite Guard. Surely you remember those good old days."

      Streeter had paled slightly. He looked at his wine glass, quickly picked it
      up, and smiled. "Really, Lockwood. I think that electronic bug in your head
      has damaged your brain a bit. Are you feeling all right?"

      "I'm feeling fine. And the more I think about it, the better I feel."
      Lockwood looked at the glass in his hand. "This is good wine, isn't it." He
      smiled and put the empty glass on the table. "Yes, when I think about that
      day we spent in Austria, I even find the whole thing very amusing. It takes
      a bit of larceny to be a good Probe agent, you said. And you didn't think
      you'd be very good at it. That's very funny. And all your talk about logical
      thinking. That was beautiful. I really should have taken you more
      seriously."

      Streeter's face darkened with feigned indignation. "Mr. Lockwood, I am
      bonded by the Diamond Merchants Association."

      "You probably own the Diamond Merchants Association."

      Streeter placed his wine glass on the bedstand and moved the tray of food to
      the side. "I see no reason why I must tolerate this kind of treatment" He
      threw the bedcover to the side, starting to get out.

      Lockwood's hand shot out and clamped over Streeter's wrist. "Give me the
      diamonds, Mr. Streeter. Or should I say Herr Obermeister?"

      The cherubic face was still puffy and red, the mouth expressionless. But the
      eyes had changed. Their dancing brightness was now veiled with hard,
      calculating hate. The wrist was thicker than Lockwood had anticipated:
      hairy, and ridged with toughly corded tendons.

      "Careful, Lockwood," Cameron's voice cautioned.

      Streeter's face twisted slightly, a crooked smile turning half the mouth
      upward. "Very well, Mr. Lockwood," he said softly.

      He gave a shrugging, defeated laugh and reached toward an inside jacket
      pocket with his free hand. Lockwood hesitated for a split second, but then
      grabbed at the other arm. "Hold it," he said, "I'll help you."

      He had guessed right. He felt the leather case resting in a deep pocket of
      the smoking jacket. Beside it there was a flat, compact pistol. Lockwood
      smiled at Streeter and removed them both. With the pistol held loosely in
      one hand, he dropped the leather case on the bed. He undid the three tiny
      clasps and lifted the lid.

      The nine pockets were all occupied; small prisms of light glittered out of
      all proportion to their size.

      Streeter sighed. "Beautiful, aren't they."

      "Lockwood," Cameron said, "tip your scanner down. We're zooming in."

      Lockwood held his ring six inches from the case.

      "There's no mistake, Lockwood. They're the real thing." His voice was
      suddenly worried. "Lockwood, the Austrian Yellow is there, too. That means
      Van Niestat might be somewhere around."

      "Confirm that," Gloria Harding said urgently. "I'm reading faint pulse
      counts somewhere off-presence. Probably in back of you, Lockwood."

      "If it's Van Niestat, he's probably armed," Cameron said. "Don't turn
      around. Use your scanner, Lockwood."

      "Yes," Lockwood said, looking at the diamonds. "They really are beautiful."
      He moved the hand with the scanner to the side of the case, bringing the
      wrist back to give a full view of the room behind him. "And there's the
      slippery Chantilly Pink," he added, at the same time wondering where he
      could dive for cover if shooting started behind him.

      "Confirming new patterns," Carlos said. And then Cameron barked, "Zoom in on
      that door!"

      Lockwood saw Streeter glance at something across the room.

      "It's Frau Ullman, Lockwood!" Cameron shouted. "She's in the door about
      twenty feet behind you, and she has a gun aimed at your back!"

      Lockwood felt his neck muscles tighten, anticipating the slamming impact of
      a lead slug. Without turning, he lifted the pistol that had been resting in
      his lap and leveled it directly on Streeter's chest.

      "Fran Ullman," he said in a loud, firm voice, "I know you're behind me. I
      have a gun pointed at Mr. Streeter's heart. If you pull the trigger,
      Streeter will die with me. Put down your gun."

      There was no sound behind him, and Lockwood heard a quick intake of breath
      from Cameron. Was she slowly squeezing the trigger?

      "Look out!" Gloria Harding suddenly screamed, and Lockwood rolled from the
      chair, twisting, swinging the pistol around as his knees hit the carpet.

      There was a shot; Lockwood saw the flash and the jump of the pistol in Frau
      Ullman's hand. There was a piercing scream. Cameron was shouting, "Hold it!"
      at the top of his voice, and then Lockwood's finger froze on the trigger.

      Ullie was standing in the open doorway, her hands clamped to her ears,
      staring, horrified, at her mother. Frau Ullman was lowering the pistol, her
      hand trembling as she gaped at the bed in front of her.

      "Streeter is hit," Cameron said, and Lockwood looked quickly at the bed.

      Streeter's mouth was open, a blank expression on his face as he slowly
      blinked, his hand probing gently at his chest.

      Lockwood glanced at the numbed face of Frau Ullman and then turned to
      Streeter, shoving the gun into a rear pocket. "Are you hurt badly?" he
      asked.

      As quickly as he said it, Lockwood knew it was a stupid question. Streeter
      looked at the blood on his hand and forced a weak smile. "It's ... I
      appreciate your concern, Lockwood," he said haltingly. He took a difficult
      breath. "But I assure you ... I have no intention of ... dying . . .
      sprawled over these diamonds."

      "Of course not," Lockwood smiled. "A man of your taste."

      "I am sorry, Heinrich," Frau Ullman whispered. The pistol was gone from her
      hand and she had moved to the side of the bed, her face torn with anguish as
      she reached for him.

      Streeter gave her an understanding smile and looked at Lockwood. "Lockwood,"
      he said hoarsely, "you will look after Frau Von Konig for me, won't you?"

      Frau Konig? Both Lockwood and Ullie looked at Frau Ullman. She nodded a
      confirmation to Ullie. "I had always intended ... to tell you we were
      married."

      Cameron sighed in Lockwood's earpiece. "If it will do any good, there's an
      ambulance on the way."

      Lockwood nodded in silence. It would do no good.

      Frau Ullman had dropped her head to Streeter's shoulder, crying softly as
      she tightly held his hand. But Streeter's eyes were closed, and his hand was
      already limp in hers. Frau Ullman's tears were like little diamonds
      trickling down the lapel of Streeter's jacket.


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