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–   C H A P T E R    I  –

It was spring, and Dan Young’s front yard dogwood was showing the tips of its taupe blossoms. Normally Dan didn’t give domestic shrubs or trees or gardens a second thought. But Tess’ favorite tree had been their dogwood, planted on their first anniversary, and that made every dogwood important.

Here, not two feet from his nose, someone else’s early blooming dogwood grew outside the window of the antique shop. The small, downtown store had a timeless feel to it—reminding him that there were those certain moments that could make a person’s destiny. Dan wondered if this were one of those moments, for he carried $500,000 in cash in his leather briefcase. It was an extraordinary sum and he was delivering it to a rather unusual person.

Amid the store’s velvety brown hues of old wood, the smells of scented polish and beeswax, shoppers talked in lower tones and seldom let

their cigarette ash hit the floor. The place exuded personality. When he had stepped inside to kill some time, Dan instantly knew that the proprietor’s hand was connected to his heart instead of his wallet. In this small town by the sea, where the locals made lumber, caught fish, worked for the government, or catered to the tourists, and consequently had modest budgets, such a store could have been more profitably filled with cheap furniture sold on easy terms.

A freestanding armoire from Gascogny, France, shone with quiet grandeur. According to the placard it had been hand made in the mid-1800s. Beside the armoire hung the object of his attention—a photograph, seemingly yellowed with age. It intrigued him. He’d been around the perimeter of the place twice—the consequence of being early—and this was his third time back to the narrow space in front of the photo.

The photo had been taken in black and white, probably with a large lens box camera manu-
factured around the turn of the century.

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