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Dear diary

Paris, present-day.

In her apartment Oriente shuffled through the stack of books she had brought home for the weekend to review. She knew that she would probably return to the museum to do more work on the antique clothing, on her own time, but she was going to make the effort to be sedentary.

She looked at the number again on her phone. The person had called again during her walk home, but she must not have heard her ringtone above the bustle of the streets on Friday night. It was starting to creep her out that someone was calling repeatedly, especially so late into the evening. She knew it must be a wrong number, it had to be.

To reassure herself she laid her phone upon her desk and turned the ringer all the way up. If she had the opportunity, she would speak to the caller tonight and clear up any misunderstanding.

Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was now 2 a.m. The perfect time to go to bed, perhaps? Not at all. Oriente inconvenienced no one with her frequent insomnia; therefore it was not a habit she bothered to change. And tonight she felt more restless than ever. She felt something electric in the air.

Her life was so quiet on the surface. She had no reason to think it would change. But she sensed that soon everything was going to change completely for her.

First she opened her Macbook and inserted her digital camera's cable. In moment hundreds of images she had taken flashed across the screen, exquisite details of the late Rococo gowns she had retrieved from the battered trunk.

She was beginning to piece together facts, though she had not once reached for the books on Burg Wolfram that would reveal much more. Someone of wealth and urbanity had once stayed there, bringing with her the most current fashions in Queen Marie Antoinette's pastoral style. The gowns of gold, peach and spring green were made up in the most exclusive silks and taffetas, including chine, the "Pompadour taffeta." Oriente reached for her notebook and jotted suppositions as they came to her about the clothing. The eye of a historian, and her own observations, were as important as anything to be found in a written text about the castle, as so many details might have been left out, by accident or design.

Oriente sketched the lace that she would need to recreate and piece back into the work. It was highly-detailed, but as it was created before the age of machines, it would be far from impossible for her to re-create.

When she had finished studying the costumes, she finally turned to the texts. Reading the dry, small-press book written by the estate's curator was not nearly as exciting as reviewing the costumes. There was almost nothing written on the time the gowns, and their owner, would have made an appearance onto the estate.

At four o'clock, Oriente's phone rang again. Her heart began to thunder. The small screen illuminated her face in the semi-darkness as with trepidation she identified the caller as the previous caller.

After a reluctant pause, she answered the phone with deep uncertainty.

The voice on the other end of the line was equally uncertain in tone, though it might have been explained by his attempts to grasp the French language well. He was evidently German, and his voice was inexplicably familiar to her.

"Mademoiselle Laurec? I'm relieved to speak with you finally."

"Who is this?"

"I apologize for this interruption." She could hear the sound of clinking dishes and the noise of a coffee maker in the background. "I am relieved that you evidently wake early, like myself."

"Who .. ?"

"I .. ah .. we have met on occasion, Mademoiselle, in the Cafe de la Reine. I wonder if you would be good enough to speak with me in person at some suitable time. My name is Oskar. Oskar von Wolfram."

Oriente was for a moment speechless as an image flashed through her mind of the bad-mannered barista with the longish black curls. Why was this man calling her?

"I am sorry, I do not understand."

"You would .. not care to speak with me, mademoiselle?"

Her breath caught on a hitch. Was he requesting to speak with her for some personal reason? This could not be. Could it be the same man? The same voice, but he sounded quite reserved now, reluctant even.

"Monsieur von Wolfram, how is it that you have my personal number?"

"Why, mademoiselle, I was obliged to take your number the first time I ran your credit card at the cafe."

"And you .. recopied it?" An edge of surprise colored her voice.

"No, mademoiselle, I would not. I memorized your number. I wish that we might speak, face to face, if you will allow."

Oriente knew that she would sleep through most of the day to recover herself from her all-night study. And Oskar von Wolfram evidently was a morning person, so a late engagement might not be best.

Her heart thundered as she realized she was contemplating meeting this stranger, who she supposed was not truly a stranger, but with whom she had exchanged no personal conversation -- though she had noticed him speaking often and at length with many other regular patrons.

Once he realized how little there was to her, his intrigue in her would cease, surely.

"I cannot meet with you today until this evening. I will come to the cafe at five, if you wish," she said hurriedly, growing hot with embarrassment at the thought of someone being personally interested in her.

"Thank you, mademoiselle." He paused briefly, when she longed for the embarrassing conversation to be closed. "Can it be that you have not slept? You seem very alert."

"I .. was reading," she admitted briefly. "I must go, monsieur. Good day."

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