"Very well. I think there is no need for us to meet again."
"That is a pity."
The valet smiled, imagining the first man's curt refusal to take the second man's sarcastically proffered hand. He heard footfalls, receding. Then all was quiet. Carrier could hardly keep from moving now. He had been staring at the torso so long it had begun to breathe. Forcing his eyes from the miraculously alive stone, he sidled round the mounted pediment, a shallow, spreading triangle that showed a procession as it would appear above the entrance to a temple, chariots, slaves, women, animals for sacrifice. He adopted the innocence of a tourist.
Seeing him appear, a man in a garish, plaid suit with large leather buttons hastily stuffed a wadded-up packet of bearer bonds into his pocket. He had extraordinary whiskers, curly yellow muttonchops framing a large florid face consisting of a bulbous nose, thick lips, and small concentrated eyes.
"A fine piece," Carrier murmured, not bothering to look.
"Yes," the man answered, pretending to take it in. He even reached out as if to touch a chipped centaur but thought the better of it. "Greek, ain't it?"
"Fifth century." Carrier glanced down at the plaque. "B.C., of course."
He was a large man, almost seven feet tall, and thick, with huge mitt-like hands hanging empty at his sides.
"I heard what you just did." Carrier stared at the bulge the packet made in his vulgar suit. "You know, of course, it is criminal. Blackmail."
"Oh, that." The man grinned. He nervously pushed a hand through unruly, meal-colored hair. "Bit of business me and my friend was doing, that's all. What's it to you, anyway?"
"Nothing," Carrier admitted. "That really is the problem, isn't it?"
"That it is nothing to me." He looked up at the high vaulted ceiling of the museum's Antiquity Wing. "Do you know why I come here?"