Wilhelm knew the stone was all it was rumored to be the moment he saw it. And he knew it was the answer to his problems. It had been overlooked by many because of its size. His find was a chunk weighing close to a thousand carats, call that half a pound to you and I, which was too large to be believed by any but the most hopeful. And so, it had been tossed with the rest of the larger chunks.
And yet, rumors persisted that large stones were occasionally thrown away. And as often the case, the rumors found people who valued the possibility of a fortune in the future much higher than a wage in the present. Thieves, in other words. But in this case, not the kind of debonair gentlemen gem thieves that spend their days conning rich heiresses out of tiaras and brooches. Nor the kind of brute force loving thugs that lurk in alleys to mug to occasional passerby. These were the kind of thieves willing to risk life and limb to dig through the cast-off slag piles of a diamond mine despite the armed guards, dogs, and miles of barbed wire fences.
Most of the time, they came back empty handed.
Occasionally, they were unlucky and were returned to the fence line under guard, often nursing bites from the dogs that patrolled the less exciting parts of the operation.
But the possibility of striking it rich in the junk heap still loomed large, and Wilhelm was nothing if not persistent. So he returned, night after night, methodically working over the oldest of the tailing heaps. The first few nights, he avoided the dogs and guards completely. After a time, the dogs became familiar with his scent, and one or two began to make is presence into a boredom relieving game.
Then he found it, and at a stroke, he saw his fortunes change.
The crystal was larger than a softball, and quite heavy for its size. He immediately dropped it into a pocket and began to calmly clean up his work site, and made his way to his usual hole in the fence. He was concerned that the one time he actually found something, he would be spotted by the guards, but they clearly were as bored with him as the dogs were. So he covered his excitement and tried hard to appear as if he was just calling it a night a little earlier than usual.
He made it out with his find intact. Once in his rooms, he had a chance to inspect his find a little more closely. Concealed in the matrix, he clearly had a thousand carats of fortune waiting to be cut and polished. Which was itself a bit of a quandary, and quite a big risk. A five carat rough could be explained to the grey market quite easily. Even a five carat polished stone could be explained. But this block was the size that usually gets named and finds a place in the history books, usually punctuated by the list of people killed over it.
He knocked most of the matrix off it, and cleaned off a couple of the natural facets enough to take a peek inside. He was no expert, but you don’t spend years combing tailings and drinking with miners without picking up a few hints and tricks. This was a very nice stone. Which, if anything, made his problem worse.
Getting to keep even a few percent of its value was going to be a tricky proposition.
He fretted about his find for days. Then he went back to combing the tailings, and even let himself be spotted a few times. He wanted to leave an impression that he had failed when he eventually left to cash in his find. He started to drink more, and even to get involved in tall tales, despite knowing that he was playing with fire. He took special glee in bragging about a mythical hundred carat find, knowing all the while about the thousand carat lump buried in his flour sack.
And that is where it all went pear shaped for Wilhelm.
We’ll never know precisely what he said that gave it all away, but one day his boarding house burned down, and Wilhelm was the only casualty. Some weeks later, a thousand carat rough turned up in the black market, and it had a story to tell.