Evelyn’s red-lacquered fingertips glided over the surface of the grandfather clock. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship. The cherry-stained pinewood gleamed with age and love. The potbellied case had a glass door and the brass pendulum was visible as it swung, keeping constant rhythmic time. Roman numerals and hands of shining brass graced the face of the clock. Standing at almost eight feet tall, Evelyn stepped back to view the delicate carvings of leaves across the top.
Evelyn’s discovery of an old diary years before led her to the French Comtoise clock. Determined to have it, Evelyn traveled to Paris from New York for this auction. The auction was beginning soon, so she hurried to her seat. Evelyn suffered through the first items presented for sale. She tapped one fingernail on the handle of her paddle impatiently. Small tendrils of hair escaped the bun, her auburn hair curling in the humid heat.
Finally, the auctioneer called, “Item number 17, a Comtoise Grandfather Clock, built in 1854. We’ll start the bidding at $3,000.00.”
Evelyn raised her paddle, the number 416 showing clearly. Several other bidders quickly fell out of the running. Evelyn glared at the dark head of the man in front of her as he continued to bid.
“7,800.00. Do I hear $8,000.00?”
Inside, Evelyn screamed with fury as the dark-haired man bid again. “$12,000.00,” she pronounced.
The dark-haired man turned to regard her for a moment, then nodded in defeat.
“Sold to bidder 416!”
The auctioneer continued until he sold all the items. Evelyn waited, a small smile of satisfaction playing on her rosy lips. When the auction ended, Evelyn went to claim her prize. She arranged for delivery to her home later in the week.
Upon the clock’s arrival, Evelyn took a few minutes to admire it before calmly opening the glass door. Stopping the pendulum, she reached down and released a small catch. A panel popped open, and Evelyn retrieved a black velvet bag. She untied the drawstring, spilling the contents into her palm. Ten red gemstones, perfectly cut, glinted in the morning light. The extraordinarily rare Painite was hidden in the bowels of the clock since 1862. Every single carat gem was worth at least $50,000.
“Now, what to do with my new fortune?” she murmured.
Author’s Note: Originally titled “The Secret of the Grandfather Clock,” I published this story first on Helium (no longer in existence) in 2010 or 2011. Beyond Prose, another now-defunct website, snagged it from Helium in 2013. I reworked this piece, changing not only the title but also a few of the details.