It was only a matter of minutes. We had a short break, so I laid it across a couple of chairs while I went to the men’s room. When I got back, it was gone.
It’s too big to put under a coat or something like that. And everyone was around, so how did it disappear without anyone noticing?
And what would they do with it? They’re all unique, so everyone would know it was mine. It couldn’t be sold or used or pawned.
Only one company made them on that level. It didn’t need a serial number for it to have a pedigree or a provenance. The rings alone would give it away.
I made a report to the police and my insurance company. And I made some calls to put out the word.
I waited two days without anything happening.
On the third day, at exactly midnight, the phone rang.
“If you want it back, leave $1,000 in a brown paper bag in the trash can on the corner of 64th and Broadway at exactly noon on Tuesday. Keep walking and don’t look back or you won’t get it back.”
The voice hung up.
It was like a scene out of an old “B” movie. And a bad one at that.
I had no choice.
The phone rang again.
“Do what I say, then go home and it will be there.”
The voice was gone.
One Tuesday at exactly noon, I walked past the trash can on the corner of 64th and Broadway and dropped in what looked like a used lunch bag that a kid had taken to school. I kept walking without looking back as instructed.
I kept walking until I got to my apartment on 86th and West End Avenue.
And there, standing and leaning against my apartment door, 4 ½ feet tall was my bassoon.