PRINCE ALI – WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Calvin crawled out of bed Sunday morning at seven. He fiddled around in the kitchen, brewing up a pot of coffee. He poured himself a cup and walked out on the porch when the coffee was done. He liked having his first cup of coffee outside.
He leaned on the porch rail for a while, looking out over the hills that surrounded the cabin. The morning light was soft on the green of the grasses and the bright colors of the wildflowers in bloom. It was quiet. He could hear the birds as they started their day. A slight breeze stirred the leaves in the trees around the cabin. After a while, he backed up and sat down in his chair.
As he sat down, he felt the pouch he’d stuffed into his jeans pocket the day before. He almost forgot about that. He pulled it out. The leather pouch made a small lump in his hand but was surprisingly heavy for its size. He wondered what the value of the gold flakes inside really was.
He and Danny went through eighty dollars of the two hundred Nixon paid them for the horse, so they didn’t have much left for anything. After all the hard work and the risk, he was depressed. He’d seen sketches of them on TV. He was anxious. He knew the police were looking for them. He’d have to figure this out.
Danny joined him with his coffee a few minutes later. “What’re we goin’ to do now?” he asked.
“I thought I’d take the gold to that coin shop in Escondido in the morning,” Calvin answered. “I know they buy gold. Maybe they can tell us what this stuff is worth.”
“Well, we can’t eat it like it is.”
Bill’s Coin Shop opened Monday morning precisely at nine a.m. Through the windshield of their truck, Calvin and Danny saw a hand turning the sign from “Closed” to “Open.” They’d been waiting nearly an hour. They sipped convenience store coffee with stale donuts to kill time.
They climbed out of the truck and walked into the shop, looking at the displays of coins in the showcases.
“May I help you?” asked the young lady behind the counter.
“Yeah, we got some gold we’d like to sell,” Calvin answered, pulling the leather pouch out of the pocket of his jeans and placing it on the counter.
“Let’s see what you have,” she said as she reached for the pouch. She untied the leather thong, opened the bag, and poured a small amount of the contents into a small round tray she’d brought to the counter. The tiny flakes shined golden in the light.
“I’d better go get Bill. He’s the expert on this stuff,” she said after examining the contents of the tray. She turned and walked through a doorway into the back of the shop while Calvin and Danny waited anxiously.
The young lady returned a few minutes later, followed by a spectacled older gentleman with thinning white hair.
“Fellas, what can I do for you?” he asked pleasantly when he reached the counter.
“We did a job for a guy, and he was short o’ cash, so he finished payin’ us off with this gold. We have bills to pay, so we need the cash. Can you tell us what this stuff is worth, and will you buy it from us?” Calvin answered.
Danny was busy looking at the coins in the display cases across the store from the counter.
“Well, let’s take this one step at a time,” answered the old man. “First, we need to weigh it and see how much is there. Gold, you know, is sold by weight and then by purity. Do you know if this was assayed?” he asked. “That tells us how pure it is.”
“The guy said he’d found it prospectin’ and hadn’t got it…what you called it? … Assayed? … yet.”
“Okay, let’s see how much you have here,” the old gentleman said as he poured the remainder from the pouch into the little tray. He took the tray over to a digital scale and weighed it. He was surprised at how much it weighed. He looked carefully at the tiny flakes in the tray, spreading them around with a small metal probe. He didn’t find rock dust or gravel in the tray. It was surprisingly clean.
He turned and brought the tray back to the counter. “How much did this guy owe you anyway?” he asked.
“Coupla hundred bucks,” Calvin said. “Why? Is there that much gold there?”
“What you have here is over two ounces. At today’s gold price, if it’s real gold, and depending on how pure it is, that could be several thousand dollars worth.”
Calvin’ heart jumped in his chest. “Several thousand dollars!!?”
Danny heard that from across the room and hurried back to the counter to join Calvin.
“Well, before you get too excited, let me test it to be sure it is real gold,” the old man said. “By the way, I’m Bill, the owner of this shop. I’ve been in the precious metal business for over fifty years now. This is just a simple test I’ll do, but it involves some pretty nasty chemicals and a tiny bit of your gold. It won’t hurt it if it’s real gold.”
He pulled on a pair of disposable gloves from under the counter and grabbed a bottle of liquid. He bent over for a better view of the shelf below the counter and located a small glass Petri dish. Then he found a pair of tweezers. He plucked a small sample of the gold from the tray and placed it carefully in the Petri dish. He unscrewed the cap from the bottle of liquid and squeezed out a single drop onto the sample. Nothing happened. He turned the sample over and looked at the bottom side. He noted a very slight discoloration there.
“Well, it’s real gold.” He announced. “And this little sample looks to be fairly pure.”
“Exactly what does that mean for us?” asked Calvin.
“Gold is generally mixed with other minerals or metals when you find it. The only way to get pure gold is to refine it. That requires specialized equipment and someone that knows how to use it. But that’s how raw gold is sold, as I said, by weight and by purity.”
“When I get raw gold, I usually send it to a refinery that has an assayer. The assayer tests it to establish how pure the gold is. The assayer finds out what other metals are mixed with it and how much is included. He can establish the weight of the gold and give a true value based on the price of gold that day. Then the gold goes off for refining and gets turned into jewelry or bullion.”
“How long does that take?” asked Danny.
“I can get that done for you in a couple of weeks,” Bill said.
“Oh, man, we can’t wait that long! We got bills to pay.” Calvin pleaded. “What could ya do for us today?”
Bill took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. He wiped his glasses on the tail of his shirt and put them back on, running his fingers through his thinning hair.
“Without an assayer’s report, I can’t tell you what the gold value in this tray is. The one little sample we just tested looks good, but there’s no guarantee all the rest of it is the same.” Bill leaned on the counter and shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “So, if I make you an offer, it will be a gamble on my part.”
Calvin was restless. Danny was thinking about the “several thousand dollars” Bill mentioned earlier, and he was busy spending it in his head.
“Since this is a gamble, I’m going to offer you eighteen hundred in cash right now. And I’ll take the risk someone didn’t salt this sample, and I just tested the only real piece of gold in it.” Bill looked through piercing blue eyes at Calvin as he spoke.
“Up to you now. Take it or leave it!”
Calvin and Danny expected to make two hundred dollars on the gold in that little pouch. When Bill said it might be worth as much as several thousand, their heart rates sped up, and they got excited. This offer slowed their heart rates considerably, but it was still more than they expected.
“We’ll take it,” said Calvin emphatically as he slammed his palm down onto the counter. Danny stood there, nodding his head in agreement.
“Okay, then,” Bill said. “I’ll go get your money. Be right back,” as he disappeared through the doorway into the back of the shop.
Ten minutes later, the Hix brothers turned out of the driveway in front of Bill’s Coin Shop and headed toward home with eighteen crisp hundred dollar bills on the seat between them. They began whooping and hollering. It was going to be one fantastic birthday party! Now both of them were spending the money in their heads. For the moment, they forgot they were Wanted Men.