Chapter Twenty-Five

With a bit of luck this just might work, Rose thought.

She only had to wait a short while for Sean's return after her meeting with Molly, and as she set off for home Molly slipped out the stables into the back alleyway. 'Mr. Mole' followed Rose closely, zig-zagging like a kite tied to her as she crossed and re-crossed the streets just to needle him. His presence behind her assured that Molly had been able to leave the area undetected.

Now that the wheels are in motion, I need to ask for Gina's help.

Gina looked up from the stove as Rose entered the flat, their dinner at a boil in front of her. Rose draped her winter things on the coat-rack and inhaled deeply.

"That smells wonderful," she said.

"Just about ready. How was your day with Red?"


Gina looked at her with curiosity as Rose busied herself setting the table.

"Let's eat and I'll tell you all about it," Rose said.

While they dined, Rose told Gina everything that had happened since the afternoon when they had run into Mr. Hammond after the movies. She told of the 'Heart', though she didn't reveal how incredibly valuable it was…just that it was precious to her. Gina listened enrapt, from time to time her fork halting, suspended in mid-air, her mouth agape at what she was hearing. As Rose finished Gina sat back from her half-eaten meal, astonished at the tale she had just heard.

"I can't believe it! Mr. Hammond?"

"Yes, it IS hard to believe, though I'd like to kick myself for not recognizing the signs long ago."

Gina shook her head slowly.

"You can't trust anyone, can you?"

"I do trust YOU, Gina," Rose replied. "It's funny, I always pictured my troubles coming from Mother or Cal trying to find me…not like this. Not ever like this! I'm sorry to involve you in this mess; it would have been better if I had kept everything to myself and we had not become such good friends."

"Don't be silly! Oh, God…that's just the tension talking through you. If it wasn't for you coming along when you did…Hammond or no Hammond, YOU saved me, Rose…. I owe you a lot. Don't EVER think that way!"

Rose felt tears pooling in the corners of her eyes and wiped them with the tip of her napkin. Gina watched her silently, her eyes also moist, waiting for the right moment to continue.

"So, what are you and Molly going to do?"

Rose related the plan she had concocted, bouncing the ideas off her friend.

"Cal will be here…in New York?" Gina asked, surprised. "How will you feel about that?"

Rose smiled slightly.

"I'll let you know afterwards. Despite half a year having passed, my feelings about him are still in a jumble."

When Rose had finished with the details Gina nodded.

"I'm not familiar with the people involved, except for Mr. Hammond, and it seems the whole thing could go wrong, but I don't think I have any better ideas for you. What can I do to help?"

"There is something I'd like you to do, but I feel guilty asking you to become more involved."

"There you go, being silly again. This is a chance for me to repay you a little of what I owe you. Now …tell me!"

Rose went to the desk and removed two pieces of stationery. On one she wrote a short, formal note, folding it neatly and putting it in a matching envelope. On the other she drew a rough sketch, its dimensions and labels straight from vivid memory. Gina watched, listened, and finally gave one strong nod in affirmation of the plan.


The next morning, Rose headed for work at the usual hour, picking up her spying 'caboose' at the usual place, and she turned on her usual course down Sixth Avenue. The only thing at all out of the ordinary on this particular morning was that she walked to the factory alone.

'Mr. Mole' doesn't seem concerned, Rose thought. Maybe he figures she is sick today.

Just after Rose and her shadow disappeared around the corner, Gina emerged from the apartment doorway, face hidden deep in the hood of her coat, and headed in the opposite direction, towards the bank and the jewelry district.

Two hours later, as Rose sat bent over her ledger, a knock came at her office door and Gina stuck her head in, smiling.

"Well?" Rose asked eagerly.

"No problem. Your sketch was near perfect. Friday, for sure," Gina said. "Mr. Souster?"

"I told him we'd both work a little extra to make up for your being late. Same for Friday."

Gina winked and disappeared out onto the factory floor. Rose found it hard to concentrate on her work, her mind racing into the days ahead.

I'll have to call Molly at her hotel in New Jersey to confirm the plans, she thought. It looks as though everything will be ready, as long as Cal comes...and I'm quite sure he'll be here.

Rose took a few deep breaths and tried to focus on her figures.

I wish Saturday was here already.


On Friday, Rose and Gina duplicated their staggered departure from home. Gina retraced her steps, but this time she reversed her course through midtown before heading back down to the factory.

Rose sat at her desk, anxiously awaiting her friend's arrival.

It this part isn't done right, and on time, the whole plan won't work.

She walked to the doorway for the tenth time, searching for Gina across the space of the factory floor. She paced back into the office and then again to the door, and was about to turn back once more when her friend pushed through the entranceway and walked towards her.

"You look nervous, Rose."

"It shows, huh?"

"Don't worry. Everything was done perfectly and all is in place. You're ready."

Rose breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Molly had indicated her readiness as well. Everything was set.

As they left the factory for lunch, Mr. Hammond stepped forward to meet them, threading his way through the crowd of workers streaming out onto the sidewalk.

"Mr. Hammond!" Gina said brightly. "How are you?"

Rose looked at Gina. Her friend's manner was warm and her face gave away nothing. Mr. Hammond's return greeting reflected her light spirit.

She really can put on a good act, Rose thought.

"Will you hold on a minute while I speak to Mr. Hammond?" Rose asked Gina.

"Sure," Gina replied, and she moved back under the cover of the entranceway, out of the wind.

"I'm glad to see you are keeping this between the two of us," Hammond said, referring to Gina's apparent ignorance of events.

"I am making quite sure of that but, unfortunately, you are not!" Rose shot back.

"What are you talking about?"

"I told your 'man' to keep his distance and he got angry; he said to me, 'I know all about you'."

"That's impossible! I've told him only what he needed to know, and he hasn't ever needed to know who you really are. I don't believe you."

"He'll deny it, I'm sure, just as you are. I'm having second thoughts about our agreement, seeing as I don't know to how many people you have already told of my identity."

"Something this valuable, I don't let anyone horn in on the action. The men who have worked on this know bits and pieces, but I'm the only one who knows what it all means."

Rose gave him her most potent look of disbelief.

"Look, forget all that," Hammond said, dismissing her concern with a wave of his hand. "Hockley is on his way up; he'll arrive tomorrow morning by train. I have a suite, number 117…Rose, are you paying attention?"

Rose shook herself, re-focusing on his words.

"Sorry, I was just lost there for a minute." Cal will be here….so close.

"I trust you won't be getting 'lost' tomorrow. I set the meeting for two o'clock. You're not going to be backing out on the deal now, are you?"

Rose clasped her hands in front of her and raised them to her lips, staring at the ground near her feet for several seconds before replying.

"No. I want this over just as badly as you want the money. I need to, once and for all, sever every last connection to my past."

"How will you be bringing the necklace to the hotel?"

Rose cocked her head to one side.

"Oh, you'd like to know, wouldn't you? Maybe try to intercept me on the way? Don't worry, I'll be there shortly after two. Be sure you station Cal in the bedroom of the suite, out of sight of the entrance doorway. I don't want him seeing me…if he should, it all goes up in smoke; my secret and your money. He'd expect the 'Heart' back from me, and then no finder's fee for you. So shut him in the bedroom before you come open the outer door. Just give him some excuse about the need of anonymity for your courier."

"You really don't want anything to do with him, do you? What the hell did he do to you?"

Rose's stare was pungent and cold as she locked eyes with Hammond, forcing the man to blink and turn away.

"Maybe this Hockley isn't as bad as I thought," Hammond said.

"I will see you tomorrow. Just after two."

A first floor suite, Rose thought, as she rejoined Gina. Fortune is smiling so far. That will make things a bit easier.


Neither Rose nor Gina was able to sleep, so they spent most of that night playing cards while the hours slowly passed.

Nervousness tied both their tongues, and for distraction they played poker without scoring, each lost in her own thoughts. Rose drew a card to her hand and held it up for consideration, but she looked right through it, her mind elsewhere.

"What do you want to do…when this is all over?" she asked Gina, breaking the silence.

"You mean, with my life?"

Rose nodded.

"Funny," Gina continued, "I'd just been thinking about that myself."


"I feel like I need a clean start, to begin over, but I'm not sure if I can do that here. Everywhere I turn in this city I see someone or something that reminds me of Anthony."

"So you'll move on to another city?"

"I don't think I'm brave enough for that….Oh, Rose, I don't know how it will ever happen, but I think I'm ready for a new life," Gina said. "I'm going to trade this one," she added with a short laugh.

Rose smiled, nodding in empathy.

"That sounds good. For me, I thought starting over in New York would be all right, but my past is just too close to me here. I suppose it was just a matter of time before someone came and tried to drag me back to my old life."

"So you're going to leave?"

"Yes… and soon enough, I think. I just need to feel that the time is right; that I'm not running away, only to find the same questions following me to my new home, wherever that may be. I know now that this was just a way-station for me, a place to wash the past completely out of my life before I move onward."

"I like how you put that…'wash the past out'…...Oh, Rose…I'm going to miss you."

There was an awkward pause as both women felt the weight of their future separation.

"Sometimes, with all I've done, I don't think…," Gina said, her voice soft as it trailed off.

"Don't think what?"

"Oh, nothing," Gina replied, her eyes averted.

Rose studied her friend's expression.

"Sometimes it's better to just blurt it out."

"I'm afraid that I might be too hardened now…that I won't be a good mother or wife. Sometimes I'm scared…"

"Gina, you have a wonderful heart, you do. You really care about people. Some will take advantage of your good nature; that's the way the world is. But there will surely be that ONE special person who won't…who will love you for it and do everything to protect it."

Gina pondered Rose's words for a moment.

"Have you ever been really scared?" Gina asked, and then her face suddenly went ashen, realizing her mistake. "Oh, I'm so sorry, …for a second, I forgot….you're always so strong…."

"It's all right. I still get scared, Gina, but I'm able to contain the fear now. I feel like I have the ability to handle anything. A year ago I looked upon myself as 'strong', but I realize now that I was mistaking stubbornness for strength. But things change all of us, and I AM different now…I've never been stronger."

I have the strength of two people inside of me now, Rose thought.

Gina looked at Rose wistfully.

"Do you think a normal life, a husband, children, is out there for us?"

"Yes…eventually. But, before that, I want to live a life BEYOND the normal. There is much I need to do first," Rose answered.

"WE need to do first!" Gina corrected her.

Rose smiled at her friend. She finally looked at the card in her hand with awareness and, with a laugh of triumph and delight, spread a full house out on the table.


As soon as the one o'clock whistle sounded on Saturday, Rose and Gina changed into the more formal clothes they had brought along with them and hustled out of the factory for the El ride up Sixth Avenue.

Rose had told Gina that she needn't go along, but she had felt relieved when Gina insisted on accompanying her for support. They rode in silence, Rose staring out the window while trying to calm her breathing, until they reached their stop at 34th street. Gina had looked over her shoulder several times, trying to stare down 'Mr. Mole', who was seated several rows behind them. He never met her eyes, suddenly needing to check his shoelaces each time she glared his way.

As they were disembarking at the station, Gina turned and blew an ebullient kiss to the spy as he rose to exit as well. He was caught totally off-guard, and was supremely embarrassed as curious stares from the other passengers fell hot on his face. He tripped over the rider in the aisle seat as he shuffled by, doubling his discomfort.

Despite her blossoming tension, Rose had to laugh at the spectacle.

"You are really something, Gina!"

"Aren't I, then?" she replied with a mischievous smile.

They had arrived a bit early, so they stopped in a department store, killing time idly looking at the Christmas wares. At 1:45, Rose led the way east to the Bank of New Hudson. It was closed for the day but a sharp knock on the door summoned Mr. Sanderson from deep inside the building's confines. He pulled aside the door shade and, smiling brightly in recognition, unlocked the door.

"Miss Dawson, a pleasure."

"Mr. Sanderson, thank you so much for accommodating me today."

"Oh, it's quite all right. Just catching up with my bookkeeping, anyway. And Mrs. Brown did instruct me to extend you every courtesy."

He turned and shook hands with Gina. "And Mrs. Dawson, we must stop meeting so often, don't you think? I trust your visits this week have been handled with the proper discretion and privacy?"

"Yes, quite," Gina responded with a smile.

"Mr. Sanderson, as I said in my note, I'm going to be taking a very valuable piece of jewelry out of my safety box and bringing it over to the Waldorf," Rose said. "Have you been able to arrange an escort for me?"


He beckoned towards two burly bank guards seated inconspicuously in a corner. The men presented themselves in short order.

"Whenever you are ready, Miss Dawson," the manager continued.

Rose signed into the vault and opened her box. She removed the necklace, turning it over in her hands for a few seconds, feeling its polished facets, and then placed it into a small, hardwood box that she had brought along. Replacing the safety box, she returned to the lobby.

"Everything okay?" Gina asked.

"Perfect," Rose replied with a smile.

"I'm going to wait for you," Gina said, and she moved to give Rose a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck," she whispered when they were close.

"Okay, gentlemen, I'm ready," Rose announced, and after thanking Mr. Sanderson she headed out into the afternoon with her escorts, carrying the box that now seemed weighted with far more than a solitary necklace. Gina stood for a while watching them from the street corner.

'Mr. Mole' eyed the size of the bank guards and followed at a discrete distance as the group crossed the street and made their way to the hotel. They strode up to the captain's desk; the man seemed to vaguely recognize Rose but apparently couldn't place the face.

"I have an important package for Mr. Hammond in suite 117," she announced to the captain, "and THAT man," she turned, pointing to 'Mr. Mole', who was just entering the lobby, "has been following me!"

All eyes at the desk turned to the man, who stopped dead in his tracks at the sudden attention. One of the guards started towards him and the spy spun on one heel and quickly fled back into the afternoon.

"Don't bother with him," Rose called after the guard. "When you gentlemen accompany me to the hallway, please just wait there, observing from this end. Once I'm inside the room you can go. I thank you, and please thank Mr. Sanderson for me once again."

They nodded in understanding.

Rose glanced at the imposing grandfather clock that was the focal point of the ornate lobby.


"Mr. Hammond is expecting you," the captain chirped.

Okay, Rose told herself, time to go.

She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, nearly drowning out the sound of her dress swishing along the deep carpet of the hallway. Her palms perspired as she clasped the wooden box tightly to her bosom. The hallway seemed endless, but suddenly the number loomed large in front of her: 117.

She stopped to compose herself, looking up and down the corridor. Except for the two guards standing vigilantly at the lobby end she was quite alone.

She knocked hard once, twice. The sound of very muffled voices carried from within, an inner door was opened and closed, and she heard the outer lock being thrown.

Mr. Hammond pulled open the door. He was dressed in a finely tailored suit, obviously doing his best to impress Cal with his business acumen. He glanced back into the room and stepped into the hallway, closing the door quietly behind him.

"That's it?" he asked, gesturing to the box Rose still clung to chest.

She held it up to him and opened the lid. Hammond whistled appreciatively.

"That's a big rock, if ever I've seen one!"

Rose clapped the lid shut. Hammond noticed the men stationed at the end of the hallway.

"Your bodyguards?"


"Careful, aren't you?"

"Shouldn't I be, around you?"

Hammond smiled. "Now what?"

"Cal is in the bedroom…the door is closed?"

Hammond nodded.

"I'm coming in with you," Rose stated. "I want to listen by the door to be sure you've given him the necklace."

"You're not afraid I'll tip him off to your presence?"

"No, because there is no profit for you in doing that. And remember this…If after he has the diamond you should EVER mention my still being alive to him, I will scream that you stole the necklace from me and you will have Cal's revenge to deal with."

He looked at her, considering the situation.

"Fine. We'll do it your way…. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure you'd even show today. I thought you might decide to keep the jewel for yourself; sell it, like a smart woman would."

Have your fun, Rose thought.

They entered the room and walked silently to the closed door to the bedroom. Hammond knocked once, and Rose handed him the box. Entering, he left the door slightly ajar, and Rose positioned herself next to the crack, back to the wall, listening.

"Here's your necklace, Hockley, just as I promised."

"Let's see it, man!"

Rose's heart jumped…that voice! She hadn't heard it in such a long time, and she was surprised at what it did to her composure. Her mind tried to fill with thoughts of love, blame, responsibility, recrimination ...all the questions she had asked herself since Titanic. Was her picture of him all wrong? Was he less of a monster than she imagined?

She pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on the discussion in the next room.

"Not so fast," Hammond had answered. "Let's see the money first."

"All right, though this is no way for gentlemen to conduct business. Insisting I bring all cash, indeed! You'd think you were a common peddler."

"I know a little something about how you 'gentlemen' do business, Hockley. I might find, for instance, that your check wouldn't be honored when I presented it, and then where would I be? Up the creek, that's where."

"Fine! You don't trust me, I don't trust you. Do you assure me that no one else knows the necklace has been recovered?"

"Still worried about that damn insurance settlement? No, not a soul."

Rose heard the bed creak as a weight was placed upon it, followed quickly by the sound of a pair of locks being sprung. Kicking her shoes off, she held them in one hand, gathered up her dress with the other and raced across to the patio door, sliding it open as silently as possible until it was cracked a few feet. Nodding to a figure standing outside, she placed her shoes on the patio and ran back to her listening post.

"…like it's all there," Hammond was saying. "Okay, here's your necklace…all $2 million worth."

Rose heard the box snap open and she held her breath, her heart racing. There was a silence that seemed to go on forever.

"Now… the truth. Where did you get this?" Cal asked, finally.

"I told you that already! A source of mine found it in some stolen goods, traced it back to a Titanic victim's possessions, and I traced it to you."

"This is a source you trust?"

"Of course, but rest assured the source knows nothing about the true value of the piece."

"So I have just you to thank for this."


Another pause. Rose could picture Cal in her mind, turning the necklace over and over, holding it up to see the light sparkle through it. She had an almost irresistible urge to look through the crack, to see him, but she held her position.

"It's quite a piece of work, I have to hand it to you Hammond," Cal said.


"I'm not sure how you got the dimensions and arrangement so close, but did you really think you'd fool me with these stones; that I wouldn't know my own diamond? Did you truly expect to get away with this?"


Rose tensed.

"I'm not sure what your game is," Cal continued. "I wouldn't have even deemed this story of yours worth a trip if you hadn't worked for Molly Brown. Seemed too much for coincidence. Too bad she was out of town when I called Denver. I think she could've saved me a wasted weekend."

There was a space of several heartbeats in which Hammond digested Cal's comments.

"I get it, Hockley! Forget it, it won't work. You're trying to con me into believing that the necklace is a fake, so you can have it AND your money. I KNOW it's genuine!"

Rose was ready to take flight. She knew she should go, but she still hadn't heard what she wanted, needed to hear. She HAD to hear it from Cal's mouth.

"Don't be a fool, Hammond. It's a fake, plain and simple. It's obvious that you planned this whole thing, though I'll be damned if I can figure out how you found out about the 'Heart', or why you decided to try to swindle ME."

"Then SHE switched the necklace…she set me up!" Hammond cried.

Rose beckoned to the figure standing just outside the patio door.

"Who?" Cal asked.

"Your fiancée, Rose Bukater, that's who!"

This is it, Rose thought.

"You really are insane! My diamond is at the bottom of the Atlantic, and so is Rose Bukater…where she belongs."

The words hit Rose hard, slamming into her. She let them sink in, erasing her doubts, cleansing her guilt …setting her free.

Then she was off in a flash across the carpeted room and out onto the patio. She could still faintly hear the conversation from inside the bedroom as she slipped on her shoes.

"She's right here in the next room!" Hammond was yelling.


Cal's voice was louder; Hammond had obviously thrown open the bedroom door.

"Your fiancée, you fool!"

Rose heard a muffled set of footsteps as Cal and Hammond entered the sitting room.

"Fiancée, huh? No offense there, Cal, but I need a little romancin' first," a third voice said.

Rose almost laughed out loud at Molly's comment; the release of so much accumulated tension made her slightly giddy.

"MOLLY!" both men exclaimed as one. Hammond's obvious surprise was laced with dismay.

"Howdy, Cal. This IS a surprise! Never expected to find you here. Is Hammy here peddlin' my jewelry in Philadelphia now?"

"YOUR jewelry?" Cal asked.

"Molly, what are you doing here?" Hammond asked, finally sensing the trap around him.

"I found out you've been skimmin' my money, you weasel, stealin' my fortune. And now…sellin' my trinkets, too?"

"Your jewelry?" Cal repeated, obviously dumbfounded by the turn of events.

"Yes, just a gaudy piece of costume jewelry I've had for a while. Why he thinks you'd be interested in it I haven't a clue."

"You're lying! You're in on it, too! You know Rose Bukater is alive!" Hammond yelled.

"Rose? Bite your tongue, you…you…slime! Draggin' that poor darlin's memory into this, just to save your worthless hide!"

"Molly, what ARE you doing here?" Cal asked.

"I've been lookin for Hammy here for quiet a spell, ever since I found out he was siphoning off my money. Fortunately, I had alerted the management here to be on the lookout for him, and they were happy to oblige. They contacted me when he reserved a room. Ya shoulda used an alias, Wallace."

Rose heard the hallway door of the room open.

"Come on in, boys, " Molly said. "The marshals here will want to ask you some questions, Hammy. They're REAL friendly."

"Hockley, I can prove Rose Bukater is alive and has the diamond…you just need to believe me…give me some time…she's HERE, I tell you!" Hammond pleaded in desperation.

"What makes you think I would ever again listen to a low-life like you? I believe you are a liar and a thief, as Molly says, and a poor excuse for a crook, at that. I'm a businessman; I don't have time for your kind. If I ever hear even a MENTION of your name again, I will track you down and make your life really miserable."

"Oh, don't be frettin' none over that, Cal…Hammy'll not be botherin' anyone for a long while."

Rose saw a shadow approaching the patio door and she backed off to the side.

"Stop him! He's trying to run!" Cal yelled, and just then Hammond flew out of the door, turning abruptly towards where Rose stood.

His eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to trumpet his discovery, but his reflexes were too slow and he was unable to protect himself at all before Rose hitched up her dress and, with one quick motion laden with all her pent-up anger, kicked him solidly in the groin.

He staggered back, unable to yell or even draw a breath, and fell to the ground, pulling himself into a fetal position. Rose turned and sprinted along the building's edge, a smile of sublime satisfaction across her face. She glanced over her shoulder once to see the marshals emerge from the room and lift Hammond off the ground, and the last thing she heard as she sped around the building's corner and joined Gina was Hammond finally filling his lungs with a tortured gasp and roaring in pain.


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