Selling a $400 Million Necklace
Reading Time: 7.3 minutes
Olivia was holidaying in the Caribbean when she received the urgent email.
She knew before booking that the main towns would have reasonable internet coverage, but everywhere else would be poor or diabolical. And, that’s how it was. She experienced everything from sporadic, to dropping out, to nothing at all. Still, it was a risk she was willing to take. The lush vegetation and the sparkling sea gave her the peace she sought on her vacations.
Unfortunately, the urgent email had sat in her inbox for over 24 hours by the time she slumped down onto a café’s chair and signed into their Wi-Fi. She read it in the sweltering heat.
She had to fly home to London immediately and help her wealthiest client sell her most prized possession.
There was no question about it. She had already booked a return flight before the coffee she had ordered sat steaming in front of her. Selling artefacts for rich collectors financed these tropical getaways. Not even paradise itself could prevent Olivia from taking the next opportunity when it arose. She was hunting.
The item she was commissioned to sell was easily the most famous piece she’d ever been involved with. The stunning ‘Necklace of Allura’ allowed any person wearing it to remain eternally young, but it also brought great misfortune to whoever owned it. It was said to have been found 5,000 years ago inside a cave on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. That was before the sea even had a name.
Olivia knew the necklace’s history well enough. She also knew that nobody really believed the story. Many had worn the necklace for a few minutes and seen no results, yet the rumours still added multiple zeros to the price whenever it changed hands.
The current owner however had a different outlook. She was a true one percenter: one of the wealthiest women in the world. She’d owned the Necklace of Allura for 15 years. Now, she was sure it was bringing her misfortune. And, she didn’t care that much about her looks.
More than that, now she was being sued for owning this extravagant piece of jewelry. Certain members of the Union for the Mediterranean were disputing that she should be allowed to keep it in her possession. It was all to do with cultural affiliation. Maybe she was in possession of an illegally excavated antique.
Some of these accusations were unique, and, the players were famous. So, the media pounced, publishing bold headlines like “Collectors are the real looters!”
The legal battle was murky at best. Who can lay claim to this piece of history? Should the necklace get shipped back to where it allegedly came from?
With all this attention, selling such a controversial object would require exquisite skills. But, Olivia was a legendary networker. She knew the most successful businesspeople alive, even an eccentric billionaire or two. She also had a secret weapon. Early on in her profession she’d met the family who owned MercurySays. They allowed her to use it while it was still a prototype. Her competitors had zero access to such a device. It catapulted her career into the stratosphere, helping close some of her biggest deals. These combined to give Olivia the most potent fuel of all, unwavering confidence against all odds.
Some, 24 hours after swilling down the coffee in the café, she was home in her Knightsbridge apartment, a little jet lagged, but already emailing people who could be interested in the controversial necklace. A tiny number of prospects would become leads. And, a couple of those would become customers. She was on a quest.
Olivia wanted to keep everything private, allowing a new owner to stay anonymous and away from the media’s gaze. That would certainly be more appealing than a public auction at Sotheby’s, at least for now. Anyway, she liked to catch her target silently.
It wasn’t long before Olivia’s inbox began filling up with replies. As an Apple Pie scented candle filled her apartment with a sweet, homely feel, one particular email caught her attention. It was an invitation from a wealthy gentleman named Peter to attend a party at his sprawling, elegant estate in Buckinghamshire. It was a little over an hour’s drive from Knightsbridge.
It was the perfect setting for an extravagant party filled with glamorous guests and socialites, all looking for the same thing: a summer afternoon full of champagne-fuelled gossip and networking.
Peter added a personal message in his invitation. He was interested in the necklace and wanted to talk face-to-face. Olivia confirmed her attendance immediately. No opportunity would be passed up.
As Olivia’s driver rolled down the broad gravel avenue leading to the house, she breathed slowly, luxuriating in the sheer beauty of the estate she viewed through her window.
With lush topiary displays, it was hard not to fall in love with the place. She fantasized about what it must have been like to be a member of the Victorian elite who had the wealth to create such a beautiful place. There were rose gardens bursting with colorful blooms on the left and the right. Olivia was entranced.
The driver drew the car to a crunching halt in the circular drive adjacent to the main door of the massive “country house.” Clearly, many guests had already arrived. There was a dream line up of British cars: Aston Martins, Bentleys, Jaguars, Rolls-Royces, and quite a few hyper-expensive imports … one of which had a mirror finish.
Olivia thanked the driver and stepped into the sunshine. A butler guided her across the ornate entrance hall through a reception room to an orangery that led out to a broad terrace overlooking an immaculate green lawn. From wide, white marquees drifted the gentle music of a jazz band and the happy chatter of 100 members of high society. The soil was soft under foot but Olivia knew better than to wear high heels to a garden event. Her flats were perfect.
She accepted a waiter’s offer of champagne and took her first sip of the afternoon on an empty stomach. She scanned the crowd for Peter.
With the sharp eyes of a hunter, Peter saw her before she saw him. He reached her after two brief conversations with guests who interrupted his progress.
Peter didn’t waste time with social niceties: “How much does she want?”
Olivia was not quite ready. In that moment’s delay, Peter cut in again. “The necklace.”
Olivia sipped her glass of champagne. “You can afford it.”
“Let’s talk at 4:30. Most of these will be gone by then. See you on the back terrace.”
The conversation with Peter took half an hour. It ranged over the necklace’s provenance, the legal challenges, and its alleged magical powers. Peter returned to the question of price but Olivia would not divulge. It was clear, there was a good chance Peter would make an offer.
He looked out over the back garden. There were still a few partygoers lingering in the falling light. He said: “Don’t waste this valuable time. There are still a few people you can network with.”
Olivia took a single breath. “Actually, I’m really interested in your gardens.”
“Well, feel free. We’ve worked hard to retain much of the late Victorian details. We’ve also got over 30 sculptures. When you are ready to explore, start over there. It will eventually lead you to the maze at the back of the estate. It took the landscapers years to accomplish. The hedge walls are diabolically tall, so it’s impossible to cheat. You’ll need your wits about you to find your way out. I wish you luck. Many have entered and never returned,” he joked. “If you’re lucky, you may come across my beautiful peacock during your stroll.”
Olivia did go back to the marquees and spent a few minutes chatting to people there, but she felt a little distracted, particularly after quaffing down her fourth glass of champagne. As she reached for another, she saw the first sculpture that Peter had pointed to.
Her body felt warm and calm. The gentle jazz band sounded better by the minute. The chance to wander the grounds in the twilight was simply too much to miss. And, there was the maze! She wanted to see that.
After following a winding gravel path for fifteen minutes, Olivia reached her destination. There was a tall iron gate at the maze’s entrance. It was partly open. But now the atmosphere shifted. The warm evening had turned cool with overlaying dark shadows and an eerie silence settling like a heavy blanket. There was no-one nearby. That didn’t concern Olivia who was fuelled by alcoholic courage which muted any sense of natural fear.
She pushed open the creaking gate and stepped inside.
After taking two left and one right turn walking into the maze, Olivia became disoriented. A few minutes later, she was utterly lost. The sky was darkening. The hedges leaned in on her. She found it hard to breathe. She scolded herself: “Some hunter!”
Ten minutes of confusion followed until she eventually sensed she was somewhere near the middle of the maze. But, she couldn’t stop. She turned one corner, then another, before she came upon it. Peter’s peacock. It was lying on the ground with a hunting bolt embedded in its heart.
Her first thought was “Peter will be horrified.” Then, her mind cleared in a moment of rising fear. “Who would do this? What if they were still nearby?”
She stood completely still. She listened intently for any type of sound. Her heart sank when she began to wonder if the culprit was inside the maze.
After what seemed like an eternity, Olivia finally took a breath and relaxed slightly. She spoke silently to herself: “Must retrace my footsteps back to the entrance. Get back to the house. Tell Peter.”
She turned 180 degrees and took two steps. There was a muffled crack. Something hissed past her head, barely missing. She felt a wind draft lift her hair. She wasn’t alone. She was being hunted.
Without a scream, Olivia darted blindly towards what she hoped was the entrance. Feeling more disoriented by the second, she turned right, left, left again, then right. She crashed into hedge walls every few steps, and cut her hands, grazed her arms, and stumbled over the uneven ground in her disintegrating flats.
Then she came to a dead end. She felt her way around the space but there was no secret door. There was no way out. But, then her hands found something different. It was hanging from a small branch in the hedge. It took her a moment to realize it was a carbon fiber crossbow with a note tucked under its string. It read “Whoever said winning isn’t everything has never played this game of silence. Good luck.”
Olivia grabbed the black crossbow. It was so light it almost floated. She scooped up the pile of crossbow bolts that were lying on the ground beneath it. Taking a deep breath, she knew, deep within her soul, that she was hunting and was being hunted. She stared down the flight groove. It was topped with a thermal imaging scope. Now it was night-time. But, through the sight, she silently scanned for a heat signature. Where was he? She slotted a bolt into the flight groove. Game on.
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