Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 29

With a couple of hours to go before meeting Philips, I decided to do a little reconnoitering. Something I should have done long before this. Not that I'd had the chance all things considered. First stop, Caiazzo's bookstore.

I wandered in to Endless Reads as if I was just another person with some time to kill. The place took up the entire three floors of the building that housed it, and much to my surprise it was bright, airy and modern. I guess I was expecting some dark, spooky joint filled with towering, dusty bookshelves, given how I felt about Caiazzo at this point. The clerks ranged from kids in their early twenties to more mature men and women, a couple of who asked if they could help me as I wandered around. I told them no and continued checking out the store.

The third floor had a bargain book section taking up half the space. Unsurprisingly it was very popular. The rest of the area was closed off with a door marked 'Employees Only'. I wondered if Caiazzo was back there somewhere, plotting his next robbery, and chuckled to myself. Still, it would have been interesting to go inside to check out his office. Presuming he had one—which was likely. If he was keeping Philips' book there I could end things real fast. That was highly unlikely.

My next stop was the gallery where Hugh Williams had worked before his arrest for the theft of the sculpture. I wanted to get a look at the owner, Mr Eber. It bothered me that he had supported Williams rather than asking the judge to throw the book at him. If it had been me I'd have been pissed as hell if a trusted employee had done that.

The gallery was located in an upscale shopping center about a mile from Caiazzo's store. A few customers were checking out the paintings hanging on the walls and the art objects decoratively displayed on shelves or standing on pedestals in the open space in the center of the room.

There were two clerks, one behind an impressively large counter to one side of the gallery, the other talking animatedly with a well-dressed, middle-aged woman who seemed interested in one of the paintings. Behind the counter was a doorway leading, I figured, to the inner workings of the gallery. I went over to look at a modern sculpture on one of the pedestals. From where I stood I had a decent view of the hallway behind the partially opened door. As I watched, a door opened. A woman I instantly recognized as Annabelle Dixon, aka 'Ms Bell', was talking to whoever was in the room. She did not look happy. Then she whirled around, heading further down the hall. I moved just enough to see that her destination was a door with an exit sign over it.

I could have made a run around to the back of the gallery, but I figured she'd be gone by the time I got there. Instead, I stayed where I was, waiting to see if Mr Eber—because I was real sure that's who she'd been talking to—appeared.

My wait was rewarded when a short, dark-haired man came out of the room and entered the gallery. His looked around, his gaze landing on me momentarily before moving on. Then, he looked at me again. I knew from the expression on his face he was aware of who I was and he wasn't happy I was here. He took a step toward me, hesitated, then turned quickly and beat a hasty retreat, closing the hallway door after him. I heard a snick and knew he'd locked it.

Of course all of this sent my curiosity into high gear. Why had Ms Dixon been talking to Eber, and by extension, what—if anything—did he have to do with the necklace and the book?

Not a question I could answer right now as I had to meet Philips as planned.

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