With Nonchalant Flair
by Bill Lapham
Workers at Ground Zero in New York City had uncovered the rotting hull of a wooden ship during the digging of the foundation for the Freedom Tower and professors from New York University had judged its age to be about two hundred years. Historians and archeologists from all over the country raced to the site to examine the piece before it completely fell apart in the fresh air while NYU scientists continued with the excavation effort. Time and oxygen were their dual-fisted enemies.
Joe Higgins, Professor of Archeology at the University of Michigan, wasn’t interested in the hull of the ship. He wanted to see what was under the hull when they lifted it. His research indicated that the long missing Mirror of Portugal, a 30 carat table-cut diamond stolen from the French Crown Jewels during the revolution might have been smuggled aboard a British merchant ship bound for New York in 1799. His credentials would gain him access to the site on the day of the lift.
While everybody was marveling at the sight of a 200-year old ship’s skeleton being lifted out of the mud, Professor Higgins was milling about looking for a mud-caked egg. And there, in a place that would have been under the captain’s quarters, he saw it. Bending over with nonchalant flair he plucked the stone from its centuries old nest, wrapped it in his handkerchief and stuffed it in his pocket.
At least that’s all he could remember from his hospital bed.
(Bill Lapham is a student veteran at the University of Michigan-Flint. His work has been featured at the Six Sentences, ThinkingTen, Flashshot and MuDJoB (July 28) blogs, and has received an honorable mention at the JM Prescott blog.)