Gideon Monahan is a man dedicated to what he does -- recovering stolen art -- to the exclusion of anything else, including a personal life. There's a reason for that, something that happened in his past that he can't forget.
Cole Newell is an archaeologist with a problem. He needs to find out who looted a dig he worked the previous summer, after one of the artifacts shows up at his gallery. Cole calls on Gideon to lend his expertise, which, much against his better judgment, Gideon does.
When one of the looters is murdered, they set out to find answers, with the help of Detective Quint Hawk. In the process, Cole realizes he's attracted to Gideon, even though he's certain the man is straight. After he helps Gideon open up about -- and accept -- his past, can the two men become more than friends? Both Gideon and Cole hope so, once they overcome the myriad problems facing them.
Gideon arrived at the gallery at ten-fifteen, as promised. Cole greeted him, escorting him into his office. On one wall there were shelves holding a variety of Native American artifacts -- from bowls to arrowheads to what appeared to be tools and axe heads. Bookshelves lined the second wall. A quick perusal showed Gideon that most of them related to Cole's line of work. No surprise there.
Cole's desk took up most of the third wall -- a state-of-the-art computer setup in the center. Next to the doorway was a small seating area with two chairs and a coffee table, as well as a low chest with a coffeemaker sitting on top. After Cole offered Gideon coffee, which he declined, they sat.
"I hope he shows up," Cole said.
"Why wouldn't he? Especially if the bowl is valuable."
"If I were to buy it from him, I'd offer somewhere in the neighborhood of five hundred dollars."
"And sell it for?" Gideon asked.
"Nine-fifty to a thousand, minimum."
Gideon smiled. "So you'd both make out like bandits. Just kidding," he added, when Cole frowned. "If the rest of what was stolen was as valuable, the man ... What is his name, by the way?"
"Oscar Ellis. Or at least that's what was on his driver's license and how he signed the contract for the appraisal."
"You doubt it's his real name?"
Cole shrugged. "Let's just say that since he was giving me a stolen bowl to appraise, it wouldn't surprise me if it was an alias."
"Good point. Do you mind if I take a look around the gallery while we're waiting for him?"
"Not at all, after you tell me what you have planned."
"Probably a good idea," Gideon agreed. "I presume you'll bring him in here? I'll join you a few minutes after I see that happen. I'm debating on being official, but understanding -- or just the opposite."
"Like a crook who wants his cut?" Cole asked, sounding appalled.
"Good heavens, no. Official and stern, like I've got him dead to rights and plan on arresting him, if he doesn't come clean on where he's stashed the rest of the items."
"Whew. I don't think I could pull off being your criminal accomplice."
Gideon laughed, then took his leave, going out to the gallery. In many ways, the main room was set up like a museum, with cases holding the various artifacts. There were paintings -- which he realized were done by modern tribal artists -- on the walls, as well two intricately woven textiles. There were also, he discovered, more recent pottery pieces. He suspected that was to catch the interest of the casual walk-in visitor.
He was examining the intricate beadwork on a pair of leggings in one of the cases when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Detective Quint Hawk standing there. Almost at the same time, they said, "What are you doing here?"
"You first," Gideon replied, fearing the worst.
"I'm here to talk to Mister, no, Doctor Newell. And you?"
Gideon puffed out a breath. "Helping Doctor Newell deal with a man he believes looted a dig he, Newell, worked at last summer."
Quint frowned. "That wouldn't by chance be Owen Elliot?"
"No. Cole ... Doctor Newell, said his name is Oscar Ellis."
"One and the same, according to what we found in Mr. Elliot's wallet. Is Doctor Newell around?"
"Yes. Come on. I'll take you to his office." Gideon slanted Quint a look. "I take it, since you're here, Mister Elliot is dead?"
When they got to Cole's office, Cole looked up from what he was doing, then Gideon introduced the two men.
"A detective?" Cole said worriedly. "Believe me, everything we have here has been authenticated."
Quint nodded. "I'm sure it has been, Doctor Newell."
"Please call me Cole. Then why ..."
"We found your card in Owen Elliot's wallet -- or as you apparently knew him, Oscar Ellis' wallet -- with a notation Monday -- eleven A.M."
"I wrote that to remind him of our appointment today." Cole frowned. "He's been arrested?"
"No. He was murdered last night."
"Damn." Cole sank back in his chair. "You're sure it was him?"
"Yes. From his fingerprints and some of the ID in his wallet."
"How?" Gideon asked.
"He was bludgeoned to death, sometime around one A.M., in the parking lot behind a fast-food restaurant. No witnesses, although an employee who was getting ready to close for the night heard some shouting. He called 911. By the time the officers arrived, Elliot was dead."