Reads: 34

The jeweler at the Cloverdale Mall was apparently reporting me to the mall cop so I took off running. He yelled for me to stop.

The cop was overweight and I easily outran him the length of the mall. As I ran around a corner, I stopped and began walking calmly as to not draw attention.

I could hear his footsteps fast approaching so I ducked into Ivey’s Department Store. I pulled a lady’s skirt off the rack as I walked by and then picked up a pair of lady’s shoes.

I stepped into one of the fitting-rooms where the door doesn’t come all the way to the floor. I held the skirt in front of my shoes. I dropped the lady’s shoes on the floor next to me. I heard the mall cop come into Ivey’s and ask if a kid had run through.

I heard him walk by the fitting-room and I slowly waved the skirt back and forth like I was trying it on. He paused briefly and then walked away. I peeked out the door and saw him leave Ivey’s.

As I exited the fitting-room holding the skirt and shoes, an older sales lady was staring at me and shaking her head in disgust. I draped the skirt over a rack, returned the shoes, and headed for the exit.

I sped away from the mall on my bicycle and wondered what had gone wrong. I did just as Grandpa instructed. I took one diamond to a reputable dealer, but the result was the worst-case scenario. I no longer had possession of the diamond and still had no clue what the others were worth.

Perhaps it was because Grandpa thought he was talking to the twenty-five-year-old me in the letter. I suppose it does draw suspicion when a kid walks in off the street with a diamond in his hand. I would need to rethink my strategy for selling the others.

I reported to the Junction Heights Public Library at 8:00 the next morning and met the head librarian.

“So nice to meet you, Nolan. I’m Ms. Ellis. I understand you’ll be spending your days here.”

“Yes, mam.”

“Community service from eight until eleven and school work from eleven to three.”

“Yes, mam.”

She toured me around the library talking about the Dewey Decimal System which I would need to have a proficient understanding of before I could begin work. I would be returning books to the stacks and assisting people in finding what they were looking for.

My favorite part of the tour was the computer lab where a line of 386’s hummed. I’d never owned a computer but spent plenty of time on my friend Ritchie’s 286.

My correspondence school material hadn’t arrived yet so Ms. Ellis told me to make good use of my time from eleven to three. I decided to research diamonds, and how to sell them. I headed to the computer lab.

I figured I could teach myself how to determine the value of the diamonds hidden away in Grandpa’s storage unit. Apparently, it involved the “4 C’s,” which are cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.

I jotted down notes about the 4 C’s and next to that I wrote, “Need: jeweler’s loupe, tweezers, microscope.” Next to that I wrote, “What is a spectroscope? What is a refractometer?”

Had the computer lab not been carpeted, I would have heard Belinda Robinson’s heels clicking up behind me. Instead, she stood silently looking over my shoulder.

“Diamonds?”

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of her voice. I expected her next words to be, “Boy, you’re on your way to William Sherman Detention Center.”

She reached over my shoulder and picked up my notes.

“You need a jeweler’s loupe?”

All of the color drained from my face and I forgot to breath.

“What is this? Some kind of vocational assignment?”

“Huh?”

“Vocational, Nolan. Are you researching a career? Things you’d need to be a jeweler?”

“YES! That is what I’m doing. An assignment!”

“Shh. This is a library.”

Belinda studied my notes, flipped through the empty pages and returned the notebook.

“Are you working today?”

“Yes, mam. Four to eight.”

She made an entry in a little notepad and left. I let out a sigh and felt like a balloon deflating.

By the time I clocked out at Ferguson’s Food I was exhausted. I pedaled my bike home and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Next thing I knew, my alarm was blaring 6:30.

I sat at the kitchen table with my cereal and realized that perhaps the conditions of my probation weren’t quite as overwhelming as I first thought. I survived the first day and was actually looking forward to the second.

I was looking forward to resuming my study of diamonds, and how to sell them.

A few days later, my assignments from Providence Correspondence School arrived. I was attempting to earn two high school credits, one required, one elective.

My first English assignment was a stack of grammar worksheets and in art appreciation I would be learning about the history of art from the stone age to the present. This made me think about Grandpa’s letter where he talked about an art heist.

I’d skipped over that section in favor of the part about cash and diamonds. I decided it was time to go back to the storage unit and read the letter thoroughly. The diamonds turned out to be difficult to sell. I wondered what advice Grandpa had regarding the stolen art work.

I returned to the storage locker, unlocked the briefcase, and focused my attention on the art heist.

“I’m the last man standing of those involved in the 1964 Binghamton art heist. You will find the noted work of Sergio Ricci in cases behind the mattress.”

I pulled the mattress over and observed three hard shell cases with latches. I opened one and found a canvas wrapped in cloth. I removed the cloth and gasped at the brilliance of the colors. I saw vivid geometric shapes and had no idea what I was looking at.

I returned the cloth, snapped the case shut, and returned the mattress to its upright position. I returned to the letter.

“I could write a book about our attempts to move the Ricci’s out of the country. Over the years we had potential buyers in Russia, Columbia, and Saudi Arabia. We ran into problems each time and a misunderstanding cost one of my partners his life.”

It sounded like the artwork was going to be more trouble than the diamonds.

“If I had it to do over, I would have sold the art to an international affairs attorney in New York named Richard Blair who offered twenty percent of the value but I was greedy and wanted more. It would have been worth the eighty percent loss to let him assume all the risk.”

I jotted down notes and continued reading the letter.

“Blair helped open up channels to potential buyers but in the end, I was stuck with the art. If you reach out to Blair there are some things you need to know. First of all, he never knew my real name. If you contact him, tell him you have August Denton’s items. If he doesn’t believe you, ask him ‘Is it safe?’ That will jog his memory.”

The next day in the library I sat at a computer where the angle allowed me to see anyone approaching. I didn’t want Belinda Robinson sneaking up on me again.

I pulled up my notes from the storage locker and searched Sergio Ricci. Apparently, he helped usher in the futurism movement in the early 1900’s with his Genova Luci series of three variations of the port lights. Ultimately the series was separated and displayed in three different museums in Europe.

I searched Binghamton art heist and several articles appeared. The curator of the museum had been praised for managing to reunite the Genova Luci series for the first time in forty years. They were on loan for a three-week showing. The New York art community was abuzz and everyone made the four-hour drive to view the series.

The next article was about the security failure of the Binghamton Museum of Art which was accompanied with old black and white photos of investigators scouring the scene along with stock photos of the art. Even in black and white, I recognized the vivid geometric shapes.

In 1964, each piece of Sergio Ricci’s Genova Luci series was valued at nearly a half million dollars, but it was noted that to have the set of three increased the value tremendously.

I was beginning to think I was in over my head but out of curiosity searched New York international affairs attorneys. I found Richard Blair and wrote down his number.

If the three pieces of art were worth over 1.5 million in 1964, what would they be worth today? All of this made my head spin and I was beginning to think that Grandpa might have been insane to leave his grandson this illegal treasure trove, even if he did think he was leaving it to a twenty-five-year-old.

I decided to visit the person who seemed to know him best, and it certainly wasn’t Grandma or Mama; it was his old friend who paid rent all these years on the storage unit - Cynthia Starr.


Submitted: September 23, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Tim Michael. All rights reserved.

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