Hanukkah Gelt (Excerpt)
by T. Lee Harris
Puzzled, Katzen picked it up and froze mid-stoop. A silver one rested against the step up into the kitchen. He straightened and listened. Nothing but pitiful mews from cats wanting dinner.
The cats spilled into the mudroom as he fingertipped the kitchen door open. They didn’t appear frightened or upset. Reassured by their normal behavior, he stepped into the house only to stop cold at the sight of three glittering coins evenly spaced along the top of the dishwasher. Two more gleamed on the counter beside the hall archway.
Coins along the banister led him upstairs to find his bedroom door partway closed. That was wrong. He’d left it open and even propped it back with a cast iron doorstop so the cats couldn’t accidentally shut themselves in. Pressing himself against the wall he gave the door a nudge with his foot. It swung noiselessly inward, until it thunked against an open suitcase just inside.
Roz Eliahu sat up on his bed, stretched and yawned. “About time you got home. Where have you been all day?” She tossed a half-empty bag of gelt at him. “Happy Hanukkah, Josh. The silver ones are dark chocolate just for you.”
* * *
Roz emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, saronged in one over-sized towel and roughing up her short, dark hair with another. Josh lazed in bed watching her. Boudicca, the third cat, had taken advantage of the recently vacated warm spot and snuggled under the covers against him. Josh idly scratched the little apricot and smoke calico between the ears.
Roz dropped the towel and crouched to rummage in her suitcase. “You never did tell me where you were today. There wasn’t anyone here to greet me but the cats when the taxi dropped me off at noon.”
“I was at Shenhav’s downtown gallery,” he said. “You should have called me. I had the cell with me.”
“And ruin the surprise?” She rummaged in the suitcase. “What are you doing for Shenhav’s?”
“Photographing antiquities for their spring auction catalog. I’ve been down there every day this week.” He popped a chocolate coin in his mouth. “Maybe if I’d known company was coming, I could have wrapped up earlier. Last time I heard from you, you were back in the Yucatan diving cenotes.”
She shook out a pair of slacks. “It was probably for the best. There was a lot of turbulence so it was nigh impossible to sleep on the plane. Being able to catch a nap without you to distract me was probably best.”
“Are you implying I keep you awake?”
“Implying? Who’s implying?” She laughed and wriggled into a sweater. “I’m glad you’re working with Shenhav’s again. They appreciate quality—and it’s about time you got paid to match your talent.”
He made a noncommittal noise and swung his legs off the bed. Boudicca complained, but burrowed farther under the still-warm covers. “Truth to tell, I doubt I could have hurried the shoot, anyway. A lot of gold, bronze and silver objects were scheduled today, so my old pal Dr. Flores was cluttering up the scenery.”
She stopped brushing her hair and stared at him in open amazement. “They hired Morty Flores? After that disaster with the Moche Sea God mask?”
“To be fair, the details of that never went public and he didn’t steal the mask.”
“Still, it did happen on his watch.”
Josh shrugged. “You said it yourself: Shenhav’s appreciates quality. He might be a lousy human being, but Flores is aces when it comes to ancient metalwork.”
“Is he still blaming you for getting fired from the museum?”
“Looks that way. It got pretty tense a couple times, but that’s neither here nor there. Your turn. What brings you to Chicago? Not that I’m complaining.”
“Do you remember me talking about my friend Uzza Jerayesh?”
“Wasn’t she the girl who lived next door when you were growing up in Haifa? The one who’s the buyer for the whoop-de-doo European auction house? Marlotte’s.”
“Very good! I’m impressed—although I bet it was Marlotte’s you remembered more than Uzza.”
“Nonsense! Rule 27 of the career bachelor: Try to remember what the woman you’re currently making love to tells you.”