Mary Anne tried to make small talk on the ride to the boss’ headquarters, but the men completely ignored her. She eventually gave up and started to take advantage of their surroundings. She picked up a can of soda from a small bar, but Jennifer took it away and put it back. “Mary Anne,” she whispered, “that’s not yours. Besides, it’s probably drugged.”
“I’m thirsty!” Mary Anne whined. “I haven’t had something to drink since the Mylanta at the hotel!”
The man in the gray suit smiled, and Jennifer shivered again. He was a handsome man, but she wouldn’t trust him any further than she could throw the limo. “It’s not drugged, miss. You can eat and drink freely. The boss wants no harm to come to either of you.”
“Then why have you threatened us with guns all day?” Jennifer asked.
Another man, this one in a brown suit, spoke. “That was to get your attention.”
“Aren’t there less dangerous ways to get our attention?” Jennifer pointed out.
The men didn’t reply. Jennifer couldn’t bring herself to touch a morsel, but Mary Anne happily drank a can of Sprite and ate two bags of Doritos. Jennifer tried to think while her friend ate. “Mary Anne,” she whispered insistently.
“What, Jen?” Mary Anne said through a mouthful of Doritos. She offered the bag to one of the men, but he shook his head.
“The boss is a woman.”
Mary Anne swallowed a large mouthful of chips and wiped her hands on a cloth napkin on the bar. “How do you know that?”
“The man in the gray suit said ‘she’ when he referred to his boss.”
“'She' means female. I’ll bet it was the person in the purple suit and feathered hat at the hotel. Most men wouldn’t be caught dead in an outfit like that unless they were being a vampire for Halloween.”
Jennifer noticed that they were no longer anywhere near the wharf, and they weren’t near Tavern on the Green, either. She didn’t know where they were, but it was very ritzy. The buildings were beautiful brick mansions and townhouses surrounded by the closest thing New York City got to lush green lawns and palatial spring gardens. The streets were empty and quiet. Jennifer’s spirits sank. Larry had no idea where they were. Even if the police believed his story, he wouldn’t know where to send them.
They stopped before one of the largest mansions on the row. Mary Anne gasped. “Wow, Jen, the boss must be really rich to live in a place like this.”
“No kidding,” Jennifer muttered as the men pushed them out of the limo and into the mansion. “It doesn’t make sense. Why would someone who has enough money to afford a place like this chase four normal, working-class people around New York over some silly, fifteen-dollar Chinese statue?”
“Andrea Wilson said it was rare,” Mary Anne reminded her.
“We only have Andrea Wilson’s word for that,” Jennifer replied. “I still think she’s not all she’s cracked up to be.”
“Now, Jennifer,” Mary Anne insisted, “I didn’t see Ms. Wilson crack any eggs. We were going to have fish, remember?”
“No, Mary Anne. What I mean is I highly doubt she’s a professor of Chinese history. She probably doesn’t know her Ming architecture from her Mint Certs.”
“Why would she want my statue, then? Does she want a souvenir, too?”
The two women were ushered into the mansion. They didn’t give them much of a chance to look around, but what Jennifer could see took her breath away. There were crystal chandeliers, beautiful antiques, thick Oriental rugs, finely woven curtains, colorful Tiffany lamps, and odd knickknacks in every room.
The man in the gray suit shoved them into a large room. A curving wood desk stood on the other side, facing windows with a spectacular view of Upper Manhattan. A huge oil portrait flanked a fancy fireplace with a welcoming fire in its grate. “Ms. McKenna,” the man in gray said respectfully, “the ladies with the idol are here.”
“And not a moment too soon,” a velvet voice replied from behind a thick leather chair. All the girls could see of the speaker were two slender arms clad in cherry-red silk. “I was beginning to question your competence, Pruitt. They really should have arrived hours ago. You may leave us now.”
“Yes, Ms. McKenna.” Pruitt quickly left the room. The girls fidgeted, wondering what the elusive Ms. McKenna wanted with them.
It was a few awkward moments before Jennifer could bring herself to address the “boss.” “Um, hello, Ms. McKenna. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Jennifer Lyons, and this is…”
“I know who you are.” The leather chair turned quickly around to face the startled pair. Ms. McKenna was a gorgeous woman of uncertain age. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head in an elaborate French twist. She wore a tight red silk suit with another high collar, this one made of some stiff, almost translucent material. Her high cheekbones were free of wrinkles, though Jennifer suspected this had more to do with several good cosmetic surgeons than with nature.
“Ms. Jennifer Lyons and Ms. Mary Anne Spencer, I’ve looked forward to this moment since my second-in-command John Pruitt told me about you and your gentleman friends.” She rubbed her slender hands together. Jennifer saw a diamond ring the size of Pittsburgh flash on her forefinger. “My name is Alexis McKenna. Please, ladies,” she said, gesturing at two chairs in front of her desk, “sit down. Make yourselves comfortable. You must be tired after your long day.”
Jennifer took a good look at their hostess. “THE Alexis McKenna? The head of McKenna Industries, the shipping magnate that recently took over three major competitors and recently started expanding into airline services? I’ve heard people at work talk about you. You’re one of the richest women in the world.”
“You wouldn’t believe the kind of day we had!” Mary Anne added as she and Jennifer gingerly settled down on the clean leather. “First, we get chased by these guys, then we played mannequins in Bloomingdale’s and took these outfits on mistake, then our hotel rooms got torn to bows, then we…”
“I know what you’ve done today, Ms. Spencer,” Alexis interrupted. “A recap is not necessary.” She indicated the phone. “I called Bloomingdale’s and told them I would take sole responsibility for the stolen gowns and tuxedoes. I’m one of their best customers.” She smiled. “Yes, Ms. Lyons, I am the owner of McKenna Industries.”
Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Ms. McKenna. We didn’t know how we were going to explain what happened. It was an accident, really.”
“That was my lieutenant’s fault,” the dark-haired woman admitted. “Pruitt can be a bit overzealous about his work.”
“A BIT overzealous?” Jennifer exclaimed. “He and his men chased us across the biggest city in America, shot at us, destroyed our hotel rooms, and scared us and our boyfriends half to death!”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Mary Anne added. “We lost my boyfriend Balki Bartokomos this afternoon, and we still can’t find him. You wouldn’t have seen him around, would you? He’s tall, and has a Myposian accent, and when he smiles, his mouth crinkles in this really cute way that makes him look like a kid…”
“As it so happens, Ms. Spencer,” Alexis interrupted again, “I have your Mr. Bartokomos here. He’s a charming and handsome youth. You have very interesting taste in men.”
Mary Anne nearly jumped out of her seat. “He’s here?” she squealed. “Where? Can I see him? Is he ok?”
Alexis gestured for her to sit down. “He’s fine, Ms. Spencer, but you won’t see him until we settle the matter of the idol.”
Jennifer had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that Alexis McKenna was more devious than she appeared. “You mean, you’re holding Balki for ransom.” She glared at Mary Anne. “I wish you never bought that ugly piece of junk. We’d be watching the Cubs and Mets game at Shea Stadium right now!”
“Jennifer!” Mary Anne cried. “Don’t insult my idol! He’s a very sensitive fellow.”
“Mary Anne,” her friend reminded her, “he’s made of stone. He doesn’t have feelings.”
“Shows what you know,” Mary Anne shot back. “I’ll bet he heard every word you said and is crying his little stone eyes out.”
“Enough!” Alexis snapped. She smiled, but her smile chilled Jennifer’s blood. She suspected that Ms. McKenna would have ordered them both and Balki killed on the spot if she wasn’t so desperate to get her hands on the idol. “Ms. Lyons is correct, at least about my intentions toward Mr. Bartokomos. He will not be harmed if you give me the idol.” She narrowed her eyes. “If the two of you prove to be difficult, I may order my men to appropriate Mr. Appleton and hold him here as well.”
“No!” Jennifer exclaimed without thinking. “Leave Larry out of this!” She looked the frosty Alexis McKenna straight in the eye. “We’ll consider negotiating when you give us some answers.”
“Yeah!” Mary Anne added, leaning conversationally on Alexis’ desk. “I want to know how you get your collars to stand up like that. It looks sort of like that really old Dracula movie, the one with Bela Lugosi…”
“Mary Anne!” Jennifer exclaimed as Alexis rolled her eyes. “We want to know what’s the deal with the idol. We’ve been chased from one end of New York to the other over this statue, but we don’t know why.”
Alexis sighed. “Yes, you deserve to know that much.” She went to the bookcase near her desk and pulled one of the larger, older volumes off of the shelf. “What you purchased today is no mere trinket from a cheap junk shop.” She opened the book to a large photograph of the idol, or at least something that looked like the idol. The statue in the photograph was in much better shape. The medallion in its stomach shined like the finest gold. “It was a symbol of power and good fortune for the mighty Shao-Ting family for almost two thousand years. Legend has it that its magic helped make the Shao-Tings one of the wealthiest families on mainland China until about a thousand years ago, when a daring group of bandits stole the idol. The Shao-Tings fell quickly from the heights that they’d achieved, and the last member of the family died a in a pauper’s grave over three hundred years ago. The idol bounced around various Chinese families and officials until the 1930s, when Japan raided the Chinese mainland. It vanished again and didn’t reappear until a few years ago.”
“Let me get this straight.” Jennifer frowned. “You murdered a little old lady, kidnapped three innocent tourists, and wrecked two hotel rooms and half of Bloomingdale’s, all over a legend?”
“Not to mention chased us out on the flag pole on the Empire State Building,” Mary Anne added.
“If you’d come with my men from the start,” Alexis maintained, “none of that would have happened.”
And we would probably be dead by now, Jennifer internally added. “Why go through all this trouble over something that may not be real? It is only a legend.”
“All legends have some basis in fact, Ms. Lyons.” Alexis closed the book. “Many great Chinese officials and warlords who owned the idol prospered, though few understood the idol’s true power. It could not only restore the position of McKenna Industries, but make it the most important shipping company in the world.” She nodded at the two women. “I wish to make a trade with you. You give me the idol, and I’ll return your Mr. Bartokomos.”
“And what if we refuse?” Mary Anne asked. “You’re scaring my idol.”
“If you refuse, I cannot assure that you and your gentleman friends will survive this evening.” She shrugged. “It’s nothing against either of you, but I want that idol.” Her voice grew harder, and Jennifer could see the steel in her chocolate-colored eyes. “And I always get what I want, no matter who I have to take it from.”
Mary Anne shot the taller woman in the fancy suit a nasty look. “I don’t like you,” she said straight out. “You’re acting like my little sister when she doesn’t get her way. I don’t think my idol likes you, either.”
“I have no desire to win friends,” Alexis McKenna snapped. “I want the idol. McKenna Industries has been in my family for nearly a hundred years, and my hold over it is currently precarious, to say the least.”
Jennifer frowned. “I heard rumors that you spent a little too much buying out the competition.”
“I don’t like competition.” Alexis’ eyes seemed to bore holes into the women. “Give me that idol, Ms. Spencer. Its power will aid me in restoring the glory of McKenna Industries.”
Mary Anne clutched her purse. “If I give you my idol, will you let the two of us and Balki go?”
“We’ll see.” Alexis McKenna rang a bell, and a tall, dark-haired woman in a maid’s uniform brought a fancy silver tea tray and teapot with three silver cups and a pile of sandwiches. “While you make your decision, why don’t you partake of some tea with me? You must be ravenous after dashing across New York all day.”
Mary Anne grabbed one the moment the maid set it down and left. “Oh, wow, Ms. McKenna, how did you know I like sandwiches with the crusts cut off?” She peeked between the two slices of bread. “Do you have any pickles? I really like baloney and pickles with extra mustard.”
Jennifer took the sandwich from her friend and put it back on the tray. “Mary Anne, forget the food. Give Ms. McKenna the idol so we can get out of here.”
“You are so grumpy sometimes!” Mary Anne muttered as she took the box from her purse and dropped it on Alexis’ desk. “Here he is,” she said, removing the stone statue from his wrappings. “Take good care of him. He’s a really nice little guy.”
Alexis’ eyes brightened when Mary Anne put the idol on the desk. “Thank you, Ms. Spencer. Now,” she indicated the tea tray, “please, eat. Enjoy yourselves.” She looked at her watch. “I have somewhere I have to be. Would you two ladies please excuse me?”
Alexis stood and hurried out of the office. Mary Anne grabbed a sandwich the moment the door closed and gulped it down. “Mary Anne, what are you doing?” Jennifer asked frantically. “We are trapped in the house of an insane woman who thinks an idol we bought in a Chinatown junk shop is all-powerful and has threatened to kill us and Balki if we don’t give her what she wants, and all you can do is eat?”
The smaller woman gulped a cup of tea and poured herself another one. “Jennifer, I’m hungry.” She handed her friend half of a watercress sandwich. “Why don’t you have something to eat? It might cheer you up.”
Jennifer sighed. “Well, I haven’t eaten since we bought those hot dogs,” she admitted. She slowly picked up a sandwich and took a bite. She finished all of that one and its other half, and then asked Mary Anne to pour her some tea. “I guess I am a bit hungry.”
“It’s all this sea air,” Mary Anne insisted. She was working on her fourth cup of tea and Jennifer her second when she began to yawn. “This sea air must be making me tired.” She put down the cup, her eyelids drooping. “I think I’ll take a nap.”
Jennifer’s eyelids felt heavy. Too late, she realized what was happening to them. “It’s not the sea air, Mary Anne,” she explained, fighting sleep as hard as she could. “It’s the tea and sandwiches. I think they were drugged.”
Mary Anne was already slumped across her chair, snoring lightly. Jennifer stood slowly, trying to make it to the door. “I’ve got to get out of here,” she muttered. “Must get to Larry…” She managed to grab the door and find it locked before she slumped alongside the wall, sleep finally overcoming her. “Larry,” she murmured before she drifted off to sleep, “I love you.”
Jennifer’s head throbbed. She felt like she was flying with ten high school bands that were all practicing at once. Her head rested against something soft and silky, much softer than her pillow at home. She didn’t have a blanket on, either. She tried to reach up to find out where her blanket went, but she couldn’t move her hands. Someone snored in her ear. She could feel their warm breath on her face.
She opened her eyes…and found herself staring at Balki’s peacefully slumbering face. He snored loud enough to wake the entire city, or at least Upper Manhattan. His wrists and ankles were bound with silk cording, and a lace handkerchief was wound tightly around his mouth. A bit of Mary Anne’s rumpled yellow ball gown peeked from behind the sleeping Mypiot.
The sight of Balki brought her back to the present. Alexis McKenna, a respected and feared shipping magnate, drugged her and Mary Anne and kidnapped Balki over a junky Chinese statue she believed could restore her sagging business to power. She still didn’t understand why a woman like Alexis McKenna was so worked up over a legend. There had to be something else to all of this.
She struggled to move, but her wrists and ankles were tied together. She managed to turn over and take in her surroundings. She, Balki, and Mary Anne lay on a queen-sized, polished wood bed. The room they were in was huge. The beautifully carved furniture matched the bed. Several plush chairs set up near a large window on one side that showed a fine view of the just-rising sun over the Hudson River.
Jennifer tried to kick Balki awake, but he just kept snoring. They must have drugged him, too, she fretted.
She rolled on the bed, trying to get off of it. As she did, she heard moaning from behind Balki. Mary Anne stirred and tried to get up, but she only succeeded in making the bed shake. Balki didn’t bat an eyelid.
Jennifer wanted to tell Mary Anne what was probably going on, but she couldn’t get it through the cloth wound around her lips. She rolled on the bed, hoping to get closer to the edge. Mary Anne squealed and tried to nudge Balki awake. The unconscious young man just grunted and turned over.
Jennifer finally fell off the bed with a noisy thud. She hoped Alexis McKenna and her thugs weren’t in the house, or at least wouldn’t come in here. She inched across the floor, trying to find something that could unravel the cord.
“Jennifer?” Mary Anne must have gotten her gag loose. “Are you there? Where are we? How did Balki get here? And why does my head feel like it’s being drilled for oil?”
She finally shook the cloth away. “I’m on the floor, Mary Anne! I’m trying to find a way to get us out of here.” She pulled and pushed herself into a sitting position. “Alexis McKenna must have had the maid put something in our tea that knocked us out. I think they drugged Balki, too.” She let out a shriek.
“What’s wrong, Jen?” Mary Anne asked. “Is the tea still getting to you?”
“No,” grumbled Jennifer. “I ran over something sharp in the carpet.” She leaned over to assess the damage. “Damn! You’d think that a place like this could at least afford to cover the nails in the floorboards. I just ripped a dress that cost more than I make in a month.” That was when she got an idea. She scooted back from the place she felt the nail and rubbed the cord on her wrists across the exposed end.
“What are you doing?” Mary Anne exclaimed. “We don’t have time to make static electricity! We’ve got to get out of here before Alexis McKenna and her men come back for us, not to mention try to wake up Balki.”
“Mary Anne, if this thing can rip satin, maybe it could cut through this cord, too.” The only sound for a few minutes was that of cord against metal. Mary Anne propped herself up enough that she could see what her friend was doing.
After several nerve-wracking minutes, the cord finally frayed and broke. Jennifer pulled it off and quickly untied her ankles, then released Mary Anne. She let her friend untie the unconscious Mypiot while she tried to figure out an escape route.
Mary Anne gently but swiftly freed Balki’s wrists and ankles as Jennifer pushed at the window. “Jen,” she whispered, “could we use the window to get out of here? I don’t think we’re that high up.”
“Not unless you can find a way to break through the glass,” Jennifer explained. “The windows are painted shut.” She peered out the clear glass. The outlines of two men in suits were barely visible in the early morning shadows. “We’re being guarded by Alexis McKenna’s thugs.”
Mary Anne shook her boyfriend as hard as she could. He continued to snore. “I don’t know what they did to Balki, but he’s out cold. And I thought you were hard to wake up in the morning.”
Her friend chose to ignore that comment, instead concentrating on the three doors out of the room. “Great,” she grumbled. “All the doors are locked from the inside. I can’t budge them.”
Mary Anne waved her hand in front of Balki’s face. He just snorted and mumbled something about sheep. “Maybe you should see if you have any hair pins in your purse,” Mary Anne suggested to the second woman. “That’s how they open locked doors in the movies.”
“This isn’t a movie,” Jennifer reminded her. She threw another quick glance around the room. “Where are our purses, anyway? Maybe I could use a credit card or something.”
“Here they are!” Mary Anne rushed to a glistening wood table near the bed. She opened hers. “The idol must still be in Alexis McKenna’s office. I guess it was too much to hope she’d decide she wouldn’t want it anymore.”
“Forget the idol,” Jennifer insisted. “It’s caused us nothing but trouble since yesterday afternoon. We wouldn’t BE here if you’d gotten rid of it!”
“I can’t help it if it likes me!”
Jennifer sighed. She’d already attempted to point out that it was just a lifeless lump of stone with no feelings, but Mary Anne didn’t think that way. “Mary Anne, does something strike you a bit strange about all this?”
Mary Anne dragged Balki to a chair. His eyes never opened. “Yeah, I think Balki’s gained some pounds. I told him not to eat so much baked big snout with apple syrup!”
Jennifer ran to help her friend. “No, Mary Anne.” They pulled Balki into a plush chair near the windows. “That’s not what I mean. Why are we still alive? Alexis McKenna could have killed us. We know about the idol. Well, Balki might not, but he knows about us.”
“Don’t ask questions,” Mary Anne puffed. “Just be glad we’re still alive!”
The sound of a key being shoved in a door distracted the two women. “It’s them!” Jennifer shrieked. “They’re here to kill us!” She grabbed her friend by the shoulders and shook her. “We’re going to die in our prime, and it’s all the fault of you and that stupid idol!”
“I told you not to insult him! He doesn’t like being called stupid! It’s not his fault he’s popular!”
The door burst open and a wide-eyed Larry stumbled in, hands in the air. Pruitt was behind him, prodding the fearful reporter with a gun. “I have a little present for you ladies,” Pruitt snarled. “Compliments of McKenna Industries.”
“Not so fast, Pruitt!” The maid appeared behind him, also carrying a gun and lacking the padding that disguised her appearance. “Put the gun down. I’ve got you covered.” She took off her wig, revealing familiar dark-brown hair.
Jennifer gasped. “Andrea Wilson!” She crossed her arms. “Or is that your real name?”
“Oh my real name is Andrea Wilson. I didn’t lie to you about that.”
Larry grinned. “She’s an FBI agent. Pruitt’s a smuggler. The idol was part of a shipment of rare artifacts imported illegally from China. The idol wound up in the junk shop by mistake.” He straightened his shirt collar. “She and her people grabbed me on the way to the police. She was already undercover here as a maid, and her people are surrounding the building.”
“Does the boss know anything about this?” Jennifer asked. “She’s convinced that the idol has magical powers that could restore her business.”
“We’ve been surveying Alexis McKenna for months,” Andrea Wilson explained as she took Pruitt’s gun. “I’m afraid she’s gone a little insane. She knew about the smuggling, but all she really wanted was the idol.”
Balki began to stir. He blinked his eyes and found himself staring at Mary Anne, who threw her arms around him. “Balki, thank goodness? Are you ok?”
The queasy Mypiot rubbed the back of his head. “I feel like I’ve been run over by every flock of sheep on Mypos during mating season.”
“It’s nice to see you coming around, Mr. Bartokomos.” Andrea Wilson walked in, dressed in a long, gossamer robe and lacy nightgown with a high, stiff lace collar. She had her idol in one hand and a gun in the other. “I’m not insane, Ms. Wilson. I’m merely using every means at my disposal to keep McKenna Industries.” She pointed her gun at Mary Anne and Balki. “I’m going to use the idol, and if any of you try to stop me, I’ll shoot the juvenile and ingénue leads.”
“What do you mean, use the idol?” Jennifer asked.
Mary Anne let Balki go and walked slowly up to Alexis McKenna. “I don’t think my idol wants to be used. He doesn’t like you. He knows you’re nuttier than a box of Mr. Goodbars.”
Alexis moved past her and to the window. “You’ll all get to watch me become the most powerful person in the world!” She held the idol to the window. “When the medallion on the idol hits the morning sunlight directly, it will bestow upon its holder the power to command armies, or, in my case, corporations.”
Andrea Wilson shook her head. “Ms. McKenna, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
She threw back her head in a laugh that scared Jennifer so badly she leaped into Larry’s arms. “Why not, Ms. Wilson? Afraid I might get ideas? With this power, I could even take over your puny FBI and overthrow the government!”
“I don’t think this lady has all her sheep in her pen, if you know what I mean,” Balki commented.
Alexis McKenna just continued laughing as she held the idol up to the window. “Idol,” she shrieked, “bestow upon me the magic to make men quiver, cities quake, and continents heave!” A ray of sunlight hit the medallion on the idol, glancing off into every corner of the room. Jennifer hid her face in Larry’s shoulder. A blood-curdling scream from Alexis McKenna and the sound of broken glass drew her attention.
Jennifer would have heaved her breakfast if she’d eaten any. Alexis’ hands and face were streaked with red liquid. She screamed incoherent words into the air. The blood-smeared woman finally let the idol go and collapsed to the floor, muttering obscenities to the shattered window.
“My idol!” It wasn’t more than a split second, but Mary Anne made a flying leap for the falling statue. She caught it just as it hit the ground. “Oh, thank goodness!” She looked the idol over to make sure it was all right. “Poor fellow! Anything broken?”
Something occurred to Jennifer in the quiet that followed. “Mary Anne, you’re standing in the sunlight, with the idol, and you’re not getting hurt.”
The other woman grinned. “I told you he likes me.”
“I don’t believe it.” Andrea Wilson shook her head. “According to the legend of the idol, only those with purity of spirit can access its powers and not go out of their minds.”
Balki joined Mary Anne in the sunlight. “Well, of course she’s pure, don’t be ridiculous. She has the purest spirit of anyone I know.”
“No!” Alexis McKenna screeched. “She’s just a little bimbo! She doesn’t know anything about controlling the world! Only I should have that knowledge!” She pulled the gun out of her robe belt and pointed it at Mary Anne and Balki. “I want that idol, and I want it NOW! I ALWAYS GET WHAT I WANT!”
Andrea Wilson grabbed Pruitt when she saw him reach for her gun. “Oh, no, you don’t. You’re wanted in fifteen states and four countries for smuggling antiquities.” Larry took hold of his other arm.
Jennifer saw Alexis reach for the trigger and lunged for her. She felt her ankle turn and the gun go off as she tackled the other woman. Mary Anne squealed and Balki screamed. Jennifer ignored the throbbing in her ankle and pinned Alexis to the carpet. She realized then that the bright light was gone, and had vanished the moment the gun fired. “Mary Anne and Balki, are you ok?”
“We’re ok,” Balki replied, “but the idol’s broke. The medallion is in a million tiny pieces all over the room.”
Three Days Later...
“Larry, I’m fine,” Jennifer insisted as Larry opened the door to Tavern on the Green for her. “I’ve used crutches before. I broke my leg once in the fifth grade.”
“I remember that,” Mary Anne agreed. “We were climbing those big tress in the back yard, and you fell out.”
“I didn’t fall out,” Jennifer grumbled. “Mr. Stephans’ big dog snarled at me and scared me half to death. That’s why I let go.”
Balki grinned. “It sure was nice of Andrea Wilson and the FBI to get us reservations for dinner at Tavern on the Green. It’s so pretty here. It reminds me of Mypos’ only combination greenhouse, restaurant, and goat intestines vendor.”
“It sure was nice of Andrea Wilson to save our rears and get me an inside scoop on this antiques smuggling ring,” Larry added. “I’ll start my story the moment I get back from this vacation.” He beamed. “Andrea Wilson and her people kept an eye on us from the very beginning. They were among the folks who chased us in Bloomingdale’s, and Andrea Wilson and a group of other women stalled Pruitt and his boys to keep them from hurting the idol or us. It wasn’t until later she finally got the chance to approach us. She apparently does know quite a bit about Chinese architecture and once attended Columbia, though she’s not a professor there.”
“What I don’t understand,” Jennifer admitted as the waiter came up with their menus, “is what this smuggling ring business has to do with Alexis McKenna and the legend of the idol.”
“Andrea Wilson told me all this when they found me,” Larry explained. “Alexis McKenna truly believed that the idol could restore her business, which took a beating when she spent too much buying out three rival companies. Pruitt, however, only cared about smuggling and didn’t believe a word of the legend. He didn’t dare cross her, though. She has a reputation for being ruthless. He arranged for the shipping of large quantities of illegal Chinese antiques, among which, Alexis McKenna hoped to find the idol. One of those shipments, however, accidentally went to the junk shop. Andrea Wilson was onto Pruitt’s game by then, and both her people and his people were watching us the entire time in the shop and afterwards.”
“Cousin, what happened to the crazy lady with the vampire collars?” Balki inquired.
“I can tell you that.” Jennifer nodded. “I heard some doctors discuss it when I was in the hospital. Alexis McKenna was treated for very deep cuts on her arms and face, like those made by knives or claws. She’s in a psychiatric ward for observation and will probably be committed to a mental institution.”
“My idol didn’t like her,” Mary Anne said. “He scratched her.”
Larry shook his head. “Mary Anne, it’s just a statue. It can’t...”
Jennifer put her hand on his shoulder. “Larry, let it go. I’ve already tried to explain it to her.”
Larry shrugged. “Anyway, no more talk about legends. What we all saw was light glinting off of the shiny furniture. Alexis McKenna was standing next to the window when it shattered. The glass probably cut her face and hands.”
Mary Anne sniffed a bit. “I wish I hadn’t given my idol to Andrea Wilson. I miss that little guy.”
“Mary Anne, you did the right thing by giving Ms. Wilson the idol,” Jennifer assured her. “It’s probably better off in a museum, where there will be people to watch over it.”
The smaller woman sighed. “I guess he won’t be doing magic anymore. The medallion shattered when Alexis McKenna shot it. He’s just a plain old stone statue now.”
Jennifer put her arm around her friend. “Hey, you can go visit him the next time we’re in New York.”
“I know, but it won’t be the same.” Mary Anne picked up her menu as the waiter arrived with their water and dinner specials. “And now, I don’t have a souvenir!”
“We’ll get you a nice, soft, safe teddy bear from FAO Schwartz,” Jennifer insisted.
Balki pulled a small velvet box from his pocket. “Mary Anne, I know this can’t make up for losing your idol, but I hope it makes you feel a little better.”
She opened it and revealed a small gold medallion on a chain with Chinese characters etched on it. “It look a little like medallion on idol that broke. You have souvenir now, and it will remind you of your friend.”
Mary Anne hugged Balki. “You know, Balki, I don’t need that idol. Not when I have real, human friends like all of you!”
Jennifer and Larry put their arms around each other, smiling at their friends and leaning on each other’s shoulders, glad to be alive and together.