Nolan reaches out to his grandfather's associate in an attempt to sell stolen artwork.
|Chapter 5. August Denton, III|
When I rang Cynthia's doorbell, I wasn't surprised when a nurse came to the door. I suspected she wasn't well and that was months ago.
"I'm here to see Cynthia."
"And you are?"
"Wait here. I'll see if she's up for a visitor."
Moments later I was escorted down a hallway and into Cynthia's room.
"Nolan. What a surprise. What brings you here?"
Cynthia's bedroom had been converted into a state-of-the-art hospital room. She was connected to a number of tubes including an IV unit. The room was filled with sounds of beeping monitors and whooshing oxygen..
"Hey Cynthia. I just decided to come by and see how you are."
"I'm in good hands. Jill takes good care of me."
Jill smiled and exited the room.
"Actually, I have three nurses who rotate in and Dr. Freeman checks on me once a week. I'm so thankful I can stay in my home and not a cold hospital."
I looked around at all the machines. "This must be expensive."
Cynthia let out a weak laugh. "Financially speaking, your grandfather left me in good shape."
I could relate to that. He left me millions of dollars worth of stolen art if only I could figure out a way to sell it.
"That's one reason I'm here. I wanted to talk about Grandpa. I never knew him very well."
"What would you like to know about him?"
I tried to think of a tactful way to approach my concern, but gave up and just blurted it out.
"Was Grandpa insane?"
Cynthia let out another weak laugh. "Insane? No."
She gazed off to the corner of the room, deep in thought. I sensed she was reliving moments with him and if I could read her mind it might appear like a movie projected in the pupils of her eyes.
"He was brilliant. He was a genius in his chosen field."
She reached for a cup of water and I assisted. She took a few pulls from a bendy straw and waved that she was finished.
"No matter how secure they tried to protect their objects of value, your grandfather was always two steps ahead of them. Armored cars, safes, alarm systems, meant nothing to him as long as he had a plan and a reliable crew."
Her eyes drifted off to the corner again. "We had such good times."
I decided not to say it, but I did think it: If he was so good at what he did, why did he die in prison?
It was as if she heard my thought because she added, "However, his work always had an element of chance. He could minimize the odds of something going wrong but there was never a guarantee that his plans were one hundred percent foolproof. Those odds eventually caught up with him."
I replied, "It was legitimate work because he was willing to accept the risks."
"Yes, he understood the risks and accepted them."
Now it was my turn to gaze off into the corner.
"Nolan, you never said what was in the storage unit he left you, not that it's any of my business."
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "He may have left me a mountain of trouble."
She reached over and touched my hand. "Then just walk away from it. Leave it and get on with your life."
I knew this was good advice but that night I tossed and turned in bed replaying the past few days over and over. Sergio Ricci. The Genova Luci series. Grandpa's letter. "If I had it to do over, I would have sold the art to Richard Blair for twenty percent of the value."
I was beginning to understand the Dewey Decimal System and Ms. Ellis trusted me to return books to the stacks. When my community service hours were finished for the day, I moved to the computer lab for my school work.
I tried to concentrate on my grammar worksheets but my attention was drawn to my art appreciation notes. Richard Blair, International Affairs Attorney, NYC. I looked at his phone number and was intrigued with the idea of selling the art for twenty percent of its value.
What's twenty percent of millions? I heard Cynthia's voice: "Walk away from it. Leave it and get on with your life."
As I was bagging groceries at Ferguson's Food my mind was a million miles away. Sergio Ricci helped usher in the futurism movement in the early 1900's. The Genova Luci series reunited for the first time in forty years.
That night I dreamed about Belinda Davis reviewing my art appreciation work and accusing me of plagiarizing. "You've written yourself a one-way ticket to Robert E. Lee Detention Center."
One of Ms. Ellis's rules at the library was to stay off my phone so I went to the men's room to make the call.
"Jackson, Dillingham, Blair, and Fleming. How may I direct your call?"
"This is the law office of Richard Blair. How may I help you?"
"I need to speak to Mr. Blair."
"I'm sorry, he's not available right now. May I take a message?"
"Yes. Tell him August Denton called."
"And may I have your number, Mr. Denton?"
I was stocking shelves on aisle three at Ferguson's Food when Richard Blair returned my call.
There was a pause and Blair replied, "You don't sound like August Denton."
I looked up and down the aisle to make sure I was alone and replied, "I'm his grandson."
After another long pause Blair began laughing. "Okay, I get it. This is a joke. Who put you up to this?"
I didn't know how to respond and there was an awkward silence on the line. Eventually Blair spoke up.
"So, you're August Denton's grandson. What do you want?"
I thought about Grandpa's letter and said the first thing that came to my mind.
"Is it safe?"
I listened carefully for a response but only heard his rapid breath on the other end of the line.
"Who is this?"
"You can call me August Denton the third. Are you still interested in buying some art work? It's a series of three."
I could hear a gulp followed by more shallow breathing.
"Yes, I am, that is, if this isn't a hoax. Where are you calling from?"
"I'm not driving ten hours unless you can prove this isn't a hoax."
"And how would I do that?"
"Send me a picture. Send me a picture of the art with a current New York Times in the photo."
"Where would I find a New York Times?"
"Any newsstand. If you can't find one, any newspaper will do. I'll give you my cell number. You can text the picture."
"So, August Denton the third, may I ask how old you are? You sound like a kid."
"It doesn't matter what age I am. I'll send the picture on Saturday."
I wrote his cell number on my hand and quickly hung up because I heard Mr. Ferguson talking to someone on the next aisle. I resumed stocking the shelf and felt good about my conversation with Richard Blair.
Grandpa trusted Blair and said if he had it to do over, he would have sold the art to him for twenty percent of the value. If the plan was good enough for Grandpa, it was good enough for me.
Something I didn't realize then but learned much later was that Richard Blair had changed since the days Grandpa dealt with him. He was no longer a trustworthy individual. Blair's license to practice law was recently suspended for ethics violations and he was in debt to the Ferrari crime family for over three hundred large.
If he couldn't come up with the money, he was facing a grisly demise. The timing of my phone call was like a life preserver thrown to a drowning man going down for the last time. Like I say, I didn't know this at the time.
Another complication I would learn about later was the J.J. Blinks jeweler's surveillance footage of me trying to sell the diamond. The police were investigating and tried to keep it on the downlow, but the jeweler had a brief relationship with a reporter for the Cloverdale Chronical and spilled the beans to the wrong person.
My picture would be on the front page of the Wednesday edition with a caption which would read, "Unidentified teenager tries to sell $20,000 diamond." This was not the way I wanted to learn the value of the diamond.
I doubted Mama would see the picture. She only read the newspaper on Sundays. However, I wasn't so sure about my probation officer. She seemed like the newspaper reading type to me.
I was correct. One of Belinda Davis's daily routines was to pick up a copy of the Chronical and read it over lunch at the Junction Diner. Soon I would be trying to talk my way out of a one-way ticket to Robert E. Lee Detention Center.
end of chapter 5