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.

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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 - 1

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Chapter One

In Dublin, the day dawned quickly and brightly for so early in Spring, and Frank Sullivan delighted in the smell of dew on the first mow of grass as he walked along searching for a taxi. Frank reluctantly gives up a stroll through Dublin’s Phoenix Park and enters the National Police building on this beautiful day. He works there as an Interpol Inspector, National Central Bureau, and closely with the Irish National Police. The telephone rings as he approaches the door with his name prominent in gold leaf.

~Frank Sullivan~

Inspector

“Sullivan here. May I assist you?”

“This is Lieutenant Anthony Marcus of the New York FBI Art Recovery Team. I understand you are looking for a Cezanne painting; View of Auvers-sur-Oise.”

“Yes, Mister Marcus, it was stolen from the Duke Charles Museum at Oxford University. All Interpol is looking for View of Auvers-sur-Oise, and the other paintings stolen, and naturally the thieves. Do you have information concerning its whereabouts?”

“Possibly, Inspector. A copy was offered to a high-end New York gallery as a certified copy commissioned by the Cezanne Society International, including a framed and signed certificate. The gallery owner says the painting is a fine, almost an undetectable copy except for some leaves on one tree where the brush strokes do not match those on other trees. Unfortunately, the gallery will not tell us who offered the piece. They’re afraid of possible gang connection and a negative press should the newspapers learn of the offer.”

“What makes the gallery feel that way? Have they received threats? Has anyone other than the salesman visited them about the copy?”

“No, but as of today, we believe there is no Cezanne Society International. However, we are looking at so many Cezanne groups across the globe that It’s impossible to say. It is a mammoth undertaking.

“Then all you know is that an offer has been made. But by someone unknown, and the painting is near perfect. Most likely a copy of the missing original.”

“You could say that, Inspector. However, we are looking at the larger picture. We believe a collection of stolen paintings from Oxford is still intact and being copied by experts. We are trying to determine if other suspected copies have been offered in Europe and precisely where. All ports of entry in the US are closely watched by the FBI and the police. We hope to track any copies to the seller. Any information Interpol can give the FBI concerning the sale or attempted sale of copies could conceivably be helpful in the recovery of the originals. Believe me, when I say the seller will reveal all when he is apprehended,” Lieutenant Marcus stressed.

“I’ll do my best. I’ll save you time and massive red tape. Usually, I would refer you to headquarters, but I have many friends in the US and understand your law enforcement.” Sullivan replied.

“That’s precisely why we are calling you, Inspector. You are well known here for your undercover work and action against the Provisional IRA in that case about illegal guns. We’ll be awaiting your communication. And, If we discover anything further, I’ll be in touch,” Marcus said.

In Boston, Scott Wadsworth exited the front gate of his home on Beacon Hill’s Walnut Street, stopped to light his pipe, and headed to the rear entrance to the Massachusetts Statehouse.

For three years, Scott has been heading up the Special Investigation Office under the State Attorney while maintaining a lucrative law practice with several efficient lawers in his employ.

Since cleaning up the Riverville murder case and the South Boston and Ellensvile gangs, all connected to illegal guns destined for Ireland, Scott’s life as Special Investigator has been slow. Considering the low number of severe and complex cases handed to him, his work for the Commonwealth has been tedious.

This particular morning, Scott planned on talking to his boss, Matthew Hart, about updating equipment for his men, but after reading the Cablegram from Frank Sullivan, which he found lying on his desk, changed his plans. He picked up the telephone and called to make sure Matt was in before going to his office. On the way to Hart’s office, Sgt. Allan Rockford, Scott’s driver, walks along a side corridor. Scott sees him and waits to join Allan.

“What’s up, Boss?” Allan asked in his perpetually cheerful voice.

“Pretty heavy stuff, Allan. Come with me and listen to what I have for Matt.”

Matt Hart held up his hand to indicate stop when Scott and Allan opened the door to his office. Hart proceeded to take the cover off a paper cup of coffee and took two large swallows, then motioned the two men into his office.

“You guys know me and my morning coffee, and I trust you will forgive my rudeness. Please have a seat and tell me what this is all about.”

Scott handed Hart the Cablegram, and he read it twice before asking, “Do you think we can help at all? How is your schedule?”

“To the first, I have no idea. I’d have to talk to Harry Malison. To the second, there is nothing on my schedule that one of my investigators can’t handle,” Scott answered.

“OK, then, you run with it, but if you decide we can’t help Inspector Sullivan, don’t waste a lot of time. Personally, I hope we can. Sullivan sure helped us when we, the FBI, and the ATF were after the guns and the gangs.”

“Oh boy,” Allan said when he and Scott returned to Scott’s office. “Something we can get our teeth into again. I was getting bored with the way things have been going lately.”

“Well, don’t get too excited, Sergeant. Wait until we hear what Harry has to say. He might tell me to stay out of it, that it’s the Art Theft Team’s business. I’ll set up lunch with him today. Where would you like to have lunch?” Scott asked Allan.

“I wouldn’t mind a small Pizza at Angelo’s, or Jake Wirths is fine too,” Allan offered with a smile.

 Scott dialed up the FBI and heard, “Well, Dear Husband, I’m surprised to hear your voice so early. Are we being invaded or something?”

“Don’t get smart with me this early in the day, or you’ll get yours tonight, Scott warned.”

“Oh My, I’ll have to be snippy with you more often,” Nancy said, prodding Scott further with a chuckle. “Hold on, the Regional Director just walked in.”

“What now, Wadsworth? I haven’t heard from you since the party at Angelo’s to conclude that hair pulling Riverville case. So you must want something from me.” Harry ranted.

“Calm down, Harry. I have one straightforward question that you won’t even have to think about.”

“OK, Gumshoe, hit me.”

“Do you have a department under your command called an Art Recovery Team?”

“No, this FBI office doesn’t warrant one, even though we are a regional office. They are limited to the larger area offices, but New York City has one of their very own.”

“Thank you, Harry, and thank the FBI for its support of the individual citizen. Let’s lunch sometime.”

“That husband of yours will put me in the booby-hatch someday,” Harry advised Nancy. He asks me a question about an Art Recovery Team. I give him a straightforward answer; he thanks me and abruptly drops the subject leaving me to wonder what it’s all about.”

“Sorry. I can’t help you, Harry. Try to forget about it, why don’t you. He’s probably asking for a client. Scott hasn’t mentioned anything to me about art, FBI, recovery, or team,” Nancy said with a sympathetic tone.

“I’m sorry, Allan, but that lunch with Harry is off for now,” Scott said. “Please go to the conference room, or the Squad Room, as it’s called by our associates, and bring back Qualter, Guatino, and Simmons. I have to see Matt Hart again but will be right back.”

“Matt, I heard you mention security problems at the Annabelle Garson Museum. Can you expand on that a bit for me?”

“Oh, Lord! You’ve gone and let that cable from Sullivan get to you. Let’s not go looking for trouble where there isn’t any. Simply put, a member of the board at the museum has some concerns. The rest of the board closed their minds to these perceived problems, holding to the idea that “no one will dare defile the sanctity of this great institution,” Those are the words of the board member who approached me, so please don’t go ruffling any feathers at the museum.”

“I, or my men, will not speak one word to any board member, Matt. I just want to look at the security measures employed there and find any flaws. Poor security, hinted at in Sullivan’s cable, is one thing Interpol is apprehensive about in Europe’s older museums. If I can help Frank along those lines, I feel this office is obligated.”

“Perhaps so,” Matt grudgingly replied. “One day and only one, then back off and send your cable to Sullivan.”

“Thanks, Matt. Tomorrow is the day and the end of it.”

Guatino and Simmons were waiting when Scott returned to his office, and Simmons explained that Buck Qualter was on a stamp collection theft in the town of Acton, worth a couple of million dollars.

“Yes, I remember that. It’s been a couple of weeks, hasn’t it?” Scott asked.

“Two and a half weeks, Sir. Qualter will be giving you a report later today or tomorrow morning.”

“Then this is for you, Guatino. Simmons, I need you here for a while, but your day will come,” Scott promised.

Scott explained the copy and theft to the two men and Frank Sullivan’s veiled cry for help while Al Guatino took notes.

“To be clear, you want me to unobtrusively wander through the museum, like an art lover, and note fundamental break-in and room security problems. Right?” Guatino asked.

“Precisely. I also want you to look the part, so hop over there today and watch people going in and out. Pick a look and copy it even if you have to rent some clothing.”

“One more thing, Al. Do not ask any questions about the security and avoid talking to anyone. People who know art would tag you as a phony right away.”

“OK, Boss. I’m on my way.”

The following morning, Al Guatino showed up in a belted Irish Tweed jacket and cap with tan corduroy trousers and pebble-grained brown leather shoes. His green on white pin-dot open-necked shirt topped it all off.

“Don’t laugh at me, Boss. I saw several guys looking close to this, with variations, of course. I couldn’t bring myself to tie a silk neckerchief around my neck.”

“You look fine, Al, and right at home for this part of the country. You’ll blend right in. Where did you get the clothes?”

“I bought them. To tell the truth, I sort of like the look, so I’ll pay for the clothes.”

“OK, but if you change your mind within a couple of months, submit a bill with the receipts.”

“Thanks for the option, Boss. The museum doesn’t open until ten o’clock, so I’ll hang around here for a while longer.”

“You know,” Scott commented, “An Irish Slouch Hat would look great with that jacket, but only in the fall or winter. You should look into it. There are plenty of Irish Product specialty stores around.”

Guatino left Scott’s office with a smile and went to the Squad Room to show his outfit to Simmons before leaving for the Annabelle Garson Museum.

Later that morning, Simmons came to Wadsworth’s office with two paper cups of coffee just as Scott was lighting his second pipe of the day.

“Glad you stopped by, Mark, and with coffee. I have a job for you. Do some research and try to determine the number of Cezanne groups, clubs, societies, or the like, located in significant world countries. I’m specifically looking for a Cezanne Society International, but all of it will be helpful.”

“I don’t think we will find stuff like that in our library, Sir. I’ll have to go to the main branch of Boston Public Library.”

“Go wherever you think you have to. I’ll be OK with the Steno Pool if I have a need. And please stop calling me Sir. It’s Scott, Boss, or Wadsworth, got it?” Scott sternly added.

“Yes, Boss. How long do I have for this assignment?”

“I’m not sure. Keep at it until you find a Cezanne Society International, or I tell you to stop.”

Allan sat in a chair tilted back against a wall looking out a window. He quietly let all four legs of the chair down to the floor and turned to Scott.

“Boss, I’d like to point out something that I don’t think you’re aware of.”

Scott looked up from whatever he was writing, placed his pen in its holder, leaned back, and said, “Go ahead then, Oh Sage of mine.”

“Please remember that you rescued Simmons from the BPD hit-men and spent a tremendous amount of time and energy keeping him safe after he was shot. You even staged an entire fake funeral to throw off his assassins. In his mind, he owes you his life. His family has to feel the same. Ten-to-one, he is under orders from his dad to always use Sir when addressing you. They’re that kind of family. Please don’t get so aggravated at his show of respect.”

“Right again, Allan. Thank you. I don’t know how you do it. For me, that whole episode is ancient history. I should realize it won’t be old to the Simmons family for a long time.”

Before leaving for the day, Scott said, “Allan, do you think that job I gave Simmons is too much for one man?”

“Not for that man. I think he would search his entire life for you. It would be completed faster with more resources, though,” Allan replied.

“I’ll call Frank Gray tomorrow and see if he can put Consolidated News Service on the search. I hope he doesn’t get as upset as Harry Malison.”

“Why should he?” Allan responded. You three go back to the first world war and beyond. How many guys can say that! As long as I’ve been around, you three have used your wartime intelligence training for good causes and, together, have put down Nazi and gangster activities in this state and across the country. I’d think the three of you should feel proud to help one another.”

“OK, message understood. I’ll proceed tomorrow, undaunted by my conscience and guilt. Now, let’s go to my place and wait for Nancy. I feel like having a great meal at Parker’s. How about you, Allan?”

“Whatever you say, Boss. I haven’t seen Nancy for weeks, and I can already taste Parker’s Own Single Malt.”

“I have a bottle at home,” Scott announced. “That will give us something to do while we wait.”

Nancy decided she wanted to walk to the Parker House for the exercise. “I spent a solid eight hours in my chair today. Toward the end, I had the jitters and wanted to walk home but knew you were waiting, so I took a cab. If you wish to see any civility from me this evening, we will walk.”

“The Beef Stroginof I had at Parkers last night was amazing,” Allan said when Scott entered the car the following morning, “Where to, Boss?”

“State Street South via a coffee shop somewhere. I need a good boost this morning.”

“I didn’t think Scotch and Champaign would set well together, but I know you drank it for Nancy’s sake.”

After two cups of coffee and sorting out his phone messages, Scott called Consolidated News Service and held for seven minutes before Frank Gray came on the line.

“Scott! Good to hear from you. How’s Nancy? Do you have anything interesting going on? Can I help you with something?” Frank excitedly rambled.

“Fine, yes, and yes,” Scott answered with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “You can help me by looking up the Cezanne Society International. I’m not sure it exists, but I’d like to see anything you come up with.”

“That’s Cezanne, the painter, I presume. Can you tell me what’s going on with that, Scott?”

“Not presently. However, I’ll tell you that Frank Sullivan is involved. As is the New York FBI’s Art Recovery Team. Also, as usual, you will have the first chance at anything newsworthy developing from this activity.”

“I’m on it, buddy, and will get inquiries out today. And many thanks for the first chance promise.”

“You really didn’t expect anything less after what we’ve been through, did you? I’ll be waiting to hear from you soon,” Scott answered.

Annie entered the outer office, noticed Scott’s suit jacked on the rack, and went directly to his office.

“Morning, Boss. Didn’t know you would be in today. Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes, there is. Please call these three people and set up appointments for next Tuesday afternoon,” Scott said as he handed her the phone messages. Return the rest of the calls and politely tell them we are at capacity and unable to help them.”

As Annie went to the outer office, Scott lifted a pipe from the rack behind his desk, filled it from his draw-string Suede pouch, lit the tobacco, and sat back in his old wood chair, rubbing his forehead.

Allan moved to the corner of Scott’s desk, saying, “What’s going on, Boss? Are you ill or something? You look worried and have been barking at folks this morning.”

“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.”

“I’ll have to think on that one, but you might be right. There’s no point in dropping the ax on myself before it’s necessary.

Annie came in with the phone message slips and dropped them on Scott’s desk. “Thought you might want to refer to these later. If not, I’m through with them. I’ll remind you of your appointments next Tuesday.”

“Good, Thanks, Annie. Anything else I’m needed for today?” Receiving a negative answer, Scott continued, “Then I’ll be going to the statehouse. Tell Adam that I’ll want to see that distribution contract before submitting it to the client. There is some specific language to be used if the contract is solidly unbreakable. I want to know that it’s there.”

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

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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