At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Twenty Four

 

     It was nearly 6 am when Maggie and Dan arrived at the San Antonio International Airport. Dan wanted Maggie to come back to police headquarters so the diamonds could be received and logged in as evidence.  Maggie said, no way, if cocaine can come up missing from an evidence room she knew diamonds could as well.

     A short, but civilized, argument ensued and it was settled when Maggie agreed to provide a written inventory list on which the size, grade, and style of each of the over 3000 diamonds would be recorded.  The vast majority of the stones were already in plastic ziplock bags that each contained labels with that information so for the most part it was a matter of simply transferring the data to paper.

     Dan agreed that the remaining 128 gems without any labels could be examined and rated by Abe Walstein himself.  That suited Maggie because Great Western Indemnity would much prefer he return the five million in cash the company paid out in settlement rather than the diamonds which would cost them money to have brokered.

     The detective and the insurance investigator had commandeered a room at the airport police office in which to count the gems and make the list.  They sent out for breakfast and ate while they worked and although dead tired, Maggie would not allow Dan to rest until the task at hand was complete. They finally finished at 9:40 am and made four copies of the list.  One went into the case with the stones, Dan kept one as did Maggie and the other was for Dan Stuarts file.

     An airport police cruiser transported the sleepy couple to the San Antonio Diamond Exchange.  Maggie had called Abe before leaving to let him know she and Detective Foley needed to drop by to discuss the case.  They arrived at the exchange and when they opened the front door to enter the showroom a chime sounded announcing their presence.

     A definitely aged Abe Walstein shuffled from the back area to the showroom and greeted Maggie and Dan.  He saw the aluminum case and right away seemed to brighten. In the case, you have the diamonds? Abe inquired.  In the case we have the diamonds, replied Maggie in the colloquial speech older Jewish gentlemen often use, putting the prepositional phrase before the subject of a sentence.

     Back in his office, Maggie opened the case and Abe, sitting at his desk, began to examine the plastic bags one at a time.  Soon his look of satisfaction was replaced by one of disbelief and then anger as he put a jewelers loupe to his eye and began swiftly putting diamonds in tiny forceps to facilitate examination.

     Dan and Maggie looked on, puzzled by the old mans reaction.  After looking at a dozen different stones, Abe began to tremble uncontrollably, the loupe falling from his eye. Vat is dis, some kinda cruel joke? Abe cried, his Jewish accent becoming inexplicably thick. You mock an old man? he asked again.

     Maggie was at a loss of how to respond.  Whether it was fatigue that would not allow her a comprehendible retort or simply complete bewilderment at the old jewelers reaction, she just sat their staring as Abe became more and more agitated.  Finally he let out a horrific scream, grasped his chest and his body became completely rigid.  As quickly as that happened, he went limp and unconscious, his head falling to the desk into the diamonds he had examined.

     Maggie quickly checked Abes pulse while Dan called 9-1-1.  Then, while waiting for the EMTs to arrive they performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  Once relived by the fire department technicians, Maggie donned the jewelers loupe that Abe had been using and looked at three of the bigger gemstones.  She took it from her eye, laid it on the desk and looked at Dan who simply said What?

     They arent diamonds, Maggie replied, all but a bit of life drained from her psyche.  What are they? asked the detective?  I think they are Austrian crystal, she replied flatly.  All of them? asked an incredulous detective.  I think so, Maggie answered.  Then where are the real diamonds? both said in unison.

     The senior EMT, after conferring with an emergency room physician by radiotelephone told his partner and another fire fighter to discontinue their rescue efforts, the old man was gone.  A sheet was placed over his body and the county coroner was called to perform the official task of pronouncing Abe Walstein dead.

     Fifty years after coming to San Antonio to find his fortune with his late wife Sarah, the Walstein legacy was over.  Detective Foley locked the exchange after the corpse of Abe Walstein was carried from it. 

     A patrol car delivered Dan and Maggie to the police headquarters just five blocks from the exchange.  They went into the homicide detective squad room and Dan gave the chief of detectives a report he had written on the return airplane trip to San Antonio while Maggie freshened up in

the rest room.  When Maggie entered the chiefs office, both Dan and the chief looked to her for an explanation of what had happened and where to go from here.

     Well, my crystal ball is really cloudy on this one, she answered, but I believe I know what happened.  She went on to describe an improbable chronology of events that even she wondered if she could believe.  It pretty much follows what I have described to you over the course of these three weeks weve been talking.

     Maggie then gathered all of her personal belongings and walked silently out to her car.  She drove away without saying goodbye to Dan Foley or anyone else for that matter and went directly to her apartment where she opened a bottle of wine and began to systematically try to put the events of the past six or so weeks together.

     Then it dawned on her, I must have the diamonds.  It was obvious, I distrusted Chris Manning from the beginning and probably early on in my relationship with him devised a way to protect them.  She quickly grabbed the telephone book and called University Hospital where I had been taken after Mannings vicious attack.

     The Registrars office told her what she already suspected, I had signed myself out against medical advice the day before.  Without an address for me, she was at a dead end and I was home free.  I already had obtained a passport in preparation for my escape to a new life.  It was just a matter of where to escape to and when.

     Aware that my photo may have been distributed to bus terminals and airports, I pondered driving across the border and getting lost in Mexico, but really didnt think the crossing was any safer than trying to leave by plane.

     Finally I saw that the Queen Elizabeth II was going on an unprecedented 4 month around the world cruise and there were still some staterooms available.  I went to San Francisco where I managed to sell some of the real gemstones and then drove to other large metropolitan areas around the west where I continued to unload diamonds until I had a hefty amount of cash money.

     The final city I sold diamonds in was Los Angeles where I made nearly four hundred thousand dollars in the few days before boarding this ship.

     So you can see, if it were not for the actions of a totally amoral young man in San Antonio, if my Caravan had not broken down in San Antonio after I had gone crazy and left my comfortable position as chairman of the Philosophy department at Pan American University, I would never have gotten here.

     Oh, I do have some regrets, thats for sure.  I regret that Ina ruined her life.  I genuinely thought I loved her.  But I dont regret that Chris Manning attacked me.  It was he and Jason Biggs that made this new life of mine possible.

     I feel bad that so many people were negatively affected by the biggest diamond heist in the history of the world.  A lot of innocent and not so innocent people were killed and injured and that makes me feel bad.  But I also cant help but feel fate meant for this to all happen to me.

     Thanks for spending the last three weeks listening to my story.  It really helped to verbalize it.  It helped put it into perspective. 

     But there is still one element of my life that is unresolved.  I still am homeless.  Oh, of course not by chance, definitely by choice.  You know, most homeless people are homeless by choice.  But as I said the day we first began talking, homeless is a sad and pitiful state.

     Aside from my new-found wealth I continue to have much in common with the people living under bridges and in hobo camps around the United States.  They have no family or loved ones and no matter what anyone tells you, Margo, you cant buy love.