By Janice McCaffrey
Meet Madge Wood, a sixty-something widow having her plans interrupted throughout her life has stolen the self-confidence she’d once known. But feeling unusually brave she sets out to experience her last plan. A trip to Monaco, a ride up the “To Catch a Thief” cliffside road, wearing a long, pink, Grace Kelly-like scarf that catches the sunlight as it flies in the wind, and a visit to Princess Grace’s Palace. What could possibly interrupt that?
An antique ring, thugs accosting her, enigmatic men offering assistance, and an opportunity to change ancient history. As Madge says, “You’re not going to believe it. I wouldn’t either—except I lived it.”
May 11, 2016
Monte Carlo, Monaco
I sat at a vintage mahogany vanity in awe of my reflection in its oval mirror. The deep, midnight-blue dress I wore had illusion-lace long-sleeves and jewel neckline. No need for a necklace. Blue-on-blue embroidered designs of vines and flowers adorned the sleeves and fitted bodice giving it a strapless look.
The full A-line taffeta skirt’s hem brushed the top of my ankles. The dress fit well and hid sagging skin. The reflection of a beautiful woman, with too-short, red-violet-copper-hair, smiled back at me. A head-squeezing band of pearls gave my new do a subtle elegance.
Jason obeyed my “Come in” command and sat on the end of the bed behind me.
I concentrated on the finishing touches to my toilette: makeup, hair, perfume. Oh, the perfume. My Sin. I closed my eyes as I inhaled its rich aroma. “This takes me way back.” Sigh. “A sailor once gave me My Sin that he brought from one of his Mediterranean tours.” Sigh. “I wonder where he is today.”
“Don’t let nostalgia cloud your thinking. Here’s the plan.” All business-like Jason jumped to his feet and paced the short path around the hotel room. “We’ll enter the casino at eleven p.m. and walk to the service counter. From there you’re on your own. Purchase one-thousand euros worth of chips. Once in the gaming room proceed to a roulette table. Make modest bets. Those chips need to last till midnight.”
I nodded to Jason’s reflection in the mirror to signify my understanding.
“At the strike of twelve a stranger will approach you and ask, ‘Do you come to Monte Carlo often?’ You’ll answer, ‘No, this is my first time.’ He’ll comment, ‘I’m surprised, you look quite at home.’ Then he’ll say ‘The rain in Spain . . .’ And you’ll say—”
“Don’t tell me, ‘falls mainly on the plain.’” I stood and faced him. “Are you kidding?”
After a giant sigh Jason answered, “No, I’m not kidding. I didn’t make it up. I’m telling you what I was told.”
“Who told you this dumb stuff?” I asked a little too indignantly.
“Madge, take a breath.” The warm pressure of his hands relaxed my shoulders. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? Let’s just go along with it, OK?”
Releasing air from my lungs I conceded, “I guess not. OK what’s next?”
Jason straightened his back and sounded all official again. “Then he’ll ask if he can buy you a drink and you should accept. He’ll escort you to a table and order. When he invites you to leave with him accept that too. He’s ready to locate the portal you need to continue your journey.”
My brow furrowed. “I leave with him? How do I know I can trust him?”
“Well, Madge, do you trust me?”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with trusting some stranger?”
Jason held my face in his hands and looked deep into my eyes. “You trust me, and I trust him, isn’t that enough?”
I put my hands on his. “I guess. OK. What’s this guy look like? How will I know him?”
His shoulders sagged. “Madge, you’ll know him from the code phrases. Haven’t you ever seen a spy movie?”
I clinched my jaw and shook my head. What nonsense.
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