Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Salt Lake City, UT, October, 2007
"Gah!" Daphne Worth tilted sideways, which was all she had room for, to get her knee out of the soggy spot on the dirt floor of the crawlspace. She turned her pocket flashlight on it, but all she could tell was that, yes, it was wet.
In front of her, Sol Todd craned his head over his shoulder, turned his own light on the spot, and frowned. "Huh." He tipped the light to show the subflooring close above their heads, the stain above the muddy spot. "Given where it is, I think that's seepage from the kitchen sink drain. I think."
Worth tapped a gloved finger into the mud and sniffed cautiously. Wet dirt, which was how the rest of the crawlspace smelled. Not like the little studio off the garage with its tidy worktable and magnifying lamp and racked jeweler's and woodworker's tools. That smelled of three-in-one oil and sanded pine.
All those well-kept tools. Where were the half-finished projects, the mistakes pushed aside, the favorite completed pieces?
Worth dragged her brain kicking and screaming back to the crawlspace. "It's poetic justice. I'm the one who decided the Kansas City Renovator might be one of ours. So it's only right I should be down here on my hands and knees expecting to bump into something icky in the dark."
"Reminds me of the bottom of the cave outside Bogota where Yaron Svoray and I found the remains of a German SS colonel." Todd's voice was relaxed and offhand, but it always was when he said things like that. "Saponified. Never could identify him."
"A Nazi soap mummy. In a cave in Colombia."
"You know what saponification is?" He sounded equal parts surprised and delighted.
"Duke--" She took a slow, dank breath. "Yes."
"A pound of uncut diamonds in the poor bastard's stomach. I don't care how worried you are about the state of Hitler's treasury; that's a silly thing to do."
Worth knew she was supposed to say something. She was still working on it when Todd's voice came back from the darkness ahead, aggrieved. "You don't believe me."
Her palm came down on a piece of gravel. "Ow. No."
A heavy sigh. "Fully half my vast experience goes to waste that way."
"Of course nobody believes you half the time. I still remember how badly you had Brady going with that story about the Hell's Angels smuggling crank in a moose carcass--"
Worth could hear the shush of Todd's jacket against the concrete wall as he moved forward. She could let it go... No, she couldn't. "You're shitting me."
"Every word of it. Journalistic fact."
"No wa--" She sat back on her heels and whacked her head on a floor joist. "Ow!"
"Careful, there," Todd said. The beam of his flashlight bounced at random around the walls of the passage as he hitched himself forward. "Hey, the floor's dug deeper here. And the inside wall's further away. Not quite a room, but I'd call it at least a burrow."
Worth scrambled to catch up and found the lip of dirt under her hands where the floor dropped a foot. Her flashlight and his showed a carved-out low-ceilinged square with the poured concrete of the foundation for walls on two sides, and concrete block separating the burrow from the rest of the house's crawlspace. The workmanship was as precise as the well-kept rack of tools in the studio.
Precise enough to shelter a methodical craftsman's masterpieces. His trophies. What they were looking for had to be here.
"Buried in the floor?" Worth offered.
"No. He'd want to be able to lay hands on them quickly."
"I'll take the right-hand wall," Worth said, and they began to pass their flashlight beams over the burrow, corner to corner.
"Well, hey, there," Todd said. His light hovered on one of the concrete blocks at the top of the wall. A dark thread of space showed between it and the mortar to each side.
Worth held her flashlight on it while Todd pried at the corners with his car key. The block grated out and proved to be a partial one, with a dark space behind it. Todd hunched forward and got both his forearm and his flashlight in the opening.
"All right," said Worth, holding her light steady. "How about the one about the pot-smoking dalmatian?"
"What? Oh, that I made up. I'd never let a dog get into drugs. Hey, bring your light over here. I think I got something."
And that was that, because nobody ever got the same answer out of Solomon Todd twice. "What is it?"
Something scraped in the hole. "...handle of a little red toolbox. Daph, I got a bad feeling about this."