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When Love Went by Wayside, So Did a Life's Collection

As Va. Woman Laments Discarded Trinkets, Penitent Ex-Partner Resolutely Seeks Their Return

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2004; Page B01

How much is a glass "Necco Wafer" jar half-full of marbles really worth? "$10,000. No questions asked," read the flier on the bulletin board at the ice cream shop, sandwiched between homemade ads for birthday cakes and handymen.

You got the money if you delivered all the missing goods: the marbles, a vintage blender, a little metal bank from Snohomish, Wash., with "Neil" inscribed on the bottom, two teacups, a toy steam engine, a 1926 glass Sani-Straw dispenser filled with paper straws.

Van Soest, 41, holding a poetry book her aunt gave her, says she values little things. Her missing trove was "a beautiful collection," she says. (Photos Juana Arias -- The Washington Post)

So much money, people wondered, for so much junk?

Angela Oddone is a social worker. She's the one who posted "at least a thousand" of the fliers in her Alexandria neighborhood. She also has taken out classified ads, started a Web site with a lost-and-found e-mail address and organized a cheery "Treasure Hunt" for the lost items.

She's also the reason they're gone.

That's where things get complicated.

The story begins, as so many tales do, as a love story. Angela and Anne fell in love. Anne Van Soest, a legal aid attorney, moved into Oddone's cozy duplex in the funky Del Ray neighborhood with the bright yellow door and matching teal rocking chairs on the immaculate, white front porch.

Happily-ever-after lasted about a year and a half.

When the end came this summer, it was about all the things that breakups are ever about: money, control and misunderstandings that only get worse the more you try to make them better. Now there are accusations and threatened litigation over the marbles. The two women speak to each other through attorneys.

Rewind to July 16, a hot Friday night. Van Soest had moved out the month before, taking one carload of her things, and Oddone was ready for the rest of Van Soest's possessions to be gone. She called Van Soest six times that night to tell her to come get her stuff. Van Soest, whose cell phone was turned off, still has the recordings.

Then, as Oddone explained it, "human emotion and bad judgment" took over. She hauled Van Soest's mission-style library table and barrister bookcase filled with prized tchotchkes outside and dumped them at the curb.

At 5 a.m., Oddone awoke to a noise outside and found a woman loading the table onto her pickup. "She didn't speak English, and my Spanish is very limited from high school and college, but I was able to coax her to take the table off her truck," Oddone said.

But the trinkets were already gone.

"I don't think I've ever felt such remorse and regret in my life," Oddone said. "I have no proof that the things that were listed on that flier were in the bookcase, I'm just going on my former partner's word. Nevertheless, they are important to her . . . . As a result, I have launched this campaign to try to recover them."

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