Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 8

"From what you said, you did get it appraised."

"Yes. I had the man I usually use come to the store. In his estimation, on preliminary examination, the necklace is worth at a bare minimum twenty-five thousand dollars."

I whistled. "For one damned piece of jewelry?"

Philips chuckled. "Yes. It was designed by Charles Jacqueau for Cartier."

"Okay. Cartier I've heard of, but not Jacqueau."

"He worked at Cartier. Some call him 'the Picasso of jewelry design'."

"No wonder someone wants it. Or wants it back, if the man who brought it to you stole it in the first place."

"My thoughts exactly."

"How long has Hawley worked for you?"

Philips paused momentarily. "Three and a half years."

"And until now there's never been a break-in?"

"There have been some attempts, but that's to be expected. This is the first time someone's managed to breach our security."

"What do you know about him? If someone approached him, offering him a sizable amount of cash, would he be willing to reveal where the necklace was and that you had—supposedly at least—engaged my services?"

"Good Lord I would hope not! Believe me; I had him checked out before I hired him. He came with sterling recommendations."

"And yet, as far as you're aware, he's the only one of your employees who knew you were apparently planning on sending the necklace to your appraiser for a more thorough examination."

"Yes." Philips sighed deeply. "I hate to think he's somehow involved in this."

"Well short of your office being bugged and someone overhearing your conversation with him, it seems to be the only solution why those men thought I had the necklace."

"Would that be possible?" Philips asked hopefully.

"Bugging your office? Presumably. Could someone posing as a customer get in there? Did anyone claiming to be from your security company come by to check the system?"

"No, as far as the security company. I don't keep my office locked during business hours, so I suppose it's possible someone could have gone in there, but they'd have been taking a chance. I'm in and out of it on a regular basis."

"All it would take is one person keeping you busy while their partner planted a couple of bugs."

"True, I guess." Philips frowned deeply. "One thing bothers me."

I chuckled. "Only one?"

He smiled a bit before saying, "Why would the men who attacked you think you had the necklace? I hadn't hired you yet."

I'd like to say that had occurred to me as well. But it hadn't. Nothing like a client who's smarter than I am.

"Now that is a good question. They definitely thought you'd given it to me for safe keeping—to use their words." I rapped a knuckle on my chin. "That sort of lets Hawley off the hook. As far as he knew, you were going to hire me to take the necklace to the appraiser, nothing more, meaning I'd be coming by the store today to pick it up."

Philips looked relieved. Unsurprising, since having a bent employee wasn't something any businessman wanted to deal with. Still…

"The same holds true for your office being bugged. The listener would assume I'd show up today to get it. Okay, for the moment this speculation is getting us nowhere. That they thought I had stashed it somewhere is a given. I'll worry about why later. Do you still want to hire me to escort you to the bank?"

"Definitely. The sooner the better. I want the necklace out of my store."

"Then this is how we'll do it."

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