The waiter was just arriving with my soup when the sound of arguing shook me out of my reverie. A man in a very sharp suit, with a red tie and his hair combed back was arguing with one of the museum staff.
“I placed it there. I know it. The emblem, it’s gone”.
“Keep your voice down”, hushed the man in the red tie, “It’s got to be here somewhere. But we need to find it before midnight tonight. That’s when the gala and ball ends. Otherwise we’re all goners”.
I smiled softly to myself. Everything was going according to plan.
I’ve always had a passion for antiques. I am fascinated by the symbolism attached to emblems and the significance people attach to them as objects of power. The eagle standards, carried by the Roman Legions and Napoleons army, drove soldiers to great acts of bravery and sacrifice. Likewise for the regimental colours, held in such high esteem by the British army. To lose these emblems meant a great loss of face and disgrace to the soldiers. Likewise relics of Catholic Saints and various crystals were thought to have powers to heal. However, the one emblem that had haunted me all my life was Veronica’s Vale and now I had the chance to add it to my collection.
The Veil of Veronica is a Christian relic of a piece of cloth, which according to tradition, bears the likeness of the face of Jesus not made by human hand. The image was imprinted when Veronica wiped the face of Jesus at the sixth station of the cross. For the last ten years my agents had been searching for the Veil and had only recently discovered that it was stolen from a private collection to be handed over to the man with the red tie this very night. However, $10 million had assured that the Veil would be in my hands to-night.
Federico, my most trusted agent, appeared in the doorway and beckoned me. I followed him to a secluded alcove at the back of the museum where a furtive stranger awaited.
” Do you have the Veil” I enquired with breathless anticipation. He nodded his head.
“How do I know it’s authentic” I said.
” Trust me” said the stranger “it’s authentic, I guarantee it”.
” I need proof” I said “or no money”.
The stranger smiling, placing his left hand on my right shoulder. I stared bemusedly into his face as he slid the knife between the ribs into my heart. I descended into darkness. I was stumbling in the dark, my hands reaching out in desperation trying to find my way. A dim light suddenly appeared before me, growing in intensity. I saw the outline of a man crowned with thorns, suffering intense pain. He approached and stood over me. A drop of blood, from the crown of thorns, fell on me and I returned to oblivion.
Someone was slapping my face gently. I awoke to see the strangers smiling face hovering over mine and the Veil of Veronica laying atop my jacket over my heart. I transferred the $10 million to the strangers account a second later.