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Chapter 1

Arson. The word and its implications echoed inside thirty seven year old Narice Jordan like remnants of a bad dream. Arson. No matter where she turned the word was there, laughing, taunting, reminding her that the fire responsible for her father's death had been deliberately set. According to the Detroit police a person or persons unknown had poured gasoline around the perimeter of Simon Jordan's home then, tossed in a match. The memorial celebrating his life had been held this afternoon, and now nine hours later, a broken hearted Narice stood waiting in her motel room for a cab to the Detroit airport for her 6am flight back home to Baltimore .

She hadn't been able to sleep so, she was starting at a twenty four hour stretch with no rest. Both mind and spirit were exhausted. The cab company dispatcher promised the driver would arrive by 4:45. According to the gold watch on Narice's brown wrist it was just about that time now.

As if cued, a knock sounded on the door. “Who is it?” she asked through the wood. A peek through the tiny spy hole showed a short stocky brother dressed in an ill fitting olive green suit.

“You called a cab?”

Narice undid the locks and opened up. “Yes, I did.”

He showed her a smile. “You Ms. Jordan? Going to the airport?”

She nodded. “Let me get my bag.” Narice had already settled her bill courtesy of the check out service on the TV, so she had no need to go down to the desk. She took a quick look around the room to make sure she hadn't left anything behind. Satisfied, she grabbed up her purse and the handle on the wheeled suitcase. Exiting, she closed the door softly behind her.

It was 430 am and dark. The air was still close and sticky like it is sometimes in mid July. As she followed the driver down the stairs she could feel the heat building up inside her black suit, but she paid it little mind. She was too busy mentally blessing the cabbie for being early. She hated rushing through airports.

The yellow cab glowed eerily under the glare of the big lights ringing the parking lot. The heels of her pumps clicked loudly on the pavement. The driver opened the passenger door and took the suitcase from her. “I'll put it in the trunk. You get on in.”

Before doing so, Narice fished around in her shoulder bag to make sure she had her ticket. After putting her hands on it, she bent to get into the back seat and froze at the sight of the well dressed White man in the corner with the gun in his hand. “Come in, Ms. Jordan . I've been waiting for you.”

Fear made her instinctively back up and away but the stocky body of the driver firmly blocked her path.

“Get in,” the cabbie ordered.

“No!' she yelled, but before she could tense her body for fight, the driver stuck a gun in her ribs. She stilled.

He whispered harshly. “Do you want your family to bury you, too?”

Narice's head snapped around. Did he know something about her father's death. Afraid, she said, “Who are you?”

He answered by forcing her into the cab. The door slammed shut beside her and her fear climbed. She eyed the man in the shadowy corner. He was smiling. “Put on your seat belt, Ms. Jordan . We wouldn't want anything to happen to you.”

She eyed the man warily, “Where are you taking me?” Every horror imaginable played vividly through her mind.

“Just put on your belt.”

Auto safety was not her concern. “Where are we going?”

“Relax. No one's going to hurt you.”

Relaxing was impossible; she was scared to death. As the cab pulled away, she

prayed someone had seen her being pushed into the cab and that they would call the police, but she didn't hold much hope.

They left the motel lot without incident, turned onto Woodward and headed downtown. Narice could see a few other cars traveling the same route, but at this time of morning traffic was sparse. The cab stopped at a red light and a police car cruised up and stopped in the lane over. Narice's hope soared. She had to let them now she needed help. She gave a quick look over at the man seated in the shadows. He had his gun pointed her way. “Sit back against the seat, Ms. Jordan . Slowly, please.”

Her hope withered. Tight lipped, she complied. A few seconds later she watched the light turn green. The police rode beside the cab through the next two lights, then the officers must have received a call because their car suddenly accelerated. Lights flashing, they roared away.

Narice felt very alone. Another look over at the shadowy man showed his slow pleased smile. She was fighting to keep herself under control so she could think, but it was hard. What was this about? Where was she being taken? Who were these men? A million questions screamed for answers. “Where are you taking me?”

“The better question, is why?”

Her reply was terse. “Okay, I'll bite. Why?”

“Because you hold the key to a long lost treasure.”

“What kind of treasure?”

“A beautiful blue diamond known as the Eye of Sheba.”

Narice had no idea what he was talking about. “I think you snatched the wrong person. I don't know anything about a diamond.”

“But your father did.”

Narice stilled. She studied him for a moment and wondered what was really going on here. She noted that he'd spoken about her father in the past tense. “You knew my father?”

“Once upon a time. Yes.”

“He died in a house fire last week.”

“I know.”

“The police are calling it arson. Do you know who set the fire?”

“If I tell you too much now, you may not tell me what I wish to know later. Let's just enjoy the ride, shall we?”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Arthur Ridley and that is the last answer I intend to give.”