“Trick or treat!” Glenn chortled as the lock on the enameled jewelry box yielded to his efforts. He raised the heavy lid slowly, savoring the moment of triumph. His plan worked to perfection. By the time Hester Putnam realized there was no Halloween costume party across town, he would be long gone with her treasures.
Sparkles danced before his eyes as the glow of his flashlight hit the facets of the stones within the top tray. The famed Putnam ruby gleamed in its golden pendant setting in a velvet-lined tray, and next to it a string of deep blue sapphires set in a silver choker rested. He knew there were pieces holding diamonds and opals in the collection, and pearls as well.
Each tray revealed new delights as he removed them one by one from the massive jewelry box that seemed more like a small closet. Necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches filled the contraption and now they belonged to him!
Glenn slipped each piece into a zippered plastic storage bag before he added it to the briefcase at his feet. With a sense of sadness, he removed the last tray and reached for the brooch centered there. The black stones seemed to draw the flashlight’s beam into their depths.
“What kind of stone are you, huh? Onyx, maybe?” The silver brooch reminded him of a sunburst, with eight silver rays bearing pave-style pieces of the black stone exploding from the mounting of the large, slightly oval center stone. “Pretty simple, compared to some of her other stuff. No wonder you’re down here in the bottom. But I’ll bet you’re still worth a pretty penny.”
As he rotated the brooch between his fingers, he felt a prick through the latex glove.. Glenn muttered an oath and dropped the pin into a plastic bag, then put his index finger to his lips in an effort to ease the sting.
“Now I know why it’s down here-probably stabbed herself on it. I’m doing her a favor taking it. Now she can’t hurt herself no more. That’s my good deed for today.” He laughed as he closed the briefcase.
Glenn grasped the handle of the briefcase and turned to leave the closet. As he crossed the dressing area of the huge bedroom, a wave of nausea hit him. He staggered and drew in a deep breath in an attempt to force down the sour taste in his throat. The room suddenly felt too hot and he went to his knees. His vision blurred as he struggled to rise, only to fall again. The room turned black and he sprawled across the briefcase in an undignified heap.
Glenn woke up to the glare of a spotlight above his head. He tried to lift a hand against the harsh light but found he couldn’t. Something held down both of his arms and constricted his chest. Fighting against the binding gained nothing but a return of the nausea.
“Welcome back, stranger,” came a feminine voice from the shadows beyond the spotlight. “Did you have pleasant dreams?”
“Who are you?” he growled. “Where am I?”
“So many questions,” the voice replied. “I am Hester Putnam, and you are in my basement. If I’m not mistaken, you were trying to steal my jewelry.”
“Yeah, well, I made a mistake. You got it back right? So no harm done. If you’ll just let me up, I’ll get out of your house and your life. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
The laugh that echoed from the darkness sent a blade of fear through his heart.
“My dear fellow, you aren’t going anywhere. Why, Arie would never forgive me if I let you leave after she went to such efforts to keep your company. And you owe me something for sending me on a pointless trip to a non-existent party.”
“Who the hell is Arie?” asked Glenn.
A pale hand stretched into the edge of the light, holding the black and silver sunburst pin.
“Arie is short for Arachnid – my dear spider pin. She’s beautiful, isn’t she? And quite potent, too. She bit you when you took her from her nest. She kept you here so that I could get my revenge. You played your trick with that phony invitation. Now I get my treat.”
“What do you mean?” he demanded.
She stepped further into the light and Glenn saw the rage gleaming in her gray eyes.
“My treat is a new gem. Did you know that a diamond is formed from carbon? Intense heat and pressure change the form into a gemstone. The human body is carbon-based, as well. My father developed a process for changing flesh into gems. He sold it to people who make gems from the ashes of cremated bodies as keepsakes. But I’ve always preferred the larger gems I make from my ‘guests.’ Everyone wins, you see. I save society the cost of trying and incarcerating a thief. Arachnid has the fun of taking prey. And I get a new stone for my jewelry box.”
“Lady, are you crazy?” Glenn croaked out the words through a throat gone tight with fear.
“Crazy, perhaps, but capable of protecting what is mine. You intruded into my life, not I into yours. I am not without consideration, however. Would you rather be set in gold or silver?” She smiled graciously, as though offering him a choice of cream or milk for his tea.
“No-o-o-o!” he screamed, a long and drawn out scream that faded as the contents of the hypodermic she thrust into his vein took effect.
The society page photos taken at the Charity League’s Thanksgiving Fundraiser included one of benefactress Hester Putnam in a cream colored damask gown, accented by a large trilliant cut emerald brooch in a gold filigree setting. When asked about the unusual pin, she identified it as “a gift from my late father.”