A Shot in the Dark
In the early hours of Monday morning Sebastien and Carol were in the late Digger MacDouglas's dining room. Sebastien was standing amongst a pile of neatly stacked boxes. Carol was sitting at the dining table writing on a clipboard. The two of them had been hunting for the Pink Possum for the whole weekend.
After half an hour of frantic draw emptying and random sifting late Friday night, Carol had calmed Sebastien down and got the search better organised. Carol had spotted the piles of flat packed boxes and crates that the clearance company had left at the property in readiness for a prompt start on Monday morning. She patiently explained to Sebastien that it would be more sensible to systematically clear and sort the cupboards, desks, drawers and bookshelves room by room. She reasoned that that if they packed everything carefully as they went, they wouldn't risk missing the gemstone or searching in the same place multiple times. Compiling an inventory at the same time was a useful additional exercise for very little extra effort.
Sebastien had been happy to go along with the plan. Neither of them expected to hard be at it for 60 hours, and the tension was beginning to show.
"Well that's the last of the boxes packed," said Sebastien.
"And no bloody diamond," replied Carol.
"Maybe it's not here."
"It's got to be. Somewhere."
"Maybe he sold it."
"I would have found about it. I've been monitoring all likely places where such a sale would take place for 18 months."
"Maybe it never existed."
"Believe me, it exists. I've ..."
Sebastien interrupted before Carol could complete her sentence: "Yes, I know: You've done your due diligence."
"Well someone's got to. There's more to our business than just buttering people up, sleek sleights of hand, finessing the gullible, and daring stunts, no matter how well you pull them off."
Carol was silent for a few minutes.
"All that hard work, for nothing," she said with a sigh,
"Well not for nothing exactly," said Sebastien.
"How do you work that out?"
"This estate's going to worth around 3 million Australian dollars. You said that yourself. And a typical probate lawyer charges around 5%,"
"We're hardly typical probate lawyers, are we?"
"No," replied Sebastien. "But we have actually done what probate lawyers would do. In fact, we've done much more than just that."
Sebastien looked around him at all the boxes.
"I bet they don't normally get their hands dirty. So 5% of ...
"£96,750," interrupted Carol, who'd already calculated the pittance they were seemingly destined to walk away with.
"Exactly," replied Sebastien.
"Can't we charge that to Ms Fanshaw."
"Flights to Ibiza and to Australia plus accommodation? Plus assorted costs to get hold of Digger's bank details, medical records, and will? Bribes don't come cheap you know. We'd be lucky to get half that?"
"Couldn't we be creative with the invoice?"
"We're con artists, Seb, not petty criminals."
Sebastien was quiet for a few moments before saying: "Well, I bet there are loads of people who'd be happy to accept that kind of money for this kind of work."
"I'm sure there are," Carol retorted. "And there's a name for them too: Schmucks! Dad's going to have a field day when he hears about this. He's going to laugh himself silly. Offspring of the two greatest con artists of all time doing hard labour for peanuts. And getting their bloody hands dirty."
"Well, we can't win them all. We'll do better on the next job. I need some air."
Sebastien walked over to the window, opened the blind, and flung the door open. A stiff breeze blew in making the naff chandelier hanging over the dining table rattle. The sun was just rising above the distant tree tops and a shaft of light illuminated the room.
Carol cried out: "Look at that over there."
Sebastien spun round.
"What?" he replied looking into the gloomy end of the room into which Carol was pointing.
"Over there. On the wall."
Carol hurried over to the wall. She ducked down and pointed up to a patch of light on the wall.
"Yeah," said Sebastien. "The sunlight's passing through the chandelier and making pretty patterns on the wall. What of it?"
As the breeze picked up, the patch on the wall moved backwards and forwards as the chandelier moved and rattled some more.
"Yes," said Carol. "But look at this bit just here."
Sebastien looked at where his sister was making a large ring with her finger.
"This whole patch of white is made up of lots of white blobs from the petals of the chandelier. And here on the edges, you can see little mini rainbows where they sunlight is being refracted by the glass."
"I'm really not in the mood for a science lesson right now sis."
"But look just here." Carol pointed to a small area within the patch of white light. "There's a small amount that is neither white nor a rainbow. It's rosy."
"Don't you see?"
"I see my sister losing the plot. She's lying on the floor pointing at a pretty pink pattern on the wall."
"What are we looking for?"
"The meaning of life?" suggested Sebastien.
"Are you being deliberately obtuse?"
"Alright, alright. We're looking for the Pink Poss ... " Sebastien interrupted himself and looked up at the chandelier. "You don't suppose it's in there do you?"
"Yes," replied Carol. "I do suppose."
"Digger hid the Pink Possum among the petals in that naff chandelier?"
"I think that's entirely possible. After all, who would think of looking in there for it?"
"I think I'd better get a ladder and bring it down."
"Yes, I think you should," Carol agreed.
Sebastien disappeared into one of the outhouses while Carol completed the inventory. Sebastien returned a few minutes later. He set up the step ladder under the chandelier.
"Wait just a second," said Carol. "I'll hold the ladder for you."
Sebastien looked up to see how the chandelier was attached to the ceiling. Fortunately it was on a frame that surrounded a standard light fitting and so would not require unwiring. He climbed the step ladder and managed to unhook the frame and gently lifted it off the light fitting. He then passed the chandelier down to Carol. She reverently laid it on the dining table.
"Strewth! You guys have been busy," said a loud Australian voice from the open doorway.
Carol and Sebastien both whirled round. They saw a tall, sun-beaten Australian with a broad brimmed hat and an even broader smile. Carol and Sebastien both looked startled.
"Sorry mates. Didn't mean to make you jump. The name's Shane?" said the Australian with an upward inflection at the end of the sentence. "From the clearance company? We spoke on the phone?"
"Oh yes of course," said Carol. "We, er ..."
"We've been er ... " Sebastien stammered.
"We got he on Friday," said Carol. "And had nothing to do this weekend and thought er ..."
"No skin off my nose," said Shane. "You're the customer, and you've already paid us. What do I care if a couple of pommies want to do some of the work for us? Give us time to have a few more tinnies later." Shane walked over and placed two 6-packs on the table.
"The rest of the boys will be here in an hour or so. Shall I help you with this one?" pointing to the chandelier on the table.
"Oh that's alright," said Carol hurriedly. "Sebastien may as well do this last one. You don't mind, do you Seb?"
"Er no," replied Sebastien. "Not at all."
"Here, let me show what we've done around the place."
Carol picked up the clipboard she'd been writing on. "I've got an inventory here. We'll start in the outhouses."
Carol linked her arm through the Australian's and led him outside.
As soon as they'd left the dining room, Sebastien set to dismantling the chandelier. As he unscrewed each petal in turn, he held it up to the sunlight. When he was satisfied that it was clear glass, he wrapped it in paper and placed it in the last of the packing boxes. 15 minutes and 37 petals later, Sebastien finally found one that felt heavier than the rest and when he held it up to the light, he could see it had a rosy glow. He put it to one side and then quickly wrapped the remaining glass petals in paper and shoved them into the box.
Sebastien heard Shane's and Carol's footsteps outside as they returned from the outhouses. He quickly shoved the Pink Possum into his pocket.
"To be honest, I don't really know why you're bothering with that mate," said Shane.
"Pardon?" said Sebastien.
"The chandelier you've just packed so neatly." said Shane. "It's not real crystal, it's just glass."
"Oh I see," said Sebastien.
"I've seen loads of them up and down the Sunshine Coast in all the posh houses, and most of them are fakes. It's an easy mistake to make, mate. It won't make much for your client, but they look pretty enough. If you like that sort of thing."
"Well, it will add something to the overall estate value that we pass on to Miss Fanshaw. And of course, that's all we're really interested in."
"That's something I admire about you Brits: your integrity."
Carol laughed. "Honest to a fault, aren't we darling."
"Oh absolutely," said Sebastien also laughing. "To a .. fault," he added, pausing ever so slightly before the final word.