written by: William Masters
As soon as Albert Andrew Fischer’s wife died of cervical cancer, after a final, twenty-two-day hospitalization, he felt relief. Such relief derived not from the end of his wife’s suffering, but from Albert’s release from the grip of marital misery. Albert would never have to listen to Alma Lucille Fischer, nee Cooper, again.
The pulse of Albert’s life had beat, unrelieved, for thirty-five years to support Alma Lucille and their two children. Since he never successfully bonded with his children, Albert fell into the habit of thinking of them as her children. No affection remained between him and his progeny who had been spoiled by his wife’s indulgence. Since she hadn’t loved Albert, she channeled all her affection into her children. She raised her children motivated by a keen sense of selfishness. Since she cultivated few interests, she derived her only pleasure from her vicarious enjoyment of their successes. As the children grew to maturity with neither distinction nor achievement, they carried the burden of their mother’s disappointment and sensed the emptiness of her affection, feeling only her claim on them for obeisance. The bond between mother and children diminished to a whisper. As grown-ups, the children were polite but aloof, and only communicated with their mother when they needed money.
When Albert returned home from the hospital he alerted the undertaker. Weary from the innocent guilt of welcomed relief, Albert fell asleep. The following morning he was awakened by the noise of his children in the kitchen.
The children had come to discuss their mother’s will. Alma Lucille had tried to leave the house to the children (in a living will arrangement) but had failed (through lack of documentation). Instead, the children received all her insurance money, jewelry, clothes, and her share of stocks for division between them. Albert had bought his wife the new car, but for some reason, the pink slip listed her name alone. The son inherited the car. Albert still owned the house and would receive a modest amount of money from the sale of his share of a partnership in a jewelry store located in a Daly City mall, receive a monthly social security check and the remaining shares of stock in his name.
“I want you to take whatever you want of your mother’s possessions after the cremation,” he began, “and leave your house keys on the kitchen table after you finish.”
Three days later, following the service and presentation of ashes, the children returned to remove their mother’s possessions.
In her eagerness to finish quickly, the daughter dropped the platter (belonging to the good china), while the son smashed in the left tail light of his mother’s new car as he backed it out of the garage because the patio rocking chair (his mother’s favorite) loaded into the backseat, obstructed his view. By six o’clock on Sunday evening, the children had gone, but neither child had requested the ashes nor left their house keys on the kitchen table.
That night Albert had the first dream he could recall in 30 years.
He dreamed that he sat, chained to a giant recliner, located on the floor of a cafeteria. Next to the recliner stood a TV tray with lunch still uneaten on the plate. High above, he could see light from an unidentified source. So vast was the cafeteria that Albert could not see where it ended. He saw only an unending floor cluttered with dozens of tables covered with TV trays laden with dirty dishes.
Suddenly, the chains on his wrists crystallized, leaving only a trace of powdered remains, like fine ash. Free, Albert rose, unsteadily walking to the only door, and turned the knob to see before him a giant staircase. Up, up climbed Albert, 50 steps, then 50 more steps and still no end in sight. And then no sight. An opaque blackness suddenly replaced the light. In a moment of panic, Albert almost lost his footing but regained his balance. After climbing another 50 steps the staircase abruptly ended at a lighted, padlocked door.
Albert’s heart pumped a steady 100 beats per minute. A sign on the door read –USE KEY — Instinctively, Albert reached into his trouser pocket. His hand found a key. Albert pulled the key from his pocket and inserted it into the lock. The door opened into his bedroom and Albert stood fully awake next to his bed, wearing his blue and white polka dot pajamas and a look of studious concentration. He loosened the grip of his right hand which bore the impression of a key. His knees ached.
Later that morning Albert called a locksmith to change the locks to the house (to prevent accessibility to his children) and a realtor (to put the house on the market) and his attorney (to advise him about finances).
These were not moves, Albert was accustomed to making and he felt the rhythm of his life inexorably changing beneath his feet.
Two weeks later the realtor found a buyer for the house. Albert endured a few anxious moments before the bank qualified the buyer, but in the end, Albert sold his Daly City row house for $794,000 in a 60-day escrow. He gave most of the furniture away (no newspaper or internet ads, no garage sales) for free to whomever he considered an appropriate recipient.
Three days before his scheduled appointment, his attorney called to ask if he would stop by as soon as possible. That same afternoon, Albert arrived, well rested, attentive, and without a whit of negative anticipation.
“Mr. Fischer, as executor of your wife’s will, I just received a lien against the proceeds to the sale your house from the California Pacific Medical Center for $311,417.72 to cover the cost of your wife’s hospital stay and final twenty-two-day admission in ICU. After checking the status of her insurance, I discovered that she had not paid the premium on her health insurance policy for the last two months preceding her death. I don’t understand how the hospital failed to uncover her lack of qualification or how such failure may leave you at risk for the liability.
“I don’t feel qualified to handle medical payment litigation. I recommend a specialist.” He wrote down the contact information for such an attorney and gave it to Albert. “I think you should call this person immediately. You won’t have to drive into the city because her office is only half a block from the Embarcadero Bart station,” he said, smiling in anticipation of a potential referral fee.
Faced with an unexpected medical bill and a meeting with another attorney, Albert decided to take a little trip (to get away) and look at some new scenery (to invigorate his senses).
In a gesture of undiluted grandiloquence, Albert booked a Holland American $27,144.10, thirty-nine day South Seas cruise (San Francisco to Sydney and return) in a deluxe exterior suite with a sliding glass door and balcony.
For advice, Albert called a friend’s travel agent and made an appointment for a consultation with the Adriana Berkshire Travel Agency.
“How old did you say you were, Mr. Fischer?” Adriana asked.
“Sixty-eight,” he replied.
“You look in good shape, Mr. Fischer.” She thought to herself that he could pass for fifty-eight. “How are your legs?”
“After three days wearing shorts on deck, you’ll begin to tan. My guess is that you’ve got good legs, Mr. Fischer. It’s one of the male body parts remaining in fair shape, even at sixty-eight.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Do you have evening clothes?”
“This time of year a white dinner jacket and…”
“Do you dance, Mr. Fischer?”
“I haven’t danced in many years.”
“You wouldn’t believe how significant dancing has become on cruises, especially for the chronologically challenged. While all those forty-five-year-olds play shuffleboard, swim, hold in their stomachs as they walk around the pool deepening their tans, work out each day so they can still fit into the latex undergarments worn beneath their evening clothes to camouflage their sagging stomachs and uncontrolled appetites, people our age do a lot of dancing in the evening. As a single man, I guarantee if you can still move around on a dance floor, you will be in great demand.”
“Thank you for the information.”
As Albert turned to leave, wearing a pair of khaki cotton trousers, Adriana noticed the definition of his butt had remained somewhat youthful and she thought it would still look good in a pair of boxer shorts.
Three days later Albert boarded the SS Exploria with a pair of sore knees, mild expectations of enjoying some comfort and rest for the next thirty-nine days, two suitcases, and a mild case of curiosity regarding the impression of a key.
The first day at sea provoked some mild nausea. By the morning of the second day, Albert’s body had joined the rhythm of the ship as he explored the abundant shipboard amenities but applied restraint to the extravagance, nee, the overabundance of food.
Food, always presented as an event, began with a 6:00 A.M. offering of coffee, teas, juices and assorted, freshly baked goods like croissants, baking powder biscuits with jam, followed by the regular breakfast buffet at 8:00 AM which included, of course, a full breakfast menu from which any passenger could order and then continued with luncheon offerings (seatings at noon and 1:15 p.m.) followed at 4:00 P.M. with an English High Tea. Appetizers at 6:00 p.m. preceded the main event: Dinner at Eight each evening in the main salon followed by dancing.
After dinner, there were, of course, some passengers who played bridge all night while others gambled in the game rooms. A few practiced F&F (flirtation and fornication).
Nevertheless, it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that nothing can compete with dancing to a live band with a good partner while cruising a body of water.
Almost any observer could predict the dancers; it was they who skipped the appetizers, ate very small portions at dinner and only eyed the dessert trays. They drank a little wine, but not enough to impede their balance. When the band began to play, it was they, clear-eyed and unencumbered by full stomachs, who sat upright in their chairs, without dance cards, eager to flirt with Terpsichore.
The band played a foxtrot. Most of the trotters hadn’t seen sixty for a decade. They danced briskly, somewhat too vigorously and moved around a lot on the dance floor. Some of the older women wore very high heels and lots of jewelry some of which, no doubt, was real, while the men looked sharp in very expensive looking dinner jackets and clever toupees. These hairpieces were, of course, gray or white. Most of the women presented cases for the latest advances in hair coloring: luxuriantly chestnut brown tresses framed one 70-year-old face; while another sixty-nine-year-old woman, with a healthy, but sixty-nine-year-old face, balanced a head of youthful looking blond tresses wound into a bun while another woman simply wore a platinum wig (to rest her hair) for nights in the salon.
Albert noticed that one of the men went around asking various women for dances. This danseur was quite the best. Several women approached Albert the second night and asked him to dance. He surprised himself with his shyness and declined, but with such genuine modesty and restraint, that no one took offense when he responded, “No thank you.”
“It’s my loss, I’m sure. One unable to dance blames the unevenness of the floor,” replied one of the rebuffed women.
On the third evening, a gray-haired woman in her mid-sixties asked Albert to dance. She reached for his arm with her left hand, pulling him out of his chair. Except for a ring with a 3.42-carat yellow diamond, a single string of black pearls (dipped), and a bracelet on each wrist, she wore almost no jewelry.
The band played Night and Day (Cole Porter: 1932). Albert proved that he was no Hermes Pan. He moved clumsily. He jerked his partner. He bumped into several other pairs on the dance floor. He stepped on his own feet. Feeling extremely self-conscious, he stopped before the music ended and led his partner back to her seat. He thanked Esther and returned to his single table. Almost before he recovered his breath another woman, wearing a silver wig and long, dangly diamond earrings, looked at him through a pair of blue sapphire colored contact lenses, introduced herself as Emily, and asked him for a dance.
“Really, I’m not at all a good dancer.”
“Oh, I agree. I just witnessed your efforts. All you need is a little guidance and some practice.” Emily gently pulled him out of his seat and back to the dance floor.
“Let me show you a few moves.”
On the following nights, Albert became the center of attention for a succession of bejeweled dance partners supplying him with enough physical activity to appreciate the midnight supper the kitchen thoughtfully provided for those passengers who earned their appetites from various late night activities.
On one such night, at the end of the second week at sea, one of the women who asked Albert to dance invited him back to her table for a nightcap. He accepted.
“You know,” Lisa began, “at first I thought you were one of the professionals this line hires to dance with us old broads until I realized that you were a terrible dancer and had a first class, exterior cabin. The professionals can really dance, but have a second or third class interior accommodation.”
“I don’t get it,” Albert said.
“Cruise lines like this typically hold auditions for old guys like you to hire as dancers to push around old broads like me who take these cruises without husbands or boyfriends. If you have not noticed, besides Arron Mandelstein, who is a professional escort hired by this line, you are the only single male… of a certain age aboard this overpriced floating hotel.”
“Really, I had no idea. This is my first cruise.”
“I believe it. Are you a recent widower?”
“I am. What’s your status?”
“Longtime widow well fixed with good cash flow. Neither seeking another husband nor bankroll.”
She made a good-natured laugh at herself accentuating the wrinkles around her eyes. Although probably on the shady side of sixty-five, Albert noticed that she still had a trim figure and a beautiful smile. Her silver-blue dress enhanced the natural, long wound-grey hair circling her head. No jewelry adorned her body.
“I am traveling with my granddaughter.”
Just at that moment a young woman in excellent shape, athletic rather than voluptuous, kissed Lisa on the cheek and sat down at the table.
“Grandmother, please introduce me.”
“Mr. Fischer, meet my granddaughter, Karen.”
“How do you do, Mr. Fischer?”
Seated at the opposite end of the table from Albert, Karen wore a single rope of white diamonds and a matching pair of diamond earrings. Noting Albert’s appraisal like stare at the jewels, she asked, “Do you like this jewelry, Mr. Fischer? It belongs to grandmother. She allows me to wear it every once in a while whenever we travel together.”
“It is a… handsome set,” began Albert, “I remember your grandmother wearing the same earrings and necklace the second night out. I would expect them to be insured for at least 350k. Of course, I can’t be sure without my other pair of glasses or use of my eyepiece.”
The two women exchanged an uncomfortable glance.
“Are you some kind of jewel expert?” asked Karen.
“I am a retired jewelry store owner.”
“Really dear, I doubt Mr. Fischer cares what they cost or when you wear them.”
“I wear them to attract rich, handsome men. Alas, the only good looking men near my age on this cruise belong to the crew or bat for the other team.”
There appeared a slight constriction in Lisa’s face: the lips slightly tightened; her eyes, like a laser beam, aimed for Karen’s mouth.
“I guess I should return these to the ship’s safe before I go to bed, all alone,” she said teasingly, as she fingered the diamond necklace.
“Good night my dear,” her grandmother said.
Karen boosted herself from the chair, and with a wobble, left the table and walked out of the salon.
“She had cocktails with me in my stateroom before dinner, then she probably stopped at one or two of the five bars before sitting down to eat dinner with me, followed by a snifter of brandy instead of dessert. I warned her that this cruise would probably not carry any eligible, rich young men, but she insisted on accompanying me. I regret she subjected you to so much of our personal business. Such a lack of discipline and patience. Today’s youth just cannot hold their liquor.”
“Well, perhaps at one of the ports she will find a rich young man who will love her for her neck alone.” Albert gave a little laugh and said goodnight to Lisa.
As soon as Karen returned to her cabin, she locked the door behind her, sat down in front of her dressing table and removed the jewels, storing them in a rather plain leather container. From a beautifully embroidered silk bag, she removed another set. After securing the 2nd set to her ears and neck, she walked to the purser’s office, and following established protocol, took off the jewels and gave them to the purser or his assistant, to put in the safe. Tonight, the assistant, a young man who, alas for Karen, was not the kind of man who would respond to the tap of a lady’s fan, gave Karen or, on other evenings, to her grandmother who returned the jewels, a time-stamped receipt.
As soon as Albert returned to his stateroom, he poured himself some French brandy from the bottle he had impulsively purchased from the duty-free store. For the first time since the funeral, he donned his professional hat. He had gotten a close look at the earrings and necklace on the second night out when Lisa wore them. The jewels impressed him with their beauty and value: about 15-20 carats featuring a number of cushion, square and pear cut diamonds with a clasp featuring a 14 point diamond (his best guess without the use of his eyepiece) of exquisite clarity. Albert valued them closer to 375-400k.
The jewels that Karen wore that evening were paste, a fake set of an alarmingly high quality. He knew of places in Singapore that specialized in such reproductions.
As soon as Lisa left the salon she walked to her granddaughter’s stateroom. She knocked, and then knocked again. When she heard the door unlock, she stepped inside and immediately sat down on a chair next to the open sliding glass door of the cabin. A calm sea rolled beneath as a welcomed breeze blew its way into the cabin.
“You might have blown our chance tonight wearing the copy. What the hell happened?”
“I had too many martinis before I left my stateroom and accidentally chose the wrong set. Did I do any damage?”
“I cannot be sure. But just in case give me the copy now. I will keep both sets with me and stick to our plan: two nights from now, after I retrieve the real set, I shall return the copy, you will steal it from the safe and we shall test our theory about the cruise line and its insurer’s handling of the theft.”
Three days later, the day before the ship docked in Sydney, two ship’s officers approached Albert at breakfast.
“Please sir, we need to speak with you, urgently and in private in your cabin.” The two crewmen looked a bit embarrassed. Inside Albert’s cabin, Charles, the first officer, explained to him that some jewelry belonging to a passenger “has gone missing” and they had to search everyone’s cabin.
“Gone missing? Do you think the jewels got up and left because they felt bored hanging around the neck of their owner? Perhaps someone kidnapped them?”
The crewman looked at each other uncomfortably, apologized profusely and let him remain while they took a full half hour to perform a thorough search of the stateroom, including a full body search of Albert. Finding no jewels, and looking exceedingly embarrassed, they left, but not without offering an encore apology.
Before Lisa and Karen disembarked, Albert gave them each a packet of postcards. Each card bore the picture of a famous ocean liner or pictures of the newest luxury liners recently launched and ready to further pollute the world’s oceans. Impetuously, Albert wrote his e-mail address on the back of Lisa’s package. Alone in her cabin with Lisa, he asked, “And where is your next stop?”
“Here, in Sydney. We are leaving the cruise.”
“Where is home?”
“I am working that out.”
Before Albert could say another word, Lisa kissed him full on the lips and gently escorted him to her cabin door.
“Good-bye and good luck my dear,” she said politely, and slowly closed the door.
Six months later, now living in a brand new condominium in San Luis Obispo, Albert received an e-mail from Lisa inviting him to join her for luncheon at a tony new restaurant for which Albert, as a new resident, had received an invitation to attend the grand opening. He had ignored it since he did not like to dine alone in restaurants. However, eager to satisfy his curiosity, and excited to see Lisa again, Albert e-mailed his acceptance. He had speculated about possible scenarios but had seen nothing in print or online regarding missing jewels aboard an ocean liner.
When Albert arrived at the restaurant, the host led him to a table on the patio. Lisa, already seated, rose from her chair, kissed him full on the lips before he could demur and sat back down in her chair.
“Well, don’t pass out Albert,” she laughed.
Albert sat, staring at Lisa whose entire look had changed from her shipboard appearance. Her long gray hair, formerly coiled around her head was cut daringly short. It was curly and blew even in the slight breeze on the restaurant patio. She wore no makeup save a small application of ruby red lipstick accentuated by the sleeveless grey and white dress she wore. Looking considerably younger than she did aboard ship, her bare arms could have passed for those of a 45-year-old.
“My dear,” she said, “I’m so pleased to see you again. I want to thank you.”
“Yes, encore thanks,” she said and then, sotto voce, “for not giving me away aboard the ship.”
“How did you know? I mean why did you think I knew about the jewels?”
“I knew because I can do addition. I recalled what you said about Karen’s neck, remembered you were quite pleased with yourself for making the comment and realized it had nothing to do with vampires. I also remembered you examining my jewels on the second night out, disappointed that you didn’t make a pass at me instead.”
Albert felt a sting. He motioned for the waiter.
“Don’t bother. I’ve already ordered for both of us.”
The sommelier appeared with a bottle of wine, opened it at the table, poured some into a wine glass and gave it to Lisa.
“Lovely. Yes, please serve it,” she said, and then switching her gaze to Albert, said “I bought this champagne in Paris. I had to declare it to customs and pay a duty.”
As they both sipped the wine, Lisa began, “And now…let me bring you up to date. Give me your hand Albert.”
He obeyed. Lisa kissed it, and then quickly let it drop on the table.
“First, some background. My late husband owned a locksmith business and I taught high school math in a private school in Glendale, California. When the mortgage bank/insurance scam hit in 2008/9, we lost almost 40% of our retirement saving. Although we owned our house in Glendale, a 3 bed 1.5 bath Spanish bungalow, it lost 35% of its value in the housing market. So, piff… there went a big bite out of our nest egg! Instead of retiring sooner rather than later, we faced years of continuing to work if we didn’t want to run out of money.
Furious, my husband went a little nuts. Driven by his obsession to replenish our diminished retirement fund, he began attending estate sales to look for items of undiscovered value. Accompanied by a close friend, they discovered the diamonds at such a sale, advertised as costume jewelry, priced at $500. My husband’s friend, who knew a diamond from a zircon, urged him to buy the set. Optimistically, my husband purchased the jewels. Immediately, he took the set to a jeweler for appraisal.
The first jeweler looked carefully at the set and told Albert that if he could furnish proof of ownership, he would buy the set on the spot for 200k. Excited, but suspicious, my husband left and visited another jeweler who offered to buy the set for 300k… if he could furnish proof of ownership. A third jeweler offered to sell them, on consignment, retaining a 35% fee. I urged him to sell the diamonds and split the proceeds. However, two days later, his friend dropped dead from a cerebral hemorrhage.
My husband stubbornly refused to sell.
Instead, he explained his plan to double or triple the value of the jewels. Long ago, during his youth, he had invented a special kind of lock that didn’t use tumblers or require a combination. Instead, it used an electronic key that fitted into the safe’s lock. Any other key or instrument violating the airspace of the lock set off an alarm. My husband retained a master key that would open all the safes, like hotel maids and guards carry with them for security reasons, and to open hotel rooms in case of emergency.
Of course, fewer and fewer hotels and cruise ships still used such safes, but my husband had saved his user list and chose one ship and one hotel for his plan.
Then he put a hole in $7500 by flying, round trip, business class to Singapore, and paid 3k for a copy of the jewels and insured the original set for $375k. Then, just before he died of a heart attack, he outlined a plan for me to swindle a cruise line and a five-star hotel.”
“Why did he have a copy made? And even with such a key, how did you manage to open the safe without being seen?” Albert asked, finishing his second glass of champagne.
“The copy was for safety purposes as protection from any contemporary Arsene Lupin. I usually wore the copy in public, while reserving the original for use only when it had to be examined for authenticity. The technique for removal of the jewels will remain confidential.
After the cruise ship’s resident jeweler examined my diamonds for authenticity, I received no complaints about the use of ship’s safe for my jewels.
After the ship’s security had conducted a search, including my cabin, the ship’s handsome, well-built security representatives apologized profusely followed by an offer from the captain to pay me the amount for which the jewels were insured if I promised not to report the loss to my insurance company. Apparently, the cruise line had a special rider attached to its burglary insurance that would cover my loss. Fearing bad publicity, the cruise company promised me that if I signed an agreement promising never to reveal the event; it would pay me the full insured amount, $375k. Eleven days later while the cruise line paid for my 5-star hotel accommodation at the Westin Hotel Sydney, I received the check.”
Lisa, noting Albert’s empty glass, motioned for the sommelier to bring the second bottle of champagne to the table.
“After I left the cruise in Sydney, I moved to the five-star Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich. The hotel still used one of my late husband’s safes. I invited Karen to join me.
The Dolder Grand, like the more expensive hotels, provided safes for its clientele, but only in the more expensive suites, and routinely denied use of the hotel safe to its guests.
“I am scandalized,” I complained to the management. “I am already paying $900 per night for a room. Must I pay $2500 per night for a suite simply to gain the use of a safe?”
After he exhibited the tiniest bit of attitude, the assistant manager relented and said he would permit the use of the office safe. After a jeweler inspected the diamonds for authenticity, the AM asked me to sign a waiver of responsibility to indemnify the hotel in case of loss or theft. I indignantly refused to sign.
“After I tell the Duke…and especially the Duchess of Plymouth, that she cannot use your safe for her emeralds unless she signs such an affidavit, I doubt that she, or any of her many friends, will ever stop here again.”
I had read about the Duke and Duchess in various magazines and gossip columns in which the Dolder Grand was mentioned as one of the hotels at which they stopped. After a period of silence, played like a game of chicken by both parties, the humiliated AM, relented.
“How lucky for you that the Duchess was not stopping at the hotel.”
“Yes. Lucky.” That possibility had never even occurred to me. I felt grateful that the AM was such a snob.
Two days after Karen’s arrival, the hotel silently suffered the first major theft in its 52-year history. Naturally suspicious of me, the hotel management requested me to allow it and the police to investigate the theft, and perhaps recover the jewels before I contacted my insurance carrier. I demurred.
“Such a delay would nullify my insurance policy,” I complained. I refused to wait.
Top level hotel personnel usually attain the same level of snobbery as the power tripping rich who feel entitled, especially when it comes to protection of their possessions.
Cruise lines, banks, insurance companies, high profile corporations, and especially snooty, five-star hotels like the Dolder Grand, fear bad publicity, especially negative word of mouth. It is akin to a hotel having a guest contract a contagious disease that would frighten away all its guests. The empty hotel would suffer a huge financial loss followed by a possible quarantine of the city.
Following my refusal, the hotel officially made me an offer to pay the insured amount if I signed an affidavit promising never to reveal to anyone (including my insurance carrier) that the jewels disappeared while in the hotel’s safe.
“All you have to do is to cancel the policy when the renewal date arrives,” the General Manager suggested to me.
I agreed to receive a cashier’s check for $375k within two weeks. “I certainly do not want to stay here while I wait for the check,” I told them.
The hotel offered to pay for my reservation at another hotel.
“Then please make a reservation at the Hotel Le Bristol in Paris for me immediately so I will not have to spend another night under your roof,” I said protectively covering my wedding ring with my fingers.”
“Is that your wedding ring?” Albert asked, pointing to the diamond band she wore.
“Oh no. My husband couldn’t afford diamonds when we got married. I wore only a 14-carat gold wedding band. I bought this ring in New York City at the diamond mart several years ago. Wearing a wedding band saved me from a lot of unwanted attention after my husband died.
I received the check on the ninth day of my stay at Le Bristol (with a note to me from the hotel management saying that should I choose to continue my stay, I would be responsible for payment beginning the next day).”
After ordering dessert, Lisa took a medium sized package, wrapped in emerald green paper, from her amethyst colored, straw handbag, and placed it on the table next to Albert.
“Don’t open it here Albert. It’s 25k in 100 and 50 dollar bills. Use it to take yourself on some vacations while you still retain your mobility.”
“What happened to the real necklace and earrings?”
“I located a jeweler in Antwerp who separated the stones and sold them as loose diamonds for cash to the Russian mafia. The jeweler kept 35%, and now, I’m diamond free with an improved cash flow and still not looking for another husband.”
The server brought two portions of raspberry sorbet. Without touching her dessert, Lisa left enough cash on the table for the bill and a generous tip. As she rose from the table, Albert suddenly felt the blow of her impending departure. He rose also.
“Oh no… where are you going?”
“I just finished signing the paperwork for the sale of my Glendale house, and to make some banking arrangements, the reasons for my presence in California. I’m on my way home now.”
“Oh, you finally worked that out, did you?”
“Yes. I’ve moved to Monte Carlo, permanently, where banking is friendly and…discreet.”
Albert quickly moved to Lisa’s side of the table and put his arm around her waist. She offered no resistance and lifted her right arm for Albert to hold in the dance position and placed her left hand on Albert’s right shoulder. Hearing the shipboard music in his ears, Albert took the first two steps of a foxtrot before Lisa stopped him with a full kiss on the lips.
“Good-bye… my dearest,” she said, and removed the wedding band from her finger and placed it in Albert’s jacket pocket.
“A remembrance,” she said. “Keep it as a good luck charm.”
Lisa held up her left hand, wiggling her empty fingers.
Then she picked up her straw handbag and walked serenely across the patio, through the inside of the restaurant to the front door and out into the street.
Albert never saw or heard from Lisa or his children again, and he lived happily, happily ever after.
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