Nancy Drew and the Bishop's Ring

A while ago, I told you about a wedding that involved the beheading of a croquembouche with an epee in Powell. The glee of the bride and groom in mid-coup de gras has since haunted me. The weapon looked like something D'artagnan would have held: elegant, light for its size, and boasting a patina of adventures past. How did such a treasure get to Knoxville?

The bride said it came from Friends Antiques on North Central Street. The owner was so taken with the bride and groom's meet-cute love story that she loaned them the damn thing with no request for a credit card or down payment—only the promise that the bride would have it returned with stories of the wedding. An impressive act of charity considering the price tag on said epee was over two hundred beans.

Remember the warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark? The basement in National Treasure? Friends is the place where those kinds of movie-set designers go to get cool stuff. The name "Friends Antique and Collectibles Mall" does not do the place justice. The basement is a Man's World full of military items, tools, and old sports equipment. The main floor boasts a dish heaven, silver (plate and sterling) begging to be polished, and vintage everything. The possibilities of hidden treasure in all this stuff is only part of what makes this place interesting.

The owner, Linda, is from Jersey. Bleach blonde in a short cut with perfectly blue lined eyes, she remembers you by name and she is willing to negotiate a price as long as you are polite. Here is how to be polite:

"Linda, is this price firm?"

If she says "no," then knock of 15 percent and make an offer.

If she doesn't accept your suggestion, be nice and either pay what she asked in her counter offer or say, "No thank you."

There also are los tres perros: Booger, Chino, and Sadie. They say hello in dog language when you enter the shop. Husband Rick dutifully drags out wares to the front of the store every day and Linda's brother, Kenny, knows exactly where the entire inventory of the shop is stashed. If he overhears you saying that you are looking for an Elmer Fudd glass that was a Taco Bell giveaway around 1976, he will say, "That's in the back right on the third shelf next to the post office lunch box."

I approached the register with a bag full of vintage buttons for a dollar, and a silver-plated serving tray. Linda knocked the tray to 10 bucks because she said I was interesting. As she rang me out, I noticed a large amethyst ring on her right hand. The stone had to be 15-20 carats and in a square shape. Its heft smacked of a quality metal that was gold in color, and on the side was the relief of a miter. It was a man's ring.

"Umm… Linda, where did you get that ring? Is that a bishop's hat on the side?"

"I never noticed the hat-thing. I think it came from an estate sale somewhere. Only thing I noticed is that it's tarnishing a bit. It's heavy, though. Here, you look at it."

Because I own the complete set of Nancy Drew books, I did some investigating online. Turns out Linda is wearing what appears to be an accessory to vestments worn by bishops in the Catholic Church. Since the Pope has a ring, a little bling-bling for his peeps is arguably logical.

Or maybe it's just a piece of junk…

Hey Dan Brown… Are you listening? Ron Howard ain't shootin' a movie in Wonderville this week, but I know a mystery involving the church when I see one. Why would a bishop lose his ring? Was it snatched from him? Or did he die and no one realized the treasure he left behind?

So if you need a fez for Valentine's Day or a good reason to ditch work for an hour, go meet Linda. I am sure she will at least have a story or two, and a dog to pet.