The sun was out, but he was comfortably shaded. Watching people was supposed to be more fun, but everyone here was slim and self conscious. They all screamed common place. It was dreadful, and his crossword was not going very well for once. Partially, because he wasn't focused on it, and also that he had no idea what he would do after he finished it.
He finished scribbling in the word 'affair' when he saw a tall woman stand in the doorway. Her hand was over her eyes and she was obviously searching for someone.
A maid, a house worker, an employee. She disinterested him, then he looked again. Her hair was rough and natural, the girl was plain. Boring even, but she was dressed better then some seamstress.
Peripherally he could see her coming towards him and he cringed. A woman on a mission. He was on holiday after all. He shrugged.
He was bored on holiday.
Cindy didn't extend her hand, “Mr. Chekhov.”
He didn't respond immediately. He took his time to take off his sunglasses, “Yes?”
“Do you mind if I sit down?”
He motioned for her to take a seat.
The chair scraped against the floor. Ivon noted that she wasn't particularly graceful, “I'm here,” she straightened out her skirt, “To ask you for your help. On the behalf of my employer.”
“Who is your employer?”
Ivon's face narrowed, “He's in India.”
Cindy remained unflustered, “It's his wife. That asked me to come here. Lily Clinton,” she paused, “How did you know he was in India?”
“I read the paper. And, what exactly is it that his lovely wife would like me to do for her.”
“Something went missing this morning.”
“Is this something valuable.”
“Very. The pearls that were auctioned off anonymously last week at Sotheby's.”
Nodding, “You should call the police.”
“Mrs. Clinton is refusing to call the police. She wants this handled discreetly. She doesn't want Conrad to find out that she lost the pearls.”
“They were stolen from a safe?”
Cindy shook her head, “Right off her dresser.”
The eye roll was immediate, “One of the staff probably took it. Search the house. It's pure carelessness. She deserved to have them stolen.”
“We already searched the house.”
“I'm still not seeing this as my problem.”
“Please, Ivon. I'm on vacation.”
Cindy corrected herself, “Ivon, we need your help to find them. All Mrs. Clinton wants is them back. I don't think she cares who stole them.”
“That's a curious thing to say,” Ivon hesitated, “You all have an idea who took the pearls.”
Cindy nodded, “Yes. But, I think you can figure it out yourself. See it from your own perspective instead of just what we're thinking.”
“I still haven't agreed to do it.”
“No. But you will. You're bored out of your mind here. I know it's not a murder or anything too exciting, but it will be a change up for today. Your expertise would be greatly appreciated.”
“Flattery won't get you anywhere with me.” He tapped the paper in his hands, “All right. I'll find the pearls.”
She smiled, “Good, let's get started then.”
Cindy's flats resounded on the foyer.
“Don't bother to take your shoes off. We've already traipsed through the whole house looking for the pearls.”
“What makes you so sure that the pearls are still in the house.”
“You saw the fence. No one could climb over that in this neighborhood. The robbery was too well timed. It had to have been someone in the house.” Cindy didn't mention the mysterious figure she saw lurking outside the night before. Someone else would have to do that.
“Why don't you show me around, then?”
She pivoted to face him. “Well,” she started, “This is the ground floor. Michael, Mrs. Clinton, and I had in the dining room right there. The kitchen's a little off to the side. This house is so narrow most of the rooms run into each other. The stairs to get to the second floor are all the way at the end here.” She started walking. “Any questions?”
“No. Not yet.”
The stairs creaked under her feet. At the top she pointed to the little alcove off to the right, “This is where Theodore sits.”
“That's Miss Betsy's husband. He's not doing so well, actually. He needs surgery, I don't know what kind. I really wasn't supposed to over hear them.”
“He sits here?”
“Yes. Every day. Technically he's a guard, but he's just a sweet old man. He keeps up the grounds. That's what he does.”
“So, would he have seen anyone coming in or out of Lily Clinton's room?”
Cindy stopped to think about it, “I suppose he would if he was awake. He has horrible eyesight. I doubt he could see much, even if he had his glasses on.”
“But, he could see.”
“Yes,” conjectured Cindy.
“Now, this is my bedroom, the bathroom I use. Everyone else has their own. The guest room Micheal is staying in and the room with the double doors at the end is Mrs. Clinton's.”
“Where were you when the pearls were taken.”
“Taking a shower. Not much of an alibi, but-.” Cindy shrugged, “It's better then nothing. I of anyone in this house knew how much the pearls cost. I handled all the transactions for Mr. Clinton.”
Ivon started looking into the bedrooms.
Cindy stood outside, “Looking for anything in particular.”
“No.” He looked in the bathroom. Noted the stopper was plugged in, and went into Micheal's room. “Nothing very interesting.”
He opened one of the doors into Mrs. Clinton's room, “They were on that dresser?” He didn't step in.
“There wasn't a safe or any other place to keep them.”
“Mrs. Clinton was adamant about keeping them out. I told her to put them in the safe, but she didn't listen to me. She told me I knew the combination, so why should she bother.”
“Your a trusted employee?”
That ruffled Cindy, “I suppose so.”
“And, where is everyone?”
“Outside,” Cindy turned away, “I wanted a chance to talk to you before you met them.”
Nothing was said.
“Are you going to explain that at some point, Cindy.” Ivon didn't take his eyes off of her.
She knew it was a deep analytical gaze. But, she liked it. She liked his voice and his hair. That gray Oxford and black slacks. An age appropriate, relatively well known Russian gentleman was staring into her eyes, and she was so blinded it by it she couldn't respond.
“I,” she stopped herself from stammering, “I don't think Mrs. Clinton wants you to find the person who took the pearls.”
His gaze narrowed.
“She would have just called the police if they were actually stolen. I think she knows exactly who stole them. She just wants you to find them for her.”
“The question your asking is why she would protect someone.”
“I think it's your question, Mr. Chekhov.” She flounced, heading right back towards the stairs, “Are you coming Ivon.”
He didn't quite know what to make of Cindy Johnson.
At one Lily and Michael sat, precariously close together, and at the other Theodore and Betsy. They were talking in their own individual groups. Expectantly waiting for the first arrival.
That's what Ivon liked to think anyway.
He didn't quite get the superstar greeting he expected.
It took a moment for them to process who it was. You don't just run into a celebrity. Minor or A-list on an every day occasion. Theodore and Betsy were not impressed.
Michael was a forty year old, sagging man. And, here was a twenty something Russian with good taught skin about to solve the problems of the world. He was impressed. He just didn't want to acknowledge that.
Lily leaned forward. Eagerly. Anticipating. She was ready. Her eyes were ablaze with excitement and it took her no time to stand up from her chair and walk over to greet him, “Ivon Chekhov. It's so great to meet you. I am Lily Clinton.” She put her hand over her heart or more accurately her breast. “And, this is Michael, Betsy, and Theodore.”
Ivon had put that much together.
“So,” she paused awkwardly, “You've agreed to help with our little problem. My necklace has disappeared and I just don't know what could have happened to it. To think I was going to be gone all day, but I decided to come back to get it.”
“You were going to wear it out?” questioned Michael, “I thought you said you wouldn't.”
“I know that's what I said. I changed my mind. Who knows what would have happened to my necklace if I hadn't come back for it. It could already be on the black market.” She shuddered.
“It was a present,” mentioned Ivon.
“Yes. My anniversary present. I needed new clothes to wear it. When you find it, you will understand. The pearls are beautiful.”
“You sound like they were misplaced.”
“Well, I don't want to imply anything. My pearls were not on my dresser. That is all I know. If someone stole them, I just want them back. No questions asked. They could have simply been misplaced. We checked everywhere, though, Mr. Chekhov, couldn't find them.” There was a hesitation, “Do you mind if I call you Ivon.”
“Chekhov is fine,” he answered.
She pursed her lips. They were a magnificent red color. She sauntered back over to the table she was sitting at, and leaned against it, “What do you propose in order to find my pearls.” She was much more business like in her tone.
“I want to interview everyone.”
“Where exactly.” Her hand rested on Micheal’s shoulder.
“I was thinking your bedroom.”
“My bedroom?” queried Lily, “I'm intrigued. I was really hoping for less talking and more action. But, if you think talking in my room will help you. I don't mind. Who would you like to interview first.”
“Let's draw straws.”
“I hope you don't plan on me doing that,” pointed Theodore.
“You can stand if you want.”
Theodore found a chair and sat as far away from him as possible.
“So, Theodore where were you this morning.”
“You don't sound Russian,” he leaned forward and squinted, “Are you really Ivon Chekhov. The detective.”
“I was raised in Britain.”
Theodore nodded, “Explains a lot. You moved to Russia anyway.”
“How about we answer that question. Where were you.”
“Asleep. In one of those chairs at the end of the hall. Cindy woke me up, though. Right out of that sleep. Her foot just hit that landing. It jolted me.”
“And, did you see her go into the bathroom.”
“Well, I saw her go into that general area.” He looked around, “I've never been in here before. This is a very nice room. The necklace was on the dresser, wasn't it?”
A nod, “Fancy.” He looked at Ivon, “I don't know who stole that necklace.”
Ivon ignored that, “Did someone pass you on the stairs after you saw Cindy.”
“No. There wasn't a single person.”
“Did you see anyone in the hall?”
There was a sigh. “I saw something, it's just my eyesight. It's not very good. But, I saw it with my own two eyes. Michael went into this very room. I saw him walk into it. I know I said I didn't know who took it, but we all know. Michael did. That's why the lady isn't calling the police. She doesn't want Michael to get caught.”
“You think Michael did it?”
“Of course, I do. The boys trouble. Very affable, nice even. Doesn't mean he isn't trouble, though. Can't imagine why Mrs. Clinton would let him stay here.”
Ivon questioned him, “How do you know it was Michael who came in here. You don't have very good eyesight. How do you know it wasn't Mrs. Clinton or Cindy?”
“That damn fedora. He wears it all the time. The boy decides to steal from his brother's wife and yet he still wears the fedora. He's not very bright.”
“Probably not.” He got up from the bed, “Thank you very much for your time.”
“None at all. I hope you find the pearls.”
Ivon was helping him get to the door, “You did a thorough search?”
“Very thorough. Checked everywhere.”
Ivon processed it, “Thank you, Theodore.
The old man paused at the door, “You know Mr. Chekhov. I just want you to know, I don't think of you as Russian. When people talk about you now, I'll tell them you're just a Brit with a Russian last name.”
“That's quite all right Theodore. There's nothing wrong with being Russian.”
Ivon told her wherever.
She settled for on top of the hope chest.
“What did you do this morning, Miss Betsy?”
“Woke up. Cooked breakfast. Tried cleaning the floors. That didn't last very long. Not with everyone trampling all over it.” It was very accurate, “Mr. Chekhov. If you don't mind. Can I offer you a suggestion.”
Ivon nodded, “Yes, of course.”
“Just ask Michael where the pearls are. We all know he took them. But, Mrs. Clinton has a soft spot for him.”
“Why would that be?”
“You're not much of a detective if you can't figure that out for yourself.”
“You agree with me,” asserted Miss Betsy, “Michael stole the pearls. He's a raging alcoholic you know. Gambles. Lives off of other people's money. The boy is a disgrace. I know Mr. Clinton doesn't pay him for anything, but I wouldn't let him in this house. Let alone near a spouse of mine.”
Ivon smiled at her, “This morning. You said you served breakfast.”
“Yes. I do that every morning.”
“Did anyone go upstairs during this time.”
“No one at all.”
A pen would have been nice for dramatic effect, “So, the pearls went missing between the time that Lily left for the train station and came back.”
“Yes. The woman screamed. I thought someone was being murdered.”
“They weren't in the safe, though.”
Miss Betsy appraised him, “I feel like you're asking me things you already know.”
“I'm just wrapping my head around the crime. How long do you think she was gone?”
There was a shrug, “Ten, fifteen minutes. She wasn't gone that long. I overheard her make such a big fuss about not taking those pearls on her shopping trip over the breakfast table, that I was shocked to see her. I'm sure Michael was shocked to. Probably would have had them pawned off by now. She wasn't going to be getting home until six.”
“While she was gone, what were you doing?”
“Scrubbing the floors.”
“Did you hear anything?”
“Couldn't really,” she thought about it, “I mean, Cindy had the water on. This house creaks a little, but it's not that bad. All I could hear was the steady down pour of water.”
“Steady?” questioned Ivon.
“Yes. Steady. That might not be the word I'm looking for, but one's mind gets a little less coherent as you age. You'll find that out.”
Ivon processed it, “Did you see the pearls?”
“The whole house did. Mrs. Clinton insisted that we all come down and see it. She was absolutely drooling over the delivery man. She showed us all. Even had me and Cindy go through all her clothes with her.”
“So, you were both aware that the pearls were on the dresser.”
“I see what your getting at. I don't like the implications. Michael came in as well. He knew. The temptation must have been strong. He has a lot of faults and one can't be surprised that Michael took the pearls. That's a lot for someone like him to handle. If only Mrs. Clinton had listened to Cindy. She told her not to take the pearls.”
“You like her?”
“Mrs. Clinton? Of course I do. Wouldn't do anything wrong by the woman.”
There was hesitation, a snort, “Smart girl. Not very pretty. You can tell she thinks she's above this job. Still she does it right. Has a good head on her shoulders. I can't fault her.”
Ivon looked at her hands. They were sweating.
It took some maneuvering, but with his hand holding his head he managed to make eye contact with him. “Tell me. Who do you think took the pearls?” questioned Ivon.
“Isn't that what you're here for?” He didn't deliberately avoid his gaze.
“I'm here to find them. Figuring out who took them isn't high on that priority list.”
“Lily is a silly girl. Lot's of fun. If you take her as a good time. It's easier to handle her.” Michael evened out the bed spread, “Even, with Calvin away this bed never seems to stay tidy.” He finally repositioned himself to stare into Ivon's eyes, “I want you to know that I'm in debt.”
“Yes. I'm sure you've already heard some nasty things about me.”
Michael laughed, “I just wanted you to know, so you didn't think I was hiding it from you or anything like that. I didn't take the pearls. I think its marvelous that someone did, though.”
Ivon tilted his head.
“Does that surprise you?” he questioned.
“A little. It's an interesting tactic to take.”
“Not for me. I have nothing better to do today. I could have spent the better part of the day worrying about how I was going to pay those men off, but instead here I am talking to a famed Russian detective about some missing pearls.”
“It really doesn't bother you that everyone thinks you stole the pearls.”
“Can't let it. People don't think highly enough of me as it is, Ivon,” he hazarded, “I can call you Ivon can't I?”
“The thing is. I know where Lily keeps a stash of money. In her lingerie drawer. I still have a week to get that money, but if I didn't. I most certainly wouldn't have taken that string of pearls. Jewels are so hard to move. Can't do anything with them.”
“The way you speak, it sounds as if you have some experience with that.”
“I have experience with a lot of things, Ivon. Not just illegal activities.” He looked away from him.
“Still. You know someone took the pearls. Who was it.”
Michael took his time, “I have two thoughts. Something Miss Betsy probably didn't mention to you when she was slandering me was that her husband needs an operation. The man's dying of lung cancer.”
“Does explain why she was sweating.”
“I'm telling you. She did it.” He flipped his fedora into the air. Hesitating until he caught it, “This morning, Lily even asked her to get her lipstick. It took the the old biddy a while to come back down. She said the tube of lipstick fell off. I wasn't there, but it would have been easy enough for her to steal it.”
“Why is it that the pearls haven't been found, yet?”
“She swallowed them whole.” He twirled the fedora in his hand, “I can't tell you. I was there. We searched this whole house. I don't know where they are. What I can tell you is this thing I saw last night. Me and Cindy. She helped bandage up my wounds and we were leaving that bathroom when we saw something. There was someone moving outside.”
“So, someone got in.”
Michael threw his hands up, “That I don't know about. I can't imagine breaking in here. Still it wasn't me. And, it certainly wasn't old Theodore out there.”
“I like that you didn't ask me about my wounds.”
“I didn't ask you if you stole the pearls.”
“That's right. You're not a very good detective. Are you Ivon?”
There was really no good way to explain what Ivon was doing. He was rummaging through Lily Clinton's lingerie drawers. It took him a lot longer to find them, then he anticipated. “Just going through the drawers.”
“Exactly what I thought you were doing, then.”
Cindy approached, “What are you looking for? You don't think she hid the pearls in her own room. They didn't have insurance on it. I would know.”
“Nothing like that. Michael told me that Lily hid money in her lingerie drawer.”
“Why exactly did he tell you that?”
“He was trying to convince me that he didn't steal the pearls or more that he didn't need to steal the pearls.”
Cindy leaned up against the dresser, “He's a manipulative, charming man. Don't let him fool you.”
“You have feelings for him?”
“Had,” she picked at her nails, “Last night, made me realize how silly I was being. I need to find someone my own age. Or at least not someone twenty years older, then me. Someone stable, secure. Something that Michael for all of his attributes is not.”
They made uncomfortable eye contact.
Ivon continued rummaging through the drawer. He pretended not to notice that her cheeks were a shade redder, “Well, he wasn't lying.” Ivon pulled out the drawer, “Here's the money. The pearls aren't here, but the money is.”
“Is there something you needed to ask me?”
“Do you want me to go?”
There was an uncomfortable smile, “What is it you want, then?”
“Tell me about your alibi. You were taking a shower. Did you hear anything.”
Ivon nodded, “And, what about after wards. Were you taking the shower when Lily Clinton came home.”
“Yes and no. The only reason I got out of the shower was, because I heard her scream. I wasn't really that worried. She's over dramatic, but I thought I should go. I knew Theodore or Michael would be able to help her before I did. I finished as quickly as I could. Threw on a robe and tossed my clothes in the laundry shoot.”
“Is it really?”
“Not at all.”
Neither of them said anything.
She shot a look across at him, “Is this how you've conducted all your interviews?”
Ivon shrugged, “I've been experimenting.” He made eye contact with her, “What else do you know about the pearls.”
“Other then the fact that Mr. Clinton spent too much money on them. Not much. I handled the payment, handled the delivery. Handled tipping delivery man.” She stopped, “Is that normal?”
Ivon shook his head.
“I don't know. Mrs. Clinton was very adamant about it. Had me call the company up and ask him his name. It was one of the low points of my day.”
“Not even bandaging Michael up?”
“He really did tell you everything, didn't he? Did he also tell you about that figure.”
“Now that was weird,” she put emphasis on it, “I don't know who it could have been. It certainly wasn't me or Michael. If that person took the pearls. You might not be getting them back today.”
“I'll get them back.”
“You will?” She looked at him curiously.
“Yes. I already know where they are.”
“I don't understand your methods.”
His eyes were closed.
“Mr. Chekhov are you awake?” prodded Lily Clinton.
“Yes.” He affirmed it by physically nodding.
“Do you know where my pearls are?”
“Do you know who stole them?”
“Good.” She sounded satisfied, “Let's go get them, then.”
Lily Clinton had her hand on the door knob. She spaced her words out, “What do you mean by 'no'.”
“I mean 'no' in the literal sense.” He sat up, “I need you to answer a question.”
“Okay.” She sidled a little bit closer to him.
“Last night you had sex with the delivery boy.”
She backed away from him.
“I'm sorry,” he apologized, “Last night you had relations with the delivery boy. Correct.”
She was furious, “I don't see where that's any of your business.”
“I need you to answer the question.”
She came up closer to him. Her face a few inches away from him before she whispered, “Are you trying to blackmail me?”
He repeated the question.
“WHY? Why do you need to know?”
“You'll just have to trust me.”
She puffed, “Yes.” She turned away from him, “Are you happy? Yes. I had sex with Felix last night. I snuck him in and we had relations right here in this bed. Is that what you wanted to hear Mr. Chekhov.”
“He almost got caught leaving?”
“I don't know why you are insisting on asking the questions, that you know damn well and straight have the answers to.”
“One more question.”
He hesitated. Her tone was definitely a snarl, “You did see the pearls this morning.”
“Of course I did.”
“Good. That's all I needed to know.” He sprung up from the hope chest, “Let's go get those pearls shall we?”
“Why are we in the hallway?” questioned Lily, “Are my pearls here.”
He shook his head, “No. I just didn't want to go down stairs.”
“But, you do know where the pearls are don't you?” summed up Miss Betsy. Grabbing her husband's arm as she side checked Michael.
Ivon clapped his hands, “Let's start over again,” he shut his eyes and opened them, “Hello, everyone. Before you ask. Yes, I know where the pearls are and who took them.”
There was silence.
“Are you going to start explaining this eventually?” asked Michael. He checked his watch.
“I was just making sure there weren't any other questions. And, just to clear everyone's minds, I'm going to start by telling you that Michael didn't take the pearls off of the dresser. Although, the person who did take them, did a very good job of making it look like he did.”
“Mr. Chekhov,” interrupted Miss Betsy, “Of course he took the pearls. My husband saw him take the pearls. Don't you remember that part.”
“He did not see him take the pearls,” corrected Ivon, “He saw a man in a fedora enter Lily Clinton's room those are two radically different things. It's funny to me that you think you're so above suspicion.”
Theodore took a step forward, “My wife didn't take the pearls.”
“I am not saying she did. But, you both had motive. You are dying of cancer and at the moment you can't afford the surgery.”
Miss Betsy blanched.
“As I said, it doesn't mean you stole the pearls. However, the only person who saw anyone go into the room was Theodore. That could have been falsified. You saw the entire floor. You said no one else came past you after Lily, but if you're wife asked you not to. I'm sure you would have forgotten that she came upstairs.”
“However,” Ivon started to address Miss Betsy, “That wouldn't have been necessary. Earlier that morning Lily had you go upstairs and get her lipstick. It would have been easy for you to grab them, then. There wouldn't have been a need for your husband to make up a story about Michael going into the room. You did see the pearls when you went in this morning, right Miss Betsy.”
“Yes. Yes. I did.”
Ivon nodded, “Good. And, that was the last time Lily went upstairs before she left. That was something I had in question. What if she had taken the pearls and only pretended that they were gone. But, really the whole time she had them.. Finding out that there wasn't any insurance on them helped. I never really did think you took your own pearls, though.”
“Thank you?” remarked Lily, clutching at the jewels she did have around her neck.
“What this crime did rely on was a lot of inside knowledge. Especially with the time frame. This wasn't a break in. That was a very poor decision on your part last night to have company Mrs. Clinton.”
Everyone turned to stare at her. None of them were surprised.
“That was the shadowy figure you saw Cindy and Michael. It's also why I clarified that you saw the pearls this morning. The delivery man knew the price of those pearls, even if he didn't I'm sure he knew how much money you're husband is worth. It would have been, so easy for him to have taken them off you're nightstand. And, what would you have done if he had taken them. Told your husband?” Ivon laughed, “Probably not.”
Lily glared at him.
“Now you should all know who took the pearls.”
Michael counted on his fingers before swiveling to look at Cindy.
There was a hesitation before she responded, defiantly, “I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Of course you don't. It was brilliant of you to frame Michael. The drunk, gambler with a debt. It was a flawless move. Also the fact that you unlike all the other members of this household do not have a reason to steal it was even more perfect. You did it. To prove you could.”
“How, exactly?” Cindy drew out the words, “Did I manage that.”
“It is why you woke Theodore up isn't it? He said you woke him with a jolt. You've been here before. It was broad daylight. You shouldn't have jolted anyone awake. It was deliberate. And, living here you know that he spends most of his time there. You needed him awake to see what was about to happen. This plan was rushed.”
“Well of course it would have to be the pearls only came in yesterday,” concurred Cindy.
“Right. You even said to Lily that she shouldn't leave the pearls out what if someone takes them. But, she ignored your advice and left them out. That's why you stole them. To prove something to her. Get back at Michael. I'm not sure, which. But, that doesn't really matter.”
Lily leaned over to Michael, “Why do I feel like we're interrupting their conversation?”
Ivon continued on oblivious, “That's why you took a shower. It was an alibi of sorts. You switched out of your regular clothes into one of Micheal’s suits, and the all important fedora. The size was a bit off, but you're both about the same height, and you only needed to fool an elderly man with poor eyesight. He couldn't tell the difference between Michael and a woman with her hair bunched under the hat at that distance. He only thought it was Michael, because that's who he would have expected to see.”
“You then actually took your shower. Heard Lily Clinton scream. That probably surprised you and you took your time getting out of the shower until you had calmed your nerves.”
“I don't believe a word you're saying. I didn't take the pearls,” Cindy was amused.
“You know Miss Betsy said something very interesting to me, and that's when I first started thinking that you'd taken the pearls. She said she heard a steady stream of water.”
“I did,” acknowledged Miss Betsy, “What does that have to do with anything.”
Ivon raised his eyebrow, “Well, if someone. A living, moving person is taking a shower. You wouldn't hear a steady stream of water. It wouldn't be the same sound repeating. It would change, because the person is moving. And, yet Miss Betsy scrubbing on the floor right below you're bathroom described it as 'steady'. I might also point out that it was you're bathroom. No one else would use it.”
“None of this explains where my pearls are,” protested Lily.
“I'm getting to that.”
“Really? So far it sounds to me as if anyone could have taken the pearls, and we searched this whole house. We didn't find the pearls anywhere. And, I don't recall a full suit and fedora stocked up in the linens cupboard in my bathroom either.” Cindy smiled at him.
“You probably shouldn't have told me that you dumped you're clothes in the laundry chute. It is Michael after all. What would be weird about finding a suit and one of his fedoras in that basket. Nothing. That's something that also didn't make a lot of sense to me. If Michael had stolen the pearls. In less then fifteen minutes he'd found an ingenious hiding spot for them. That no one had found.”
“Don't make it sound so improbable,” inserted Michael.
“He could have taken the pearls, yet. You still haven't told us where they are.” Cindy was satisfied.
“Who puts a stopper in a tub when they get out.” He looked around, “Everyone. Nod tell me if you do.”
The only person who didn't nod was Cindy.
“I found it so strange when I went into that bathroom that the stopper was in the drain.”
Lily opened the bathroom door. Slid the shower curtain aside and kneeled. One hand resting on the wall, “You're telling me my pearls are down this nasty drain?” She looked at him for reassurance.
“Yes,” he nodded.
With some resolution, she took the stopper out. The group crowded around and dangling from inside were the pearls. Lily lifted them up and pointed at Cindy, “You're fired.”
Lily pretended to look like she was hurt.
“You'll never work again. I'm having you arrested-.”
“One moment. You can't prove that she stole the pearls,” intervened Ivon.
“But, you said she did. And here they are.” She held them in her hands.
“I said it before and I'm saying it again. Anyone could have stolen those pearls. Just because you found them in her shower doesn't mean anything.”
“Bloody hell it doesn't. She stole them from me. I can't trust her.”
“Consider it my payment.”
Lily hesitated, “Your payment?”
“Yes. Services rendered. I also remember you saying you didn't care who stole them as long as you got them back. You have them back, and this time put them in the safe.”
Lily wanted to throw something at her, “I want her out of my house. I want her gone.”
“I think Lily will resign. And when she gets a new job, you'll give her a glowing recommendation.”
“I've doing enough by not having her thrown in jail, Mr. Chekhov.” Lily Clinton was a disgruntled customer.
He leaned forward to talk into her hear, “If you don't do this. You're husband will find out about Felix and all the other men. Even, Michael.”
She constrained herself, looked dead at Cindy, “Fine. You will have good references.” She straightened her hair out, “I'm over it. I have my pearls back. Let's pretend this didn't happen.” She started getting out of the shower, and edging her way past Ivon and Cindy.
Lily stood in front of the door, “Do you two need a moment?”
“That would be nice.”
“Let's leave the Russian and the bitch to themselves.”
Ivon grabbed her before she left, “Word of advice. Stop sleeping with your husband's brother. That won't end well.”
She shook his arm off.
Everyone filed out and they were left alone.
Cindy looked into his eyes, “Why didn't you have me arrested?”
“You didn't do it maliciously. It seemed to me that you did it to see if you could get away with it. You wouldn't have tried so hard to convince me to take the case if you thought you couldn't get away with it. You wanted to see how smart you are.”
She shrugged, “Maybe.” They were a good distance apart.
“Were you planning on keeping them.”
She took a step forward, “I was planning on putting them in her safe.”
Ivon laughed, he smiled. “Would you consider having dinner with me tonight?”
“I don't know. You only saved me from prison. Of course you also could have conveniently not found the pearls.”
“That's not an answer.”
“I'm sorry,” she apologized, “I'm very bad at this flirting thing. Yes. I'll go out with you.”
“Good.” He took a step closer and stopped to think, “I can't really pick you up here can I?”