THE EARLY BIRD…
Does everything have a dollar value?
The handcuffs dug into his wrists. He'd been left waiting so long with his hands fastened behind his back, after being shoved in the back seat of the squad car. The cops were in the house, gathering evidence.
He'd be lucky if his hands could ever perform surgery again, what with being stuck in these barbarian restraints. He was innocent; couldn't they see that? And a surgeon, for Gawd's sake, wealthy in his own right, why would he steal jewelry? He just wanted to save the heirloom from being sold into the open market. That girl had no appreciation for its historical worth.
"I'm so glad you caught that scoundrel," May Worth's daughter, Ellen, told the officer. "I don't understand why a successful doctor would stoop so low as to steal Mother's ring."
"Well, it appears he did. Maybe we'll find out why in court," the policeman replied. "We're taking him down to headquarters now."
The next morning, Dr. Adams stood before a grim Judge Wellington. That man had missed his morning coffee and his day had gone downhill from there.
"Well, Dr. Adams, it seems you have a penchant for fine jewelry." The Judge scanned a stack of papers before him. "And you plead guilty to the charge of grand larceny."
"Yes, sir. I took the ring."
The Judge studied him, his eyes searching for some explanation concerning such outrageous behavior on the part of a successful surgeon. "I don't understand," he said. "Why?"
Dr. Adams looked at the Judge with wide eyes that registered disbelief about the situation. "It began with the lady, 'May.' Well, maybe it began with my car which broke down. I had patients scheduled for surgery that morning, and I had to get to the hospital, so I took the bus."
"So?" the Judge asked.
"Well, I got a seat next to May, the old lady. Such a sweet woman she was, really. She told me about her family and how proud she was of them all. A true family enthusiast if ever I saw one."
"I don't understand where this is going, Dr. Adams."
"Well, that was when I noticed her ring, Such a beautiful item. I commented on it, and she explained how it had been passed down for generations in her family. She pointed out each pearl and emerald to make sure I saw how well made and beautiful it was. And she regaled me with stories concerning her ancestors and the ring. Wonderful stories…" The doctor's eyes glazed over as he recalled the memories.
"Dr. Adams!" The Judge's voice brought the good doctor back to the present.
"I found that I loved the ring. I studied it on her finger and I could sense her entire heritage in that beautiful piece of jewelry. I could imagine ladies in the 18th century wearing it to Presidential balls, or Victorian relatives wearing it to the Opera, or even May herself wearing it as she did, everyday, to pay tribute to her ancestors. She told me she planned to will it to her daughter, because she felt the girl would treasure it and pass it on to her daughter."
"Well," the Judge replied while flipping through papers. "I see May Worth did exactly that, and upon her demise the daughter took possession of the ring." He paused and looked up to make eye contact with Dr. Adams. "And that is where you come in–stealing the ring last night from the daughter."
"Yes, I did. Because the daughter doesn't deserve it. She put an ad in the paper to sell it. I saw the ad myself. She was willing to release that heirloom to the highest bidder."
"And what business is that of yours, Dr. Adams?"
"Well, Sir. Do your papers there tell you I was at May's side when she died. There on the bus, she had a heart attack not long after showing me the ring."
"Yes, I see that here."
"She died in my arms. I gave her CPR, but alas, I couldn't revive her." The doctor paused; his eyes welled. "When a doctor loses a patient, especially a sweet woman like May, it is painful. We may be doctors, but we are human beings, too."
"Understood, but you still haven't explained what got into you to try and steal that ring."
"Well, I went to the funeral, and I didn't like the daughter from the start. When I tried to discuss the history of the ring with her, she scoffed and told me she wanted money, not jewelry. That was when I realized she would probably try and sell it. You can imagine my dismay when I spied her ad in the Gazette."
"I still don't see where it is any of your business."
"Oh, but it is! When you hold someone's life in your hands, you must consider their dying wishes. May said to me with her last breath, 'Make sure she takes care of my ring.'"
"So you take care of it by stealing it? Are you crazy, man?"
"I only meant to take care of it myself, since she didn't intend to."
"Dr. Adams, why didn't you simply buy the ring?"
"Because I wouldn't sell it to him." May Worth's daughter, Ellen, stood in the back of the room. "This man has an unhealthy obsession with my mother's ring."
"You are Ellen Worth?" the Judge asked. "Step up here, please."
"Yes, that may be true, Miss, but he makes an interesting point. Why are you so anxious to sell it?" the Judge asked.
"With all due respect, do I have to answer such a question?"
"Yes, I think you do. Would you take the stand, please, Ms. Worth," Judge Wellington instructed.
The young lady complied, grimacing as the bailiff asked her to take an oath on the Bible.
"Ms. Worth, I am simply curious why you see no value in this ring as an heirloom."
"I simply have no interest in that sort of thing. Life is meant to be enjoyed, why should I sit around and look at a silly bauble like that when it could buy me a lot of happiness."
The Judge studied her with a sad expression. "I find it disappointing you put so little importance on your heritage, Ms. Worth. I'm sure your mother would be appalled."
"My mother was always appalled at my behavior, so this won't surprise her, Your Honor." Her deep, sharp voice cut through the courtroom like a knife.
As the girl spoke, Dr. Adams sat rigidly in his seat, his disapproval obvious.
With a sigh, the Judge continued, "You are dismissed, Ms. Worth. There is nothing left to do but hand the ring over to you then, and continue with this case against Dr. Adams.
"Nothing would make me happier, Your Honor." The girl stood to leave.
"I'm sure you feel that way, Ms. Worth. There is one other item I want to do. I have sent for an antique dealer who also has experience as a museum curator. He will establish a value to the ring to help me in the sentencing of Dr. Adams."
Ellen Worth stood still. "Your Honor, that really isn't necessary. I have had the ring appraised. I did so in the course of trying to sell it. I was told it is worth $20,000."
"That may be so, Ms. Worth, but I am obligated to use the court's specialist in these matters."
Ellen's face wrinkled in disapproval. "Well then, Your Honor, may I be excused from court. I have things to attend to."
"Certainly, Ms. Worth. You may pick up the ring later today at the Police Station."
* * *
Mr. Perkins, the antique dealer, fumbled into the courtroom, lugging a huge brown book. He nodded to Judge Wellington.
"I see you have arrived, Mr. Perkins," the Judge commented.
"Yes, Your Honor." Mr. Perkins busied himself removing his drab brown coat and arranging the book on a table. "I have some astounding information about the ring." He lifted the book up to reveal on one of its worn, yellow pages a photograph of the jewelry.
"Please take a seat and be sworn in, Mr. Perkins."
That being done, the antique dealer, anxious to make his announcement, opened to a new page in the large brown volume he had carried in so carefully.
"Your Honor, the first thing I would like to report is the value of the ring, which is quite high. In fact, thirty years ago, it was valued at $30,000. Today it is worth $200,000." His eyes opened wide and his teeth gleamed in a broad smile.
"My word! Are you certain?" The Judge shifted in his seat to lean closer to Mr. Perkins, as though that would clarify the situation.
"Yes, Your Honor. Here is the interesting part though. This ring, which was originally designed for and owned by a German aristocrat in 1705, went missing from our local museum thirty years ago. We had received it as part of a personal collection when the owner at that time died. Mr. Tibbles, the famous banker, willed it to the museum upon his demise."
"It is a museum piece, Your Honor. And it was presumed to be stolen thirty years ago when it became missing without a trace. The police searched and searched but never solved the case."
"Well, how did it end up with May Worth?"
"Your Honor, I checked the old records. May was employed at the museum thirty years ago. The most obvious conclusion is she stole the ring, although I have no proof, of course. I'm surmising she only showed it to people years later when it was long forgotten."
"But she told me it had been in her family for generations," Dr. Adams blurted out.
"No. That may have been her story, but it just isn't true."
Judge Wellington stroked his chin as he pondered the situation. Then he startled and looked to the bailiff. "Bailiff, have you been able to contact Ellen Worth since she left the courtroom?"
The officer shook his head in a dubious fashion. "Your Honor, she is nowhere to be found."
"I see. I have a feeling we will never find her." Judge Wellington shook his head in dismay.
"So what are you saying? You are telling me that sweet old lady told me a lie," Dr. Adams asked.
"Yes, Dr. Adams. That is exactly what we are saying. But you should be happy. I'm going to drop the charges against you, since the ring was already stolen when you took it. You could have just as easily been trying to take it back to return to its rightful owners."
The Judge paused, tapping his pencil on the desk in a thoughtful motion. "The real criminal in this case was May Worth. And I might add she was the proverbial early bird who got the worm. . .Case dismissed."
And so, she was.
Copyright 2005 JO Janoski
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