Again, Hartley took the small, black felt box from his wall safe, hefted it tentatively, ran his fingers slowly over its smooth corners. The weight and shape of the box fitted snugly, pleasantly in his hand.
He opened the box, tilted it, let the contents spill over onto the table. A smile creased his face as the diamonds rolled and sparkled end over end on the teak surface. Some were ice-clear, some were tinted, with glints of blue and pink on fine-cut edges. Several larger, rougher stones contrasted with many small, sharp-cut multi-faceted gems. He gathered them in his hand, poured them from palm to palm, one by one, all at once.
The diamonds had come from China, some gotten from the coolies sold to Southern Pacific, some taken in exchange for opium and silk. Hartley had been adding to his hoard for years. The possession of the diamonds meant more to him than did their mere monetary value. Some men were obsessed with gold; Hartley's obsessions were diamonds and young women. He kept the diamonds, but he wasn't so handy with women.
His marriage to Mandy had been a mistake. He had realized only too late she was a two-bit con artist out for his money. She was too clever, too greedy. He had still not been able to roust her and her gang of hired toughnuts from his saloon in Frisco, the Pearl of the Orient. He hadn't seen the profits from that operation since he sent her packing several months ago. He'd send in his boys soon enough, and if she happened to stop a bullet in the doing, so much the better.
He wouldn't actually give the diamonds to Janie. He'd dangle them in front of her as bait, she seemed simple enough to take it. After all, she was a whore, and a good-looking one at that. She wasn't in the business for nickels and dimes.
He had been planning to carry the diamonds down to Frisco himself, but decided against it. He had always done business with Wells Fargo, including not a few shipments of hot goods that had gone through under the thin guise of the sprawling express company's respectability. Wells Fargo would insure the diamonds, and they would travel with an armed courier known only to the company, Hartley, and Hartley's trusted help. In two days, on the morning train from Seattle to San Francisco.
|Chapter Seven: The Deal of 12 chapters|