The Case of the Missing Diamond

She survived the accident, but a family heirloom was lost. Or was it?

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The Case of the Missing Diamond

“Stop the car!” Deb King said to her husband, Jim, that Thursday afternoon. She didn’t mean to shout, but it came out that way so she squeezed Jim’s arm to reassure him.

“Honey, I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have gone this way. I should have taken a different route.”

“No, it’s okay, Jim. Just stop the car. Now. Please. It’s important.”

Jim pressed down on the brake and pulled the car over to the shoulder of the interstate. It was the exact spot where he and Deb had had the accident.

Jim is a pastor, but he likes to cultivate a bit of a wild side, which includes taking a joyride on his motorcycle every Thursday, his day off. That’s what he and Deb were doing a month earlier when near-tragedy struck.

They had just entered the interstate, on their way to Freeport, Maine, for lunch at a romantic seaside restaurant. Jim is a good driver. He gunned the bike carefully, merging onto the highway. Deb could see the speedometer over his shoulder, her arms wrapped around Jim’s waist: 40 miles per hour, 45, 50, 55...

She tightened her grip on her husband. She loved being this close to him, loved the rushing wind, the sensation of speed, the roaring engine as it shifted gears. They hit a part of the highway that was being resurfaced. The right lane was grooved and rough, the left freshly paved.

Jim wanted to get out of the right lane. He edged the bike off the rough surface. The front tire made it onto the smoother lane easily but the rear tire hit a groove. The bike wobbled then skidded. Jim desperately tried to maintain control.

All at once Deb went flying. She hit the pavement, bounced hard on her side once, twice, then rolled toward the median. She thought she would never stop rolling. Finally she came to a stop in the tall grass. She knew at once she was hurt. Only her helmet had saved her life.

Jim pulled the bike over and came running, desperately shouting his wife’s name and pulling out his cell phone.

In minutes, EMS arrived. They strapped Deb to a hard board and loaded her into the ambulance. By now it was clear that her injuries were not life-threatening. But she had noticed something else: her wedding ring. She held out her left hand toward Jim. The platinum setting was there, but the sparkle was gone.

“Jim, the diamond!” she gasped.

“It doesn’t matter, Honey,” Jim said. “As long as you’re okay.”

“It does matter!” Deb cried. “You have to find it. I’ll be fine.”

The ambulance roared off and Jim was left to an impossible task—finding a diamond in a sea of grass and weeds. Even at two-and-a-half carats, it would be harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Of course Jim could never have afforded such a diamond on his pastor’s salary. The stone was a family heirloom and had been passed to Jim to give to Deb when he proposed.

Deb had nearly swooned when she saw it, not just because of its value and the way it sparkled so brilliantly, but more for what it symbolized: the depth of their commitment and her acceptance into Jim’s family.

Jim did not spend much time looking, despite what he promised his wife. He was too anxious to be with her at the hospital. Deb gave him a hopeful look when he arrived. Jim just shook his head.

Deb was pretty banged up—broken ribs, fractured shoulder blade, numerous contusions. She’d be okay, though, and what seemed to pain her most was the lost diamond.

“Oh, Jim...” she sobbed that night.

“The insurance should take care of it,” he said.

“It’s not that,” Deb said. “It’s what it stood for. It goes all the way back to your great-great-aunt.”

Jim sent out an e-mail to his congregation updating them on Deb’s condition, thanking them for their continued prayers and asking for volunteers to join him at the accident scene the next day to look for the precious stone.

More than 20 people turned out. Even passersby stopped to help. They came up empty. They went back at night with powerful flashlights, on the theory that the diamond’s sparkle would stand out in the dark. Again, no luck.

Finally several men from the church loaded a portable generator and several industrial vacuum cleaners into a pickup and vacuumed the entire site. They dumped the debris into the bed of the pickup and sifted through it with a fine mesh screen. Nothing except bottle caps and candy wrappers turned up.

“I’m sorry, Hon,” Jim told Deb. “I think the diamond is gone forever.”

A gloomy acceptance settled over Deb. God had spared her life. She needed to be thankful for that and move on.

Now, four weeks later, they were back at the accident site. Jim had wanted to drive up to Maine for that romantic seaside lunch they never got to have. He never dreamed Deb, still hobbled by her injuries, would want to stop and look for the diamond herself. He thought it would only add to her sense of loss.

But minutes before, Deb had been on the phone with her sister. She encouraged Deb to look one more time. “Look for something sparkling,” she had told her.

Of course, something sparkling. That was obvious. That’s what everyone had been looking for. Now, though, that word stayed at the forefront of Deb’s mind. Maybe she would see a sparkle where others had not.

Jim heaved a sigh. “All right,” he said, turning off the ignition. “We’ll give it five minutes.”

Deb walked 20 feet into the median and at once understood the impossibility of the task. So much dirt and wind-swept grass. The diamond could have flown anywhere across a large swath of land. Who’s to say it even ended up in the median? Deb thought despairingly.

She recalled her sister’s word: sparkling.

Yet nothing sparkled in this desolation. She was headed back to the car when she noticed an old crushed soda can. Trash. But she saw something that made her take a closer look.

She bent over, ignoring the pain in her ribs. Eyes wide, she carefully lifted the can. And there it was, buried in the dirt, the beloved diamond from her wedding ring. She shouted with joy.

Jim came running. “How did you ever...” he started to ask. Deb held the old soda can up for him to see. One word stood out on its dirt-encrusted label: Sparkling.

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