Chapter Twenty-Four

Rose sat back, stunned, trying to get her mind around what Mr. Hammond was saying. He watched her, obviously pleased with himself for having at long last played his trump card.

"How?" was all Rose could manage.

"I thought your orphan story a bit suspect, and I knew Molly wouldn't have asked me to secure a safety box for you unless you had something quite valuable to place in it. I found out you weren't carrying the item with you, whatever it was, back in April, and it wasn't in your hotel room either, so I figured you had probably stashed it in the hotel safe. That intrigued me to no end…What could the poor, shipwrecked girl have that was so precious?"

Understanding suddenly flooded over Rose.

"YOU sent that…man…to steal my bag!"

Hammond didn't reply but his wicked smile spoke volumes.

"And you have had someone following me all along!" she continued, her ire rising.

"Keep your voice down, Miss Bukater," he snapped, glancing around.

Rose felt the name hit her like a slap across the face.

"Don't call me that," she said, quietly.

Rose considered denying the existence of the necklace, but she suspected that Hammond already knew its every detail. But how?

"Cal sent you?" she ventured.

"Hockley? That pompous ass doesn't know anything about this….yet."

"Then how did you find out about the diamond?"

"It took some digging, but I finally uncovered your true identity a few months ago. Wasn't really too difficult, if one had a reason to look in the first place. The thing of it was, it didn't seem worth much, even with a rich boyfriend like Hockley, but the mysterious item in your box still nagged at me. I began to suspect that I was on the trail of something big.

"Just before all the trouble with that punk boyfriend of Gina's one of my men in Philadelphia turned up an interesting item: Seemed our Mr. Rich Boy signed a very hush-hush insurance settlement for one 'Heart of the Ocean'…a diamond necklace worth at least $2 million. THAT got my undivided attention. My man also discovered that Hockley and his fiancée had had a major falling out on Titanic and that she had stormed off in a huff. I didn't have to be a genius to add two and two and realize you were wearing the necklace when you left him, the boat sank, and Hockley thought you were dead and the necklace lost forever."

Rose's mind bounced all over, considering the implications of what she was hearing. Her eyes widened further.

"YOU'RE the one who had my apartment ransacked!"

"I see you're putting it all together. I knew from my sources uptown that you'd been to the bank that morning and I took a chance that, for whatever reason, you had brought the jewel home," he said. "No such luck."

Rose took a deep breath, trying to slow her pounding heart. Hammond didn't seem intent on exposing her, so she tried to concentrate on figuring out what he DID want.

"Since the necklace has been reported lost and is quite unique, you could never sell it or even show it without arousing suspicion. What good would it do you?" she asked.

"As a 56 carat diamond, you're right, it would be of no real value to me. But, from the way it has been described, it could easily yield several large stones if cut by a master jeweler. Half a million is plenty. I'm not greedy, Miss Bukater."

Hammond laughed at his own joke.

"And you think I would just hand it over to you?" Rose asked.

His smile quickly dissipated and his features hardened.

"If you know what's good for you. I know that you are plenty brave with your own life, but I trust you understand that I am aware of every important person in your life, and I'm sure you wouldn't want anything to happen to any of them, now would you?"

Rose shook her head sharply, physically jolted by his words. She could hardly believe what was transpiring. Hammond turned and whistled for the barmaid.

"Bring us two whiskeys, neat, please," he ordered.

His eyes returned to Rose.

"I think we could both use a stiff drink about now, Miss Dawson." He said the name with a sneer, sadistically twisting the knife when it was already buried to the hilt. "Dawson. I could never figure out where that came from."

Rose tried to ignore the sudden tug at her heart.

"You didn't really care if Anthony had hurt me or not," she said, trying to match his scathing tone.

"Of course not, but I couldn't trust that hot-headed fool not to kill you by mistake and screw up the whole works."

"You're an unconscionable bastard," Rose hissed. "I can't believe Molly hired someone like you."

"Molly is just a country girl, out-matched trying to deal with real businessmen. She's too easily manipulated, and she doesn't keep too close an eye on her money around people she trusts. She won't have her fortune for long."

Poor Molly, Rose thought, trusting this cad…. God, today had been so wonderful and now it feels like a ton of bricks has fallen on me. What do I do? Gina, Cora… I couldn't bear to see them hurt…Should I just give him the diamond?

The barmaid returned with their drinks and Hammond downed his in one gulp, signaling for another.

You need time to think.

She reached for her glass with a shaky hand and knocked it over, spilling the liquor all over her dress.

"Oh, damn," she said, wiping off what she could. "I need to clean this up."

Hammond eyed her suspiciously.

"Don't try anything," he said.

"Where would I go?" she asked as she walked towards the ladies room.

Rose sat on a settee, absentmindedly drying her dress.

What can I do? I don't want to endanger my friends, and I know he is quite capable of following up on his threats. It's just a stone; I don't care what it's worth…Cal was really the only one who cared about that… Cal…

Does Hammond really know much about our relationship and my past life? Maybe not….

A dozen thoughts careened through her head at once and her mind sifted through them all, weighing each. Suddenly, one crystallized and she turned it over and over in her mind, looking for faults.


She rejoined Hammond at their table. Reaching across, she grabbed his half-filled glass and abruptly drained the remainder, smacking it back down in front of him.

"You can't have it," she stated tersely.

His face clouded, his eyes growing colder still.

"You'll regret this, Rose. I can make your life hell."

"No doubt, but should you try, I'll simply have my bank send the jewel to Cal. It will just show up mysteriously on his doorstep one day, and I would disappear before he could trace it to me. You'll be right back where you started, with nothing to show for all your time and effort."

"I WILL be paid for my time somehow, Miss Bukater."

Rose shivered.

"Look, I don't want Cal to ever know that I am still alive; I think you've figured that out by now. I had to get away from him, and Titanic just presented me with the opportunity. Still, the 'Heart' is his and I never intended to sell it or keep it…I would have returned it to him eventually.

"I am not just going to give the jewel to you, and I'm quite sure you won't take 'no' for an answer, so we are at an impasse. If you will give me some time to think about this, perhaps there is some solution that will be profitable to both of us, so that you can get what you want."

As Rose had hoped, the businessman in Mr. Hammond perked up at her proposal, but the spark it brought to his eyes was short-lived, deep suspicion quickly pushing it aside.

"How do I know that you won't bolt, or send the necklace to Hockley?"

"I'm quite aware of your capabilities, Mr. Hammond, and you know me. Do you think I would frivolously jeopardize my friends' welfare? I just need time to think this through."

He stared at her, unmoving, considering her request.

"NO! Give me the necklace. If you refuse, I'll tell Hockley… hell, I'll tell EVERYONE…that you are alive and living here, and I will see to it that your little friend Cora has a most unfortunate… accident."

Rose's heart filled with horror at the thought of harm coming to Cora. She fought to keep her voice steady.

"If you thought there was much profit in doing any of that you'd have done it already….No, I need one week."

He glared at her. Suddenly, a smirk creased his lips.

"You're a stubborn one, and too smart for your own good. I'll bet Hockley had his hands full with you."

She ignored the barb.

"Well meet next week, Sunday, at the stables. You know where that is?" she asked.

"Of course."

"One o'clock, then."

Rose stood up to leave. Hammond grabbed her hand roughly. His touch sent more shivers racing down her spine.

"No funny business. Sunday you'd better have made the right decision."

Rose pulled her hand free and, without another word, strode out into the fading daylight.

She returned home after the confrontation determined not to allow the situation to affect anyone else. She waved away the import of her discussions with him when Gina asked, chalking it up to some loose ends that had needed to be cleared up. That night, Rose lay under the covers, sleep the farthest thing from her mind. She had uneasily settled on a course of action, but still questions arose; ones she had great difficulty answering.

Is that necklace so important to me, important enough to risk Hammond's wrath? On Titanic, I would have thrown it at him, bid it good riddance. It had no value to me; not $2 million, not 2 cents. Now, it's priceless to me. It's all I have left to look at, to hold, to remind me of Jack. Our only connection. It was the touchstone that finally bound us together forever.

But it's only a stone. Jack lives in my mind; is it so important to have the 'Heart' as well?

Gina had called Hammond an 'angel'. Some angel he turned out to be!

I could just tell him 'no', let him do what he would….No, his type will not just go away. Yet if I give in, that may not be the end of it, either. Once a blackmailer, always a blackmailer.

He will follow through on his threats, unless…

"Are you okay, Rose?"

Rose startled as Gina's voice shattered the absolute quiet of the room.

"Yes…just a little wound up after today's activities, is all."

"Want to talk?"

Rose looked at the outline of her friend, rolled on her side on the cot, face masked by the dark.

"Thanks, but I'm fine. Go back to sleep."

No point in getting Gina involved in this mess, Rose thought. At least, not yet.

She stared at the shifting shadows cast upon the ceiling by the street-lamps outside, and soon heard the measured, rhythmic breathing signaling Gina was again asleep.

I have made such good friends, and I can't let them suffer, I can't. Maybe I should just throw the necklace into the river; then no one would have it.

No, Hammond would never believe that; he'd think I was lying. It wouldn't solve anything.

And I couldn't bear to throw it away, anyway.

I could leave…simply vanish one day….but if I did, I could never be sure Hammond wouldn't harm Gina or Cora, trying to find me through them.

God, I pray I am doing the right thing. I pray for the safety of my friends.


"Mr. Mole" gave up all pretense of disguise and followed Rose overtly starting the next morning. Gina asked about his obvious presence and Rose said that Mr. Hammond had desired a final assurance that Anthony was gone before ending the surveillance.

I hate lying to Gina, Rose thought, but it's for her own good for right now.

While at work that morning, Rose mulled her plan over and over in her mind.

The more I think about it, the more this makes sense. Now, I just need to prepare myself.

During her compilation of Mr. Souster's afternoon correspondence Rose asked if she could add a telegraph of her own to his out-going business, and he assented. She jotted down her message and sandwiched it into the pile as she handed them to the runner from Western Union.

There, she thought, the die is cast. Now I just have to make it until Sunday without going mad from anxiety.

Rose received a succinct reply to her telegram on Wednesday morning, the phrasing so familiar that she could hear the essence of the voice in the words. She hardly slept the rest of the week, her internal turmoil filling every space between thoughts.

This has to end here, one way or another.


Rose arrived at the stables well before noon on Sunday, her heart racing. She asked Sean to grant her some privacy but he was leery of leaving, afraid of appearing to his father to be shirking his duties. When Rose offered to feed and water the stock, as well as handle any emergencies that would arise, only then did he finally relax. He jumped at her suggestion to use a few hours of the afternoon to take a long ride on Faith, and boy and horse departed in short order. Rose went into the tack room and opened the fire door along the back wall, one that led out onto a narrow alleyway behind the building. She used a small rock to prop door slightly ajar.

She walked Red out of his stall and led him around the enclosed area and then out onto the road. As they slowly circled the block Rose eyed his movements. His hoof had fully healed and his stride was once again strong and perfect. Listening to the sound of Red's quiet breathing helped Rose to relax somewhat, to calm the churning of her insides. Red pranced, anticipating being ridden, but instead, after about half an hour, Rose led him back into the paddock and tied him in front of Faith's empty stall. She began brushing his coat, stroking and patting until it gleamed, and then, almost compulsively, brushing the same spots over again.

The crunch of approaching footsteps on the gravel outside caused her to turn. Mr. Hammond stood in the doorway, back-lit by the stark winter sun.

He advanced without greeting and laid a hand flat on the flank of the horse.

"I've heard all about you fishing him from the Hudson…pretty gutsy for a girl," he said.

Rose found she resented even his mere touching of Red. She shivered and continued brushing the colt.

"Okay, Rose, you've had your week. What's it to be, then?"

"I can't give you the diamond." She stopped her work and looked directly at Hammond. "Cal really deserves to have his property back, despite our falling out. You may threaten me, my friends, but I would feel forever guilty if I allowed that stone to be cut to pieces. He was so proud of that necklace, of all it represented…it was everything to him. It was touching that he wanted me to have it…we were together for just a year…

"No, I can't give it to you," she repeated, with finality.

"That's not acceptable! You don't have a choice!"

"You are wrong," she shot back strongly.

Hammond flinched, slightly shocked at being rebuffed so directly.

"You sent it to Hockley already!"


Rose put the brush down and gently patted Red's neck.

"Mr. Hammond, I have a business proposition for you, one that will allow me to return the jewel to its rightful owner and allow you to profit handsomely, as well."

"Go on."

"What is the usual fee for recovering merchandise or facilitating a business deal?"

"Depends… Ten percent, or thereabouts."

"Okay, here's what I propose. I still have feelings for Cal, for his happiness, even after all these months, and I want him to have what is rightfully his, but I also don't ever want to see him again or even have him be aware that I am still alive. It would be hard for me to return his necklace without questions being raised. In a strange way, you have presented me with a solution to this dilemma. If you were to tell him that you discovered it among some stolen goods, found out it had been recovered from a Titanic victim's belongings and then traced it back to him, he would surely pay you a reward."

"He's already collected the insurance money. He'd have to return all of the settlement," Hammond responded.

"Oh, I'm quite sure he'll find a way to deal with all of that," she said. Quite sure. "Ten percent of $2 million is plenty of money for anyone, and it would be above-board."

Hammond stared at her, his mind weighing the possibilities.

"And what do YOU want out of this arrangement?" he asked.

"If you mean money, I don't want any of Cal's fortune. It was the cause of all of our problems in the first place. This just gives me a chance to return the necklace to him without revealing myself, to make things right, if you will. I get my peace and you get your money."

Hammond looked slowly around the paddock before responding, thinking her offer over.

"All right. You give me the jewel, I'll contact Hockley and make all the arrangements."

Rose shook her head.

"Mr. Hammond, after all this time, do you think I'm stupid or naïve?"

He snorted, a half-laugh escaping his lips.

"Women have been known to be," he answered.

Oh really? Rose thought, smiling inwardly. I didn't even have to lead you to it.

"You mean Molly?" she asked.

He laughed again at the mention of the name.

"A little sweet talk, and all common sense and caution go out the window."

"Molly trusted you. Are you saying you've swindled her?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but she has so much money, she won't notice. It's easy to take a little here, a little there; as I said, country girls don't belong in business."

Rose eyed him curiously.

"You're not afraid I'll tell her about all of this?"

"You planning to blackmail me, Rose?" he asked, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise.

"Your mind works in ways mine never could. I guess I am naïve, as well. I would tell her simply because she's my friend. I don't need to blackmail anyone."

"Friendship, huh?" he responded, and snickered once again. "She wouldn't believe you anyway.

"Okay, Rose, what is the plan for Hockley?"

"Contact him, explain how you came to have the necklace and arrange to have him meet you at…at the Waldorf, next Saturday. You'll take a suite there, impress him that you are serious, and I'll have the 'Heart' delivered to the room as soon as I know Cal is with you. Once I'm assured that you've made the exchange, I'll be on my way and we will never speak again."

Hammond feigned a hurt expression.

"Oh, Rosie…I had hoped we'd be friends for life!"

Rose resisted the urge to slap him with all her might. They walked across the paddock to the stable entrance.

"Fine," Hammond continued. "I will contact you again as soon as the plans are set with Hockley. And…'partner'…"

He pronounced the word with as much sham sweetness as he could muster.

"…DON'T think of double-crossing me!"

Rose didn't feel his admonition deserved comment. She stood, arms wrapped tightly around her to ward off the cold, and watched until he had made his way to the corner and turned out of sight. She looked up and down the length of the quiet street. There was not a soul to be seen, but she knew that Hammond's man was waiting somewhere, hidden out of the elements, ready to resume his chase as soon as she left the stables.

She strode back across towards Red, and as she approached, she heard a rustling among the bedding in Faith's stall. She untied the colt and returned him to his stall. Latching the door behind her, she moved around to Faith's space and unlatched his. It gave a tired squeak as she pulled it, and she went inside.

"It's been a long, long time since I spent an afternoon in a horse stall," a familiar voice said.

Rose turned to the speaker.

"You heard everything?"

"Darn tootin I did!"

Wiping the last remnants of hay and straw from her trousers, an angry Molly Brown turned to face Rose.

"That snake! Thanks for alertin me, darlin; I never woulda believed it if I hadn't heard it with my own ears. Makes me feel the fool, and I HATE feelin the fool!"

"Don't be too hard on yourself, Molly. Anyone could fall for that two-faced charm of his."

"Maybe so, but I aim to right THAT mistake with a vengeance. He's gonna wish he had never heard of ol' Margaret when I'm finished with him."

"I need another favor from you. I need you to hold off a week before you confront him."

"This have to do with all that business about Cal and the diamond?" Molly asked, moving closer, her eyes alive with the prospect of revenge. "Sure, I can bide my time for somethin juicy. Tell me more, darlin….

"Tell me more."


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