Three Months Later
Neal was in Paris at his apartment, watching Harris paint on the balcony. The afternoon light was soft, the breeze fragrant with the smell of new leaves and flowers. He loved Paris in the spring.
“After you graduate next week, why don’t you come to New York?”
Harris’s hand slowed. “I suppose I could, but who’ll take care of this place?”
“It’ll be okay for a month or two. It has a good security system, and I’ll set up web cams I can keep an eye on from the States. If I see anything suspicious, I’ll call la gendarmerie. Don’t you want to travel a little, now you’ve graduated? See your family and friends again?”
The brush stopped. “I’d rather spend time with you.”
Neal moved up behind him and snaked his arms around Harris’s waist. “That sounds good.” His fascination with Harris continued, and he didn’t see it going away anytime soon. “Leave your paints and canvases. I have plenty in New York. Just pack your clothes and computer and anything else you can’t live without for a few weeks.” He crossed the room to a stack of paintings resting against one wall. “We’ll ship these separately. I think you should consider a gallery show. A friend of mine has contacts he could milk to get you space.”
He hadn’t yet told Harris anything about his colorful past, but if things continued to deepen between them, he probably would. The pardon had freed him in ways he was still exploring.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for a show.”
“You are, Harris. These are wonderful, and I guarantee you will sell some, if not all, of them.” He pulled Harris into a hug. “My New York apartment is perfect for painting. Lots of light, and no one will disturb you. Well, me, but I assume you want me to disturb you.”
He still hadn’t decided what to do with the bulk of the mansion, though he’d agreed to let Mozzie have the third floor for his apartment. They both used the kitchen and regularly helped themselves to the wine in the basement, but there was so much space, it was overwhelming. Sound echoed in some of the rooms, they were so large. He didn’t know how June had lived there so long alone.
Mozzie had come up with all kinds of interesting ideas to make use of the space, some of them hare-brained, and Neal had successfully talked him out of them all so far. Mozzie was bored. He needed something to occupy his mind, and Neal was working on something to take care of that.
Harris leaned around Neal to put down his brush. “I’m ready for a break. How about you?”
Neal took him inside to the bedroom. “I made reservations at Epicure tonight.” He removed Harris’s T-shirt and then unbuttoned his jeans. “What do you think?”
He laughed and shoved Neal down on the bed. The sound of the zipper being pulled down was surprisingly loud. “I think I don’t know what I’ll enjoy more. Eating their fine food or you.”
Neal was back in New York a few days later. Mozzie was in his apartment on the third floor, sipping wine from the basement (“Let’s call it a cellar. Basement sounds so crass,” he’d insisted.) The windows were open, letting in a warm breeze and faint traffic noise from the Hudson Parkway on the other side of Riverside Park.
“Welcome home. Help yourself to your wine.” A book was open in his lap. Mozzie had sold his property in Paris before returning to NYC, preferring to base his “empire” here than in France.
Angling his head, Neal saw it was about the jewelry of Fabragé. “Haven’t quite given up the idea of acquiring one of the missing eggs one day?”
“I keep my ear to the ground,” he said sagely. “Where’s the boy painter? I thought he was returning with you?”
“He’ll be along shortly, as will his paintings. Any word yet on a gallery that will host a show?”
“Working on it. I thought something in Chelsea.”
Neal nodded. Harris would get attention there. “I had an idea on the flight back.” He removed something from his pocket and handed it to Moz, who glanced at it, then straightened.
“This looks like a Spanish Royal.” He turned it over. “It’s dated 1715, and the edges are uneven and rough, as they should be.” He tossed it back to Neal. “Good fake.”
“How do you know it’s not real?”
“I can’t see you spending $300,000 for a gold coin, and you’ve been walking the straight and narrow since inheriting June’s property and working with Peter again, so you didn’t steal it. Also, there are only twenty-nine Royals known to exist, and I know where every one of them is. None have come up for sale or been reported stolen.”
Neal grinned. “I picked it up from Jabir, who was disappointed when he realized I knew it was a fake and would only give him what the gold was worth. What does the date mean to you?”
“It refers to the fleet that sank on Florida’s Treasure Coast, taking with it a couple billion in jewels, gold goblets, silver plate, bullion, coin, and more. Some of it’s been recovered, but a lot more is out there. Eleven ships went down in the hurricane. Seven have been found. Four are still missing, including the San Miguel, which is rumored to have the largest treasure of all.”
“This winter, when New York gets cold and snow flies, how would you like to spend a few weeks in Florida?”
Mozzie brightened. “Searching for the San Miguel?”
“Why not? Just because no one’s found it yet doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
He was already mentally working on the problem. “I’ll need maps, current information, the weight of the ship—the San Miguel was lighter than the others, and it’s believed it sank north of the rest of the fleet—”
Mozzie’s memory was prodigious. He read something once and rarely forgot it. “I’ll leave you to it, then. Let me know if I can help.”
Neal went upstairs to his apartment and returned Peter’s call. “I’m back.”
“Good. I need your help on a case.”