Pamela York Klainer
Perhaps it was the rich, heavy meal that Rose ordered on her date with Mr. Lew, the kind of food the cardiologist said she shouldn’t be eating any more after her heart attack. Perhaps it was the stress over the statue, Rose’s worry that she’d be caught and unmasked publicly as a thief. Perhaps her time had simply come.
When the landlady hadn’t seen Rose for more than a day she went up and knocked on Rose’s door. Mr. Lew was away, visiting his daughter. The landlady, with no one around to ask, knocked a few more times and then went downstairs and called the police.
Rose would have hated the ignominy of the black body bag, but you have to be breathing to go out on a stretcher.
Mr. Lew came home that night just before the supper hour, and seemed saddened to hear about Rose. He went to the diner, as had become his habit, but alone. Mr. Galyanos, seeing Mr. Lew all by himself, left his perch by the cash register, motioning for one of the girls to take over, and came alongside. “Join you?”
Mr. Galyanos had become Mr. Lew’s new client – a hopeful turn of events. Mr. Galyanos broached the possibility, and without Mrs. Lew’s suffering taking all of his energy Mr. Lew found himself drawn to his old profession. Mr. Lew would be doing the books and filing tax returns for the small business and for Mr. Galyanos personally. He thought the Greek was coming to talk about that.
“She took it, you know, the statue,” said Mr. Galyanos without preamble. “One of my girls saw her grab it on the way in. I was out back trying to fix a messed-up delivery. I’ve trained my girls not to fight with the customers. If there’s a problem I want them to bring it to me and let me handle it. By the time I came back in, the old lady had finished her dinner and was gone.”
Mr. Lew hadn’t known.
“I thought for a long time about what to do, and then she didn’t come in again for a long time until the other day when she had dinner with you. I did what I always do when something bad comes up: I asked my grandmother for advice. She practically raised me. My parents were always here, day and night, running the diner. My grandmother has been dead for a long time, but I can still hear her voice. She hated stealing, and would have handed my head to me as a kid if I’d ever been caught robbing candy or comic books from the convenience store. And those statues were precious to her. They were precious to me. But my grandmother was a kind woman. She would have said, “Giorgios, it’s a statue. The lady is old, and lonely, and has hard times. You can see it in her face. Leave it alone. Let her be.”
“I didn’t know if she took my statue to keep or to sell. I actually went to the pawn shop to ask. The lying bastard told me he didn’t have it, but I think he did. Don’t ever take him as a client, Freddie. He’d cheat you blind.”
The white sign asking for the return of the missing statue was gone, and the remaining figures were enclosed in a new glass case, securely locked. Mr. Galyanos was a kind man, but not a fool.
The missing statue was gone forever, having moved quickly from the gritty pawn shop into the subterranean world of stolen art. At each waystation money was exchanged, until the statue wound up in a secure private collection. The new owner paid the enormous final purchase price without a second thought.
Rose never did get her visit to the casino. Her daughters came to arrange the funeral, and were furious that the landlady wanted the room cleaned out by the first of the month, only a few days away.
Rose’s funeral was small, just her daughters and a few of their cousins. The priest didn’t know Rose, but he did his best to say something reassuring about her being with God.
Once Mr. Lew accepted Mr. Galyanos as a client, word got around. A few of his old clients called to ask if there was any chance he’d take them back now that his wife had died. With the hope of reviving his accounting practice, Mr. Lew was able to rent a small apartment in town, not far from the diner but on a better street than the rooming house.
The landlady was bereft to lose both Rose and Mr. Lew in short order, as it left her with only transients.
Grace graduated from beauty school. One of her friends worked at a high end salon in the city, and told Grace they had an opening if she wanted to come. The rates were much higher than Grace was used to getting, and she could live with the friend to share rent. Grace dreamed of having her own salon, and this would be a good start. She could earn much more than going full time in any local place. Without a second thought Grace packed up her things, got on the bus, and went.