"Have you seen my ring?"
Tova came to the doorway of the kitchen where Sam was at the stove, stirring a pot of oatmeal. He held up his left hand to display the simple gold band on his ring-finger.
"I tell you, darlin', if you wear it you always know where it is."
"You know I can't wear jewellery when I'm sleeping or showering, Sam – that's why there wasn't any point in you getting me another ring when we got married, as I'm sure you remember. Besides, you know how much your grandmother's ring means to me, and I do always know where it is. I put it in my mother's jewellery box whenever I take it off, and I know I did that last night, but it isn't there now. And don't – wait, why are you looking like that?"
Sam moved his troubled gaze from the porridge to Tova's face. "The window was open when I come in from the store this morning. I know I closed it before bed and I don't reckon you got up in the night and took the screen out to invite someone in. I fixed it," he added, when she went to examine the window over the sink.
"So," she summarized, trying not to sound hysterical, "you were at the store and I was in the shower and someone climbed the tree, removed the screen and – where was the screen?"
"I had to go down and get it. It was on the ground under the tree."
"So they pulled out the screen, dropped it, squeezed through the window, climbed out of the sink – and all for an old ring whose only value is sentimental? Really?"
"We were out of evaporated milk," Sam said helplessly. "I know how much you like your porridge with evaporated milk on it. I was only gone for a few minutes."
"Oh, Sam." Tova went and wrapped her arms around him, kissing his worried face. "It's not your fault. As long as I still have you, I can live without the ring. It's just weird, that's all."
"It's more than just weird. I guess you know what I'm thinkin', after yesterday."
Sam winced at the name, but nodded, and Tova continued, "But why would he go to that trouble? I mean, how could it be worth his while to take a risk like that?"
"I think it's all about power. You recall how he tried to get that ring from you once before."
"Power? Sam, this is real life, not one of your stories."
"I'm gonna let that one pass, seein' as how you ain't had your breakfast yet. Let's get some sustenance into us and then we'll talk. Got to keep our wits about us," he muttered.
He ladled the cooked cereal into two bowls and carried them to the table, which was already set with the necessary condiments. After pulling out a chair for his wife, he sat himself down across from her and said, "Dig in."
Once she'd had a few mouthfuls of food and a few sips of tea, Tova apologized. "I'm sorry for what I said about your stories. And your ideas."
"S'alright, sugar. I knew it was just hunger and frustration doin' the talkin'. We'll get your ring back, don't you worry."
"I think it's time to get the police involved in this, as they say."
"Yeah? Well, sure – we could contact that nice Detective Jewell who helped us when I was, uh, sick."
Tova was silent for a moment, and then she said, "Did you meet the same Detective Jewell I did? Because the one I met was gruff, bossy, suspicious ... admittedly quite attractive ... and a fan of your writing ... she was probably nicer to you than she was to me."
"Remember that I was in a pitiable condition, so it's no surprise if she was. And in her job, you'd want her to be suspicious. And gruff and bossy probably comes in handy too, 'specially since, as you say, she's both a pretty lady and a visible minority. Can't have been easy for her."
"Okay. Regardless, she'd be the one to call. She already knows the backstory."
Detective Jewell was at their apartment within the hour. She was a tall, graceful African-Canadian woman, wearing lace-up shoes and a man's suit which failed to hide her generous curves. She positioned herself solidly in front of their kitchen window as Tova and Sam described the events of the past few days. After a while she pulled a pen and notebook from her jacket pocket.
"So you say they took nothing besides your ring," she addressed Tova, and before she could answer, turned to Sam. "You're sure it was Mr. Dickson you saw yesterday? You know you should have reported it."
"We're reporting it now," Tova answered back.
"Mm-hmm." Detective Jewell had turned away and was examining the window-ledge over the sink, her hands encased in clear plastic gloves. "You shouldn't have put the screen back, though I understand why you did. We'll check for prints. Mr. Dickson is blond, is he not?" she asked, holding up a few golden hairs which she'd found adhered to the window frame. "These clearly don't belong to either of you."
She bagged the hairs, which were three or four inches long, and asked to see Tova's jewellery box. Tova led her to the bedroom.
"Wait," the detective commanded, as she paused in the doorway and crouched down. "Do either of you own a pair of Converse All-Stars?"
"Did it go as you had hoped?" Esther murmured to Or-Tikva as she rejoined the party.
"My heart has never felt so healthy," the other replied. "They thanked me most graciously, and assured me they knew the way back to their home."
"You are a true hero, my friend."
A few paces later, Ayelet looked back at their Majesties. "Lady Or has returned safely to us!" she called softly to her comrades. "But - you are on foot. What has become of your noble steeds?"
"Lady Or has set the horses free," Esther announced. "Let us say a prayer of thanks."
And the women bowed their heads in awe.
YOU ARE READING
Once upon a time there was a warrior queen who loved peace ... Mild-mannered writer Samuel J. Burnside is working on his latest adventure story, set in ancient Susa, where Queen Esther is teaching former harem slaves how to fight! But can Sam's new...