Case of the Duplicitous Palette - 4

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Chapter Four

Case of the Duplicitous Palette


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.


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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