Jake Stevens read the article again; he couldn’t believe what he had read the first go round. Yep, it said exactly what he thought it did and he immediately envisioned his next ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.
A company in the east had developed a way to take the ashes of a cremated person and turn them into diamonds. A spokesperson for the company said their premise had been based on the principle that diamonds are merely crystallized carbon and carbon is found in all organic life. He further stated that people could now keep their dearly departed close to them always, by wearing these specially created diamonds in custom made jewelry. The spokesperson then outlined that approximately a thimble-full of ash would yield a 1/4-carat diamond at a cost of $4,000.00. Jake snorted when he laughed hard and he was snorting now.
“Molly quick, c’mon ya gotta read this. We’re gonna be stinkin’ rich!”
Molly ran as she always did when Jake hollered. She never knew if he was going to be in a good mood or a foul one. But even if the mood started out good and she wasn’t fast enough, it could turn foul in a blink of an eye. Molly read the article, but wasn’t sure what he was so all shook up about. Dare she ask? It would probably set him off again.
He was going to have to find some quick cash in order to get the ball rolling. It was either that or he would have to take in a partner and Jake was never one to share a good scam. He started rummaging through Molly’s jewelry box. He chose a few select pieces he had given her over the years and then grabbed the rest for good measure.
“Hey, whatcha doing with all my stuff?”
“Have to pawn it babe; we need some working capital.” He never noticed before how nasal her voice became when she whined. That saying about a silk purse and a sow’s ear made sense to him now.
“You better not lose any of it!” She was panicking now; he never touched her stuff before. Some things like lingerie and jewelry were sacred and when you give a gal a gift you don’t take it back. If he was gonna start breaking the rules like this maybe, just maybe, it was time she started looking for another fella. She’d need to get to work fast because time and gravity would soon no longer be on her side.
* * *
The realtor couldn’t believe he was finally getting some action on the old foundry. Even a short term rental was better than it continuing to sit empty year after year.
“So, Mr. Stevens, will you be rehiring any of the locals to run the plant?” He knew once the word was out that the factory was re-opening his phone would be ringing off the wall. Everyone would want to know if there were jobs to be had, how many, how soon, etc.
“Right now I’m just testing the waters, so to speak. If things go the way I plan we could be in full swing six months from now.” Jake smile was well practiced. Six months from now he’d be long gone but the buzz generated by the realtor would guarantee curiosity seekers as soon as the doors were open for business. He wanted to strike fast and hard. Before signing the lease he remembered to have the realtor fire up the furnace for him. He wasn’t actually going to use it but it would be hard to pull off his con with a blast furnace that didn’t work.
He returned home with some instant printed business cards, a couple of good suits and a few classy outfits for Molly. Too bad he already spilled the beans; he really couldn’t afford to dump her now. He just hoped she could pull off being a receptionist without screwing it up.
“You didn’t tell me you were going shopping,” Molly pouted in what she thought was a cute way. “I love to shop!”
“That’s why I didn’t tell you.” Jake replied.
She eagerly tore into the first dress box and held up the garment.
“But it’s so… plain,” she lamented, “and you paid way too much for it considering how plain it is. We need to return it; it isn’t my style at all.” She pushed the other boxes away without opening them knowing instinctively that they would be similar. Men just didn’t know how to shop, she was fuming.
“It cost more because it’s classy and classy means plain, not gaudy prints and plunging necklines.”
“What, so I’m not classy enough for you now? Ya never complained about seeing a little cleavage before.”
“Doll, these clothes are part of the act. You have to look like a resp…” he broke it off before uttering the word that would fan the flames. “You have to look like a business woman.”
“Well… okay.” Somewhat mollified she opened the other packages. “At least the colors are good.” She conceded.
The last thing he had needed to make this scheme work was a small inventory 1/4-carat diamonds and he managed to score a number of low quality stones dirt cheap. Jake knew the quality was of no importance; no one would balk if Aunt Sally or dear old Grandma wasn’t perfect in cut, color, or clarity.
Jake finalized the rest of his plans and was open for business. With some discreet advertising in place, potential customers flocked to Family Jewels. Jake would take them on a very brief tour of the facilities, explain the procedure with a lot of double talk and the deal was usually struck right then and there. A few people wanted to think about it. Some came just as curiosity seekers, and it gave Jake the biggest laugh of all to sell to them, which he almost always did.
Some people thought it was morbid, to have ashes turned into jewelry and to literally wear a dead person’s remains. Jake had to work a little harder with them.
“What do you intend to do with the ashes? Are you going to keep them in an urn, moving it around the country with you when you’re transferred out of State? Don’t you think that’s a little morbid?”
“Well, I had thought about scattering the ashes,” was the usual comeback.
“Great, that’s just great. All I need is a little more than a thimble full, you can scatter the rest.” That reply always sold them.
* * *
Such a flurry of activity around a new business and new comers in particular, always attracted attention. It wasn’t long before Officer Lindsay Martin got wind of Jake’s unique business venture.
“Lou, I tell you this thing stinks. It can’t be on the up and up.” Lindsay was certain her boss would agree.
“Martin, check it out – quietly. Do you know how to do that?” Lt. Dan Richardson looked at her and sighed. He figured he might as well let Lindsay look around, he knew she would whether he sanctioned it or not. Lindsay was headstrong just like her dad Pete, his former partner.
Lindsay went to Family Jewels and took the tour. During his sales pitch she told Jake that she needed to think about it a bit longer. Lindsay could smell a con a mile away and there was definitely some kind of con going on at Jake’s, she just wasn’t sure what it was yet.
Giving it a couple of days so she could appear to be thinking about it, Lindsay contacted her father’s old friend Nettie Jenkins, one of the people she knew who had done business at Family Jewels.
“Nettie, have you had the diamond you had made from Arthur’s ashes set in a hatpin yet?”
Nettie wore a hat to everything you could even think about wearing a hat to; it was her trademark. It seemed reasonable to Nettie to be able to take Arthur to church, a ball game, shopping and even on vacation. Her beloved Arthur would be with her always.
“It’s over at Ring ‘N’ Things now, why? Is something wrong?”
“No, at least I don’t think so. I just wanted to take a look at it.”
Hurrying over to the jewelry store Lindsay thought she already knew the answer. The stones might look like diamonds, but they weren’t really.
Mr. Benjamin, the owner, assured Lindsay that the gems were in fact diamonds.
“Lindsay, I had my doubts when the first of Jake’s customers showed up. They’re not very good diamonds but under the circumstances what can you expect? No one’s complained about them so far.”
Disappointed, Lindsay was on her way out of the store when a diamond ring in the showcase caught her eye. She noted the total carat weight and the retail price.
Back at the station Lindsay explained to her boss that Jake was making a huge profit on all the ashes he processed into diamonds.
“Martin, it isn’t a crime to make money. If people are willing to pay $4,000.00 for a 1/4-carat, unmounted diamond made from a loved one’s ashes, that’s their business. If we get a complaint it becomes ours.”
“Lou, the whole thing is wrong somehow. I can feel it in my gut and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.” Then it hit her, they were real diamonds – not manufactured ones.
Lindsay poked around the station for a few minutes, stopped at the bank and then returned to Family Jewels.
“Okay Jake, I’ve thought it over. I want to have dad’s ashes made into diamonds. If you use more than a thimble full can I get a larger carat diamond?”
Damn, Jake thought, I should have thought of that. I could have raked in the dough that much faster.
“No Lindsay, I’m sorry but it doesn’t work that way. However, I could make you several 1/4-carat diamonds and you could have them turned into a cluster ring or made into a necklace.”
Lindsay agreed and gave Jake a tin and the twenty-eight grand she had withdrawn from the bank earlier. The police department did not have access to money for sting operations, but fortunately Lindsay still had the bulk of her father’s insurance money in the bank.
When Lindsay left Jake let out a whistle.
“What’s going on?” Molly came running as she always did.
“We just scored a big one. Here,” he tossed Lindsay’s tin to Molly, “throw that in the bin with the rest of them and then lock up. We’re going out to celebrate.”
Early the next morning Lindsay went to Family Jewels to pick up her diamonds. A smiling Jake handed her the velvet pouch and she shook seven sparkly little diamonds out into her hand.
“Thanks Jake. Jake Stevens, you are under arrest for fraud. You have the right to remain silent…”
As Lindsay continued to inform Jake of his rights other officers moved in; one waved a search warrant. Molly was cuffed and read her rights as well. They recovered Lindsay’s money, which the banker had obligingly marked for her and several other 1/4-carat diamonds. Planning on staying in town a bit longer Jake had reinvested some of his money in new stock.
“How did you know?” Jake glared at Lindsay.
“If you were on the up and up you could never have produced diamonds from the contents of my tin.”
An officer opened Lindsay’s tin and showed Jake the cigarette ashes and small chicken bones it contained. If Jake had looked inside he would have known immediately that the jig was up.