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The second jewelry store was located in a shiny new mall. Freedy left Steve and Sam outside, still excited by what they imagined to be his bravura light fingered performance.
"Man, we've got to sell it right away before they realize it missing!" Sam said.
Of course, selling a stolen jewel in the very store that the other owner had recommended would have been pretty stupid, but Freedy didn't tell him that.
The store was slightly more upscale and new -- not a family owned, but a company store. There was a young looking man in a suit behind the back counter, and three young attractive women in the kind of tiny black dresses that all middle aged men wanted to see attractive young women in.
"Hi, if there is anything we can help you find, just let us know," one of the girls said, coming close enough to welcome him, but not putting any pressure on him.
"Well, I hate to do this, it's been in the family for years, but I need to sell this," Freedy opened his hand and wavered the diamond in the lights so it glittered.
Her eyes seem to match the glitter.
"Let me go get Mr. Thompson," she said.
The manager wasn't as young as he looked from a distance, just very well groomed and fit. He was tan even though it was late autumn, and had short trimmed blond hair. He also wasn't quite as impressed as the clerk by the size and shape of the diamond. Being around jewels all day, they probably lost a little of the luster, Freedy thought.
But as he got a closer look even his eyes lit up.
Freedy handed it over to him without hesitation, as if he didn't know what he had.
"Looks to be about two carats," the manager said. "Maybe a little more. We could certainly put it on consignment. Our terms are very generous, up to sixty percent for the consignor, if the stone is impressive enough. Of course, to be salable you might want to have it set. Say five hundred dollars more investment and you could easily ask a thousand or two more in price."
"Unfortunately I need the money today," Freedy said.
The manager looked at him suspiciously. He'd have to report any purchases at the end of the week, if the laws in Oklahoma were anything like they were in Oregon.
"Do you have any provenance? Proof of ownership?"
"Like I said, it's been in the family for generations," Freedy shrugged. The man was going to ask for I.D. any moment, and Freedy suspected that the man would check his credit rating and that would be the end.
"Look," he said, letting little desperation enter his voice -- there had never been any chance this was going to be an up and up transaction. Might as well admit it now. "I'm willing to take less than the usual. My Mother-in-law's house is in foreclosure and if we don't pay up now, she'll be out on the street -- or worse, living with me!" He smiled, one man to another. Come on, pal! Help me out!
A look came over the man's face that made Freedy realize he'd come to the right place. His eyes took on a greedy gleam, and his manner became slightly furtive. He glanced at the three young clerks, all of whom were listening to every word without seeming to be.
"Hey, I need some lunch," he said. "Let me buy you a sandwich in the food court and we can talk it over. Let me get my coat."
He went into the back, and Freedy suspected he was stuffing whatever cash he had into his pockets.
They chatted about the jewelry business -- Freedy knew just enough to keep the conversation going, and it probably fueled the manager's suspicion that he wasn't just a simple man with a simple problem. Freedy let him think it, looking around occasionally as if he was in a hurry -- which he would have been if he had indeed stolen the diamond.
"I simply can't buy the diamond for the store," Mr. Thompson said. "I'd offer you 30% for a diamond of this quality, but I would need absolute proof of ownership."
Freedy tried to look downcast, but waited for the followup.
"However...I have a little Internet business on the side. I buy jewelry from the store at my employee discount when I think the store has underpriced an item. They don't mind. So... I could just buy this from you myself.
"Uh. How much do you think it's worth?" Thompson finished.
Ah, yes, Freedy thought. Always get the other guy to mention a price first. But Freedy wanted to know how much he was going to get hosed, and the best way to find out was to hear the man's estimate of its value.
"I really don't know, Mr. Thompson," he said. I'm just an innocent, in need of some money.
"Normally a diamond this size might be worth twenty grand, give or take. But the quality of this is exceptional. I'd say more like twenty-five grand."
Not bad, Freedy thought. He'd have guessed more like thirty grand or more, but the man had come close at least.
"However," Thompson sounded regretful. " I can't offer you more than ten percent of my own money for it. Three thousand dollars."
The old Freedy would have tried to negotiate it up to fifteen percent and probably failed.
The new Freedy said, "I can't possibly take less than eight thousand for it."
Thompson looked regretful. "That's how much the store would offer. If you just come back with proper documentation, I'm certain it wouldn't take more than a few days. A week on the outside."
Freedy started to get up. "Well, thank you for your time. You're the first person I've checked, so I think I'll need to get a second opinion."
It had been a friendly negotiation until that moment, but now Mr. Thompson's entire demeanor changed. "I'll be checking to see about stolen diamonds, of course. The store is tapped into a very thorough network."
Freedy would have been willing to take five thousand, maybe even four thousand. But this made him mad. A feeling of rightness came over him, as if he knew exactly where this was going to end.
"Go ahead," he shrugged, starting to walk away.
"Wait! Sit down. We can talk this over."
"I want seventy-five hundred or I'm walking out," Freedy said.
Thompson caved. "Look, I have six thousand, eight hundred in my pocket. That's all I've got."
They found a little side corridor and waited until no one was in sight and made the transaction. Freedy was outside and on the back of Sam's bike within minutes. He was feeling proud of himself for doubling the original offer.
"All right, you guys," he said. 'Let go fill up the gas tanks!"
Jonathon Thompson was excited. The fool hadn't known what he had...
This was the best diamond he'd ever seen, and now he owned it. He walked by the three twit girls he was forced to work with everyday into the back office and locked the door. The diamond was probably worth thirty-five thousand or more, full retail, and even online he could get a quick twenty-five thou. Not bad for five minutes work.
He did a quick search and was relieved and somewhat surprised that nothing like this stone was missing. After taking several flattering pictures from different angles, he put it immediately on sale.
If he was lucky, he'd have a nearly twenty thou profit within a week!
What he didn't know was that his pictures were quickly analyzed by a program that was designed to look specifically for that exact diamond and others like it. His location and entire history were quickly discovered and a team of specialists dispatched.
Mr. Thompson was not to see a dime of profit -- but after the visit from the specialists, he was in no position to care.
I'm Duncan McGeary, owner and/or operator for the last 33 years of Pegasus Books in Downtown Bend, Oregon. These days I'm writing books as well as selling them.
I'm the comic book guy. But even more so, I'm a book book guy. Books of all kinds. Big books and little books, children's and adult, fiction and non-fiction, hardback and paperback and trade paperback and graphic novels. Books with more words than pictures and books with more pictures than words. They are all part of the book world to me, and I love being surrounded by them every day.
I also have a second blog: Pegasus Books, where I list the product coming in over the next week.