By Donna Smith
“Ellison! Sandburg! In my office now!”
Sandburg looked at Jim, wondering what they’d done now. Jim just shrugged his shoulders and headed towards the captain’s office. Sandburg jumped up and followed him.
Simon stood behind his desk, waiting. He was furiously chomping on the end of a cigar.
Sandburg was relieved to see he didn’t seem mad at them, just mad in general. “What’s up, Simon?”
“This is ‘what’s up’, Sandburg.” He tossed a file on the desk. “Art theft this past week in Chesney Point. For some reason the thief only took one painting even though the Fortenoys had a collection of eleven other originals worth far more. Their police department was so baffled that they put out some feelers and got a red flag from Interpol. Apparently this case is similar to several they’ve been investigating in Europe. The timing really stinks, but Rainier University’s Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit this week of masterpieces on loan from the Louvre. It’s a small exhibit that’s touring the country.”
Jim interrupted. “Change of M.O. from private homes to museums?”
“Interpol says this guy steals from anyone—from museums to homes to church cathedrals.” His voice dripped sarcasm. “We’re going to be playing host to the ever-friendly boys from Interpol for a while. I want them to be treated courteously while they’re here, but I want their stay to be as short as possible. That’s why the two of you are assigned to work with them on this case. Since you has the highest solve record here, I’m hoping you can wrap this up quickly and get them out of my hair.”
Blair and Jim were perusing the file. Blair looked up. “What’s wrong with Interpol?”
Jim answered. “They’re as bad as the FBI when it comes to professional arrogance. These Interpol agents think because they deal with international crime, that makes them better than us locals. They always try to take over every step of the case and use us for the grunt work.”
Simon sat down. “The operative word is ‘try’. I’m following procedure to the letter here. We’re supposed to give them cooperation—that’s what they’ll get. I’m still in charge here. They’re not going to like it, but I’m not letting them walk all over my people. And that goes for you, too, Sandburg. Even though you’re not a cop.”
“You always have to say that, don’t you?”
“Just trying to make sure you don’t forget it and do something stupid. Ellison takes enough risks for five people, let alone two. And stop grinning at me, Sandburg. It makes you look like you’re up to something. Everything you need to know is there. The two Interpol agents will be here tomorrow at 11 AM.” He looked at the two of them. “Well don’t just stand there. You have work to do—so do I. Move!” Simon was still grumbling as they left.
Blair glanced back at the captain’s office. “I don’t think he had his coffee this morning.”
“I don’t think three pots of coffee would make him feel any better about Interpol invading Cascade.” The two of them sat down at Jim’s desk to look over the contents of the file. Blair looked at the Interpol pictures of the works that were stolen over the past few years. Nice. Not something he would be interested in, but it was quality stuff. He’d always had an interest in art and knew a lot about it. Anthropologists didn’t study just anthropology after all. There was something odd about the complete list of stolen paintings, though. Blair just couldn’t put his finger on it. He sat there for a long time scanning the list and reading the sketchy profile they’d put together of the thief. Not much to go on, but enough to nag at his brain.
“Hey, chief. You ready for lunch?”
Lunch? Was it that time already? Blair couldn’t believe he’d been studying that file for hours.
“Are you sure you haven’t memorized that file by now, Sandburg? Or are you just trying to make me look bad?”
“No way, man! You do that all by yourself.”
“Keep it up and I’m not buying lunch.”
“You never said you were in the first place.” They headed for the parking garage. “So if I’m nice to you, you’ll buy?” He started bowing to Jim. “Jim Ellison is the greatest human being who ever lived…and the most generous.”
“Empty flattery won’t work on me. And if you’re recent romantic disasters are any indication, it’s not working on the ladies, either.”
“That was cold, Jim. Really cold. Just for that, I’ll have to order an expensive steak, maybe a lobster...”
“You can try, but I don’t think Wonder Burger has expanded their menu that much, yet.”
“Wonder Burger, again? I’m beginning to think you don’t have blood in your veins—it’s all grease and gristle.”
“Gristle’s good for you. Now, get in the truck.” The two of them drove to Wonder Burger. It wasn’t too busy, so they got waited on fast and found a pretty good seat by the window. Blair took a sip of his drink and almost choked on it.
“Hey, Chief! You ok?”
Blair’s eyes were watering and his voice was slightly raspy. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just slurped too much at once.” Blair wasn’t fine. Something had occurred to him. He needed to do a little research on that list of stolen paintings to be sure. He hoped he was wrong. What would he do if he weren’t?