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by Jerry Guarino

“Are you enjoying breakfast Jack?” Hannah watched her husband eat while reading the paper.

“Oh, yes. Sorry dear. There’s this story about a thief in the neighborhood.” Jack passed the paper to his wife. “Yes, these eggs are very good. Ana-Maria, remember how you made these.”

Their housekeeper smiled. “Gracias Mr. Jack.” The doorbell rings. “That will be the delivery for the dinner party. Excuse me.”

Jack looked at Hannah. “Ana-Maria is working out so well. I’m glad we gave her a room here.”

Hannah nodded. “Yes, we finally found the perfect help. I’m going to pick up a little present for her today.”

Jack and Hannah were two of the fortunate few, but not uncaring, Wall Street types. Jack was a medical administrator and Hannah, a pediatrician. Their only daughter had just left for college, so they had more time to entertain. Both in their mid-forties, with better than average looks, Jack and Hannah had been college sweethearts at Harvard. They stayed in Cambridge after Hannah finished med school, and then moved to Beverly Farms to raise their daughter Kelly, now at BU.

The salty, summer air of the Atlantic floated through the house as guests arrived. This wealthy town, north of Boston, was home to many accomplished preppy graduates from Harvard and Dartmouth, still in their button down oxfords, blazers and khakis. Women wore cashmere, cardigan sweaters over Izod polo shirts, pleated skirts and tights. Here political ties were less important than college ties and marina berths for their sailboats. They didn’t struggle with the down economy; they just adjusted some investments.

Meanwhile Ana-Maria directed the caterers and served the appetizers. Salmon on toast points and mini quiches, fresh vegetables with fragrant sauces and one of those large bouquets made out of fruit that are so fashionable now. She lined up the colorful food in the most alluring way, adding a sensual touch of flowers and seashell strings, so perfect for this house by the ocean.

Jack’s friend Alan came over to him, sipping his drink. “Jack, did you hear about the house burglaries?”

Jack nodded. “I was just reading about it this morning. Don’t you know a detective?”

Alan played this with a straight face. “Yes, and he told me today that they have someone in custody, a domestic working on Chestnut Street.”

Jack was curious. “Any details?”

Alan dropped the last line without giving away his ruse. “Yes, a male personal servant was stealing jewelry from the wife.”

Jack realized he had been taken. “Really, Alan? The butler did it. Your sense of humor hasn’t improved since college.” Alan had been playing jokes like this on Jack, ever since they were in school.

Hannah caught her new employee as she went into the kitchen. “Ana-Maria, we want you to have this in appreciation for all your good help here.”

Ana-Maria opened the box to reveal a small but beautiful pin, shaped like an egg, with yellow, pink and green swirls. “Oh, Miss Hannah, thank you!”

Hannah pinned it to Ana-Maria’s sweater. “You’re very welcome. We hope you like living with us.”

Ana-Maria gave Hannah a hug. “Very much. I love your home.”

Hannah smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way. It’s your home now too.”

The main dishes were brought in, traditional New England fare. Clams, lobster, corn, beans and biscuits were laid out in a buffet style on the table overlooking the ocean. A string of soft lights, colorful balloons and streamers gave festive ambiance while smooth jazz played in the background. After she finished, Ana-Maria disappeared upstairs.

“Hannah” said her friend Lindsay. “The rumor is that the burglaries are being done by people working in the house, maids and cooks. You haven’t had anything taken, have you?”

Hannah wasn’t concerned. “No, in fact we are very happy with our new, live in person Ana-Maria. She put this party together. Besides, she came with references from a family we know in California.”

The doorbell rang. Jack answered the door. “Detective Riley. May I help you?”

The detective took Jack aside to avoid interrupting the party. “We have a lead in the thefts that have been traced to your house. Please put your hands behind your back.” The detective started to put handcuffs on Jack.

“Officer, I can assure you that I had nothing to do with any thefts.”

Detective Riley smiled. “We have had surveillance on the house Mr. O’Donnell. The eggs, salmon and lobster you had today were all poached.” Alan and the guests behind them applauded and laughed, throwing streamers and confetti. “Happy Birthday Jack.”