Chapter 6

Written by: Ray Stone

 

 

Annie sat quietly sobbing while Karen comforted her. There wasn’t much Annie could recount except a description of the intruder and his offer to pay for the painting.

“Wish I’d taken his money now,” she said, pouting. “You could tell it was a beginner’s work but I liked it. Would have looked good on my wall.”

Karen and Rizzo smiled at one another. As they got up to leave, Karen handed Annie her card, asking her to contact the office if she remembered anything else. As they reached the street door, Annie called them back.

“Just remembered, he left this. Dropped out of his pocket when he attacked me.”

Karen took the book of matches and studied the cover with a gold legend advertising the Princess Grace Motel.

“Probably nothing, boss,” said Rizzo. “Those things are in every bar.”

Karen put the book in her pocket. “Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out. Did you get anything from the FBI?”

 Rizzo referred to a notebook. The painting was worth a fortune. It had been stolen two months previously from an art gallery where it was being shown. As far as he could determine, it was sold to a well-known fence in New York whose premises were burgled, and the painting went missing.

Both the fence and the thief were caught, but the painting had disappeared. The FBI had informed him that there were copies but the original was signed in a particular way.

“Okay, let’s go check the motel out,” said Karen as they climbed into her car.

The Princess Grace Motel, looking drab and forlorn, was on the edge of town. A large ‘vacancy’ neon flickered at the entrance to the car park. 

They parked, and Rizzo entered reception. King’s room had been vacated earlier that day according to the clerk who handed him a key.

“Room twenty-three,” said Rizzo, joining Karen.

The room was empty but propped against the bathroom wall was an empty picture frame. 

“He obviously knows what he’s looking for,” she observed. “He cut the canvas out of the frame and rolled it. You don’t do that unless you know it’s the original.”

*** 

King felt conspicuous carrying a cardboard tube under his arm. He walked into the Greyhound ticket hall and made straight for the luggage counter and bought a locker. With the tube safely stored, he walked to the coffee stand feeling relieved. 

Over coffee, he pondered his options. Already double-crossed once he had to trust another colleague to get the painting to his client. His thoughts were broken as his cell phone bleeped. “Speak of the devil,” he mumbled to himself.

“What’s going on?” said King. 

“Everything. She got the frame. Why did you leave it there?”

King snapped angrily. “You gave me little warning.”

“You dropped a book of the motel’s matches, you idiot,” replied Rizzo. “Did you leave the painting in the locker?”

“Yes, so where am I going to hide the key for you to pick up?”

 

 

Comments

Lovely twist at the end Raymond. Plenty for the remaining writers to play with. Nice work.
Thank you, ED.