Chapter 7 Girls and Girls

Ironside took a deep breath. "Let's go to the airport, then. We still have a job to finish. Ed – please stay here by the phone in case something new comes up. Feel free to take a nap on the sofa."

That was an elegant solution to let Ed have some rest without hurting his pride.

Mark drove the team to the airport in no time as there wasn't much traffic this early in the morning. They made their way to the safe deposit box and punched in the code. An overwhelming sense of relief washed over everyone at the sight of a key. "It's a treasure hunt," Ironside thought. "This key leads us to an airport lockbox." He knew that kind of key, he had seen a lot of them over the years. It was the kind with a little plate on which the number of the lockbox was engraved. Assuming this was the right airport, they were getting close to the violin…

Standing in front of a wall of lockboxes Eve inserted the key into the lock in question, started to turn it and…

"Stop it right there or I will kill your Chief!"

…froze.

Eve turned round. Sandy, Janowski's red-haired granddaughter, was standing in front of Ironside, a gun pointed at his head. "I won't miss. And I won't be outsmarted again. Simon thought he could do that, and you know where it got him, don't you?"

Eve was paralyzed by fear. She was too far away to intervene and so was Mark. A glimmer of insanity in Sandy's eyes told Eve that the girl was about to lose her nerve. For somebody with a gun in their hands this was an extremely dangerous state.

Ironside seemed completely unfazed. "Sandy, until now you're just guilty of accessory to theft. You probably won't even have to go to jail. But if you go through with this, it will get a lot worse. I can understand your frustration: You are a good violinist, a lot better than Clarissa Delongpre. You think that you deserve a good instrument – perhaps you wanted to keep the Stradivarius for yourself, or sell it and buy another fine instrument instead. That's understandable."

The Chief could see that the insanity in Sandy's eyes was slowly vanishing. Somehow she felt understood. But the gun was still in its dangerous place. Ironside had to consider how to go on.

"You can achieve a great deal as a musician. You don't need a Stradivarius. You will do a fine job playing one of your grandfather's violins. And in a few years you will have enough money to buy a really good instrument – without having to commit a crime, but out of honest work. That will feel really good – do you believe me?" The girl nodded. "Give me that gun now. It's just not worth it, is it?

Sandy let the gun drop. It sounded very loud in the nearly empty place. She buried her head in her hands and started crying. "I wanted to please them – both of them. And now my grandfather is dead and Simon betrayed me. My life is going down the drain," she said, shaking her head.

Eve stepped towards the girl, laid her arm around Sandy's shoulders and said: "You're a fine musician and a strong young woman. Let me be your friend. I have a lot of friends who will appreciate your music. You'll have your chance, I promise."

A few days later, Clarissa came to see Ironside and his team. She brought a huge box of chocolates with her. "I wanted to thank you. You've done a great job! I'm really happy to have my Stradivarius back. Thank you, all of you!"

She shook hands with each of them and left. Ironside personally showed her out.

Eve could see that Ed was disappointed. "She can't remember what happened in the ocean at all, and that's probably a good thing." Her hand brushed slightly over Ed's shoulder. "She wouldn't have been the right one for you."

Ed managed a smile: "No, she wouldn't. But I'm glad that the Chief's giving me a second chance to work with him, you and Mark. You're my family."

Remembering Ironside's words to Sandy, Eve answered thoughtfully: "That's what it's all about, isn't it? Being forgiven and getting a second chance. And not having to prove anything to those who love you, but being accepted as the person you are."

Ironside returned. "Children," he announced cheerfully, "we all know that we're not allowed financial rewards. But you have earned a reward, and something more consistent than chocolate. Let's go out, I'll buy you a cheap dinner."

"How cheap?" Eve asked suspiciously.

Heading towards the elevator again, Ironside shouted: "Very cheap!"


Author's note:

Thank you, all my faithful readers!

Thank you, all you encouraging reviewers!

And first and foremost: Thank you, my patient and ingenious beta-reader "lemonpig73"!