By staring out across the great lawn, Ana could actually see the haze rising up on this sweltering summer morning. Cicadas drown out the soft melody playing on the outdoor radio. Aside from the staff of her father’s estate, Ana is the fist one awake. She sits on the lounge chair under an umbrella wearing nothing but a large brimmed sun hat over her dark flowing hair, a white swimsuit revealing her smooth tan legs, and a pair of gold stiletto heels.
Ana takes a sip of the warm tea Rosalyn, one of the housekeepers, brought out for her and places a piece of danish into her mouth. She breathes in the heavy Argentinian air and opens her book, which instantly captivates her. In fact, she becomes so enthralled by the story, she does not notice the man walking up to her until his body creates a shadow of the sun.
Ana slowly lifts up the sun hat just enough for her eyes to meet her unannounced visitor. He is a heavyset native dressed in a full suit clearly on the verge of overheating.
“Hello, Miss.” He speaks with a thick Spanish accent. “Do you own this property?”
“It’s my father’s but he’s away. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“When will he return?”
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that. Sometimes he’s gone a week, sometimes it’s for months at a time.”
The man stares at Ana, sweat beads dripping down his dark round face. He glances over at the table. His eyebrows furrow at the sight of the teacup and danish. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?”
“No ma’am. Thank you for your time.” He walks away. Ana sits there for a moment unsure of what to do. She picks up the teacup and examines it. The thin white glass is painted with green vines and has a gold rim on the top that matches the delicate handle. She checks the bottom of the cup but sees only the words MADE IN ARGENTINA. Ana takes the last sip and opens her book again.
When the morning sun sits directly overhead, Ana heads inside. Feeling utterly bored, she walks up to her room to have a rest before lunch. As she reaches the last step, she hears a knock at the door. Through the glass Ana can see another dark man in a full suit. Assuming it is another man looking for her father, she carries on to her room.
The knocking continues, louder this time. The man pounds his fist against on the door. Ana presses the button on the intercom. “Sorry, Father’s not in right now.”
“No miss, I’d like to speak with you. And please bring the tea cup you were drinking from this morning.”
Teacup? Ana wonders. What could be so important about a teacup? She decides to make the man wait a bit. Ana takes her time walking down the stairs; she opens the back door to see if her breakfast is still on the table outside. That is when she sees three more men standing around her lounge chair. “Give us the teacup.”
One of the men opens the jacket of his suit revealing a handgun. Ana remembers the last time a man threatened her with a gun. She was eight and living in the states with her mother and father. Her father had strong affiliations with an Argentinian mob and when the prohibition began, the men came knocking on their door. Ana never understood why but when things became too violent for Ana’s mother, she walked out forcing Ana to choose between the two. Ana, not fully comprehending the situation, chose her father only because she knew he possessed all the family’s fortunes. Before she left, her mother made her father swear that Ana be protected. With that, her father shipped Ana down to his Argentinian estate where she continues to live year after year with only the company of housekeepers and gardeners while her father does his “business” elsewhere. “Why?” Ana asks the men, genuinely curious. “It’s just a silly little tea cup?”
“Just give us the damn cup!” The man takes out his gun and points it directly at Ana’s head. Without letting an ounce of fear show through, Ana flashes a smile and in a matronly voice says, “I believe Rosalyn brought it in to be cleaned. Would you give me a moment, please?”
She opens the door and walks inside. The man puts his gun down and follows her with the other two men right behind him. Rosalyn stands at the sink in the kitchen. “Excuse me Rosalyn, have you seen my tea cup from this morning?”
Rosalyn turns around. When she sees the three men, she races out of the room throwing her hands up in the air as if praying to a higher power. “Sorry, I don’t know what she did with it. I guess you’ll have to come back another time.”
“We’re not leaving until we have that tea cup.” Ana glances in the sink but it’s empty. She then opens a cabinet revealing a dozen white teacups with gold handles, gold rims, and painted green vines. “Maybe Rosalyn put it away already. I suppose it’s in here somewhere.”
The men look at each other and then back at Ana. “Here, why don’t you take all these teacups with you, find the one you’re looking for, and then bring the rest back. I’ll make this easy for you. Let me go get a box.”
Ana waits for no response. She walks over to a closet off the kitchen and pulls out an empty crate. Although she feels penetrated by six eyes, the men give her no objections so she continues to carefully place the teacups in the crate one at a time. When she finishes, she hands one of the men the crate and shows them to the door. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“When you see your father, tell him he is running out of time.” Ana watches the men walk out the door. When they are far enough down the path, Ana closes the door and locks it. She walks back up the stairs. She then walks into her father’s room and finds him sitting on the balcony reading the paper. “Hello my Ana Banana; how are you on this lovely afternoon?”
“I’m actually a little hungry.” Ana sits down in the chair next to him and turns on the radio. “Do you think Margharite can make us something?”
“Sure my princess. I’ll go tell her right now.” He puts his paper down and walks over to the intercom to put in a lunch order and then sits back down.
“Those men were back again looking for the tea cup. I don’t know if you remember but it’s my eighteenth birthday and you promised to tell me the importance of the cup when I turned eighteen.”
“I know they were here, Button. Thank you for taking care of that. I hope you did as you were told and gave them all the copies we had made.”
“Of course Daddy.”
“Well, I suppose I can tell you a little something about the cup. It was given to me by the anarchist Severino Di Giovanni right before the government executed him last year. It is just one of many Hapsburg heirlooms scattered around the now independent Spanish colonies. There is a group of us protecting and tracking down these heirlooms. Those men work for the government. If the government gets a hold of a piece of the treasure it will give them enough power and money to…”
“Sir! Excuse me sir! It’s gone!” Rosalyn and Margharite both come bolting through the bedroom door. Rosalyn falls to her knees and begins to weep. Ana’s father jumps up in an instant rage. “That is impossible. Rosalyn you are the only one who knows where I keep that cup. Rosalyn, stand up immediately! I don’t want to hear a single sob out of you. Tell me how on earth the cup is gone!”
Rosalyn gathers herself and stands up. “Sir, you told me that on little princess Ana’s eighteenth birthday she may drink from cup. So this morning when she come down for breakfast, I give her tea in cup. When she finish, I go to take it away and it’s not there! I search all over house but no cup. Oh sir I am terribly sorry.”
“That’s enough Rosalyn. You are dismissed.” Rosalyn drops her head. She and Margharite walk away, closing the door behind them. Ana’s father goes over to the intercom and requests a car. He slips on his shoes and starts to walk out. Ana frantically grabs him by the shirt. “Wait Daddy…”
He pushes her off. “I have no time to explain, Ana. This is bad, very bad.” He walks out the bedroom door and shuffles down the stairs. “But Daddy, wait!”
“Ana go in your room and stay there. You are no longer safe. I will call you soon.” He opens the front door where four men greet him. They grab his arms, throw a blindfold around his eyes, and stuff a piece of cloth into his mouth. One of the men presses a gun against his temple. They carry him into the car. “Daddy no!” Ana screams from the top step. One of the men looks up at her. She quickly covers her mouth and backs away out of sight. She falls to the ground in sobs as she hears the car drive off. Eventually, she picks herself up and walks back to her room. Ana throws herself onto the bed and lays her head on a pillow. She reaches her hand under the pillow and pulls out her teacup from this morning.