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"Nail-biting suspense, two budding romances, and a heartwarming tale of an elderly Russian imigri make DO YOU PROMISE NOT TO TELL a top notch read."
—RT Book Reviews
Farrell Slater knew her days were numbered. Her contract was up and Range Bullock, executive producer of KEY Evening Headlines, didn't like her. A lethal combination. Unless she could redeem herself, Farrell knew her contract would not be renewed and her days as one of the producers of the network's highly-rated evening-news broadcast would be over unless she could pull a journalistic rabbit out of a hat.
She'd even started going to church again. Funny how worry led one back to the kneeler. On the way to the office this morning, Farrell had stopped for ashes at St. Gabriel's. It was the first time in years she'd bothered. Might as well start the Lenten season off right. Having God on her side right now wouldn't hurt.
How the mighty had fallen. Eight years ago, as just a thirty-year-old, Farrell had been the talk of KEY News, having won three Emmy Awards in one season—industry recognition for her outstanding achievements in television news production. Everyone had loved her then, everyone had wanted to be her friend. She was a hot property, admired and sought after by her colleagues.
What had happened?
Part of it, she had to admit to herself, was that she hadn't been able to sustain the momentum and enthusiasm for her job. She had started to coast—just slightly at first, then a little bit more. So, to some degree it was her own fault she was where she was. But not entirely.
There was no doubt in Farrell's mind. Her boss detested her. Was there any wayshe could redeem herself?. Did she want to? Bullock had written her off. The stories he was assigning to Farrell now were always "below the line," iffy stories listed way down on the morning's rundown, beneath the pieces sure to make air.
Occasionally one of Farrell's stories developed into something more than Bullock had anticipated. The executive producer was then forced, grudgingly, to give it a slot in the Evening Headlines lineup. If the piece came out well, Bullock credited its depth, creativity, and impact to the correspondent. If the piece came up short, Producer Farrell, ever the goat, got the blame.
Hanging her violet wool coat on the back of the door, Farrell, dressed in a simple turtleneck and black wool slacks, headed for her desk in the office she shared with Bullock's pet producer, Dean Cohen. Farrell lifted a cup of coffee from the Strokos Delicatessen's brown paper bag and studying her office mate, tried to remember what it was like to be the favored one.
Dean certainly wasn't any smarter or more aggressive than Farrell. His pieces were solid, never outstanding. But Dean was a skilled player in the KEY political game. He knew when to keep his mouth shut. Farrell did not. His sucking up to Range Bullock made Farrell want to gag.
"Happy Ash Wednesday," Dean nodded, acknowledging the black smudge on Farrell's forehead.
"That's a contradiction in terms," Farrell corrected.
"Oh yeah, right. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and all that." Dean turned his attention back to his New York Times.
Now, why had she done that? She could have just smiled and said a simple thank-you. That's what most people would have done. But no. She had to put Dean in his place. It was a constant game of one-upmanship between them and she knew it. It didn't play well.
Perhaps if she were prettier, she could get away with it. But Farrell wasn't a conventionally pretty woman. Quirky, maybe—exotic, on a good day. She'd known since she was a little girl that she would make her way in life with her strongest asset, her brain. A coarse cloud of black curly hair crowned her high forehead. Large (almost too large) brown eyes gave her a look of wide-eyed wonder—not very reassuring in the television news business. The appearance of control could be more important than actual control.
Booting up her computer, Farrell groaned inwardly as she viewed her lot for the day. How could she change Bullock's mind when he kept assigning her the dreck? The Fabergé auction over at Churchill's?
Below the line.
Pat struggled to stay seated. Please, God, just let the bidding go up.
The gavel snapped crisply. "Sold! To number four-ten. Fifteen thousand dollars for the Fabergé brooch."
Patricia Devereaux craned her auburn head, eager to see who had captured Olga's treasured crescent pin. Searching the crowd, she saw movement two rows ahead. Sitting on one of the folding chairs in the venerable Churchill's auction gallery, a wraithlike old woman dressed entirely in black smoothly replaced her green auction paddle in her lap. As the woman rose to leave, Pat got a better look.
Luminous dark eyes peered out from her magnolia-skinned face. The woman's raven hair could not be untinted, but Pat suspected that years ago the shiny black had been its natural color. In her time, she must have been a real beauty, Pat decided.
But now the former beauty would be wearing Olga's brooch. Pat felt a tug of sadness. Dear Olga. How many times had the tiny Russian woman lovingly attached that pin to the collar of her carefully starched linen blouses? Olga had cherished the white enamel crescent studded with tiny sapphires—a gift from her father who had once worked in the studios of the famed jeweler Carl Fabergé. If an old woman was to wear this unique pin, Pat preferred that it be Olga.
Fabergé. The Imperial jeweler to the last Romanov czars.
Pat and her nineteen-year-old son Peter watched the distinguished-looking auctioneer standing at the raised walnut platform stationed in front of the large room. Well-dressed men and women spoke softly into the telephones at desks banking either side of the auctioneer's podium. Their job was to efficiently express bids made by potential buyers not on the floor of the salesroom.
The auctioneer expertly moved through the numbered items in the Churchill's catalogue. A small copper ashtray embossed with the Russian Imperial Eagles went for fourteen hundred dollars. A pair of silver Fabergé asparagus tongs earned over its estimate of two thousand. A silver table lighter in the form of a crouching monkey went for twenty-five thousand. The monkey's expressive face and lined forehead had clearly charmed its new owner.
"What do we have for the gold cigarette case?"
Pat studied the picture of the cigarette case featured in her program. The fourteen-karat golden cover was monogrammed and featured a diamond-set Imperial Eagle. When pressed, the sapphire thumbpiece opened the elegant container. Beautiful.
"Four thousand once.
"Four thousand twice.
"Sold! Four thousand dollars to number one-ninety-six."
Pat recognized the buyer. It was the same man who had purchased Olga's silver cigarette case at last year's auction. The tall, pleasant-looking man was wearing a tweed sports jacket. She guessed him to be about forty-five, maybe older. As she studied him, he looked in her direction and smiled.
Did he remember her from last year?
"That's Professor Kavanagh! My Russian Studies prof." Peter was out of his seat and headed for the cigarette-case buyer. The men shook hands and Pat watched as Peter gestured toward her and she could see his lips form the words, That's my mother. Pat thought the professor looked surprised, maybe even pleased, to hear the information.
Pat was used to it. People often commented that it had to be impossible for her to be the mother of a nineteen-year-old. But she'd been Peter's age when her only child was born.
As Pat looked on, she was surprised herself. Seton Hall University must be paying good salaries. Fabergé cigarette cases didn't come cheap. The men shook hands again and Peter came back to join his mother. His face was flushed with pleasure.
"This is great, Mom," he whispered. "Meeting my favorite professor at a Churchill's auction—I think he was surprised to see one of his students at something like this."
Pat enjoyed her son's enthusiasm. Peter was such an earnest kid. She often found herself hoping he wouldn't get hurt.
"I told him about your shop, Mom. He said he'd like to stop in sometime."
"Great, sweetheart," she whispered back; but she was more interested in what was happening at the front of the room.
The numbered treasures continued to fetch small fortunes and Pat felt the electricity building in the crowd as the star attraction slowly made its way closer to the auction block. Then, it rolled into view. The audience sat up straighter in their chairs and a low, reverential roar swept over the tension-charged room. The television news crews stationed throughout the gallery rolled their video cameras.
Pat shivered at the auctioneer's announcement.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Moon Egg."