Diamonds Avarice

By Anthony Giuffre

“And if you’ll just sign here” George majestically waved his bejeweled hand over the X on the agreement before them, “the annuity will begin and it’ll be official”, and then he smiled.

Mr. and Mrs. Dyer looked at the agreement then at their broker George’s smile one last time and Mr. Dyer picked up the pen and signed his name on the X. They had just signed an integral thirty-five percent of their retirement into stocks that George knew were going to slowly only go downward and then in about a year the company would file for bankruptcy and George would get fifty percent of this investment back for himself because he plays golf on Thursday’s with the CEO. Mr. and Mrs. Dyer would lose all they had just invested. It was securities fraud, insider trading and all around corruption that would net George $70,000 and Mr. Dyer would have to learn how to drive people in taxis for the remainder of his retirement.

But for now it was all smiling. They signed the papers, drank some champagne that George kept in the office and then they were shown the door. George drank another glass of champagne and looked out on the skyline of New York. “Ha ha ha” he chortled. “It’s easy money”. And then he walked out of his office and went down the block to get a steak at the restaurant on the corner. He turned his collar up to the youngish man sitting on the sidewalk asking for change and even stepped on a little twig right there that made a crunching sound. On he went to eat steak and drink wine.

In a different part of the city, Adam was selling a share into an apartment complex by the ocean in Puerto Rico to a university professor and his wife. They didn’t know a lot about real estate but they liked Adam so far and the apartments sounded beautiful. “There is a little hot tub on the balcony of each unit from the fourth floor to the tenth. The lower floors have access to the ground jacuzzis and pools as do the upper floors. They just have their own, also. It’s really a nice place. It’s a block and a half from the beach and you can watch the sunset from every patio. There is no construction that will be above ground floor between us and the ocean. It’s magnificent. All cement construction, central heating and cooling, twenty-four-hour security patrols, gated underground parking and hardwood floors. If I didn’t love New York and the city so much I’d live there myself”. Adam smiled at the professor and then looked out his tall office window, “But I love New York. I love it too much to leave”.

From Mr. Parker’s retirement fund then went $85,000 directly to pay for a buy-in to this amazing apartment complex on the Puerto Rican coast. But there was no apartment complex and no plans to build one in Puerto Rico or anywhere else under Adam’s association. There was, however, a clause in the agreement he just signed that if for any reason the project didn’t work it was just simply a loss.

Adam also kept champagne in his office but the professor and his wife didn’t drink so they were just graciously shown the door and went on their way, optimistic about the promise of the apartment complex investment. Adam ate dinner late so he just walked to the upscale restaurant bar near his office and drank gin and tonics and watched the band play jazz songs.

Meanwhile in a tall glass tower in the sky above Fifth Avenue, Mrs. Knowles looked out over the city and missed her husband, Frank. He had started a clothing company which he ran honorably and then sold and earned millions of dollars which was now his wife’s, being that he had passed. But soon Mrs. Knowles would learn that along with the disappearance to another borough in the city and a new name, most of her fortune would be gone with her steadfast financial advisor.

Her financial advisor’s name as of now was Jeff and he had been funneling large percentages of both Mrs. Knowles’ returns and capital into an offshore account in the Cayman Islands. For now, she just looked out at the city and missed Frank but soon enough she would miss her money too.

Julie was a graduate student at NYU studying archeology and was on a smoky patio restaurant with her youngish friend Bruce Anderson. For effect Bruce preferred to go by Bruceanderson said all at once. But we’ll refer to him now as just Bruce. Julie was an attractive blonde 24-year-old born and raised in Manhattan. She dressed smartly, didn’t smoke, enjoyed exercise and reading, mysterious people specifically men, and green political activism but nothing too severe. Just recycle awareness and things like that.

She stood up and kissed Bruce, who was smoking, on the cheek and pointed at him and laughed, tilting her head back as she walked off the patio and into the city’s streets with a bit of an exaggerated strut for a moment and then turned back to Bruce in the growing distance who was still watching her, and she laughed again and then walked off into the distance and on her way regularly.

She continued walking until she got to Morton’s Steakhouse where she went to the bar and sat next to a middle-aged man in an expensive suit with his hair styled back and a diamond and gold ring on his right ring finger.

“How is the steak”? she asked him and smiled. He looked at her and the empty chair next to her and her un-ringed fingers and her smile.

“It’s really good. They make good steaks here”.

“I’m Julie” and she looked straight ahead, just enough to make him all the more interested.

“I’m George. It’s nice to meet you. Are you eating”?

“It’s nice to meet you” she smiled back looking at him now. “I’m just going to drink”. And the bartender walked up and took their drink order and made up her vodka and soda.

Julie finished her first drink while she talked to George about his work as a broker and her archeology degree at the university. She ordered another drink and the bartender took George’s plate away and exchanged it with a gin martini which he had ordered before and leaned back in the dark wood bar stool and gave his full attention to this beautiful young lady that had just strolled into his life and who was getting more close with longer eye contact as she drank more. He couldn’t believe it. She was very attractive.

“I’m not keeping you from going anywhere, am I”? and she checked her Fire Diamond Piaget watch to say, “It’s early, it’s only 6:30” and she laughed a little leaning towards George.

George opened his eyes wider at this diamond crusted Piaget. If there was one thing that would make him pay more attention it was expensive things, and that was an expensive watch.

“I don’t have to be anywhere. I finished work. This is what I’m doing tonight” and he smiled an expensive looking smile of his own at Julie.

Julie didn’t say anything. She had already had one drink and put her face in a straight look at George and brought her second drink up with an elegant hand, took a sip and put it down, still looking at George and asked him, “Are you married”?

Again George couldn’t believe it. “I’m not” he said. “I’m not married. I’m not really even dating anyone. I mean I’m not dating anyone”. But he felt like he was saying too much to the question so he just said, “I’m not married” again and took a sip of his drink.

“Good” Julie said. “I like talking to you and I’m glad you’re not married”. She took another sip and smiled and lightly closed one eye into a sort of half wink but mostly just a positive expression to George.

George thought for a second and said, “Are you married”?

“I’m not married” Julie said. “I don’t even have a boyfriend even though I’m a university student and all my friends have boyfriends”. She took another sip. “I mean, there’s a guy I hang out with because he makes me laugh and he gave me this watch and this necklace but he’s a little too weird for me to ever date. I’m not attracted to him really and he calls himself Bruceanderson even though his name is Bruce Anderson and he’s an explorer. Pretty much all around not my type but I’ll hang out with him, you know”.

“Of course, yes, I know what you mean. A good friend. Everybody has those. I must say, that is a beautiful watch. I’d say he likes you. The necklace too, those are remarkably clear diamonds. They have a very bright and colorful twinkle” George said as he took in the beauty with a knitted brow at her skin, chest and necklace. “Very, very beautiful necklace” he said.

Julie could tell George liked her and she tilted her head to the side a little at his compliment and took another sip of her drink. “Yeah, Bruceanderson gave it to me. Sort of ridiculous that he calls himself that but he does. He’s an explorer so I guess he wants a sort of easily remembered name” and she laughed lightly a little.

“An explorer” and George had an inquisitive, interested look. “What do you mean by explorer? I mean, isn’t with cell phones and GPS and satellites and stuff, you know, isn’t all of the world already discovered”?

“Well that’s what I thought too. I pretty much asked him that very thing” and she took another sip. “But I guess parts of the deserts in Africa and the Middle East, I guess some parts of the deserts, like villages there and stuff, haven’t all been discovered completely. And that’s what he does”.

“That’s genuinely fascinating” George said, being sure to compliment his new friend’s friend because women prefer that to jealousy. “So how old is Bruceanderson? How long has he been exploring”?

“I think he’s like ten years older than me. Like thirty-five. Pretty young I guess. He’s been exploring for a while I think. Maybe like fifteen years, I’m not sure. He’s like a character out of an adventure novel or movie. He’s very… he’s like an archeologist at a breakthrough dig all the time. He’s fascinating partly because he’s so fascinated”. She laughed lightly again and looked at George. She was starting to like him. She took another drink with her sparkling eyes on him.

George smiled back. He quickly thought: “A thirty-five-year-old explorer giving women Piaget diamond watches and what looks like flawless diamond necklaces. That’s so strange. Did he get this money exploring, could he have? That is so fascinating”. But all George said was, “He sounds really interesting. That’s really cool”.

Julie ran her fingers over her mouth and took another sip and looked away from George and then back at him, “Can I trust you”? she asked him.

“Definitely. Of course you can” he looked at her earnestly and steadily.

“Bruce, I call him Bruce even though he prefers Bruceanderson unless other people are near then he insists on Bruceanderson, anyway, he says he knows a place where because of the way of life and the resources, diamonds are worth less than water to them. It’s just how it is, I guess. They’re so cut off from the rest of the world and the way they live they just don’t really value all the diamonds their environment has. I guess he found this place and they really like him there”.

“No way” George said. He was amazed at what Julie was telling him.

“He wants me to go there some time with him but I don’t really know if I have that much of an interest in diamonds to make a trip to an unknown place. I mean I have all I need, I’m grateful for any gift he gives me but I don’t think I have the explorer in me”.

“That is unbelievable” George said. “So crazy. He sounds super interesting to say the least” his eyes were stuck a little wider and he took another sip. “What an absolutely fascinating sounding person”. Then he figured he should say something more relevant to what she had said about reservations. “Of course, I can see how you wouldn’t want to go. I can see that”. And he took another sip, his eyes transfixed open wider and sparkling, a little like diamonds.

“Bruce spends a lot of time exploring. He’s always out and coming back, out and coming back. What I mean is he doesn’t really have any friends. He’s a nice guy but he really is like a character in an adventure book. And not even a current book. Like an adventure book from the fifties or some other era. He’s very unique, but a nice guy. He’d probably have more friends if he wasn’t always gone or just back for a little while and so thrilled with where he just was”.

George wasn’t totally sure what she was saying but he did know he would definitely be Bruceanderson’s friend. He kept listening.

“I mean I don’t know you very well but from talking to you so far I like you and have a similar connection that I kind of feel with Bruce. Although you’re a lot different, I still feel a friendly connection. If you would at all be interested, I could introduce you to him and maybe you could see some place he’s found. I just don’t think I want to go”.

George couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He didn’t want to sound too eager. “I probably would want to go” he said. “He sounds like a really interesting guy and exploring sounds so different and new. Yes, I definitely would be interested”. 

“I think Bruce would love to have someone to take along. He wants me to go but other than me he isn’t too social”.

“I definitely would go” George said again.

“He has a few stipulations; like criteria I think. Mainly regarding secrecy. Places he’s found, it’s like a balance between wanting to take someone but not having it become public yet”.

“Totally, I understand totally. I’d sign a waiver, anything he wanted me to”.

“He’s going to be happy at the chance to take someone. First you should meet him. Just keep in mind that he’s a nice guy just really absorbed in what he does and places he’s found and stuff”.

“Definitely. When should I meet him? I’m, I can make room in my schedule to meet him, for a trip, pretty much anything. It all sounds very interesting. I’m really excited about it”.

“I’ll talk to him. Probably it’ll be soon because once he gets here he usually wants to get right back off. I’ll talk to him tonight. Let’s have another drink now though”.

“Definitely”. And George waved over the bartender. His eyes were still sparkling at this near-magical story. They ordered another round of the same drinks.

They drank for a few moments in silence as George tried to comprehend this unbelievable thing, this opportunity and Julie thought that Bruce would probably be happy about it and that she should just call him then. She decided she would.

“I think I should call him now. Just in case he decides to head out sooner. I think he’ll be happy to meet you”.

“Yes, by all means. Call him now. I can meet him tonight or tomorrow, whatever. He sounds really interesting”.

‘I’ll call him now. I’ll just step outside”. She stood up and took another sip of her drink and put it down and told George, “I’ll be right back” and she walked out of the bar and onto the New York street below the dizzying sky scrapers and the brisk air.

She got right in touch with him and talked as she meandered up the street a little and then down. She looked up at the buildings then down the long straight corridors of streets. The wind swept her just-below the shoulder length blond hair and she smiled as she talked to Bruce. She listened to him and then she talked and it switched back and forth like that briefly and then she smiled again and looked back up at the buildings then back down then said good-bye and put her phone in her purse and walked back in to the bar and to her chair next to George whose eyes weren’t sparkling any less. She brushed her hand across his shoulders in a friendly way and because she had had now two and a half drinks and usually did that to people she walked back to that she was with.

“He’s excited to meet you. He’d like to meet you tonight but at a bar he likes. I’ll go with you. I told him you were way cool”.

“Absolutely. Thank you. Let’s go. When should we go”?

“We can finish out drinks and then go. He’s walking there now and it’s pretty close to here”.

Seeing that they didn’t have a lot left in their drinks, George waved the bartender over and asked for their check, together as one. He turned back to Julie. “I really appreciate this chance to meet Bruceanderson. I’m looking forward to talking with him. He sounds genuinely very interesting”. As beautiful as Julie was, and George thought she was very beautiful, this prospect of even a chance at such a place as this unknown land the explorer had found and the opportunity to meet him and possibly go there out-shadowed any sensual prospect, and he was picking one up, from Julie. So far the night felt like a dream. This beautiful young woman, that watch and the necklace and this mystical Bruceanderson. And why not? An explorer was bound to find some new land. George eagerly wanted to begin this adventure.

The bartender brought the check back and George signed it and finished his drink while he looked at Julie. She finished hers and put it back on the bar. “Are you ready” she asked.

“Yes, let’s go” George said.

Julie stood up and clutched her strapless purse and the two of them walked out into the now brisker city air. Julie had on a sweater cut in a V neck, deep maroon in color, with a dark navy pea-coat over tight dark jeans and George had a similar coat and sweater look but over navy slacks and a dress shirt and tie and black dress shoes. Their expensive shoery, mostly his, crackled and crunched over the pavement as they made their way two blocks west to meet Bruceanderson at the bar he went to when he was in town.

They crossed the first street and before they had walked too long on the second, Julie half pointed, she didn’t really raise her hand all the way, and said “There it is. The Sky Lounge”.

“I know this place” George said “It’s a really nice lounge”. And really nice it was. Bruce found he preferred places that were really nice because people seemed to be more open and he felt he fit more into this echelon of society. “An explorer? Of course, why not”? they would say instead of some derivative that would leave him looking for an escape route. Julie and George turned in and the doors were opened for them by a doorman who half bowed graciously and offered to store their coats. They de-coated with the young gentleman and made their way into the dark and elaborate lounge in their sweaters.

George looked around optimistically and Julie walked over to the hostess and asked if Bruceanderson was there yet. The hostess smiled and said he hadn’t arrived yet but had called and they were expecting him any moment.

“I can take you to the room he’s reserved if you’d like or you can wait for him at the bar and go to the room. Whatever you would like to do”.

“We can wait for him at the bar” Julie said.

“Of course” and the hostess motioned her hand towards the bar indicating that they could go straight there or not or go anywhere they wanted. Julie thanked her and they headed in that direction.

George noticed that the hostess knew Bruceanderson and she seemed to light up at the prospect of his arrival. He couldn’t believe how this was turning out. So far the explorer seemed every bit the mystic explorer and he hadn’t even arrived yet.

They didn’t have to wait long. George and Julie had sat at the bar for under a minute before a lot of the lounge’s attention gradually shifted to the front of the dimly lit room at the same hostess who was smiling in a very genial way to a young man with blond hair that was astray in every different way. Not really of a current fashion but haphazardly. He had khaki pants that were wrinkled and one of those nylon type of long dress shirts that had the flap across the back for ventilation. He wore some type of low profile white designer shoes, that Julie had picked out, and his sleeves were rolled up in a neat business manner and he had a small gold watch on a leather strap.

“Hello, Julie! Hello! There you are”! said Bruceanderson. Now most everyone was looking.

Julie waved and smiled at Bruce. The bar had two steps down into the main room which Bruceanderson tripped on but didn’t fall all the way down. He carried on unfazed because it wasn’t uncommon. He made his way to George and Julie. “Hello Julie, thank you for the call. What great news to meet a new friend of yours. You must be George” and Bruce held out his hand and George shook it with the confidence of the elitist businessman he was.

“This guy is absolutely for real legit” George thought. “It’s nice to meet you, Bruceanderson. Julie tells me you’re just in from an exploration”.

“The pleasure is mine. Indeed, it’s nice to meet you. I am just in from what was the Dutch East Indies in search of a missing spice for my peanut and lentil curry”.

“That’s fascinating. Did you find it”?

“Alas, no”.

Julie waved the bartender over and ordered a vodka and soda and looked at the two other guys to see what they wanted. George said he’d have the same and the bartender’s glance shifted to Bruce and he was obliged to smile and shake the explorer’s hand.

“Budweiser for me, Keith”

“Coming right up. It’s good to see you again Bruceanderson. My name is actually Eric but it doesn’t really matter. Are you in from anywhere recently”?

“Eric it is! That is what I had originally thought and I think intended to say. The Dutch East Indies as of last night. In search of an elusive curry spice”.

“That’s so cool” Eric said. “I’ll be right back with the drinks”.

The three of them were standing around the bar waiting for the drinks. Bruce was tapping along and swaying to the music but not in sync as he wasn’t very musical and Julie was smiling from one to the other and George was transfixed by the explorer.

“I love the music they play here”! Bruce said and gave his head one definitive nod to the beat and resumed swaying while Eric finished the drinks and brought them over.

“On your tab, Bruceandseron”?

“On my tab, Eric”.

“Very good. Enjoy the night and let me know what you need”.

“Thank you. To the room” Bruce said and lifted his index finger off his beer glass to point to their private room on the periphery of the bar.

Bruce opened the sliding door for Julie and then George and then followed them in. The room was elegantly set with a booth and big lounge chair and two couches facing each other. They sat on the couches, Julie and George on one and Bruce on the other. The explorer’s demeanor completely changed inside the room.

“Julie tells me you’ve taken some interest in my travels. That means a lot to me”.

“I have. I definitely have. It sounds extremely interesting, fascinating even”.

Julie drank her drink and watched the two discourse. She was happy to see Bruce happy.

“You seem like a good guy” Bruce said. “If Julie is your friend than I’m your friend. It’s as easy as that”.

George’s eyes sparkled. He wouldn’t mention any particular journey but the explorer did seem to want to bring someone along, which as a social person, which he himself was, he could easily understand, and that’s where the conversation went.

The explorer said: “Most of these people I think assume I’ve inherited money and say I’m an explorer. It’s understandable. I have to say, though, I would very much like to have a companion on some trip, if you are ever interested. Being that you’re a friend of Julie’s I will gladly take you along”.

Maintaining his enthusiasm George said, “I would very much like to go. It sounds so fascinating. I have to say, almost mystical. I am absolutely interested”.

“Consider it done. I stay here for usually less than a week as I get too antsy to try and roll the dice at a new land or discovery”.

Julie was drinking, watching Bruce talk.

“I can say, I am so intrigued and impressed with you, in total, that I would go anywhere you would want to take me”. George didn’t want to mention the unknown land of the diamonds, but of course, that’s where he wanted to go. He wouldn’t say that and would only let Bruceanderson offer the places to go. He’d go to ten places if it meant the eleventh might be there. But as it would be, that was where Bruceanderson wanted to go, as he would now find out. Understandably, being that he, Bruceanderson, most likely wanted to get some validity in such a renowned discovery though probably he didn’t, clearly, want too much fame for such a secretive and magical place of course, but he knew he, George, was a trustworthy person worthy of such a friendship.

“There are numerous places we could go but one in particular is so unbelievable that I must say, I barely believe it myself and I’ve frequented it. I would love beyond expression to have someone to share a visit to such a unique place as... Vateelwa, in the expanse of the Sahara Desert.

“Vateelwa” George said. “It sounds interesting. What is it”?

“It is an otherwise unknown land of such remark that they seemingly have nothing in line with any other society except compassion and peace”.

“Absolutely fascinating” George said.

“They are a group of about 20,000 people in the expanse of the African desert. I’ve found them once and thought I was hallucinating. Wealth of staggering proportions but nothing is attached to the wealth in any coherent way. They just eat, drink and be peaceful. They are immune to any other methods. It means nothing to them”.

“Amazing. Like the Bush People of the Sahara”?

“In ways similar but in ways different. The people of Vateelwa harvest diamonds deep in caverns in their desert. They don’t seem to know their value or they don’t care. They have them like we would glass pebbles. It is extraordinarily unique”.

George began to palpitate inwardly. “I don’t think I’ve heard anything more fascinating than that”.

“If you are a friend of Julie’s I trust you are a man of wealth and stability. Armed with a few, maybe ten or twenty, of their flawless jewels to show that we too have the same indifference to the gems as they, and they will gladly and proudly let us in as a small group to see their way of life”.

“Like an anthropological expedition. Absolutely I am in. I love to watch the National Geographic channel, but that is mostly the extent of my other worldly journeys”.

Julie had switched to the large bed-like cushion and was reclined in relaxed repose watching her friends talk.

“To preserve their way of life, it must be a secret journey. Not a soul must know about the expedition. I would be very sad if the trust the Vateelwans put in me was jeopardized by the discovery of their civilization”.

“You can absolutely trust me. It is a journey I want to make for the knowledge and experience of a new life”.

“Okay then. We have to go in a group of four and take every precaution possible to conceal our departure”.

“I can do that”.

“Every trace of our journey must be covered. I’ll arrange the purchase of the plane tickets as we need to fly in to Africa then Jeep it the rest of the way”.

“Not a soul will know where I am off to, or that I am even off at all”.

“Good. They are a mesmerizing people”.

“Tell me” George said, “who are the other people to come with us, if not Julie”?

“I fear I am a few friends short because of my constant travels but the Vateelwans prefer me alone or a small group, we’ll say of four including me. It’s a societal custom in terms of guests and journeys”.

George thought for one second to see if he understood the explorer correctly.

“So you would like me to bring two other friends and the four of us will go to Vateelwa”?

“Yes, precisely. It’s the only way for me to not go alone”.

“I can do that. I have two good friends I absolutely trust like brothers”.

“Perfect. Bring them. If they are friends of you and you are friends of Julie, I trust them explicitly. The same must apply. Absolute secrecy of the journey. I’ll arrange the flight accommodations. You and your selected friends pack in total secrecy and leave without telling a soul to the airport as clandestine as you can”.

“I will call them tonight” George said.

“Excellent. We will board tomorrow. Our meeting here is adjourned. Julie, I am indebted to you. Your friend George is every bit you had described”.

The men shook hands, Julie made a clicking noise with her mouth as she got off the cushion and the group walked out of the private room, all the better as the travel plans were mostly complete.

“Do you have a business card, George”? Bruce asked him.

“Yes, here it is”.

“I’ll be in touch tonight with further details about the flight. Pack lightly”.

“Absolutely. Okay. Talk to you then”.

George was so thrilled to call his friends with urgent details about the journey that he almost forgot to say good-bye to Julie. They hugged goodbye and the group departed the Sky Lounge. George to his apartment off to the right and Julie and Bruce off to their perspective places, both to the left.

George walked one block to a concentration of cabs and hailed one to his apartment. Once there he called his two friends whom he trusted and they trusted him. He relayed the absolute imperative on a total secret getaway and the amazing, near magical encounter with the beautiful Julie and Bruceanderson the explorer. George was the alpha lead of that group of friends so they went along with the smallish details he provided, very excited in their own right.

Their jobs were put on hold as the next day could be the departure date for this somewhat mysterious and exciting journey. All waited patiently by the phone. George waited for the explorer’s call who would then call his friends.

The call arrived at 10:00 pm.

“George, please” Bruce said.

“This is George”.

“It’s Bruceanderson. Tomorrow at JFK at 7:00 am. Gate 8”.

“We’ll be there. Thank you, Bruceanderson”.

“See you then”. Bruceanderson hung up and threw the phone he had just bought at an electronic storefront in the trash. He too must conceal the steps.

Julie and Bruce had already parted ways and the explorer was back home packing for the journey the following morning.

The morning came quickly and Bruce was waiting only five minutes at gate eight, early as he was, when the men walked up.

“Bruceanderson” called George.

“Ah, hello, George”.

“These are my friends. This is Jeff and this is Adam. I went over it with them to a T”.

“Brilliant. Not a word more here. This way to our flight”.

The four men successfully shook hands with the briefest of introductions and were headed to the check-in to the Nigerian airport where transportation would be waiting to begin the driven commute to the Vateelwans.

The flight was underway and none of the seats were anywhere near each other, on account of the secrecy of explorations. It was a long flight but the time passed like time does and the giant plane touched down in Nigeria. A strong looking explorer type was waiting for Bruce at the airport. The men were shuttled off to their Jeep in a different Jeep. The car went over pot holes and uneven pavement and Bruce swayed along looking at the barren landscape.

That leg of the journey was done. The men got out of the Jeep, Bruce bid adieu to the driver and they got into their own Jeep which Bruce drove directly into the Saharan Desert.

Bruce explained this would be about a four-hour drive. They would refuel with the gas that was attached to the side when the tank got low. Bruce explained that the Vateelwans only allowed their guests to be picked up as they walked, no drivers could enter their city. Agreements across the board and the men were off.

The minutes turned to hours, and the gas level began to lower. There was a cooler with water bottles on ice which were plenty for them to reach Vateelwa where they could get more water and lunch on arriving. The tank reached a lower level and Bruce stopped it and got out and filled it with the red supply tanks attached to the side of the Jeep. Then he started it back up and they were off. George in the passenger seat and Adam and Jeff in the back all sipping water, very excited to get to the next phase of the trip.

About another hour and a half and when the tank got low, Bruce said they would stop here, bring some water bottles and begin walking for a short while so as not to be near the Jeep when his representative from Vateelwa would drive in his Jeep to pick them up. All excited they exited the Jeep and brought the remainder of the water and began walking.

After about twenty minutes of walking, there in the distance was the mirage of the Vateelwan Jeep to get them. On its approach, Bruce explained that Vateelwa was close in the distance and that he would ride ahead with this oncoming driver to alert the chief of his and his friends’ arrival. Then he would be back in no more than ten minutes to get them for the final leg of their arrival.

Bruce gave each man an extra bottle of water from the Jeep once it arrived and each a small velvet pouch of twelve diamonds to show the Vateelwans that diamonds, too, meant little to them, and got in and shut the door. He rolled down the window and told his friends, “We’ll be right back. Soon we will be in the land where water is worth more than diamonds”, and he was off.