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The Eagle Chronicles 8: The Diamond Frame

Title: 8. The Diamond Frame
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 1096
Summary Steven does a favor for a friend
Author's NoteAnother quick one. Enjoy!

8. The Diamond Frame

May 1941

"We the jury find you, John Stapleton, guilty of murder in the third-degree." The courtroom was quiet as the foreman sat down.

The judge placed the black cloth on his head. "John Stapleton, you have been found guilty by the jury. What have you to say?" The defendant said nothing. "You will be taken to prison and, in a week, from thence to a place of execution where you will be hanged until dead." He banged his gavel and the bailiffs took the prisoner away.

Steven Taylor went outside the Old Bailey and lit a cigarette. He watched as they drove Stapleton to jail. "Poor guy."

Two lawyers stood on the steps. "I swear I've never heard the Bailey so quiet."

"I know. They never found the diamond either. That's the real mystery."

The diamond in question had been stolen from the National Gallery three days before the murder. All leads pointed towards Stapleton. The police found him directly after he had killed a courier. He didn't try to deny the fact that he killed him either. "He was trying to cheat me," he declared.

During the trial, a story of a stranger came out. Stapleton got drunk after stealing the diamond and, in a pub, a strange man came up to him and began to ask questions. Stapleton admitted he might have told the man about the diamond.

The next day, the courier was to meet him so he checked the diamond. When he took the case from its hiding place, he found the diamond missing. The courier refused to give him the money as there was no diamond. Stapleton was carried away on a wave of anger. It had taken him days of planning to steal that gem! "It was swiped from me, but I don't know how!"

"Possibly the man at the pub..." prompted the lawyer.

"It must've been 'im!"

"Do you remember what he looked like?"

"The lightin' was dim and me mind wasn't very clear, but I'll try. 'E was young, maybe early 20s, dark 'air, blue eyes, and tan. 'E spoke diff'rently, too. Some words didn't sound English."

"American?" Stapleton nodded. "Milord, if the accused's description is accurate, I believe the American jewel thief, the Eagle, is in England."

"What makes you say that, sir?"

"It is his style, sometimes, to let someone steal from a museum or what have you, and then steal from the thief. Mr. Stapleton, to your knowledge, had you ever seen the man in the pub before?"

"Yeah, a few times. Why don't you go after this Eagle fella t' get the diamond back?"

"By now he's out of the country. No more questions, milord."

The Royal Prosecutor stood. "I'd like to call as a witness, the arresting constable." The officer was sworn in. "Now, Constable Gregson, when you arrived at the defendant's flat, what were the circumstances?"

"When my partner and I arrived, we first knocked on the door. When we received no answer, we opened the door and went in. We first saw the defendant with his hands around the dead man's neck. He said, 'He was trying to cheat me out of my money!' When we pressed him further, he seemed to realize what happened. He gave in and admitted to stealing the diamond from the Gallery, but said he didn't have it anymore; it had been stolen from him."

"That is all the questions for the prosecution. Your witness."

The defense walked over to the stand. "Now, constable, how did you find out about this murder?"

"Sir, we received an anonymous tip that the defendant had in his possession the diamond in question. We then acted on the information and found the defendant in the aforesaid position."

"So you arrested him on a charge different from the one on which you proceeded to his home?"

"We had a warrant, we legally entered his flat, and found him in an illegal act, and therefore arrested him."

"No more questions, M'lord."

"Members of the jury, you have heard the case before you. You must judge on the evidence presented to you as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant."

The jury filed out. They were gone for an hour. "We, the jury, find you, John Stapleton, guilty of murder in the third degree."

Steven watched as they drove him away. He had been asked to frame the "poor guy" by a friend whose father had died at Stapleton's hands. It didn't matter how Steven accomplished it, as long as Stapleton got what he deserved. Steven had done research on Stapleton and found that he frequented a certain pub. Steven began to go there nightly until the diamond was stolen. That night he got Stapleton drunk enough to loosen his tongue and tell him where the diamond was. It was easy after that. Steven knew that if driven hard enough, Stapleton would kill. He could still feel those steel hands around his neck. He had faked his death so many times before, so it was easy to do so for a few seconds.

During the trial, he sat diagonally behind Stapleton, watching his every move and knowing his every feeling. When the sentence was passed, Steven could see no true change in his emotions until it finally dawned on him that he was going to die.

Steven walked down the street to his car and drove back to his hotel. Up in his room, he dialed a number on his phone. "Hello, Scott."

"Steven? I heard what happened and I like to thank you for what you've done. How did you manage it?"

"When you hired me, you said I didn't have to tell you."

"Okay. I just want to thank you again for doing what you did for me--and my dad."

"No problem at all. Good-bye." Steven hung up the receiver and walked towards the bureau. He opened the bottom drawer, dug under his clothes, and pulled out a small cloth bag. With the bag in hand, he walked to the door and locked it. He returned to the bed and laid the contents of the bag onto the bed. Lying there, reflecting the light from the window, was the diamond that had caused Stapleton's death. He picked it up and held it to the light. It was one of the most beautiful jewels he had ever seen, and that was speaking as an expert. He then placed it back in the bag and put it in the drawer to await "export" to the States.


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