Something Valuable

Submitted into Contest #192 in response to: Write about someone finding a treasure in an unexpected place.... view prompt

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Fiction Indigenous Suspense

Something valuable

The Ritz Paris

Ingor I lost my watch, you must go and try and find it, its a matter of live and death...hat’s an order. First go the police and retraces our steps of where we went today.

Paris 9th district earlier that day

On our stroll back home from a restaurant luncheon I was leading the way in front of my son and his girlfriend. We were walking through the interesting passages in the 9th district. I stopped for a minute to glance at a very elegant wrist watch that somebody had let fall from her wrist;it was definitely a woman’s watch. It was placed on the edge of a flower pot. In passing I thought how decent of somebody to pick it up and place it there

I had walked on a few paces when I heard my son ask me if I saw the watch. “Yes,” I replied. It looked extremely elegant. I told him I thought it was a fake. By this time he and his girlfriend were having a discussion of whether to go back and have another look. Their conversation ended in them returning to re-examine the watch. I was a little baffled by their decision. Were they intending to pocket the watch?

To my astonishment they returned with the watch declaring it was a Hermes. There was no doubt as the watch’s face had Hermes beautifully engraved for all to see. I immediately saw the wrist strap was broken, no doubt, the reason the owner did not at first notice it had dropped to the floor. It was beautifully made, and definitely had a rather special air about its beauty. My instant remark was. “It is a remarkable fake. Will wait for you while you take it back.”

My son looked at me, his face light with a slight smile. “Finders, keepers.”

“You can't be serious.” I turned to his girlfriend. “What do you think?”

She was a pretty young woman with an engaging smile that now spread across her face. “We should probably take it to the police, but if you think it is a fake they will just laugh at us. Maybe we should keep it and examine it more closely.”

That evening the three of us, over dinner, examined the watch. I had to admit it was truly beautifully made. My son had done some research on Hermes website and found a similar watch they made costing north of 10,000$. Towards the end of the evening there were two camps….. fake or genuine. I suggested as they were in Paris they should go to the Hermes store and ask them to repair the bracelet.. Sometimes an occasional repair or replacement of a bracelet is included in the original price.

Two days later they found themselves passing Hermes. Why not go in and spend a moment enquiring about a bracelet.? The watch was in his pocket. They had never entered the sanctuary of the house of Hermes with its luxurious selection of merchandise. Most people enter to only admire the craftsmanship, to actually possess an article with a Hermes signature would be a dream, something beyond their reach.

My son, later in the day, related to me the Hermes experience. The moment they stepped into the store they were greeted by a charming young woman asking if she could help them. They declared they were interested in a bracelet..She personally took them over to the watch counter. This was staffed by a serious looking man with a mesh of hair flopping over his forehead. He wore a large pair of stylish glass giving one the impression of a wise old owl. Their conversation ensued as follows:-

”What can I do for you young people.” It was said in a manner indicating he was about to waste his time. It was as if he had had years of experience dealing with casual dressed young people that came into the store out of curiosity with no wish to buy anything.

My son asked if they repaired Hermes bracelets.

In the same superior tone of complete disinterest he replied. “Yes we do but I will need to see the watch and bracelet.”My son produced the watch and bracelet. He placed it on the counter.There was a look of complete surprise on the owl’s face. “Is this your watch?” Not waiting for an answer the young man had picked up the watch and examined it closely. He turned to my son and said, “I am fairly sure this is an extremely rare piece. Only four watches were made, all being by special order. It is of great value. Just a minute I will fetch my manager.”

At this point my son and girlfriend started to get nervous about how they were going to explain their possession of the watch. In the temporary absence of the owl man they quickly decided to leave the store taking the watch with them. Once in the street they decided at speed to get away from the Hermes store.

Back at the store, the owl man returned to the watch department with his manager. Surprised not to see the two young people he called for Emma.

“ Emma, have you seen those young people.”

“Yes, they left about two minutes ago.”

“I knew it. They must have stolen the valuable watch without knowing the real value.”

The manager, a man in his late fifties with a healthy head of white hair and a dapper pencil mustache that did justice to his fine featured visage. Spoke. “Hubert, are you sure it was one of the four signature watches?”

“Yes, sir, I would stake my monthly salary on it.”

“In that case we should contact the four people who purchased the watch and find out whether theirs is missing. Of course that is assuming they still own them, but given its value and rarity I would imagine the watch is still in their possession. If a watch is found missing we will at that stage contact the police. Should all owners of the watch tell us all is well, then Hubert you have mistaken a well copied example for the original. Incidentally you should check our surveillance cameras to give the police a record of the two young people should we be face with robbery.”

Records of sales for watches of a rarity and value of this nature were religiously kept. The management made the calls and it was on the third call they found the wife of a Russian oligarchy was enjoying a shopping spree in Paris. According to her husband, who was found to be in London, told them her wife was distorted and he was extremely angry. It appeared bracelet on the watch two mornings ago was causing trouble and, no doubt, the watch had fallen off during the day. She apparently had not noticed the missing watch until earlier that evening. She was staying at the Ritz and had already reported the missing watch to the police and sent somebody to look for it.

At the evening meal that night my son, supported by his girlfriend, detailed to me all the details of their visit to Hermes. Their conclusion was that they might have found a rare and extremely valuable watch. In fact, according to the man they called owl only four were made. In an agitated manner my son posed the question of what should they do?

I replied. If Mr.Owl is correct it means the owner of the watch is extremely wealthy and no doubt has already informed the police of the loss. I also think if your intention was to sell it I would suggest that is a non starter as it would be extremely difficult to find a buyer. My suggestion is that you go to the police first thing in the morning. I think a good night's rest will convince you of my reasons.

The next morning they went to the police. They did not tell me the events of the day until they arrived back that evening with an envelope containing a handsome reward.

Their history was that at the police station they told the officer in charge that they had found the watch in the passages of the ninth district three days ago. The next day they had planned a day of visiting the Louis Vuitton museum with friends. Yesterday they went to the Hermes store. They told the police that they were attended to by a rather superior individual that had very little time of the day for them. But they did learn that the watch might be of great value. While the snotty man rushed off to find his manager they left the store.

At this stage the police officer asked them a few questions.

“Why did you not report it immediately”.

“We thought it was fake of little value therefore why waste the police’s time.

“Well you will be interested to know that the loss was reported by the owner with Hermes reporting the possible thief of a very valuable watch. They also wish to question two young people that were in their store yesterday. Go and sit over there I have to make a couple of calls”.

Apparently my son and his girlfriend waited about twenty minutes before the officer returned.

“The owner of the watch is apparently ecstatic with the news and she has asked you both to come to the Ritz at 11.30 this morning with the watch. She would like to thank you. Her name is Inessa Babanin. She is Russian. Hermes is also delighted they have solved the problem.

At 11.35 two young people were ushered into the magnificent suite of Madame Babinin by her personal maid. The maid told them to be seated Madame will be with them. The meeting at the Ritz was discussed at dinner that night.

The room was quite large and most elegantly furnished with a handsomely designed carpet over a parquet floor that highlighted the beauty of the craftsmen work on the furniture. There were several beautiful subdued lit table lamps scattered throughout the room. The atmosphere was of tasteful uncompromising luxury, daunting to those not habituated to this stand of living.

One of the double doors opened and in walked Madame. Both my son and his girl tried to hide their surprise. In front of them was truly a beautiful woman. She must have been in her mid thirties with a body profile that had spent many hours in the gym. She had long blond hair cascading over her shoulder, perfectly groomed. She wore what were obversely diamond earrings matched by a diamond choker. Her fingers were covered with several rings and on her wrist they were a few, no doubt, gold bracelets. Her dress was definitely by some well known designer's creation. She actually apologizes for her appearance but she was meeting her husband for lunch and he always insisted on her showing off as much jewelry as possible. She added “ It proved to his friends of his wealth and that he had good taste.”

When she spoke her voice was soft and charming, demonstrating a perfect knowledge of the English language dominated by a slight accent.

“You two delightful young people did not come to see a fashion show but, with my profound thanks, but to return my watch. I suggest, if you wish, we have a cup of coffee and you tell me how you found it.”

The coffee was ordered and they told her the story of the watch including their visit to Hermes and the police.

She seemed totally delighted with our story, in fact she started laughing with a sound of pure joy. We found it difficult to understand this outburst of captivating humor.

After the laughter came her soft and silky voice.”I feel an extraordinary urge to tell you my secret. I don’t know you and will most likely never meet you again, but I owe you a deep note of gratitude. You look like a very nice human beings. I would imagine a little in love. I think we are roughly in the same age bracket.”

She paused, went over the window and looked out on the Place Vendome for about a minute. As she turned back to take her place on the couch she said.

“I will tell you my story. I come for a small village about 200 miles from Moscow. My father is Mayor of the village. A few years ago an influential man from the central government, (as he informed us), came to have talks with my father. At that time his age was probably around forty. I was only 16 when he first met me and I remember I thought of him as old and not a very attractive man; he seemed aggressive and selfish. I was one six children my poor mother spent her time in the kitchen and washing clothes. We live on a farm just outside the village, In fact it was one of the largest holdings in the region. We lived a live where every penny counted. There seemed never to be enough money to satisfy everybody’s needs. To make matters worst one of my brothers feel ill with a disease that need a complicated operation. The family budget got tighter.

By the time I was eighteen this governmental man had acquired or leased most of the farmland of the region and was in the process of constructing an oil and gas business on the property. I learned he had used my father as an introduction to the area. I also learned that the lands contained vast amounts of fossil reserves. During that period, foreigners from the region were often in our house. I was totally surprised shortly after my eighteenth birth, with the blessing of my father, he proposed marriage to me. I asked him for twenty four hours of reflection. My original impression of him still held but over the period of constantly seeing him they had mellowed slightly in his favor. He was rich, ambitious and seemed to appreciate our family. When he was not with us he lived in his own house in Moscow. I was a mediocre student without any particular talents, trying to get a scholarship at a university, I knew my parents could not afford to send me. Although I sensed our family finances were improving as we had sold most of our land to Boris, that was the name of the man who proposed to me. When I tried to look into the future all I saw was struggle to survive with little chance of finding a young handsome prince to carry me off my feet. I married him three days later in a lovely village wedding. My first night with him I knew was nothing to do with love, but he was gentle and kind.

Within days I found myself in Moscow in a house I had only occasionally seen in society magazines. What was disturbing was he had nothing to do with the government, but he had many friends close to the central powers. He was also surrounded by a large family of aunties, uncles and nephews that depended on him. I soon realized my role in life was to be his trophy wife always dressed in the latest fashion with magnificent jewelry. In this area of clothes, jewelry, makeup and hair dressing, no amount of money was spared. He often took me to dinners, receptions and official functions. In the early part of our marriage this glorification of me was both extraordinary and rather flattering. I had never experienced anything like it before it felt like living in a fairy book wonderland. Apart from his devotion to my beauty he made very few demands on me. It must have been in the sixth year of our marriage he fell ill with a serious bout of pneumonia, his age was beginning to tell. During this period I found a document stating that on his death I was to return to my family in the village of my birth with a modest annual pension. The rest of his assets were to be divided up amongst his various family members including all the gifts of jewelry he had given me. I was shocked. He slowly, with difficulties, recovered from his illness but it left him weakened and under regular doctor orders. I was left searching on how I could extract enough wealth from his fortune to be able to live comfortably for the rest of my life. Through one of my brothers, now involved in the jewelry trade, I found a little genius who could copy the most complicated jewelry creations. Now for my new found friends my secret.

The large majority of my dear husband’s gifts of jewelry are fakes. In my own right I am quite a wealthy woman. Now you know why I was so anxious to find the watch. To thank you for the last time….. here is a little gift”. She then handed over an envelope, no doubt, containing money. “Now I really must go to the luncheon appointment. I hope it will not be long before I fly from my golden cage. Please be my guest and have another coffee. The maid will let out.

April 06, 2023 15:11

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1 comment

John Jenkins
13:42 Apr 13, 2023

This was actually the first time I saw the term "age bracket" in a short story. When the lady says at the end that most of her husband's expensive gifts were fake, I took it to mean that she had her expert forger create fakes of all her gifts so that she could sell the originals. I probably just misread that. But great story, nonetheless.

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