The Swamp (Part 23)

Hendricks entered the empty, smallish dining area and he noticed that the table was set for three with magnetic place settings. The motion of the ship seemed a little more pronounced than earlier, but was still settled enough that you could walk around without crashing into the walls. He bent down to look out of one of the portholes, but all he could see was black.

Patel came down the steep stairs from the deck, followed closely by Luz, looking freshly washed and Hendricks thought, more lovely than he had ever seen her.

“Henrique!” she sprang into his arms, sobbing. He held her there for a few moments, until she sniffled and stepped back. She soaked him in for a minute. “You look so…different.”

He had showered, shaved and put on a pair of sweat pants and a clean t-shirt. Someone had left him a very nice new set of Billabong flip-flops and he wore these as well.

“Well, I hope that means better. Just taking a shower and putting on fresh clothes…I feel like a new man,” Hendricks replied, a little embarrassed. “You don’t look so bad yourself. How are you feeling, Luz? My God, your face is so dark!”

She smacked him on the arm, “Have you looked at yours? You look like a langosta, how you say, a lobster.”

Luz twirled in her yellow sundress. “You like? Ravi gave it to me.”

“You look amazing,” Hendricks commented.

“It belonged to my daughter. It looks very nice on you,” Patel looked away, wiping his eyes.

“You said belonged. Where is she now?” inquired Luz.

“Luz, don’t…” Hendricks tried to shush her, sensing Patel’s mood and that something was not quite right.

Patel held up his hand, sighing, “No, it’s alright. My daughter, my little Katie, she died two years ago. She was seventeen years old. One day she visiting with friends in Calcutta. Well…a drunk driver, in one of those big trucks, he lost control….,” Patel was visibly shaken, looking down, sobbing quietly.

The servant came in and ran to Mr. Patel, making him drink some water, and glaring with open hostility at Hendricks.

Patel pushed the man away gently, “I was away on business at the time. It seems that I was always away on business. I wish I just had one more hour with her, to tell her everything that I never could,” he had to stop and take off his glasses, pretending to wipe them. “I am sorry. I still get very emotional talking about it. I loved her so very, very much. She was my only daughter and she was the brilliant, shining center of my dull existence.

After Katie…my life…it seems so empty. I try and stay busy, working and traveling. Even this boat, the Katya, which I named after her, it does not soothe my hurt. It only reminds me of her. Katie loved this boat and she left many of her things on board, including clothes. Feel free to use any of them you please, miss. It gives me pleasure to see Katie’s things appreciated after all this time. Please, let’s sit down and eat. I have so many questions for you both!”

After they had sat down the young, short male servant came in from the galley and began laying down plates of food in front of them.

“I hope you like seafood,” added Patel. “After your rough time out there, I was not sure.”

“Ha! We almost became seafood.” Hendricks laughed, breaking the tension. “I am literally starving, Ravi. This is the best thing I ever tasted in my life.” Hendricks wolfed down several large forkfuls, washing it down with the cool white wine they had been served.

Patel paused, “Before you say anything, Mr., eh, Henrique?”

Hendricks shook his head, “It’s Hendricks. But you may want to forget you ever heard that name.”

Patel was serious now, “Yes. Luz has already told me much of your story.” Patel looked hard at Hendricks, gauging a reaction. “I know you are an escapee. Frankly I was shocked. Of course there are always rumors of such places. One does not always believe them. They seem so...so very cold war, you know? Secret prisons on remote islands and such, they do not seem possible in this day and age, but then again, America has Guantanamo, right?”

Hendricks was angry, but he knew it was useless, and he sighed. “What do you plan to do, Ravi? Turn me in?”

“No, Henrique, don’t you see? He is a very good man. He will help us! He promised me!” Luz blurted, trying not to cry.

“Look, Mr. Patel, I appreciate the fact that you rescued us and that you’ve gone out of your way, but really, all I need is for you to drop me off on a beach somewhere, preferably Costa Rica. Near Manuel Antonio or Quepos would be great. Without saying too much more, believe me when I tell you it will be best for everyone concerned.”

Patel sipped his wine, “That is not an unreasonable request. I will, of course, respect your wishes, but first I think you need to hear what I have to say about your stones.”

Ravi produced a small velvet pouch from his shirt pocket. He laid out a powder blue silk handkerchief on the table and gently bobbed the stones out of the pouch until the four rocks, each the size of a thumbnail, were laid out.

“First I need to tell you a little about myself. I was born in Mumbai and grew up there. I was very poor as a boy and we lived on the outskirts of the vast slums that perhaps you have heard of. This is where the famous Mother Theresa worked with the sick and dying.

As a teenager I began working as a bicycle messenger in the heart of Mumbai’s financial district. I worked very long hours and eventually I worked my way up until I was able to get a job selling jewelry in the diamond district.

I sold and traded jewels for twenty long years. Each year I made a little more money and was able to purchase my own stock of diamonds until one day I decided to open my own modest little shop.

To make a long story short, the shop was a big success and soon became very popular among the society ladies, a very loyal and very rich clientele.

I continued to save money and to purchase the best jewels and diamonds until I too achieved a level of wealth, as you see here. It did not hurt that I was elected Chairman of the Mumbai Jeweler’s Society. Once I entered that select group of merchants, the world opened up and I was able to trade in larger volumes than ever before.”

Patel poured some brandy from a decanter into their weighted snifters. He breathed in the delicious aroma of the smoky liquor, “XO Duc De Tourelle French brandy, sixty-five years old. Quite wonderful. Quite rare. I have been saving this bottle for many years, waiting for the appropriate occasion.”

“It’s very good, Ravi, but what exactly are we celebrating?” Hendricks held the glass up to the light, seeing the amber liquid change colors as it swirled. It was somewhat hypnotic and he suddenly felt very sleepy and not a little nauseous.

“Why, your rescue, of course,” Patel pointed at the stones on the silk kerchief, “and this…this incredible find. These stones you were carrying are the highest quality diamonds that I have ever beheld, and I have seen the very finest that this world has to offer. Better than DeBeers, better than any South African mine for that matter.”

“But they are not that large. How can you say that they are the finest?”

“Good question. The answer is in the color. Here, I have taken the liberty of polishing one of them. Look through this loupe.” Patel held out a small cylindrical magnifier.

Hendricks looked and immediately saw that the polished diamond was pinkish in hue.

“Notice there are no specks or flaws anywhere. They would be considered defects and would of course take away from the gem’s value. I have not tested the others but I would bet several million rupees that they are of the same quality and color.

These pink diamonds are some of the rarest and most sought after jewels in the world. There are only a very few places that they have been discovered. One of them is in the Amazon, in the state of Minas Gerais, where garimperos, wildcat miners, search for them in the river. There have been some rather large ones found there, including some that were several hundred karats in weight or more,” added Patel, a gleam in his eye. He sipped from the brandy.

“How much is that one, Ravi?” Luz asked sheepishly.

“Luz, no…” Somehow, Hendricks felt it was rude to ask, but he was very curious to find out more.

“No, it’s alright. These are special types of gems. Most of the pinks that have been discovered are really just brown or cream colored, with maybe a tinge of pink. This one right here as you can see is about two inches long, about seventy five carats would be my opinion. I can’t really say for certain until they’ve been prepared. Cut and polished. Pink diamonds are so rare that they can be trusted only to the most experienced and skilled of craftsmen. Lucky for us, I have some of the best in the world on my payroll in Mumbai. We can’t afford to lose even one karat of something so precious.” Patel caressed the smooth diamond.

“I don’t think that will be a problem, Mr. Patel,” corrected Hendricks. “You see, where I got this…there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, exactly like it.”

Patel and Luz both stared at him in obvious shock.

to be continued

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