Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Excerpt - Dead in a Park: Leah Norwood Mystery #2

He held it up with a smile. He ran his fingers across the rose petals and looked at it from every angle. The rose is carved out of a single piece of wood. The base is a square so that a rose, in full bloom, sat on top of it. Altogether, it is about six inches high and four inches wide. I love it. The look on Wade’s face was one of awe. “Beautiful. The intricacy is amazing. This is obviously one of his early pieces. The later ones were not as elaborate.”
“That’s too bad because this is gorgeous.” Wade handed the rose back, and I replaced it in the cabinet. “Why did he change his style?”
“No idea. My grandfather didn’t talk about him much. I’ve learned more about the family history in the last few months than I did growing up. Do you know why he and Arthur were estranged?”
I grinned. “Because of a woman and a great deal of money.”
Wade laughed. “I only heard the part about a great deal of money. It sounds like their stories might have been a little different. Tell me your version of the family tale, and I’ll tell you mine.”
“Okay.” I settled back on the couch with my drink. “When the brothers were young, they lived in a small village in England. They were both craftsmen. Arthur designed and made jewelry, and Albert made wooden sculptures, mostly decorative items like my rose.”
“He was a talented man.”
“Yes, he was. Anyway, they both fell in love with the same girl—my great-grandmother, Rose. She chose Arthur, and they married. Although disappointed, Albert carved her the rose and gave it to her for a wedding present.”
“It was a wedding present?” Wade asked.
“According to my grandmother. Soon after that, the brothers decided to move to the States. They arrived in New York and setup shop next door to each other. Arthur made a great deal of money in a very short time. His jewelry was sought-after and for a few years, he was one of the most sought after artisans. All of his designs were one of a kind. He never made two pieces of jewelry exactly the same.” I paused and took a drink of coffee. “Albert became jealous of Arthur, and they fought. Now here’s where things become a little muddy. My grandmother said her father began to fear for his life. He was afraid of his brother. He might have had reason because Arthur was shot. Just before he died, he hid most of his money and a few precious gems somewhere in Manhattan. Only my great-grandmother knew the location. He told her he had placed them somewhere safe. When he died, Rose fled New York and moved to Texas. She changed her name when she later remarried. She never told my grandmother where the money was. All she passed on was a few pieces of Arthur’s jewelry and that rose.”
“How did you get it?”
“I spent a lot of time with my grandmother when I was young. I loved to listen to her stories, and I had always been fascinated by the rose. It’s so beautiful. She left it to me, along with Rose’s engagement ring when she passed away three years ago. My sisters got the other jewelry.”
“Any idea where Arthur hid his loot?”
“No. We don’t know if he put it in a safe deposit box, left it with a friend, or even buried it somewhere. It’s a mystery.”
“Well,” Wade said, setting his cup down on the side table, “the version I heard was a little different.”
I smiled as I replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“According to my grandfather, who was Albert’s oldest son, Arthur refused to give Albert his share of the money and after Arthur died, Rose took off with it. My grandfather remembered Rose. He and your grandmother were about the same age. After Rose disappeared, Albert changed and he refused to discuss the money or Rose ever again. My grandfather was very bitter about the whole thing. He always felt he had been cheated out of his rightful inheritance because Rose took the money that belonged to Albert.”
“If she took the money, my grandmother never saw it.”
“She didn’t take the money,” Wade said.
“You seem very sure of that.”
“I am. My grandfather died five months ago. He lived in the same house all of his life. It had been Albert’s house as well. When we were cleaning it out, we found a box with a letter from Rose and a sketchbook.”
“Really?” I asked excitedly. My grandmother had often talked about her father’s sketches. She had been nine when he died, but she remembered looking through his books and watching him draw.
Wade nodded. “The letter was dated a month after Rose disappeared. She told Albert that the money was gone, and that she had left the gems where Arthur had hidden them. She said they had caused their family nothing but pain. She begged him to leave them and her alone. With the letter, she sent the sketchbook.”
“When Arthur died, his jewelry was in high demand. Those sketches would have been worth a good deal,” I said. “He never sold them?”
“No,” Wade replied. “As far as I can tell, they’re all still there. The letter and the sketchbook were wrapped in an old cloth and stored in a box. The letter was postmarked Dallas, Texas.”
We were both silent as I took it all in. When I looked back at Wade, he was watching me. I smiled slightly. “He let her go.”

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