The Missing Jewelry by Theresa Welsh


Chapter Six: The Discovery

They were safely inside the city now, hurrying along the Via Marina to the forum. They had decided to go directly to Cornelia’s house and let her parents know she was all right. They had talked all the way about how to return the jewelry, but still hadn’t agreed on a plan. They crossed the forum, mingling with the crowds, and continued down the Via dell Abbandanza, the main commercial street in Pompeii. They walked by the fullers’ building where cloth was made. Wool from the sheep grazing in the countryside came here, to the building built by Eumachia, another wealthy Pompeiian woman, to be woven into cloth and made into togas and tunics of many colors.

[Image]Commercial businesses lined the Via dell Abbandanza. There were lawyers’ offices and medicine shops where you could buy remedies for various illnesses, and shops selling wine and food. There were numerous stalls selling bread, fruit, or hot meat in spicy sauces to be consumed on the street.

Marcellus stopped at a bread stall. "I’ve got a few coins and I’m starving," he said. Cornelia was starving too. Both eagerly tore off pieces of the round bread they bought.

"Not as good as the bread we had last night," said Cornelia after a bite. "You’re right," agreed Marcellus. "But then the moonlight might have made the bread taste better." He grinned at her.

When they got to the Via Stabiana, they turned and kept walking until they reached the Via Di Nola. Cornelia’s house was just a short way from here. Her thoughts were on her parents and how worried they must be. She was eager to show them she was ok. She was sorry she hadn’t been home to help her mother in the shop. She walked faster now as she saw her building up ahead. Marcellus trotted along behind her.

When she finally got to the doorway and opened the door, she saw her mother behind the counter and quickly realized Petra had been crying. Her mother’s eyes were red and her hair hung in disorganized clumps around her face. She looked up and saw Cornelia running to her. Petra hurried around the counter, grabbing her daughter in a tight hug.

"Oh holy Isis, thank you for sending my baby back home," she wailed, tears streaming down her face.

"I’m ok, Mom. I’m ok," whispered Cornelia softly, hugging her mother. "I’m really sorry I upset you. I didn’t mean to be gone all night. It just worked out that way. Please don’t cry." She pulled back to look at her mothers’s face. She couldn’t remember seeing her mother look so unhappy.

"Where is Lido?" she asked, knowing her brother’s magic ability to make Petra laugh. "Did Lido tell you we were at the warehouse yesterday?"

Petra turned her face away from Cornelia and made a moaning sound. "They’ve taken him," she said. "They think he had something to do with the stolen jewelry."

Cornelia could hardly believe what she was hearing.

"He had nothing to do with it, and we can clear this up right now!" It was Marcellus speaking from the doorway, where he had been watching.

Petra wiped her tears on a cloth she used to clean the counter. Cornelia motioned Marcellus to come in and close the door to the shop. "Mom, where is Lido? Who is holding him? We have to go there right away and tell them what really happened. And where is Dad? Why isn’t he here with you?"

"He is out looking for you" said Petra softly, wiping her eyes again. "He thought the police had taken you too."

"Mom, look at this," said Cornelia, unfastening the purse from around her waist and emptying it onto the counter. Out fell the two earrings and the pendant. They gleamed a bright golden color in the sunlight.

Petra gasped. "Oh, my goddess!" she said. "How did you get those? Marcellus, you DID steal them! And my son is getting the blame!"

"No, no, mother, that’s not how it is. We got these back from Crispus, who got them from Valerianus. That’s where I’ve been – Marcellus and I were at Crispus’ villa."

Petra, hardly listening, still dazzled at the sight of the gold, reached out tentatively for the jewelry, afraid to touch it.

"It’s ok, Mom. It’s just jewelry," said Cornelia, grabbing an earring and fastening it to her ear.

"Put it back. Take it off," said Petra, frantically gesturing, glancing nervously toward the window to make sure no one was looking in. "If only you and your brother were not trying to be actors, none of this would have happened. If only your Dad hadn’t filled your heads with all those stories about acting at the Odeon on Rhodes…" She was crying again.

"Mom, we’re good actors," said Cornelia. She picked up the pieces of gold and put them back in her purse. She explained everything that had happened. Marcellus joined in and soon both were talking excitedly. They were interrupted a few times by customers coming into the shop and Petra did her best to take care of them, but she didn’t have many cakes made.

"Mom," said Cornelia, "close the shop and let’s find Lido and Dad." She took her mother’s arm. "You’ve hardly done any baking and have nothing much to sell anyhow."

Marcellus picked up a honey cake from a basket and asked if he could have it. Finally Petra managed a small smile. "I forgot you’d be hungry. Why don’t you eat something; I’ll close the shop and we can go after you eat. I think we should go to Julia’s house. They were going to take Lido there so Valerianus could question him."

She secured the door, then went through a door to their living quarters. Cornelia and Marcellus followed. On her small stove, she warmed some stew she had in a pot and scooped it into bowls. While the two young people ate, Petra filled them in on what had happened. Two police had come the previous day looking for Lido. They waited in the shop until Lido came home.

He had been moving goods to Crispus’ ship docked on the Sarnus River. The Sarno Gate at the other end of the Via dell Abbandanza from the forum led down to the river. Crispus’ warehouse was conveniently located between the docks and the forum.

Petra had been upset enough when Cornelia didn’t come back, but watching those men take her son away had left her in tears. When Dimitri got home and found her like this, he had insisted on looking for his children. He had come back late at night to tell her he had learned from the slaves that Lido was at Julia’s house, but he could not get in to see him. He had no word of Cornelia. He had left this morning to go back to Julia’s and see what he could learn. Petra had cried most of the night. This morning she opened the shop and tried to carry on, but it was very difficult.

"Let’s go!" said Marcellus, putting down his bowl. "When the jewelry is returned, they’ll release Lido."

Before they could leave, they heard the door open. It was Dimitri. His tired face lit up with joy at the sight of Cornelia. She ran to him and threw her arms around him.

"I’m so glad to get one of my children back safely," he said with a trembling voice, looking at his daughter’s face. "Lido is still being held at Julia’s and I still can’t get in to see him," he said wearily.

"I can get us in," said Marcellus quickly. "Let’s go."

They hurried outside, a procession of four tired people carried along by a sense of urgency. Cornelia and Marcellus explained to Dimitri where they had been as they all walked along the street to Julia’s house.

"You mean you actually have the missing jewelry in your purse?" asked Dimitri in a hushed and amazed tone. The police couldn’t solve the crime, but two kids could. He shook his head in disbelief.

They discussed various ways of giving back the jewelry, but couldn’t agree on the best way when they got to the house. How could they get anyone to believe Valerianus had taken the jewelry? They walked by the wall with political graffiti without looking up. Marcellus went in first and saw his father standing at the big table in the kitchen inspecting meat. He looked up and saw his son.

"Marcellus!" he exclaimed. Marcellus motioned to Cornelia, Petra, and Dimitri to come in.

Antonius rushed over to his son, putting an arm around Marcellus’ shoulder. He looked puzzled at the sight of the Ladonicas standing awkwardly by the door. Several slaves who were working in the kitchen quietly left the room.

"Dad, we have recovered Julia’s jewelry. We must see her. We want Cornelia’s brother released. He had nothing to do with the theft." Marcellus spoke with authority and determination.

Antonius’ eyes got bigger. "You have the jewelry?" he asked incredulously. Dimitri smiled wanly at Antonius. "Our kids are pretty amazing," he said. "They tell me they have the jewelry."

Marcellus explained to his father how he and Cornelia had gone to Crispus’ villa and found the jewelry.

"Is my son here?" asked Petra anxiously, coming forward. Dimitri put his arm around her.

"I think the police are still here, in the small atrium, and your son may still be with them," said Antonius. He looked worried, but added "I will take you there."

Antonius, with Marcellus, Cornelia , Petra, and Dimitri behind him, went through the doorway to a corridor, through a small room, then through a door into the small atrium. On a bench at the other end sat her brother. His posture was not as straight as usual. This was not the fun-loving Lido, but a tired, anxious and worried Lido.

On another bench were three men in the official clothing of Pompeii’s law enforcement officials. Standing behind the policemen was Valerianus. Cornelia’s heart pounded as she hurried past Marcellus and Antonius to her older brother. Lido’s mouth dropped open in surprise as he saw Cornelia along with his parents coming toward him.

"What is the meaning of this?" thundered Valerianus.

Cornelia was hugging her brother now and Petra, with Dimitri hanging onto her, grabbed his arm and joined in a kind of group hug. Petra started crying again. The policemen watched for a minute, then one of them started breaking it up.

Antonius faced Valerianus and said "These people have knowledge of the theft. I think you should let them talk. I think Mistress Julia would be interested too." The normally timid Antonius was surprised at his own bravery.

"Interested in what?" asked a melodic voice. Julia had entered the atrium. She was dressed in a lovely long orange tunic and her hair was beautifully braided and piled on her head.

One of the policemen walked to her and motioned to a slave to bring a chair. Valerianus was pacing around. The other two policemen had gotten up and faced Julia. Cornelia and Petra were standing with Lido by the bench. Dimitri had joined Antonius and Marcellus well behind the bench to show they meant no threat.

Julia sat down in the chair. "Now what is going on?" she asked calmly, looking at the odd assortment of people in her atrium.

A policeman stepped forward. "We have questioned Lido Ladonica most of the night and we haven’t found any information to indicate he stole your jewelry."

Valerianus pointed to Marcellus, "This young man is a thief. He and Ladonica did it together."

"We’ve talked to people who were at the party," said another policeman "and there was a harmless skit about stealing, but it doesn’t seem to us a thief would announce himself like that."

"They’re trying to throw you off," said Valerianus angrily.

"And why are you so convinced they are guilty?" asked Julia suddenly.

Valerianus sputtered "Because, because…."

"Because he knows HE is the guilty one," said a feminine voice. All eyes shifted to Cornelia.

"Why, how can you say that?" asked Julia, putting her hand up to silence Valerianus.

"Because Marcellus and I overheard him talking to Crispus, the ship owner, about stealing them, then Marcellus saw him take them. The jewelry was in his purse the night of the party. Marcellus was trying to expose him then. It didn’t work, so we hitched a ride on Crispus’ cart and went to his villa. We found your jewelry and I have it with me." Cornelia’s voice had been loud and clear and full of honesty. Now she realized what she had just said and saw everyone looking at her. But now was no time to collapse. She was on stage and her brother’s freedom depended on her.

She reached for the purse at her waist and unfastened it. She emptied it onto the bench. Out fell two gold earrings and one big pendant with an engraved unicorn. Everyone gasped. Julia got up, a look of amazement on her face, and walked to the bench.

"Are these the missing pieces of jewelry?" asked one of the policemen.

"Yes," said a delighted Julia, picking up her pendant. "Oh, yes, I’m so happy to have them back!"

Valerianus was furiously pacing around. "That proves they did it!" he thundered. But Julia gave him a grim look. "Why would they steal and then return what they stole?"

Two of the policemen had left the room. Another policeman who seemed to be in charge asked Julia, "do you want us to release Lido Ladonica?"

Julia looked at Cornelia, who had gone to her brother’s side. Lido looked at his sister with admiration.

"Yes," she said. "I think our thief is someone else. "Cornelia – isn’t that your name? -- tell me how you got my jewelry."

By the time Cornelia had finished her story, the other policemen were back, with Crispus. Crispus walked between the two, an angry look on his face. As they approached the group of people seated on the benches, Crispus’ expression changed. Cornelia saw his eyes were on the jewelry. He looked so startled he hesitated for a moment, and the two policemen stopped too, and looked at him. He recovered quickly and kept walking, but everyone noticed his reaction to seeing the jewelry.

One of the policemen indicated the jewelry and asked politely, "Have you ever seen this jewelry before?"

"No," he answered rapidly. "No, I deal in jewelry from all over the Roman empire, but I’ve never seen these Etruscan pieces before."

"You recognize them as Etruscan?" asked Julia, an expression of surprise in her voice.

Crispus looked nervous. "Yes, I know good jewelry when I see it. These are antique pieces, using the Etruscan method of working gold. They are very valuable."

"I think he HAS seen them before," said Cornelia walking closer. Crispus’ eyes blazed at her. "Why is this child here?" he asked angrily. "What is going on? Why am I being questioned?"

"You had these hidden at your villa in a green chest with a satyr on it," she said, looking him in the eye.

Crispus turned pale. "How do you know what I have at my villa?" he asked.

"I know you have a horse named Brutus and a cat named Caesar," she said, "and I know because I was there. Marcellus and I recovered the jewelry. You blamed poor Caesar the cat for knocking over that flower pot, but it was us that knocked it over."

Crispus’ eyes had the look of a cornered animal, but he turned to one of the policemen and said "Are you going to believe this child instead of me? I am a Roman citizen!"

Roman citizenship was important and Cornelia knew that was the reason the police were being so polite. She knew she could be in real trouble accusing a Roman citizen of a crime. But she

also knew she was right. She stood her ground and Marcellus came and put his hand in hers and stood with her, facing Crispus.

Julia got up from her chair. "I think this girl is telling the truth. I can’t imagine why she would put herself and her family at risk to make it up. How could children sell jewelry like this? There are only a few buyers for expensive antique jewelry, and a ship’s captain might know who they are." Her eyes were on Crispus.

"But she wanted to get her brother released. That’s why she’s giving them back," said Valerianus.

Crispus gave Valerianus a disgusted look, but said nothing.

The policeman in charge stepped in and said "I think we can send someone to Crispus’ villa and see if he has a green trunk with a satyr on it and if he has a cat named Caesar." He turned to Cornelia, "Would you please describe the cat?"

"This is ridiculous," thundered Valerianus. "Can’t you see the Ladonica boy and this kitchen boy" – he waved at Marcellus – "they stole this jewelry."

"What does it prove if I do have a cat named Caesar?" yelled Crispus.

The policeman turned to Petra, "Have you or your family ever been invited to this man’s villa?" he asked.

Petra, finding the thought of socializing with Crispus had to imagine, said "No, never. My husband has worked for him for many years, but we have never been invited to his home. And," she added, "we would not steal your jewelry, mistress." She turned to Julia. "I operate a small cake bakery. I sell a lot of cakes to your kitchen. I appreciate your business. My son was really grateful for the opportunity to perform at your party. We all are grateful to you."

Julia smiled at her kindly. "This must be difficult for you. But I believe you. Your daughter is a brave and unusual girl. My guests all enjoyed her performance."

Dimitri spoke up now. "My wife tells the truth. I work for Crispus at his warehouse, but we do not socialize. Crispus often deals in jewelry, sometimes in rare jewelry like this. My son and daughter are not thieves."

"But you think I am!" cried an angry Crispus. "Well I got the jewelry from him!" He pointed a long finger at Valerianus. "He is your thief, not me."

Valerianus was sputtering again, trying to find a defense. "It’s a lie," is all he could manage.

Julia was staring at the man she had trusted. Her face showed her struggle to understand what had happened.

"I saw him take the jewelry from your room on the day of the party," said Marcellus. "And I was there when he gave the jewelry to Crispus at the warehouse."

"How could you kids be in so many places?" asked Valerianus angrily, pacing about.

One of the policeman grabbed hold of Valerianus’ arm, while he conferred with the other two.

"The Ladonicas are free to go. The jewelry is recovered and there is no evidence against them," said the chief policeman.

Cornelia gave her Mom a big hug, then her Dad, who had a happy look on his tired face, and finally a big hug to her brother, who wore an expression of happy relief.

Petra and Dimitri held hands and started to leave, with Lido at their side, but Cornelia hung back and asked, "What about Marcellus? He is a hero. I want everyone to know he is very brave and would never be a thief."

Marcellus’ face lit up with a pleased expression. He had finally won Cornelia’s admiration. Even though her clothes were dusty and her hair untamed, he thought her the most beautiful person he could imagine.

Julia smiled while Antonius, who had said nothing the whole time, stood nervously by his son.

"I think we can find some new duties for such a brave young man," said Julia. "And, Cornelia, please come to my house tomorrow afternoon, after bath time. I’d like to hear your plans for the future. I think I can find some more bookings for you and your brother. I want to show my gratitude to you and your family for getting my jewelry back."

With Valerianus sputtering in the background, the Ladonicas quickly left the atrium. Marcellus waved goodbye to Cornelia as she hurried after her parents.

-------------

It was a happy evening at the Ladonica house. They had spent the rest of the day together, talking and catching up on what had happened to each of them. They’d all had a trip to the baths and now were relaxing in the courtyard, their chairs arranged together and some of Petra’s cakes on a small table.

"I don’t suppose I’ll be working for Crispus anymore," said Dimitri. "I wonder what will happen to him. I know I should have quit that warehouse a long time ago anyhow; the man was becoming impossible to work with. What will I do now?"

"Why don’t you perform with Cornelia and I?" asked Lido quickly. "You know you always wanted to act. You’re the one who got us interested."

Dimitri looked like he was considering it.

"Oh no," said Petra. "Not more actors in the family. I can’t take it." She pretended to swoon.

"Hey. Pretty good, Mom," said Cornelia. "You can act with us too."

They all laughed.

"I wonder what happened after we left. Will they punish Crispus?" asked Cornelia.

"I can answer that," a voice called from the doorway. It was Marcellus.

"How did you get in?" asked Lido.

"The door was open, so I let myself in," he said. "I had to tell you what happened after you left." Marcellus pulled up a bench and sat next to Cornelia. He grabbed one of the cakes from the table and popped it into his mouth.

"This young man loves to eat," observed Petra with a smile.

"Solving crimes makes you hungry," said Marcellus.

"Well," said Cornelia, "What happened?"

"Crispus kept accusing Valerianus, who kept insisting he had nothing to do with it. The police asked me to come with them to Crispus’ villa and show them where the jewelry had been. Let me tell you, we got there a lot faster in the police chariot than it took us to walk."

"You got to go in the police chariot?" asked Cornelia, wide-eyed. "Wow!"

"Yea, it was pretty neat," he said. "They took Valerianus and Crispus back to the forum police building for questioning. But back at the villa, I showed them the green trunk and good old Caesar came and rubbed against the policeman and purred."

"Crispus is such a fool, even his cat betrays him," laughed Lido. "Hey, maybe we can turn that into a comedy routine."

"But what really got us off the hook," said a grinning Marcellus, "was Cornelia. Julia obviously likes you. I can’t wait to hear what goodies she’ll bestow on you at that meeting tomorrow. I think I’ll eavesdrop."

"Sounds like you’ll be getting a new job too," said Cornelia.

"Thanks to my favorite actress," said Marcellus, grabbing another cake.

"So, will they hold Crispus?" asked Petra. "His ship will sail tomorrow, you know."

"He won’t be on it," said Marcellus. "They said they were going to charge him with the crime, along with Valerianus."

"You kids sure took a chance," said Dimitri. "But I’m very proud of both of you."

Petra smiled and added. "Me too."

THE END

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The Missing Jewelry: A Story From Roman Pompeii
     by Theresa Welsh

You may not copy or distribute this story without permission from the author. I welcome your comments on this story.

email: theresa@explainamation.com