The spectacular diamonds and emeralds the painter had cut and used are to die for, and to think that Michelangelo fashioned and produced the fabulous, sparkling necklace privately for his widowed girlfriend, Italian noblewoman Vittoria Colonna, sends chills up and down spine. I can only imagine what the little artisan was thinking at 61 years old and Vittoria at 46 years old during the year 1536, but from what I'd read about the loving couple, all their inside friends knew about the scintillating affair between them.
When I arrived in Helsinki I had food poisoning from bad fish and yesterday my feet were tired from walking to the Norra Esplanaden sidewalk café in Helsinki. Michelangelo's necklace was inside the felt bag in my inner jacket pocket and I'd make sure it would stay there, even through any roughneck skirmish. Since the buyer is willing to pay a huge amount for the bling that doesn't mean he or she can touch or own it. Nobody can really own Michelangelo's necklace, much less dismantle it for the jewelry value. As it is the necklace is priceless and that makes it worth more than piecing it out.
The sidewalk was full and the woman who was sitting alone at the next table with her back to me turned around and glued onto my eyes. She stood, pulled out the chair on the other side of my small table and sat. Not pretty and not a wise thing to do sit at my table without an invitation.
Her black hijab covering her black hair and face didn't do her justice. Not good for a near-easterner like a woman from Afghanistan or Pakistan or even Iran to sit and stare at me, where her native country men brutalize their women and treat them secondary to the household dog. Yeah, that's what she was, an Iranian.
به خوبی خواهد بود .بیش از دست گردنبند و همه
"I'm sorry but I don't speak Persian," I said. But, I just won't hand over the necklace to you so all will be well."
"So you do speak Persian?" She asked in English.
"Sorry, I'd rather not speak it while I'm in Helsinki," I said.
Her black eyes were abysses, her skin a brown mixture of mud, her flared nose and bulbous lips were underneath the hijab. Her bare, well-manicured fingernails rested on top of my table, tapping as if I had all the time in the world.
"You're Irena Stanktar's second I presume," I said
"That's Ms. Irena Stanktar to you." Her tipped Russian accent had me believing she'd had a Russian education.
I sat not on the verge of a fresh kill but on the edge of determination not to sell the necklace to my enemy. She continued to tap her fingernails, which I assumed was a signal.
"To me," I said, "Irena Stanktar as of now is nothing."
Her head raised higher then her shoulders slumped. "She thought you'd be more accommodating with me since you killed her father and threatened to kill her."
"Her father had been trying to kill me for a few years, and I have you know that Iktar Stanktar killed his mother, Irena's mother. Your boos also threatened to kill me."
"He killed his wife," she said, "as you know because she had an affair with you. Iranian women shouldn't stray, and when they do their husbands punish them."
"Punish them or kill them?" I asked.
"Either way," she said. "My point here is not to argue over ethical issues but to make you an offer for the necklace."
"Look," I said, irritated by now. "The necklace is priceless and Iktar Stanktar tried to steal it from me. He sent his henchmen to kill me. He tried to kill me many times, with or without the necklace. Why would I want to sell the necklace to his daughter who also threatened to kill me?"
She didn't answer but continued to tap her fingernails on the metal table. She looked to her right then back again at me. Instinct told me on to take my eyes off her.
"The necklace belongs to us," she said.
"Michelangelo designed and crafted the jewelry," I said, and prepared to exit. "If the necklace belongs to any one entity, that would be his estate or the Italian Historical Society, not the Stanktar family."
"You've missed a piece of important history," she calmly said. "The necklace was sold to the Stanktar family in the late-eighteen hundreds, and then the Borghini family stole it from them a few years ago."
"Not according to Isabella Borghini," I said. "Her great grandmother was in possession of the necklace since the mid-eighteen hundreds."
Her eyes blinked haphazardly, her fingers stopped tapping. My back was against the restaurant wall and I needed an exit. She stood, turned and sat at her table with her back to me. The window behind me shattered. People screamed and jumped from their tables. Tight breezes zipped by my face. Bullets. My buyer stood and looked at me.
"Next time we meet you will bring the necklace and I will give you ten thousand U.S. currency."
I jumped up, grabbed the Iranian woman around the waist and neck, pulled her against me as a shield and started dragging her down the street. Her resistance was feudal. "There will not be a next time," I said. "Because you will be dead and your sharpshooters across the street will be dead. I will come after all of you and kill all of you, but before I do that, I'll kill your spouses and children and your parents. Nobody is safe."
Of course I was kidding but she didn't know my sense of humor.
"You are making pledges like Iktar Stanktar did," she yelled. "You cannot kill all of us."
"I can and I will."
I let her go when we were around the corner, shoved her against the brick wall, wrapped my right hand around her neck and pressed my left fist on her heart, the pressure daunting, making her exhale. If I were less moral I'd strip the hijab from around her face, but I didn't. There was desperation in her eyes and this was a desperate time.
"Never underestimate your enemy," I said. "I'm not your enemy and you don't want me as your enemy. Tell Irena Stanktar she'll never get the necklace even if she kills me."
She stayed silent and shook her head. I pushed her back around the corner toward the restaurant, and then hightailed it up the block. Good thing I wore my running Nike running shoes, and good thing one of those bullets didn't take off my right ear.