Midnight Jewels

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Midnight Jewels
Chapter ONE

    The advertisement on the last page of the bookseller's catalog was small and discreet. Only a knowledgeable collector of rare books would know that the volume offered for sale was a unique example of eighteenth century erotica.
    FOR SALE: Burleigh's Valley
of Secret Jewels.
First edition, 1795. Plates. Exc. cond. Contact Mercy Pennington, Pennington's Second Chance Bookshop, Ignatius Cove, Washington. (206)555-1297.
    Croft Falconer had already spent a great deal of time studying those tiny four lines but he read the ad once more as if he might somehow find a clue to the remarkable fact of the book's appearance after so many years.
    Croft ignored the phone number offered. He didn't have a phone at his house on the coast, just as he didn't have a television, radio or microwave. And, while he could have

driven into town to use a pay phone, he knew that effort would be futile.
    He would have to see the book himself to be sure if it was the right one and he wanted to see this Mercy Pennington in person. He had to find out who she was, how much she knew and how she had acquired the volume.
    The only thing he was certain of at this point was the most disturbing fact of all: The book should not exist.
should have been destroyed along with everything else in the fire that had swept through Egan Graves' island fortress three years before. Croft had witnessed that fire firsthand. He had felt its hellish heat, seen the all-consuming flames and heard the shattering screams of its victims.
    How could something that should have been eaten by those flames resurface in an insignificant bookseller's catalog? The existence of the book opened a gaping hole in a case Croft thought he had closed for all time. If the book had survived the fire, then Croft had to face another possibility: Its owner, Egan Graves, might have also escaped and survived.
    And that meant Croft had failed.
    The ad for
raised questions that had to be answered. It indicated a trail that had to be followed.
    And that trail began with a Miss Mercy Pennington of Ignatius Cove, Washington.
    Croft gazed at the dawn-lit Pacific outside his study window and wondered about Miss Mercy Pennington. Before he could come to any conclusions the Rottweiler whined softly behind him. Croft glanced at the heavily built dog. The animal gazed back expectantly.
    "You're right, it's time to run," Croft said. "Let's go down to the beach. It's a cinch I'm not going to get any meditation done this morning."
    The dog silently accepted the response and padded to the door.
    If anyone were to ask him about his affinity for the Rottweiler, Croft would have said simply that he was one of those people who got along well with dogs. In truth, he had much in common with the creature who paced at his heels. The ancient, wild, hunting instincts still ran in the veins of the Rottweiler, even though the animal generally behaved with the good manners acceptable to the civilized world. But

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