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Niso Quan, 20 and buoyant, walked down the street. It was the middle of the night in May. His chain wrapped around his neck like slave apparel. He listened to his music via his smartphones and earbuds. He ambled with a theatricality that spoke of rhythm and precise paces. He didn’t dance to the music. He was the music. He got all the way to the West Side in Wilmington, Delaware on Fifth Street. He approached his door when he stopped in mid-march. A few coughs and a gasp expelled from his mouth as he tugged at his chain. The thing would not come off of his neck. He gasped and gasped as he tried to use the butterfly knife that he carried around to slice through the links to no avail. More coughs came. Deep breaths came afterward. The chain only squeezed tighter like an anaconda wrapping around its prey. At last, he gave out his final breath. Quan perished right in front of his house with not a witness around.
Hours later, 40-year-old Detective Eros McNeil standing at six feet four inches, observed the body. His partner, at five foot nine and 32-year-olds, Kalinda Terry looked at the body as well.
“No signs of a physical struggle with an assailant. This is no robbery, he still has all of his jewelry and money in his pockets.”
McNeil looked about and then noticed the Cuban link chain that wrapped around his neck. He squatted down and rested on his buttocks, his feet still on the ground. He unlinked the chain from Quan’s neck.
“Something tells me that this had more to do with it than anything,” McNeil said.
“We’ll take it to the lab. Something is amiss,” Kalinda said.
As the uniformed policemen and women snapped shots and made the last actions before the coroner came, McNeil and Kalinda approached the car with minds intent on solving this crime.
At the laboratory, Dr. Geffen Kingsbury overlooked Quan’s body. He rubbed his hands over the neck area. “Lacerations around the neck due to a struggle,” Dr. Kingsbury said.
“There was no one there. No eyewitnesses. The camera on the block showed that the only individual present at the scene of the death was Mr. Quan here,” McNeil said.
“He definitely put up a fight against his own jewelry," Kalinda said.
“We’re going to take a trip over to Fuzaylov and Company Jewelers. This piece has the jewelers insignia inscribed on it.”
A small eagle with a diamond in the dexter talon and bars of gold and platinum in the sinister talon and the store's motto "Shine Time" on a scroll in the eagle's mouth marked the jeweler’s rings and things.
“He may know more about this case than anyone,” Kalinda said.
“Once we ask him a few questions, this case may very well heat up,” McNeil said.
Through the doors, the smell of eucalyptus and mint emanated from the corners of the room. It was a relaxing smell that would put anyone in a trance. A trance that would coax one into buying a thirty-thousand dollar watch seemed to be the reason for the soothing scents. The owner, 63-year-old Shimon “Fat Rocks” Fuzaylov greeted the two detectives. He was stout with a belly that looked like an ancient stove.
“Welcome to my store. Is there anything that I can help you with today? You look like a fine couple.”
McNeil and Kalinda looked at each other with sardonic glances. They then flashed their badges.
“Oh, okay. I see. What can I do for you police?”
“We’re detectives investigating the death of a Mr. Niso Quan.” McNeil held up a tablet with pictures of Quan alive from his social media profiles.
“Yes,” Fuzaylov said with somber tones. “He had just purchased that chain from me a few days ago. Sad to hear about him no longer being with us in the land of the living,” Fuzaylov said.
Kalinda spoke next. “We’re wondering if you could possibly provide any background as to where the chain was made and how it became a young man’s death trap.”
“All of my products are crafted from Italy. I have a few contacts that make the jewelry and…”
“And…” McNeil asked.
“I imprint my mark of the eagle on each piece that has enough space to show it,” Fuzaylov said. “But I can help you out with anything about the young man. He was kind. We had an appointment actually, and he was prompt. He told me that he wanted the piece to be full of diamonds and be both gold and platinum. He paid in cash. I’m not saying that he was dealing anything, but when a young man has that much cash on him, it usually comes with a lifestyle of a drug runner.”
“We actually have no reason to believe that Mr. Quan was involved in any narcotics activity. Now, you said that there was an appointment and he was ahead of time. About what time was that?” McNeil asked.
“Oh let me check my calendar.” Fuzaylov had a physical, jot-in-the-information calendar on paper and cardboard.
“Yes, meeting with Mr. Quan at 2:30 on last Thursday. I’m telling you. He bought a 22,000 dollar chain with the contents of his bankfold from his back pocket.”
“Does anyone process your goods before you sell them?” Kalinda asked.
“I have two processors after the pieces come from the docks from Europe. The first is in New York, then Philly, and then finally here in Wilmington.”
“What is the time frame between when the pieces get off of the dockyard and make it to the shop?”
“Oh, anywhere between a week and 10 days.”
“So, these jewels are handled by New Yorkers and Philadelphians. What is it, exactly, that they do?”
“They shine and buffer them and inspect them for any impurities.”
“Can you do that?”
“I used to, but it’s just me and my sons now. It’s hard enough trying to keep up with inventory, accounting, and customer service.”
“Back to Mr. Quan,” Kalinda said. “You said that he had a wad of cash.”
“Oh, yes. A fistful.”
“Did he have any bodyguards or anyone surrounding him at the time?”
“No. he just waltzed right in here with the money,” Fuzaylov said. “If there’s anything else that I could do for you detectives... anything at all, never hesitate to let me know.”
“Thank you,” McNeil said. Kalinda and he exited the jewelry shop. Once they reached the car, they knew what to investigate next.
“I’m not stepping one foot out of Delaware. I’m solving this case within the confines of the state. But I would love to know what the New York and Philly connects have to do with Fuzaylov’s jewelry.”
“I would say that there must be someone out there with the information that we need.”
Harris Garr of Newark, Delaware rolled with his buddies to the ice rink. They looked forward to a pick up game of hockey.
“Hey, Harris. What’re you doing man?"
I’ve got to go to the locker room to put my chain in there. I’ll catch up.”
Garr made it past the doors to the locker room with lock in hand. On his neck, a diamond studded platinum chain wrapped around him like a scarf. As he attempted to take it off, it suddenly drew in and suffocated him. Garr struggled and pried and yanked at the chain. He took his last breath, hung his head and died. His body slid against the lockers and his eyes stayed open. A thousand yard stare remained his death pose.
His friends found him, but hesitated on calling the police so that they would appear as informants, even if he was their “friend.” Eventually, a janitor found the body and called the authorities. The Newark Police Department transferred the case to the Federal agents working in Delaware, McNeil and Kalinda.
“Goddamn,” Kalinda said looking at Garr’s body.
“Another few necks and we’ll have a major problem.”
The news programs inundated individuals with notices not to buy choker chains. Men and women who normally sported a fresh chain around their neck thought twice about it.
“What’s behind the eagle?” Kalinda asked.
McNeil took the clasp from where the embossed eagle lay on the chain.
“It’s a chip.”
“So that’s how whoever is committing these crimes is doing it.”
Kalinda and McNeil took the chain back to Fuzaylov.
“What’s this?” McNeil asked as the pair walked through the doors of the jeweler.
“Good morning to you, too,” Fuzaylov said. He peered at the chip behind the eagle.
“I’ve never seen that before in my life.”
“Oh, okay, so how did it get into these chains? You said that this is your signature design. Why are there chips behind it constricting the necks of the young and wealthy?”
“There have been two unexplained deaths associated with your jewelry. We will not stop until we get some answers from you or you won’t be sleeping on your own bed tonight and there’ll be plenty of stale bologna sandwiches and warm fruit juice at the County.”
“I’m telling you right now. I have never seen this chip behind my eagle. I know that this may seem like I’m trying to save my hide but I’ve no clue where those chips came from, not at all.”
“Is there any way that we can access your connects up north?”
“Yes.” Fuzaylov rolled in his chair over to his tablet. He retrieved a few numbers from the electronic device.
“This should help,” he said and then proceeded to read off the numbers to the detectives.
“You did a good thing, Mr. Fuzaylov. Did you know that there’s a calendar in your tablet, too?” Kalinda asked.
“I just use my calendar as a good luck charm. I’ve had it for so long. I just want to sell jewelry. Anyway, I don’t want any deaths related to my work. It’s bad enough that these kids shoot each other over the diamonds that I produce. Now, someone is picking them off with a few taps of a mobile device… I’m just happy to help. No more deaths. No more deaths.”
“With the information that you supplied, we should be able to nab the person.”
After reaching the contacts that the jeweler gave up, McNeil and Kalinda spoke with the individuals on the list. On the phone, McNeil asked Lareem Poehler in Brooklyn, New York. They used a screen share and could see Poehler. He was about five feet six inches wore a winter hat on his head.
“Yes, I’ve got no time, so let’s keep this brief.”
“You’re talking to federal agents. We’ll worry about the time... okay?” McNeil said.
“Now, what is with these chips in the chains?”
“Chips? I don’t know anything about chips.”
“So you mean to tell me that you have no clue how these electronic chips have gotten into these jewels?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The screen went blank.
“We’ll try to do Philly, now,” Kalinda said.
Another face appeared on the screen, this time a woman. She was about five feet five inches. Her hair sat perfectly into bangs and her nails gleamed whenever they flashed across the screen.
“Miss Persiphone Fowler. What is your connection to the chips in the chains that you ship to Fuzaylov?” Kalinda asked.
“I just clean the jewelry and make sure that it’s not damaged.”
“Do you inspect behind the insignia?”
“The eagle? I’ve never had an idea to look behind it. I just thought that it was a given. Why? What’s wrong?”
“There have been deaths linked to the chain via someone choking the victim through the chip.”
“All I know is that the chains sometimes go past Wilmington and go to Old New Castle, Delaware for analysis.”
“I pride myself on my job, but I’m not perfect. So, the jewels are sent to Old New Castle, Delaware from Philly for another round of inspection. The main one is a man named Gill Frost. She’s the specialist in the warehouse which oversees the shipments. Have I helped in any way?”
“Yes, Miss Fowler. You’ve provided ample information. Thank you,” McNeil said.
No longer worried about Philadelphia or New York it was Old New Castle. The two detectives gained a warrant to enter the premises of the building associated with putting chips in these chains. They had coordinated a strike on a warehouse in that city with uniforms.
Busting through the doors, the federal agents drew their firearms. Frost, a stubby little man with a full beard, put his hands behind his head before McNeil or Kalinda even ordered it. McNeil took out his cuffs and read the man his rights. On the table where the man had been hunched over sat hundreds of chips and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. After Kalinda read Frost his rights, he entered the squad car of a uniformed officer.
“Let’s say we pay Mr. Fuzaylov a visit,” McNeil said.
The two of them reached the store in Wilmington. Fuzaylov was somewhat cheery upon seeing the two detectives.
“I’m glad that you finally nabbed the bastard. I just saw it on the news. In our own backyard, too. I had forgotten about that little hole in Old New Castle.”
“Forgot or didn’t want to tell?” Kalinda asked.
Fuzaylov straightened like he prepared to salute.
“I’m completely above board. I gave you the New York and Philly connects. Those lead you to the Frost guy didn’t they?”
McNeil and Kalinda looked at each other.
“We appreciate the material provided. In the future, if we ever cross paths, try to keep your memory cap on so that we don’t have to waste time before catching crooks,” Kalinda said.
“Absolutely. No problems,” Fuzaylov said.
McNeil and Kalinda returned to their vehicle.
“Have you ever thought about visiting other states?” Kalinda asked.
“No,” McNeil said.
“Delaware’s your home base for life, isn’t it?”
“I would say so.”