by Kent Swarts
“The value is about one million pounds. How they got away with it is anyone’s guess.”
“It has been eight months, and we have yet to catch the rascals.”
* * *
Francis Stuart settled into an overstuffed chair. He slid his glasses from the top of his head onto his nose and began to read.
In summary, evidence indicates the Thieves drove a truck into the museum’s yard after cutting the bars away from the lock with a torch. Tire tracks indicate a dual wheeled flatbed with a 325 cm wheelbase. The perps backed the truck into the yard driving out after they loaded the piece. Evidence suggests a crane affixed to the flatbed was used to lift the statue. Police identified footprints of four men at the scene. The Thieves were not observed by anyone or captured on tape (see note 1) during the estimated twenty minutes it took. NOTE 1: The truck and two of the four men were captured on one of the museum’s security cameras. The outside camera feeds were cut shortly after the two men were seen departing the truck. Ambient lighting did not permit color or model identification of the truck. (Street lighting had been cut two nights earlier.)
“The perfect crime, Sir?” said Jeeves, setting a cold beer in a tall glass on the end table after he moved some papers Stuart had been reading.
“There is no such thing as the perfect crime. Only bumbling fools investigating the crime scene.” Until recently, Stuart had unraveled a number of art thefts and forgeries.
Jeeves nodded and hurried to the kitchen to finish preparations for dinner. Guests would be arriving within one half hour.
Stuart set his glasses and police summary on the table and picking up the beer went upstairs to shower. After he had dressed, he called Kirk Druid, leaving a message. “Tonight I invited three forensic specialists to dinner. I plan to establish the facts of the burglary. Once again, thank your lovely wife for all she did.” He went downstairs and stuck his head into the kitchen. “Jeeves, a word.”
“Jeeves, tonight I would like you to monitor the conversation from the dining room. I need your considerable talent for deciphering the truth as these people tell us about the robbery.”
“Very well, sir.”
The first to arrive was Ms. Helen Tabbert, a well-known insurance investigator the police called in to assist their investigation. Captain Donald Donaldson of the Art Squad, Metropolitan Police, arrived next, and Henry Bent of INTERPOL arrived last. With wine and hors d’oeuvres served, Francis wasted no time and asked, “We know why we gathered, so let’s begin. Like Moore’s masterpiece, Reclining Figure, stolen for its scrap value, was this theft in the same vein?”
“Ahem,” Helen said. “First, was this a copycat heist? The police haven’t stated.”
“We believe it copycats only to the extent that the perps knew they needed a truck and crane to get the one and a half tonne figure out of the garden. Beyond that…”
“So it was stolen for its intrinsic value?”
“The truck they used was rented from Able Trucks and not returned. A renter paid the claim in cash.”
“The renter is?”
“A Mrs. Stone, a penniless lady, who died two days before the truck was rented. The rental agreement had a photocopy of a driver’s license of a 25-year-old woman, in prison for killing her boyfriend.”
Jeeves came into the living room and said, “Dinner is served.”
“Then nothing came from the restitution payment?” said Francis.
“They were happy to get their money.”
Francis said, “Four men committed the crime, but a woman rented the truck. Doesn’t ring true.”
Helen snickered, “Three men and a woman?”
Francis said, “Or one man and one woman.”
So went the conversation through the appetizer, salad, and entree. Everyone pushed their chair away from the table when Jeeves served after-dinner brandy. Francis said, “We now know what transpired, so, with dessert, I think we should discuss how the sculpture could be transported. Could it pass through customs unobserved?”
Donald said, “We consulted both Customs and MI5. Neither feels the piece left the country.”
“No innovative way to get around Customs, like a clandestine ship?”
A maid served dessert, a shortcake with fruit and liqueur.
“MI5 believes the risk of getting caught too high. Intelligence agencies know everything there is to know about every vessel in British waters.”
“And most civilized countries that could afford the piece have the same level of security,” said Helen.
“What about by plane? or Rail?”
Donaldson said, “Certainly not by rail. Plane is a possibility although remote.”
“Then we have how. By plane,” said Francis. “When?”
Helen said, “Our experience is that thieves wait some time to transport any stolen goods.”
“We have when. Immediately. While the police have their heads down investigating. Where?”
The man from INTERPOL said, “The U.S. They have the fewest available investigators because the FBI is buried in drugs and terrorists.”
Donald said, “Makes sense. It was probably flown to Nova Scotia and taken by small craft into the U.S.”
“Why Nova Scotia?”
“The province is small, isolated, and has a small police and customs force.”
“There you go, folks. We solved the mystery. Now we only need look in everyone’s bedroom closet in America for the reclining nude. Is she worth it?”
Helen thought so; INTERPOL was ambivalent, and Donaldson said it was out of his jurisdiction.
Within a few minutes, Stuart’s guests left.
“Well, Jeeves, what do you think? Perfect heist or bungled investigation?”
“I believe we have the nearly perfect heist with a less than stellar investigation. The extra sets of tracks threw them a curve.”
“They did. And they were poorly done. Cutting the lights in the neighborhood was brilliant.”
“Sir, will there be anything else?”
“Not unless you can think of another saleable statue.”
“At the Nasher, sir, in Dallas, a piece of cake. A Lichtenstein, Newman, and a Picasso.”
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Kent Swarts is a retired aerospace engineer and an active astronomer. He publishes the club’s newsletter. He is a published author of short stories in three anthologies and online. He lives in Waco, Texas with his wife.