Unfortunately, he kept his notes in Latin. He also found a crystal at one point."
"Crystal?" Verity tilted her head inquiringly.
Doug nodded. "I saw it myself about five years ago. Digby showed it to me shortly after he found it. He was sure it was a key of some kind. It's green, about two inches long. It's egg-shaped and very smooth, with tiny, odd-shaped little facets cut into the bottom. It disappeared a couple of years ago along with Uncle Digby. He either hid it somewhere or had it on him when he disappeared."
Jonas sat forward, finally, showing real interest. "He believed the crystal was genuine Renaissance work?"
"Oh yes," Elyssa said. Her bracelets jingled as she turned to Jonas. "He may have been senile there at the end, but at one time Digby Hazelhurst had quite a reputation in academic circles. Thirty years ago he was considered an expert on Renaissance history."
"Hazelhurst?" Jonas repeated. "Your uncle was Digby Hazelhurst?"
"Have you heard of him?"
"I remember running across some early papers he did on Renaissance scientific learning," Jonas said slowly. "They were gathering dust in an old library file at Vincent College. I found them by accident."
"I'm afraid that by the time he died, Uncle Digby's academic reputation had been shot to pieces," Doug said. "His work got more and more bizarre during the last twenty years, I'm told. His colleagues ignored him, he couldn't get teaching positions, and academic journals stopped publishing him entirely. He eventually retired to his island to spend the last years of his life searching for the treasure."
"You said your uncle died a couple of years ago?"
Doug nodded. "Lost at sea. The old man had no business sailing on the Sound alone at his age. But old Digby always was independent. He'd had a bad heart for years. The authorities concluded he probably had a heart attack and fell overboard. They never recovered the body, although the boat eventually washed ashore on a neighboring island."
"And you're left with the diary, the reconstructed villa, and a missing piece of crystal," Jonas concluded.
Elyssa laughed and her earrings tinkled. "Doug's right. We really do have to sell the villa, there's no way we can afford to keep it. But I can't bear not to try to find the treasure before we do. It should be fun, if nothing else. I'm inviting a few friends to help in the hunt."
Jonas narrowed his eyes. "What kind of friends?"
"Don't worry, they won't get in your way," she assured him hastily. "There's plenty of room. Digby's housekeeper, a Miss Frampton, is still at the villa. She'll see to all the cooking and cleaning for us."
"Jonas, it sounds like fun," Verity said brightly.
He arched his brows and gave her a wry glance. "When it comes to business," he said to the Warwicks,
"I leave everything to my business manager. Looks like we'll be seeing you in Seattle in a day or two."
"Great." Doug took a small, leatherbound volume out of his pocket. "I might as well let you have a look at the diary." He paused. "I don't suppose you happen to know Latin?"
"It's been a while, but I can manage," Jonas said with an air of dignified modesty. "Italian humanist scholars made a big deal out of learning Latin. It was considered the only suitable language for recording really important work. Looks like Digby felt the same way."
"In this day and age, it makes for an excellent secret code," Doug observed. "No one reads Latin anymore. There are a few pages missing from the back of the diary. You can see where they've been torn out. I don't know what happened to them."
Elyssa leaned toward Jonas as he reached for the book. Her jeweled fingers flashed light. "Mr. Quarrel, I have a personal question… "
"Jonas," he corrected absently, examining the small volume.
"Jonas, then." She smiled with obvious delight. "Forgive me for prying, but I'm dying of curiosity. Is it true that you have a talent for psychometry?"
Verity saw the anger flare in Jonas's eyes and was suddenly afraid that the whole deal was going to end right then and there. She could have kicked Elyssa.
"The editor of the journal that published your article mentioned that you once had a reputation for authenticating items for museums and collectors," Elyssa explained, apparently unaware of the narrow line she was walking. "From his description of your work, my friend Preston Yarwood speculated that you might have a psychic ability called psychometry. Is that true?"
"Pure bullshit," Jonas said with clenched teeth.
"Preston said that you might not even be aware of how and why you can identify objects from the past,"
Elyssa went on innocently. "He said the talent might be very elusive, something you just take for granted, and don't even understand yourself."
"Who's Preston Yarwood?" Jonas demanded grimly.
"Mr. Yarwood is a friend of hers, Jonas," Verity cut in. "He's the one who contacted the journal editor who published your piece on Renaissance fencing techniques. The editor recommended you for this assignment." She gave Jonas her most brilliant smile. "Funny how things work out, isn't it? If you hadn't published that piece, the Warwicks would never have learned about you, and we wouldn't be on our way to Washington."
Jonas tapped the Hazelhurst diary thoughtfully. "Funny isn't exactly the word for it."
"What an ugly pile of rock. No wonder Doug said it was called Hazelhurst's Horror." Verity's disappointment was obvious. She stood in the stern of the small launch Doug Warwick was piloting and studied the grim island fortress ahead.
Jonas grinned. "Well, it sure as hell doesn't approach the architectural genius of Bramante or Brunelleschi."
"What style is it, then?"
Jonas shrugged and surveyed the rugged structure dominating the cliff that rose from the cold waters of Puget Sound. It was a plain, solid-looking stone mass, two stories high. The rough, unattractive facade was studded with tiny windows and capped by a thick, bulky cornice that outlined the roof. "I'd say it's late fifteenth century, probably Milanese, judging by the overall style. The architect will most likely remain anonymous forever."
"And deservedly so," Verity retorted. "When the Warwicks talked about an Italian villa, I imagined something a little grander." The noise of the launch engine kept her complaints from being overheard by their host, who was busy guiding the boat into a small cove.