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Rings

The darkness was a cloying shroud. It was nothing but a blanket, a thick surrounding sheet that settled on him. The heavy warmth that hung on the summer air was reassuring- almost dulling his senses, taking away what was most important. Sweet with the smell of night blooms, dark with the calm of sleep, he stepped slowly, relishing the delicious atmosphere. The dark oak tree seemed less intimidating, the grass a sea of black. Nothing could have been seen- only the liquid silver of the moon.

He was almost there, almost past the long winding cobblestone walkway, past the overwhelming flower beds. He should have seen it coming, should have felt it- the hairs on the back of his neck pricked to attention. Passing it off as nerves from the day, from the dark, he didn’t turn around, didn’t cry out, until it was too late.

The shot rang out, a loud ring, a pierce in the layer of peace. That, and then darkness.

Darkness.

******************************************************************************


What a lovely morning! Such a beautiful summer, thought Mrs. Denassi. Standing by her sink, rinsing her favorite mug, she smiled at the bird feeder hanging near her moist window. A delicate bluebird perched gently on the seat, staring quizzically through the window before flitting off. Flinging the shutters open, she took a deep breath of the cool morning air, full of dew and fresh grass.

She turned to observe the oak tree that hung between her and Elizabeth’s house. Such a beautiful tree- she remembered playing on it when she was young, swinging on the coarse branches, getting her wild locks coated in leaves and florid cheeks in sticky residue. Sighing happily, her eyes roved over to Elizabeth’s cobblestones, where once her previous neighbor…

“Charles-Charles, come quick!”

******************************************************************************Detective Untz was nervous.

There was no doubt about it as she drove into the scene, back stiff, mind determined to prove she was more than new. She was skilled, and smart. Surely the chief would see that. Especially if the case she was on was simple- and she could make it look good.

A little hamming is what needed to be done. Not that she didn’t want to solve the case correctly- but civilians always made more of a crime than necessary. The woman on the phone was a jittery wreck- struggling to get her words out, the phone line static ridden. All she needed to do was inspect, provide a little evidence, and make everyone happy- whatever this was. She couldn’t hear the woman well.

She pulled into the drive of a large home that was dominated by a massive oak tree. Spitting gravel as she went, she pulled in front of the white garage and swung out of her silver car, the thud drawing the attention of several people who had convened.

The crowd of nosy onlookers were crowded near the cobblestone path. Making her way over, she pushed her way through the throng to see the problem. Strangely enough, everyone was silent- a foreboding omen if something was bad enough. Untz stared before her.

A man. A pool of blood.

This was a lot more than she bargained for.


She turned to the crowd. “If everyone could please move back it would be much appreciated.”

Faces blank, they stepped away, congregating near the oak tree, where soon after conversation started. After dialing the number for reinforcements on her communicator, she stepped her way to the house, grimly knocking on the polished white door. Her knuckles rapped against the wood as she composed her face, sternly nodding when a woman opened the door.

“Good Morning, M’am. I am here-”

She spoke, her tear-streaked face cutting her off. “To talk a-about the murder? Why not? Of course. Come right in.” Her voice cracked, but she impatiently gestured for her to come in. Untz stepped up into the house as she closed the door behind her, cutting out the voices of the rest.

It was evident that this woman wasn’t hard strapped for money. The hall leading to the door was richly painted in a burnt gold, with solid mahogany coat hangers, bronze-wreathed mirrors, (in which she could see her dark brown locks) and a floral carpet done in the same colors. Awkwardly tracking mud on the plush carpet, they came upon a point in the hall where the left and the right were simply open spaces leading to the dining room and the other, the living room. An exorbitant amount of light came into the home, despite the coloring, as she lead him to the living room.

Here, Untz openly admired the decor and lounge. Comfortable, beige couches surrounded the white carpeted floor, and in the center, a lovely glass table stood, even the legs wrought entirely of the delicate material. Near the front, a wooden mantel surrounded a fireplace, the chimney a deep brick red. The amount of windows to the left were framed by a pale paint, and a strange wooden structure that looked rather like a tree stood in the view of one. Farther to the back of the room, a staircase led to to the above levels. Picture frames hung everywhere, reminders of what once was.

The woman settled herself into an armchair, as did Untz. She began.

“M’am, let’s start first with who exactly you are, and the relations to the victim.”

She shifted. “My name is Elizabeth Analé. I was engaged to Mr. Anthony Felix, the man out-out there.”

Untz scribbled on a pad from her pocket, the pen scratching away.

“And how long were you engaged?”

“For about a week or two. We were to get married in October.”

Untz raised her brows. “And how long did you know each other before... this happened?”

Elizabeth gave a bitter smile. “It’s quite alright to say murder, Miss. I have no quarrel with the truth.”

Untz flushed, and nodded. Elizabeth continued.

“I knew him for years, maybe. I do not know exactly. He was.... shall we say, a friend, a first.” She glanced toward the window, twisting her topaz ring.

Untz recorded this. She didn’t know why- but her hesitation seemed important.

“And? Anything about your relationship? Did you reach any rocky points?”

Elizabeth thought. “No, not really. A bit of a word or two, I guess, but mind you, my dear- we were just engaged. We hadn’t really started- started-” She swallowed, tears welling up. “Started-”

Untz cut her off, feeling guilty for making her so upset. “I understand.”

She nodded, standing. “I think your men are here. I will walk out with you.”


Elizabeth strode to the door with Untz. She glanced back at the lovely home, dissatisfied with the short interview, bracing herself for what would come. She let herself out, thanking Ms. Analé.

**************************************************************************





The yellow caution tape flapped in the wind. Tied hastily to metal stakes, it was a shock against the calm backdrop of the house. It was all such a shock... such a strange occurrence in such a neighborhood.

The reporter knelt to the ground, hurriedly trying to get a picture. Adjusting the lens, he snapped a few images, the scientists and investigators so caught up they hardly noticed him. The crowd was coming, too... they had enough on their hands. If he could just...lean...in...

The lens zeroed in as he found the wound. A few clicks sounded, and satisfied, the reporter skimmed through the images, imagining what words he would put to it. He wasn’t much for the pictures as for what he would say...

A mad scramble for escape... scientists unsure of motive... a clean shot, a dark night... every man’s fear... surprise...

What he saw next caught his eye. A bug crawling on his screen. Impatiently, he brushed it off. A glance of silver, a tiny streak on the man’s chest in the picture- he looked at the body before him. A bit of silver peeked from his coat!

“Sir- you really should come look at this-SIRS!”

Fending off the impatient crowd, Untz stepped from the group of investigators who were comparing blood tests and impact issues, shooting a dark look to the reporter’s way.

“What might you be doing here?”

Of course. Of all the men, he had to get the attention of one he knew. One he knew very, very well...

“I think you should see this, Untzy. I have something your special forensic boys don’t.”

Grimly, she strode over to the reporter, her dark eyes unimpressed. “What is it, Johnny- John? Don’t tell me it’s another one of your so called pieces of ‘vital evidence.’ I really haven’t got the patience to deal with you.”

John grinned. “Johnny, huh? I guess I can’t be that bad.”

Untz merely stared at him, waiting. John sighed. “Fine. See there? That bit of silver? I think that may be pretty important evidence. It’s so close to the wound...”

Untz glanced at the body. There was silver! A round edge! Calling over the investigators, she pulled on rubber gloves given to her. Pulling back the tape, she advanced, leaning to pull back the man’s- Anthony’s- brown jacket. Cautious, she looked to the head forensic scientist- Investigator Rodriguez. Rodriguez smiled assuredly. “Go ahead.”

She pulled back the jacket- shocked by two things.

One, a perfect, silver, diamond ring.

The second- the man’s chest rose and fell suddenly.


“Holy-”

“My god!”

Panic broke out.

“Call the ambulance!”

“He’s not dead?!”

“Somebody grab that ring!”

“Keep him with us!”


A wail of sirens. Flashing lights. Loud voices. And above all, the sudden, staggered breathing of a man who should have been dead. A man who was murdered.

Wasn’t he?

The EMT’s leaped out of the ambulance that swung into the driveway. Flinging the back doors open and running full speed, karting a stretcher, they shoved past the police.

Untz saw this in slow motion. The shouts of the emergency workers, their mouths crying words she couldn’t understand, the hands of the crowd reaching for the man, too slow, too slow...

Johnny, turning to her, Johnny placing a hand on her shoulder, shaking her.

“Semara! Semara! Move!”

But she couldn’t. Because the man wasn’t dead. Hadn’t there been something like this before? The man wasn’t, couldn’t be gone- even though he was. But this was different- he had been gone- and now he was back.

“Semara! This isn’t daydream time! Go!” Johnny, pushing her back from the panic, from the men now showing up to move the crowd, from the scene where her nightmares were back. They’d been there all this time, hadn’t they?

It was the sudden silence as the ambulance sped into the distance that had snapped her out of it. She shook her head, focusing on the empty crime scene. The ribbon flapping brokenly in the breeze looked desolate, as stunned people began to leave. Only her car remained. That, and Johnny.

He was staring at her, as if she were going to break into a thousand pieces any time soon. She began to walk off, shaking off her past. After all, that was why it was called past. Even if there was a prison break... She shook her head. Going back to the cobblestones where the man was “murdered”, she picked up the ring.

It was a lovely thing- sparkling facets that gave way to blue edges, surrounded by shear little diamonds in a circle, a beautiful geometric mesh. The ring itself was solid, a true silver, true diamond. Everything was real. Anthony came from money. But why the ring?

“You know, that ring... will you be keeping it? Because I reckon I could fetch a pretty price with that... if you know what I mean, Sem. Right?”

Semara turned, fixed him with a glare, and spoke.

“You need something? Because unless you can help me- I suggest you leave. I could report you for all the things you’ve done. I don’t forget, Johnny. I don’t.”

He paled. “Sem- I-”

“It’s Semara to you, Johnny.”

He attempted a grin. “Well, Semara, the ring- do you think it’s real?”

She looked at it. “Of course. See the way it casts a rainbow?”

He nodded, snapping a picture before she could protest. “What now? I personally think it’s useless. So the man got a ring for his wife. Big deal. I say we bring it and get a sale out of it.”

She turned the ring over, looking for answers. Birds chirped in the background of her thoughts... vaguely she could hear the whisper of wind- but mostly, she played Johnny’s words in her mind...

“Johnny! Why would he have a ring? He’s already engaged... only for a week. They were to get married in October. Don’t you think that’s a little... early for a ring?”

She moved closer to the house, looking up into his face, his clear, crystalline blue eyes. He blinked, a slow smile spreading across his face. “My dear Semara, I do believe you have a clue!”

Untz nodded. “Then, the murderer must have dropped this.”

Johnny shook his head. “It was a little too carefully placed. It was intentional.” Untz agreed, fishing into her belt which hung around her waist. Protruding a magnifying glass, she roved over the diamond, noting miniscule scratches. There, on the right, was a tiny engraving.






Enrique’s Gems

“Enrique’s Gems.”


“I know him. Enrique, he’s a funky guy. I never know if he’s on the good side or the bad side.”


Untz looked at him. “Guess it’s time we pay a visit to the jeweler.”


*******************************************************************


The store was a delicate looking shop. Just the window view itself held fragile bracelets embedded with sapphires, necklaces dripping saltwater pearls. Around them, small clustered stores in bright colors clamored for attention- but this shop cut the norm. Its elegance, even in a brief glance, made it a swan amongst ducks. In silver, cursive lettering, the title, Enrique’s Gems (weddings, bargains, and gifts) adorned the top half of the clear window. Silver sills and sleek door handles cut a figure, and leading out to the road were stepping stones of-was it- amethyst?

Untz pushed open the door. A delicate tinkle sounded- a crystal chime hung above the door. She gazed appreciatively around the room.

Jewelry lay upon white velvet in glass and silver cases, soft, white light accenting the wares. In a half moon fashion, the cases encircled a circle made entirely of blue boulder opal. The stunning stone made a flower, and in the center a small fountain poured. Off white walls added to the focus on the fountain and jewelry, while the rest of the floor was a mix of cobblestones. It was bigger than she imagined- or was it the design making her think that?

She was impressed. Writing down her surroundings in a flip notebook, Untz stepped up to see the jewelry.

Silver chained necklaces were linked with green Tsavorite Garnet. The vivid, crystalline green settled next to bracelets which held the deepest blue, colors ranging from azure to sea-green, burnt orange to buttercup yellow. Earrings, chokers, necklaces, hair-clips- there was a particularly beautiful hair-clip.

It was a wave, but starting from the bottom up, a gradation of dark to light gems melded seamlessly into one another, until each miniscule change lead to a white, frothy end. Johnny tapped her on the shoulder, startling her out of her reverie.

“You like that?”

She shrugged. “Yes, but we don’t seem to see rings. Where’s Enrique?”

Johnny shifted, putting a hand on the back of his neck. “You see, Enrique doesn’t like the police. So I-”

The sound of a door being flung closed, and heavy footsteps entered the room. A man with slick black hair and a tuxedo waltzed in, a chrome watch on his right hand. A straight nose, and black eyes, the subtle waft of cologne tinted the air- Untz knew he was Enrique. He seemed happy to see Johnny, but his eyes turned dark as they roved over Untz.

“So you brought the policía, Johnny?”

Johnny swallowed, and shook his head. “No, I-”

“We’re looking for rings. You see, Johnny wants to get me a gift. I just had to wear my uniform- you know, police rules and all. It’s code. Could you show us where the rings are, please?”

Enrique thought for a moment, looking disbelieving, then lightened.

“Of course! Johnny, you are muy lucky. If this weren’t your little girlfriend!”

Johnny gave a fake smile. “The rings, Enrique! Off to the rings!”

Enrique started to the back left area. They followed, reaching a case of lovely, priceless jewels.

“Dese, they are mí favorito. See how each little ring is precious? And they each have a statement.”

He pointed to a set of rings, starting with a diamond exactly like the one at the crime scene. They changed to topaz, blue, green, ruby, opal, sapphire, garnet, and back to the diamond at the beginning.

“I call them the Days of The Week. One for every day!” He laughed. “Which will you be wanting?”

Johnny talked to him about gems, the cut of gems, how Enrique’s business was doing. Untz quietly observed the jewelry, thinking of the ring in her car. Enrique lifted his hand to describe something to Johnny- revealing on his fourth finger a bandage. She glanced back to the diamond. What was it about the ring?

Johnny pointed to a ring. It was the Topaz. Enrique, cheery, wrapped the ring carefully, shaking their hands as they paid and were ready to leave.

“Hasta Luego, Johnny. And don’t forget- Enrique’s looking out for you.”

He shook Untz’s hand. “It was lovely meeting you!”

The bulk of his bandage bumped against her. It was stiff in the middle... a circle of hardness.


She bit her cheek to keep from gasping.

*************************************************************************


Johnny looked at her as they were driving.


“What’s wrong?”


She turned to him. “Johnny- I know Enrique’s probably not the cleanest guy, or the most innocent. But- do you think- he could be involved in murder?”

Johnny blinked, then rubbed a hand over his florid face.

“Why? You looking for a suspect, Sem? Why do you have to pick a fight with one of the most influential, deadly men?”

She gazed out of the windshield. “The bandage on his finger. It was far too hard for skin. And it was in the shape of a ring. A circle.”

“How does this help?”

“One. He hid a ring. A matching ring. Because the victim had a ring on his chest- meant for someone else. And the ring titles- Days of the Week. Ms. Analé was engaged for a week. Enrique hid his ring after a murder. It would be too obvious if he took it off.”

“What...?”

“Before this, did you see Enrique? And did he have a ring?”

He answered slowly. “Yes. And it was-”

Untz finished. “Silver.”

She continued. “Silver to match Ms. Analé’s. He was going to propose. Mr. Felix, he did first. Both were out to marry her. That’s why she said, ‘we were.... friends...first’. Enrique was out for her, too! And in anger, he killed- or thought he killed- Mr. Felix! He left the ring as a dramatic flourish, a hint!”

“The rings he calls Days of The Week- they are to mock each day of Felix’s engagement. I bet Ms. Analé has these rings in possession. No wonder she was so hesitant to speak!”

Johnny looked in wonder at her. “So Enrique was out for love! And vengeance!”

“Exactly!”

***************************************************************************


Six Days Later


Dear Anthony,


My dear love, how are you? I hope that the surgeons cleared out that bullet. It’s a miracle, my dear, a true miracle! However could you have survived? No matter- you are here now.

Curious, my love. I keep recieving rings that are different colors, one a day. They are beautiful- but the engraving is botched. Who could have done this?

I know Enrique’s in jail. What a wretched man! He would have done something like this. But he’s in prison.

The police, they were crazy about this- the rings. But, unfortunately, once the shooter was in, they lost interest in me. The woman- Semara Untz, she wasn’t happy about that. But the chiefs, after your survival, the ring, mr. enrique- it all was just case-closed to them.

So I have a ring today, it looks much like the one you had on your chest that awful day. How strange!


Feel better, my love. I will visit soon.









Elizabeth


*******************************************************************


The guard strolled down the hall.


The white walls of the prison were dismally bare, showing wear and boredom. The square waxy tiles on the floor blinked back the florescent lights, leading to the cell he was searching for- number twenty four, on the “Dangerous” wing.

Punching in a code on the pad, he waited for the thick plastic door to slide open, along with the heavy metal bars. They squealed open, the swiveling eye of a security camera following him.

He walked in, carrying a food tray.
The cell was empty. That, save for a silver, round ring.




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