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If the crime sounded as if it had been dreamed up by a romance-novel writer, listen to the confession:

"My life was effectively at an end," wrote Barbara Josyln, the love-story author, trying to explain the despair and financial hardship that induced her to act as a decoy, taking a friend to lunch on Saturday while a male accomplice burglarized the friend's Park Avenue apartment of a Picasso sketch and other valuables worth $800,000, the police said."I had lost my mother, my boyfriend, and my aunt was taken to a nursing home," Josyln said in a handwritten statement given to the police, which was filed Tuesday in Criminal Court in Manhattan. "I was swindled by two sets of stockbrokers."

She insisted that the scheme was her own and that she had coaxed help from the man accused of being her accomplice, Ian Pringle, a film producer, by dropping suicide threats into their discussions.

"I and I alone am to blame," she wrote, adding, in the breathless language of a dime-store novel: "I implore you, if you have any humanity or compassion, to let him go and punish me."

Josyln's lunch date and victim, Crawford Greenleaf, described her to the police as a friend of more than 20 years, and he was stunned to find out that she had admitted to being part of the burglary.

In her confession, Josyln also explained why she zeroed in on Greenleaf rather than someone closer to her home in West Hollywood, Calif. Despite the Baccarat crystal she had given him in better times, Josyln said, Greenleaf was unsympathetic when she told him of recent trouble.

"When I cried tearfully a month ago that I was (and am) going to kill myself, his response was a flip `do what you have to do!' uttered with contempt," Josyln wrote.

She came under suspicion on Sunday when, like the proverbial criminal returning to the crime scene, she arrived at Greenleaf's apartment as witnesses were being interviewed by Police Detective John Flannery.

In his statement to the police, Pringle wrote: "I know with certainty, she never intended for myself to be involved. The reason I did was to help her. I truly feared she would end up in trouble."

They both did.

Josyln and Pringle were arraigned Tuesday in state Supreme Court, each charged with burglary and conspiracy and held on $25,000 bail.