Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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A Curious Heist

September 20, 2013

 

A true story I avoid talking about for obvious reasons.

 

This will sound incriminating, just as it did back when I was sixteen, but honest to God I had nothing to do with it. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to leave such incriminating evidence. Of course there were those who will always believe I was involved, but I wasn’t.

    

I was a junior in high school at the time, a member of our school’s Rally Council and one of the stars of our art department. Mrs. Russell, our art teacher, had her classes working up a sweat to create work for a student exhibit at one of the largest shopping centers in the area. A dozen high schools competed, and judges selected the work of twenty-five artists. I was elated to learn I was one of the chosen few.

    

Enclosed malls and photo surveillance had yet to be invented, but San Jose’s Valley Fair was large and modern with several outdoor courtyards shaded by decorative trees. Temporary walls were erected where each student could display up to ten pieces of art. I’d worked tirelessly producing portraits, landscapes and a few surrealistic pieces I thought would captivate viewers. The show was to last two weeks, but an unfortunate occurrence shut down the show after only several days.

    

In spite of the fact that mall security made regular rounds of the facility, all of the artwork was stolen one night several days after the show opened. Every oil painting, pastel, watercolor and pen and ink drawing disappeared, with the exception of ten pictures—mine.

    

Talk about incriminating. I was questioned by the police who couldn’t help but wonder why my work was left behind while everyone else’s was carted off in the night. Frankly, it was a humiliating experience. Two hundred and fifty works of art and only mine remained behind? What was wrong with my work? My paintings might not have been the best work represented but they were far from the worst.

    

When finished with me, the police interrogated my parents who confirmed I was home in bed on the night of the theft. My mother questioned the cognitive abilities of a detective who couldn’t explain how one kid on a bicycle could steal two-hundred and forty framed works of art under the very noses of mall security. Still, other than my work no other clues were found. The culprits were never apprehended.

    

I must admit that, for a while, I wondered if this was a Ricky Delgado prank, but he finally convinced me he had nothing to do with it. Besides, he couldn’t have moved that much material without a truck and lots of help.

     

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a tidy ending, no nice wrap-up, just an unsolved mystery I think about from time to time when my ego grows out of control and I ponder a time when my artwork wasn’t even considered good enough to steal.

 

 

 

  



Comments

23 Comments
Did they had Barney Fife on the case? Leaving the paintings must have been a diversion to take the heat off the real thief.
By: David Walston on September 20, 2013
Maybe the others were so bad some janitor threw them out and left yours up because they were the best. I can't imagine whoever stole those could make much money off them.
By: PT Dilloway on September 20, 2013
I think Ricky Delgado could have found a way.
By: Cranky on September 20, 2013
Or perhaps they thought your works were the only ones good enough to display~
By: Shelly on September 20, 2013
OUCH!!!!
By: TexWisGirl on September 20, 2013
Don't mope, Stephen--I'd happily steal your work!!
By: fishducky on September 20, 2013
It's not that your art wasn't good enough to steal. The culprit wanted your work to receive a lot of attention. I don't care if Ricky Delgado convinced you he didn't do it. I sense his hand in this. He had help. It just wasn't yours. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 20, 2013
that is a mystery....why on earth? I bet some high school kid did it!
By: Kathe W. on September 20, 2013
An intriguing tale. I wish it HAD had a nice wrap of an ending. I am usually quite good at making up stories, but off the top of my head, I can't make one up to explain this!
By: Jenny Woolf on September 20, 2013
Or the thieves (there had to be more than one, with a big truck) ran out of time. That's my explanation, and i'm sticking to it.
By: mimi on September 20, 2013
I guess the saying goes...weird but true!
By: red on September 20, 2013
Very puzzling...this must have been very frustrating for you to think about over the years. Is there any way you can get in touch with Ricky Delgado and buy him drinks, many drinks, and then ask him about it again?
By: Pixel Peeper on September 20, 2013
Now that is definitely stranger than fiction!
By: Rita McGregor on September 20, 2013
How DID you steal all of those paintings on a bike (you did do it, didn't you?)? I once moved a five foot tall, potted rubber tree on a bike, and that was hard enough. I'm just kidding because if you had done it, you wouldn't have left yourself open to all the ribbing you must have received by leaving your's behind.
By: Snowbrush on September 20, 2013
It's a cold case for sure! I wonder if it was an inside job. The thieves ran out of time and had to leave your's behind.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 20, 2013
What a curious incident!! How in the world and WHY in the world? Your stories are always fascinating!
By: Carrie on September 21, 2013
You were the Rodney Dangerfield of shopping center high school art shows, it seems.
By: Val on September 21, 2013
I think you should consider yourself luck. When I was in sculpture I had a lot of my statues in a gallery. One day they were stolen, only mine were taken. At the time I was complimented. But boy, would I sure like to have those statues now. At least you have your work.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on September 21, 2013
Well I'm glad you've moved on from such a crappy experience. You have moved on from it? Right?
By: LL Cool Joe on September 22, 2013
I once burned down several acres of forest by accident. But, after questioning by the police, I blamed it on some kids from the city who were lighting off firecrackers. That was my story and I stuck with it. Until now.
By: Al Penwasser on September 22, 2013
Wow, that is crazy. I, too, would of wondered why the thief took all of them except yours? Maybe when the thieves cased the mall prior to the theft, they saw you and deemed you as being too nice to steal from. Still they put you in a bad position.
By: Cheryl P. on September 22, 2013
What a story!
By: John on September 23, 2013
It was your mother! ;)
By: Hilary on September 24, 2013

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