Jane unlimited, p.7
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Jane, Unlimited, p.7

           Kristin Cashore
 

  * * *

  Ravi is still asleep on Jane’s sofa when her stomach informs her that it’s time for breakfast.

  Not knowing the breakfast routine in this house, and not really wanting to come face-to-face with someone alarming like Patrick or Philip, she texts Kiran, who’s likely to be protective. “Breakfast?”

  Kiran texts back. “Be there soon. Go to banquet hall.”

  Jane closes Ravi into the morning room so she can get changed. Aunt Magnolia? What do I wear on a day like this?

  She pulls on a ruffled dress shirt the red-orange color of a weedy sea dragon, black-and-white-striped jeans like a zebra seahorse, and her big black boots. She rolls her sleeves up to the elbows so her tattoo tentacles are visible. Feeling a bit more courageous, but with fists clenched tight, she heads down to the banquet hall.

  Colin, Lucy St. George, and Phoebe Okada sit at the far end of the long table, silently drinking coffee and eating poached eggs and toast. Jane slides into an open seat, studying Phoebe, who’s heavily made-up again, her eyes rimmed with smoky grays and her lips a deep purple. Phoebe stares back at Jane with an aggressively pleasant expression, until, losing her nerve, Jane’s eyes drop to her plate.

  Colin reads a newspaper, an actual, physical newspaper that makes Jane wonder how newspapers are delivered to this house. Behind the smooth curtain of her honey-brown hair, Lucy reads a book, The House of Mirth, with occasional glances at her phone whenever it vibrates. Various strangers keep stomping through the banquet hall, shouting to each other, carrying cleaning supplies, buckets and vases, stringed lights, a ladder, dropping things. The gala is tomorrow. She’s surprised that the houseguests seem limited to this small group.

  “Who comes to these parties?” Jane asks. “Rich New Yorkers?”

  Colin looks up from his newspaper. “Yes,” he says with a sympathetic smile. “But not just from New York. Up and down the eastern seaboard, and always people from abroad too.”

  “How do they get here?”

  “In their own boats, mostly, though Octavian also charters a couple of boats for any of the guests who need it. There’s a seasonal staff too, as you can see.”

  “Where’s Octavian, anyway?” Phoebe asks, turning her implacable gaze on Colin. “We haven’t seen him once since we arrived. He wouldn’t go away on a gala weekend, would he?”

  “I think he’s lurking around,” says Colin. “Ravi said something about him being depressed.”

  “Ah,” says Phoebe. “That’s too bad, though not surprising, with Charlotte missing.”

  “Charlotte’s missing?” says Jane, startled.

  “I thought you were Kiran’s friend?” says Phoebe, raising one eyebrow. “She didn’t tell you her stepmother is missing?”

  “We talk about other things,” Jane says defensively.

  “Kiran can be very closemouthed,” says Colin, “even with those she’s closest to. Charlotte went away unexpectedly about a month ago. She left a cryptic note for Octavian, but then she never wrote again, and no one’s heard from her.”

  “But, where was she going?” asks Jane. “Hasn’t anyone searched for her?”

  “She didn’t say,” says Colin. “Octavian hired investigators and everything, once a few days had gone by and it started to seem like she’d truly vanished. But they didn’t turn up much, just some discrepancies about her background and the suggestion that her mother might have been a crook.”

  Jane’s ears are uncomfortable. “What kind of crook?” she asks, swallowing hard.

  “Some sort of con artist,” says Colin.

  Jane, rubbing her ears, is trying to figure out how this might connect to the weirdness from last night. A missing stepmother and Philip going on a mystery journey. The Panzavecchias, also missing, and the sculpture missing too. And a con artist in the family?

  “How did you sleep?” Jane asks Phoebe abruptly, willing her to say something about nighttime parlays, and guns.

  “Badly,” Phoebe says as a flash of some feeling—unhappiness, or worry—crosses her face. Very suddenly it makes her softer, accessible, and Jane sees that her makeup is a camouflage so she’ll seem bright and awake. In fact, her eyes are lined, her face heavy with exhaustion.

  “I slept badly too,” says Lucy St. George, looking up from her book. “This house wakes me up. I hear it moaning and sighing, as if it’s lonely here on this island, far away from other houses.”

  Yes, Jane thinks. Someone else here has an imagination.

  “My Lucy is ever a poet,” says Colin.

  “Your Lucy?” Jane says. “I thought you had a Kiran, not a Lucy.”

  “I’m pleased to report that I have one of each,” says Colin, smiling. “Kiran is my girlfriend and Lucy is my cousin.”

  “Oh! Are you a St. George, then, too?”

  “Alas,” says Colin, “I’m a Mack. The poor Irish relation.”

  “Oh, Colin,” says Lucy St. George. “Please don’t start talking about the potato famine.”

  “And why shouldn’t I talk about the potato famine?”

  “It’s tacky,” says Lucy. “You went to all the most expensive boarding schools and universities.”

  “My education was financed by Lucy’s father, my uncle Buckley,” Colin says to Jane with a smirk. “He was training me up to be useful.”

  “Oh, here we go.” Lucy rolls her eyes.

  “I see,” says Jane. “Are you useful?”

  “Very,” Colin responds. “At least to Uncle Buckley. He’s a fine art dealer. I find him art to buy, and then I find him rich people to sell it to. It’s Ravi’s job too.”

  Jane wonders how much training is needed for a job like that, if it’s something any person could do, if they learned enough. “I think I’d like a job that relates to art,” she says cautiously, “someday.”

  “Would you?” says Colin. “Do you have an eye for art, or for design?”

  “I guess.”

  “Are you artistic?”

  “I guess,” Jane says again.

  “You could focus it in some practical direction, like architecture,” says Colin. “Have you ever taken a drafting class? I hope you’re thinking about ways to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Are you being strategic about it? Do you have any unique interests or skills? What’s your brand?”

  Jane feels a sudden compulsion to shield the existence of her homemade umbrellas from Colin’s questions. “I’m not that artistic,” she lies.

  “Too bad. No new news about the Panzavecchias,” Colin says, turning another page in his newspaper.

  “Nothing online either,” says Lucy. “I wonder if any of my contacts know anything.”

  “Contacts?” Jane says.

  “Lucy’s a private art investigator,” says Colin.

  “What’s private art?”

  “She’s a private investigator,” Colin says with a small smile. “Collectors hire her to find their stolen art when the cops come up empty. She’s very good, despite anything you might hear about a recent mishap with a Rubens.”

  “Oh, Colin,” says Lucy calmly. “Do I have to listen to stories of my own mishaps at breakfast? Besides, Jane doesn’t want to hear about chasing art thieves.”

  “I kind of do,” says Jane, thinking of the missing Brancusi sculpture, and wondering if this might elucidate anything.

  Lucy looks at Colin with a weary indulgence, then returns to The House of Mirth. It’s a clear dismissal.

  “In the movies,” says Colin, turning back to Jane, “it’s always some rich collector who wants to steal the Mona Lisa or something. Right?”

  “Or a famous Monet,” says Jane, “or a Van Gogh or Michelangelo’s David. Maybe they even steal it for fun.”

  “Exactly,” he says. “But in real life, the smart, professional art thief steals a lesser work, less famous, by a lesser mast
er. Preferably a piece nobody’s ever heard of, by an artist nobody knows, worth forty thousand dollars instead of forty million dollars. Something that doesn’t have a well-documented past, so that it can be reintroduced back into the market without raising suspicions, and sold to someone who has no idea it’s stolen.”

  “Oh. I guess that makes sense.”

  “When a famous masterpiece is stolen,” Colin says, “like the Van Dyke or the Vermeer that makes front-page news, there’s little hope of finding a collector who’ll buy it. That picture usually ends up being passed from one criminal to another as collateral in the drug trade.”

  “Really?” says Jane, startled.

  “Really.”

  “But, do drug traffickers care about art?”

  “They care about cash alternatives,” Colin says matter-of-factly.

  “I don’t understand what that means,” she says.

  Colin smiles. Jane senses he’s enjoying being the one in the know. “Money laundering is a tricky business,” he says. “It’s harder and harder for criminals to move cash around without getting caught. But art is easy to move, and when it’s stolen, it’s all over the news how much it’s worth. Very convenient for me, if I’ve got a famous, stolen Rubens and want to trade it for a lot of drugs. Or if I need a loan to buy the drugs, but my lender requires collateral. A famous picture makes great collateral.”

  “Do you think you’ve explained it in enough detail, Colin?” says Lucy sweetly, her nose still buried in her book. “Perhaps you’d like to take Jane on a field trip?”

  “You’re the one who should do that, cuz,” says Colin. “It’s your world, not mine.” He cocks a significant eyebrow at Jane. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says, “but sometimes Lucy has to go undercover into the drug world.”

  “Voluntarily?” Jane says, staring at Lucy, who calmly reads her book, looking, for all the world, like someone who belongs in an armchair crocheting doilies and eating crumpets. She’s wearing pearls again this morning, around her neck and in her ears.

  “Mm-hm,” says Colin. “Often, the only way to recover a masterpiece is to set up a sting.”

  “You do that?” Jane says to Lucy. “What do you pose as? A drug dealer? What do you wear?”

  “Colin,” says Lucy, putting her book down and fixing her cousin with quiet eyes. “I’m going to invoke my position as family badass and tell you it’s time to shut up now.”

  “But, Lucy,” Jane says, “does this mean that last night at dinner, when you said you couldn’t picture the Panzavecchias getting involved in organized crime, you knew what you were talking about? Like, from experience?”

  “Yes,” says Colin, looking upon his cousin with amusement. “Lucy knows what she’s talking about. She’s met some of those people.”

  “Colin,” says Lucy. Her voice is a warning.

  “Well, I don’t see any reason not to believe it,” Phoebe puts in. “If Lucy poses as drug dealers and executes undercover stings, why shouldn’t Giuseppe owe money to mobsters?”

  “Sure,” says Lucy, frustrated and sarcastic. “Why not.”

  “Lucy recently managed to intercept a stolen Rubens,” Colin says pleasantly, “in the Poconos. She traded a big pile of heroin for it and, once she had the Rubens in hand, called in the FBI, who arrested all the bad guys. It was a great triumph. Then some random carjacker stopped her and stole the Rubens before she could pass it on to the FBI. Very embarrassing. It’s made her a bit touchy. Has Ravi met you yet?” Colin asks Jane, transitioning subjects abruptly. “He’s going to like you.”

  “What? Why should Ravi like me?” Jane responds, confused, then suddenly mortified, remembering that Lucy is Ravi’s girlfriend and Ravi is sleeping, shirtless, on her sofa.

  “Oh, he likes variety,” says Colin.

  “Variety!” says Jane as Lucy claps her mouth shut and sits there looking startled and stung. Why is Colin taking digs at Lucy?

  “I’m sure Ravi will barely notice me,” says Jane. “I’m nobody.”

  “We’ll see,” says Colin.

  Lucy rises to her feet, closes one hand around her book and the other around her phone, and stalks from the room.

  “Why did you do that?” asks Jane.

  “Do what?” asks Colin.

  “Try to make your cousin jealous of me.”

  “It’s family stuff,” he says with a benevolent expression. “Don’t worry about it.”

  “Okay, but don’t use me as one of your weapons.”

  “Good girl,” says Phoebe crisply, nodding at Jane, surprising Jane so much that she can only stare back.

  “I can see I’m being ganged up on,” says Colin. “Where’s Philip this morning, Phoebe?”

  “Philip was called out in the night,” says Phoebe, a crease of worry appearing in the center of her forehead.

  Jane’s eyes are riveted to Phoebe’s face. “Out?” she says. “Out where?”

  “For his work,” Phoebe says.

  “What did he do, swim to the mainland?” Jane asks.

  “Philip knows how to operate a boat. The Thrashes have lots of boats. It happens. He’s a medical doctor.”

  “Oh,” says Jane, picturing Philip Okada again with latex gloves on his hands. “His germophobia must make his job difficult,” she adds, fishing.

  Phoebe blinks. “His germophobia,” she repeats.

  “Yes,” Jane says. “He mentioned his germophobia.”

  “It’s a recent development,” says Phoebe.

  “Since when?” says Colin. “I didn’t know he was germophobic.”

  “It’s not unusual for medical doctors,” says Phoebe. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”

  “What kind of doctor is he?” asks Jane.

  “A GP,” says Phoebe.

  “I see,” says Jane. “Doesn’t that mean general practitioner?”

  “Yes. Why?”

  “No reason,” says Jane. “I’m just sorry there isn’t another doctor who can fill in for him while he’s on vacation. I mean, it’d be one thing if he were the only doctor in the world who could attach someone’s brain back to their spinal cord, but lots of people are GPs.”

  “My husband is very devoted to his patients,” says Phoebe. “Are you belittling his work?”

  “Oh, Phoebe,” says Colin. “I’m sure she wasn’t. Have you eaten enough? Here. Have some fruit.”

  “I’m sorry,” says a new voice, speaking with a mild accent Jane can’t particularly place.

  They all turn to stare at the East Asian man with salt-and-pepper hair who’s stepped in from the kitchen and stopped just inside the doors. “I forget the way to the receiving hall,” he says, clutching a bucket to his chest. Jane assumes he’s one of the seasonal staff, cleaning for the gala.

  “It’s that way,” says Colin, pointing to an exit at the other end of the room. “Pass into the ballroom, then choose the second doorway on the left.”

  “Thank you,” says the man. He disappears through the exit.

  At that moment, the door to the kitchen swings open to reveal Mrs. Vanders, who pointedly locks eyes with Phoebe.

  “Well then,” says Phoebe. “I’ve finished my breakfast.”

  She crosses the room with loud claps from her high-heeled boots and takes the same exit the cleaner took.

  Mrs. Vanders stays in the kitchen doorway and directs another impenetrable expression at Jane. Then she swings away.

  Kiran never showed up for breakfast at all. Colin is being insensitive to Lucy. Phoebe is lying about her husband and almost seemed as if she intentionally followed that cleaner. Jasper’s got nothing on these people.

  Jane finishes her breakfast. Then she goes straight through the adjoining door into the kitchen. It’s time to ask Mrs. Vanders what’s behind that stare.

  * * *

  But Mrs. Vande
rs is gone.

  Mr. Vanders is there, sitting in the enormous kitchen, his back to Jane, bent over messy piles of blueprints at a long table. Regular blueprints, not Ivy’s detailed ones. He’s muttering angrily.

  Patrick mans a mountain of eggs and a pot of boiling water at an oversized stove with about a dozen burners. He’s rubbing his eyes and yawning, no doubt because first he and Ravi had a late night together—brooding, wasn’t it?—on the mainland, then he snuck around the house with the Okadas until dawn, being mysterious. Patrick’s jaw, Jane notices, is strong and elegant. He probably looks like a Brontë hero when he broods.

  “Out until four in the morning with Ravi, two nights before the gala,” grumbles Mr. Vanders, “and all of us scurrying to find that damn thing. You owe Cook, young man.”

  “How about I pay him back by cooking breakfast this morning,” says Patrick sourly. Then he notices Jane near the door. “Janie. Are you looking for Kiran?”

  When Mr. Vanders hears Patrick’s words, he turns, pushes up from the table, and stares at Jane exactly the way his wife does, except that he does it from a dark face and under shaggy white eyebrows. Jane can just imagine their wedding photo, the two of them glaring out of it with withering expressions. Next, his gaze takes in Jane’s eclectic outfit.

  “I’m looking for Mrs. Vanders,” says Jane.

  “You might have some of your aunt Magnolia’s style,” Mr. Vanders announces gruffly, “but she had a subtlety you lack.”

  Jane is thunderstruck. “You knew my aunt Magnolia?”

  He waves a pen in an impatient gesture. “My wife wishes to explain it herself,” he says. “I think she went up to our rooms. Fourth door on the right. Either that or she’s on the third floor, east wing, beginning her daily inventory of the art. Or she’s dealing with the day staff, which would place her anywhere in the house.”

  “How helpful,” says Jane.

  “Hmph,” he says. “Your aunt was not sarcastic.”

  Distantly, a noise begins, like a shrilling teakettle. It stutters, fluctuates so that it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from—the vents in the walls? The burners of the stove? In the very moment Jane recognizes it as a wailing child, it turns to a wild sort of laughter and she clenches her teeth. “What is that?”

 

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll

KRISTIN CASHORE SERIES:

Graceling Realm

 


Add comment

Add comment