Authors: Jayne Ann Krentz
Tags: #Literary, #Mystery & Detective, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction
December 30, 2006
Jayne Ann Krentz
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Pocket Star Book published by
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Copyright © 1998 by Jayne Ann Krentz
Originally published in hardcover in 1998 by Pocket Books
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Pocket Books paperback printing September 1998
POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Printed in the U.S.A.
For my editor, Linda Marrow,
who knows what a good story
is all about.
"Forged in fire, neither liquid nor solid, capable of transmitting or reflecting light, glass is proof that there is magic in the world."
—from the introductory notes of the
Catalog of the Leabrook Glass Museum,
by Eugenia Swift, Museum Director
"The finest glass is a glass that's filled with really good beer."
—Cyrus Chandler Colfax, Private Investigator
Three years earlier…
yrus Chandler Colfax watched Hades pursue Persephone as she fled Hell with the seeds of spring in her hands. The torment on the face of the Lord of the Underworld struck a chord. He knew exactly what the poor guy was going through. He wanted to give him some advice.
Sure, it was nice to have a woman around, especially in a place like Hell. Good to have someone who laughed politely at your lousy jokes. Someone you could take on vacation, assuming you ever got to go on vacation. Someone who maybe even knew something else you could do with tuna fish besides make a sandwich out of it.
But what good was having a woman who did not want you?
Cyrus took a closer look at the desperate face of Hades.
Forget her. She probably faked her orgasms, anyway
. He knew firsthand what the fraudulent kind felt like. Katy had gotten very good at them.
"Incredible, isn't it?" Damien March's perfect white smile glinted in the shadows that surrounded the display pedestal. "Fourth century. Roman, of course. The absolute apogee of glass-cutting in antiquity."
"Uh-huh." Cyrus could feel his eyes start to glaze over already. Damien was particularly grating when he went into his lecturing mode.
"The technical term is
. Most examples of the art are deep bowls such as this one. The experts refer to them as cage cups because of the way the carved figures stand out from the background. It almost looks as if they are attached by a net. Or trapped in an invisible cage."
"Yeah." Cyrus tuned Damien out while he studied the ancient object.
Hades and Persephone looked as if they were struggling to spring free of the small bridges of glass that bound them to the bowl. Caught in the narrow beam of the light suspended above it, the cage cup glowed a dozen hues of fiery amber. The color of the fires of Hell? Cyrus wondered. The figures were so exquisitely carved that they appeared to be living creatures frozen forever in the translucent medium.
It wasn't just the brilliance of the carving that riveted his attention. It was the fact that it was so old. It gave him a strange feeling to know that he was looking at an object made of glass that had survived for nearly seventeen hundred years.
"Our client got it in a private auction." Damien walked out of the shadows to stand on the opposite side of the glass case that enclosed the cage cup. "A very private auction. None of the bidders knew the identity of the others, and none of them knew who had put the cup up for sale. Everything was handled with complete discretion and a guarantee of anonymity."
Cyrus looked up. "Are you telling me that it was an illegal sale?"
"How could it possibly be illegal?" Damien was clearly amused. "The experts will tell you that the Hades cup no longer exists. The last official records of it date from the early 1800s. It is presumed to have been destroyed sometime during the Victorian era. But in reality it went into a series of private collections."
"And that's where it's been all these years?"
"Rumor has it that it has surfaced only a handful of times. Always in the underground art market." Damien gazed at the ancient bowl with rapt interest. As he bent forward the light gleamed on his prematurely silver hair and etched the aristocratic lines of his patrician face. "It has garnered a certain reputation."
"What kind of reputation?"
Damien's mouth curved in the condescending way that had become increasingly irritating during the past few months. "Legend has it that every time it goes from one owner to another, someone dies."
Cyrus raised his brows. "That kind of reputation, huh?"
"Not unusual for an object of such great antiquity. Things this old have a certain power. Those who are sensitive to it can feel it."
Cyrus did not like the intent manner in which Damien stared at the old glass. An uneasy chill moved through him, but it had nothing to do with the age of the Hades cup. "Come off it, March. You don't believe that kind of crap."
Damien did not respond directly. "No one knows much about it, you know. It has never been studied by the experts because it has always been hidden away in private collections. Impossible to say exactly how the ancients achieved the amazing colors, for example. Was there gold or some other metal in the original batch of glass that came out of the furnace? Or was the effect achieved simply by chance?"
Cyrus was well aware that he was no expert when it came to art. Damien was the authority on this kind of stuff for the firm of March & Colfax Security. Nevertheless, he did not think that anything about the ancient bowl had occurred by mere chance. Even he, with his untrained eye, could see that the thing was too brilliantly executed, too detailed, too carefully crafted to allow for the fluke factor.
"I doubt if it was an accident," he said.
Damien lifted his head. His ice blue eyes held a gleam of mockery. "Do you?"
The firm of March & Colfax Security was six months old as of last Monday. Cyrus did not think that the partnership would last another six months. In spite of what Katy believed, he knew he had made a mistake going into business with Damien.
He had told himself that he did not have to be close friends with a man in order to have a working relationship with him. But not only did he not like Damien March very much, he no longer trusted him.
As his grandfather, Beauregard Lancelot Colfax, used to say, no point trying to do business with a man you can't trust as far as you can piss.
It was true that Damien had offered a valuable entrée into the big time of the private security business. He had connections to the elite social world where wealth and power formed a closed biosphere.
On the surface, the business arrangement appeared to work well. March knew how to socialize with the monied crowd. He knew how to talk to them. He could bring in the big accounts.
Cyrus's part of the deal was simple. He had the instincts, the training, and the sheer, dogged tenacity that it took to get results for the clients.
Transporting the Hades cup safely to its new owner was one of the most important jobs March & Colfax had undertaken to date. The billionaire collector who had hired them had demanded absolute discretion. He wanted no rumors about the cup leaked to the art world or to the press. He was obsessed with protecting his anonymity and was willing to pay well for the privilege.
Cyrus knew that for the moment he was stuck. He could not end the partnership with March tonight. He had made a commitment to see that the cup got where it was supposed to go. He never walked away from a commitment.
But now as he stood looking down at the ancient bowl that seemed to burn with the fires of Hell itself, he made his decision. Once the thing was safely in the hands of the reclusive Texan who had hired March & Colfax, he would dissolve the business relationship with March. Effective immediately.
He had never liked the highbrowed, affected, arty type, anyway.
Katy would be appalled and furious. Cyrus knew she had dreams of moving in the same world that Damien inhabited. But some dreams, as Grandpappy Beau used to say, weren't worth the price of admission.
"The Hades cup has some interesting properties," Damien continued in his pedantic tones. "In transmitted light, such as this, it seems to be made of amber flames."
"Watch what happens when I angle the light so that it's reflected off the surface of the glass rather than passed through it."
He reached up to adjust the lamp that hung over the glass case.
"I'll be damned." Cyrus stared, briefly fascinated.
In reflected light the Hades cup changed colors. It was now a deep, dark red. The color of blood.
"We had better be on our way." Damien released the lamp and stepped back into the shadows. He shot the cuff of his Italian-made gray suit and glanced at his gold-and-black-steel Swiss watch. "Our rich Texas friend will be anxiously awaiting our arrival."
Cyrus checked his own watch, which had a leather strap and a nice picture of a parrot on the face. The colors of the bird's plumage matched the bright hues of the turquoise, red, and yellow aloha shirt he wore. "We're on schedule."
Damien's mouth twitched in another of his supercilious smiles. "Timing is everything in life and in business."
"Grandpappy Beau used to say something like that."
It wasn't until two hours later when the bullet came out of the darkness behind him that Cyrus was forced to acknowledge just how bad his timing had been.
He should have ended the partnership with Damien yesterday, he thought, as he was spun around and slammed into the ground. But the knowledge came too late. The shot had already ripped a path through his left shoulder. The color-splashed tropical shirt was rapidly soaking up his blood.
His only consolation was that he knew the bullet had been aimed at his spine, not his shoulder. It had been his instincts, a hunter's instincts, that had given him the subtle warning. They had been ingrained in him from the cradle by his grandfather, and they had saved his life.
Cyrus survived the bullet and the night. But when he woke up in the hospital the following day he discovered that his whole world had changed.
His wife, Katy, was dead. The victim of a carjacking, the police said.
Damien March had vanished with most of the liquid assets of March & Colfax Security, leaving the company on the brink of ruin.