Once the flashlights had been obtained, the crew followed LeBeau as he led them to the house where he had spent so many of his weekends in his youth. Since the war ended, he had only been here a handful of times; looking at the house's dilapidated state was too painful, and the family did not have the money to go ahead with restoring it. Never once had he tried to go inside; he usually stood outside the front gates. But now he led his friends through the grounds, where weeds had grown over the front pathway.
LeBeau sighed at the ruined lawn, which had been lush and green before the war, but was now withered and brown, and then glanced at the house. Ivy had overrun the walls, with cracks visible in the façade where the ivy left gaps. There wasn't a single window that wasn't shattered. The window shutters were broken, some hanging precariously over the ground by one rusted hinge.
"Not only is the fortune gone, but the place has become uninhabitable," he said, sadly. He placed a hand on one of the metal side rails of the front steps. With a protesting creak, the rail fell to the ground, and LeBeau withdrew his hand as though he had been bitten.
"I'm sure all it needs is a little fixing up," said Carter, trying to cheer him up. "Just a little bit of renovation, maybe a new coat of paint, and it'll be as good as new."
Newkirk bit back the urge to tell Carter to be quiet while LeBeau just gave another wan smile, saying nothing as he unlocked the front door, which was, through some act of mercy, still on its hinges.
Hogan let out a low whistle as they entered, and as their flashlight beams illuminated small patches of the interior. An uneven carpet of dust covered the walls, floors, and everything inside, but numerous sets of footprints and handprints were visible in the dust.
"Holy cats," Kinch murmured, as he caught sight of the dust-covered drapes that led to the drawing room. They had been so delicately embroidered and detailed, but were now strewn with cobwebs; one even had a gash in the fabric, caused, perhaps, by a looter trying to see if anything had been hidden within the drapes. He crossed to the other end of the hall, to the door that led to the library. He left the door open so as to hear what was going on with the others.
LeBeau muttered something in French as he stooped to pick up a large decorative vase that had been tossed aside by the looters, which now sported a few cracks. It wasn't particularly valuable—which was most likely why it had been left behind. Baker helped him place it back to its original position by the door as a mouse leaped from the vase's mouth, startled by the sudden intrusion.
Newkirk, who had traversed forward into the drawing room, paused as he trained his flashlight to a portrait of two people above the fireplace.
"You reckon this portrait is worth anything?" he asked.
LeBeau crossed to the drawing room to take a look at what Newkirk had found.
"Non; that was a portrait of grand-père and grand-mère that was done by a family friend," he explained. "That artist was an odd, reclusive sort of person; I only met him once when I was very young, and that, too, by accident—he seemed upset that I had seen him."
"Sounds light a right madman, if you ask me," said Newkirk. "I bet 'e was one of those eccentric artists."
"Maybe he was," said Carter, staring nervously at the portrait. "But, in any case, I think the painting's eyes are following us!"
"Carter, it's a given that all old houses have portraits with eyes that seem to follow you," Hogan replied. "But reminding everyone of the reason why we're here, we need to find a clue from LeBeau's grandfather."
"Assuming there is one," Baker said. He didn't want to think too much about the option that the Germans had found the clue and gotten rid of it, trying to figure it out for themselves.
"I'm still willing to believe that he would leave a clue in a place that was well hidden, but in a place where his descendants could easily find it," Hogan went on.
"All that's down on this floor is this drawing room, the library, the dining room, and the kitchens," said LeBeau. "I cannot think of any possible hiding places here, other than the library and possibly the vases—which have already been searched."
"Right, so what's upstairs?" Newkirk asked.
"A sitting room, the guest rooms, grand-père's study, the master bedroom--"
"Those last two might be the most likely places to find something," Hogan said. "But all the same, I think we should do a quick look through the rooms down here."
"There's no point in looking in the library," Kinch said, having just returned from there. "Not a single one of those books is on the shelf; they looked through each one in case there was a hidden pocket cut into the pages."
An inspection of the ravaged dining room and kitchen turned up nothing, save for more evidence of the thorough search that the intruders had undertaken. LeBeau took note that none of the family silver was accounted for; he could only hope that his grandfather had been just as thorough when he had heard that the German invasion was inevitable.
The Heroes divided their efforts as they searched upstairs; Hogan and Kinch made quick searches through the guest rooms while Newkirk and Carter searched through the master bedroom, paying more attention to details. LeBeau and Baker were looking through the contents of the viscount's study. As with the library, the books had been pulled off the shelves and scattered across the room, and the contents of the desk were a mess.
"Aside from the district responsibilities that he was working on, there doesn't seem to be much of anything else other than these books and papers on ancient Egypt," said Baker, trying to sort through the disorganized pile.
"Grand-père had a great fascination for ancient Egypt," LeBeau said. "He once founded an expedition. It was quite successful; there's one piece in the Egyptian exhibit of the Louvre because of that expedition. He didn't want to bring the treasure back—he sought a requisition for one piece specifically for the Louvre, while the remainder of the treasures stayed in Egypt—and he took that single piece only after a great deal of personal debate. Grand-père didn't believe in taking other people's treasures." He clenched a fist. "Why, then, have people tried to take his money?"
"Your grandfather was a decent man," Baker answered. "That sort has always been in short supply."
LeBeau looked back at Baker, grateful for his kind words. But an annoyed exclamation from Newkirk halted whatever train of thought he had been concentrating on.
"Cor blimey, Carter! You just 'ad to do that, didn't you!?"
This brought everyone to the master bedroom in time to see Newkirk on the floor, rubbing his head as he glared at the American sergeant. Carter was sheepishly standing with an odd music box in one hand and his Venus flytrap in the other. The music box was running, with a little monkey on the box playing the cymbals.
"What happened?" Hogan asked, with a roll of his eyes.
"I found that music box under the bed," Newkirk said. "There are some things under 'ere—nothing of value, though. I put that thing aside, and Carter sees it 'is duty to set that thing off when it's right next to me ear; 'e nearly give me a bloomin' 'eart attack!" He glared at Carter again. "I 'it me 'ead on the base of the bed after 'e gave me that start."
"I didn't think this old thing would still work," Carter said, with an innocent shrug of his shoulders. "But at least we know it does now!"
"Right," said Newkirk, with a very forced smile. "Me 'eart is filled with a deep sense of satisfaction at that knowledge."
"Carter, may I see that?" LeBeau asked. He inspected the music box; he had seen this countless times as a child. He had often wondered where his grandparents had obtained it from; there was something mysterious about the old music box that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
He turned the box over, blinking as he noticed a small panel cut into the side of the base. At first glance, it looked like the panel that led to the mechanics of the box, but there was a larger panel on the bottom of the box, which was the true mechanics panel.
He slid open the side panel of the music box, letting out an exclamation as the flashlight beam gleamed against something golden.
"What is it?" Carter asked, pleased that he had played a small part in finding it.
"Grand-père and grand-mère's rings," LeBeau replied, his voice quivering with excitement. He took the rings out, holding them in his palms for the others to see. "They're solid gold!"
"Well, it's definitely a start," said Kinch.
"They look like Egyptian signet rings," Baker observed, surprised at how interested the viscount seemed to have been with the ways of the ancient Egyptians.
LeBeau nodded. "He had their names engraved in cartouches on the rings, see?"
Before anyone could comment on the rings, a loud, discordant set of piano notes emitted from the sitting room.
"I doubt that's a player piano," said Hogan, frowning.
"I didn't touch that piano!" Carter insisted, thinking that Newkirk would somehow pin it on him. "I didn't even know there was one up here!"
"Somebody does," the Frenchman said, leading the way to the sitting room.
The piano continued to play, but there was no one visible in the room when the soldiers aimed their flashlights all around it.
"LeBeau?" asked Carter. "Did your grandparents ever mention to you that there may have been a ghost in this house?"
Without waiting for LeBeau to reply, Newkirk strode forward towards the piano, aiming his flashlight inside of it. He gave a satisfied nod as he reached inside with his free hand.
"Andrew, 'ere is the 'ghost' you are referring to."
He pulled a sleek, black cat from within the piano. The flashlight shined off of the cat's reflective eyes as she looked up at Newkirk and meowed in protest.
"You can let her go," Baker said, amused. "Maybe she can catch that mouse we saw in the vase downstairs."
Newkirk shrugged and put the cat down, who promptly retreated to a dark corner of the room. Turning his attention back to the piano, he noticed that there were a few blank sheets of music on the stand, although one had a few musical notes written in ink.
"That's odd," LeBeau murmured. "Grand-père wasn't much of a composer; it was grand-mère who loved music. And yet, this is in grand-père's handwriting."
"Maybe that's why he didn't get further than one measure," Carter said, pointing to the four notes at the top of the only page with writing on it. On a whim, he played the four notes on the piano.
"Doesn't sound like it would've turned into much," Newkirk said, flatly.
But Hogan seemed intrigued. "Carter, play those notes again."
The sergeant shrugged, but did as he was told.
Hogan softly hummed the notes to himself, pondering over them. Newkirk was right—musically, they didn't seem like much. But maybe music wasn't the purpose of those notes. "Can I see that sheet?"
"I'm telling you, there's nothing special about it," Newkirk said, handing it to him. "I've 'eard better music played by a child on a toy xylophone."
"Let's see," Hogan mused. "C, an A, an F, and an E…"
LeBeau's eyes widened. "Café!"
"Wow!" Carter exclaimed, looking at the sheet. "Yep, that's C-A-F-E, alright!"
"Blimey, that 'ad me going," Newkirk said, now impressed. "LeBeau, your grandfather may not 'ave been a musician, but 'e was a ruddy genius!"
"Colonel, this is it!" LeBeau said, excitement peppering his voice. "This is the clue we've been searching for!"
"And we can thank that cat for it," Hogan said. "The question is, LeBeau, do you have a pretty good idea of which café he might have been referring to?"
"Oui, Colonel," said LeBeau, fervently. "There was a café we always went to whenever the family got together; it's right near the--"
"Colonel!" Kinch suddenly exclaimed.
The others turned to see him and Baker kneeling on the floor near the cat. The two techies had focused their flashlights on the cat, who was now happily pawing at a wire that was running across the floor. Kinch further indicated one end of the wire—and the listening device that was attached to it.
LeBeau's mouth dropped open in horror as he realized that whoever had set the bug—Burkhalter, most likely—had heard them talk about the café clue. He was now incredibly grateful to Kinch for stopping him before he had revealed the specifics of the café. Exchanging glances with his friends, who were just as stunned as he was, he then looked back to the colonel for guidance.
Hogan mouthed for them to cover up the silence as best they could. Mentally, he was chiding himself for not taking into consideration that the German invaders would have wired the place in the hopes of picking up the clues they couldn't find on their own.
Ironic, he thought, derisively. During the war, we bugged them. I guess this is what they mean by "turnabout is fair play."
"It… it's nothing, Kinch," said LeBeau, trying not to betray the nervousness in his voice. "That's Aunt Sybille's collection of costume jewelry—it's very cheap. She was always too shy about wearing the real things."
"Too bad," said Kinch, trying to make it seem as though it was nothing. "I thought I was on to something."
Hogan didn't hold much hope that they were fooling anyone; most likely, the entire house had bugs everywhere. The eavesdroppers probably knew everything that had transpired so far—including the finding of the golden rings.
"We've got the clue; let's go," he muttered, barely audible to those standing next to him. They could discuss the clue's significance in a more secure location.
Newkirk, however, had been trying to trace the other end of the wire, which ran past the broken window in the room. As he passed by, he happened to glance outside, and then froze.
"Colonel," he said, softly. "I 'ate to say it, but our sticky wicket just got stickier."
The others crossed to the window now as Newkirk continued to stare pointedly at the car that had pulled up to the front of the property. The moonlight illuminated the forms inside the vehicle, and the rotund silhouette stepping into the Parisian night air was unmistakable.
"What now, Colonel?" Carter whispered, none too happy about seeing Burkhalter again.
Hogan didn't answer; he was quickly trying to pull together as many possible plans as he could.
What now, indeed?