By Kathy Sharp
It had been the much talked-about theft of a much talked-about object. Those glamorous and unmistakable diamonds had last been seen, famously, about the neck of a princess. The necklace was quite a haul for Mr East, society burglar, and one he’d had his eye on for a while, but it did present a problem. How could such a well-known article be hidden?
Even unstrung, the diamonds were all too recognisable. This would, Mr East thought, be something of a long-term operation.
He had, over many years, set up the perfect cover for his illegal activities: funeral director to all the best people. It meant, of course, that he was able to visit the bereaved in their sumptuous homes, and, unsuspected, case the joint. His premises were discreet, respectful and decorated in perfect good taste. Everything about Mr East was understated. He was more or less invisible, as a funeral director should be. It was pretty good cover for a burglar, too.
It was Mr East’s usual practice to farm out easily-recognised objects to his small and exclusive circle of felonious friends for hiding until the heat died down, but this case was different. He wanted to enjoy the diamonds, keep them close. Not upon his person, of course, but somewhere he could pass by, day to day, and feel the pleasure of ownership. So he had made a large bunch of silk flowers – dark red poppies, almost black, and very suitable décor for a funeral parlour. The diamonds, in threes and fours, were concealed within the capsules at the heart of the flowers.
And there they stayed, year upon year, hidden in plain sight. Mr East would amuse himself by giving the flowers a little shake as he passed, to hear the jingle of priceless stones within. He could never resist a discreet chuckle.
After ten years – Mr East was nothing if not patient – he decided the time was right to put the diamonds on the market, a few at a time. He would begin the very next day.
But the very next day Mr East was fatally run down by a hansom cab, and found himself occupying a berth in his own funeral parlour. Tragic. The business was discreetly sold.
“Just look at all this old-fashioned stuff,” said the new owner. “We will clear it all out – redecorate in the modern style.”
The silk poppies, with a final jingle, were tossed out with the rubbish, and buried deep. Just like Mr East himself.
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Whales and Strange Stars. Lovely historical novel set in the marshlands of 18th century Kent.
‘The sense of place is perfectly captured, and the writing just dances off the page. Highly recommended.’ myBook.to/WhalesAndStrangeStars