The Jewel

The Stealing of Things [Chapter 3]

Was I failing at my job, I asked myself, after letting the strange woman leave the garden once more without intervening? What was she there for? Certainly not me. It didn’t seem like she was trying to break in, but then again, I’ve heard of people checking out a place before breaking and entering. Casing, is that what it’s called? I suppose maybe I was being cased myself, allowing such a perpetrator to know exactly when my patrol schedule was.

The uncertainty kept my mind moving back and forth like my more regular nightly patrols, mostly finding nothing. Before I knew it, I was at home at the breakfast table, having scrambled eggs passed around.

“Liz?” Jamison was holding the pan out, ready to deposit the golden curds on my plate. “I can’t feed you if you’re hovering over your plate, dear.”

“Mama’s got her el-bows on the table,” James enunciated carefully, trying his best to replicate my scolding.

“I do, huh,” I said, pulling myself up and allowing myself to be served. “Where are my manners?”

My older son, paused shoveling down his own eggs for a moment to quip. “Did you leave them somewhere?”

“Maybe in my work clothes, Jamie,” I attempted to joke.

Jamison chucked and sat down the now empty pan on the stove to begin eating his own food. “Your mom has to act big and scary to make sure any thieves who try and break into the museum at night get tossed back out. Although knowing her, she would still thank them for the visit.”

I nodded with a sigh and began eating up. Jamison pulled the newspaper up off the table and hid himself behind it, taking in the news continued off the front page. After the shoveling of food off plates had died down, James spoke up, finger jutted across the table at the back of the paper. “It’s da jewel! From the… from the…”

“From the Tomb,” Jamie finished his sentence.

I found my eyes trailing up to the carefully crafted advertisement for the museum itself, a cartoon depiction of a multi-faceted jewel, surrounded by caricatures of ancient royalty and stone pillars. Not just Egypt- The Ancient Sudanese Tomb and its Riches Unveiled, read the title.

Jamison flipped the back page around before him. “So it is, your mom’s very own museum. Let’s see,” he hummed, studying and reading the smaller text at the bottom. “The tomb of an ancient princess unearthed, her riches untouched by grave robbers. Come see the exhibit before it leaves us! Opening day this Sunday.”

“This Sunday!” James bounced in his seat. “The jewel! The jewel! What day is it today?”

I sighed and shook my head, but James was quick to answer before me. “Well, I don’t know if this Sunday will work. Your mom works the night before.”

“I do,” I nodded, trying to not commit to anything.

“And it will be busy that first opening day,” my husband added, looking at me. “Tuesday… you don’t work that morning, and there will be less people during a weekday afternoon. Right?”

I took in a short breath, nearly inhaling the last spoonful of eggs. “Well. I suppose we can make that work. Alright boys, go and wash those faces and get some socks on so you’re ready for school!”

Clattering their seats around, the boys scattered and left the kitchen to me and my husband. I stood, grabbing my own plate along with the boys’. Jamison spoke up as I got them to the sink, not ready to respond. “Should I not have suggested that? I guess heading back to your work on your day off isn’t the most exciting thing…”

“No.” I answered curtly at first.

Jamison folded the paper down and jumped to help me. “I only suggested it because they’ve heard plenty about the museum all these months, but haven’t gotten a chance to see it. I’ll tell you what, I can take them by myself and leave you here to sleep.”

“No, no,” I forced a smile across my face and into my voice. “I want to go, see it with the guides and all the lights on. And it’s only one time, especially with this tomb exhibit only being temporary too.”

That night, I took my first patrol as normal, just before closing. I felt myself being extra careful, for some reason, even within the nice, evenly-lit halls. My eyes kept trailing off toward the windows, perhaps hoping— or fearing— to see the strange suspect, tracking yet another of my patrols. Yet nothing but the well-maintained hedges and topiaries could be seen in the low light outside.

Thinking about the outing here to the museum on my upcoming day off made me realize that, some time during my weekend, another of my coworkers would be out taking my patrols. Now, ever since my employment started, I had been the one to consistently go about and check on things while the other guard manned the post at the main entrance, reading the paper or listening to the radio. Frankly, it didn’t faze me to stretch my legs and get a few bouts of exercise during the night, so the informal arrangement was maintained. But what if the strange woman was spotted by one of them, exposing my failure to keep watch of the grounds?

By the end of my first round, I was ready with my carefully-chosen words to explain that I may have possibly seen a strange woman perhaps skulking around the garden if I had not been there to shoo her off. But fate decided that I was not able to pass on that sleight of words.

Aside from the other guard, the slightly older and thinning-haired Hank, some of the curators were marking their territories in the main entrance hall. “Ah, good timing, Liz. Everything look good out there?”

“Yeah, Hank, same as always,” I nodded and lied so easily. “Is something going out tonight?”

“Man… or woman the desk here, would you? The boys here have asked me to help them… escort this thing. Get it in place all nice and secure.”

Up from the basement elevator beyond the normally locked and blocked double doors there in the hall came a rolling metal cart, pushed by one of the young, university-fresh curators. The older expert types helped guide it effortlessly through the opened doorway. Sitting on the cart was a waist-height display case draped in a sheet. Through the bright ceiling light, I could see the silhouette of something boldly geometrically shaped on a fine, thin stand.

“Sure, Hank. Do your thing,” I said, shifting back around the desk to take up his well-used wooden seat. He nodded at me, and I offered him his preferred military-style salute to send him off with the other staff.

As my hand left my brow, I swear I saw the flash of a face through the side window of the hall. By the time I stood, whatever I had seen was long gone. Waiting for the rhythmic sound of the rolling cart on the marble floors to disappear down the hall, I jumped back out from the security desk and searched the darkness beyond the windows for any signs of… whoever it could have been. With no remnant of anything, really, I returned back to my duty at the desk.

By the time Hank had returned from his task with the curators and the new installation, the regular time for my exterior patrol was over. Hank shrugged and tried to explain why it wasn’t a big deal, but something— my responsibility, maybe something else, forced me to run outside to complete it as usual. Would you be surprised to hear me say that not a single oddity was found that night?

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