Monday, June 29, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 25

I chuckled wryly at that thought as I turned on my computer and fished my camera out of my pocket. I downloaded the pictures I'd taken of Carmichael's felonious employee and printed them out. Putting them in a file folder, I went to tell Chelsea I was heading to Carmichael's to give them to him and wrap up his case.

He wasn't too surprised to see me since he knew the thief had struck again. I handed him the file, he looked at the photos and shook his head. "He was the last person I thought would do this."

"Unfortunately," I told him, "that's often the case. It's how they get away with it for more than a few times."

He thanked me, settled up what he owed me, and promised he'd recommend me highly to anyone who needed my services.

I was heading back to the office when Chelsea called to tell me Philips had phoned, saying he wanted to see me. Since the next item of business on my agenda had been to let him know what had gone down last night, I switched course to go to Things Past.

Philips greeted my like a long lost friend, immediately taking me back to his office. The minute we were inside with the door closed his demeanor changed. He became somber and—if I was reading him right—conscience stricken.

He was. But before I let him talk, I put a finger to my lips and then removed the bugs for the time being. I pointed to the safe, he opened it, and I deposited them inside then closed the door.

He began pacing the room as he said, "I haven't been fully open with you. Everything I told you that happened did, but…" He hesitated. "When it comes to the break-in… Obviously they didn't get the necklace, however”—he swept his arm out, pointing to the glass-fronted bookcase—"they did take something else."

"A book, and a valuable one, I presume," I said when he didn't continue. "Why didn't you tell me before now?"

"I didn't realize it until yesterday afternoon when I got a phone call. It came right after you'd left for the appraisers. The man said he had something of mine and was willing to return it in exchange for an item of his—that's the way he put it—that was in the possession of either me or my hireling."

"Meaning me."

"I suspect so."

"Did he identify himself?"

"No. It took me a while to figure out what it was he had." Again he pointed to the bookcase. "That's better protected than it appears." Beckoning to me, he showed me a small keypad attached to the side away from the office door. "It's wired into part of the security system and if anyone unlocks the doors without putting in the code, an alarm goes off and the security company is notified."

"Which one is missing?"

"A first edition—first printing in nineteen-thirty–of Dashiell Hammett's 'The Maltese Falcon', in fine condition. It's worth in the neighborhood of forty-five thousand dollars."

"Holy shit!" It took me a minute to assimilate that. "And you kept it in there"—I thumbed toward the bookcase—"not in a bank vault or at least your safe?"

"Up until the break-in a couple of days ago, I was certain the security on this building was beyond reproach. As I told you, there have been attempts, all of which failed or were thwarted."

"Makes sense I guess, but this time you're not dealing with amateurs. You're dealing with a sophisticated theft ring. They know what they're doing. I'd say it was dumb luck they didn't manage to get into the safe before the cops showed up."

"You know who's behind this?" he asked in surprise.

"I have a damned good idea. The men who attacked me dropped a name. Caiazzo. A cop friend of mine says he's rumored to head a large theft ring."

"Nicolò Caiazzo? The bookstore owner?"

"One and the same."

"But he's… His store is well-known and very reputable."

"That doesn't mean he can't be a crook on the side."

Philips nodded. "True enough I suppose. What are you going to do about this?"

"Are you willing to make the trade?"

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