Rhia hefted a bauble in her hand, enjoying its cool weight, then held it up to the light to appreciate the scintillating jewels embedded in it. She wondered vaguely how old it was.
“Come here,” Joe whispered, beckoning her with one hand. “I found a good one.”
Joining him, they marveled at his find. It was the biggest diamond either of them had ever seen, as round as a quarter, with its own display case and sign.
“Legend says that the Morgan Diamond is cursed,” Rhia read aloud.
“Well,” Joe said. “We’re cursed already. What’s one more?”
She smiled darkly and helped him break it out of the case.
Three months passed. They had sold almost everything, but the Morgan Diamond was too easily recognizable. It had gone into the safe at their new private beach house, waiting for the perfect laundering opportunity.
“We have got to get that thing off of our hands,” Rhia said over a late dinner.
Joe grunted acknowledgement, irritated.
“I’m serious, Joe. I saw a man at the market today, I thought he might be a detective watching me.”
“You see detectives everywhere. How can you be so sure?”
He had been far away and she was nearsighted, so she wasn’t able to get a good look. He was the same medium build as Joe, but paler, more angular. She’d decided he was a detective because of his small round sunglasses and a long beige coat. More than anything though, it was the way he had been watching her, a burning stare that had easily crossed the distance between them. She’d never seen anyone as terrifying as that man.
“I can’t be sure exactly, but I’m not willing to stake a prison sentence on it. I don’t even care if we sell it or not at this point. It’s evidence and we’ve got to get rid of it.”
“You want me to throw away a ten million dollar diamond, are you crazy? We just have to wait for the right buyer, one we can trust. You have got to relax.”
He wasn’t listening to her again. Frustrated by her inability to articulate her fears, Rhia threw down her napkin and got up. “I’m going for a walk.”
“Goddamn,” Joe said to her back as she left. “What is wrong with you tonight?”
She went down to the edge of the black water and watched the waves carry their white crests to shore. The sound didn’t wash away her thoughts like it usually did. So she meandered absentmindedly along the shoreline, her mind tense. Raising her eyes and looking ahead to the horizon, her gut lurched.
There he was again.
She froze. As a woman, her best course of action was to run. As a thief, running would make her look guilty.
Ultimately, her curiosity and her ego got the better of her. She could always rely on her quick lies and dirty fighting to get her through any sticky situation. If he had proof against them, he wouldn’t have to stake them out like this. She walked toward him.
The closer she drew, the more details became apparent. He stood knee deep in the surf, looking out across the ocean, heedless of his wet clothes. Was he wearing sunglasses even now, in the dark?
No. Those weren’t sunglasses. Her mind just hadn’t been able to comprehend it before.
He had no eyes.
What she had taken for a beige coat was actually a tattered, sodden bathrobe. It looked as if its color and thickness had been thinned by relentless saltwater.
She knew with sick certainty that he was dead.
Stopping where she was, she slowly, quietly backed away.
The man watched the surf. He never moved, never acknowledged her presence. When she got far enough away, she turned and ran back to the house. Panting and shaking, she burst through the door. Joe. She needed Joe.
But Joe wasn’t home. They’d just had a fight. He probably went out to sulk at a bar somewhere.
She climbed the stairs and looked out the window toward the beach. The specter’s pale figure was still there, still watching the horizon. He hadn’t disappeared. It wasn’t her imagination.
Rhia took some deep breaths and tried to calm herself down. People. She would be safe with people. Then she remembered that she’d first seen him at the market, mixed with people. Everyone had unconsciously walked around him. People wouldn’t make any difference; she was the only one who could see him.
Ghosts always want something, right? He was scary, but maybe he wasn’t evil. What could he want?
As if in answer, her searching gaze landed on the Morgan Diamond. It shone black in the darkness. Cursed. How she and Joe had laughed.
She picked it up, turned it over in her hands. It felt cold, heavy… cruel. Could the apparition be a previous owner? What did he want her to do?
He had been looking at the ocean.
Inspiration struck her, and she knew what was necessary. Curling her fingers around the diamond, she took it down to the beach. He was still there, standing in the surf, just within her sight. Always within her sight.
Wading out into the ocean, knee deep as he had been, she lifted the diamond in her hand and gave it one last longing look. It was such a beautiful and rare thing, their trophy for that evening, one of the last times she and Joe had been really happy together, poor and hungry for the thrill of the heist.
A strong wave tugged at her knee, pulling her off balance and back into reality. She sighed. It wasn’t worth her life, or her soul, or a lifetime of hauntings. Gripping it firmly, she threw it as hard as she could out into the surf. For such a troubling thing, it made a very small splash.
Rhia studied the figure of the ghost, but nothing about him changed. He remained still. He watched the water.
It had been the wrong thing to do. She had projected her own desires onto the haunting, and thrown away a fortune for nothing. Dejected, she listened to the waves for wisdom, but they held no comfort. Joe would never forgive her for this; she would never be able to explain it to his satisfaction.
As she started to turn back, the water surged and pushed her feet out from under her. She fell backwards into the cold surf. The undertow pulled her down, down. She fought against it, but which way was up? Black water rushed against her ears. It was taking her. She couldn’t breathe. Everything was so dark. Her lungs spasmed painfully against the frigid salt water.
The last thing she saw through the darkness was a white face with hollow eyes, watching her sadly.
Joe came home, still very drunk. He had spilled tequila on his clothes, so he changed into his robe. Rhia wasn’t here. Was she still angry? That wasn’t like her. Every time they had a fight, she was always here when he came home, ready to accept his apology.
Something was wrong. She should be here. Something was very, very wrong.
She had last said she was going to the beach.
He stumbled down the stairs and out of the house. The stars lit his way.
“Rhia!” He called. “Rhia! Are you out here?”
A black heap on the beach ahead. Driftwood? Worse?
He broke into a run. It was the right size and shape. It was Rhia.
She was cold. She had drowned and washed ashore.
Something glittered in the sand next to her. He picked it out. The Morgan Diamond. A cursed jewel. The one he had stolen to impress her.
This was his fault. He hadn’t been here. He’d gone out drinking like an ass. He only ever thought of himself and this was the result. She couldn’t be dead. He should have been here, should have been here. His partner in crime, he was always prepared for them to go down together. How could he face this world of enemies with no Rhia to stand by his side?
He had to change it. But what could he do now? He had come looking for her too late. She was so precious; he should have stayed near her.
He would join her. He deserved worse. He would join her in the ocean.
Sobbing, he waded out to the water in his beige robe, as deep as he could, diamond in hand, and made a pact with it. Let the same curse take him. Let the water take him, too. Let the sand fill his throat. Let the crabs eat his eyes. If only he could go back, to be there with her. He could warn her about the diamond, about the water. If only he could have been with her. Let him have this day again. Just to be near her. He would give anything.