Guide to Moral Living in Examples: The Justinian Sapphire

"Whup-hay," Leslie muttered as she lifted the Justinian Sapphire off of its velvet cushion and considered that the next day and a half would be very uncomfortable. The sapphire was the size of a pocket watch, which didn't seem that large until she braced herself for what she was about to do next. Luckily, the blaring alarms overwhelmed the doubting voice in her head. She'd already torn open the small packet of mayonnaise that she kept in her pocket. She squeezed out a dollop of mayo onto the sapphire and felt the lump thud against the floor of her stomach before the security guards burst into the room with their hands on their guns.

Uh-oh, Leslie thought. Busted.

"Director!" one of the security guards exclaimed, looking worried. "Where did the perpetrator go?"

No food was allowed in the gallery. Not even a small packet of mayonnaise and not even if you were the director of lapidary arts at the Museum of Legitimate Antiquities. Luckily, Leslie had remembered to shatter a window at the other end of the gallery. And she'd worked on her swoon in the mirror until it was just perfect, like a piece of silk fluttering to the floor.

She collapsed in a smooth movement that allowed her to slip the empty mayo packet into her pocket. One security guard rushed to her side while the other bounded towards the broken window.

Leslie had no choice other than to commit the perfect crime to prevent the perfect crime.

Thirty-six hours later, after allowing herself to be revived, questioned and released, she admired the sapphire sitting on her coffee table. It was a handsome gem. The morning light bounced around inside of its thousands of facets, oblivious to the travails that it had been through or the danger from which she had saved it.

Somebody knocked on the door. Leslie checked her watch. Must be the police, she thought. They said that they might have some follow-up questions. She opened the door.

A jewel thief stood on her porch. She knew from the warning that had been issued to all of the museum employees. He hadn't even bothered to trim his thick, black mustache.

"Leslie," he said. "It's been a long time."

"What are you doing here?" she hissed. "It's dangerous for you. The police said that they'd come by any second."

"Then invite me in," he said, his mouth curving into a smile beneath his cookie duster.

She grabbed him by his lapels, threw him into the vestibule and slammed the door shut behind them.

"Are you stupid, an idiot, or both? I should have you arrested!"

"But you can't," the jewel thief said. "Because then somebody might take one of those magnifying lenses with the little light attachment on it to your past, like the geologists use to examine stones. They'd find some dust. I should know, I helped sprinkle it around."

"You could have at least shaved off the soup strainer," Leslie said, pushing past the jewel thief and into the kitchen. "Do you want a cup of coffee?"

"Sure, I'd love a cup. And they'll shave this lip warmer off my cold, dead corpse. And whoever does it will have to contend with me haunting the shit out of them. I'd blunt their razors. I'd chip their scissors. I'd short out their electric trimmers. And don't ask what I'd do to their nose hair clippers. Let's just say that they'd get pinchy. Real pinchy, so that they'd tear up whenever they tried to deal with their nasal whiskers. But a cup of coffee would be lovely," the jewel thief said, plopping into a battered chair.

Leslie handed a cup to the jewel thief. He tasted it.

"Ah, with two sugars, just how I like it. You remembered, how sweet," the jewel thief said, ignoring the snub-nosed pistol that Leslie had leveled in his face with her off-hand.

"How do you do that so damn fast? Give me the sapphire. Fork it over," Leslie said, noticing the blank surface of her coffee table.

"Soliloquizing. Works every time. It's not just for crappy villains in crappy movies."

"But you are a crappy villain. You've wandered over to your ex-partner's place in the middle of the day while the investigation is still ongoing."

"So are you. So crappy that you've gone legit," the jewel thief replied.

"Just shut up, get out of here, and give me back the sapphire," she said, pushing the pistol at the jewel thief.

"Your bark always was worse than your bite," the jewel thief replied.

"I guarantee that isn't the case with this little bulldog." Leslie gestured with the gun.

As she did so, the jewel thief slapped it out of her hands. It smashed against a cabinet and clattered to the ground. The jewel thief grabbed Leslie by the collar and lifted her off of the ground.

"Listen, why is it such a big deal? You're acting like these are your jewels. When I saw that the Justinian Sapphire was coming to the Museum of Legitimate Antiquities I figured that we'd have one last fling, just like the old days. Now that I've rolled in here, I see that you've changed."

"You and your flavor saver have not. Get with the times. I can go play with all of the jewels in the Museum whenever I'd like. No stress, no strain, no hiding under bridges for seventy-two hours while the heat is on after a heist," Leslie said.

"I'd never been camping. It was fun," the jewel thief said, letting her down gently until her feet touched the floor. "Stealing food from dumpsters, making sure the tent stayed up even in the wind, chasing away the local kids. We made quite a pair, down under that bridge. We defied the world. And remember how we had to dangle Jimmy the Fence from that same bridge when he tried to screw us over? Remember that noise he made, like a kazoo being flushed down a toilet?"

Leslie smiled.

"There's your sapphire," the jewel thief said, pointing to where he'd replaced it during his soliloquy. "I won't fight you. It's the dirtiest kind of rat that preys on the other rats." He finished his cup of coffee, stood up, and went out the fire escape.

Leslie picked up the fake sapphire that the jewel thief had left. It didn't make a difference to her, she'd only wanted to catch up and had gotten in touch with him the only way that she knew how. Besides, she had every confidence in her old friend that the duplicate Justinian Sapphire would fool anybody at the Museum. Anybody but her, she thought with a smile, and only the dirtiest rat preyed on the other rats.

The Moral: if you're manufacturing a fake gem, be sure to also duplicate any curses that may have been placed on the original item.

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