Vision in Silver Page 117

Taking his seat, Simon glanced at the humans. Burke set a folder on the table. O’Sullivan did the same. As Tess placed two folders in front of Simon, he saw the humans eyeing them, no doubt wondering what he had brought to this meeting.

“I appreciate you talking to me, especially during this difficult time,” O’Sullivan said.

“We all have information to share, messages to convey,” Simon replied.

Burke stiffened slightly. Montgomery looked alarmed. Would the lieutenant be less worried once he understood that the Lizzy would be safe now? Maybe. Then again, the message was intended to alarm the humans.

“Let’s begin.” Stavros smiled at O’Sullivan. “I recognize your voice. You were asking about jewelry. Since you couldn’t do it in Toland, have you come to Lakeside in order to accuse the Crowgard of stealing? Or are you now including the Sanguinati in those spurious accusations? After all, we, too, are capable of entering an apartment window set high above the ground, and unlike the Crows, all we need is a crack in order to enter.”

<Were the humans in Toland that stupid? Did they really accuse the Sanguinati?> Simon asked Vlad.

<They did. Stavros is furious enough to tear out throats.>

O’Sullivan shook his head vehemently. “No, sir. No. I think the Crowgard and the Sanguinati are being blamed for these thefts in order to cover up an insurance scam.” He focused on Stavros. “The Crowgard had no reason to lie about where they found the settings. I don’t know much about the Crows, but it seems to me that if they were going to take something because the look of it appealed to them, they wouldn’t deface it and remove the gemstones. Why remove the sparkly bits?”

“A valid point,” Stavros conceded.

Opening the folder, O’Sullivan set several photos on the table. “These are photos of the stolen jewelry, taken by the insurance companies that wrote the policies for the pieces. These two pieces were allegedly seen being worn by the Crowgard in the Toland Courtyard. And this ring . . .” He took another photo out of the folder. “This ring was a one-of-a-kind commissioned piece with half a dozen diamonds. It was valued at six figures.”

Stavros studied the photo and shook his head. “It doesn’t matter how much it cost. It’s ugly.”

“We could make something just as good out of silver wire and chips of glass,” Vlad said.

That caught O’Sullivan’s attention, Simon thought. He pointed at the photo. “That ring was inside Boo Bear.”

O’Sullivan blinked. “A bear ate the actual ring?”

“Careful,” Burke breathed, staring hard at O’Sullivan.

Simon wasn’t sure if O’Sullivan heard Burke, but all the terra indigene did.

Burke opened his folder and set three photos right above O’Sullivan’s set. Two photos were of the loose stones. The other photo was the ring. “Lieutenant Montgomery’s daughter Elizabeth arrived in Lakeside with a small suitcase and a stuffed bear that was her favorite toy. After an incident with a couple of young Wolves, we discovered a bag of jewels hidden inside the bear. That ring was also in the bag. The bear, and the bag of jewels, was handed over to Captain Scaffoldon as evidence in a homicide. Didn’t anyone in the Toland police force mention this to you?”

O’Sullivan frowned. Then he looked at Montgomery. “The woman who was killed at the train station.”

“Elayne Borden was Lizzy’s mother,” Montgomery said. “The gods know, Elayne was many things, but she wasn’t a thief.”

“No,” Simon said gently. “She wasn’t a thief. She didn’t steal anything, because nothing was stolen.”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” O’Sullivan said. “My theory is that members of the HFL were giving the jewelry to the movement but reporting the items as stolen to receive money from the insurance companies. The gems rather than the settings had the monetary value, so they were removed to be sold elsewhere or, more likely, used as currency for the purchase of supplies that would be shipped from Thaisia to Cel-Romano, which is where the HFL movement originated. The ITF believes that everyone involved in the so-called thefts belongs to the movement. That’s the only way this would work, from the companies selling the food and other supplies to the ships carrying the cargo, and everyone in between. But while Toland’s elite might be infatuated with the HFL movement, I’m guessing the companies providing the supplies and transportation are in it for the profit. When the jewels that were supposed to be the payment disappeared, so did the profit and the incentive to sell to the HFL.”

“HFL members could donate the insurance money and pay for the supplies that way,” Burke said.

“A few of them have. But more of the members aren’t dedicated enough to feel a real pinch in their wallets.” O’Sullivan smiled grimly. “At first it’s kind of luscious and glamorous—a secret group within a very public movement. Secret handshakes and meetings late at night—or held during a public event under the noses of the followers who aren’t privy to the plans.”

“It sounds like a movie,” Stavros said. “Does the hero get to mate with many beautiful women?”

“Probably. Nicholas Scratch was oddly unavailable when I tried to talk to him, so I couldn’t ask about his sexual exploits.”

Montgomery winced. Simon noticed it. He was sure Burke had too.

“Suddenly the HFL’s great scheme to ship supplies to Cel-Romano falls apart.” O’Sullivan stared at Burke. “Did Felix Scaffoldon know you had found the jewels?”

Burke gave O’Sullivan his fierce-friendly smile but finally said, “He did accuse me of swapping the gemstones for fakes, but that’s a defamatory accusation. I handed over the bear, as he requested. I had nothing to do with whatever he found inside.”

“Since this supply scheme of the HFL’s depended so much on everyone making a profit, isn’t it odd to hide the fortune inside a child’s toy?” Stavros asked. “It assumes the toy will not be damaged or lost. It also could put the child in danger.”

“Did put the child in danger,” Vlad said. “Hiding the jewels that way is either arrogant or stupid.”

O’Sullivan looked at all of them. “Or habit? Maybe the person who hid the jewels in the bear used to hide things in toys when he or she was a child. Does that fit anyone connected with the thefts?”

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