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By Chance

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The robbery was a little scary, but mainly, Elizabeth decided, it was annoying. At least the aftermath was. Apparently, the FBI agent who normally dealt with this sort of crime was out sick, so Elizabeth was stuck giving her story to a tense, high strung man who seemed slightly out of his depth. But, there was a whole FBI team working on this, and Elizabeth had no reason to lack confidence in them. Still, she was going to be very glad when all this was over.

Fiona, her boss, came over to her, expression slightly apologetic. Elizabeth braced herself. “Elizabeth, I’m sorry, but if you could stick around for one more interview. The insurance company sent an investigator.”

‘Insurance’ made Elizabeth picture a fussy bureaucrat, certainly not the glamorous redheaded woman who sat down across from her. The woman smiled and held out her hand. “Hi, Ms. Mitchell. I’m Sara Ellis, with Sterling Bosch.” Elizabeth shook her hand and smiled back. “I won’t keep you here too long,” Sara said, “We all appreciate how patient you’ve been.”

Sara’s questions were quick and methodical. It was easy to tell that she was a to the point sort of person. But she had a warm smile, and she never hurried Elizabeth through her answers. Once the interview was complete, Sara stood up. “Thank you. I really do appreciate your help Ms. Mitchell.”

“Please, call me Elizabeth.” Elizabeth paused. “Maybe you can’t share information, but could you tell me, based on past cases, if you think the paintings can be recovered?”

Sara gave Elizabeth a confident, almost fierce smile that sent a bolt of lightning through Elizabeth. “I promise you, Elizabeth, I will recover your art.”

Sara’s smile lingered in Elizabeth’s mind for the rest of the night.

Sara called Elizabeth a few times after that first meeting. The first time, she had some follow up questions, but after that, she called simply to give Elizabeth updates on the case. Elizabeth figured it was probably standard policy, but she still appreciated Sara taking the time to keep her up to date.

A month and a half later, and Sara was still a prominent figure in Elizabeth’s thoughts, even though she hadn’t called in some time. Then came the day Fiona excitedly called Elizabeth into her office to tell her the paintings had been recovered. Ten minutes later, Elizabeth’s phone rang. Elizabeth picked it up. “Sara, hi.”

“Elizabeth, I wanted to let you know that we’ve recovered the stolen items. I don’t believe the FBI has narrowed down a suspect yet, but at least we have the art.”

“I know. My boss just told me.”

“Oh.” Was it Elizabeth’s imagination, or did Sara sound disappointed? “I was hoping to be the one break the news, but of course, it’s best you know as soon as possible.”

“Thank you so much for everything,” Elizabeth said. It occurred to her that she would probably never talk to Sara again. Sara’s job was done. She’d never need to call Elizabeth to confirm a detail or give her an update. “Let me take you to dinner,” she said impulsively. “As a thank you.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line, and Elizabeth hoped she hadn’t been too forward. Then Sara said, “Thank you. Yes, of course.”

“Do you like Italian?”

“I love it.”

****

Sara was an excellent dinner companion, which didn’t surprise Elizabeth. She was witty and interesting, and Elizabeth enjoyed talking with her even more than she had expected. Elizabeth tried to very subtly ascertain if Sara had a boyfriend (or a girlfriend). From the looks Sara was occasionally giving her, Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she was succeeding at “subtly.”

As the meal was winding down, Elizabeth took deep breath. “I didn’t just want to thank you.” Sara looked at her inquisitively, but didn’t say anything. “Honestly, if you couldn’t just tell right now if I’d look like an idiot if I kissed you, I’d really appreciate it.”

Sara smiled. “You wouldn’t look like an idiot at all.”

“Oh thank god,” Elizabeth let a rush of air and Sara laughed. “Would you like to grab a drink at my place?”

“That sounds great.”

Walking out into the streets of New York with Sara by her side, Elizabeth found herself hoping the FBI never caught the thieves who had broken into the gallery. She figured she owed them.