“The gallery is really rather like several galleries cobbled together”.
Roach said this, spreading his hands apologetically, upon seeing Detective Brody’s slightly baffled face. Roach found Brody straying for the second time into the European collection room, but he seemed relieved to have finally found the man he was supposed to meet up with. They had not spoken over the phone, but he had been told the police would arrive early in the morning, and as well as that, Brody’s reputation preceded him.
“Detective Brody isn’t it?”, said the manager. “I’m Alan Roach, Head of Collections and Research here”.
Roach shook Brody’s hand firmly and ushered him towards the door of his office.
“I believe I’ve seen you on the news, Detective”, Roach said sheepishly. “The case of this ‘Jinwu’ art thief has caused quite a stir.”
After a few pleasantries they both sat down and began to discuss the threat imposed upon the gallery; the reason Brody had come.
“We were shocked when we received that calling card”, said Roach. “You hear about galleries and museums being ransacked in the news, but we never expected the Jinwu to target us.”
The perturbed manager leaned forward.
“I’ve heard all sorts about this thief. I’ve heard people say he’s a master of disguise, that he passes through galleries and museums like a ghost, ransacking the places and leaving no evidence that he was ever there. Worse still, he lets his quarry know he’s coming before he comes to plunder the place! It makes one feel helpless, like everything is already going according to his plan.”
Roach’s flustered outburst made Brody smirk, but the detective motioned for him to calm down.
“But you’re famous for working on the case of this art thief aren’t you? You’ll be able to catch him this time, I expect?”
Brody’s expression remained impassive throughout this exchange, and he made no response to Roach’s question.
“For now, could you please just tell me about the card you received?”, said Brody.
“We left it right where I found it”, said Roach. “Didn’t want to mess the crime scene, you know what I mean?”.
“Then lead the way”, said Brody, rising from his seat.
Roach did the same, and in less than a minute the two men found themselves in a room which was notably longer and narrower than any of the others. There were several security guards keeping watch over a canvas at a wall at the very end of the room, more guards than you’d expect to see in just one room of a gallery. To the left of the surrounded painting was a large window, from which the moat which encircled the gallery was visible.
As they approached the painting Roach felt more and more agitated, as if the threatened heist were coming closer and closer, but he didn’t dare show the feeling either to the detective or to his own employees. The security guards, who were clustered around the canvas, dispersed as the manager and detective came nearer, and now a neat black card was visible directly below the painting. Both men crouched to inspect the it.
“We left everything exactly as we found it”, Roach repeated. “On one side of the card is the Jinwu’s famous symbol, a three legged crow, and one the reverse—“
“—A threat”, Brody broke in. That the painting above it will be stolen within 24 hours of the calling card’s discovery.
“Oh, I almost forgot that this isn’t the first time you’ve encountered such a card”, remarked Roach.
“Yes, the same card is used every time the Jinwu plans a theft”, drawled Brody. “There have been four prior cases”.
“But there won’t be a fifth, I’m sure”. Roach intended this to sound self-assured but the anxiety in his tone undercut any sense of conviction it could have had. Brody only responded with a grunt, but now his attention was on the painting.
The canvas itself was of medium size, mounted into an ornate golden frame. Assuming the detective’s ignorance on the subject of fine art, Roach began to hold forth on the matter:
“This is one of Monet’s studies of water lilies in a pond at his home in Giverny. There are over 250 of such studies, almost all of them produced in the latter years of Monet’s life…”
The picture, which focused on several lily pads surrounding two water lilies, seemed to shimmer before them. The pads, which rested on murky brown water, appeared to have been rendered in rapid strokes of green and blue, and the lilies gleamed in hues of red, orange, and yellow.
Roach, while still expounding on Monet’s life, and why this particular piece was so effective, seemed to see something akin to avarice in detective Brody’s eyes, but dismissed the impertinent thought almost as soon as it occurred to him.
“…it’s also an admirable example of the the art movement Monet worked so hard to develop…”
“—impressionism”, interrupted Brody.
“Yes, that’s right”, chirped Roach.
“Every painting stolen by the Jinwu has been impressionistic,” Brody continued. The first first heist was a Sisley, I believe. Then Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and now, this,” he said, indicating the Monet. “He’s assembled quite a collection for himself, this Jinwu.”
They were just about to turn away and head back to Roach’s office when a loud rumble was heard in the distance, something like the sound of thunder heard from far away. Directly after this noise an alarm began to ring out through the gallery. Brody immediately took action by ordering the gathering of security guards, and Roach along with them, to go and investigate. The detective himself, however, resolved to keep watch over the painting. This seemed a little odd to Roach, but the authority in Detective Brody’s voice restrained him from contradicting him. Brody listened carefully to the hurried footsteps leaving the room, and when the only thing he could hear was the din of the alarm, he stepped closer to the Monet and carefully lifted it away from the wall.
The sudden bang had come from one large firecracker which had been left under Detective Brody’s car. The police officers enclosing the gallery’s entrance had been sent into disarray for a few moments, thinking they were under fire, but they quickly realised they were not in danger, and those that were closest to the noise discovered it’s source below the department vehicle.
Realising that there was no threat here, and that Brody had been left alone with a priceless painting that was still in danger of being robbed, he bounded up the front steps, and just as he passed through the entrance he picked up his phone which had begun to buzz.
“Is this Mr. Roach, the Manager of the National Gallery?”
“This is D.I. FitzGerald. I’m calling about Detective Brody. I understand you were supposed to meet with him to discuss the Jinwu case.”
Roach was taken aback.
“What do you mean supposed to?”
“Brody was found dead in his apartment late last night.”
An ominous and fearful feeling clouded Roach’s thoughts, and he wasted no time in bolting into the room with the Monet, or at least where the Monet used to be, because the first thing he saw in that room was a blank space on the wall where it should have been and a huge breach in the window to the left of it.