We settled in the living room again. Although I'm not sure settled is the right word since we were all tense, now that we were going to get down to why we were here in the first place.
To start with, I told them what I'd learned about Hugh Williams, followed by the fact that 'Ms Bell' was not who she'd purported to be. Of course they asked questions since this new information to both of them, especially about Annabelle Dixon. Then I filled them in on my visit to Eber's gallery.
"Why," Philips asked, frowning, "would Ms Dixon be there? I mean I get that she hired you to find Mr Williams, but her being there means she has to know more about him than she admitted to you."
"Exactly, Bailey," I agreed. "She told me she'd met him two years ago, which would have been six months after he was released from prison. She gave no indication she knew about that, although she did say he had some iffy friends."
Ricky nodded. "So there's no reason she'd know Eber."
"If she told me the truth." I smiled dryly. "Since almost nothing she told me about herself was the truth, I think it's safe to say none of the rest of her story was either."
"Then why hire you in the first place," Philips asked.
"I've been thinking about that. Well, not that specifically, but why she was at the gallery. Now this may be from way out in left field but"—I looked between them—"what if Mr Caiazzo has nothing to do with what's been going on?"
"That makes no sense," Ricky said. "For starters, the break-ins were professionally done from all that you've told me and he—again from what you've said—reputedly runs a theft ring. Besides which, you said that the first time the men attacked you they dropped his name."
"Yeah, they did. But that doesn't mean they were being honest about who they work for. It's called misdirection. Mention him and I immediately think he's behind everything that's happened since then."
"Making him he villain while in point of fact it's Eber?"
"Yes." I turned to Philips. "Is Eber someone you've ever done business with, or had contact with in some other way?"
"I know who he is because we've both attended some of the same charity events, but I don't remember ever actually meeting him."
"Then how would he, or Caiazzo as far as that goes, know about the Hammett book?"
"I have a very extensive website for the store. While I don't sell off of it, I do list most of my more valuable items. The ones that are priced well above what the average walk-in customer could afford. People who are interested in them can contact me by phone or email for more details, like the price, which I don't list there."
"Have you had any inquiries about the book?" I asked.
"Some, but when the person finds out what it's valued at, their interest dissipates. You have to be a dedicated collector to be willing to part with forty-five thousand dollars."
Ricky snorted. "You could buy"—he paused momentarily—"four thousand, five hundred and twenty-two paperbacks, at nine-ninety-five each, for that kind of money. That would keep you reading forever."
Philips looked surprised. "You figured that out that fast?"
"I'm an accountant, Bailey. Numbers are my forte," Ricky told him with a bit of a grin. "Still, I do understand that a collectable book can run that much and more."
"Am I right in thinking," I asked Philips, "that none of the people who were interested in the book was Eber or Caiazzo?"
"If they were, they didn't say so."
"Do you keep email inquiries?"
"Only if I think the person might be considering making an offer. As I said, when someone who's interested in it hears the price, they usually back away fast. I can check in the morning to see if I saved any of the emails, but as far as I recall, I didn't."
"Okay. That did answer my question though. The fact you have the book is not a secret so either of the men could know about it."