SOME YEARS AGO
Jacob Davenport was staring into the eyes of a man who was about to make his family much less rich. Gambling was his biggest vice, and even though his wife and his daughter Luisa begged him to stop, he had gotten himself into a tight situation, yet again.
“You’re just bluffing,” he muttered.
The face of the man sitting across the table from him opened in a wide grin, showing a missing front tooth.
“Maybe. Or maybe not. Your call, my friend!” the man snickered.
The room they were sitting in wasn’t too small, but it was very crowded. The amount of money at stake in the poker game had brought many spectators. They all shuffled on the wooden floor as close as they could get to see the action. The air was thick with smoke. All the lights in the room were dimmed, except the one hanging directly above the poker table. Five players were sitting around it, three of them out of this pot already.
Jacob was holding great cards in his hand. Great cards. But not the best possible cards. No. There was a chance, although small, that he might lose this one. He didn’t
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need the money. His family was rich — they’d been rich for centuries. But he was a gambler, and sometimes he just couldn’t help himself.
“I think I should call your bluff,” he said in a very calm and confident voice, but feeling very differently inside.
“I don’t think you have enough money on the table to call me,” the man said, narrowing his eyes. “I think you should reconsider it,” he taunted Jacob.
“Maybe I don’t have the money right now, but you know I’m good for it.”
“Now how would I know that? All I see is a guy with a small stack of cash in front of him.”
“Well, maybe we could work something out. I do have other valuables at my house, and more cash in the bank.”
The man sat there for a while, studying Jacob’s face. Finally, he said, “You know what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I want the Heart.”
Jacob knew that he did. Everybody did — the Heart of the Island was one of the biggest diamonds that had ever been found in the rich mines around the town of Lakeview, and the Davenport family had owned it ever since.
“You know that’s not going to happen,” Jacob said, unsure of himself. “I know you’re bluffing, but I can’t — no, I won’t call your bluff with that. Not the Heart.”
“Suit yourself,” the man said, and reached for the pile of cash in the middle of the table.
“Wait!” Jacob cried. He could not believe what he was doing. Was he really about to bet his family’s most valuable possession?
“Just wait, will you? Let me think for a second...”
On the way back to the Davenport Island Mansion, Jacob’s mind raced despite the overwhelming roar of his small outboard motor.
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Oh my god, what have I done? he kept thinking. He felt like the dark waters of the lake were closing in on him. As if he was driving the boat deeper and deeper beneath the surface. He had done a terrible thing, and now he had only a week to come up with a ridiculous amount of money, or he’d have to give up the Heart of the Island. That was the deal he made, and there was no way of escaping it — there had been far too many witnesses, including the town’s mayor. No. He had to pay his debt. But he couldn’t give up the diamond — it was too precious, and his family would never forgive him, especially his daughter.
I have to hide that diamond, he thought, I can’t be the one to lose it!
He knew that he could get the money by selling some of the other jewelry from the big safe in the house, but he was still worried about the Heart. The man to whom he’d lost the poker game appeared to be very keen on getting his hands on it. Jacob didn’t trust that man. He seemed like he wanted the Heart more than anything. And Jacob knew about the man and his criminal past, and the dark stories people told about him.
So, maybe it was the reassuring image of the beautiful Davenport Island Mansion looming in the darkness, or just the fresh, cool night air that helped him come up with an idea. Jacob didn’t know, but he thought that it might actually work. He allowed himself a small grin, as he pondered more on the idea.
The boat quickly reached the small dock, and Jacob jumped off confidently. Strength returned to his legs, his back straightened up, and he marched toward the house feeling like a man with a plan.
The next day Jacob made sure everybody in Lakeview knew he was going to the city to take care of some urgent business. The news about Jacob losing the game, and possibly the diamond, had spread like wild fire since early in the morning. Even the mayor
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came down to the dock to see and talk to Jacob, while Jacob’s driver was packing the car and getting it ready for the long drive to the city.
“Well, Mr. Davenport, I assume you’re going to the bank in the city to get the cash you owe to the gentleman from last night’s game?” the mayor asked.
“You assume correctly, Mr. Mayor,” Jacob said as clearly as he could, and as loudly as he dared. “But that’s not all — I’m going to put the Heart of the Island diamond in the safe in my bank in the city. I believe it will be safer there than it is on our small island, if you know what I mean.”
Jacob was satisfied with the reaction he got from the mayor, and other people listening in to the conversation. They seemed to believe him. The gossip will spread as quickly as the news about the last night’s game — he was sure of that. He signaled to the driver that he was ready, and he let himself onto the back seat. The drive would be a few hours long, and he still had things to work out in his head.
Later that evening, when he returned from the bank with the cash to pay his debt, there were far fewer people interested in him as his driver dropped him off at the dock. He jumped in his boat, and started the motor. He liked the idea of ‘hiding in plain sight,’ and he felt pretty good about the cover story with the bank. Still, he wasn’t entirely sure where to hide the diamond. It has to be hidden on the island. It just has to — the island is it’s home, Jacob thought to himself, staring forward at the fast-approaching island. But where on the island to hide it, exactly?