Leo holds one of the silver goblets, slowly turning the stem between his white-gloved thumb and middle finger. Light and shadow reveal a biblical story depicted in the painstaking repousse and chased work. He nods. Two curators step forward and bring the last of Leo’s selections to the table set up near the door leading to the vestry. The hand-smoothed stones of the church walls seem to emit tiny tendrils of centuries-old incense smoke; the scent twining with the earthiness of the ancient trees and moat. Leo can almost taste the breath and tears of his ancestors.
“Shipment will be made today,” the bishop says. “We wish you a most pleasant rest of your stay, Monseigneur.”
Outside the waiting chauffeur makes a discrete kissing noise into his cell phone before sliding it into his breast pocket, and opens the car’s back door. “To the hotel, Jean-Luc.” Leo says as he speed-dials his banker to arrange the transfer of funds from his Andorra account. Jean-Luc tips his hat and closes Leo’s door.
“Oh, Monseigneur!” The younger of the curators calls, rushing out of the church’s heavy wood door. “We would like your expertise on a matter, please.” Leo follows him back inside and is led to the dimly lit basement.
“We almost forgot.” The curator offers a slight bow of an apology, and indicates three tables covered with military uniforms, an assortment of firearms and blade weapons, as well as bound volumes and loose documents. Leo approaches and notices SS insignia on a helmet.
“Not my area of specialty.” He says and turns to leave.
“Of course,” the elder curator says. “We are aware.” His baritone at odds with his slight, sharp frame. He leans forward, palms flat on the middle table.
Leo pauses. He turns back, looking closer. He walks the length of the tables. Then he understands.
“We merely request a figure with which to work.”
Leo holds his gaze; still and unblinking.
After a few moments he offers a lighthearted shrug. “At a glance, nothing of note.” He says with a light wave of his hand. “Simply military artifacts, none of which appears rare; German origin.”
“Would you be able to be a little more precise?” The elder curator says in clipped insistence. His eyes gleam a muted malice.
“Refer to the average of the four most recent private auctions as a guide.” Leo says and walks out.
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See the beginning of this story here.