“Keep on digging, son. You’re almost there,” Jax Gershon said. He watched as Jeremy dug out a spacious hole near the creek behind the house. He looked at the other seven crepe myrtle trees that dotted the landscape in the area, all planted in the last five years.
Jeremy wiped the sweat from his brow and kept on digging, though he was less than happy about it. Why can’t the fools just ground me instead of this shit?
The sun was already making life miserable for Jeremy, despite it being only March. The trees had already leafed out, but the scant shade where he was digging was not enough to offer much relief.
Jeremy jumped out of the hole when his father had judged it to be deep enough and wide enough. The couple then proceeded to carefully unwrap the crepe myrtle so that the root ball would stay intact and then place it gently into the hole. Jeremy didn’t need any further prompting from his father; he started piling the dirt back around the tree.
The shovel struck something hard. Jeremy looked at his dad in surprise, for neither had noticed anything when the dirt left the hole. The man and the boy pulled the dirt away to find what had been struck.
It was a necklace of surpassing beauty.
Chester didn’t want to, but he was forced to kill his partner in crime. It was a philosophical difference that got Rafert killed; he wanted to wait before they spent their loot and Chester didn’t.
Chester pushed Rafert’s body off of the train and went back to his seat to sleep, like everyone else on board. The diamond necklace was aching to be spent, and Chester knew just where to spend it. Being a man with grand plans but limited vision, he felt that the proceeds from the stolen necklace would be best spent travelling the southwest in search of the best whiskey and the prettiest whores.
Phoenix seemed like a good place to find both of his wants, so he got off of the stagecoach and immediately checked in to a modest hotel. He had plenty of ready cash from the robbery, but he was a man who didn’t believe in paying much for anything. That would change soon, he thought. A little whiskey and a little lovin’ is all I need tonight. No need to put it off just because he hadn’t sold the necklace yet.
The Red Ox Saloon was his kind of place, he thought, as he entered the establishment. Plenty of whiskey available, though the quality was probably as suspect as a snake-oil salesman’s trustworthiness. Lots of whores too. Some of them were even young. Ruby was the one that caught his eye.
They quickly made their way upstairs, ready to haggle over the price. Chester had a plan.
“I’ll let you wear this here necklace if’n you gimme a hour betwixt yore legs,” he said.
Ruby sighed and took off some clothes – but only a few. She left enough on to accentuate her wares.
“Twenty minutes,” she said, eyeing the necklace with obvious avarice. She now had a plan.
“Forty!” Chester was not going to deny himself plenty of her pleasures.
“Thirty. No more.” Ruby slipped off her stockings slowly, revealing her bare legs up to her thighs. Chester was suddenly amenable to thirty minutes between her legs.
Clothes were quickly discarded and Chester climbed between the legs of the lovely Ruby. Soon, he was moaning in pleasure. And then he shuddered violently, probably because Ruby had just inserted a long, thin blade into his neck.
Ruby pushed the unfortunate man off of her, washed up, dressed, and packed her meager belongings. She went out of the window and down the back stairs to the stable, buying a horse with the money she took from Chester’s pocket. In less than an hour, Ruby was on her way out of town and headed southeast.
No one came to look for Ruby, even after finding a dead man in her room. This sort of thing happened a lot in Phoenix, and it wasn’t worth bothering the sheriff about. He might decide to do something crazy like investigate the murder. Probably not, but it would be best to just bury the man out in the desert and keep one’s teeth together.
Ruby fondled the necklace as she rode towards wherever the road would take her. The string of sparkling fire would set her up for life. No more pleasing men and their vile tastes in bed. No more listening to the madame telling her that she needed to screw more men. She would screw men for pleasure now – her pleasure.
Lost in thought, Ruby was unprepared for what followed. Her horse jumped sideways and back, spying a diamondback rattlesnake to the right. Ruby lost her balance and landed heavily on the ground, the necklace flying out of her hand and into the brush. She quickly scrambled to her feet, casting about desperately in her search for the necklace. She didn’t find the necklace but she did find the rattler.
A sudden strike and a sharp pain in her ankle sent Ruby to the ground again. The snake slithered off to points unknown, disappearing into the brush; Ruby pulled out her pistol and shot aimlessly in the direction the snake went.
She stood shakily, the pain in her ankle radiating upwards and burning her skin. She stumbled. The necklace! Must find necklace. Must…
Ruby fell and was unable to get up. She was now thirty yards from the road and nowhere near the necklace when she died. Her body would never be found.
Miguel Hernandez was a little put out. All of his friends had gone away for the summer, leaving him at home to work with his father. To earn money for your mother’s birthday present, the father told Miguel. Miguel loved his mother, but he also loved playing with his friends when school was out.
He was currently doing what he wasn’t supposed to be doing, and that was walking through the brush towards the road. There were snakes out there, his father warned. Miguel didn’t care. He wanted to be away from everyone and have some time to himself. Their small house teemed with an abundance of siblings, leaving Miguel little time to himself and no space of his own.
Something sparkled in the evening sun. Miguel bent down and picked up the object. A necklace. A necklace of surpassing beauty, despite the layers of grime on it.
Miguel spent the next three days cleaning up the necklace. He still had to help his father feed the cattle and mend fences, but he now had a birthday gift for his mom. He proudly presented the gift to her two days later, complete with several lies about its provenance and acquisition.
“The tinker, madre. It fell from his wagon and I picked it up. He sold you that worthless pan for an entire American dollar, so God gave me this necklace for you,” Miguel said.
His father suspected that this was a lie, but he was willing to let it go. Necklaces do not fall from the back of a wagon. As a God-fearing man, Miguel’s father believed that God helped out his son, and his son gave his wife something very beautiful. It must be worth two American dollars. Maybe three.
The mother wore this necklace at every opportunity, which wasn’t much. She didn’t wear it to church because God didn’t like people showing off their finery. She did, though, wear it to social events such as dances and community picnics. The necklace was admired by all of the women, and all of the women were jealous of such a fine piece of jewelry. Their son, it was whispered, was in league with the devil to have bought such a thing.
When the mother died forty years later, she was buried with the necklace. Or so it was believed.
Carl Womack was an assistant to the undertaker, and he lusted after the necklace. After the burial, he dug up the elderly lady and stole the necklace; he was smart enough, though, to make sure that the gravesite appeared undisturbed. He didn’t need anyone on his tail when he left his place of employment rather precipitously.
San Antonio. That’ll be a good place to sell this thing and set me up. Wine, women, and a big house. That’s the ticket. No wife, though. Don’t want anyone spending my money.
Carl left the train station and hunted for a hotel that didn’t charge an arm and a leg for a brief stay. He had little ready cash and this limited his choices for a temporary abode.
The Drake Hotel fit his needs. A dollar a night. The room was not clean, and the bed was merely a thin mattress accompanied by a thin bed cover. The bureau was decrepit, as were most of the residents here. Good enough for a few nights.
Carl went in search of someone willing to take on the job. The man would have to have the connections to sell such a valuable item and also not be terribly law abiding. It was turn-of-the-century Texas; this sort of man would not be difficult to find.
Mr. Lewis Throckmorton was the man he found. It took a mere three days to find him, and another day to finalize the deal. He was to be paid $1.1 million for the necklace, which caused Carl to gasp inwardly. He expected less.
Carl arrived at the Throckmorton establishment with the necklace in tow and a brand new life to look forward to. Mr. Throckmorton cut those dreams short with a rope placed around Carl’s neck, tightening it until Carl’s last labored breath left his body. He dumped the body in the San Antonio River and bought a train ticket to New York. The necklace was worth over $3 million, and he wasn’t about to let a little toad like Carl get any of it.
The body of Carl Womack was found the next day by a couple of boys that were out fishing. The police couldn’t identify him and quickly had him buried where all the rest of the vagrants were buried. Carl Womack was not missed by anyone.
Lewis Throckmorton dozed in the first-class carriage of the Union Pacific train barreling to New York. It was sleek and modern, reaching speeds of fifty miles an hour in open territory. The problem with open territory, though, was that the tracks weren’t cared for as well as they could have been. Corporate greed demanded that payroll be lowered in certain areas, and track maintenance in the less-inhabited parts of the country was where cuts were made.
The effect of this was catastrophic and immediate. A portion of the track in rural Indiana had buckled severely. The speeding train leaped off of the rails and tipped over, falling and skidding sideways before rolling over several times before the individual cars came to rest. Fires flared up and explosions were heard for miles around.
Lewis Throckmorton did not survive the crash. In fact, he was burned beyond recognition and buried with all of the others whose bodies had not been claimed. The necklace found its way into a nearby ravine.
The necklace meandered its way, through flash floods and scavenging animals, all the way to Missouri. This is where Russel Crabtree found it. He picked it up with his left hand – he not being in possession of a right hand, or arm, any longer – and inspected it. Being a man who knew a few things, he suspected that the brilliant sparkles emanating from the necklace were real diamonds. He took it home and tested it, putting his pistol down on a bureau.
The glass gave way to the diamonds with ease; a thick trench etched it way through the window pane like a knife through butter. Russel took a deep breath and put the necklace in his pocket. He put the pistol away as well, seeing that there was no further need to kill himself today. Deliverance in the form of a necklace had found its way to him and his wife.
Russel spent the next few days cleaning the necklace with a combination of tooth powder and Comet. The setting was old fashioned but still beautiful in its own gaudy way. Whoever this belonged to had lost it long ago, he surmised correctly. No one would be looking for it now.
Celia Crabtree arrived home as she did every night: tired from cleaning other people’s houses and apprehensive about the fate of her husband. He hadn’t been the same since he returned from the war. He felt useless without his right arm, and she understood that. No one would hire him. Her husband spent his days cleaning the house, cooking for them, and tending a rather splendid garden that gave them all of their vegetables. He also raised chickens, providers of eggs and meat. All in all, they had a decent life, if not an opulent one. The problem was Russel.
Celia had found his pistol on the bureau too many times not to understand Russel’s intent. Every day she would come home and dread what she might find. Or not find. Today, though, she found a gift for her, ill-wrapped and in the hand of her husband. She blinked and cocked her head sideways, wondering why he had a gift for her. It wasn’t her birthday or their anniversary.
“I found it in the woods,” Russel said. Celia knew why he was in the woods and she shuddered slightly.
She unwrapped the gift and let out a cry of amazement. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life. The necklace radiated fire, even in this dull light, and the heaviness of the necklace spoke of solid gold to hold the diamonds in place.
Russel put it around her neck and beamed. His beautiful wife was even more beautiful now.
“I found it, like I said. I was meant to find it, I think. For you.”
Celia sat down heavily, trying to figure it all out. How could this be? A necklace worth millions of dollars just laying around in the woods? It’s so fantastic and hard to believe! Was it meant to be? What in the world is happening here?
“It’s a lot to take in, Celia, but it’s yours. No one’s gonna claim it, it’s so old and it’s been there for quite a while. We would have heard about it if it had happened recently.”
Celia nodded at the truth of his words.
“If,” Russel continued, “you want to sell it and become rich, we will.”
Celia looked at Russel sharply.
“Or not,” she said, her words as sharp as her look.
Russel, for the first time in two years, grinned at her. Celia’s heart melted at the sight. Her husband was her husband again, at least for the moment.
“I’m glad to hear you say that, hon. Really really glad.”
Celia kept the necklace and wore it for her husband every night. He was her husband again, and the threat of suicide receded and disappeared. The necklace, the thing of surpassing beauty, had saved two lives just by being what it was.
When Celia died many decades later, Russel tossed the necklace into the river. Maybe someone else was in need of saving.
“What’ll we do with it, dad?” Jeremy spoke.
Jax didn’t take long to respond.
“Finish tamping down that dirt around the crepe myrtle, son. I’ll give it to your mom. She’s good with things like this,” Jax went to the house. Jeremy had no idea what the old man meant by that. Good with things like this? How often has she dealt with something worth millions?
Lisa Gershon knew exactly what to do with the necklace, and it didn’t involve a new car for Jeremy.
“Why not?” Jeremy whined. They were, for all intents and purposes, newly rich.
“Do you have good food here?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jeremy muttered.
“Good clothes? Nice house?”
“Then you have nothing to want. You’ll get a car when you earn the money for it. And we’ll re-start your allowance when your grades get up to snuff. Now go wash up for dinner.”
Jax ducked his head and grinned. He loved his wife so much at this moment.
“What’ll we do with it, hon,” Jax asked after Jeremy left the room.
Lisa looked at her husband and smiled a small, soft smile. The man wasn’t greedy. All he wanted was a good partner and a good son.
“Not to worry, sweets. It’s taken care of.”
The Immaculate Mary Catholic Church just received an unexpected gift today. A necklace was found inside the vestry last week, by Father O’Brien. He told us that the necklace was valued at $13.1 million. They’ll use the proceeds for their outreach programs and food bank. Wow! What a gift, right, Mari?
Right you are, Rob. A wonderful gift that will keep on giving. In other news…
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Great story, Delbert! I loved the ending, but I have to say that my favorite part was "When Celia died many decades later, Russel tossed the necklace into the river. Maybe someone else was in need of saving." Poignant!
That was my favorite part to write! Wow. It has a "The Red Violin" feel to it, and I wanted to write this type of story anyway, so it all worked out. Thanks so much for your kind words and nice review, Wendy. I always look forward to your stories; they bring me much pleasure, especially the Tarot card woman!
Wow. How did you pack that all into 3000 words? There must have been some serious edits going on backstage! The first third and the altruistic ending are really strong in particular and, from this Brit's pov, you nailed the American cowboyesque setting; I thought Ruby was just great. This was a big beast of a story to keep in rein, galloping across so many places and times with so many characters in the saddle but you did a grand job with the steering. Well done.
Thanks so much for the very kind words and the very nice review, Rebecca! I am thankful for your analysis and heartened by your words. LOL yes, there was more editing than writing. The original story clocked in at around 7k words. I had to do away with a lot of the characters' back stories and a lot of the dialogue. I loved Ruby as well. And Miguel. Their contrasts, in character and fate, really tells the tale in a nutshell. Something beautiful should be given to someone beautiful; anything else is just wrong. Thanks again, Rebecca. I al...
I absolutely loved this story. The history of a necklace, so many lives and journeys and outcomes. Everything around it is affected, yet it remains the same. It's like the ingredient that takes on the flavors of what's around it. Bad intent becomes worse and good intent becomes better. A lot of power and influence from what, when you get right down to it, is just stuff (but with obviously a great story to tell.) Glad you're the one who did it.
Thanks so much, Susan. Your analysis of the story is wonderful; you certainly see what I was attempting to say. I'm pleased that you liked it, and I am doubly pleased that an author of your caliber liked it. Again, thank you.
That was lovely of you to say. Thank you.
A great story of a fabulous necklace. A lot of death in those 'blood' stones
Thank you, Marty. I'm glad you liked my little tale of the blood stones.
What an inventive story Delbert. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! Talk about karma! The ending was unexpected. I’m not sure I’d be capable of behaving so generously, especially after so much time had passed and the necklace was unlikely to be missed. That would take some doing. It’s strange to think there must be necklaces like that about with such a big backstory. Really interesting. Thanks
Thanks so much for the nice review, Helen. And I agree; I would want to sell the thing and grab some cash. It was karma all the way through. Nice catch. Thanks again, Helen.
Thanks so much for the nice review, Helen. And I agree; I would want to sell the thing and grab some cash. It was karma all the way through. Nice catch. Thanks again, Helen.
You’ve done an excellent job with your story. I love how you worked the necklace into so many stories through the decades and how it was perceived in various ways. It almost had a magical quality in that when it was stolen, the thief met their demise. Yet, when used for good, it helped people have better lives. You tie all these stories together very well.
Thank you so much, Kimberly. I appreciate the nice review. It was a fun write, and you certainly understood my vision for the story. Well done.
A very fun story! Rarely do we get to follow the (gruesome) history of an object, but truthfully, things like this are silent witnesses to so much. If walls could talk, indeed :) So there's clearly two kinds of people in this story, as others pointed out. Most simply, we have those who are greedy and those who are altruistic. When they find the necklace, they think a) what can I get out of it, or b) who can I help with this. A little deeper, perhaps we have people who are well adjusted and in balance with their lives, not wanting for thin...
One of these days, I will write a story that is not so transparently easy for you to correctly analyze! LOL Your last sentence is probably as good a summary as any one sentence can be. Stellar. I would say, however, that the necklace doesn't so much amplify one's traits as to be a catalyst for one's inherent goodness or evilness. Those who are inclined to be violent tend to die violently, and those who tend to see the beauty of the necklace for beauty's sake come out ahead. The ending is far different than any of this, though. The Church i...
This must've been a fun one to write coming up with all these characters and their fates! It was like the necklace was a morality judge, handing out what they derserve. The ones who appreciated it for its beauty got to keep it for a long time and the ones who wanted it for its value only suffered. Reminded me a bit of the One Ring too, moving from owner to owner as if it had a mind of its own. Was a good read!
Thanks so much for the kind words, Edward. Yes, it was a fun write. I enjoyed creating the characters and their various fates. You got it spot on; the necklace indeed judged the possessors based on their character and actions. Thanks again, Edward. I appreciate your analysis.
Everyone caught the "good intentions" versus not. Let me go further. 1.) The train robber had money and wanted to not pay anyways 2.) Miguel may have lied but he felt comfortable in his lifestyle* (theme) 3.) Carl had a job but it wasn't enough. He also was going to get more money than he intended. 4.) Lewis: all about supplication. He wanted to feel useful to his wife. (dignity) 5.) Why did Jeremy need restriction? (fun punishment of digging trees. Been there). That is a pretty good balance. Just to be Californian: 1849 gold. 1850 state...
Yeah, I screwed up a little there. 1857 should maybe have been 1907. Or I could have started on the east coast. Boston, maybe. I'm glad you liked the balance, Tommy. And you saw that karma (for lack of a better word) played a big part in the story. Everyone got what they deserved, more or less. The Red Violin in the west, no? Thanks for the analysis, Tommy. As per, it is stellar.
Please pardon. I was not clear. You're dating is fine.
Delbert, I liked the journey through the years. It reminded me of the movie, "The Red Violin." I'm glad the necklace wasn't completely cursed. I think I would have taken the cash for it, though.
LOL yeah, maybe I should have started in Boston - or in 1887. Thanks, Chris. I'll revise the original story. Glad you liked it. 'The Red Violin' was my inspiration. I always wanted to write a story like that. Yes, the cash would be nice. Thanks again, Chris. I always appreciate your takes.
I really enjoyed this story, where a meaningful object ties together different characters, places and historical moments. I thought the way you put an end to the "curse of the diamond necklace," had a nice moral: an act of charity can correct cycles of greed. Nicely done.
Thanks so much, Mike. The ones that saw the necklace as beautiful and not necessarily valuable came out ok. In life, we often neglect what is beautiful and look for value. Money. Shit like that. Thanks again for the nice review and the kind words, Mike. I appreciate it from an excellent author like you.
Del, this story was remarkable. It took a simple object of great value and moved it around by so many people, indicative of the times they lived in, and I found that excellently done. The realization that you got what you needed and then let it go because you no longer needed it and felt someone else would find it is noble. The church receiving such a wonderful gift is the icing on the cake. Such a great way to end this story. Well done. Del. It is funny how each person thought the necklace was freeing for them. So valid for the times they...
Thanks so much, Lily. It warms my heart to know that you liked this little tale. It was fun to write, especially the parts where the ones that killed for the necklace got their comeuppance. Thanks again for liking my story. It means a lot to me, Lily.