On a rainy Wednesday in the darkened museum, a lithe Panther crept on his fingers and the toes of his black Reeboks across the marble floor. Adept at stealth, he contorted his body thru the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin’s neon security grid, soon reaching his prey: the late Princess Diana’s engagement ring. Even in the dim security beams, the sapphire and diamond sparkle taunted him. In an instant, 2:59 a.m., to be exact, his black-gloved hand gobbled up the prey. The black-clad Panther retreated; totally unaware an earlier event had occurred.
Günter had not one ounce of stealth. Rather, he specialized in computerized security systems; most notably, the latest two million dollar, break-in proof, circuitry grid. He didn’t install the equipment, only built them. But he’d buried an extra component, the size of a dust mite, in select systems. This one had worked perfectly.
Wearing a blue uniform, he’d strolled, nonchalantly, through the museum. The photo on his gold security badge revealed a paunchy 62-year-old with silver hair and wrinkles. After the museum closed Tuesday evening, Günter had screened his assigned rooms just as he had every night for the previous month. At 12:55 a.m. Wednesday morning, he’d activated the component, captured his prey, and punched out his timecard. He’d escaped; totally unaware of the redundant system and its camera, which had recorded him switching out the prized ring.
Nine days earlier, the Panther had kissed his wife and twin baby girls good-bye. “I’ll only be gone ten days, Dorothy, I promise,” he’d said, trying to comfort his young wife as exhausted tears fell from her dark-circled eyes. Glancing at his two precious miniatures, he’d added, “And this business trip should pay off the last of their hospital bills.”
He’d had to go… this one last time. Then, the family would never want for anything again. His earlier takes were a pittance compared to this caper’s pay.
Convincing the Royal family to allow Princess Diana’s ring to go on display had taken advisors the better part of nine years. However, with fresh rumors of a murder conspiracy, Queen Elizabeth had given her permission for a limited five-city tour under the watchful eyes of Royal Security Detail, first division. The jewel would be on limited exhibit from Tuesday, March 31, until Friday, April 4, or so it was advertised.
John Günter, his brown hair sporting a military cut and his face cleanly shaved, picked up his bags from the back seat of the stretch limousine. His ripped stomach felt full and contented, though he’d missed supper. He’d feasted on the hunt. The ring, carrying an unexpected surprise, hid in the open. It nestled in a red-velvet jewelry box; a replica gift for his imaginary wife. Günter marched onto the gateway of Lufthansa 2230, departing Munich at 4:55 a.m. on April 1.
On his previous purloining escapade, the Panther had barely escaped capture. He’d jumped three floors from a roof onto a hotel canopy, resulting in a fractured heel. He’d told Dorothy he had slipped on a wet stairway. His earnings had barely covered the babies’ last surgery and his orthopedist’s bill.
Günter, however, had enjoyed unimpeded success. Not once, yet, had he been close to the teeth of the law. As the wealthy curator of the Geneva’s Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, he enjoyed access to buyers’ agents from around the world.
The Panther zipped the treasure in his ankle pocket, worked back through the maze, up the heating duct, and escaped from the museum’s ancient condenser. His ebony body melted into the shadows, covering his flight. And soon, a young businessman, clad in a gray, three-piece suit and wire-framed glasses, emerged from a Fiat and walked into the airport. Carrying an overnight bag, the Panther handed his ticket to the stewardess, found his seat and settled in for a nine-hour flight to Cancun. After a quick stop on the island, he’d fly back home to Kansas. The jet departed the gates at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1.
Neither predator specialized in intelligence. Both were unaware the genuine Princess Diana engagement ring would arrive on Thursday, April 2, under the watchful eyes of Royal Security Detail, squad five.
While the Panther would face humiliation when he presented Günter’s $2,000 forgery to his buyer, the young thief would escape unscathed, but for the career-ending tarnish on his reputation.
Gunter, however, would find a welcoming party in Geneva, thanks to the surprise hidden in the royal decoy ring – the tracking device disguised as a diamond.
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