(To read from the beginning go Here.)
Anne leapt to her feet and hurried in search of Erik. She found him sitting behind someone’s desk and listening intently to the receiver. She flapped a hand to get his attention. Scowling, he held a palm up and swiveled the chair around.
“Yes, sir. Yes, I understand.”
Anne’s hands bunched in fists on her hips. Of all the rotten… Fine. She would leave him to do whatever it was the Secret Service did, and she would go get Jilly back. Lips pursed and jaw jutting at a dangerous angle, she stalked from the theater and back to the subway station.
She was home faster than she had hoped and pounded up the stairs, bursting into her wrecked apartment before she talked herself out of it. Even knowing what to expect, the mess made her pause. She swallowed against the dryness in her throat. Would they be so savage to Jilly?
Inhaling grimly, she licked her lips and took off her jacket. She tackled the mess with a vengeance. Poor Jilly would not be confronted by the destruction when she got home. And, Anne would make sure she got home. She would not allow her friend to remain in the hands of the grey-suited man.
The phone rang and she snatched it up.
“I told you to stay put.”
Erik’s commanding tone sent of frisson of rage up her spine, steeling her against fear or unease. “I do not require you permission to return to my own home.” She gently placed the receiver back in the cradle.
It took nearly an hour to set the living room to rights. As best she could. The sofa cushions would have to be mended. But it would do.
In the kitchen the intruders had dumped the refrigerator’s contents onto the floor, heedless of splintering jars of jam, and pickles, a bottle of milk, and half a dozen eggs. At least she could salvage a hunk of cheese and the heel of a salami. She was on her hands and knees scrubbing up the mess when the phone rang.
Hands dripping with the viscous glop she lunged for it.
“Miss Leighton?” The raspy grate of a disguised voice iced through her, chilling her form the inside out.
“You want your friend back, you’ll be at Perry’s Diner at 54th and Greeley at midnight.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Bring the papers, Carol gave you.” A dead little click signaled that the caller had hung up.
Anne’s gaze skittered to the wall clock. 10:30. If only there were some way to get Jilly back without handing over the papers. There must have been a reason Carol didn’t want them going to those guys.
Anne turned back to the mess on the floor. She had it mopped up in a trice. Nervous energy danced through her like static electricity making it possible for her to sit still. It was a wonder her hair wasn’t standing on end as well.
When she had cleared up the kitchen she pulled the papers from her purse and examined them again. No matter what way she turned them she could not make heads or tails of the cryptic little notes.
She fingered the texture of the paper, noticing the brittle stiffness.
Hmmm. What if… She leapt to her feet and scurried to her bedroom. She waded through the chaos that had been created. Her best stationery had been strewn about the room, but there were a few pages that had been left unrumpled. She selected the best and took them back to the kitchen where she compared them to Carol’s pages. They were close in color and they were the same size.
The niggling little idea in the back of her mind grew more solid. Could she achieve the same texture as Carol’s if she treated these pages?
There was only one way to find out for sure. She put the slightly dented kettle on to boil and pulled out her iron and ironing board. When the teapot began to squeal she held one of the sheets over the steam until the entire page was slightly damp. The iron hissed as it came in contact with the damp paper.
She pulled the paper away before it could scorch and fingered it.
It was almost there. Even the color had darkened slightly so that it matched Carol’s.
Surely it was close enough to pass muster. Now she just had to make enough sheets. She scorched the next one and had to rummage for another sheet in her room, but before long she had a stack of four pages to work with. She scrounged a couple of pens from around the flat and tested the nibs on a scratch pad.
In a short time she had a reasonable facsimile of Carol’s original quote from the Wizard of Oz. She held it up the original and examined it. Could she pull it off? Would it be worth it?She gnawed at her lip for a long moment as she stared from one page to the other. Whoever these guys were, they had killed Carol, and even though Anne couldn’t figure out why, she knew it had to be important. Why else would they be so insistent on getting it back?