London's Treasures
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 3
Chapter 3 of 12

He was thinking of his girl as he walked down the sidewalk, broken hearted.  He opened his wallet and looked inside again, two fives, seven ones, and whatever he had in his pocket for change, maybe a buck more.  Today was her thirty-fifth birthday.  He’d promised her so much when they married out of high school.  The only thing he’d been able to deliver on from the promises he made to her was they had their own house, and a sports car.

 

Their house was a trailer, he salvaged it and moved it to the property on the south end of town and rebuilt it for them to live in.  They had about the same income they do now, and he had to cut a lot of corners to make the place livable, but he’d done it and it was better than living on the streets; though the place was hard to keep warm in the winter.  One of the corners he’d had to cut was on insulation, instead of batted fiberglass, he had balled up newspaper and filled the three inch walls with that.  At least he was able to seal it up so the wind didn’t blow thru the place like it had the first winter; they both almost froze to death that winter.  He was able to afford a chainsaw the next summer, so the wood for the woodstove was ample now.

 

As for the sports car he’d promised her, it was a 1971 Trans Am that he was barely able to keep running.  It leaked oil really bad, he kept using form-a-gasket to keep it from leaking.  One of the windows was held up with duct tape; last summer he was able to tear the heater apart and engineer it enough so heat would actually go into the passenger area, enough that they could survive the run to town in the twenty below zero weather they usually had in the winter.  But the engine was on it’s last legs, smoked bad and missed.  He wanted to put new plugs and wires in it, but, they had a kid eight months ago now.  There wasn’t money to fix the car with their son.

 

But what could he get her for seventeen dollars and change that was worthy of her birthday?  He’d been to the dollar store, and that was a bust.  He didn’t want to get her some plastic piece of shit that was meant for a little kid.  She was into unicorns and the only ones she had were from when she lived at home with her parents before they were married.  Now, they wouldn’t even talk to her since she married that looser piece of shit, as they referred to him as.  Maybe they were right.  Her brother was a manager at the wood mill he worked at, and if firing him wouldn’t be detrimental to his sister, his hate for his brother-in-law would’ve been his undoing.

 

“London’s Treasures.”  He read from the large sign above the doorway.  They carried used stuff, but the place looked expensive.  “I’ll give it a shot.”  He muttered to himself as he walked in, hoping they might have something that was decent for a gift for his girl that he could afford.

 

He walked the isles of the store, looking at price tags.  “Two hundred forty five dollars, holy shit.”  He commented as he set the ornate elephant down.  “That’s outrageous.”

 

“Can I help you with something?”  He heard a girl’s voice say.

 

Turning around fast he nearly knocked something off the shelf, it was assuredly more than his weeks wage.  She was a blonde beauty, a bit older, but still, a looker.  “Oh, hi, ah, just looking.  Thanks.”  He told her.

 

“We have a lot of different things for a wide range of tastes; what-ch-ya looking for?”  The girl asked then looked him up and down, clearly thinking he was there to steal something.  “A gift for someone?”

 

He smiled meekly.  “Ah, ya, for my girl.  Her birthday, but, I don’t think I can afford anything in here.  I’m sorry, I’ll leave now.”  He told her and started for the door before she asked him to leave having looked him over and his torn and threadbare clothes.

 

“Oh, birthday gift.  Birthdays are important to girls.  You two married?”  She asked.

 

“Yes ma’am, seventeen years now, she’s turning thirty-five Wednesday.”  He admitted.

 

“Oh wow, that’s a long time to be married, and her thirty-fifth, yeah, you need to get her something special; what does she like?  I can help you find something for her.”  The girl told him.

 

He tried to smile at her.  “Thanks, but… I’ve only got seventeen dollars, I don’t think there’s anything in here that cheap.  Thanks, I’ll go now ma’am.”  He told her and started for the door again.

 

“I’m Wanda, and don’t be so quick to leave.  The stuff you’re looking at is stuff we keep out for the tourists.  I bet we have something towards the back that will be perfect for her.  What kind of things is she into?  What does she like?”  Wanda asked again.

 

“Thanks… ah…”  The young man fumbled his hands in front of himself at his waist.  “She loves unicorns, crystal statues, stuff like that.  I haven’t been able to get her much, I work at the mill, and… we just had a baby so, things are really tight.”

 

The girl smiled.  “I bet.  Unicorns you say… hum, you know what, we just got some stuff in, I haven't put it out yet, I’ll be right back; I think there’s something in there that’s perfect and in your price range.  Wait here, don’t go running off.”  She said then smiled again before she headed towards the back of the shop.

 

“It should be in here.”  Wanda said to herself as she dug through the boxes, tossing the packing material around the floor as she dug.

 

She was on her fifth box now, the packing material was covering the floor when she pulled out what she was looking for.  It was a decorative unicorn, from the mid seventeen hundreds.  She looked at the price tag stuck to the bottom that came on the piece from Horace Goat’s; it said the piece was eight hundred dollars.  She’d sell it to him for sixteen plus tax and pay the rest herself.

 

“Yes, that is the piece I had in mind for our young lad.  I knew he’d be in when his wife’s birthday arrived, packed it just for him.”  She heard Horace’s voice say; she nearly dropped the unicorn when he spoke, she didn’t know he was here.

 

“Horace!  My god you scared me!  When did you get here?”  Wanda exclaimed.

 

Horace chuckled as he smiled down at her with his hands clasped behind his back.  “You know I arrived in town the same day you did Wanda.  I never leave, I can’t.”  He held his hand out towards the unicorn.  “You can tell our young man that you’ll sell that to him for the wholesale price, thirteen dollars, no tax required since you’re selling it to him wholesale.”

 

“It is you.  I thought you looked like him when I first met you.  How… that’s been… I was fourteen then.  You look the same now as you did then.  That’s… that’s impossible!”  Wanda stammered as full realization hit her.

 

As Wanda stood from the box Horace’s face lost it’s smile.  “Humankind always claim something’s impossible when they don’t understand something.”

 

Her face had gone white now, even through her California tan, all the color drained from her.  “No.  I’ll find something else for him.  I won’t sell him this.”

 

Horace’s face became dark, mean, evil.  “Yes, you will sell it to him.  Money must change hands; you will not give it to him, and you will not find something else.  Thirteen American dollars.  That is what you my child will sell this totem to him for.  You made a deal with me Wanda, and I intend on holding you to that deal.  You will also keep your mouth shut.  Denver and his wife, you will say nothing to them.  I saved you from death; it wasn’t Denver that brought you back from the realm of the dead, it was I, and you will do as I tell you my child.  Go, sell that to our young man.”  He ordered her then turned and walked away.

 

Wanda set the unicorn down on a bench and stepped back from it with her eyes locked on the unicorn.  “No.”  She whispered.  “I won’t do it.”  She clutched her side as pain ripped through her body causing her to double over, blood shot from her mouth when she coughed.  She felt weak, her leg burned, blood came from that too; her wounds were returning.  “Okay, I’ll do it.”  She managed to say.

 

As fast as the pain hit her, it was gone.  She stood straight again and picked up the unicorn.  The price tag on the bottom was different now.  It said ‘wholesale cost $13.00’.  She felt cold as she stumbled forward and walked from the back of the store.

 

With a smile on her face leaving no trace of what had happened in the back, Wanda walked up to the young man holding the unicorn out to him.  “You think she’ll like this?”

 

His face lit up when he saw it.  “Oh wow!  Yes!  She’d love that!”  His face fell fast now.  “But, that looks old, I’m sure I can’t afford that.”

 

Wanda returned a kind smile.  “Well, it’s not as expensive as you think.  I’m not supposed to do this…” she said then turned it over and showed him the price on the bottom, “but I’ll let you have it for our cost, since it’s for a special gift.”

 

The young man’s face lit up again.  “Oh, na, I can’t let you do that.  You’d get fired.”

 

With a laugh Wanda told him, “I doubt that, I’m one of the owners.  Thirteen dollars and it’s yours.”

 

He pulled out his wallet.  “Oh man, thank you, thank you, thank you.  Jenny will love this, I know she will!”  He handed her thirteen dollars.

 

“Tell you what, I’ll even gift wrap it for you.  Wait here, I’ll be right back.”  She told him.

 

When she returned from the back, the young man was standing right near where she’d gone into the back waiting with a somewhat down face.  She handed the wrapped box to him with a smile.

 

“There you go, all wrapped.”  She said.

 

“Thanks again, I can’t tell you how much this means to me, really, this was really nice of you, thank you.”  With the box in his hands, he looked around quickly, stopping on a customer in the store, then hurried out without another word.

 

This customer watched the young man leave with a sour look to her.

 

“Missus Miller, hi.  Can I help you with anything?”  Wanda asked as she came up to the woman as she watched the young man leave.

 

She looked to Wanda and smiled as though she were repulsed.  “That’s Tommy Porter.  Lowlife slime is what he is.  You really shouldn’t have been so kind to him.  He’s just lice infested white trash; and his poor wife, having to bear his foul spawn… Jenny.”  She sighed and shook her head.

 

“Oh.”  Wanda said, not knowing what to say to what the woman had just said.

 

Lisa Miller’s eyes returned to Wanda.  “She was my daughter, before she married that reprobate.”  Her eyes fell to the floor again.

 

“Oh, so you’re here shopping for a birthday present for her then.  I understand she’s fond of unicorns, is that right?”  Wanda asked trying to recover the situation.

 

Missus Miller’s face rose fast, her eyes flashed with hatred.  “Heavens no!  The day she married that thing, is the day she no longer was my daughter!”

 

This time it was Wanda whom looked to the floor.

 

“And that trailer that they call home, the city should tear it down!  He, that foul man, bought property on the south end of town, it crosses the city line.  Where he put that dump of a trailer at, the city had to run sewer, water and electric to it.  And we paid for it, the taxpayers, paid for it.  If that wasn’t bad enough, now that she pushed out his foul child, they get assistance to pay for the utilities, and food.  I thought for sure she’d leave him within a year; seventeen years now, and she still hasn’t wised up and left that bum!”

 

Wanda tried to smile.  “Is there something I can help you with missus Miller?”

 

Missus Miller’s face lost it’s angry look, and took on an embarrassed tone.  “I’m sorry, I just get so angry about what happened.  Yes, my sister is coming to visit from Phoenix next week and I’d like to get her something special.  She used to teach at a college there, she has a taste for Egyptian things, you know, like the Pharos, that kind of thing.  You wouldn’t happen to have anything like that would you?  She taught entomology, you know, bugs and insects.”

 

Wanda thought for a second.  “Egyptian… insects, yes… we have a scarab piece that she might like in our Oddheim collection.

 

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“Why the long face Mark?”  Horace asked as he sat on a stool at the coffee bar.

 

“Oh, good morning mister Goat.  What can I get for you this morning?”  Mark asked as he turned to his customer, stuffing something into his pocket.

 

“Please Mark, call me Horace.  We’ve come to know each other quite well now I think.  A double espresso, dash of cream please.”  He requested with his usual polite smile.  “Now, what was behind that glum look you had when I first came in?  Looked like something had you more than down my young friend.”

 

Mark looked back and smiled as he started making Horace’s request.  “Oh, it’s nothing, just… personal stuff.  It’s nothing, really.  We have some blueberry tarts this morning?  Interested mister Goat, sorry, Horace?”

 

He made a thoughtful face and nodded slightly.  “Hmm, yes, a blueberry tart, yes.  Maybe I can offer some wise advice my good fellow.  I have been around the world, several times over my friend.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss me as an old fossil.  I was young once too you know.  Seen many things, known many people; I have the knowledge that only comes with age.  Try me.”

 

Mark finished making the coffee drink for Horace and set it down in front of him.  Horace slid a twenty to him.  “Keep the change my friend.  Now tell me of your woes.”

 

“Thank you mister… Horace.  It wouldn’t be right of me to trouble you with my problems, it’s nothing, really.”  He replied.

 

Horace made a considerate face and nodded.  “Nothing is it, hmm, if it is nothing, then it should be nothing to tell me.  This wouldn’t happen to have anything with a certain lady friend of yours now would it?  Veronica Nelson perhaps?”

 

As his face dropped Mark sighed.  “That obvious huh?”

 

“Yes, I’m afraid so.  Trouble on the lovers front?”

 

Mark’s face crunched.  “No… well, yes… kind of, not trouble really, everything’s fine between us, it’s just…” he sighed hard, “I want to propose, but…” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper with a picture on it, “this is the ring I want to get her, but since I got my own place now, I haven’t been able to save up the money for it.  I asked my folks for some help, but they told me this was something I needed to do for myself.”

 

Horace nodded again as he looked the picture over.  “Wise advice, helping to prepare you for married life.  A borrower nor a lender be.  And old saying, often misinterpreted.  That is a very lovely ring, I’m sure she’d love it.”

 

“Yeah, I know she would.  We saw it in the jewelry store last month, she practically drooled over it.  It’s from the 1620’s, and very expensive.  If I was still living with my parents, I could afford it, but, having our own place, you know, was trying to get situated for getting married.  I was hoping when we opened the coffee shop here, they’d turn it over to me and I’d be making more, but, that isn’t going to happen yet.  We still have to pay for the equipment, and when I take over, they want me to pay them back for the investment, which I can understand, but…”

 

“It’ll take time and money will still be tight before you’re raking in profits.  Yes, I understand that all to well.”  Horace replied.  “She likes old things I take it?”

 

Mark nodded.  “Yeah, we both do.  That’s why I like running the shop here so much.  Why Veronica likes visiting me here so much before she starts work at the bank.  Kind-a wanted to do my own store like this, but, at least I get to in a way, running the coffee shop here.”

 

“That’s a good attitude my friend, yes, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.  You’ll do well.”  Horace affirmed.

 

“Thanks Horace.”

 

Horace looked thoughtful for a moment, putting his hand to the side of his face, then nodding ever so slightly.  “Yes, I just might be able to help you out my young friend.”  He stated then reached into his coat pocket and removed a small box, the size of a ring box.  “I’ve had this for some time now, I think it might be perfect for you.  I was going to see if Shelly wanted to try and sell it here, but I think I’d rather you had it.”  He said as he held the box out to Mark.

 

With a questioning face he asked, “What is it?”

 

Horace chortled once.  “Open it and find out.”

 

Mark laughed nervously as he reached for the box.  He picked it up gently and cautiously opened the lid, inside, a ring, clearly very old.  “Wow, that’s… this is beautiful mister Goat.  It looks very old.”

 

Horace smiled.  “It is, six hundred years old to be exact.  It was originally made for the princess of York at the time.  Bit of an oddity, with it’s sapphire setting on either side.  I think that would make the perfect engagement ring for your lady friend, don’t you?”

 

Mark scoffed while smiling large as he ogled the ring.  “Yeah!  She’d love it.”  He looked from the ring to Horace.  “But… I… I can’t afford this, it has to be worth… I don’t know, a hundred thousand dollars.”

 

“There is some value that is beyond that of mortal money my young friend.  Love, far more valuable than any trinket or human currency.  I’d like for you to have it, for your girl, for love.”  Horace revealed.

 

Looking to the ring then back to Horace, Mark scoffed again.  “I can’t, it would be wrong of me to accept this from you mister Goat, I can’t, really.  It’s awfully nice of you to offer, but, I’d feel guilty.”

 

“Nonsense my boy, I would consider it an honor for you to present that to your bride to be.  Like I said, love, it is far more precious than gold and jewels.  I have plenty of both my good friend.  For love, I am happy to have this ring be given for true love.  Consider it my investment in your life and future with this young maiden.”  Horace told him.  “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue; that is what they say at weddings, right?”

 

Mark looked up.  “Yes, what the bride is supposed to wear.”

 

“Then, I will borrow this to you till your end of days.  That way when she wears it down the isle, you’ll have the something old, something borrowed, and something blue covered.  Her dress will be new I presume?”  Horace articulated.

 

Shaking his head again Mark scoffed again.  “I can’t mister Goat, Horace, it’s a really nice gesture, but…”

 

“Enough, it would do my heart good for you to have it; like I said, I’m borrowing it to you till your end of days.  My charity for young love.  Do an old man a favor, please, allow me in my twilight, this gesture of goodwill.”

 

Rasping his throat, Mark started shaking his head again.  “Veronica would love this, she really would.  She’d be so happy…”

 

“Then it’s settled then.  Pick your moment and present it to her, with my blessing my boy.”  Horace stood and turned towards the main part of the store.  “Ah, Shelly my dear, good morning to you.”  He greeted her as he moved from the coffee bar.

 

“Horace, you’re here rather early.”  Shelly replied.

 

He smiled at her.  “Yes, well, I came in for a cup of the best espresso in town, and to talk to my friend Mark here.  He really has an eye for antiquities.”

 

Shelly’s eyes moved over to Mark then back to Horace.  “Oh.”

 

Before she could say more he turned towards the door out.  “I really must be getting on the road.  I have a big day today.”

 

And with that, he walked to the door and was out before Shelly could say anymore, still lost in her thoughts and confusion.  Once Horace was gone, she collected herself, looked around the store some, then to Mark.  “Can you make me a latte please Mark?”

 

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“Lunch?  At the Boxcar?”  Denver asked as he and Shelly worked.

 

With a pleasant scoff and a shake of her head Shelly replied, “You sure like that place, don’t you.”

 

Denver shrugged.  “Yeah, it’s alright.  Good food, made fresh, not frozen from a box off the Sysco truck, yeah, for lunch, they’re good.  You don’t like it I take?”

 

Shelly flipped her hands up and let them drop with a passive expression.  “Yeah, I mean I don’t not like it, it’s just…” her face pulled tight as she looked at nothing, “I don’t know, just burnt out on the place I think.  We’ve been eating there everyday we’re here, which is basically everyday.”  She looked up at him with a smirk.  “Want to try Stockman’s Grill?”

 

A sour expression came to Denver’s face at this suggestion.  “The place looks like a dump on the outside.  I think the food will be highly questionable.”

 

Shelly scoffed loudly at him.  “Really?!  The Boxcar is, well, a lunch counter, in a boxcar!  The kitchen is in an attached boxcar behind the one you eat in!  And you call Stockman’s questionable.  Hobo’s eat in boxcars.”

 

“Yeah, but…”  Denver sighed.  “Okay, you’ve got a point hobo girl.  We’ll try Stockman’s Grill for lunch today.  Eat in or pickup?”

 

Before she could answer, the door chimed and the county Sheriff walked in.

 

“Uh-oh, the law’s here.  I’ll let you handle this.”  Shelly said to Denver.

 

He looked at her with a ‘just relax’ look.  “Oh really?  Maybe he’s here to shop.  Ever so suspicious.  You know, when we were first married, I was a cop on the beat.”

 

“Don’t remind me.”  She retorted as he walked towards the Sheriff.

 

“Sheriff, something I can help you with?”  Denver asked as the two men approached each other.

 

The man looked Denver over a moment with a stern expression.  “I’m afraid I’m here on official business mister London, you and your wife.”

 

Denver raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?”  He looked back at Shelly then returned to the Sheriff and held an arm out towards the coffee shop sitting area.  “Would you like to sit down?”  He offered.

 

The Sheriff shot a look at Mark as he stood behind the counter, not watching the Sheriff, but still there.  “Maybe we should talk someplace more private.”  He suggested.

 

“Alright.”  Denver returned then looked towards Mark.  “Mark, we’re going to the office for a bit.  If anyone comes in, let me know.”

 

Mark looked at Denver and smiled.  “Sure thing mister London.”

 

Once in the office Denver let his wife sit behind the desk while he stood beside her then pointed at a chair across the desk for the Sheriff, whom remained standing.

 

“So, what’s this all about Sheriff?”  Denver questioned while Shelly remained blank faced.

 

“Thad Munkman, know him?”  The Sheriff asked.

 

“The postal carrier?  Yeah, he delivers our mail.  Bought a replica car collection from us.  What about him?”  Denver inquired.

 

“He’s dead.  Wrecked out on the Browerville tar;  Met an oak tree at about a hundred and thirty miles an hour the accident investigator figures.”

 

“Oh no!”  Shelly exclaimed, putting her hands to her face over her mouth.  The Sheriff kept his eyes on Denver.

 

Denver himself, though saddened to hear of the death, remained professional and held his stance.  “I’m sorry to hear that Sheriff; but why does that bring you here to us?”

 

The Sheriff’s eyes narrowed slightly as he took in Denver.  “Because of something his wife told us about, and that you mentioned.  That replica scale model car collection.  Seems Thad found out the collection was junk, fakes.  According to his wife, he told her that they weren’t manufacturer authorized commemoratives from the sixties, rather, Matchbox cars from the early nineties made up to look like the scale model replicas.  Worth about a hundred and eighty dollars, online, not the four thousand he paid for them.  Told his wife he was going to have words with you about it; took a personal day and wanted to be here as soon as you opened.  He crashed on the S curves just this side of the city line.  That’s how you’re involved.  Care to explain that collection?”

 

Denver and Shelly exchanged a look before Denver spoke.  “That collection was authentic and not from Matchbox.  The Anaheim Mint made those, their name and logo was embossed on the bottom of each car, I checked them over personally and verified them online as being authentic; there was also a certificate of authenticity from the mint that manufactured them.  They were all true scale models of muscle cars made in the sixties from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.”

 

The Sheriff reached to his shirt and pulled out the envelope that protruded from the upper right pocket of the shirt.  “You mean this certificate?”  He said, then pulled a paper out, unfolded it and dropped it on the desk.  “It’s signed by Henry Ford, and dated August 21st, 1963.  Henry Ford died April 7th, 1947.  Be rather hard for him to sign it, and he wouldn’t have since the cars were all from the big three automakers.  I’d like to hear your explanation for that.”

 

Denver didn’t pick the certificate up, instead he leaned over and inspected it where it sat on the desk.  His eyes walked over the certificate for nearly a minute before he spoke.

 

“That is not the certificate of authenticity that came with the collection; and the signature that is supposed to be from Henry Ford, looks nothing like his real signature.  Any car enthusiast would recognize that as a fake.  Henry Ford had a very distinctive part of his signature, the H in Henry, almost looked like a cursive Z, or a lowercase N, with a low loop.  I have a photo copy of the certificate that went with the collection sold to mister Munkman.”  Denver stated then turned to the side and went to the filing cabinet.

 

“Here, copy of the certificate of authenticity, and a photo of the collection I took with my phone and printed on photo paper.”  Denver informed the Sheriff when he returned and set the two papers down beside the fake certificate the Sheriff had presented to him.

 

The Sheriff picked up the copy of the certificate and the photo and began looking the copy of the certificate of authenticity over first.

 

“You can see ‘Anaheim Mint Collectables’ clearly printed on the original box they came in.  The certificate also has the Anaheim Mint name and logo on it, and the signatures are from the then president of the company, Milton Richards and the two designers, Willard McPherson and Rick O’Day.”  Denver explained as the Sheriff looked the pages over.

 

Looking up from the pages the Sheriff said, “I’ll be keeping these.”

 

“No.  I’m afraid you won’t be stealing our property, Sheriff.  And if you try, I will be arresting you for theft.  I’m very much aware of what you can and cannot do.  I used to wear a shield myself, and worked in internal affairs investigations.  Unless you’re charging us with something, you’ll need a court order to seize our records.”  Denver informed the Sheriff as he took a hard stance.

 

The Sheriff took his own rigid stance.  “Then you know the benefits of being cooperative with the law, which I am.  And I do have the grounds to arrest you right now, and seize your records, fraud mister London, selling fake collectables, and considering the sum of money involved, that’s a felony offence.”

 

The two men stared each other down.  Shelly interjected an offer.

 

“I can make you a copy of the certificate, and print another picture, Sheriff.”

 

“If Thad Munkman was on his way to see us about the collection, he would have had it with him.  Where is that at?  You have the certificate, yet didn’t produce the collection in question.”  Denver attested.

 

With a bit of a guilty look, the Sheriff relaxed a bit, but still remained stoic.  “We didn’t find it in the wreck.  Just the envelope with the certificate in it.  We’re still looking for the cars.  Probably was thrown clear.”

 

“Probably thrown clear…”  Denver repeated quietly after the Sheriff said it.  He adjusted his stance as he looked hard at the man.  “Unless he put it on the dash, they should’ve been inside the car.  If he had placed the collection on the dash, since you said he hit an oak tree, I’m assuming head-on, they would’ve been in the box, and not flown far; even if the box broke apart from impact, there would be pieces of it laying around; cardboard doesn’t fly far.  Are you positive it was in the car with him… Sheriff?”

 

“From what his wife told us, yes.”

 

“From what his wife told you; and what she said about his claim of their being fakes, hearsay, not admissible in court.  No proof, can’t find the cars; did you check his home for them?  Investigate at all?”  Denver challenged.

 

The Sheriff’s face became angry.  “We have a dead man here, and you’re challenging me on if I know how to do my job!  You’re not earning any points with me right now mister London…”

 

“The fact a man is dead isn’t my issue, I didn’t kill him; but you did accuse myself and my wife of fraud, that is the issue I have to deal with, Sheriff; and as to ‘earning points’ with you, I don’t give a rat’s ass if I’m earning points with you; to be clear, you’re not earning any with me either.  If you’re going to arrest us, then get to it; with no proof, hearsay evidence, and what hard evidence you have, I have evidence that fully counters that; I challenge you to find my fingerprints on that document that you claim was on mister Munkman.”  Denver retorted heatedly.

 

“Denver, calm down.  This isn’t helping.”  Shelly stated then looked to the Sheriff as she stood.  “I’ll make a copy of the certificate of authenticity, no harm in that.  And I’ll print out another copy of the picture of the collection.  It’s no problem Denver; that will end it, we have proof the collection was real.”

 

Nodding Denver agreed.  “Yeah, and print the entire file, all the pictures.  I took several pictures of each car; top, bottom, front, back and both sides, for our insurance.”  He returned his attention to the Sheriff.  “I’ll do that much for you Sheriff.  Any further questions, you can ask through our attorney.”

 

The Sheriff scoffed and rocked himself on his hips.  “Oh, and who’s that?”

 

Denver smiled.  “I haven’t decided yet, I’ll let you know as soon as I arrange something.”

 

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I can assure you mister London, that is not anything I would ever have in my inventory.  Everything I deal in is either a true piece of history, or a replica of one; I don’t sell anything made or discovered after1850.  Even the art replica company I carry, only deals in art, mister London, toy cars are not something you would have received from me.”  Barron Oddheim insisted over the phone.

 

“According to our records, it was received in a shipment from your company.  Perhaps one of your employees included it by mistake; there has to be some explanation as to why it came in a shipment from you.”  Denver argued back.

 

Again, I must iterate, I would never have anything like that in any inventory.  I check each shipment personally, and their contents.  I am very involved in my business mister London.  Are you sure it isn’t something you acquired yourself?  That sounds more like something you would’ve pick up while out ‘picking’ as you call it.  I wouldn’t know the first thing about toy car replicas… I will check my records and invoices of all shipments to your store, mister London.  I can assure you though, no toy cars were shipped to you by myself.”  Barron again insisted as Wanda hurried up to the desk Denver was at with a paper in her hand.

 

“Got it Denver!  It arrived just before our grand opening sale.  It’s right near the bottom of the page, and it’s on an invoice from Oddheim’s.”  She informed him as she passed the paper to him.

 

Denver gave the paper a quick glance at where Wanda was pointing.  “I can save you the trouble Barron, I have a copy of your invoice in my hand right now.  And listed on it is a scale set of hand crafted muscle car replicas made in 1962, and we were billed eighteen hundred, forty two dollars for this eight piece set.  I guess you goofed, definitely made after 1850.”

 

There was a long pause from the other end of the call.  When Barron spoke, he was clearly upset at hearing this news.  “Can you email me a copy of that invoice please mister London?

 

Denver held the phone receiver to his shoulder as he handed the paper back to Wanda.  “Scan that and email it to him, please Wanda.”  Then he returned the phone to speak into it.  “Having Wanda send it to you now mister Oddheim.  Give me a call when you have it; we’ll discuss this more then.  Goodbye.”  Then while Barron Oddheim was talking, he moved the phone receiver over the cradle and let it drop, ending the call abruptly.

 

“Well, that will fix his little red wagon.  I’d like to hear him try and explain his way out of that one.  If those turn out to be phonies when the sheriff’s department finally finds them, he’ll be the one taking the wrap, not us.”  Denver commented absentmindedly, not speaking to anyone, just airing thoughts out loud.

 

Wanda was pulling on her lip as she stared off in thought.  Denver started looking up and noticed her and the look on her face, himself now wondering what was up.

 

“What’s the matter Wanda?”  He asked.

 

She stopped pulling on her lip then shook her head slightly in a quick motion several times.  “I unpacked that shipment…” she looked at Denver now, “I don’t remember a set of scale replica cars in the shipment.”  She no sooner got the words out when she clutched her side and cried out in agony as she toppled to the floor.

 

“Wanda!”  Denver yelled, coming around the desk fast to her.  “What’s wrong?  Wanda, you’re bleeding!”

 

She was gasping, but started to recover slightly and righted herself.  “It’s okay, it’s just… um… that time of the month.”

 

He looked at her with disbelieving eyes.  “Since when do periods make you bleed from your nose and eyes, I’m calling an ambulance.  You’re going to the hospital.”

 

“No, Denver, please, I’m fine.  It’s nothing…”  She argued.

 

“Yes, this is Denver London, I’m at London’s Treasures downtown, I need an ambulance.  The address, yeah…”  He was already on the phone and talking to the 911 operator. 

 

Wanda was going to try and get him to cancel the call, but she couldn’t argue as she started to convulse and vomit; a thin black syrupy liquid poured from her mouth and nose.

 

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“There’s nothing we can find wrong with her mister London.  Every test we’ve ran has come back negative.  Her blood count is normal, no blood in any of the samples we took from urine, stool, no signs of any bleeding whatsoever.  You wouldn’t happen to have collected a sample of this black substance you say she was throwing up, would’ve you?”  The ER doctor said.

 

“No, didn’t think of that.  Just wanted to get her here as fast as we could.  I carried her downstairs so she’d be closer for the ambulance crew to get to her.  None of them went upstairs.”  Denver responded.

 

“If it wouldn’t be asking to much, we might be able to come up with some answers if we could test that.”  The doctor requested.

 

Denver nodded with a distant face.  “Yeah, I’ll get it.”  He looked up from his mental wandering to the doctor again.  “How long are you going to keep her here?”

 

The doctor’s lips and face tightened as he raised his arms some.  “She can go home with you right now.  There’s no reason to keep her here.  Unless there’s something in what she threw up, we have nothing solid to make a diagnosis with.  There’s nothing medically wrong with her that we can determine.”

 

“Shouldn’t you keep her for observation?”

 

The doctor sighed and tightened his face again.  “I’m afraid, that unless you paid for everything yourself, your insurance company wouldn’t authorize that.  We even tested for pregnancy, seizures, nothing.  She is in perfect health mister London.”

 

“Perfect health my ass; she was bleeding from her nose and eyes!”

 

With a sigh the doctor replied, “There is no indication that she bled from her eyes or nose.  If she had, mister London, especially with the amount you claimed you saw, there would be residue, there was none.”

 

“Are you calling me a liar?  I know what I saw!”  Denver accosted the doctor with.

 

“I’m not calling you anything mister London, please calm down.  I know what we found, which is nothing.  I can’t create something that isn’t there.  I can show you all the test results and go over them with you, if that would make you feel better; miss London has nothing wrong with her medically.”

 

“And just what is that supposed to mean?  There’s nothing wrong with her medically?  You think she faked it and I imagined what I saw?”  Denver challenged.

 

“It means exactly what I said, there is nothing medically wrong with miss London that we could find; I’m not implying anything, just stating the facts.”  The doctor reasoned back.

 

“Dad, I’m alright, okay, give the man a break.”  Wanda defended the doctor as she walked up.

 

“Wanda, what are you doing here?  You should be in bed!”  Denver stated excitedly.

 

“They released me, like the doc said, and I tried to tell you, I’m fine, nothing wrong with me.  Let’s go back to the store.”  She told him with a slightly annoyed tone.

 

The doctor smiled at Wanda.  “If anything else happens, please come back in.”  He looked at Denver.  “And if you wouldn’t mind, that sample, that might help us figure this out.”  He looked to Wanda again and nodded.  “Have a nice day.”  He ended then turned and walked from them.

 

Denver came to Wanda’s side.  “Are you sure you’re okay, why don’t I just take you home so you can rest honey?”

 

Wanda scoffed.  “I told you, I’m fine, you’re making a big fuss over nothing.  I want to go back to the store, I have a lot of stuff to do; sitting at home would drive me nuts and you heard the doctor, there is nothing wrong with me.  It’s probably just lack of sex.  We’ve all been so busy at the store…”  She turned and moved past Denver heading towards the exit.

 

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Barron Oddheim had shown up at the store, asking to speak with Denver in the office to go over the invoice and shipping records that were in question.  With him, Barron had the original copies of the invoice and bill of lading.

 

“The copy of the invoice you emailed me, has been altered.  If I can see the original that you scanned in to send it to me please.”  He requested.

 

Denver’s expression was cold and convicting.  “What good would that do?  You have a copy of it.  Are you accusing me of doctoring your invoices?  Why would I do that?  What good would it do?”

 

Barron sighed.  “Do you have the original, or don’t you.”  He reached into the briefcase he had on the desk and took out the printed copy of the one that had been sent to him.  “I’d like to compare this copy you sent me, the copy you have, and the original I have.  I said nothing mister London of you doctoring the invoice as you said.  I am merely trying to solve this enigma.  Unless you did tamper with them and are trying to cover it up, then please produce the original from your files.”

 

With a sigh and an even colder glare at Barron, Denver rose from the desk and went to the filing cabinet and dug out the original from their files.  He returned to the desk and placed it in front of Barron; he then removed his original from the briefcase and placed it next to the one Denver provided.

 

“Hmm, yes, this is not the original that was sent with the shipment.  This has been copied, and altered.  You can see here where the toy cars, or replicas, have been added.  You see here, there is a small line from where a piece of paper with the addition was placed, and the changes to the shipping register.  The font is slightly smaller and different.  My invoices have a font designed specifically for me.  You can’t get it anyplace else.  It is custom.”  Barron explained and pointed out what he was talking about.

 

This got Denver’s attention, from his past work life, he’d seen many doctored documents and was well aware of the marks that Barron was talking about.

 

“You can also see small dots, black ink, toner dots that were left behind from dust on the copy machine.  The original I have has no such dots, as it was printed from my laser printer, as was the actual original that was sent with the shipment.  I print three original copies, one that I keep in my files in my office, one that goes with the shipment, and one that is put in my records vault, should it be needed.  As you can see, I also stamp them with a time and date stamp.”  He lifted the paper that he’d brought that was the original and held it to the light.  “The paper I use, has a very specific watermark.  The paper comes from Japan, you can see the watermark here.”  He pointed to the mark and Denver looked at it.

 

“Yeah, I see it.”  He replied.

 

Then Barron picked up the original that Denver had brought to him and held it up.  “This is standard copy paper, even the wire form from the paper is different, much lower grade.  It is cheaper paper, and thus, has a more mottled pattern in it.  The paper I print my invoices on is a rice and linen paper.  Rather expensive, but it lets me know if an invoice is not an original.  My own way, if you will.”

 

“That’s interesting, but that doesn’t mean the one you sent me was on this paper.  You could’ve altered it yourself and sent the altered one along, knowing you could show a difference in paper.  How do I know the invoice you sent wasn’t on plain copy paper?”  Denver questioned.

 

Barron sighed.  “You don’t.  But, if you take any other invoice you have from me, I’ll stake my reputation that they will be my watermarked paper.  You can check if you like.”

 

Even though Denver fully expected Barron to be right, he still went to the filing cabinet and pulled another of the invoices for Oddheim.  When he held it to the light, the paper looked just like the original that Barron had shown him, watermark and tight pattern from the manufacture of the paper.

 

“It’s the same as your original.  That still proves nothing.”  He announced.

 

Barron nodded in agreement, it did prove nothing.  “In a court of law, probably not.  But it should to you.  Do you honestly believe that I would send you an altered invoice?  Why would I?  I could simply print one on my paper.  A real invoice would be better than a fake.  There is also the bill of lading.  On the original that I have, and on the one I received a copy of from the shipping company, both list eight packages as being picked up, and delivered.  Only on yours does the number become nine.  Any package I ship, is either one large item, or a multi-pack of smaller items.  I never ship something as small as the box the alleged collector cars came in.  You should be suspicious mister London, but not of myself, rather, you should be looking to find out whom would want to alter these records on your end.”

 

Denver picked up the papers that he’d taken from the filing cabinet and returned them to where they belonged; returning to the desk and his chair, he sighed hard as he sat down.

 

“Only myself, Shelly and our daughter Wanda have access to these records.  I know neither of them would tamper with the files, and I know I didn’t.”  Denver concluded.

 

“Is there anyone else that would possibly have access to your records?  Any employees you have in the store?”  Barron questioned.

 

Shaking his head Denver stated, “We don’t have any employees, we run the business ourselves.  The only other people in the store are the two that run… …the coffee shop.”  He looked up at Barron with a disbelieving expression.  “Mark, and one of the employees from the main coffeehouse.  But they wouldn’t… no, I don’t believe they’d do anything like this.  Why?  They’d make no money off of it.”  He looked to the top of the desk for a second then shook his head confidently.  “No, they’d never do anything like that.  No reason.  They’d have to get into the office somehow, and one of us is always here, and they are always at the coffee bar.  They don’t even know where the office is, and when we’re not in it, it’s locked.”

 

“Is there anyone whom would want to see you fail; accused of selling fakes, to see your reputation hurt?”  Barron Oddheim asked.

 

Denver was looking off in thought, considering his question; he started shaking his head, slowly at first, then with more resolve.  “No.  No one I can think of.  The only competition we have is the shop that we evicted when we bought the place.  But they sell completely different types of stuff than we do; they’re actually doing quite well.  The store they have is bigger now and they’ve expanded.”

 

Silence fell between the two men for several minutes, each in their own world of thought.  Barron was staring at the desk, and the copy of the invoice he’d brought that was still sitting on top of the desk; a thought hit his mind and he looked up at Denver.

 

“Where is your copy machine?”  He asked.

 

“Huh?  Copy machine?”  He looked over at it.  “Right there, what do you want a copy of?”

 

“The machine, the image it makes.  May I use it please?”  Barron asked.

 

“Ah, yeah, sure.”  Denver answered and stood taking Barron with him to the machine and turning it on.

 

“Do you have a blank sheet of paper?” 

 

“Yeah, in the bottom there’s an open ream.”  He answered.

 

Barron opened the bottom of the cabinet and pulled one sheet of paper out, lifted the top, and placed the paper on the copy deck, then, closed it and started the machine.  When the blank copy came out, he took it and returned to the desk; Denver followed with curiosity written on his face.  Barron took the copy of the invoice he had and the blank page and laid them side by side.

 

“Hmm, yes.”  He mumbled then turned the pages around so they were in a direction that Denver could read the writing, though the blank page had none.  “See here, these black dots.  Two up top here, very small.  The same dots are on both papers.  This copy was made on your photocopier.  If you look at the copy in your files, I’ll make book, the same dots are on that.”  Barron surmised.

 

Denver’s eyes were dancing over the two papers, after several moments he returned to the file cabinet and retrieved the invoice in question and laid it next to the other two papers with the blank one in the middle.  On the invoice he had, the same dots appeared.

 

“Son of a bitch.”  Denver commented lowly.

 

“I’d call that proof, wouldn’t you mister London?”  Barron Oddheim stated then picked up the blank paper and his copy of the invoice that was emailed to him and placed them in his briefcase.  “I think we’re done here, mister London.

 

Denver himself was lost in thought, unaware of what Barron had said or done.  His mind was racing at the implications of what was revealed; his detective’s mind a runaway train of thought.  He was unaware of Barron closing his briefcase.  “Good day mister London.  I hope this clears the path between us.”  He said then started for the door and left.

 

It was almost a minute after he had left that Denver spoke.  “Yeah, it does.”  He muttered then looked up intending to say more, but he was alone in the office.

 

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Denver called both Shelly and Wanda into the office for a meeting, and actually closed the store around noon.  The sign in the door said the store was closed for a company meeting, coffee and pastries were still being served.  He’d built a small fence out of PVC that would be placed in the morning to keep customers out of the retail store but allow easy access to the coffee shop.  The fencing was up now for the meeting.

 

He told his wife and daughter about what Barron Oddheim had said, as well as what he pointed out and discovered relating to the copy coming from their copy machine.  The mood in the room was a thick despair and disbelief that Mark or the other employee would do such a thing.  There was also one main point that made this a highly impossible thing.

 

“Denver, really?  Mark?  Why?  And you’re forgetting, the office door locks when it’s closed.  You had the system installed, no one can enter without a security fob.  Even if they did find a way in, what good would it do them?  If we fail, they fail.  The only reason they have the coffee shop here is because of us, and they’ve been doing freaking fabulous because of us.  Without us, they lose income.  There wouldn’t be enough business to sustain the coffee shop on it’s own.  After two, there’s no business.  Paying full rent on a place… for the hours they operate, no, it’s not Mark or Tasha.”

 

Denver sighed.  “I know, been thinking the same thing.  I hoped you might have some other ideas.  Neither Mark or Tasha has any connection to the other shop, and they’re the only ones that would benefit from us going under.  And even that is far fetched.”

 

Wanda had some information on that front.  “Actually, we’re killing them.  With us having the interior designer here, she’s doing all the snow bird’s houses.  They like what we have, most of her customers are older people.  Our competition has had to move into newer, contemporary products.  Doesn’t move well here in the lakes.  And the older people like what we have.  They’d be the best bet for trying to axe us.  Lisa Miller shops here a lot.”

 

“Yeah, Lisa Miller.  Could she possibly access the office; have time to make a change on invoices, plant fake stuff?”  Denver asked.

 

“Fuck no.  Come on dad, she herself said her brother has his head up his ass.  Their store has been barely making it even before we came on the scene.  She loves us, recommends us to all her high end friends.  Shit dad, because of her recommendations, we’re selling more stuff and the interior designer is busy as fuck.  No, Lisa, not happening; Mark, not happening.  I think Tasha has the hots for me, I know she’s gay.”

 

Denver shot Wanda a look.  “Okay, not interested.  And I agree, neither of the coffee house people have anything to do with this.  And we never leave the office door open.  So that basically leaves… one of us.  We should still talk to Mark and Tasha.”  Denver looked off for a second.  “Mark wasn’t here this morning, who’s the new woman?”

 

“That’s Mark’s oldest sister; she helps out from time to time.  Mark didn’t show up this morning.  I actually had to try and run the fucking coffee bar and call over to Grammar’s place to find out what the fuck.  Mark just never showed up and they weren’t able to reach him, so his sister called in to work and helped out.  She’s a teacher at the high school.”

 

“What about Barron Oddheim?”  Shelly posed.  “He did seem put out that we were doing business with Horace.  And he is the one that figured out that the copy came from our printer…”

 

“Already considered that.”  Denver said shaking his head.  “Again, that leaves opportunity.  Like you said, you need a fob to get in here, and the door closes automatically when we leave the office.  As far as him figuring it out, in his line of work, you have to be able to tell if something is fake.  That includes documents and knowing how they can be altered, how they are generated; him spotting that, fits with who he is.  I checked into him through my sources.  He’s a solid guy, very well liked and respected.  Very dedicated to what he does.  Then there’s the why question again.  Sabotaging us, simply wouldn’t make sense.”

 

(The distant sound of sirens started in the background.)

 

“The same holds true for any of us.  Why would we sabotage our own store?”  Shelly stated.  “It was my idea originally, you loved it and made it happen.”  She sighed hard and looked to her lap.

 

Denver’s eyes became wide as he stared at the top of the desk; slowly they went to Wanda whom was also staring off blank faced.

 

“Someone who didn’t want to leave California; didn’t want to come to Minnesota, stayed behind in California at first.”  Denver said with accusation in his voice, countered by his own doubt of what he was implying directly.

 

Shelly’s head came up fast, along with Wanda’s  “Oh Denver please!  You know how ridiculous that sounds?!  Accusing Wanda, of all people!  I can’t believe you’d even suggest such a thing Denver London!  Of all people, Wanda.”

 

His eyes were hard on his wife.  “Just running all the possibilities.”  The sound of the sirens was getting closer now.  “We already considered one of us.  I can even include you in this mess Shell.  True, it was your idea originally, then I took the ball and ran with it.  At first, you were less then enthusiastic when I found this place in the business listings.  Even commented about going back to the cold of Minnesota; said you weren’t in favor of living someplace it routinely got to twenty below zero.”

 

Shelly scoffed and gave Denver the bird as she shook her head.  “If I had any real objections, you’d have changed your mind fast, I know you would’ve.  Shit Denver, right after I mentioned not wanting to live in a sub-arctic place, you started looking in Arizona and Florida for crying out loud!  We even looked at a place in Nevada.  That’s when I told you I liked the idea of moving back to Minnesota.”

 

The sirens were really close and loud now, Denver looked up towards the windows across from where he sat and behind the two girls.

 

“Whoever did this is getting just what they wanted, us fighting between ourselves and accusing each other.”  Shelly added.

 

“That sounds like they’re right outside.”  Denver commented as he started to stand.

 

“Probably a fight at the Blue Ox Lounge, again.”  Wanda commented distractedly.

 

“At noon?”  Denver questioned.

 

“Yeah, happens from time to time during lunch there.  Not the best place in the world, and you guys are usually eating at the Fox Hunt or whatever that dive is called.”  Wanda stated.

 

“You mean The Boxcar?”  Denver asked with a snort.

 

“Yeah, Boxcar, Fox Hunt, whatever, can’t stand the place myself.  Everything is so greasy and all the customers look like lumberjacks.”  She further stated.

 

“That’s only on the weekends, during the week it’s all business people.  And how would you know what a lumber…”  Denver was saying when someone started pounding on the office door.

 

He turned to answer the door, when he opened it, Barron Oddheim was on the other side with a distressed look about him.

 

“Barron Oddheim, we’re in a meeting…”  Denver began, cut off quickly by mister Oddheim.

 

“You need to come upstairs, it’s urgent.”  He told Denver in a hasty voice.

 

Denver made a sour face of anger.  “I’m sure it can wait…”

 

“It’s bad Denver.  The ambulance is on its way, so is the Sheriff and the state police.  The FBI has been called too.”  Barron stated then turned from the door and hurried off, waving an arm for Denver to follow.

 

The three looked at each other as faces of concern and dread took hold on each of them; then they started after Barron Oddheim.

 

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Barron Oddheim led them up onto the third floor.  Outside of one of the apartment doors, several police officers and the county Sheriff and several deputies were talking.  One of the officers had a camera and they were discussing a crime scene.

 

“That’s Mark’s apartment.”  Wanda informed them.

 

Shelly and Denver looked back at her, then to the area the police and deputies were, the Sheriff had gone into the apartment.  Barron Oddheim was talking to a deputy then pointed back to them.

 

“The owners are right there.”  He told the deputy.

 

Denver strode ahead of the others; the deputy stopped him when he tried to enter the apartment.  “Hold up mister London, you can’t go in there.”

 

Looking at the deputy Denver replied.  “I own the place, and I’m also a former investigator.  I may be able to help, if I can find out what happened.”

 

“I know who and what you are mister London.”  The Sheriff’s voice said as he returned from the apartment.  “And this isn’t an internal affairs investigation; that’s what you did for the state of California.  As a private dick, from what I’m told.  This is a crime scene, you’ll stay out.”

 

His eyes narrowed and his face hardened as he looked to the Sheriff.  “I also used to be a cop, in Saint Paul Sheriff.”

 

“Yeah, I know all about that.  Quit after being found unfit for the job, sent to a desk, then quit.  I’ve read your file mister London.  This is a state matter.  The feds are coming in too.  We’ve got things well in hand; we don’t need any armchair detectives getting involved.”  The Sheriff told Denver.

 

Denver sighed hard.

 

“What happened, that’s Mark Grammar’s apartment; he worked with us in the store, tell us what happened.”  Shelly requested.

 

The Sheriff looked between Denver and Shelly several times; with his own hard sigh, he relented.  “He was murdered; stabbed in the heart and his head beat in.  We think his girlfriend killed him, not sure if it was self defense or not; he may have attacked her.”

 

“That’s preposterous.”  Wanda Interjected; Denver glanced at her fast then back to the Sheriff.

 

“That is rather far fetched Sheriff, Mark Grammar made a bunny look vicious.  Have you questioned his girlfriend yet?”  Denver stated.

 

The Sheriff started shaking his head.  “Can’t.  Looks like after she killed mister Grammar, she hung herself; probably because of what she’d done.  There’s no sign of a struggle that we’ve found yet.  Appears mister Grammar was sitting in a chair in the living room part of the apartment, stabbed in the heart by his girlfriend reaching from behind and stabbing him in the chest.  He would’ve died quickly, never saw it coming or had a chance to react.  Then she beat him on the skull with a brass elephant, goes about eight to ten pounds I’d say.  It’s a mess in there.  Then she slit her wrists and hung herself.  Think she might’ve survived cutting her wrists; she tied the rope to a drain pipe from the roof that goes out the side and jumped off the vanity, the rope wasn’t very long, snapped her neck when she stopped about three inches from the floor.  That’s what killed her I’m guessing.”  He looked at the three individually.  “You three keep this to yourselves.  Understand?”

 

“They’ve dealt with my work life enough to know to keep their mouths shut Sheriff.  My daughter worked for me, and when I retired, had started with FBI in internal investigations.  You don’t need to worry.”  Denver informed the Sheriff.

 

“I know mister London, that’s why I’ve told you what I have.  We’re staying back until the feds get here.  They’ve got some specialists coming in from Saint Paul to look this over.  And I’m more than willing to let this fall in their laps.”  The Sheriff replied.

 

Denver nodded as both men lowered their hackles some towards each other.  “Mark’s sister is working downstairs.  She should probably be told about what happened, and you’ll probably want to talk to her.  She came in this morning when Mark didn’t show.”

 

“Thank you mister London, I will need to talk to her.  You said he didn’t show this morning, and he lives here in the building; did you try and see if he was here this morning?”  The Sheriff asked.

 

“I was the one that was here this morning, and yes, I did knock on his door.  No answer though.”  Wanda answered.

 

“Sheriff Hanks…”  a deputy said as he approached with two men in suits following behind him, clearly the federal agents that were expected, “this is agents Anderson and Anderson, from the FBI.”

 

“Anderson and Anderson huh?”  The Sheriff said as he faced the two men and his deputy.

 

 “Yes.”  The lead agent said as he held a hand out to the Sheriff.  “But we’re not related.”

 

Sheriff Hanks moved his hand out and shook hands with the agent.  “Sheriff Thomas Hanks mister Anderson, and this is mister London, his wife and their daughter.  They own the place.”

 

The second agent smiled when he looked at Denver.  “Denver, small world.  Good to see you again.”  He said then stuck his hand out to shake hands with Denver.

 

“Hello Tracy, like wise, just wish it was under better circumstances.”  Denver replied as he shook the man’s hand.

 

Sheriff Hanks was rather put off that the agent was so receptive of Denver; this was easily read on his face.

 

“Always the case though isn’t it.  It’s the life, always brings you together in bad times.”  Tracy replied.

 

“Excuse me gentleman…”  Sheriff Hanks interrupted, drawing the agents attention to him.  “the crime scene is in here, if you’d like to see it.”  He continued, pointing to the door into the apartment and starting in towards it.

 

When agent Anderson held a hand out for Denver to come with, the Sheriff interceded again.  “Ah, this is an official crime scene, whatever mister London may have been before, he’s a civilian now.”  The Sheriff told him.

 

The junior agent Anderson looked to his superior, whom looked between his partner, the Sheriff and Denver, ending on the Sheriff.  “It’s alright Sheriff… Hanks, correct?”

 

“Yeah, Thomas Hanks.”  He confirmed.

 

“Denver has had more than his share of time on crime scenes, he just might be of value to us; I authorize his coming with; you have no problem with that, do you Sheriff Hanks?”  The senior agent asked.

 

Without a word, Sheriff Hanks turned towards the apartment and started in, muttering to himself under his breath.

 

The scene inside the living room was gory, to say the least.  The kitchen knife used to kill Mark Grammar was still in his chest, blood covered the tan cloth chair he was in, his head caved fully in; blood and brain matter was spattered across the floor and walls, the bloody elephant lay nearby; cast off blood tracked across the ceiling from the repeated blows to his head with the statue.  The smell of the dead filled the air of the room.

 

“At least he didn’t suffer long.”  Denver commented as he looked the sight over.  “She used her left hand for the knife, her right for bludgeoning his head in with the elephant.  I’d say you were right Sheriff, she stabbed him while standing behind him first; probably used the position she was in to pull the knife into him while supporting herself against the back of the chair.”  He pointed to the left side of the room.  “She’d raised the elephant high up, I’d guess as high as she could reach, he was looking up and to the right, probably trying to look at her when she brought it down onto his head, striking him on the front right temple area first.”

 

Denver carefully moved around the chair to the front of the body.  He pointed to Mark’s left arm.  “He tried to grab the knife, looks like a thumb print from his hand in his own blood on the handle.  He was already dead though, was never able to try and remove it.”  He leaned in slightly.  “Got him right above the pump, severed the main artery, she pulled back, severed both sides of his heart.”

 

Straightening up, he moved back to where the Sheriff and the two agents were standing.  “Let’s have a look at the girl.”  He said and the group moved to the bathroom.

 

Denver looked the scene of the dead girl over for a few minutes.  “She’s still clothed… in the clothes she killed him in… but she took her clothes off, removed her bra and panties, then put her clothes back on before she slit her wrists.  She cut off to the side on her arms, the wounds wouldn’t have killed her, then she hung herself.  She had the rope placed before she cut her wrists though.  Cutting her wrists was probably an after thought, before she hung herself… may have thought if she didn’t die from the hanging, she’d bleed to death.  Getting undressed, removing her underwear, then getting dressed again; that is rather unusual, not something I’ve seen before in a suicide.”  He concluded then looked back at the agents.

 

Tracy was shaking his head.  “I agree.  Usually, when a suicide undresses, they finish themselves in the nude.  We’ll have to check her body over once we get her on the table, she may have carved on herself.  This is an unusual situation.”  He agreed.

 

“Sheriff.”  A police officer called as he came to them. 

 

Sheriff Hanks looked back to her.  “Yeah, we’re kind of busy here, what is it?”

 

“I just got a statement from the victim’s sister that was working downstairs.  She said Mark proposed to Veronica last night, they had everyone over to their parents house, and that’s where he proposed.  She said he’d been trying to save up for a ring for a while, he finally had a ring, she said he’d told her a friend had given him the ring he presented to Veronica last night.  She said it was a very expensive ring, an antique she thought.  After the proposal, he took Veronica out to a fancy dinner, she didn’t know where or what they did after that.”  The officer relayed.

 

The senior agent looked at the body of Veronica hanging from the ceiling.  “Is there a ring on her wedding finger Sheriff?”  

 

He leaned around the body and looked at her left hand.  “Yeah, but it ain’t an expensive antique that’s for sure.”  He pulled out his cell phone, activated it, leaned in a bit more and took a picture then brought it to the agent.  “Looks like some cheap piece of plastic to me.”

 

Nodding the agent replied, “Let’s go down and talk to the sister, bring that photo with Sheriff.  See if she can identify it.”

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-London’s Treasures-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

“Hello miss, I’m agent Jack Anderson, with the FBI, I’d like to ask you a few questions, if that’s alright, concerning your brother.  I know this is a hard time for you, but we need your help identifying a ring that Veronica Nelson was wearing, if you can confirm it was the one that Mark gave her last night when he proposed.”  Agent Anderson said to Mark’s sister, whom was crying, as expected she would be finding out her brother was dead.

 

She sniffed hard and nodded then looked up again to the agent.  “Yes, I understand.  I’m Tammy Anderson agent Anderson.  I… I can’t believe he’s gone, he was only twenty four…”

 

“I understand miss Anderson.  I know this is hard, but can you look at a picture of the ring she is wearing Sheriff Hanks has on his phone?”  Agent Anderson continued.

 

She nodded.  “Missus Anderson.  My husband and his brother own Anderson and Anderson Plumbing.”

 

Sheriff Hanks handed his phone to the agent questioning missus Anderson.  Agent Anderson held the phone towards her so she could view the picture on it.  “Is this the ring Mark gave her last night missus Anderson?”

 

Her face became disgusted, she raised her face and looked at Jack, then to the phone, she started shaking her head as she made a disapproving sound then returned to looking at Jack.  “No!  That’s not the ring he gave her!  That’s a ring from one of those machines you put a quarter into.  The ring Mark gave her was impressive.  Hand crafted, sapphires on each side, with a three quarter karat diamond in the center setting.”  She turned and started for the coffee bar.  “I have a picture of it on my phone, I took it last night when she put it on.”

 

“Thank you missus Anderson.”  Agent Jack Anderson said.

 

She returned with her phone and a picture of a hand with a very nice and clearly handcrafted antique ring on the wedding finger.  Just as she had said, there were sapphires on either side with a large diamond in the center.  The setting that held the gem was very ornate itself, the ring was clearly very valuable.  The two agents, Sheriff Hanks and Denver looked at the picture.

 

“Any of your people find a ring like that in the apartment yet?”  Agent Jack Anderson asked.

 

The Sheriff started shaking his head no.  “Not that I know of.  Only ring in the place so far was the one that was on her hand.”

 

“That’s a very distinctive ring, should be easy to identify.”  Agent Tracy Anderson commented.  He looked to Tammy, “Any idea where he got it?”

 

Tammy shook her head.  “He said a friend gave it to him, for love he said.  He wouldn’t say where he got it, or who gave it to him when I tried to find out.  I thought it might be stolen, not by Mark, but some of the people he knows… not the best of sorts you know.”

 

Tracy nodded.  “We can be sure it wasn’t made locally, that has to be rather old.  Seventeen, early eighteen hundreds at least, maybe older than that.”

 

Denver started looking around the room, stopping on the person he wanted.  “Barron Oddheim…”

 

Barron walked towards Denver.  “Yes?”

 

“Do you know anything about old rings?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“Can you take a look at this ring in this picture, see if you recognize it, we think it’s an antique.”  Denver requested of him.

 

As Barron came to the group, they moved to he could see the picture on the phone.  His eyes shot wide as he looked at what was displayed before him.  “That can’t be!”  He proclaimed.  “That… it has to be a fake.”

 

Agent Jack Anderson took the lead now.  “Why is that?  Why is it a fake?  You recognize it?”

 

Barron Oddheim looked to him.  “Yes, I recognize it.  And it has to be a fake.”

 

“Tell me about the ring please, where is it from?”

 

Barron stammered and stumbled his words as he tried to explain.  “Because, that ring, the ring, the original, was given to Princess Cecily of York by Ralph Scrope of Upsall, the ninth Baron Scrope of Masham, around 1482.  Their marriage was later annulled.  The ring survived, but was ordered destroyed in 1948 when it was returned to it’s rightful owner.”

 

The two FBI agents looked at each other for a brief second.  Jack asked his next question.  “Alright, why was it ordered destroyed?”

 

Barron Oddheim had lost his color, looking ghastly white now.  “Because of where it was recovered.  It was stolen by Adolph Hitler during World War Two, he had used it when he married Eva Braun.  It was that monster’s wedding ring for his bride.  She died with it on.”

 

The two agents looked at each other with bewildered faces.  “And who ordered it destroyed?  Or do I even want to know?”  Tracy inquired reluctantly.

 

Barron swallowed hard before he answered.  “Her Majesty, the current Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth the second.  If that ring still exists, which it can’t, it’s the rightful property of the Queen mum, sir.”

 

“How do you know it was destroyed?  Tell me about that please.”  Agent Jack Anderson requested.

 

“It’s ah… not a well known story, but, historical.  When the ring was returned, as it had been on the hand of Eva Braun, the Princess declared the ring unfit to exist.  A crucible was heated to melt the ring down and into pot metal included in the crucible.  When the man that was dropping the ring into the molten metal released the ring into it, the ring exploded, blinding him.  It was believed an imperfection in the diamond caused it to blow apart.  But the ring was melted down, jewels and all in the crucible.  The remains were ground into a powder and scattered on the lawns of Buckingham Palace so they could return to the earth in which they had come from.  This was done quietly, but it was recorded and did happen.  Princess Elizabeth watched the ring destroyed.”  Barron Oddheim explained.

 

Jack sighed hard now.  “Well, I highly doubt we’ll be able to get the Queen mum to confirm the ring was destroyed.  So the ring Mark gave Veronica had to be a copy.  And it’s not the one she has on her finger now.  Do you know anyone who could’ve made this ring mister Oddheim?”

 

Looking up from the picture still on the phone, Barron shook his head.  “Whomever made this ring, made it in England, and has been dead many centuries now.  The diamond was cut using old methods and tools.  The ring and setting, the same, old ways, old metals.  This ring was made a very long time ago, this is not a modern day replica mister Anderson.  That is what bothers me so…”

 

 

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