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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Rendezvous in Rome
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Nancy still wasn't convinced. “Well, I think we should find out a little more about our friends before we go after strangers.”

“How are we going to find out?”

Stirring her coffee with her spoon, Nancy thought for a moment. “I think we should find out where Massimo lives and drop by his apartment when he's not there. If he's the thief, maybe the other stolen necklaces are there,” she said. “But first I want to talk to the owner of Preziosi. Let's call Claudia and set up our day.”

The girls returned to their pensione and used the phone by the front desk to call Preziosi. Claudia answered. “Massimo said you fainted at the club,” she said as soon as she found out who was calling. “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine,” Nancy assured her. “I'm sorry we left without letting you know. Were you still there? We couldn't find you or Sandro.”

“I am sorry. We looked all over for you. Massimo said you refused to see a doctor. Are you sure? We have a very good family doctor.”

“Really, it was nothing,” Nancy repeated. She couldn't help wondering if Claudia was avoiding her question about where she'd been. “I guess you guys just wanted to spend some time alone.”

Claudia was silent for so long that Nancy started to think she wasn't going to answer. “Not really,” she said at last. “We had a fight.”

“What was it about?” Nancy asked.

After another short pause Claudia said, “He was flirting with someone. I would rather not talk about it.”

Nancy decided to change the subject for the moment. “Well, everything's fine now,” she said. “Listen, we want to meet Paola Rinzini. Can you arrange it?”

“Of course. She is here now,” Claudia replied. “I will tell her you are coming.”

When Nancy and Bess arrived at Preziosi a short while later, Claudia welcomed them, then disappeared into the back. She returned a moment later with a tall, slender woman who had jet black hair combed into a sleek pageboy.

“I'm Paola Rinzini,” the woman said in good English, holding out her hand. “You wanted to speak with me?”

After Claudia introduced the two girls, Nancy turned to Paola and asked, “Could we talk in private?”

Paola lifted an eyebrow. Without a word she led the girls into her office. The back half of the large room was a storage area. The front half looked as if it was being used as an office. It held a desk, two chairs, and a bookshelf.

Paola walked behind the desk and gestured for the girls to sit. Claudia leaned against the wall while Bess and Nancy took the two chairs.

“Several pieces of Etruscan jewelry have been reported missing,” Nancy began, taking a direct approach. She thought Paola's eyes narrowed a little, but she wasn't sure. “We're asking people who sell copies of Etruscan jewelry if they've seen any pieces they think might be authentic.”

Paola frowned and turned to Claudia. “You know we don't sell real jewelry. Ours are inexpensive replicas.” Paola gave an impatient sigh. “I'm sorry I can't help you girls.”

Nancy wasn't about to give up so easily. “We purchased a necklace two days ago from Massimo
Bianco in one of the piazzas. Then we came here and tried on some of your necklaces,” she explained. “Somehow, either from Massimo or this store, we walked away with a
real
Etruscan necklace.”

“Massimo sold you a stolen necklace, eh?” Paola said, leaning back in her chair. “I guess we'll have to stop selling his jewelry, then. He's the only one who makes Etruscan copies for us.”

“We're not sure it came from Massimo,” Nancy put in quickly. “And we're not sure it's stolen—so far.”

“Well, it didn't come from here,” Paola said flatly, her dark eyes cold. “And I don't like what you're implying.”

“Don't you even want to see the necklace?” Nancy asked.

“This is a respectable business,” Paola said angrily. “We don't traffic in stolen antiquities.”

Bess spoke up from the chair next to Nancy. “Would you mind if we took a look around, then? I'd like to see your jewelry up close.”

Paola stood up. “Who are you?” she asked stiffly. “Are you with the police?”

“No,” Nancy replied coolly. “I'd be happy to send the police if you'd prefer. Signora Fiorello asked us to find her necklace. It's been stolen.”

Paola's eyes widened. “Signora Fiorello is a friend of mine. I didn't know something of hers was stolen.” The store owner threw up her hands. “Fine, if you are doing this for her, look at anything you want. Just don't scare the customers.”

Using the techniques Signor Andreotti and Massimo had shown her, Nancy examined the store's jewelry collection. Three Etruscan necklaces lay in a glass showcase, prominently displayed.

“Those are the ones from the package,” Bess whispered. She looked more closely. “And that one's mine! That's the one Massimo gave me!”

“Shhh,” Nancy said. “Of course the necklace he gave you would be here. After all, you did accidentally trade it for the real one.”

“Do you think Paola will give it back to me?” Bess whispered. “I got so excited about the stolen necklace that I totally forgot that
I'm
out a necklace now.”

“Do you think Paola Rinzini looks like the type of person who's going to give you a necklace you
say
is yours? She'd probably ask for the other necklace back.”

Bess looked down at the necklace in the case longingly. “I guess you're right,” she said reluctantly.

“Anyway,” Nancy said, “check out the 6ther two necklaces and see if they look real to you.”

They examined each one carefully. One of the necklaces had four blue stones in it and was similar to the stolen necklace. But all three had the same clasps Massimo used, and all the beads showed traces of seams. They were definitely fakes.

The girls also searched the storeroom thoroughly but found no jewelry of any kind.

At last Nancy thanked Paola for her time and patience. “We didn't see any real jewelry,” she said. “I'm sorry we bothered you.”

“Well, now that you're satisfied I'm honest, you can investigate in more likely places,” Paola said as she escorted Nancy and Bess to the door. “Please tell Signora Fiorello I am sorry about what happened. And that I cooperated, of course.”

Claudia stepped out the door with Bess and Nancy. “I'll be right back,” she told Paola.

“Whew!” Bess said once they were outside on via Condotti. “She must be loads of fun to work with.”

“She is usually very pleasant,” Claudia said vaguely. “I think she was offended.”

“How do you know her?” Nancy asked.

She looked distractedly around, as if she was preoccupied. “Er, I know her through Signora Fiorello, actually,” she finally said. “She got me the job when I told her I needed summer work.”

Claudia didn't seem to be paying much attention, Nancy thought. Was it because her boss was a suspect? Or because of her fight with Sandro the night before? Or was there something else Nancy was missing?

“Listen, we wanted to stop by and see Massimo at his place,” she told Claudia. “We were hoping he could show us his jewelry-making equipment.” She decided it would be more prudent not to mention their real reason for going there. “Could you give us directions to his apartment?”

Claudia gave them his address in Trastevere. “It
is not far from the club where we were last night.” Then she said, “I have to go back to work. Have fun.”

Nancy and Bess rode their Vespas across the Tiber River—
Tevere
in Italian—to Trastevere. Buildings were crammed together along the narrow roads. Even the largest streets barely had enough room for two cars to pass.

Massimo lived in a small, gray stone apartment building. His name was listed outside the front door, next to the buzzer for apartment 2A. He didn't answer when Nancy buzzed.

“Good, he's not here,” she said. She reached into her bag for her lock-picking tools, then went to work.

“I'll let you know if anyone's coming,” Bess offered, glancing up and down the empty street.

Nancy had the lock open a moment later, and the girls went up the narrow stairs to the third floor. They had learned that in Italy the ground floor wasn't numbered. It took only another minute or so before Nancy had the door to his apartment open, too.

Massimo's apartment had two tiny rooms and a bathroom. Clothes, papers, and art supplies were flung casually on every surface. Nancy and Bess each took a room and went to work.

“He'd try to get rid of the stolen jewelry as quickly as possible,” Nancy said, thinking aloud. “Look for something he could use to break into the houses, or maybe a stash of money.”

The girls searched for over an hour. They stumbled
on a few pieces of jewelry lodged behind the bed and in the backs of drawers. Every piece proved to be a fake.

“I don't know, Nan,” Bess said, brushing a strand of blond hair from her forehead. “All we've proven so far is that Massimo is a tremendous slob.”

Nancy glanced over his modest furniture. “He doesn't seem to have a lot of money,” she told Bess. “Certainly not as much as someone who is selling valuable antiquities.”

Bess was sorting through the items scattered on Massimo's desk when she found a scrap of paper with some numbers written on it. “Look at this,” she said, showing it to Nancy. “Fourteen, thirty-one, forty-three.”

“Do you think that's the combination to a safe?” Nancy asked, growing excited.

“Maybe it's the combination for one that hasn't been broken into yet,” Bess suggested. “Or one he's planning to rob.”

Nancy found an envelope in her bag and copied the numbers onto it. “We can call Signora Fiorello and find out,” she said. Staring at the figures, another idea occurred to her. “I suppose this could just be a telephone number, too. I think this is the way they write them over here.”

“But I thought the numbers were seven digits.”

“Some are,” Nancy said. “But the older ones are only six.” There was a telephone on the desk, so she picked it up and dialed the numbers.

“Pronto,
” a woman's voice said over the line.

Using her Italian, Nancy said, “I'm sorry, I may have the wrong number. Whose residence is this?” The woman told her, and Nancy hung up.

“Well, we've solved that mystery,” Nancy told Bess, laughing. “It's Karine Azar's telephone number.”

The girls burst out laughing. “He's a real operator, even if he is nice,” Bess said, planting her hands on her hips. Then, more seriously, she added, “Do you think they're working together?”

“Maybe.” Nancy grabbed Bess's arm and pulled her toward the door. “I can't think straight anymore. Let's take a break, okay? Why don't we grab a pizza and see a movie?”

Bess grinned. “As long as it has English subtitles, or you translate, you're on.”

• • •

For the first time since arriving in Rome, Nancy and Bess wandered through Trastevere as true tourists. After watching a horror movie, they stopped in a piazza ringed with restaurants. Chairs and tables spilled out from each restaurant, filling the piazza. The girls ordered a thin, garlic-covered pizza with a smear of tomato sauce and stayed until the evening lights came on. They got back to their pensione just after dark.

As Nancy and Bess were walking past the front desk, Signora Verona stuck her head out from behind the curtain. “A Signora Fiorello called for you about ten minutes ago,” she told the girls. “She wants you right away.”

Nancy called from the lobby phone. The phone only rang once before Sandro's mother answered.

“Nancy! Thank goodness you called,” Signora Fiorello exclaimed. “Something terrible happened.”

“Are you all right?” Nancy asked. “Did something happen to Sandro?”

“No, no, we are fine. But another piece of Etruscan jewelry has been stolen!”

Chapter

Seven

O
H, NO
!” N
ANCY CRIED.

Quickly, she found out what had happened. The theft had occurred at a friend's house, according to Sandro's mother. Signora De Luca had come home after a party to find her Etruscan pin missing. She had called the police and then Signora Fiorello, who had told her about Nancy.

Nancy got the woman's address and promised to go over to the house right away.

“Sandro's there, so he can introduce you,” Signora Fiorello told her. “He was visiting my friend's son Carlo when she discovered what had happened.”

Did Sandro just happen to be around? Nancy wondered as she hung up.

After she told Bess what had happened, the girls hurried to the De Luca residence on their Vespas.
Sandro and a swarthy young man who introduced himself as Carlo answered the door.

Nancy saw that the police were still there. She recognized Officer Franchi, who was talking to an elegant woman in a red silk suit. Nancy guessed that she must be Signora De Luca.

BOOK: Rendezvous in Rome
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