By Joan Leotta

Elena slid into the chair across the table from her friend Alda at Nettie’s Coffee Emporium. “Sorry I’m late. Overseas phone call. Did you order coffee for me?”

Alda laughed. “ Of course. And a pistachio muffin too. You have the same thing every week.”

She pushed one a plate over to Elena. “Nettie brought the muffin, but she was waiting for you to arrive to bring the coffee. Overseas call, eh? Mysterious.”

Elena picked up her muffin and broke off a piece. Nettie swooped by and deposited a cup of coffee on the table. “Thanks.”

After a bite of muffin, Elena leaned forward and spoke to Elena in a low voice. “I was on a call to London arranging a special purchase for the library, using that grant we got last year. It’s got to stay hush hush until the Board approves it tonight.”

 “Wow! Sounds like a great article for the me. An exclusive, I hope.”

Elena laughed. “Oh yes, my friend, but you have to wait until the deal actually goes through. It will be the biggest purchase the library has ever made.”

“Wow! How much?”

“One hundred thousand dollars for one wonderful, rare document, so rare it is a bargain at just that price.”

“You always did have an eye for a bargain, Elena. Hey, we’ve been pals since high school. I’ll pinky swear to keep the secret.”

Elena kept her voice low. “We’re going to purchase a handwritten letter signed by Queen Elizabeth the First to Shakespeare. It compliments him on his writing skill. We’ve had it authenticated so all I need now is the approval on the money.”

“That’s amazing. I can’t wait to see the letter!”

Elena smiled. “No waiting needed. I have a photo.” She held her phone out to Alda.

Alda peered at the screenshot. She nodded as she read the old English script and gasped when she saw the signature, Elizabeth, I. “You’ve had this authenticated?”

Elena chuckled. “I just told you we did!”

Alda sat back in her chair. “Elena be glad that the finance committee has not okayed the purchase yet. I think your letter is a fake.”

“How can you say that after only seeing a mobile phone picture? I know you love Shakespeare but you’re a journalist, not a scholar.”

Alda smiled. “No, but I do watch those television shows on the history of the English Royal Family. And one of the shows last week gave me the info that tells me this isn’t Elizabeth’s signature.”

Elena frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, last week a public television special about the Royal Family, revealed that Queen Elizabeth never signs any documents  with a letter after her name, opting instead to use, R for Regina or Queen.  And they said that she may have developed this way of signing from the first Queen Elizabeth who signed everything, Elizabeth, R or simply Elizabeth. Never Elizabeth, I.”

“Hmm, I think I should do a little more research, perhaps with a third ‘expert’ before I turn over the funds.”

Alda smiled. “I’m texting you a link to the show so you can contact their researcher. I think it was someone form the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.”

Elena nodded. “A pretty reputable source.”

The two women drank their  tea. Later that afternoon, Alda got a call from Elena confirming that the document was likely a fake. “I owe you a dinner for saving us from being swindled.”

“How about a lunch at the Renaissance Faire? It starts next weekend.”


Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer who lives by the ocean in North Carolina. Her trilogy of historical romance/mysteries are about to be reissued on Amazon. Her work on stage and on page usually focuses on food, family, strong women, and is often inspired by  historical trivia she learns on TV.

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