The Cost of Betrayal

By: Dee Henderson

one





Ann Falcon

ANN FALCON EASED TOWARD the front of the crowd. The auctioneer working his way down a line of tables was presently selling off kitchenware. She felt a light touch at the small of her back and glanced around to find her husband had rejoined her. She leaned toward him to be heard. “That was fast—find anything interesting?”

“Most of the paintings are too modern for my taste, but there’s one item, a Chicago-skyline print from the ’40s,” Paul replied. “They’ll be starting the art auction in about ten minutes, but it’s going to be an hour before they reach that print. How about you?”

“There are some silk scarves and half-used perfume bottles in a box of miscellaneous dresser drawer items that might make a nice painting arrangement. If the box doesn’t go over twenty dollars, I’m interested. That dumpy one with the green stripes on the side.”

He looked across the tables and nodded when he spotted her choice. “The third auctioneer has finished with the garden and patio items and is moving over to tools. No surprise, the largest crowd is there. I’m going to scope out the furniture, then look through the industrial and professional section. It looks like several businesses are clearing excess inventory. The FBI lab is always looking for the basics in volume. Maybe something there will be useful to the bureau.”

“I’ll find you,” Ann assured him, and with another nod her husband disappeared into the crowd. She liked spending weekends with Paul doing non-crisis things like wandering a big auction looking for hidden treasures. Twice a year this former aircraft hangar near O’Hare Airport filled with merchandise brought in by area auction houses. A day-long sale by professional auctioneers kept the crowd active and buying. She always found something interesting at this December sale to give as a gift, like the odd toy or the unexpected book.

She lifted her number as the box she was interested in got hoisted on high, quickly realized she was bidding against four people, and two dropped out at ten. The woman to her left still had the box when it reached sixteen. Ann hesitated, let the auctioneer call for the raise twice, looking to her for another bid. Ann saw brief regret rather than pleasure on the high bidder’s face—she must not have really wanted it at sixteen. Ann nodded to the auctioneer and wasn’t surprised when he called it “sold” to her at seventeen.

Three dollars under her limit gave her a nice deal. She accepted the box and the sales ticket from the staff. Twenty dollars on items for herself, now it was time to find something for either Paul or one of his family members with another twenty. She paid for her first purchase at the exit gate, hauled it out to the car trunk, and went back to shopping.





two





Paul Falcon

MONDAY NIGHT PAUL FOUND HIS WIFE working at her desk in their shared home office, not surprised she was still up waiting for him. “Sorry I’m late.”

“What? Oh, yeah, it is late. You called, didn’t you?” She came swimming out of what it was she was doing to focus on him and smiled.

He leaned over her desk and kissed her. The conference call that had cost him a spaghetti dinner and movie with his wife had ended just after eleven. Some aspiring young bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., had thought it worth cutting corners to get a wiretap on a federal judge. Being the neutral party first hearing about the problem now, Paul would be spending the next several days untangling the current NYC investigation mess in order to tell his boss, the director of the FBI, what could be salvaged and who should be fired.

The big black bear of a dog at Ann’s feet rolled over and planted his paw across Paul’s left shoe, yawned, and shook his head violently. Paul glanced down. “You were dreaming, weren’t you?”

The dog merely rested his head across Paul’s other shoe and tried to go back to sleep. If it wasn’t such a typical greeting, Paul would have laughed. “You’ve been here awhile if Black has taken up station under your feet.”

The auction-purchased box was on the floor beside Ann, the collection of perfume bottles now on her desk in a basket, the silk scarves neatly folded, along with a jewelry box and some rather unexpected items: a small sewing kit and a bulky pink pocketknife. He’d figured at this late hour he would find her upstairs painting, but she hadn’t taken her auction haul up to the studio yet. “Did the jewelry box have anything in it?” It didn’t look particularly old, but it had a highly polished cherry finish and a nice appearance.