The Christmas box arrived in due time, containing cranberry scones and a fruitcake of the rare edible variety. Mark staked out the first piece for himself and generously cut the second one for the judge, who was peering down at the letter which had been enclosed with the treats. The body of the correspondence had been composed by Aunt Zora this time, making it no challenge at all to read.
"They made a deal with the state museum—a $200,000 annuity in exchange for the Postgates' rights to the treasure."
Mark frowned. "It was worth about ten times that much."
"Yeah, but this way there's no lawyers wrangling. A state can really wear you out over something like this. Better a chunk now than a little more in twenty years. And, hey," he read on, "they're gonna call it "The Dan and Lisa Postgate Collection" when it finally goes on display." Hardcastle smiled broadly. "That's a nice touch, don'tcha think?"
"It's always a good thing to give credit to the folks you robbed," Mark said archly, but that didn't hold up long. "Yeah," he finally agreed, "better to get something in the bank. I think Dan didn't feel like he had much right to it anyway, but it'll give 'em some security, help with the mortgage."
"And the bed and breakfast is slated to open this spring—a two-page spread in the May issue of the tourism guide. You don't suppose donating the coins helped with that, do ya?"
"Couldn't've hurt." Mark said, taking a bite of fruitcake and studying his own smaller pile of mail.
The top one was obviously a Christmas card, though he was momentarily puzzled by the New York postmark. He ran his least-sticky thumb under the flap and pulled out a gaudy cartoon-style number: Santa on his sled in the pole position at a race track.
He opened it and grabbed for the small photo as it fluttered toward the floor. He read the tag line inside the card and smiled: "Hope Santa comes through for you," but the smile became a grin when he glanced down at the photo in his hand—Gerald and a redhead of a certain vintage standing proudly in front of a sleek silver camping trailer attached to a low-slung Lincoln. He flipped it over and squinted at the scrawled lines.
Bet the trifecta at the Aqueduct last week—School for Scandal brought home the bacon. See you in January—you're gonna love Sheila.—G.
P.S. Wish Scrooge a Merry Christmas for me.
His grin turned into a barely-stifled laugh. He got a questioning look from Hardcastle, who got only a piece of fruitcake in return.
He thought he'd better keep this one a secret.