He looked a little less stricken, a little more hopeful. 'No? '

'No, he did them for his own satisfaction. When he was finished with them, into the cellar they went.'

'You're telling me the truth?'

I was and I wasn't. They might have gone into the cellar, but they hadn't remained in the cellar. When I'd been down there with Christian the day before, there had been about twenty-five of them lined up on the lower rack of the storeroom. That left a round figure of thirty-five unaccounted for-thirty-five fakes by a master-forger capable of fooling some of France's greatest experts. Who knew where they were now? Two of them had found their way to the big auction houses. Were the others hanging in the living rooms of friends? On other restaurant walls around Europe? Had some even found their way to museums, perhaps? Or to Lorenzo's collection?

But I couldn't really imagine Vachey hoodwinking his customers-not for profit, that is. 'Of course I am, Lorenzo. There's nothing for you to worry about. Anyway, a dealer would have to be out of his mind to try to put one over on you or your father.'

He brightened immediately. 'Ah-ha-ha, well, yes, that's true enough, anyway. Well, hello, Christian, very nice affair.' And on his way he went, restored to his normal good cheer.

Christian Vachey obviously wanted to talk to me privately. When Lorenzo left, he motioned me to a corner away from the ears of others, and draped a comradely arm over my shoulder. 'Ah, say, Chris… Lefevre hasn't said a word to me about… well, you know…'

'Pushing me out the window?'

He flinched and glanced furtively around. 'Well, yes. I was starting to think maybe you changed your mind about telling him?'

At that moment I got one of the best ideas of my life. 'I didn't change my mind, I just wanted to talk to you first. Maybe we can make a deal.'

His eyes, no more than a foot from mine, narrowed appraisingly. I was speaking his language. 'What kind of deal?'

I took a deep breath. 'You give Mann that Flinck, and I won't say anything to Lefevre.'

It wasn't what he'd been expecting. His arm came away from my shoulder. 'No deal.'

'Okay,' I said, and began to turn away.

'All right, deal,' he said.

I felt like cheering. Instead, I let out what was left of that deep breath. 'I'll call Mann tonight. I'll tell him he can expect it next week.'

'Next week-! Oh, hell, all right, next weekm you win.'

But I could see that he thought he'd gotten off cheap-I thought so too-and I decided to push my luck a little, in my own interests. 'There's one other thing, Christian. That self-portrait of your father under the 'Leger.' I'm assuming Froger isn't going to want to touch it, which means it would go to you.'

He kept his eyes fixed on mine, like a wary fighter in the ring. 'Yes, so?'

'It doesn't have any value. I'd like very much to have it.'

He was surprised, but he couldn't have been much more so than I was. The idea had popped into my mind without forethought. I wasn't even sure why I wanted it, I just knew I did.

Christian folded his thick arms and tipped his head to the side. The earring gleamed. ' I'll make a deal with you. You promise me not to go around blabbing about those paintings downstairs… and you can take it back with you when you go home.'

'You mean those old Dutch and French pictures?'

'No, I mean the modern stuff.'

That was what I thought he meant. I understood by now why Christian had been so eager to get his hands on the scrapbook. He wasn't interested in protecting his father's name or anything like it; he was interested in burying the evidence that the twenty-five or so modernist pictures in the cellar were all counterfeits, painted by Rene Vachey. Christian Vachey, unlike his father, wouldn't hesitate for a moment-could hardly wait, in fact-to start selling them off to the overeager or the undercautious as long-lost originals by Leger, Gris, et al.

And once that happened, they would be around for decades, periodically surfacing to foul things up in the auction houses, in scholarship, and in the art world in general. 'Sorry, I can't do that,' I said, 'but I'll tell you what I can do.' I almost laughed as I said it. I was starting to sound like an M.B.A. myself.

What I could do, I told Christian, was to put him in touch with a London gallery that sold forgeries as forgeries, clearly marked. (Yes, truly, there are such places.) When the forger was famous and the forgeries notorious, the pictures could sell for fifteen or twenty thousand dollars. Considering the tangled story of upper-crust revenge and murder that was about to hit the world's presses, these could well be worth even more, which meant that Christian himself could probably clear fifteen thousand apiece on them.

His eyelids whirred, probably from the calculations going on behind them. Twenty-five pictures at $15,000 came to $375,000, whereas he'd been hoping for the millions that would have come from slowly passing off the fakes as originals. But he knew I wasn't going to let him get away with that.

The whirring stopped. 'All right, deal,' he said again. 'You son of a bitch.'

'I'll call you,' I said.

'I can hardly wait.'

As he left, Calvin and Anne came up. Anne handed me a glass of champagne.

'Not that we meant to eavesdrop-' Anne said.

'Hey, perish the thought,' said Calvin.

'-but did we or did we not just hear you talk Christian out of Vachey's self-portrait?'

'You did,' I said, highly pleased with my performance overall. I was imagining Mann's reaction to the news about his beloved Flinck.

'What for?'

'What for do I want Vachey's picture? To hang in my office.'

Anne blinked. 'Christopher Norgren is going to have a Leger in his office-and a fake Leger at that?'

I laughed. 'As a reminder,' I said.

She made a face. 'Of what?'

I hardly knew how to explain. 'I don't know… of an extraordinary man, of a weird few days, of getting out of here alive, of-'

'How about of how fundamentally full of crap all these art experts are?' Calvin volunteered.

'Calvin-' I began indignantly.

'Sometimes,' he quickly added.

I considered the emendation. 'Calvin,' I said, 'you got it.'

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