By 3am I was regretting the decision to become a solicitor at the firm I’d chosen, though I suspected the regret would last only as long as it took me to get a good night’s sleep and check my bank balance.
The estate of Mr Plunket, late of Shoreditch, was a peculiar one. There was no filing system that I could discern, and along with the business paperwork there were personal letters and diaries spanning many years and all, according to the will, to be read by his executor. Sadly the will had not in fact specified a family member, and instead it had fallen to me. Having met Mr Plunket’s family, this didn’t exactly surprise me- they had appeared mournful only as long as it had taken for us to establish that the inheritance wouldn’t come to them immediately, and then the tears had dried up. Mr Plunket’s parish priest had told me that the “funeral” had been attended by, at most, half of those who had crowded into my office shortly after, eschewing the wake and making it very clear that they expected me to untangle everything sooner rather than later. I couldn’t blame them, really, for not going to the funeral. If I had known, as they did, that the coffin had no body inside it, I would have felt strange choosing that moment to say goodbye. And yet…something about them resembled nothing so much as birds circling a dying animal, waiting for the best chance to pick at the carcass.
That they were grasping at the money, with the experience I had in dealing with estates, was similarly unsurprising, since Mr Plunket had been a gem merchant of no small reputation and fortune. He was famous for being able to tell more rapidly than any other dealer the quality of a stone. There was a sheaf of newspaper clippings about his work.
It was the diaries, though, that were keeping me up at night. He had kept them faithfully from a young age. There was his youth, his time at Oxford, his apprenticeship in the gem trade. And then came the obsession. Somehow, and I wasn’t sure how it had happened, he had become obsessed with a particular shipment. He had accepted only half the stones offered. Then, somehow, he had become obsessed with the idea that one of the ones he rejected was the most valuable of them. There was, he said repeatedly, something special about one of them. It wasn’t to do with any of the usual value judgements- and as a young trader no longer working for himself he had not felt able to buy it, despite his sense that it was worth something more. He had- and I knew this also from the business papers- spent years hunting down each of the remaining stones, researching their history. A scrapbook detailed the history of the mine they had come from, the strange accidents, the mysterious disappearances around particular cycles of the moon. “I have to find it,” he said, again and again, “I have to put it back where it belongs.”
He had disappeared a few days later, ostensibly on a buying trip in Australia. From the diaries, I had a feeling that what he was hoping to buy was very specific. Sitting in my darkened home office, deprived of sleep, I sighed with relief as I reached the final entry, and saw why he had requested his executor to read what I had spent so many hours reading. The final entry was also a replacement will. He left everything he owned to the one who could finish what he started.
I had to try. Don’t you see? I had to. Whoever finds this, if I don’t come back, the paperwork he left is with what I have pieced together, in the lockbox in my study. Please, if you can, perhaps you can succeed where I failed. If you’ve understood my diaries up to this point, you have to try. It’s getting too close to the hunter’s moon and I don’t want to think about what will happen to me if we fail.