Chapter Nineteen

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A confused and awkward silence filled the small office.

"This hardly seems like a time to be celebrating," Welkin sniffed.

Undeterred, Grant strode into the room and leaned against a dusty and discarded desk covered in stacks of old newspapers. "I made a few phone calls and, as luck would have it, your timing couldn't be better. Necar Devereaux is holding one of her auction galas tomorrow night and we have scored a private audience with her majesty herself."

"No way!" Lety almost fell through the door with surprise. "How did you pull that off?"

Grant gave her a lopsided grin. "Nothing gets the attention of a black market goods baroness quite like telling her you'll be in the company of the Gardeners' daughter." He pointed at May and gave her a wink. "She's very interested in meeting you, missy."

"Wait, back up," May said, frowning. "What's a black market goods baroness?"

"Necar Devereaux runs the most profitable black market auctions in the country," Lety replied. Her eyes shone with admiration. "She's ridiculously well connected — if you have something hot and pricey you want to move, she's your ticket to the best cash out."

"If Oli and Dawn found a buyer for the wishing star before they were caught, Necar would have been the one to arrange the deal," Grant added. "And if they managed to hand it off to someone else, there's a good chance she's heard something about it over the years. She's the best starting point we could ask for."

May lit up, her heart lifting with excitement and promise. "That's fantastic news! Grant, you're amazing!"

"Don't get too excited," he cautioned. "This is just the first step. It's going to be up to you to convince Necar to open up. A big part of the reason she's so well connected is she's notorious for keeping details of her buyers and sellers under tight wraps. We've got 36 hours to get you ready to win her over."

Taking a deep breath, May nodded. She had no idea what it would take to win the trust of a career criminal like Necar Deveraux, but she had to try.

Grant, sensing her worry, gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, you won't have to go it alone. I'll be there every step of the way. Which reminds me, they're only letting three of us in the door. Lety, I know you'd love to be there but I'm going to need you behind the wheel."

Ever the consummate soldier, Lety didn't let the news phase her. "All good, boss."

"That leaves you two." Grant looked between Welkin and Dom. "Who's it going to be?"

Dom threw both hands up and took a step back. "As fun as this soiree sounds, the fanciest thing I've ever been on is a date, and even calling that fancy is pushing it. I'm conceding victory, good buddy." He gave a little bow to Welkin.

"If experience is the barometer of suitability then I'm afraid neither of us should be going," Welkin replied, smoothing the front of their robes with careful hands. "That said, I would like to be privy to this conversation."

"Alright, sounds like we're set." Grant stood tall with a loud clap of his hands.

"Wait," May said. "This means you weren't kidding when you said you hoped we had something nice to wear, doesn't it?"

Lety laughed. "You heard the man say it's a gala, didn't you?"

"Well then, we've got a problem. It's not like I carry a cocktail dress in my backpack," May snarked

Welkin glanced down at themself. "I am wearing every article of clothing I own."

Grant dismissed their concern with a wave. "We can take care of it. Lety, can I get you to pay a visit to our friend Yumi? See if she can set our guests up with something nice. And when you're done with that, let's get the town car shined up, the one with the white walls."

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