Nolan Kirby gains international fame when he returns the stolen art.
|Chapter 9. The Conclusion|
Charles Wellington slid his thick glasses up on his nose and knelt in front of the Genova Luci series and studied each piece carefully. His hands shook and a tear fell down his cheek as he spoke softly.
"It's really them. Young man, where did you find these?"
Beatrice Snyder, the New York Times art critic walked slowly into the appraisal room, her mouth agape.
"My grandpa stole them from you in 1964. I'm returning them."
Wellington's watery eyes were fixed on the art. He was nearly in shock. Snyder lifted her camera and captured the moment Charles Wellington bear hugged me.
He squeezed me and wouldn't let go. I looked over at Ritchie who seemed taken aback by all the drama. The Times art critic pulled out a small notepad and began quizzing me. She wanted to know my name and where the art had been all these years.
Andy Warhol once said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." I was certainly getting my 15 minutes of fame.
My picture appeared on the front page of the Sunday edition of the New York Times with a headline which read, "Ricci's Genova Luci Series Returned After 39 Years." The story appeared in newspapers all over the world.
Our phone rang constantly as all the major news outlets wanted to interview me but Mama turned them all down, including offers from a couple of late-night talk show hosts. She was ashamed for people to know her father's role in the heist.
The one interview we didn't turn down was the FBI. They wanted to know what other ill-gotten gains I possessed. I took them to the storage unit and turned over the velvet bag full of diamonds and the small amount of cash I had left.
The FBI took Grandpa's letter and placed it in a zip lock bag as evidence. Extra Space self-storage records showed the monthly fees were paid by a Cynthia Starr in East Ridge. I told them she never knew what was in the storage unit. When they descended on her home, they were greeted by an in-home nurse who said she died the previous day.
Cynthia Starr's assets were seized by the FBI, including a trust fund she left me for nearly a hundred thousand. It didn't really matter because I knew Mama wouldn't let me keep it knowing where it came from.
My six months of probation was coming to an end but I figured Belinda Davis would likely extend it based on my activities. I dreaded our meeting.
"Nolan, as a juvenile probation officer I don't usually cross paths with the mafia or FBI, but working with you I've encountered both."
I slunk down in my chair and prepared for the worst.
"And I don't usually deal with clients who are in possession of millions of dollars' worth of stolen goods."
I was afraid she might be sending me to Robert E. Lee Detention Center.
"But in the end, you did the right thing. I'm recommending successful completion of your probation."
I sat up in my chair in disbelief.
She extended her hand. "Nolan, you're a good kid. I'll miss working with you."
I hugged Belinda Davis and thanked her for saving my life that night in the back of Ferguson's Food.
I returned to Jefferson High School that Fall with a renewed focus on my academics. I remembered what my friend Ritchie once said.
Dude, you sound smart now.
Something inside me clicked and I found that I loved school.
One night when I lay in bed, I had a memory of dropping a couple of diamonds beneath the dresser in Grandpa's storage unit. I left them because I didn't want to stick my hand under it. There might have been spiders there.
I wondered what happened to those diamonds. They were probably worth forty thousand dollars. Did the FBI find them? It was possible they were swept up in the dirt and cobwebs and discarded when the unit was emptied.
I thought about it for a while and decided it was okay if they'd been thrown away. I knew about a greater treasure - something you can't conceal and lock away in a storage unit.
I was accepted for admission at the State University but paying for tuition seemed out of reach even with financial aid.
My guidance counselor encouraged me to apply for scholarships which required personal essays.
"What should I write about?"
"Write about why you need the scholarship money, Nolan."
"But everyone probably needs it. What makes me so special?"
"Exactly! What makes you special? What separates you from the other applicants? Write about that."
I stared at the blank essay form and raked a pen through my hair as I thought about it. I put pen to paper.
Grandpa's goomah left me a hundred-thousand-dollar trust fund but it was seized by the FBI...
Twenty years later.
It was the final class of the semester and I asked my students if they had any questions about the exam.
"We still have thirty minutes left. The art history exam is divided into two parts. There's a multiple-choice section and an essay. Now's the time to voice your concerns."
A girl wearing wire rimmed glasses raised her hand in the back of the lecture hall.
"Yes, you in the back."
"Dr. Kirby, is it true you are the Nolan Kirby who returned the Sergio Ricci artwork to the Binghamton Museum back in the 1990's?"
I certainly wasn't expecting that question after all these years. I stammered and stuttered. "Well, I see someone has been doing her research."
There was a murmur in the lecture hall as students craned their necks to see who had raised the question. She continued, "It was the Genova Luci series which ushered in the futurism movement. We studied about its relevance in chapter eighteen but there was no mention of the heist. Was it you who returned the work?"
I had an uneasy smile. "Yes. It was me," and added, "but it's not on the exam, and this is your last chance to talk about that."
The girl in the back had everyone's attention and she addressed the class. "The artwork was worth millions and disappeared for nearly forty years. Dr. Kirby was on the front page of newspapers around the world when he returned the art."
My students turned back towards me with inquiring expressions.
"Dr. Kirby, could you tell us about that experience?" Several of the students nodded in agreement.
"You don't really want to hear about that, do you? You've got an art history exam at the end of the week."
There was an audible consensus that the class wanted to spend the final thirty minutes hearing my story so I reluctantly complied.
"It was the spring of '95 when my father cleaned out our savings and disappeared, not that there was that much in the account to begin with..."