"If I thought it was him I'd break his arm," Max said.
The man doesn't mince words. I must have smirked because he glared at me. "What? You don't think I could do it? When I was in the kibbutz I learned Krav Maga."
Max is five-two and as wide as he is tall. A lot of years have passed since he was in a kibbutz but I doubt if he was any more aggressive then than he is now. So I had my doubts about him learning the Israeli self-defense system. Still, he was as steamed up as I'd ever seen him, so I didn't express my skepticism.
I'm a private detective. I used to be a cop and the diamond district was part of my turf. I got to know the people and they've learned to trust me as much as they trust any outsider. So, when I started the business, I offered them my services and it's been lucrative. These people believe in security and they're not shy about paying for it.
"I think you should start from the beginning, Max. What happened and what do you want me to do about it?"
"I want the diamonds back and, if you can manage it, I want you should catch the damned thief and hand him over to the cops." Max is one of the best diamond cutters in the district and he moves some quality stones.
"How did this thief get the diamonds?"
"That's for you to figure out. I locked the stones in a briefcase. Irv took them to Zechman. Only when they opened the case, the stones were gone."
"The briefcase was empty?"
"That's what I'm telling you."
Word was the diamonds hadn't been offered up in the district. It seemed likely the thief was waiting for things to cool down before trying to dispose of them.
"Do you think Irv stole them?"
"What, are you crazy? Irv is my brother-in-law. He's no thief. He's been transporting stones for me for years, never lost a one before."
I know Irv and I didn't think he was a thief either. But people do change, no matter how long you've known them or trusted them. "What did Irv say? Did he stop somewhere along the way? He might have set the case down for a minute, long enough for someone to tamper with it"
"He insists he didn't stop nowhere."
"How did the thief know he was carrying diamonds?"
Max gave me a look. "What, are you stupid, Harry? You spot a guy down here with a briefcase chained to his wrist you think he's transporting bagels? People talk. They gossip. Everybody knows everybody's business."
"I hate to ask, him being your brother-in-law and all. Do you think Irv might have developed some bad habits you don't know about? Like gambling, or women, or …"
Max scowled. "Irv ain't got no bad habits. He don't gamble. He's got my sister, so he don't need no women on the side. I trust him with my goods. He's the courier I trust. He's never given me cause to think he'd stab me in the back."
"Well, I think I should talk to him anyway. Where is he?"
"I sent him home. He's upset. He thinks I'm mad at him. I'm not. I'm mad at the crook what stole the stones. You go talk to him. He'll tell you what I already did."
In contrast to his brother-in-law who is short and fat, Irv is tall and skinny. If he played the game, he could drop a basketball through the hoop without needing to jump or stretch. I found him on his sofa, elbows propped on his knees and chin cupped in his hands, a morose frown darkening his mug.
"Cheer him up, Harry," his wife Nadine said. "Tell him it wasn't his fault." She offered me babka and tea as an inducement. Even if I wasn't inclined to do as she asked, I'd have been tempted. This woman's food is a blessing.