Dmitri Maksimilian turned the oblong teak box end over end in his hands. No markings hinted at the box’s age, but Dmitri knew that it was centuries old; it had to be. Searching still, his manicured fingernail found a groove at the edge and he cracked the lid. A tiny slip of dust wafted out of the seam.
Simply put, Dmitri held a puzzle in his hands. It was an antique; many times his own age and possessed of some magic, if the stories held true. One could see their future in the completed puzzle, he had been told. His buyer, a historian of sorts, had delivered it only an hour before and given him a tiny warning.
“It is said that this puzzle brings fulfillment of desire to the pure and impure, each in his or her own way.”
It was a warning that made no sense, probably invented by the seller to bring a higher price. Antique dealers were notorious for embellishing their goods to pad their pockets.
Carefully, and almost reverentially, Dmitri lifted each individual piece from the box and placed it on the desk. Embellished or not, the box had cost him quite a pretty penny and he was not about to risk breaking it. Unlike a modern puzzle, the pieces were not knobby, eight-sided bits of cardboard but perfectly cut tiles of onyx.
Each and every tile was solid black. His seller had told him that the puzzle was unique and mystical, but he had not expected this. How was he to assemble the puzzle?
Then, almost as if in response to his dissatisfaction, one of the tiles turned over of its own accord, revealing a quarter of a white circle on a field of red. Dmitri flipped another tile; it too was colored.
“Magic, indeed!” He said, surprised.
In a few minutes, Dmitri had overturned each and every tile in the box. There were red tiles and white, shapes and shades of every kind.
“Mr. Maksimilian?” Called his receptionist over the intercom.
“You have a visitor.”
“Is it family?”
“Then they can come back later. I’m busy at the moment.”
Dmitri turned his wolfish attention back to the scattered tiles. What could this be? He wondered. What did he truly desire in life?
Out of the corner of his eye, Dmitri caught sight of what appeared to be the headlight of a car. Yes, a car would be very nice.
Dmitri slid a few tiles to the left and a few to the right. One pushed another out of its way, fighting for a place on the desk. Black tiles were turned over.
Slowly, Dmitri’s car emerged. It was a Bentley; a very nice car. So nice, in fact, that Dmitri already owned two. They had been purchased with a small horde of dirty money, earned by running scams with several prominent families in New York area.
But one more would always be welcome.
The last tile, a corner piece, was slid into place and the picture was whole. Dmitri sighed. Today would be a good day!
His curiosity satisfied, Dmitri stood from his desk and stepped towards the window. Far below, a car pulled up to the complex’s entrance.
Not just any car.
Dmitri left his office in a hurry, his eyes darting to and fro. A short ride in an elevator brought him to the first floor lobby. Just outside the revolving door sat the Bentley; his dream.
In seconds, Dmitri was at the door greedily reaching for the car. His car.
As he neared the door, it opened and out stepped a finely dressed man. Dmitri smiled as his fingers telescoped for the handle. It was his car after all. The puzzle had said so.
A loud bang echoed off the complex’s glass doors. In the man’s hand was a smoking pistol. He pressed his finger to his ear, opening up a line of communication through a tiny walkie-talkie.
“It’s finished,” He said. “No. No problems. He just came running out. Yes, just like that. I didn’t even have to go inside.”
He slid back behind the wheel and sped off.
Dmitri died, his greed had carried him to the bullet which bore his name.
In the office upstairs, Dmitri’s receptionist stepped up to the desk. On it was a mess of black tiles. What is this? She wondered, flipping one over.
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