What I needed right now was a good stiff drink. That wasn't happening though, so I tried calling Ms Bell after talking to Tom—to no avail. According to the message I got, her phone number was no longer in service. Surprising, but then I was presuming the number she gave me really was hers. A quick check at an online reverse directory told me it had belonged to one Annabelle Dixon—with an address that didn't match the one Ms Bell had given me. Hoping Chelsea hadn't deposited Ms Bell's check yet, I went to see if it was in the cashbox. No such luck, although there were two other checks from clients that I knew had come in yesterday's mail.
I made a call to my always efficient girl-Friday.
"It should be there, Walt," she told me once I'd explained why I called. "I didn't do my usual deposit today because of the break-in. You don't suppose…"
Yeah I supposed. I supposed they probably took the check because it was a fake—just like 'Ms Bell'. Not the primary reason they'd paid my office a visit—but since they found it during their search they decided to get rid of it. After all, it probably would have bounced, thus putting 'Ms Bell's' entire story in question. Did they really think that I—we—wouldn't have noticed it was gone? Apparently so.
Philips called soon afterwards to say he'd heard from Caiazzo, or he presumed it was him, to set up the exchange on Monday.
Of course my first question was "Where and when?"
"Ten, at River Oaks. He wants me to bring the book's provenance papers."
"He what? Uh-uh, no way."
"That's what I told him. If we're doing an exchange he doesn't need them, any more than I'd need the papers for the necklace. He said no papers, no book and he'd let the police know I was holding stolen property."
"Which phone are you calling me from?"
"My cell, and I'm not at the store," he replied.
"Good man. Okay, I have to figure out what game he's playing now, although I have a pretty good idea." I thought for a moment. "We need to talk. Give me a couple of minutes and I'll call you back to tell you where we'll meet."
As soon as we hung up I called Ricky. "Do you mind if I bring someone with me this evening?" I asked.
He chuckled briefly. "Since when do we do threesomes?" Then he sobered. "Does this have something to do with the case?"
"Yeah. I need a safe place to talk to Philips that's not public—and not bugged."
I could almost see his elated grin when he replied, "Sure. We can figure out how to stop whatever is going on."
"For damned sure we're going to give it a shot, and as an impartial observer your input might make the difference."
"Not sure I'm impartial," he said softly, "but if I can help, you know I will."
"Yeah, babe, I do. Thanks. Unless Philips says differently we'll be there around six."
I called Philips back, gave him Ricky's address, telling him Ricky was a friend and leaving it at that. I had no idea how Philips would react if he knew Ricky was more than just my friend. Then I asked if six p.m. worked for him. He had no problem with the time, since the store closed at five. I decided, instead of his driving directly to Ricky's, I'd pick him up but not from work. No sense tempting fate—or Caiazzo's people. We arranged to meet at a restaurant, as if we were doing dinner. I knew the owner and he'd let us leave through the kitchen, without anyone being the wiser until it was too late.