Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 34.

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The trip to Tulsa was so quick that Freedy wondered if the yellow van couldn't have made it after all.  But then it took them another half an hour of city driving to find a Harley Davidson dealership; the first one they tried was bankrupt, and the second one was a used card lot that wasn't interested.

They finally found the franchise shop on the third try.  Surprisingly upscale, Freedy thought.   He could see leather couches, and shining chrome everywhere.

Sam and Steve walked into the showroom, and Freedy stayed behind with the bikes.  He could hear revving engines from inside, and he'd just as soon avoid that awful sound if possible.  Too many in an enclosed space.

It didn't take long for the brothers to come back. 

Sam was shaking his head -- "Only two grand for a nearly new bike!" he said.  "We're being robbed."

They wheeled to two bikes to the side of the building, where they were met by a mechanic in overalls and a backward cap.  He had about the same length of beard and hair as the two brothers but looked twice as big.  Huge arms filled with tattoos.  A big hoop of an earring in one ear.

"Sorry, man," the guy said, shaking his head.  "The boss says no.  Your records don't come up clean.  Says you haven't paid up and it's been repossessed."

"That's impossible!" Sam shouted.  "I'm paid up three months in advance!'

"What can I tell you?" the mechanic said, shrugging.  He began to ostentatiously lower the garage door in their faces.

"How about you, buddy?" Steve said at the last moment.  "Five hundred bucks and it's yours."

The man stopped and crouching down, stuck his head under the door.  "You'd do that?"

"Well, you know, a thousand bucks would be a lot more fair," Sam objected.

"Five hundred," the man repeated the first offer.    "You guys must be desperate, man."

They didn't say anything. The door started coming back up again.  The mechanic stood there with a big grin on his face.

"No," Freedy found himself saying.  What was he doing?  Five hundred was enough to get them a long ways.  There was no need. 

But he couldn't bear the look in Sam's face.

"There's another way.  Find me a jewelry store.  It's time I did some of what you guys hired me to do..."

"You sure?" Sam said, hope entering his face.  "You sure you want to do that?"

"No problem," Freedy said, as if it was something he did every day.

"Hey, what about our deal?" the big guy shouted as they mounted the bikes.  Whatever else he said was drowned out by the engines. 

But Freedy clearly heard Sam's shout,  "Screw you!"

A jewelry store was easier to find than a motorcycle shop, and they parked a block away.

"Stay here," Freedy said, eying the shaggy pair and their bikes with the eyes of a store owner.  The clerks would have their fingers on the alarm button from the moment they walked in.

Freedy was still dressed in the brand new clothing the Elias had given him.  There was a stain on on of the knees from where he'd fallen in the underground corridors.  His shirt and sweater were wrinkled, but no more than anyone would look wrinkled after a few days on the road.  His shoes were scuffed, but obviously brand new.   He thought he could pass muster if he bluffed enough.

It wasn't a fancy jewelry store, which suited Freedy.  More like the kind of shop that sells engagement rings to middle-class kids.  Some fancy watches, a few loose stones.  A workshop in back.  Probably made most of its money on custom and repairs.

"May I help you, sir?"

"I'm looking for a diamond for a design I already own," Freedy said.  Somehow, he felt comfortable around gems, though in reality he wasn't what would be called an expert.  Then again, it was one of the few things he had ever really studied.  He'd wanted to know what Aunt Tessie's rocks were worth, after all.  That's how he'd known he was getting no better than a third of what the stones were worth when Stu had sold them for him.

"How big a stone are we talking about here?" The man said, his eyes lighting up.  He was a young man, probably not the owner.  Maybe the son?  He seemed to have authority, but was a little too eager.  Freedy guessed he'd probably spent time selling real estate or cars before he'd given in and come back to the family business.  Thinning hair, a little mustache and goatee that was probably his little rebellion.

"I'm thinking about two or three carats, depending on the price,"  Freedy said.

The man's face fell, and Freedy realized he shot too high.  They guy probably sold rings more in the thousand dollar range, not the twenty thousand dollar range.

"Well, I have a nice two carat ring, but it's already set.  I could get another one for you within a day or so!"

"I'm kind of in a hurry..."

The man seemed completely downcast, and Freedy realized he was losing him.

"Show me your best stone," he said.  "You never know."

The man still seemed uncomfortable, and then an idea bloomed in his eyes. "Tell you what," he said.   If you pay me another hundred dollars, I can remove the stone from the setting..."

"Hey that would be great.  I'd really like to see it without any impediments, you know?"

The man nodded, trying not to look eager. He probably only sold a two carat ring once or twice a year.

"Hey, do you mind if I use your bathroom?" Freedy asked.

The young man looked uncertain, and Freedy was sure it was against policy.  He put on his most harmless look -- and he knew he looked harmless in any case.  The clerk's eyes caught the stain in Freedy's pants for the first time and he frowned.

"Ah....I don't know.  I'm not supposed to..."

Freedy held up his hand and showed the bruise on his palm where he'd landed when he fell in the underground.  "I fell down outside.  You've got a bit a uplift in your concrete there.  I'd like to clean up a bit."

The man looked panicked.  Not only might he lose a sale, but he could be sued for all he was worth.

"Oh, I suppose it would be all right..." he said.

Freedy was already heading for the back, and after another moment of hesitation, the man opened the little waist-high door between the wall and the cabinet.

Freedy locked the bathroom door behind him and went into a stall.  He didn't know if they had cameras, so he pulled the Key out and bent over holding down around knee level.   He examined the flashdrive.  Almost every stone was too big, but there was a small diamond near the bottom that would probably work.  Freedy started prying it out of the black enamel case with his pocketknife, and it popped out and rolled along the floor for a few feet.

Freedy heart nearly stopped.  But finding the runaway diamond proved to be no problem.  It gleamed even in the soft light of the bathroom.  He took it to a sink and cleaned it as best he could -- there was a little enamel still attached, but that wouldn't contradict the story he was telling.  He put it in his right front pocket, and the flashdrive back in the other pocket, wiped his hands and came out with a big genuine smile on his face.

The jewelry clerk was waiting for him, proud of the big stone he was holding in his palm.

"Check this out," he said.

Freedy looked at it with interest.  Pretty average color and shape, new cut.  Perfectly acceptable for most people.  He frowned, however.

"Well, this isn't quite what I was looking for.  I was looking for something more like this."

He pulled the diamond from his pocket.  The two stones were nothing alike, though they were of similar size.  Freedy's diamond seemed to glow from inside, the facets were sparkling as he held them.  The other stone looked drab and plain in comparison.

The clerk immediately realized he was outclassed.  Still, he rallied slightly, recommending "another" shop in the downtown area.  No doubt he got a commission on referrals.  Freedy thanked him nicely, and left.

He walked quickly to the bikes, and Sam and Steve looked hyperalert and excited.  Freedy didn't want the store clerk to think there was anything wrong, so he didn't start running until he was out of sight.

Sam and Steve had the bikes roaring when he hopped on and off they went.  They weaved through the traffic, and into an alley and then another one.  Finally stopping at a dead end, surrounded by blank walls.  A back door to a Chinese restaurant and a big garbage bin.

"What'd you get?  Let me see!"  Sam and Steve were excited.  Freedy felt calm, of course.  He hadn't actually done anything wrong.  He could tell they were impressed by his stoic exterior.

"It was easy," he said, pulling out the diamond he'd gouged from the flashdrive.  Even in the dim light of the alley, it was beautiful.  He heard Sam's breath catch.

"Put it away," Steve said, looking around.  When Freedy had stuck it back in his pocket, Sam got off his bike and gave Freedy a big bear hug.

"I owe you, man.  Anything you need, Freedy."

"Hey, it was nothing," Freedy said.

Hey -- really it was nothing.

But all the same, he felt a glow in his chest at their admiration

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