Case of the Duplicitous Palette - 4

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Chapter Four

Case of the Duplicitous Palette

Previously:

That’s the first time you ever mentioned dating. Is this someone special, Allan?”

“Perhaps, Boss. It’s too early to say. Is it OK if I use the state’s car?”

“Of course, but pay for your gasoline. I’ll be expecting a report tomorrow.”

When Scott told Nancy about Allan’s date, she became excited and giddy, spouting in schoolgirl fashion, “That’s wonderful. Did he describe her? I want to meet her. Oh, I hope they will be happy.”

“Whoa, slow down. I said Allan has a date, not getting married. For all I know, it’s their first date. I’ll never understand why you women get so excited over a date. You all hear wedding bells.”

“Men!” Nancy said disgustedly and carried the dinner dishes into the kitchen. Returning with a coffeepot, she put an arm around Scott and kissed him on the forehead before filling his cup.

The following day, Allan didn’t mention his date on the way to the statehouse, and although highly curious, Scott didn’t ask. But while walking to his office, Scott said, “You look a little tired today, Allan,” thinking he could prod Allan into talking about his date.

“Not at all, Boss. I had a wonderfully restful night – in bed by ten-thirty, asleep by ten-thirty-five.”

Scott reckoned he shouldn’t push Allan any further and never did ask about Allan’s date.

“Are you ready for coffee, Boss?” Allan asked when they reached the office.

“Not right now, thanks. I’m meeting with Matt in a few minutes. Come with me. You’ll find this interesting.”

Matt Hart sat almost mesmerized as Scott went through the events of the previous two days.

“It sounds like Harry is being a little too cautious. Has his supervisor been giving him a hard time?”

“No more than usual. I think Harry is getting tired of his job. I noticed a touch of that during the Killer Pipe case, and just the other day, he commented about getting too old and maybe retiring. However, when he has to, Harry still comes through. It could be that his caution is not to bother the men in DC with items they might think superfluous.” Scott replied.

“It’s hard to tell, Scott. It appears he has the green light from his boss. The thing is, he made the correct moves to get the proper action out of DC and ease his mind about who has jurisdiction over the murder. I want you to continue to work with Harry. You two make a good team but don’t get visibly involved with any FBI investigation coming from Washington. Also, I want you to go to Becket to see how the state police are doing and if they are getting any crap from the Albany agent,” Matt ordered.

“I’ll try to get up there tomorrow. I’m almost sure if I delegate a few chores, I can wind things up at my office today. Let’s get going, Allan.”

As Scott and Allan entered the car, Scott said, “Please, find the nearest coffee shop with parking.”

The rain the following day made for a miserable start on the drive to Becket, but the sky started to clear before they made Springfield.

“I’ll be glad if the feds construct the new turnpike across the state. The articles I read sound like it’s a done deal, but I’ll wait until the first shovel of dirt is lifted before I believe it will happen,” Allan said.

“A certain amount of skepticism is always good, Allan. In this case, however. I think it is misdirected. They tell us that freight trains are getting fewer and fewer due to rising costs. With the increase in trucks used to haul goods, the turnpike is needed, and that road will be built. It will cut the time in half to cross the state.

“ There’s a Ho-Joes. Let’s stop, have a coffee, and stretch our legs,” Scott suggested.

By the time Scott and Allan left the restaurant, a second breakfast under their belts, the sky was darkening, and it was drizzling rain.

“Looks like the rain caught up with us, Boss, but we can tough it out. I figure we have only fifteen more miles to Becket,”  Allan commented while Scott lit his pipe and said nothing.

At the murder house in Becket, as Scott and Allan approached the front door, the Massachusetts State Trooper at the front door recognized Special Investigator Wadsworth and saluted.

“It’s good to see you again, Sir.  I was on the Ellensburg roundup while you were cleaning up South Boston. Later, when we met, I was guarding prisoners at Ellensburg when you came to question some detainees.

“Yes, Sergeant Mulligan, isn’t it. I remember how well you handled the suspects you brought to me. I’m happy to see there is a good man at the door. How is the FBI treating you, Mulligan?”

“Oh, they’re all right. They ignore us except when they want to play games, pulling us all from our posts and having a formal inspection like they were General Patton and his staff.”

“The FBI has nothing to do with you. Inspections are unnecessary, and I’ll stop that practice immediately,” Scott said, his anger coming forward.

Scott made himself known to all inside the house before pulling the two state police detectives aside. “How are things going between you and the FBI? I’ve heard about the guards having to stand inspection occasionally.”

“I’m Sergeant, Craig, Sir. I intend to notify my captain today about the inspections. I’ve talked to them about the stupid reviews, but they just laugh. To answer your question, though, we get along fine. It’s easy  to be compatible when the people you work with completely ignore you.”

“So that’s the way it is! Everyone talks like there is more than one FBI agent. I was told one man was sent from Albany.”

“There are four from New York City, Sir.  The leader’s name is Calvert, Sir, Agent Alfred Calvert.”

Scott took a deep breath, cupped his hands around his mouth, and yelled at the top of his voice. “Calvert, Agent Calvert. Report to the front room immediately.”

“You go to hell,” came a loud reply from upstairs. “Anybody wants to talk to me, get your ass up these stairs.”

“Sergeant Craig, take one man and escorts Agent Calvert from his throne room.”

“Gladly, Sir,” Craig said and selected a state detective equal to his own bulk.

“Agent Alfred Calvert, I want to educate you. You have no jurisdiction over the Mass. State Troopers guarding these premises. In fact, as far as the FBI is concerned, this case falls under the New England District’s FBI authority, and you are here as guests. The last word I received, one agent is here from Albany because the murdered lady tried to sell a copy of a famous painting. The fact is, the FBI has determined Miss Patricia Curry committed no crime as she knew nothing of the stolen artworks. How is it there are four of you here anyway?”

“We are from the New York Art Recovery Team, and who are you to ask?’

Scott didn’t answer but said,  “You shouldn’t be here at all. You had better keep abreast of developments in this case. And above all, you will stop harassing the assigned state troopers with unauthorized inspections. Is that clearly understood?”

“Ah, come on, we were just having a little fun. After all, they are only Staties. What’s the harm, and who in hell are you, ordering me around?”

“Surprise! I’m only a Statie too. I’m Special Investigator Scott Wadsworth out of the State Attorney’s Office. I’m a lawyer with the rank of Captain in the state police. I expect my orders to be obeyed when you’re in my territory. That way, I won’t have to call friends in the US Justice Department. Although I am obliged to pass on this conversation to Harry Malison, FBI’s New England Regional Supervisor. I have no idea what Malison might do with the information. However, I know he will want to know why your team is in Becket.”

“Ok, Captain, I get your drift. We’ve been ordered out anyway. We are just trying to prolong a cushy job until the weekend.”

“You don’t know when to keep your mouth shut. I just told you I’d have to report our conversation to Malison, and then you again condemn yourself. Pack up and be out of this house in one hour.”

“What a bum,” Allan said. “I hope you fix them good, Boss.”

“Me too, Sir,” said Trooper Mulligan, with a twinkle in his eye and his hand extender to Scott.”

“I forgot you were still here, Mulligan, Scott said as he shook Mulligan’s hand. I’m glad you are, and you now know that whatever your rank, the people upstairs care about you.”

“Oh, we know that, Captain. But it’s good to see it in action. I think I’ll spread it around a bit.”

Scott gathered Sergeant Craig and the other state detectives and asked, “Have you found or have been given any clues or information about the murder of Patricia Curry or the missing art?”

“Other than some additional business cards, not a thing, not even a drop of blood. This house was as clean as a pin when we arrived. However, the local cops were the first into the house. They told me they found nothing. The wooded area where the body was found was badly trampled for yards around, and none of the neighbors heard anything. I doubt the FBI found anything either. I think that team came here the day before we did. I haven’t seen them do much but sit around telling stories, eating, or harassing the guards.”

“Do you have the names of the local police who were here, Craig?” Scott inquired.

Craig pulled a small notebook from his jacket pocket, tore out a page, and handed it to Scott. “I won’t be needing this, Sir. I hope the names are helpful.”

“How about fingerprinting, has that been done?”

“Yes, Sir,” Craig replied. “The technician came from the State Police Barracks in Springfield soon after we arrived. Then the FBI print man came several hours later but never unpacked his gear, stayed for an hour or so, and left.

“When are you and your men scheduled to leave, Sergeant?”

“When we, as a team, decide there is nothing left to do, Sir. We want to go over the basement and garage again today and tomorrow. Also. Officer Mulligan told me that they are being replaced tomorrow morning, so I believe the house will continue to be guarded for a while.”

“Ok, Sergeant. This card is for my office at the statehouse. If you come up with something you believe I should know, call my number. If I’m not there, they will find me, and I’ll get back to you. Just tell the operator your name and that it’s important.”

“I’ll do that, Sir, and thank you for helping the guards.”

“In the car, Scott asked Allan, Do you think it’s too late to start back for Boston? I don’t want you to get overtired.”

“We’ll be OK, Boss. When we get within twenty miles of Boston, most traffic will be taking workers home in the opposite direction. Besides, I have a date I don’t want to break,”

“A date, you say, the same girl?” Scott asked.

“Yes, Sir!” Allan said but didn’t utter another word about his date, much to Scott’s chagrin.

Rain imitated drums as it incessantly pounded on the skylight that supplies light to the Wadsworths living room the next morning.

“Can’t you have some sort of a cover made that can be moved over the skylight when it rains like this? That noise is nerve-racking.” Nancy asked as she poured Scott’s second cup of coffee.

“I’ll look into it. Perhaps the people who serviced it last summer have something readymade. I have their business card at the office.”

As Scott finished his coffee, someone frantically pushed the bell button at the front gate.

“That will be Allan,” Scott said and rushed to the front door and pushed the release button freeing the gate. As he opened the front door, Allan was a couple of steps away and hunched over, apparently attempting to avoid the rain.

“You should have honked, Allan. No need for you to get wet,” Scott said as Allan shook the water from his hat.

“I know, Boss. To tell the truth, I was hoping to scrounge a cup of coffee – got up late and didn’t want to take the time at home.”

“Give me your raincoat, Allan, and sit down,” Nancy told him in a motherly tone. “I’ll hang it in the kitchen and get you a cup,”

While Allan works on his second coffee and a Danish Pastry that Nancy insisted he have, Scott, asks, “How was your date last night?”

“Quite good, thanks.”

Waiting several minutes for Allan to elaborate, Scott suggested, “We’ll have to have you and the lady here for dinner next week. What’s a good day?”

“Any time at all. Nancy, you name a day. After all, you’ll be doing the work. Scott will let me know.”

The sky quickly cleared on the drive to State Street South, but residual rain continued for several minutes despite the sun peeking through in the East. “Strange how the rain sometimes keeps coming when the sun is out – been bugged by that since I was a kid,” Allan said. “I’ll have to research that the first chance I get.”

Annie handed Scott an Airmail Special Delivery letter as they walked into the office.

“From Interpol in Brussels, Scott. Do you think it’s from Karl von Ropp?”

“I don’t know, Annie. Why don’t you open it and find out while I hang up my hat and coat.?”

“Karl von Ropp, it is, Scott,” Annie said, handing him the opened letter. “And another Interpol agent to contend with. Remember, Mister Wadsworth, you aren’t going to get involved beyond museum security and the murder.

“Allan, can you be at the airport Wednesday morning at six-fifty to meet Karl von Ropp? He’s coming in on Pan American’s night flight, 147.”

“Sure can, Boss. What does he want this time?”

“We’ll know when we pick him up. He didn’t say in the letter. He just said, Imperative.”

“What’s going on, Karl? Why are you here? What is so urgent?”

In Scott’s office, von Ropp said. “Because of the murder associated with the proposed sale of an illegal art copy,  Interpolis believes that US officials have the best chance of grasping the organization behind it all. We in Europe have so little to go on. You are one step ahead of us,”.

“I’m not so sure of that, Inspector. I was at the murder site and talked to the FBI and state police. Other than the murdered girl in the woods, assassinated by two bullets to the head and additional business cards with false names, not one clue was found pointing to the killers.”

“That is unfortunate,” von Ropp said. ”But even the ballistics report, when released, is something. It’s a long shot for it to be matched to a weapon, yet possible.”

“An extremely long shot, Karl. One that we are not counting on to produce the killer.”

“It’s difficult to believe no clues were found at the house. However, the possibility remains that she was shot elsewhere and the body transported to the woods,” von Ropp suggests. “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“There is one thing,” Scott answered. “We have located the possible country of the Cezanne Society International from a postal box number. Also, a country from the phone number prefix. Unfortunately, the country is not the same for the postal box and the phone. We believe the address and phone are phony and that mail and calls are forwarded to an unknown place. We have a general idea of the forwarding destination but are not yet ready to hand it over to Interpol.”

“And may I ask why not?” von Ropp asked indignantly.

“With Interpol’s inclination for raiding places, both the FBI and the State Attorney’s Office agree that if you raid a fraudulent address or mess with a dummy telephone number, you would be tipping off the organization behind the Cezanne Society International. This could set the investigation back months.”

“Scott, with the attempted sale in New York and the murder in this state, I was hoping for more than that,” von Ropp said, showing his disappointment. “There is a lot of international pressure on Interpol, mainly the British, to break up the gang and recover the paintings.”

“All I can promise you,” Scott began, “And I’m not speaking for the New England FBI, is to pass on anything solid we discover the moment it is validated. I am also working with Inspector Sullivan concerning museum security measures and will supply anything we learn about security to him.”

“You were more than cooperative during the Smyth case, and seeing that the USA will likely be a concentrated selling ground for the art copies, I must again trust you. I hope my Captain isn’t too disappointed when I return empty-handed.”

“I can give you a letter explaining our stand on this if you like,” Scott said.

“Not necessary, Scott. I planned to go home armed with the tools to crack the art theft gang. I thought they would become visible with the murder.”

“As did we, Inspector. Things don’t always turn out as expected, and no one is to blame. I’m sorry you made the trip for nothing. When is your return flight?”

“Tomorrow afternoon at three o’clock, weather permitting.”

“Then we can have dinner together. I’ll call Nancy and have her meet us at Parkers.”

“I’m afraid that isn’t possible,” von Ropp said. I have an excess of paperwork to complete, plus an intelligent report of this meeting. I have a room at the Airport Hotel, so I’ll find a taxi, go to the hotel, and get to work.”

“Nonsense,” Scott objected. It’s coming up to noon, and you have to eat somewhere. If you like Italian food, we can go to Angelo’s before taking you to the airport.”

“I’ve never tasted Italian food outside of Italy. It might be an exciting meal, and I will still have time for work, So you’re on. I hope they serve your wonderful California wine.”

“I have Harry Malison on the phone,” Annie said as Scott and Allan returned from lunch with von Ropp.

“I didn’t know if you were back from Becket yet,” Harry said rather than hello.

“Yes, and it was a wasted, rainy day. No clues were found in or around the house. The people there agreed that the killing took place elsewhere, and the body moved to the woods behind the house.”

“Scott, do you remember who of Ryan’s associates it was who went into the protective witness program? I wondered if he or perhaps Harold Gustafson, who is in Meadowville Resorts, if still alive, might be worth talking to about what American gang is peddling the copies.”

“That was Sabastian Kelly out on Long Island, and I think it’s an excellent idea, Harry. It’s not easy to get to those people, so I think the FBI should make the overtures, and it should come from Frank Cassidy or higher up.”

“I wish I could bypass Cassidy. He question’s my requests more than his supervisor.”

“Well, Harry, he is your supervisor! It’s his tight supervision that makes you such a good agent.”

“You don’t have to flatter me to have me do what falls under my authority. I’ll make the request today and expect you to come with me. I’ll start with Gustafson,”

“Good, and by the way, Karl von Ropp was here yesterday looking for information about the murder and asking about clues. He appears to be under tremendous pressure to solve the painting thefts. It bothered me that he had to fly twenty out of forty-eight hours and then go home empty-handed, so I guaranteed we would share all pertinent findings.”

“I like the word pertinent,” Harry emphasized. “ That means we pick and choose what is sent to Interpol.”

“Exactly. Now, and without trepidation, get on to your boss and have him set up interviews with those men. He’ll consider you a genius for the thought.”

Scott turned to Allan, “Let’s get out of here before the phone rings again. I have to report to Matt at the statehouse.”

Scott gave Matt Hart a rundown of his visit to Becket, emphasizing the bullying of guards by the Albany FBI and the lack of any clues.

“I’ll have a talk with Albany. You can bet on that. As far as clues go, we can’t manufacture them. If none are found, we don’t have any. I have to trust the investigators. But I’m glad the guards will be alert for clues while at the house.”

“Me too. I left a card with Sergeant Mulligan. If they come up with something, he’ll call me.

“By the way, Matt. How are you coming along with finding a US Border Patrol decision maker?” Scott continued.

“They are probably appraising the legitimacy of my request. I’m waiting for a call-back.”

“Another bureaucracy!” Scott commented. “Nothing is an emergency to some of those DC groups.”

“Harry and I talked about an undercover agent applying for a sales job offered by the Cezanne Society International’s advertisement in Wealth Now magazine.  Harry hadn’t thought of it and mentioned that it’s such an obvious action. He was surprised the DC boys hadn’t mentioned it either.”

Matt shook his head at Scott’s remarks and said, “The whole damn problem is at a standstill. We have Interpol, the FBI, and the state police working on it and are one baby step beyond our first indication of the art copies. It’s not too difficult to understand that we need powerful help in Europe to discover the mail and phone call final destinations. I don’t have much faith in a secret Justice Department group that we know nothing about being successful. That cloak and dagger stuff is for mystery novels.”

The buzzer on Matt Hart’s phone sounded. “Yes, Mister Wadsworth is here with me. OK, put him on.”

“Hi Harry, yes, I’ll give him the phone,” Matt said.

Scott listened for several minutes, then said, “Great news, Harry. I’ll be happy to see him. I can’t think of a better person for the job.”

Scott listened again before saying, “You’re full of good news today, Harry. I’ll drop in tomorrow morning, and we can discuss the details.”

“Do you remember Jack Cousins, Matt?” Scott asked after he hung up.

“You’ve mentioned him a couple of times since you came to work for me, but I don’t think I ever met him. I remember he came from the Department of Justice and was involved in that mess with Lucky Ryan. That’s about all.”

“That’s him, and he was permanently assigned to this area after protecting Mic from Ryan. I haven’t heard Mic mention him for some time. I wonder if he is still driving a taxi here in Boston as his cover. Anyway, Cousins has the undercover assignment selling art copies for the Cezanne Society International. Harry went to his supervisor, Frank Cassidy, with the undercover idea and the FBI obviously went to the DOJ for help.”

“The other news is encouraging too. A group in DC has taken on finding the destination of forwarded mail and phone calls to the Cezanne Society International. Harry told me only the FBI Director knows the group’s name and affiliation.”

“So, we go from bleak to encouraging in a five minutes span,” Matt said. “Stick close to Harry. Not that he isn’t capable, but your council has the effect of getting him off dead center faster than he might typically move.”

“You go ahead, Allan. I’ll walk home. I have a lot to think about, and the fresh air helps.”

“OK, Boss,” Allan said as he popped from a chair in the corner, pretending not to pay attention and to be startled when called.

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Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.

Copyright  Ernest N. Whitenack © 2022
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Historical research, thanks to Wikipedia, FBI cases, and miscellaneous reading.This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, andincidents are the products of the author’s imagination or fictitious. Real places and names are used in a fictional manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental.

Case of the Duplicitous Palette - 2

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Chapter Two

Case of the Duplicitous Palette

Previously:

“I’m fine, Allan. I’m concerned that I’m overstepping my authority with this copied art thing. Matt told me to take one day and then send a Cablegram to Sullivan. My gut tells me this is a massive international operation we’re looking at. Actually, it’s not a swindle. By all reports, the copies are nearly perfect. They are, however, copies of stolen art. I think the one the New York FBI is looking into is just the beginning of a worldwide effort to sell many copies of various ripped-off artworks. I will eventually have to tell Matt what I’m doing. Either I’m correct, or I’m fired.”

“You’ve never been wrong since I’ve known you,” Allan said. “If you don’t trust your judgment on this one, drop it now and send the cable. If Frank Gray feeds you anything to substantiate your intuition, you can always pick it up again. If I were you, I’d keep it to myself for a while longer. At least until Frank contacts you.”

Chapter Two

It was nearing four in the afternoon before Al Guatino knocked on Scott’s door at the statehouse and was beckoned in.

“How was your time at the museum?” Scott asked as soon as Al sat down.

“As soon as I loosen my shoes, Boss. I never should have worn new shoes – think I have blisters. That building is larger than it appears. In my early days as a patrolman, I could walk a six-hour beat and then go play basketball, but that was then.”

“Well, Boss, it was interesting, to say nothing about exciting. I’ve been to several art museums before, but as a kid in school, fifth or sixth grade. I never bothered to read the biographies of the painters or even look at their styles. There is one Rembrandt of a bride in a satin wedding gown that looks as if one could feel the material of her dress. It actually shimmers in the painting’s light. But then, I’m sure you know all about that stuff.”

“Boss, I have a small notebook full of security problems and possibly some safety infractions. The place is beautiful but a burglar’s dream. The only security I see is the average common crook’s difficulty fencing the paintings. This one is for the big boys who know exactly where they can sell the pictures.”

“OK, Al, good job. I want to get the info to Frank Sullivan pronto. Write it up as logically as possible. Room by room would be good. Have it typed up and get it to me when you are finished. If the Steno Pool gives you any trouble, let me know immediately. But now I want you to go home and soak your feet. Hurting feet can be fatiguing, so come in tomorrow when you’re rested.”

Frank Gray didn’t get back to Scott for three days and, when he did, had very little of any consequence.

“My people found plenty about Cezanne; showings, new findings, and a ton of fan clubs and similar organizations, most dedicated to Cubism. However, there were articles about excellent copies purchased by galleries and museums from your Cezanne Society International in three separate German newspapers. Presently I have people watching papers and press releases from those three cities. And we’ll continue our search in the broader area. You’ll receive what I have by courier tomorrow. I’ll send it to your State Street South address.”

“That’s great, Frank. I didn’t expect that much, and thanks for continuing the search. It appears there is more activity in Europe than here unless we aren’t as much tuned into fine art as the Europeans,” Scott theorized. “I’m anxious to see those news items.”

“I’m happy to do it for you, Scott. Besides, I expect to scoop the world when the paintings are recovered, and the crooks are caught.”

Ten minutes hadn’t passed before Frank called again with another revelation.

 “Scott, Grant Clemmons, you know him, just now dropped off several bits about paintings being lifted from other museums. All were bequeathed or gifted to the museums. The terms were that they could never be sold or loaned and always remain on permanent display. The Cezanne in question is one of them. It won’t surprise me if super copies of those don’t start showing up. I would think that near-perfect copies would be attractive to galleries and museums.”

“That sort of pulls the whole scene together, Doesn’t it! I wish I knew the offering price for the one in New York,” Scott said. “Price for some buyers would be a large part of the decision to buy or not.”

“Knowing reporters, if copies start selling, they will report the price and compare it to the official evaluation of the original,” Frank noted. “I’ll instruct my people to watch for such reports. Got to go, Scott. I’ll be in touch.”

“Please send those latest findings with the others if it isn’t too late. The information on those museums is vital.”

“Will do,” Scott.

Scott then turned to Al Guatino’s report on the Annabelle Garson Museum, but Allan rushed through the door and interrupted him.

“Boss, I was outside wiping down the car and saw Harry Malison parking his vehicle. He’s walking this way with much determination and frowning, thought you should know.”

“Thanks. I’m ready if Harry is coming here,” Scott said as Harry loudly knocked several times before opening the door and striding into the office.”

“This is a surprise, Harry. What brings you here?”

“I’ve received an FBI-wide notification to be alert for complaints from art museums or dealers regarding the sale of copies. I’m to report any such complaints to the DC Art Recovery Team supervisor.”

“So?” Scott replied.

“So, wise guy, I think it is more than a coincidence that you recently asked me about Art Recovery Teams, and I want to know why you asked if I had one attached to my office. What in hell are you up to?”

In all the years Scott has known Harry, he never saw him quite this agitated. Scott took his time filling and lighting his pipe.

Then he looked at Harry and said, “At this moment, I’m not at liberty to say. Remember, I have an obligation to keep my client’s secrets. And I’m not sure that it concerns you at all.”

Harry looked at Scott, red-faced and wide-eyed and all Harry could say was a weak, “If that doesn’t take the cake! I suppose I’ll have to set up a team to keep an eye on you. You might be associating with crooks!”

“Most lawyers do associate with crooks, Harry,” Scott said just to keep Harry going. “It’s part of the business.”

Harry turned and hurried out the door mumbling to himself.

“Allan, go get him,” Scott commanded. “I can’t let him leave in that frame of mind.”

“Harry, I was pulling your leg a little. I had no idea you would get so upset. I’m genuinely sorry, Scott said with a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

Then said to Allan, “There is some Scotch and glasses on the top shelf of the closet. I think we all need a drink. Bring it here, please.”

With the aid of the Scotch, Harry slowly returned to his old self and listened intently to what Scott told him regarding stolen paintings, Sullivan’s Cablegram, and Scott’s fears of alienating Matt Hart.

“I’ll gladly share anything Simmons or Frank Gray come up with. Just don’t tell anyone where the information comes from, or I’ll be back chasing ambulances again.”

Laughing, Harry said, “Alan, Scott never chased an ambulance in his life. Don’t let him hand you his Poor Me stuff. Anyway, unless Sullivan personally gets in touch with me and I have to bring Interpol into the picture, I’ll make sure anything I feed DC, I will say came from paid informants.

That’s fine, Harry. Just don’t do anything to jeopardize either of our jobs. If it makes you feel better, I’ll ask Frank to send you copies of everything he sends me,” Scott offered.

“Not necessary, Scott. I’d like you to sort out the critical data and pass that along. Now I have to get home. We’re having guests tonight, and I’ll be in the doghouse if I don’t get there in time to help with the preparations.”

At home that evening, Scott and Nancy settled down on the large leather sofa, Nancy with a book and Scott with contract folders.

“I miss the boys since they are away at university,” Scott said. “What do you say we take a ride up to Orono and say hello?”

“Oh, Scott, it’s only a couple of weeks for orientation. They will be home in another two weeks for the summer. You must remember that they are quickly approaching manhood and probably think they are already there. A visit would only embarrass them. It’s time to stop thinking of them as boys and let them spread their wings.”

“I suppose you are right. It’s a phase I’ve been thinking about for a while and dreading,” Scott replied after lighting his pipe, something Scott does when he requires time to consider an answer.

They will grow up quickly now, and you will get over your misgivings about losing them. You’ll always be Dad. And this will always be home until they marry and have their own kids.

“Please don’t talk about grandkids, Nancy. I doubt I’ll make a good grandfather.”

Nancy, smiling inside, reached over and patted Scott’s leg, saying, “There, there, you’ll get over it.”

The phone rang and broke Scott’s dismal mood. He sat his pipe and business folder on the coffee table and went to answer the phone.

“Frank here,” the voice said. “I’d like to delay sending you the promised package for half a day. I’m overwhelmed with reports coming in from all over. I need time to sift them; looks like I’ll be here most of the night.”

“No need for that, Frank; just send what you first intended. I can only go through so much at one time, and at this point is not that frantic a project. Go home, my friend, and sleep well. Good night, Frank.”

Scott picked his glass from the coffee table and refilled it with ice and Scotch at the sideboard. When he turned, Nancy was watching him with a soft smile.

“What?” Scott blurts out, surprising himself with the volume of his voice.

“That was a lovely thing you did with Frank Gray, considering how uptight you are over the painting case.”

“In the first place, it is not a case, only an inquiry to help Frank Sullivan. In the second place, I’m not uptight, simply nervous about my state job. I could lose it if I go too far on this.”

“Then don’t go too far,” Nancy said. I know that’s not easy for you, but you can try. Now, you need a good sleep, not more Scotch, so let’s go to bed.”

After a nine-hour sleep, the aroma of cooking sausage, floating up from the kitchen, drove Scott out of bed and down the stairs. He found coffee waiting in the kitchen and a fully dressed Nancy busy at the stove.

“How long have you been up, my love?” Scott asked, holding a hot coffee mug in both hands.

“A couple of hours, I guess. I didn’t notice the time. How many eggs do you want?”

“Nancy, how can you get up in the morning without first looking at the clock? Two eggs, please, and some more coffee.” Scott answered.

In the last throws of dressing, Scott is attempting to get a slippery silk necktie to form the intended knot when the phone rings twice.

Nancy yelled up the stairs, “It’s Allan, Dear. Can you take it?”

“Got it,” Scott replied, removing the bothersome tie, stepping into the hall, and retrieving the phone.

“Yes, Allan, What’s going on?”

“What time do you want me to pick you up this morning, Boss. I need a dentist this morning and want to make an emergency appointment if it’s convenient for you.”

“Go ahead and make your appointment, I’m going to my law office, and I can walk. Anyway, I want to stop by Paretti’s on the way. Hope it’s nothing too serious. Come to the office when you are through, or go home if you don’t feel well. But please call.”

“Thanks, Boss. A filling fell out, and it’s pretty painful at the moment. I’ll see you later.”

Scott took his time going to work through the Boston Common. Crocuses are beginning to emerge in the garden plots. This means Daffodils aren’t far behind and will soon add a blaze of yellow across the Common. This fact always dispels the annual Bostonians’ question, “ Will Spring never get here?”

At Paretti’s, Scott took his time looking around the tobacco shop and fought against purchasing a beautiful straight-grained Danish freehand pipe. Eventually, after kibitzing with the staff, Scott grabbed the bag with an eight-ounce tin of Royal blend tobacco and went straight to his office.

Annie was busy sorting a pile of case folders when Scott walked in.

“Paretti’s this morning, I see. I was wondering where you were.” Annie commented. “After all these years, I can tell by the bag’s shape, in case you’re wondering. Your messages are on your desk, and Adam has the distribution contract ready for you. Call him when you are ready.”

Mic Mitchell walked into the outer office carrying four cups of coffee in a cardboard carrier as Scott was returning the annotated pink phone messages to Annie.

“Well, here he comes carrying gifts. Should I beware, Annie?” Scott jokingly said. Then turning to Mic, “Haven’t seen you for weeks. Everything OK?

“Sure. Been busy training new people and doing some PR work for Mister Swenson. That reminds me; the other day, I was at the  Annabelle Garson Museum and saw Al Guatino all decked out like an English man of leisure. What’s with him?”

“What were you doing there, Mic?’

“I met with the Board of Directors about an educational grant from Swenson’s Plumbing. It’s for classes in art appreciation centered around young kids.”

“That’s nice of Swenson,” Scott said and then briefly explained Guatino’s business at the museum and the fake art copies.

“Sounds like something Gerald Smyth might be up to, doesn’t it. But then, he is safely in prison,” Mic said.

Scott was quiet for a minute, then thoughtfully said, “It does that. I’d better check with Sullivan about Smyth’s situation. He is much too slippery to not warrant a checkup.”

“That was supposed to be a joke, Scott. Sorry if I added to your troubles. Now, I’d better get back to the office.”

“I’m glad you brought Smyth up, and thanks for the coffee. Don’t be such a stranger, Mic.”

Scott buzzed Annie on the telephone’s intercom. “You have Frank Sullivan’s Interpol number in Dublin. Please get him on the phone, person-to-person.”

“Hello, Inspector Sullivan. Gerald Smyth’s name came up in a conversation just a minute ago. Mic and I were talking about the missing paintings and the copies. Mick commented that it sounds like something Smyth might be into, and I readily agreed. Is he still safely in prison?”

“That he is, Scott, or at least he was three days ago. That’s when I received this week’s report on him. I keep tight track of him. He’s too much of a Weasel not to. When we arrested Smyth in France the last time, I requested weekly reports. Actually, the thought that paintings are Smyth’s cup of tea passed my mind at the start of this problem.”

“That’s good news and one thing off my mind. You will get a cable from me within a week with everything I come up with regarding museum security. Also, Frank Gray is helping me, and I’m waiting to get a considerable amount from him about art theft and the sale of super-accurate copies. I’ll send them via air.”

“I knew you and your people would come through for me, Scott. I hope it isn’t an inconvenience.”

“Not at all. From what Frank Gray has revealed to me, The problem is international, and we might officially be working together soon. However, I’ve been ordered not to take on anything other than the security question. It could cost my Special Investigators position with the state. Please keep the rest to yourself.”

“On my Mother’s grave, Scott. It’s between you and me unless the case explodes and we’re all on it. I’ll keep an eye out for your package and keep it secure,” Sullivan promised.

Annie walked into Scott’s office shortly after Scott got through with Sullivan. “Harry called while you were on with Agent Sullivan. He wants you to meet him at Jake Wirth’s for lunch around one o’clock.”

“Does he expect a reply?”

“Only if you can’t make it, I assume. Harry didn’t say,” Annie replied.

“Allan, It looks like we’ll get our lunch with Harry and at Harry’s invitation, so I hope your temporary filling holds up.”

“There are two sides to my mouth. I’ll be fine, thanks.”

“Sipping a Pilsner while waiting for lunch to be served, Harry asked, “Have you heard from Sullivan recently?”

“Yes, I was talking to him when you called. I contacted him to ensure that Gerald Smyth was presently under lock and key. Someone mentioned the copies would be something within his scope, and it got me wondering.”

“I can’t stop thinking about the value of a near-perfect copy of a known master’s priceless work. Is price mentioned in anything Frank has turned up?”

“Not that Frank has told me, and I’ve yet to see any news items. I expect them tomorrow. Should I find anything on the price, I’ll let you know immediately. Do you know if a price was  asked for the one sales attempt in New York?” Scott asked.

“No, but I will today. How stupid of me not to immediately call the New York Art Recovery Team,” Harry scolded himself.

“Don’t fault yourself, Mister Malison,” Allan interposed. “No one else thought about the cost or what it might say about the sellers.”

Harry smiled, looked at Scott, and said, “He gets smarter and wiser each time I see him, Scott. You must be feeding him right!”

The waiter brought lunch and three more Pilsners which caused Scott to say, “Now, doesn’t that look delicious. Dig in, my friends, and let’s forget about illegal art copies for a while.”

The courier from Frank Gray showed up the next day as Annie turned the key to Scott’s office. “Come in,” Annie said as she removed her coat and hung it on the Hall Tree.

“Is that from Frank Gray?”

“Yes, Miss. Someone has to sign for it, please.”

Annie reached into a desk drawer for a pen and then took five dollars from an envelope. She signed the form and passed it and the money to the courier.

The young man’s face brightened, and he said, “Thank you, Miss, but the short trip doesn’t deserve such a large tip.”

“It’s not the distance that counts. It’s that you are here this early. Mister Wadsworth thinks that if papers are important enough to hire a courier, they are important enough to be here early in the day. If you had come late in the day, you wouldn’t get a tip. Remember that.”

The courier tipped his cap, saying, “Yes, Miss. I sure will.”

The contents of Frank’s package, neatly sorted, stacked, and each stack spring-clipped together, proved to be voluminous and almost covered Scott’s desk.

Scott immediately called his statehouse office, “Simmons, I want the three of you here at State Street South as quickly as you can make it. Avoid Matt Hart if possible.”

“We are all here, so it won’t be long, Boss. Can I tell Buck and Al what it’s all about?”

“No, because I’m not going to tell you until you get here. This has to be kept quiet. For now, at least.”

Scott laid out some ground rules, and the five people sat around the large conference table sorting the news feeds. Anything with a price, a named museum by city, a named museum curator, and any named police or Interpol agents went in separate piles. It was a daunting task, and at day’s end, they were two-thirds through. All categories are put in expandable folders and locked in the firm’s large safe.

“Annie, get out the business’s Diners Club card and take everyone to dinner, and I don’t care where. You four can decide where you want to go. Great job, folks. Allan will be here tomorrow with another set of eyes and hands. He’s at the tax attorney today. I hope we can make short work of it.”

Allan pulled the car to the curb just as Scott left his building, rolled down the window, and shouted, “Over here, Boss.”

“Did you get all your tax work done, Allan? The guy I sent you to is a genius,” Scott asked as he settled in the back seat and stretched out. ”

“He is that,” Allan replied, “But one thing he isn’t is inexpensive. Although I’ll have to admit, it’s better than fighting the tax people. Where to, Boss?”

“Home, Jeeves. You are having dinner with Nancy and me. I have to tell you about the day and what I expect of you tomorrow.”

“Anything for Nancy’s cooking, Boss. Bring on your demands.”

Scott explained what took place that day and told Allan that he would supervise the task the following day.

“I have to talk to Matt. I can’t keep it from him any longer. I’m too deep into this stolen and copied art to give it up. Once I explain, I hope he will sanction continuing with the case under the State Attorney’s office. Should he disagree, I’ll probably be relieved of my state position. More coffee, Allan?”

“No coffee, thanks, but a bit of Brandy will go down nicely.” Then he went on to say, “I can’t see why Matt would disagree, particularly where attempted sales seem worldwide. He should want to get a jump on the problem if it raises its head in Massachusetts.”

“Well, we will know tomorrow, won’t we.” Scott said, somewhat accepting of his fate,” Then, Scott went to the sideboard and returned carrying two large snifters of Brandy.

“So, Allan, I’ll walk to the statehouse in the morning, and you go directly to State Street South. I’ll call Annie and tell her that you are in charge. I think four to five hours of work will clean up the task, and you can join me at the statehouse. You can either tell me how the morning went or help me pack up my things. You can still work for me if you wish as a State Police Sergeant, Rockford, or civilian, Allan Rockford.”

“Thanks, Scott, Let’s hope I don’t have to make that decision.

At first, Matt Hart was enraged at Scott and reminded him that he had given him only one day to answer Frank Sullivans Cablegram. He continually brought up that Scott had deliberately disobeyed an order as if he couldn’t believe what Scott told him.

“Please take a few minutes and look at these press releases from Germany about dealers and museums. Perhaps it will convince you that we, in this department, should continue to stay abreast of this activity. At the very least, we will have some knowledge if it ever happens in this state. New York isn’t that far away, and we’ve learned that borderlines mean nothing to purveyors of illegal activity.” Scott pleaded.

“OK, OK. Shut up, and I’ll look at the releases. I admit that your argument has validity. But I’m still ripped at you, Scott. Now, get out of here and finish your sorting, but send Guatino and Qualter back here. I might need them.”

Upon entering Scott’s statehouse office, Allan found him in earnest conversation on the telephone. Scott motioned Allan to a chair and signaled him to be quiet.

“That’s interesting, Frank, but I don’t see how it affects us in the US. Without a bill of lading, there is no way to tell where the shipment was going. The address is in French, you say. That should tell you it’s not coming here.”

Scott didn’t speak for some time, but Allan had already comprehended the gist of the conversation.

“Well, Frank, that makes a huge difference. You didn’t tell me it is Canadian French. How do you know that?”

“I get it now, interesting! I’ll talk to the right people to have US entry points carefully monitored, and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

“So, Sullivan thinks copies of paintings are coming this way, Boss?”

“Yes, and he might be right. I learned something new today. The labels on the crates are in French but Canadian French. I thought the difference was in inflection and pronouncement. Interpol language experts say they detected minute but definite indicators in the label’s words and accent marks that tell the boxes are destined for Canada.”

“Who has influence with the United States Border Patrol, Boss? Don’t think I ever heard you speak of them?” Allan asked.

“At this time, I don’t know. I’ll pass it along to Matt Hart. I also have some friends at the British Embassy who, if necessary, can exert some pressure on Canada. Please grab us some coffee while I’m gone. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

“That’s a surprise. I honestly believed the failed sale in New York was one of a kind and not connected to the articles from Germany you gave me, that it’s a European problem. But now, sneaking copies in through Canada makes your efforts justifiable. I remember that for years during Prohibition, Scotch Whisky was smuggled into this country across the length of the Canadian Border,” Matt said with a much softer attitude.

“Thank you for the reinforcement, Matt. Do you know who to notify of this development?”

I do not. That type of federal policing just isn’t connected with state groups. I think Harry Malison is the man to ask. Will you do that for me, please? And I want to be informed daily of new developments.”

“Yes, Sir,” Scott said and left Matt’s office feeling much taller than three days ago.”

“How did it go with the boss, Boss? Did he buy it?” Allan asked as he handed Scott a coffee.

Wadsworth took a sizeable swallow of coffee, dug a half-smoked pipe from his jacket, and relit before answering.

“All the way, my friend, and in a normal tone. I don’t want to say he was apologetic, but Matt gave me full sway to continue on. I want you to look up the number for the US Customs Department’s main office and see if you can find a number for anything pertaining to border patrol. I must call Frank Sullivan right now.”

“I have good news and a question for you, Frank. First, I now have permission to go full out on this copied painting problem. Secondly, what is the destination city on the French language labels? And if there is more than one destination city among them, I need to know all of them?”

“You think they’ll be smuggled into the US, do you now?” Frank asked with a wry tone.

“It seems logical to Matt and me. He pointed out Prohibition days and the Scotch Whisky problem along Canada’s border. I guess that wouldn’t enter your mind, never having a prohibited alcohol problem in Ireland.”

“It’s unthinkable, Scott, in either Ireland or Scotland, so I’ll say, no, it never entered my mind. However, it is a proper angle you’ve put to those boxes slated for Canada. I’ll assemble the info from the labels and cable it to you ASAP. Also, I’ll see that a document is sent from Interpols stating the Massachusetts State Attorney’s office is officially working with Interpol. That might make it easier to approach your federal border people. Sure, and I’ll be waiting to hear what you discover. My best to all there.”

Allan returned in a while and told Scott, “I didn’t find out much about the US Border Patrol. Nothing in the phonebook. And the Customs Department told me they are not connected here and try Washington DC or a state sharing a border with Canada.

Malison knocked once and walked into Scott’s office and said. “I’ve got news for you, important enough for DC to call me at home.”

“And good morning to you, Harry. I don’t often see you so early in the day. You’re getting too hyper lately. Slow down and tell me the news.”

“The asking price for the New York copy was sixty-five thousand dollars, a tiny fraction of the original’s appraised value and a bargain for any gallery or museum. The seller remains unknown, but the Bureau managed a description of the – hold onto your hat – young woman offering the copy. As we speak, sketches of the lady are being distributed to all offices in states boarding New York.”

“Of course, I’ll get a copy from you, Harry,” Scott responded. “And thanks for getting this to me so promptly. The price is surprisingly low, but the seller is not a surprise. Women are, in most cases, better salespeople. They are better actors and adapt to situations better than men.”

Allan broke the seriousness of the moment, saying, “Man! I can vouch from experience that women are better actors.”

“ You rogue, I’ll bet you can,” Malison poked at Allan. “I can use some coffee, and I’m buying.”

“Sure thing,” Allan replied and left the office.

The following day, at State Street South, the four-by-five photo of the woman’s sketch arrived at Scott’s office.

“She isn’t that attractive,” Annie said. “I thought that was a prerequisite for lady sales workers.”

“Not when you are selling to other women,” Scott said. I imagine that many working at galleries and museums are women. The men are in the background worrying about finances, grants, and board members.”

“Allan, please take this to Nat’s Photo Processing on Bromfield Street,” Scott requested. “I want it copied and a hundred same size prints made. Make sure you see Nat or his lab manager, Sully. Tell them I need as exact a copy as they can possibly make. Price is no object. Ask when the job will be completed.”

“Yes, Boss. Anything else you want while I’m out?”

Holding a lit match above his pipe, Scott shook his head no, and Allan left the office.

Scott has, for two days, continued going over the second batch of press releases from Consolidated News Service. Some a scant mention of the missing paintings and some conjecturing who and how the pictures were taken. There is little value in the second batch, and Scott pushes them aside, gets from his chair, and walks around the room, stretching. Moving to the window where Allan usually sits and gazes, Scott wonders if he has taken on more than he can give and should pass it all over to the FBI and step away.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.

Copyright  Ernest N. Whitenack © 2022
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Historical research, thanks to Wikipedia, FBI cases, and miscellaneous reading.This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, andincidents are the products of the author’s imagination or fictitious. Real places and names are used in a fictional manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental.

Case of the Duplicitous Palette - 3

riverville cover lg

Chapter Three

Case of the Duplicitous Palette

Previously:

“Allan, please take this to Nat’s Photo Processing on Bromfield Street,” Scott requested. “I want it copied and a hundred same size prints made. Make sure you see Nat or his lab manager, Sully. Tell them I need as exact a copy as they can possibly make. Price is no object. Ask when the job will be completed.”

“Yes, Boss. Anything else you want while I’m out?”

Holding a lit match above his pipe, Scott shook his head no, and Allan left the office.

Scott has, for two days, continued going over the second batch of press releases from Consolidated News Service. Some a scant mention of the missing paintings and some conjecturing who and how the pictures were taken. There is little value in the second batch, and Scott pushes them aside, gets from his chair, and walks around the room, stretching. Moving to the window where Allan usually sits and gazes, Scott wonders if he has taken on more than he can give and should pass it all over to the FBI and step away.

Chapter Three

The intercom jolted Scott from his work a couple of days later as Annie’s voice came to him. “FBI on the phone, line one.”

“Malison here. The New York office thinks it has a line on that lady selling the Cezanne copy, and DC wants this office to pick her up for initial questioning. She lives out West just North of Becket on Route Eight. I’m sending a couple of men out there tomorrow and wondered if you wanted in on it. The State Police are watching her house and are instructed to detain her if she attempts to leave.”

“Heavens no, Harry,” Scott answered. “The fact is, I think I’ve embedded myself too deeply into this problem. It’s much too early to be taking an active part. But as a consultant? Maybe.”

“Again? Don’t get indecisive on me now, Scott, especially since Matt Hart has given you the go-ahead.”

“Harry, how come the Albany office isn’t doing this instead of you. After all, it is a New York case?”

“I didn’t ask. I was ordered, so I’ll bring Miss Caroline Halstead into custody. It’s as simple as that. I hope you will sit in when she is questioned. Your legal mind is devious enough to always be helpful.”

“For now, I’ll take that as a compliment, and I will if Matt gives the OK, Scott replied, a little miffed.”

“To answer your question, An Art Recovery Team calling on galleries got a description and the card from an employee. The team, in turn, showed the person the sketch photo you had made. The employee immediately confirmed it was the same woman, and she does live in Massachusetts.”

“A business card, you say? Then it could be an Alias. It’s a good thing we have the sketch for confirmation. As other gallery people see the drawing, it will be interesting if they give the agents the same name. People pulling a con usually use several names.”

“Time will give the answer to that, Scott, unless she has cards with several different names in her possession when she’s put in custody. I’ll be talking to you tomorrow afternoon.”

Scott naturally started thinking about Harry’s news and wondering when the next copy might show up. If it would be the same view of Auvers-sur-Oise or something different, How large an organization is behind the whole thing, and how many salespeople might be out there peddling the copies across the world.

As Annie and Scott closed the door for the day, another courier stepped from the elevator with a package from Consolidated News.

“I’ll take care of this,” Annie said. “You go on home, Scott. You look tired and drawn. We’ll tackle the package in the morning.

Allan, waiting in the car for Scott, opened the door, but Scott waved him off, saying, “I’d like to walk today. My mind is in a whirl over this case. Perhaps the walk will relax me a bit. See you tomorrow at seven-thirty.”

Scott entered the Boston Common for his familiar walk diagonally through to Beacon Street but stopped at the second of the green-painted park benches lining the walkway. He struck a match on a close-by tree and lit the pipe he filled before leaving the office, turned, and sat on the bench, something he never did before on his way home. While giving his pipe a second lighting, Scott watched the Pigeons approach, looking to be fed. He found it funny when the Squirrels moved in, a couple sitting on their haunches begging, and the Pigeons quickly dispersing.

“The pecking order,” Scott mumbled to himself. “What a shame we all can’t just live and let live.”

By the time Scott reached the front gate of his Walnut Street home, most of the day’s lingering problems were replaced with pleasant images of Nancy, dinner, and a relaxing evening.

“Well, you’re looking better this morning, Boss,” Allan said as Scott entered the waiting car. “Where to?”

“The law office, please. And yes, I feel good. I was tearing myself up yesterday about the extent of my involvement in this painting case when it is actually the FBI’s problem.”

“I can understand that. And I also appreciate the dedication that drives you. You’re not Atlas, Boss, carrying the heavens on your shoulders.”

“I’m grateful for your concern, Allan. I am what I am, but I must try to restrain myself. At times I guess it’s challenging to live with me.”

“I won’t amplify your feelings by agreeing with you,” Allan bravely said. “ But, I’ll try to help when I can, and you know you always have my ear if you have a problem.”

Scott leaned forward from the back seat and squeezed Allan’s shoulder, saying, “Yes, I know.”

From the conference room, Annie heard Scott and Allan enter the outer office. “In here, Scott. I’m in the conference room with the latest releases from Consolidated News.”

Seeing the releases neatly placed in several piles, Scott asked, “What time did you come in this morning, young lady, or did you work all night?”

“It only took a couple of hours, and it’s only a preliminary correlation. I don’t mind,” Annie said in a tone that told Scott that it was the end of the discussion. “And it will lessen your job considerably,” She added.

“Also, Harry called a few minutes before you came in. They have Caroline Halstead, carrying fifteen different business cards, whatever that means, in a holding cell at FBI headquarters..”

“Complications is what that means. The FBI will now have to determine her real name before continuing.”

“Didn’t she have any other ID, a driver’s license, or something?” Scott immediately asked when he called Harry.

“No, not in the lady’s possession. Two agents are scouring her apartment right now, looking for evidence of a legal name. It will be faster than fingerprinting her if they find something,” Harry replied. “And a good morning to you, too.”

“Sorry, Harry, I guess I’m too anxious for details, Good Morning. Now, will you still question her this afternoon, not knowing her name?” Scott asked.

“Oh sure, I have to strike while the lady is still nervous about being arrested. Come on over if you have a mind to. Must go now. Goodby.”

As Scott worked his way through the piles of press releases, one stood out. A small quotation from an Interpol Captain at Interpol’s headquarters states: “Everything to date leads us to believe the theft from Oxford is the work of a gang from France with agents placed in most industrialized countries. We have not  determined where the copies are being made, but we are looking closely at France and the Netherlands.”

“Allan, please get three copies of this release made. I want to make sure the FBI and our Interpol friends, Inspectors Karl von Ropp and Frank Sullivan, are aware of this statement.”

“Happy to, Boss. I’m getting blurry-eyed reading these releases. This pile on the left are those I think you should see,” Allan said.

Later that afternoon, in Harry Malison’s office, Patricia Curry, alias Caroline Halstead, sits bewildered and wondering why she has been detained and questioned. Nancy sits nearby with her steno pad and several pencils ready to record the interrogation.

“Miss Curry, the painting you are attempting to sell is an amazingly accurate copy of one stollen from the Duke Charles Museum at Oxford University. How come you possess the copy, and what is the Cezanne Society International?” Harry asks to start the questioning.

“I don’t know why this is all happening. Why am I under arrest? I don’t know anything about the original View of Auvers-sur-Oise being unlawfully taken or copied. I was simply trying to sell a product certified by the Cezanne Society International, a group promoting the brilliance of the artist Cezanne.”

“How did you learn about the society and that they have copies of well-known paintings for sale?”

“I read an advertisement in the magazine “Wealth Now” that the Cezanne Society International is recruiting salespeople with experience selling high-cost items at a thirty percent commission. Having experience selling shares for venture capital groups and a couple of brokerage firms, the prospect fits right into my expertise. It meant big money for a relatively easy sell with no long-term commitment,” Curry answered.

“Then, Miss Curry, why are fifteen different names on your business cards? Was that your idea or that of whoever hired you?

“I was told, and it seemed logical at the time, that I would be selling paintings of various artists. I was to use a different name for each transaction unless to a repeat customer. The reason given was to justify the high commission and allow sufficient time to work on one customer at a time.”

“And that didn’t seem odd to you?” Harry asked.

“I’ve already told you that it seemed logical at the time. A name is just a name and did not enter into the transaction. The cost was invoiced by the society, and payment went directly to them. I didn’t receive any money from the buyer. Until your people arrested me, I sold one copy to a gallery in Poughkeepsie. I received my almost twenty-thousand dollar commission in an International Money Order within thirty days and in my own name.”

“This society, Who did you talk to, and where is the outfit located?”

“It all happened by mail or telegram. I spoke to no one. Some came from Rome and others from Bruges, Belgium.”

“And you still had no suspicions of illegality about the Cezanne Society International.”

“I moved slowly at first, naturally. But as things moved on and I received my first commission, I relaxed because everything went as it was explained. I had no reason to think anything was wrong.”

“All right, that’s enough for now. We are moving you to a hotel, under guard, of course. A woman agent will call on you every day to attend to your needs. You can also contact me through your guard. Think about today’s conversation and determine if you can add anything to it,” Harry concluded and buzzed the guard.

“Nancy, I’d appreciate it if you would type that up and take a copy to Scott when you go home. Please ask him to call me tomorrow.”

“Damn him, this is the very reason I didn’t want to sit in on the questioning. It’s not my place to be forming personality evaluations on people in FBI custody, Scott told Nancy after he read the transcript.”

“From what Harry said, he was hinting at an opinion on holding her in custody. He isn’t sure if he is holding her legally,” Nancy replied.

“The FBI has experts to determine things like that – lawers specializing in illegal arrests and detention. I might well give him a wrong answer. Where would he be if I did?”

“I would guess he didn’t want to bring it up with his boss, seeing that he was ordered to detain her.”

“I’ll talk to him in the morning. It seems lately that he has no backbone,” Scott said.

The following morning, when Scott called Malison, he told him, “Harry, I can help you with some things, but not advise if you are holding someone illegally or give you a personality profile of a person from a fifteen-minute interview.”

“Sorry, Scott. I didn’t intend to upset you. The young lady was so forthright and intelligent that it puzzled me. I’m torn between her being duped into something innocently or being very clever and devious. As for the legality, I think we should have asked for her cooperation rather than arrest her. I’m not sure she is guilty of anything other than being a bit naive.”

“You could be right, Harry, but the FBI has people much more vested in criminal law than I. Perhaps you should be telling all this to Frank Cassidy, your supervisor, and let him put it in front of the experts.”

“I’ll do that, even as I know he will tell me to make my own decisions. But I’ll hold my ground and firmly insist the question of illegal detention be brought to the experts, that I cannot continue without a decision on that point.”

“I hope that will make your supervisor take some action. It would make me if I were presented with such a proposal. Let me know what happens, Harry.”

Harry Malison stopped by Scott’s statehouse office three days later to inform him that Patricia Curry had been released.

“The legal brains said she shouldn’t have been arrested. In her mind, she committed no crime, but all the business cards indeed pointed to a criminal. Although that decision will make the case more difficult, I’m pleased about her release. She actually thanked me for bringing the theft to her attention. She said she would stick to her venture capital groups and brokerage firms for her income. I told her to investigate if she found another ad that promised big money.”

“So, it all worked out for you, Harry, and the FBI is generally wiser for it,” Scott said.

“Hopefully, Scott, because I had to listen to a ten-minute slap on the wrist from my boss for questioning orders. However, he half-heartedly apologized for the chewing out after telling me to release her.”

“Then relish it, Harry, and enjoy your day,” Scott said as Harry reached for the doorknob.

As Harry left, a girl from the Mailroom entered, saying, “This cable came for you from Interpol. I thought it might be important, seeing who it’s from, so I decided to bring it to you rather than placing it in your mailbox.”

“Thank you,” It is important, and whenever I get a Cablegram, please don’t hesitate to bring it to me. Cablegrams will always be urgent, as will registered mail. If you have a question about any piece of mail. please call me.”

“Yes, Sir. I will, the girl said, with more attention on Allan than Scott.”

“Do you know her, Allan?” Scott asked.

“Not yet, but soon, I think,” Allan replied with a broad smile.”

After reading the cable, Scott said, “Allan, I have to talk to Matt. How about getting coffee and bringing it to his office, and no stops at the Mail Room.”

“Matt, can you, from your DC contacts, get us in touch with someone in The US Border Patrol who makes decisions?”

“I think so, Scott, But why do you need them?’

“One of the press releases mentioned Interpol intercepting cases containing painting copies. The destination was written in Canadian French but failed to mention the destination city. I have a Cablegram from Sullivan telling me the cities are Montreal and Tsawwassen, British Columbia. Like the Scotch of Prohibition, I believe they were to be carried across the border to someone at each end of the USA. Canada should be advised of this too.

Three weeks have passed without a word about copied paintings being offered anywhere. It’s as if the case was put on the back burner. Then, Harry was waiting outside Scott’s State Street South office when Allen brought the car to a stop at the curb, and Scott emerged.

“Harry, are you waiting for me?” Scott asked.

“Why else do you think I’d be standing here? Let’s get to your office.”

“Patricia Curry has been murdered. Her body was found yesterday. It was in the woods, a hundred yards or so behind her home. A neighbor noticed several dogs sniffing and howling and called the local cops. Curry was killed execution-style with two thirty-eights to the back of her head.”

“Was anything found in the home? Any clues or notes? Anything missing?” Scott asked.

“I’ve told you all I know. I think it will be a couple of days before we know more. State police forensics is there, and one of our men from the Albany office.”

“Whoever is behind this sure doesn’t fool around. It seems a small thing to be killed over. Patricia didn’t tell you anything, really. Although I guess they didn’t believe her.” Scott sadly said.

Allan walked in carrying four paper cups of coffee, placed one on Annie’s desk, and took the others into Scott’s office.

“You’re looking rather somber, you two,” Allan said as he passed out the coffee.

Scott told him about the murder, and Allan commented, “That sure puts a new light on the case. From the murder, I imagine there at tons and tons of money and some very serious bad guys you’ll have to hunt down, Mister Malison.”

“It puts pressure, internationally, on many organizations and people. I think I’ll be going to Washington for a meeting on this, or DC will be coming to Massachusetts. You know, as I age, I wonder how many more grueling cases I can endure. This is a big one,” Harry said.

“If I were to have a say in this, I would work to get a special operative into the organization undercover, Scott said. “Obviously, Interpol, the FBI, or the Massachusetts State Police have no clue who they are up against. We know they are placing ads for salespeople. That’s how Patricia Curry got the job. Has anyone connected with the FBI Art Recovery Team, New York or DC, tried to trace the ad in the Wealth Now magazine? Seems like a good start to me.”

“Such a small but essential detail! How did it get lost among all the rest?” Harry pondered aloud.

“Thanks, Scott. I’ll pass it along to DC today. And I don’t want to hear any more self-denigrating comments about your value.”

“Allan, please pop out and buy a copy of Wealth Now, if you can find one. I want to look at the ad that roped in Patricia Curry,” Scott ordered.

I’ll look locally, Boss, but if I’m not back in twenty minutes, I’ve gone to Harvard Square. Wealth Now will be at the Harvard Square News Stand, if it’s anywhere.”

Michael Mitchell came to Scott’s office to pick Annie up for lunch at about noon. He stuck his head into Scott’s inner office to say hello and commented on the murder in the newspaper.

“I met a girl named Patricia Curry at Lucky Ryan’s office in New York years ago. She was into investment sales also. According to Ryan, he strung her along for a couple of months but never intended to invest with her. It was a game for Ryan. You don’t suppose it could be the same Patricia Curry?”

“Possibly, Mic. How old would you say she was at that time?”

“Gee, I don’t know. She looked like a high school kid. But then, she was selling investments, so I’d say twenty-two or three. I doubt she learned that business in high school.”

“Stop in when you bring Annie back if you have time. I’d like to discuss your Patricia Curry a bit more with you.”

Mic nodded yes as Annie grabbed his arm and tugged him away.

“That’s her, without a doubt,” Mic said later when Scott showed him the sketch photo. “

Is this the woman that was killed?”

“Yes, it is. She was innocently into something that got her picked up by the FBI. The people she worked for could not tolerate that, I guess. Interpol and the FBI are trying to find out who.”

“Well, one thing’s for sure, it wasn’t Albert Ryan behind the murder. Not from where he is, rotting away under six feet of earth,” Mic comments. “I’d like to hear more of this sometime.”

“Harry and I have been batting it around for only a short time, but yes, I’ll tell you about it when there is more to tell,” Scott replied.

“Give my best to Bill Swenson, please,” Scott added as Mic left.

It took a couple of hours, but Allan returned triumphantly, holding the latest issue of Wealth Now above his head and a submarine sandwich in his other hand.

“I had to go to Harvard Square, Boss. The guy there told me they only sell a few of each issue, and he’s thinking of dropping the magazine.”

Scott went through the publication page by page until he found the ad for the Cezanne Society International. He wrote down the European phone number and PO Box number in Zurich. Then turned to the front and tore out the publisher’s information page, and buzzed Annie to come in.

Scott gave Annie both pages. “Please, find out what country uses the phone number prefix in the ad. Then call this publisher and ask about advertising rates. Try to get an address out of them. They don’t list it or a country. After that, get me Harry at the FBI.”

Going over the magazine while waiting, Scott suspects the small amount of advertising on its pages, for such a slick publication, is not nearly enough to support the magazine and show a profit.

“Do you have something, Councilor,” Harry asked as soon as Scott said hello.

“Yes, I do. I’m just not sure of the value,” Scott replied and then went on to tell of the magazine and the ad.

“That phone number prefix indicates a telephone in Spain, but the PO Box is in Zurich. I don’t want to tell Frank Sullivan yet. Interpol could mess up our investigation here if they jump on it and raid both places. So, who do we contact in Washington to verify the phone and postal box?”

“Offhand, I’d say Counter Intelligence,” Harry replied. “But I’d want to check with my supervisor before going ahead. You saw how quickly DC put an Albany agent at the scene when the murder happened and within my regional authority. If we hand them that information, I feel DC will want to take over the case, but I see no alternative.”

“Neither do I, unless it’s Sullivan and Interpol.”

“No, hold off until I pass this info onto my boss and I get a reply. Hopefully, this afternoon.”

“Oh, I will. Frankly, I believe both the phone number and the box are waystations with automatic forwarding. The question is, to where?” Scott said.

“A plausible theory, my friend. We should hold on to it until it’s needed,” Harry suggested.

The match flamed on Scott’s first try, and he lit his father’s old carved Meerschaum. Then, to a loud squeak, he leaned back in his antique wood office chair and thought about the forwarding destination of the Cezanne Society International’s phone calls and mail. After a while, Scott gave up, realizing that any guesses he would make hold no validity, and returned to his law practice’s matters of the day.

Before entering, Annie gently knocked on Scott’s office door, opened it, and asked, “Anything else needed from me today, Scott?”

Wadsworth quickly glanced at the wall clock opposite his desk, saying, “Goodness, it’s that time already. No, Annie, you go along home. And forget what I just asked of you until tomorrow. I’ll leave Adam’s contract corrections on your desk. Tomorrow will give us plenty of time before submitting them to our clients, but thanks for asking.”

Allan, waiting for Scott in the outer office, grabbed the phone on its first ring as Scott came in and laid several manilla folders on Annie’s desk.

“It’s Harry Malison, Boss,” he said, handing the receiver to Scott.”

“I got an explanation for the New York agent at the murder scene. He’s looking for any indication that Patricia Curry made more New York sales contacts for Cezanne Society International, then he will be gone. I’ll be notified and send two men to Becket, Massachusetts, to help with the murder investigation. My supervisor will handle the phone prefix and postal box problems. Apparently, he has a friend in some branch of the Justice Department, a department we never hear about, who has the means to find the answers. I didn’t ask any questions.”

“That’s a good sign, Harry. From your boss’s actions, It doesn’t look like DC will take over from you. I’ll be glad to find out where that bunch is headquartered, and some international action can be taken. We might learn who represents them in this country.”

“That would be great if we do. As you suggested. I would like to get someone undercover in the organization. I have a gut feeling it’s a big one and active in most states,” Harry projected. 

“That may be, but let’s leave any future plans until we receive the information if it ever comes. Jumping ahead would be a sure way to make DC take your case.”

“Thanks for waiting, Allan. Take me home and come in for a Scotch,” Scott said while locking the office door.

“Not tonight, thanks. I have a dinner date in an hour.”

“That’s the first time you ever mentioned dating. Is this someone special, Allan?”

“Perhaps, Boss. It’s too early to say. Is it OK if I use the state’s car?”

“Of course, but pay for your gasoline. I’ll be expecting a report tomorrow.”

When Scott told Nancy about Allan’s date, she became excited and giddy, spouting in schoolgirl fashion, “That’s wonderful. Did he describe her? I want to meet her. Oh, I hope they will be happy.”

“Whoa, slow down. I said Allan has a date, not getting married. For all I know, it’s their first date. I’ll never understand why you women get so excited over a date. You all hear wedding bells.”

“Men!” Nancy said disgustedly and carried the dinner dishes into the kitchen. Returning with a coffeepot, she put an arm around Scott and kissed him on the forehead before filling his cup.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.

Copyright  Ernest N. Whitenack © 2022
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Historical research, thanks to Wikipedia, FBI cases, and miscellaneous reading.This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, andincidents are the products of the author’s imagination or fictitious. Real places and names are used in a fictional manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental.

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