Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 26

Philips started pacing again. "That's why it took me so long to let you know about the call. I've been debating if I should or not. The book is worth twice what the necklace is, but if I give in to his demand it makes me an accomplice to his crime. Doesn't it? I mean once I suspected the necklace was stolen…" He shook his head. "I should have called the police the minute I figured it out."

"Probably," I agreed. "But you didn't."

"Greed," he said wryly. "I wanted to believe the man would return with the provenance papers. Then I'd offer him a decent price and sell the necklace to someone who could pay what it's really worth. I did believe that, until the break-in. I may be mercenary, but I'm not totally stupid."

I didn't reply to that, because telling him he had been stupid from the get-go was not how to keep him as a client.

"Look," I said instead, "let me think about how to handle things. For whatever reason, he seems desperate to get the necklace back. Enough so that he'd give back a book which, as a dealer, he has to know is much more valuable. It might just be a pride issue–no one steals from him—or there could be something more going on. Did he set a time limit for when you had to make a decision?"

"Yes. He said he'd give me twenty-four hours to think about it before getting in touch with me again."

"Any threats about what would happen if you didn't want to make the trade?"

"Yes. I'd never see the book again and he'd call the police to report that I was dealing in stolen goods, specifically the necklace."

I shook my head. "This coming from a man who does that on a regular basis. Okay, today's Saturday and it's"—I checked the time—"almost noon. That means you'll probably hear from him in three hours, give or take. When you do, stall him. Tell him you're willing to make the exchange but you won't be able to get the necklace from your safety deposit box until Monday morning, because your bank has already closed for the day. He might not like it, but he won't have any choice in the matter."

"But it's supposed to be…"

"At the appraisers? Yeah, but they know it's not. They wouldn't have come after me again, or searched my office, if they thought it was."

"They did that?" He looked at me in shock, mixed with fear. "Are you…? Did you get hurt again?"

I shrugged. "Nothing major."

He didn't look like he believed me but he went with it, saying, "You'll come up with a plan by Monday?"

"Going to try my damnedest."

With a tight smile he replied, "Then I'd better let you go."

"Yeah. I'll stay in touch." I said, going to the door. I didn't have to ask for his personal number. I had it on the contract he'd filled out. Thinking that brought on an 'Oh hell!' moment.  Maybe that's why the people who'd searched my office had gone through my files. "One more thing. When the man called you, was it on the business phone or your personal one."

"My personal one. My cell."

"Okay. Just wondered." I debated a moment before telling him, "It's probably a given that Caiazzo's people know where you live after the break-in at my office."

It took him moment. "So they might search my condo for the necklace?"

"I'd say it's a fair guess they did as soon as you left this morning. That's why Caiazzo gave you twenty-four hours to decide to make the trade. He wanted to cover all bases—the second attack on me, searching my place, and undoubtedly yours as well. If he gets his hands on the necklace before the time limit is up, then for him it's a win-win situation. He'd have the book and the necklace and you'd never hear from him again."

"He can't sell the book," Philips said tightly. "I have the provenance papers."

"Somehow, for a man who reputedly runs a very profitable theft ring, I doubt that would be a problem. He'd just find a private collector willing to pay for it, papers or not, just to own it. But he doesn't have the necklace. So you'll be hearing from him in a couple of hours."

Leaving him with that cheerful thought, I took off, after returning the bugs to where I'd found them.

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