Ricky was very careful when he murdered his Aunt Nikki. He rummaged the house to make it look good, and only took her wallet which he dumped over the east-side overpass where “druggies or feebs” were sure to find it. He tossed the knife in the old canal off Water Street. He was only interested in the golden statue, so of course he left it behind.
He made sure to lie to the police as little as possible when they came to search his apartment. When the question of inheritance came up he acted happy about the measly grand she’d left him. He even talked up that group of do-gooders that brought her a hot meal every day. She’d left everything else, including the house, to that same group. That change in her will had really pissed Ricky off. After a few days a small time pusher was hauled in when she’d tried to use Nikki’s credit card. Her alibi was solid. She’d been in jail during the murder. The police quickly declared the case cold, calling it a random robbery gone bad.
Ricky was patient after the murder. It was a month before he snuck back into the house by the basement window. He took only the gold statue and made sure to disturb nothing else. The statue was unlikely to be missed by the auction house when they came to catalog the property. But if it was, his hope was that the police would assume that it’d been stolen during the initial robbery, and not investigate.
Ricky’d also been busy. He knew that once he’d gotten the statue, he’d need to get rid of it as fast as possible. This is where I come in. I’m Billy, his regular fence. I’m only small change. He told me that he’d be needing to move some art in the form of a heavy gold statue. He told me all about the murder like I was his priest or something.
The rainy night Ricky lugged the statue into my place, he was expecting someone with cash, not an appraiser. I could tell he was disappointed that on my couch sat “that old fat coin dealer”. That’s what Ricky always called Jerome Jarrp. Ricky’d sold some coin collections he’d lifted directly to Jarrp. The man always gave him what seemed like a fair price, but the truth is Ricky’d have gotten more money from me. I know coins.
Without comment, Jarrp held out his hands for the statue. He deftly turned the it upside down, opened a pen knife and drew it across the base. A patch of grey followed the blade.
You could see Ricky’s heart sink. “Lead!” he shouted. “Aunt Nikki lied to me about her precious gold statue!”
Jarrp declared that the statue “didn’t even have any art collector value”. It was worthless. The big man laid the statue on the coffee table, hauled himself to his feet, patted Ricky on the shoulder, offered condolences for “dear sweet Aunt Nikki”, and left. I said I figured a twenty-pound gold statue, worth what… a quarter million, was too good to be true, and that I knew Ricky’d be angry and accuse me of cheating him. I could tell he wanted to slug me. He turned to leave, but I made him take the statue. Technically it was hot, even if it was worthless. That was when I noticed that the bottom of the statue left a grey smear on Ricky’s shirt sleeve where he cradled it in his arms. Lead my ass. Jarrp painted the bottom of that statue. I followed Ricky to the door to lock up.
Outside the rain had picked up. Jarrp pulled up to the curb in his vintage 1972 Cadillac Eldorado Mirage custom pickup truck, and offered Ricky a ride home. Ricky climbed in. I watched as they small-talked. Jarrp eyed the statue on Ricky’s lap every time the kid turned his head. I wish I could read lips, but I can guess that Jarrp eventually said that he’d give Ricky something for it. I saw Ricky nod enthusiastically and hop out of the modified Caddie, and climb into the bed to put the statue up next to the cab where it wouldn’t roll around.
When Ricky stood up he noticed the grey paint on his sleeve. Jarrp was out of the cab with the startling speed that only a fat man possesses. He had his gun pulled. Very little muzzle flash escaped the end of the silencer. I pasted myself into the shadows and didn’t twitch until Jarrp wrapped Ricky in a tarp and drove away.
I was very careful for the next few days, and lied to the police as little as possible. They’d found Ricky’s body dumped into the old canal off Water Street. I admitted that he’d been to my place the night he died, but didn’t mention Jarrp or the statue at all. I had nightmares where I let Ricky leave the statue, and Jarrp came gunning for me.
Two weeks later Jarrp showed up on my doorstep with a thug in tow. I thought I was dead. But the thug turned out to be his shyster lawyer. Jarrp talked about how Ricky’s death made him realize just how short life was. He was headed to the islands to soak in some sun. He’d decided to give me his coin shop, “inventory and all, but without any gold coins of course”, because I was always straight with him. The lawyer had papers for me to sign. Jarrp winked and said he didn’t want to hang around while some nit-wit realtor tried to sell the place in this depressed market.
I’ve had enough. It’s time to walk the straight and narrow and give up fencing. I’m going to move into that shop and give it a go as a coin dealer.
Deven D Atkinson is a computer programmer living in rural Southern Ohio.