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A RING OF DECEPTION is available exclusively from Annie’s Attic Mysteries. You can visit their website, contact Customer Service at (800)282-6643 (8 a.m. - 7 p.m. [CST] Mon. - Fri.) or e-mail them at customer_service@anniesmysteries.com for more information.

A RING OF DECEPTION

An Antique Shop Mystery

NOW AVAILABLE





































































When a nervous young girl arrives at Carriage House Antiques looking to sell an extravagant gold-and-emerald ring, owner Maggie Watson is intrigued. Where would the teen have come across such a valuable relic? And why is she so desperate to sell it?

Maggie soon learns that the fascinating ring bears the insignia of Solomon Zane, a bloodthirsty pirate who terrorized the coastal town of Somerset Harbor, Maine, in the 18th century. Zane’s fate is a mystery, but one that seems irrevocably linked to the family history of one of the town’s wealthiest and most well-connected matrons, Willa Ravenhurst.

As the story, goes, Mrs. Ravenhurst’s ancestor was kidnapped by Zane’s band of cutthroats and held for ransom. The incident was resolved under strange circumstances, and Maggie is left to wonder why a priceless piece of Zane’s jewelry would show up at her shop now, over three hundred years later. Yet when Maggie begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the Ravenhurst family lineage and the sudden reappearance of the ring.

Willa Ravenhurst has been known to tell her family’s story of adventure on the high seas to anyone who would listen, but lately she seems reluctant to discuss the event. Have recently unearthed secrets made her change her tune? Maggie’s investigation is hampered when a local blogger bent on circulating salacious gossip about the town’s past closes in on her latest acquisition. With each new development, the mystery of the ring – and the fate of its murderous owner – continues to slip through Maggie’s fingers.

She turns to the local historical society, her dear friend June McGillis, and handsome town alderman James Bennett for help. But as her search continues, will she find the truth or just more questions?When a nervous young girl arrives at Carriage House Antiques looking to sell an extravagant gold-and-emerald ring, owner Maggie Watson is intrigued. Where would the teen have come across such a valuable relic? And why is she so desperate to sell it?

Maggie soon learns that the fascinating ring bears the insignia of Solomon Zane, a bloodthirsty pirate who terrorized the coastal town of Somerset Harbor, Maine, in the 18th century. Zane’s fate is a mystery, but one that seems irrevocably linked to the family history of one of the town’s wealthiest and most well-connected matrons, Willa Ravenhurst.

As the story, goes, Mrs. Ravenhurst’s ancestor was kidnapped by Zane’s band of cutthroats and held for ransom. The incident was resolved under strange circumstances, and Maggie is left to wonder why a priceless piece of Zane’s jewelry would show up at her shop now, over three hundred years later. Yet when Maggie begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the Ravenhurst family lineage and the sudden reappearance of the ring.

Willa Ravenhurst has been known to tell her family’s story of adventure on the high seas to anyone who would listen, but lately she seems reluctant to discuss the event. Have recently unearthed secrets made her change her tune? Maggie’s investigation is hampered when a local blogger bent on circulating salacious gossip about the town’s past closes in on her latest acquisition. With each new development, the mystery of the ring – and the fate of its murderous owner – continues to slip through Maggie’s fingers.

She turns to the local historical society, her dear friend June McGillis, and handsome town alderman James Bennett for help. But as her search continues, will she find the truth or just more questions?



EXCERPT:

Good as his word, Pop Welborn showed up at the antique shop at 2:30 the next afternoon. He was tall and spare and a little stoop shouldered, as if he had once been taller. He didn’t look as if he could have been more than seventy or so, but he wore a cap with a ship embroidered on the front with the legend LST 118 blazoned above it and the year 1944. Even if he had been very young when he signed up, that would make him at least ninety or more.

“You must be Mrs. Watson,” he said with a smile and a firm handshake.

“Call me Maggie, please. I’m so glad you could come.”

Once they were settled in a pair of comfortable chairs with some hot coffee, he brought out a three-ring binder stuffed full of papers, some of them yellowed with age, some bright white and brand new. There were a few newspaper articles, some actual newsprint, some merely copies. There were even a few pieces of the old thermal paper that used to be used for faxes and printing microfiche.

“You’ve been at this a long time,” she said, and he gave her a wink.

“Gotta be good for something. I’m sorry I have to tell you though, not all of this is about Solomon Zane. In fact, not much of it is. Why don’t we start with what you know?”

She showed him the copies she had made from the books at the historical society. “And the ring, of course. I’ll get it.”

He patted her hand. “Let’s save that for last, why don’t we? Sort of the big finish, all right?”

“Sure.” She looked over the meager bits of paper she had collected. “It’s not much. I’d love to know more.”

He opened the binder where one of several camouflage sticky notes marked the place. “I went through here last night so I wouldn’t have to waste your time hunting for what I wanted. You’ve already seen this picture of his ship and his flag, and the drawing of him.”

“Do you think he did come from Cornwall like the book says?”

“I’ve never heard anything to the contrary,” Pop said, “and I did some e-mailing with some folks in my genealogical group who are over there. Their records do show a Solomon Zane born in Penryn, Cornwall, in 1663, presumably the same one who broke jail in 1690 and stowed away on a clipper ship bound for the South Seas. That ship was scuttled by pirates and all the crew presumed killed, but five years later a ship called The Leviathan started harrying ships down around Haiti. Eventually, it moved up our coast and started picking off English cargo ships and finally even raiding the towns.”

“And The Leviathan was captained by Solomon Zane!”

“Exactly,” he said, gray eyes twinkling. “You get an A plus.”

He let her look over the e-mails and copies of old clippings he had collected. No, there wasn’t that much, but the supposition that the Zane who had escaped justice in Cornwall was the same one who had practiced piracy in Maine seemed a logical one.

“I suppose there’s no way to be absolutely sure,” she said, looking over one of the pages that traced the pirate’s genealogy back three generations and forward only as far as a son named Remembrance. Zane’s wife, Matilda, had died in 1697, the son in 1721. “Do you know what happened to his family?”

“I could never find much on the wife except she was from Charleston and died in Havana.”

“And their son?”

“As best I can tell,” Pop said, “he was with Zane after his mother died until Zane disappeared in 1720. There was a fellow called Razor Drummond who served as Zane’s First Mate on The Leviathan when Zane first started his pirating. Drummond was listed as captain of the ship when it was captured by the British in 1721 and was hanged a month later. Most of the crew was killed when the ship was taken, Remembrance Zane along with them.”

“But what happened to Zane himself?”

“That’s not something I’m sure about.” He flipped through the binder until he found the page he wanted. It was just a piece of lined notebook paper that had been written on with a ballpoint pen in a utilitarian script. “Have you talked to Mrs. Ravenhurst about Zane? I wrote down the story she tells about her family’s involvement with Zane, but it’s just the bare facts.”

“I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet,” Maggie said. “But we’re helping her with some antiques to go along with the restoration work she’s having done at her home, so I was going to bring it up the next time she came in.”

“She makes a much better tale of it than I do,” he admitted. “But from what she says, Thomas Lacey was the richest man in Somerset Harbor and he had a young daughter named Caroline who was stolen out of her bed in the middle of the night and held for ransom on The Leviathan for two or three weeks.”

“The poor girl. Did they get her back?”

“That’s the strange part. Lacey managed to get enough cash together to pay what Zane asked, but before he could turn it over, the girl showed up back at home.”

“How did she escape?”

“Nobody knew.” The old man’s gray eyes sparkled behind his thick glasses as she searched for another article in his binder. “This says she was so distraught from her experience that she couldn’t tell them anything. She was evidently unharmed but so frightened she blocked it all out.”

Maggie took a large drink of her forgotten coffee and then made a face. “Ugh. Ice cold. Would you like a fresh cup?”

“If it’s not too much trouble.”

“I’ll just get some started.”

She took his cup and her own, dumped out the contents and quickly made a new pot of coffee. Then she hurried back to her chair.

“It’ll be ready in a few minutes,” she told her guest. “Anyway, I thought Mrs. Ravenhurst’s family had some kind of confrontation with Zane and rescued the girl. No?”

“Well, according to Mrs. Ravenhurst, the story passed down through the family is that the girl’s father and brothers went after Zane, and from all accounts he was never seen or heard from after that time. Everyone assumes they killed him and disposed of the body.”

Maggie frowned. “You don’t sound too sure.”

“I suppose it’s possible. I’m just not sure how a middle-aged merchant and his two half-grown sons managed to do what the authorities in Somerset Harbor and the whole British navy couldn’t without so much as a shot fired or a murmur from Zane’s evidently formidable crew.”

“Hmmm. Maybe they wanted him out of the way. Didn’t you say his first mate took over the ship after Zane disappeared?”

“There is that, I suppose. But, from all accounts, at least during the last of the time he sailed, Zane was generous with his crew and treated them well. They’d have no reason to betray him. And they had easy pickings, mostly due to the fear the local residents had of Zane himself. Without him leading them, they’d have had to work much harder.”

Just then, there was a familiar ding from the coffee maker, and Maggie stood up.

“I’ll just get our coffee and get the ring, if you’re ready.”

“Now would be good,” Pop said. “I don’t have any other information on Zane.”

Maggie poured the fresh coffee and brought the two cups to the table. “By the way, the historical society wants me to write a short article on Zane to put up on their website. Would it be possible for me to make copies of the information you have so I can use it in the article? I’d credit you, of course.”

“No credit needed,” Pop assured her, “and I already thought you might want these.”

He handed her some papers that were loose in the back of his binder. They were copies of all the documents he had shown her.

“Oh, this is great. Just great.” She beamed at him. “This is so thoughtful of you and so helpful. Now, let me get the ring and you can tell me what you think.”

She took the ring from the display case and brought it to him, watching the eager delight in his eyes.

“Well, well.” He turned it over in his hand and then touched one finger to the sea serpent that guarded the ruby. “That certainly looks like his insignia. Just like the flag he flew. My goodness.”

As Peters had done, Pop rubbed his thumb over the bas relief skeleton around the outside of the band and the peered at the inscription inside.

“I’m afraid my Latin is pretty rusty, but I think I get the gist of it. You can’t straighten out something that’s gone crooked, right?”

“That’s about it. What do you think?”

“It certainly looks old.” He jiggled the ring in his hand. “Feels heavy enough to be gold. But let’s do some tests first.”

He set a little kit bag on the table and took out a collection of small bottles, a black touchstone and a jeweler’s loupe. She watched as he used the ring to make several golden stripes across the touchstone.

“You want to be careful with this stuff,” he said as he put a drop from each of the little bottles on its own stripe. “It’s acid.”

Maggie’s eyes widened as she thought about what June had paid for the Duncan Phyfe table they were sitting at, but his hands were steady and he was quick to seal up the bottles and return them to his bag. He looked at the touchstone for a moment, and then, without comment, studied the ring through the loupe.

After a moment, he put the loupe down. “The gold is just plated and the emerald is only green glass.” He pushed the ring across the table to her. “It’s a very interesting creation and seems to point towards Solomon Zane, but it’s definitely a fake. I’m sorry.”

Maggie gaped at him. “Wh– what? No, that can’t be right. I looked at that emerald. I tested the gold.”

“Well,” he soothed, “some of these little tests can be misleading. And it can be hard to tell, even under magnification, if a stone–”

“No.” She blinked hard, willing the frustrated tears to stay behind her eyes. “Look, I know it’s not much of a test, but I did test it.”

She scurried over to the drawer behind the counter and got the unglazed ceramic piece they used to test gold. There was still a glimmering mark on it from the last time she had used it. She grabbed the ring and rubbed it beneath the mark already there. Then the tears sprang into her eyes. The new mark was black.

“But the stone.”

She picked up the loupe he had brought with him and studied the supposed emerald. Under magnification, it looked nothing like it had before. She went back to the drawer and got the loupe she had used when Gail Lee brought the ring to her. It made no difference. The stone was the same. Glass.

She swallowed hard. Blinked hard. “This isn’t the same ring.”

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