Part 6: Tour de Force


Simon got off the phone after an exhausting half hour of negotiations.  The Louvre finally, reluctantly, agreed to loan them one more painting even though they were frantically worried about the possibility of adding one more piece to The Prince’s collection.  Once they finally acquiesced, they lost no time getting down to business.  The painting would be there tomorrow.  “Well, Sandburg.  It’s a done deal.  Now we need a press release to announce the last-minute addition to the exhibit.  I hope you know what you’re doing.  I gave them my personal guarantee nothing would happen to this painting.  Don’t make a liar out of me.  I especially don’t want to still be paying off this masterpiece when I’m in the old folk’s home.”


“Don’t worry.  He’ll be there and we’ll be waiting for him.”


“What makes you so sure this painting will lure him in?  If I were him I’d suspect a trap.”


“It’s a Georges de La Tour.  His mother’s favorite artist.  This particular painting, ‘Magdalen with the Night Light’, hung over the mantle in his great grandfather’s parlor.  His mother loved it.  She was promised that painting as a wedding gift, but when her grandfather died unexpectedly leaving a lot of debt…  She inherited some of the collection, but not that one piece.  It was sold at auction and eventually ended up in the Louvre.  It was always a bitter memory for her—one of many she gave to Jack.  He’ll come for it.  I know he will.”  Blair got up and went to the window.  He watched the rain stream down the glass.  He would never be able to tell Jack how sorry he was.  It was a rotten way to repay a friend.


“Sandburg!  Earth to Sandburg!”  Jim was standing next to him.  “Since you seem to know this guy pretty well, do you also know his B & E techniques?  From these reports, he doesn’t seem to leave a lot of evidence at the scene.  Whatever you can tell us will help even more.”




Javert interrupted Blair.  “This…person tells you he’s personally acquainted with the thief, an old friend of his even, and you’re going to trust him?  What if this is all just a ruse to give Seward time to escape?”


Simon glared at him.  “We’ve got men at the airport, the bus terminals, the roads out of town, in case he doesn’t take the bait.  But if Sandburg says he knows how Seward will try to pull off this robbery, that’s where I’m putting my money.”


Thanks you, Simon.  Blair couldn’t believe the captain had stood up for him like that.  Why hadn’t Jim said anything?  He looked over at Jim, noticing how distant and cold he looked.  Couldn’t he understand how hard this decision had been for him?


Simon looked back at Blair.  “Now what were you going to say?”


“He’ll case the place first.  You won’t even know he’s there.  Jack likes to play with disguises.  He’ll be a nondescript tourist or even a museum janitor.  He has to verify for himself that the painting is genuine.  It’s kind of funny.  He used to sell forgeries and he thought people should be happy just to have something that looked like the real thing.  But he would never accept a phony for himself.  I never noticed how hypocritical that was of him.”  Blair hadn’t realized he’d spoken that last part out loud until he saw the others looking at him strangely.  “Umm…well.  I don’t know how he does it, but he can always get past security alarms somehow.”  Jack hadn’t gotten around to showing him that trick of the trade before he and Naomi moved out.  “He almost always comes in through the roof on a dark or cloudy night unless the building doesn’t have any easily removable panels or skylights.  That’s why he prefers a moonless night—he always said people could spot you on a rooftop too easily in moonlight.”  Blair reflexively rubbed his arm, remembering a rappelling lesson from Jack that didn’t go very well.  Blair had fallen and broken an arm, cracked a few ribs, and received a mild concussion.  He had a strong fear of heights after that.  No amount of cajoling from Jack could get him to try it again.


Jim spoke up.  “What about weapons?  Should he be considered armed and dangerous?”


Blair actually had to laugh at the thought.  “No.  He used to say that only an ‘unskilled and brutish amateur’ would resort to violence during a job.  He doesn’t like to hurt people or animals.  Jack even takes hamburger meat with him in case there are guard dogs.  It’s laced with something to make them go to sleep.  Besides, he may be lean and agile, but he’s a small guy who probably couldn’t even hurt someone if he tried.  You won’t need very much force to bring him in.”


Javert snorted at that.  “If he resists arrest, we’ll do what we have to in order to subdue him.”


Simon noticed the way Blair tensed up at that remark so he jumped in to change the subject.  He also didn’t like how aggressively eager Javert was to take down Seward.  Well, he was the captain.  He could do something about that.  “I’ll have a few men in the neighborhood for back-up just in case, but I want you two…”  He looked at Gerard and Javert.  “…outside the museum to block his escape.  I want Ellison and Sandburg inside.”


Jim’s jaw twitched, but he said nothing.  Javert, however, had plenty to say.  “Are you out of your mind, Captain?  Him on the inside?  I demand that you...!”


Simon exploded.  “You demand?!  You’re forgetting that you’re here on a cooperative basis.  I’m still Captain in Cascade and I’m still in charge!  If I say Sandburg goes on the inside, that’s where he’d better be!  If you don’t like it, you can leave.  I’ll be sure to send a letter of thanks to your superiors for all your help after we catch Seward by ourselves.”


Javert opened his mouth to say something else, but immediately clamped it shut.  Gerard was the one who spoke.  “Be that as it may, Captain.  We’re making a formal protest here.  If anything goes wrong, we will not be held responsible.”


“I understand and I expected no less.  Now lets get to work, we have a lot to do.”


The rest of the day went by in a blur for Blair.  He wanted to talk to Jim alone, but there were always too many people around.  Jim barely spoke to him, barely even looked at him.  When he did it was all business.  By the end of the day, Blair had had enough of Jim’s childish behavior and decided to indulge in some of his own.  As soon as they got to the loft, Blair changed his clothes and left, slamming the door on the way out.  He hoped Jim’s ears were ringing.  Having to take Jim’s crappy attitude all day had cured him of the need to talk.  Blair was too angry right now, anyway.


Jim was confused.  He didn’t know what to think of Blair’s involvement with a notorious crook.  And Blair had actually considered not telling anyone so Seward could get away.  How could Jim trust him?  What if Blair felt sorry for someone Jim was trying to catch in the future and helped that criminal get away?  He was in a perfect position, living and working with a cop, to know the details of various investigations.  How did he know Sandburg hadn’t done something like that already?  Jim had let Blair get too close.  He felt betrayed somehow and did the only thing he could think of to protect himself—he built a wall.


Blair got home very late that night.  Jim had gone to bed long before.  Nothing was said at breakfast about where Blair had been.  They ate very quietly, each lost in their own thoughts.  The morning set the tone for the rest of the day and the day after it.


For two nights Major Crimes kept watch.  Nothing.  The Interpol agents grumbled about how Seward was probably back in Europe laughing at them while they hung around Cascade looking like idiots.  Even Jim and Simon were getting visibly irritated.  Blair remained confident.  He knew Jack would come.  For “Magdalen with the Night Light” he would come.



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