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Rebecca was frustrated. Since last week when she got fired from the Gershon museum it seemed quite impossible to find a new job. The rumor that she might had been involved in the heist of that Karen Kates painting had spread faster than she thought. And it wasn't helpful either that the curator from the Gershon didn't agree to give her a reference. Luckily she was able she could live from her savings but this wouldn't last forever and she missed to work. Instead she was sitting in that cafe, studying the newspaper to find a new job and going through her notes she had made about the Mosconi Codex over the past few months. She was deeply in thoughts when she noticed that someone sat down in front of her.
"Hey, could you at least have the decency to ask if the space here is free before you sit down?" her anger about that kind of behavior and her own frustration from being unemployed came out in an angry puff without looking up from her papers.
"I wasn't sure if you would let me take it..."
She even stopped thinking when she heard that voice. She suddenly remembered wearing not her best outfit today. In fact it were skinny jeans, black tank top and an oversized cardigan, her quite undone hair up do and barely wearing make up. She inwardly counted to ten and then looked up.
"Neal,..., another art heist I might be connected with?"
'Ouch, that sounded more cocky than it should,' she thought, 'but at least I didn't blush and giggle like a teenie.'
"No, actually I wanted to see you and apologize that you got pulled into the case."
"You already apologized when we met at the museum. And I told you that it's not your fault. I thought about it and... I've been too messy with my key card. It could have been that it attracted the wrong persons to target me."
"It wasn't all what I wanted to say that day."
"It is true I had been flirting with you..."
"And it was for the case. It's okay. I guess, it was just something you had to do. I figured that out when I saw you at the FBI."
"I know how this looks like but it wasn't all about the case."
"Neal, look... I may have spent most of my time studying old books and I may seem odd and a bit awkward to the most people but I'm not stupid. You don't need to ask me out just because of your guilty conscience and to make me feel better."
"Do you really think I would do something like that?"
"You flirted with me to get information about a planned heist, so why not?"
"Rebecca, I can only apologize if anything I did hurt you. I can assure that it's not any kind of guilty conscience when I invite you for dinner."
"And that is just private?"
"I promise no FBI agents , case files or stolen paintings will interrupt dinner."
Rebecca couldn't avoid to laugh.
"Okay, okay... I give in. Where are we going?"
"I thought you come over to my place and I cook something."
"We meet at your place?"
"If you don't feel comfortable with it we can go out."
"No, don't get me wrong. It's just I have to think very hard when a guy cooked dinner for me last time. And it's not very common but I appreciate it."
"Tomorrow at 7 pm?"
"Yeah, sounds perfect."
'Damn, I should keep my excitement under control. Why am I always acting like a fool around him?' Rebecca asked herself while trying not to blush to increase her embarrassment.
"Do you have a piece of paper?"
"You need my address."
"That's true. While talking about it... how did you find me here? We never talked about such personal things and..."
"The address is in the case file and this cafe is pretty close to your apartment..."
"I understand. I'm relieved you came her all by yourself and not with a bunch of other agents."
"I have to admit I was thinking about to come here with some colleagues but I thought it would have been unfair."
Neal glanced at the papers.
"You're still working on the Mosconi Codex?"
"What? Oh, yes... old habits die hard and as I said I'm a bit obsessed with it. But it's not much I know. Since I knew that the owner donated the Codex to the Gershon I tried to grab every piece of information I could get my hands on. But there are only less facts but tons of rumors."
"But you know that every rumor contains a little truth."
"I know," Rebecca sighed, "but it's hard to decide what is true and what not. It could contain everything from religious or scientific contents or just his favorite recipes and how to cook the perfect pasta."
"What do you think what it is? And do you think it could contain something so valuable that people would consider it to steal certain chapters of it or the whole book?"
"Honestly I have no idea. But since no one really knows what is in there... maybe it's more the mystery. Someone might want to steal it because they want to know its secrets."
"Just imagine if someone really makes it to reveal the secret of the Codex and it really contains recipes."
Rebecca started laughing.
"That would cause some disappointment if the person isn't a chef and in need of a new concept. But if I would find out that it's only a cookbook I would be tempted to open up a restaurant called "Mosconi's" and offer those dishes."
"A rare book scholar opens up a restaurant based on a long lost cookbook."
"Sounds like a good publicity campaign."
"How does the job hunt go?"
"Oh, don't ask. Who would hire a rare book scholar who got suspected in an art heist because she was so clumsy that her key card got stolen? And before you ask it doesn't count anything that I got cleared. And to make it worse some of my colleagues heard what I said about my obsession with the Mosconi Codex. My boss said that the museum isn't the right place to live out my obsession for a certain book. So I screwed up in every possible way. I get the thought it would be best to leave New York and start over somewhere else."
"Do you really want to leave?"
"Not that I want but what other choices do I have?"
"Maybe I can help you out."
"How? Does the FBI need a rare book scholar?"
"Sometimes but I thought about something different. I explain it to you tomorrow."
"Is it something illegal? I think I've had my share with crimes for the next time."
"No, I can promise you. It's completely legit."
Out of a feeling of nervousness Rebecca had started to stir her coffee.
"I think your coffee might feel a bit sick after stirring it so much."
"And I still need a piece of paper to give you my address."
She made it to hand Neal a piece of paper and a pen.
"Don't lose it."
"It's not my key card."
"That's true. So, I hope you won't be leaving New York before tomorrow."
"No, not so fast. I..."
Neal's phone rang and his face got an unpleasant expression when he looked at it.
"I'm sorry but I need to go back to work."
"Oh, well, that's sad..."
"But I see you tomorrow."
"At 7 pm."
"I look forward to it."
"What? Oh, yeah, me too."
Neal took her hand and before he let go of it his thumb softly stroke over the back of her hand. Rebecca held her breath while it lasted and she couldn't take her eyes off him.
"See you tomorrow."
She only nodded and watched him leave.
The next evening Rebecca felt more than nervous when she stepped out of the cab and looked confused at the mansion. She felt like she must be deadly mistaken but it was the address Neal had given her. Maybe it was a tasteless joke. She had to admit that her last date was so long ago that it was quite hard to remember it. She had been burying herself in her work. On top of it most guys didn't appreciate women who were so much into their work and liked to talk about it. And that was the thing which fascinated her about Neal. He was also interested in the Mosconi Codex and it didn't scare him away when she was rambling about it. So even if this date should turn out as a bad joke she would take it as experience and get over it. Rebecca took a deep breath, straightened her simple black shift dress and rang the doorbell. She really thought Neal had been playing games with her when an older woman opened the door and smiled friendly at her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I think, I have the wrong address. Sorry for disturbing you."
"You must be Rebecca."
"Uhm, yeah. I'm here for... Neal invited me for dinner."
"I know. Come in. Oh excuse me, where are my manners? I'm June Ellington. We're waiting for you."
"Neal told me you were coming."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know that you're married and..."
June started to laugh.
"You thought that Neal and I...? No, Neal has rented the apartment upstairs and he's more like a son to me than anything else. I had to swear to my late husband that there wouldn't be any other guy after him."
"I'm sorry, that was stupid."
"It's okay. But now, come in."
June led Rebecca into the parlor where Neal was waiting and entertaining Bugsy who immediately ran over to investigate the new guest. Rebecca knelt down to the pug who enthusiastically sniffed and licked over her hand.
"Hey, little guy. Yeah, you're a fine one. And you seem to like me."
He let out a small bark and enjoyed the petting of his head.
"You must excuse Bugsy. He always gets excited when he meets someone new."
"It's okay. So your name is Bugsy, huh? You're way too cute to be a gangster."
"Normally he's really a nice one but you should never turn your back on him when you're preparing something with meat."
Rebecca got up and found herself quite face to face to Neal who smiled broadly at her.
"Hey... nice to see you. You look great."
"Hi. Thanks. I would... but Bugsy had... I need to..."
"The guest bathroom is down the hallway on the left, first door."
When Rebecca had left the parlor June smiled at Neal.
"You like her."
"Otherwise I wouldn't have invited her for dinner and I wanted you to meet her because you said you could help her to find a new job. "
"Neal,..." June chuckled with that tone of a mother who knew that her child was hiding something from her.
"I haven't seen that kind of smile in a while."
"She's smart, absolutely dedicated to her work..."
"You already told me that but I know you for long enough to know that this isn't all."
Before Neal could answer Rebecca came back.
"I never thought a pug would get more than attention than I do."
"Neal, I'm very sorry but how could I resist this little smooch face."
"Rebecca, may I introduce you to my lovely landlady and good friend June Ellington."
"We already introduced each other. Rebecca, I got told you're looking for a new job."
While talking June led Rebecca to a sofa and softly pushed her down next to Neal. Bugsy ran over and jumped onto Rebecca's lap to demand some more of her attention.
"Yes, indeed I do but I don't know if Neal told you under which circumstances I lost my last one."
"He did and it's very unfortunate that his happened. You shouldn't have been to blame that someone stole your key card especially not after the painting was returned and your name got cleared."
"I know and sadly the whole thing had spread faster than I hoped. So it will be very hard to find a new job here."
"And this is where I could help you out."
"You're definitely not the only one with an interest in ancient books. Some friends of mine are in the possession of some very rare and old books. To estimate their value in case they'll be passed on they need more detailed information on them. And who would be more qualified than a rare book scholar like you're one?"
"Mrs. Ellington, that's very nice but I don't think they would hire me out of security reasons."
"At first please call me June and I would recommend you and accompany you when you meet them for the first time. If you work for them they would all give you very good references and help you to get you back to a museum or somewhere else."
Rebecca was completely baffled.
"Why you're doing this? I mean, you don't know me."
"As I said Neal told me about the case and that he felt sorry that you lost your job. He said you're very passionate about what you're doing and I think that is what you need for this kind of job."
"Wow... I don't know what to say. This is really nice and..."
"Just think about it and call me the next days."
"Yeah, I will."
"That is all I wanted to hear. So I think we should celebrate it with something to drink."
"Do you have whiskey?" Rebecca asked and two astonished glances hit her.
"Yes, of course. Ice?"
"No... I like my whiskey pure without water."
But June didn't receive an answer until Rebecca softly nudged his arm.
"I guess, you still have to decide for a drink."
"Whiskey sounds perfect."
In the meantime Bugsy had made himself comfortable on Rebecca's lap and was about to doze off.
"It seems like you would have to come here often. Bugsy seems to have a major crush on you."
"I'd love to. He's adorable. My aunt used to have some pugs and I remember when I stayed over night at her place they used to sleep gathered on my bed and all of them were snoring. But I loved it."
About one hour later Rebecca and Neal were upstairs in his apartment and she had run immediately onto the patio. When she came back inside her face showed some kind of childlike excitement.
"That view... I mean, it's unbelievable. I would never leave the house again. It is like you would own Manhattan just through looking over it."
"The sunset and sunrise is just amazing."
"As long as you don't decide to take me out for dinner I'm able to watch the sunset."
"No, I still planned on cooking. You're okay with self made pasta?"
"Neal, you don't need to make such an effort... it's..."
"Hey, I promised you a dinner and you get one. Or do you want something else?"
"No, uhm... I mean, it's okay."
'Damn, just stop to behave like a hysterical giggling teenager.'
"Do you prefer red or white wine?"
"I don't know if wine is such a good idea after two glasses of whiskey."
"Don't worry. So what do you prefer?"
"What suits the menu best. Can I help you with something?"
"No, I prepared a lot earlier."
Rebecca started walking around and stopped in front of the bookshelves.
"Your books, you must have a wide range of interests or you're just having it to impress visitors."
"What do you think what it is?"
Rebecca turned around to him again.
"I'm trying to figure that out. But what stands out and seems pretty clear that you love art."
"Guilty as charged."
She continued her stroll and stopped in front of a canvas.
"This is a Degas..."
"Indeed it is."
"You're copying or forging it?"
"It is more some kind of a hobby and to come down from work."
"So you don't have a storage room full of forged famous paintings."
"No... I wouldn't be working with the FBI if I would make a living with those things."
"There had been several double agents in history so it could be an interesting combination."
"That's true but it would be a very dangerous life."
"Are you good enough to make it look like the real thing?"
"You tell me..."
"Hard to say by now cause you told me that this isn't a real Degas but not being an expert for art I think I could fall for it. But to make it last through further test you'd have had to use a certain kind of canvas and you have to age it."
"Look at you. Who has now experience with forging something?"
"Neal, I'm a rare book scholar. I've seen a few forgeries of lost old books."
"Have you ever seen a forgery of the Mosconi Codex?"
"Since no one has ever seen it since a very few people and I assume that even the recent owner had never taken a look inside... it is one of the easiest and most difficult books to forge."
"But if someone had ever seen it and forged it..."
"I think that then it would have appeared on the market or in an archive for research purposes but since that never happened..."
"How far would you go to take a look at the Codex?"
"To be honest if I would have known that I get fired I would have peeked inside it when you suggested it."
"Yes, this might have been my last chance to ever catch a glimpse on it."
"You never know if this was the only chance you ever had."
"I don't know how else it should be possible to look at it. I can't go to the owner and ask if I can take a look at it."
"Sometimes you have to be a little brazen."
"Yeah, but not in impossible cases."
The next two hours quite flew away with a very good dinner and interesting lighthearted conversations. Rebecca didn't realize that Neal avoided it very skillfully to answer questions that might make her suspicious regarding the heist or him working with the FBI.
"I could go downstairs but I hope you tell me where your bathroom is."
"No problem. Through the door, down the hallway, first door on the right."
A few moments after Rebecca was out of the door Mozzie entered the apartment with his usual lack of knocking.
"The whole thing is completely ridiculous or it has a code I've never seen."
"Moz, it's just the absolute wrong time right now."
"But it is important. We don't know what Hagen already knows about the Codex and this chapter. We have to hurry to figure that out. Oh, you opened the Merlot I wanted to drink a few days ago."
"Mozzie, I'm having a guest and you're..."
"Don't tell me that a dinner is more important than to get a hold of Hagen and what he wants from you. I really had to hurry to copy the chapter and check it if there is something hidden in the paper. But nothing of it what Mosconi wrote in that chapter makes any sense. It seems like the religious delusion of someone. Here, look at it. I don't know what Hagen wants to find in it."
"How do you know what is inside the Codex?"
Neal turned around and saw Rebecca standing there.
"Rebecca, it is not..."
"Not what it looks like? Neal, how does that guy know what the Codex is about? And I hardly doubt that he is the owner."
"Let me explain... it was..."
"Oh, my god. I've been so stupid. It was you stealing my key card to get access to the museum. And the heist wasn't mainly about the Karen Kates painting, right? You stole a chapter from the Codex. That's why you were so interested in it. Why I'm here? Do you want to know what I really know about the Codex and use that knowledge for whatever crime you have planned?"
"Rebecca, I'm sorry."
"No, don't even dare to..."
She grabbed her purse and wanted to leave.
"It's too late."
Mozzie was completely confused by that exchange.
"Did I miss something? What does she know about the codex? Is she working for Hagen?"
"No, Rebecca had been working in the museum and I used her key card to get into the museum. I didn't know that it logged her data and so she got suspected to be Zev's accomplice."
"Oh... and she was here because...?"
"It was my fault that she got fired because of her stolen key card and June offered to help her to find a new job."
"It doesn't matter anymore. She had been already angry when she found out that I'm working with the FBI when they brought her in and now... she would rather rip my head off than talk to me."
"Does she know something about the Codex?"
"She said it's an obsession of her and it was the reason why she started to work at the Gershon."
"Then she could be helpful for us to find something out."
"Moz, you've seen her. She would rather give up the Codex than to talk to us."
"So, we need to find out what's the meaning of this Codex."
"Not today. Can we talk tomorrow about it?"
"Mozzie, I'm not in the mood for discussions right now."
"Okay, I try some more codes... maybe one of them fits."
Neal closed the door behind his friend and sighed. He only hoped that Rebecca wouldn't inform the FBI about the Codex but he couldn't blame her if she would. He took his glass and went out onto the patio.
About one hour later someone knocked quite aggressive on the door. Neal got up from the sofa and opened it and he was more than surprised to see Rebecca standing there.
"I want answers, Neal."
"Rebecca, I'm so..."
"No, don't apologize. I don't want to hear that. I want answers and you better be honest. Why did you deceive me? What and why did you steal? Who are you and what are you doing?"
"So? I'm waiting."
"I guess, it's better if you sit down."
Rebecca took a seat.
"Don't try to buy time. I was taking a long walk and thought if I should just inform the FBI about what I heard but maybe then I'd never hear what I need to know. I think I deserve the truth."
"What do you want to know?"
"Gosh, Neal, everything. Who are you? Why you're working with the FBI and on the other hand you're stealing things?"
"It's a long story."
"I spend my life studying ancient text. So I don't mind long stories."
"Do you want a glass of wine?"
"Does the story get better with it?"
"I leave that to your judgment."