What can a mother do when she has no money and a dangerously sick kid?
She can make a mistake.
In a moment of desperation, cleaning lady Phoebe Jackson tries to pawn the diamond-bejeweled Rolex she found in a mobster’s locker. Turns out the watch is a fake, but the mobster isn’t—and he’s on to her.
Phoebe collapsed onto the sofa in her apartment. She was always exhausted after working her midnight-to-noon shift at Players. But today she was nervous too. She took the red velvet bag she’d found in the locker out of her purse. She’d just done it. She’d just run back to the attendant’s desk and grabbed the bag. At the time, she’d been thinking that those mobster guys that were members at the club were so rich, they could live without whatever was in the bag. Hell, they might not even notice it was missing.
She opened the bag and took out the watch. It was some watch. She held it in her trembling hand. A solid gold Rolex with twelve diamonds at each of the hours. And they weren’t tiny diamonds either like the zirconium earrings her ex-husband had bought her from a TV infomercial back when they were married. These were like a third of a carat each. And the watch felt like it weighed a couple of pounds.
A door closed in the apartment building’s common area and Phoebe flinched. Had she locked her door? She jumped up and checked. Locked. She went back to the sofa. It was snowing outside, the snow building up little drifts on the bulky wood-frame windows, the occasional wind gusts hitting the windows sounding like bassoons wailing. What was she doing with the watch? Oh, she had her excuse all ready— she’d just been in a hurry to get everything clean by five and stashed the watch in her purse fully intending to return it, but then, in the rush, she’d forgotten. Still, she knew the longer she held onto the watch, the more guilty she would appear. She figured she could only hold it till she went in to work the next morning. And even that would be stretching it.
She went to the kitchen and took a bite of a somewhat stale chocolate doughnut that one of the kids had left out from breakfast. Grab the next bus and run the watch right back is what she ought to do. She couldn’t lose this job. Her girls. If anything happened to her, her girls would be on their own. Sure, her parents lived just down the street, but they were barely eking by on social security, and getting a little feeble minded too. She wiped her mouth and marched straight for the watch. She checked the time on it. The next bus didn’t run for forty minutes. Damn it.
Forty minutes. Forty minutes. The time seemed oppressive. She wondered what was happening back at Players? Had the missing watch been reported? Was the member making a stink? Claiming foul play? Claiming she took it? Oh God, what a mess. Forty minutes. It could’ve been forty days.
She just had the watch for a few hours and was already feeling the criminal’s sense of guilt, and the need to turn herself in. Which was crazy. Her excuse would fly. At least she thought it would. But then again, some of the club’s members were lawyers, and the sleazy type, the type that defended the mobsters, who were other members. Lawyers could always find a way to get ordinary people in trouble. No, she never should have taken it.
She sat on the sofa and ran a fingernail between the corduroy lines on one of the cushions. She lifted the watch from the cocktail table. It was beautiful. A work of art really. Phoebe had an artist’s sensibility. She looked around her apartment: the mauve walls, the impressionist prints there, the stained-glass light fixture hanging from the ceiling. The watch fit right in. It was elegant. She wondered what it would go for. She laughed. Dana would know. Her best friend Dana was an on-line auction, secondhand store, pawn shop guru. Phoebe picked up her cell phone and hit the speed dialer for her friend.
“Dana, have a minute?”
“Ha. Amazing that you called, Phoebe. I’m driving by your house right now. Look out the window and I’ll wave.”
Phoebe stood and walked to the window. She saw Dana’s old Buick rolling by slowly in the falling snow. “I really need to talk to you.”
“Why don’t I just come up?”
Phoebe looked at the Rolex. She had a half hour till the next bus. But did she really want to let somebody else into all this? She looked at a photo of her girls on the cocktail table. What the hell. She was turning the watch in anyway. “Yeah. Come on up.”
Clunking on the wooden stairs. Phoebe opened the door and waited, the clunking growing progressively louder. Dana was always ready with a smile. “The snow is flying sideways out there,” she said, brushing snow off her shoulders. She was buried in a puffy, sectioned ski jacket, a green scarf and a tasseled knit cap. She took off the cap, her brown hair cascading down her shoulders, and smacked the cap against her hip. “So when we moving to Florida?”
Phoebe laughed. “In our dreams.”
Dana slipped out of her boots. “So what’s up?”
Phoebe held the door open wide. “Oh, nothing.”
Dana walked in. “Is that the same nothing that you really needed to talk to me about?”
Phoebe looked at the watch on the cocktail table and swallowed hard. Dana was going to see it any second. “I’ve got slippers if your feet are cold.”
“I’m fine.” Dana gravitated to the watch like metal drawn to a magnet. “And what do we have here?”
“That’s the nothing.” Phoebe crossed her arms. This was another threshold crossing. Another person knew. That did it— the watch was definitely going back. “I found it at Players when I was cleaning a locker and forgot to turn it in. In fact, I’ve only got a couple minutes before I’m grabbing the next bus back there to return it.”
“Oh, Phoebe,” Dana said breathlessly, “this watch is the real thing. Top of the line. We’re talking fifteen grand retail.”
Phoebe collapsed into an arm chair. “How much?”
“Fifteen thousand dollars.”
In her mind’s eye, Phoebe saw her daughter Cessie at the hospital getting top-notch medical care for her diabetes, rather than getting railroaded out as fast as they could push her because she was uninsured. She breathed in deep. “Are you sure?”
Dana nodded. “Positive.”
Phoebe thought about it for a minute, then shook her head. “Well, it doesn’t matter because I’m turning it in.”
Dana’s eyes were loaded with questions.
Her friend shrugged. “I didn’t say anything.”
“But you were thinking.”
“I could get you ten grand for this, Phoebe. No sweat. No questions asked.”
“Well, that’s great, Dana, but it’s not going to happen.” It was tempting, though, because of Cessie. But no, it wasn’t going to happen. “I’ve already made up my mind.”
“You do what you have to, girlfriend. I just know I could get you ten K for this without batting an eye.”
“Well, maybe in a perfect world, I would. But this isn’t a perfect world.”
“But you said you found it.”
“Yes. Technically, I did.”
“Well, whatever happened to finders keepers?”
“Oh, okay.” Phoebe shot her a few nods. “Will you visit me in jail? Raise the girls for me while I’m there?”
“Come on, Phoebe.” Dana leaned toward her. “There are ways of doing things.”
“I have to catch the bus, Dana.”
Phoebe’s ringtone on her cell played. She checked the caller id. “Oh God, what is this.” She pushed a green button on the phone. “This is Phoebe Jackson.”
“Mrs. Jackson, this is the Chicago Police department. Your daughter Cessie was found unconscious on the side of the road, lying in a snow bank. Apparently she was walking home from school and had some kind of seizure.”
“She’s diabetic! Didn’t you find her medic alert bracelet?”
“Ma’am, this is the ChicagoPolice department. We called the paramedics right away. Your child’s at ArensonHospital.”
Phoebe hung up the phone. “Can you drive me to ArensonHospital? Cessie’s had another diabetic reaction.”
Dana stood from the sofa. “Let’s go.”
Phoebe stashed the Rolex under a sofa cushion.
The Find by Gregg Bell is a masterful story written with suspense that holds on to you until the very end!
The characters are twisted together in so many different ways that it keeps you wondering how it’s going to end up. They are strong and strange and quirky and dangerous. I started reading and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end.
Mr. Bell writes with a great deal of thought. The real-life situation of choosing what to do to help your family versus doing what you know is the right thing is a great conundrum that faces most parents during their life-time. That our heroine ultimately learned from her mistake was refreshing.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Mr. Bell’s work. I heartily recommend The Find by Gregg Bell!
~Patricia, Room With Books~ © Feb 22, 2014
Fifteen things readers don’t know about me:
- My middle name is Gerard because I was a difficult birth, and St.Gerard is the patron saint of difficult births (although I haven’t fact checked this!).
- I got a hole-in-one playing golf.
- I was hit in the head by a golf ball (yes, it hurt).
- I am a really good dancer.
- I am very ambidextdrous.
- I’m a daily meditator.
- I do an Elmer Fudd sings Bruce Sprinsteen impersonation.
- I broke my wrist hopping a tennis net while streaking (not recently).
- I once dreamt I was making out with Hillary Clinton.
- I have never been any good at blowing my nose in public.
- People often mistake my voice for a woman’s (it happened at the McDonalds drive-thru recently).
- I found a stray deaf dog and adopted him (Champ).
- I was dropped on my head as a baby (probably why I became a writer).
- I can whistle really loudly.
- am really glad to have completed these fifteen things!
When I was ten a drunken guy almost drowned me in a swimming pool. It was in Miami Beach at the Chateau motel. The guy was a pool hand and he was wrestling (playfully, for the most part) with us kids. Then he said, “I’m going to show you a good hold” and he got me in a headlock and took me under. It was a good hold all right. He held me there and held me there and held me there. I struggled but this was a powerful man. There was nothing to do. I would either die or I wouldn’t.
That experience gave me an appreciation for life’s tenuousness. If you think about it, we’re only alive as far as our next breath will take us.
So I write novels and stories about characters like you and me with their heads underwater. (Figuratively speaking of course.) Characters under so much duress their brains are about to burst. They’re at the end of it all. No way out of this one. But I also write with a sense of humor. (You have to have a sense of humor, right?)
I was born in 1956 in Chicago. A lifelong Illinois guy. Married once. Divorced. No kids. No pets. Passionate about things: people, classical music, golf. And I always seem to be on the side of the underdog.
Gregg Bell’s website: http://greggbell.net/
Gregg Bell’s blog “The Underdog’s Corner”: http://greggbell1.blogspot.com/
Goodreads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148350.Gregg_Bell
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Gregg-Bell/e/B00ADR62PM
Facebook Author page: www.facebook.com/pages/Gregg-Bell/212349142247022