Jackson Forbes stretched his six foot two inch frame to rest his feet on the gunnels of his Mako fishing boat, sipped on a Pepsi, and watched the line that dangled from his fishing pole. Jackson had chosen early retirement having invested much of his finances and had been lucky enough to withstand the falling markets. Jackson looked the part of his forty years of hard labor and work ethic growing up and in the U.S. Army; and chasing art fraud around the world.
Four years earlier he and his wife had relocated to Eastern North Carolina in order to retire and hide from his previous job as an insurance investigator. His cell phone rang; he glanced at the number and chose to ignore it. Five minutes later it rang again. This time the selected ring was from his wife, Anita. “Yes, dear?”
“Jackson, yer pal Dwayne has been trying to get call you.” Jackson worked with Musgrove for several years before retiring. The man was six-foot rotund pressure cooker ready to explode.
Musgrove ran the fraud division of the company, though the headquarters was in New York, the Midwest regional office in Kansas City held Jackson’s contact information. Musgrove still called Jackson to contract for an unusual job.
“I know. I’m ignoring him.”
“Well, he called me and I had to listen to him carrying on because you won’t answer the phone. I told him you were fishing, but that didn’t seem to deter him.”
“Did you find out what he wants?”
“Kind of. The New York office contacted him because they thought you and I were still working fulltime for the agency.”
“Fine, but what’d he want?” Jackson took a deep breath, and gave up in irritation.
“It’s a bit complicated. Do I need to explain it on the phone?”
“Yes, I may decide to sail to another fishing spot.” Jackson glanced at his limp line.
“Do you know who Fred Weatherly was?”
“Local weather guy? Did he die, or have an insurance policy with the company? Let me guess, he insured his dog and the mutt is missing.”
“No, silly, a hundred years ago he wrote the words to the song ‘Danny Boy.’”
Jackson flipped his fishing line as if to stimulate the fish. “So? Did he insure with us?” He balanced his cell phone between his shoulder and chin.
“Jackson,” Anita fumed, “He was an Englishman who essentially added his own lyrics to a popular Irish tune called ‘Londonairy’.” There was a noticeable pause on the line. “Did you hear me Jackson?”
“I’m still listening.” He began reeling in his line.
“The original sheet music has a collector’s value somewhere in the neighborhood of five million. It’s gone missing.” Anita paused for a breath. “The thieves also stole a miscellaneous collection of Irish writings dating from the Eighth to the Eleventh Century. The collection was to be part of the Irish History exhibit headed for the Boston museum. Apparently, at least according to the police report, they arrived but disappeared while in custody of the museum receiving department; the guards at the museum saw the boxes and verified the delivery. They signed the boxes in, locked them in a secure room. When they returned with the curator to inspect the delivery the boxes were gone. There were plenty of witnesses, at least in the receiving room, and nearly everyone has been interviewed and several polygraphed – the delivery company and the security people who received the boxes, that is.”
“And, I suppose the company insures the museum.”
“No, they insured the documents as they were being transported from a museum in Dublin. We would get the standard fee of .25% from the agency, but the museum has posted a hundred-thousand-dollar reward as well. Let me correct that, some of the museum’s benefactors are putting up the reward.”
“Okay, total value of the reward?”
“Will have to be appraised after recovery. Dwayne thinks maybe 150-200.”
Jackson pulled his fishing line in. “So, we’re headed for Boston?”
“Maybe at some point.”
Anita giggled, “Cotton Exchange.”
“Hold on for a second.” Jackson put his phone aside to secure his tackle and signaled for his fishing buddy, Phil, to turn the boat around. Phil had a sports magazine open on his lap and appeared to be dozing. “Phil.” Jackson whistled, then reached across the boat and poked Phil in the arm.
Phil looked up. “Huh?”
“We’re going in. Anita’s chasing leprechauns.”
Phil coughed and grinned at what he obviously thought was a joke. “Okay, clearing out the bilge. Open the hatch cover so we can get fresh air.”
Jackson reached over and took the cover off the motors. “Good as it gets.”
“Hold on.” Phil started the boat and after a couple of minutes made a wide turn in the canal.
Jackson picked up the phone. “Okay, now, are you talking about downtown Wilmington?”
“Uh-huh. It’s close. Well, the port anyway.”
“Interesting. We’ll talk about it when I get home. Phil’s making for the dock now. Nothing’s biting anyway.”
Fifteen minutes later Jackson was sitting with Anita in the kitchen of their condo in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Jackson and Anita had met in Kansas City when Jackson worked as an insurance investigator for the New York insurance recovery and investment company. Anita joined the company shortly after their marriage three years before. She had been an archives specialist for the local Catholic Church Bishop’s office in Kansas City, Missouri.
“What’s the catch?” Jackson sipped on the iced tea Anita had set in front of him.
“There doesn’t appear to be one. We find the documents, company sends in the troops, we get the agency standard and a tip from the museum. If we recover and deliver we get both rewards, the full quarter percent based on the insured value and the reward offered by the museum. If the documents are appraised out at 200 mil, then the company gets to increase the insured amount.”
“Okay. So, what if the documents appraise out at $50 grand?”
Anita smoothed the back of Jackson’s hair. “The way I figure, we get the reward based on the original insured value, silly.”
“Okay, I’ll buy that. But, what’s the connection with Wilmington, North Carolina? Or do we have to discover that too?”
“According to Dwayne, The Massachusetts authorities are thinking that one Gilbert O’Neil, a former custodian at the museum, has likely stolen the art.”
Jackson sipped his tea thoughtfully. He adjusted his reading glasses to scan Anita’s notes. “I have no idea why they figured the janitor, but that’s police work.” He thumbed the papers. “The Boston police certainly should be able to deal with this. Why don’t they just arrest Gilbert?”
“They’d really like to and, indeed, it appears they kinda did.” Anita’s mischievous dark eyes sparkled and smile broke across her face.
“Okay, there’s gotta be more to the story. The guy didn’t do it or did they grab the wrong person? Maybe the ACLU is involved? What did they do, water board him or something?”
Anita took a deep breath. “I don’t know. Apparently he was in custody, brought in and sat in a chair, and then he disappeared before he could be formally charged. ‘Like a Leprechaun’, the jailer said, ‘one minute he was there the next minute he was gone’.”
“So, lassie, tell me now, do we get a pot of gold for catching ol’ Gilbert?”
“As far as I know, there’s no reward for him, in fact like I said, he was never formally charged. But, our old company is out the pre-established value of the shipment, about 125 million.”
“So, again. Why Wilmington, North Carolina? I mean, Boston is 800 miles north of here.”
“Police believe it has something to do with the port cause a possible ID put Gilbert on a tanker headed south due in Wilmington. So, all we have to do is find this guy, and return the documents.”
Jackson tapped his glass. “Hence we get paid.”
“Well, it sounds that way, I mean, Dwayne tried to say a commission based on the appraisal but I reminded him about the agreed on contract based on the insured value.”
“Dwayne’s banking on a low ball appraisal. Then will try to renegotiate the contract.”
“Maybe. Remember, the museum will lower their insurance on less valuable property. Oh, Dwayne also said he would send Billie and Willie in if we got in a bind.” The two people mentioned were skip tracers in the Kansas City office.
“Shish.” Jackson stood up and grabbed the keys to the Prius. “Where do we start? Or have we thought that far ahead, yet? Did you make a commitment to Dwayne?”
“First, I did not make a definite commitment but I do think we should look into it. Second, I told Dwayne we need a double standard fee if the papers are a bust.”
“Good luck with that. I say we focus on obtaining and delivering them ourselves. If we have to bring in security we are little more than spies, and Dwayne will charge the costs of the troops against our reward.”
“Hmm, should that be the case, I’d have to buy a black veil and be a mystery woman; I know where Dwayne lives.”
“You should be so lucky. It’s interesting that he’s never offered a security team before. Do you suppose there’s something else we should know? Like maybe the IRA or some foreign government organization is involved”
“A box of old papers stolen by some museum janitor? I wouldn’t think so. He didn’t mention anything about a group. I think, maybe, you know, its possible; the janitor thought it would supplement his retirement income. That is, I assume it was a guy. Like I said, this really sounds like police work. I hope the Boston folks checked the pawn shops. Though, I think there is like a notice network that goes out to most pawn shops concerning stolen, big ticket items.”
Jackson stirred his iced tea and looked in the cabinet for a travel mug. “I suppose the company notified Interpol?”
“As far as I know,” said Anita; “the FBI, CIA, and probably the IRS too. A lot of players.”
“Still, I wonder.” Jackson tossed the keys in the air, then dangled them on his little finger.
“I guess you’re ready to take me to dinner, since you’re dangling my keys in front of me.” Anita teased.
“This starts with old Irish documents, lets get into the right frame of mind with some Irish food. How about the Harp for dinner?”
“I think I have a genius for a husband!”
“Bangers and mash here we come.” Jackson opened the door for Anita. She hipped him as she passed and then danced out the door with a flirty look. “Careful, we’ll never make it to Third Street.”
Minutes later they were making their way down Third Street in downtown Wilmington. They pulled into the Harp Irish restaurant and pub. Jackson watched the passing traffic while he waited for Anita to round the car and held the door for her to enter. “Never ceases to amaze me, traffic, that is. I was born into the wrong era.”
Anita laughed. “You’re a fuddy-duddy.”
A hostess met them. “Good evening,” she said. “It’s a bonny lovely evening. Would you like to sit at a table, a booth, or the bar?”
“A table this evening,” Anita chimed. “I’m making him take me to dinner.”
“I’m Marcy, anything we can do to make your night enjoyable don’t hesitate to ask. As soon as they were seated the waitress handed Jackson and Anita menus. “Oh, tonight is Karaoke night. It starts at 9 if you want to stay around. It’s a lot of fun.”
Jackson grinned and pointed to Anita, “She sings, I smile cause I have no talent. If we can get her up I guarantee she’ll win the hearts of many.”
The waitress nodded. “Great, I’ll tell the DJ he has one for sure.”
Anita shook her head and waved her hands, “No, no, and no. I haven’t sung in forever – not since we got married. We’ll just watch for awhile.”
“She sings in the shower and the neighbors try to peek in the windows.” He laughed. “I had to buy new locks and get darker curtains.”
Anita punched his arm. “Stop it.”
Out of habit, Jackson and Anita observed the other patrons as they waited for their order. Their waitress made several stops at the table, bringing food and drink, and each time reminding them it was Karaoke night. Finally, the DJ started inviting people to join him at the microphone to sing. It was clear that some had come to the Harp specifically for the Karaoke. As the evening progressed Jackson and Anita whispered critiques of the participants. There were several marginal voices and a couple of very good ones.
“I’ll be right back, Jackson. Lady’s room.” Anita crossed in front of the DJ and whispered something to the man on the bandstand.
A few minutes later she returned to the table.
“I saw you whispering with the DJ. Looking for a song?” Jackson teased. “Or are you fishing for a date with a long haired twenty something?”
“Really Jackson,” Anita said crossly. “I doubt if he has the song, but I asked him if he had the music for ‘The Prayer.’ Remember, that’s what I sang at our wedding.”
“What was the one you sang at the reception with Mandy?”
“That’s a more difficult piece, ‘Clannad Siúil a Rún an Irish Love Song’. It took me even longer to learn that one. I envy Mandy, they had been singing that in her high school chorus, she didn’t have to work as hard as I did.” Mandy was Jackson’s niece from his first marriage. Her father and his late wife were siblings. Jackson had lived on their farm for several years after his wife’s sickness and death.
Jackson pointed at some people lining up for the second set, “Let’s stay for a few more.”
The DJ began his patter and started a piece of music. Anita took a deep breath just as the D.J. nodded toward her.
“Ms. Anita Forbes is going to sing ‘The Prayer’ for us.
Anita stood and made her way to the microphone. A few seconds later the music started and Anita began to sing, softly at first. Her voice got stronger and soon everyone in the restaurant had quieted to listen. By the time she finished, most of the others were on their feet shouting approval.
The DJ leaned over to Anita. “Ma’am, like, are you appearing anywhere? You’ve got to be a professional, right?”
Anita smiled. “No, I’m just an archive specialist for an insurance company.”
The rest of the singers were lining up for their turn although some were grousing about having to follow Anita. Jackson smiled to himself as he paid the check and waited for Anita to join him at the door. “Wow, you nailed it, baby.”
Anita shook her head. “I didn’t think it was that good. Maybe better than some, but I haven’t been practicing in a long time. Singing something totally cold is a real effort. You remember? I worked on that song for almost a month before our wedding.”
“I guess that’s why tonight you never looked at the monitor.”
“Yes I did.” She protested.
Jackson had just started to put the car in gear when there was a tap on Anita’s window. An older man stood next to the car, cane in hand, motioning for Anita to roll down her window.
“Yes, sir?” She said as the window opened.
“Lassie,” the old man said. “You brought tears to my eyes, would you sing again next week?”
Anita looked over at Jackson inquiringly. He gave her a thumb’s up. She turned back to the man, “I’ll be here if my work doesn’t interfere.”
“There’s a wonderful old Gaelic folk song that would be perfect for your voice. If you wouldn’t mind.” The old man said wistfully, the slight hint of an accent in his voice.
“I would love to, but my knowledge of Gaelic is very poor. I sang Gaelic folk song in college. But that was years ago. I’m afraid I don’t remember it anymore.”
“I can teach you Gaelic. Then you could sing ‘The Folk Song’ for me. You come to the cottage where the misuses and I live. We can work it out. And you can bring yer husband.”
“That’s very kind. I will see if I can find it on the Internet. If I can learn the song by next week, I’ll come back to the Harp and sing it for you.”
The old man wiped his mouth. “Thank you, dear. I’ll be here.” The old man teetered a bit with his cane in hand.
“Will the DJ have the music? Or will I need to play the piano?”
The old man winked and said, “I’ll handle it.” Then he turned and hobbled off toward the restaurant. A second later a hand opened the door for him and he disappeared into the building.
Anita rolled up the window and turned to Jackson. “I may have promised that poor old man something I can’t deliver.”
Jackson grinned. “I didn’t know you knew Gaelic.”
“I don’t. I did learn an old song in Gaelic years ago when I sang with the Stephens College chorus.”
Jackson put the car in reverse and began to back out. A group of young people standing along the walkway to the restaurant waved good-by. Anita smiled and waved back.
Suddenly, their waitress came flying out of the door waiving frantically. Jackson stopped the car. “I know I left a decent tip.” He was clearly exasperated by all the delays. Anita rolled her window down again.
The woman paused to catch her breath then leaned down to the window. “My manager, says if you’ll come back and sing tomorrow he’ll comp your meal.”
Anita laughed. “I guess that really would be singing for my supper. I’m sorry. It’s getting late and we’ve got church tomorrow.”
The waitress handed Anita a business card. “Then, come for brunch tomorrow. He still wants to talk to you.”
Jackson leaned over. “We might do that.”
As they pulled out Jackson asked Anita. “You didn’t by any chance get the old man’s name, did you?”
“No, but I see where your mind is headed what you’re thinking. Yes, he seems to have what may be an Irish accent. And the documents are Irish. However, he hardly looks the part. That would be too much of a coincidence.”
Jackson pointed out. “Well, as we both know, thieves don’t wear nametags. Besides the owner of the Harp is Irish, my guess is a lot of Irish men and women frequent here.”
When they got home, Jackson opened the door and pretended to bow as she walked into the condo. “The illustrious Anita Forbes, appearing on a semi-regular schedule by popular demand at the Harp in Wilmington, North Carolina.”
“Yeah, an introduction like that I will be in confession twice a week. I better make an appointment with the priest.”
“Maybe you should bill yourself under your maiden name.”
Anita grinned. “Yeah, Keng, that would go over well in an Irish Pub. Although my grandmother on my mother’s side was a Kilpatrick, I guess I could use that,” she giggled. “With my skin tone and eyes trying to pass for Irish might be a stretch. Taiwanese Irish doesn’t have the same ring to it as Scotch Irish.”
“Personally, I like Anita Forbes.”
“Me, too.” Anita kicked off her shoes as she automatically checked the answering machine. There was a message from Dwayne. “Don’t you people ever answer your phone? Check your email. I sent you a picture of this Gilbert guy who may have a connection to the documents. I’m also sending the FBI contact’s name.”
Anita sat down at the computer and pulled up their joint email. “Jackson, get in here.”
“What is it?” Jackson hurried into the office.
“The picture. You know how we were speculating about the old man being our suspect just because he is old? Take a look at this.”
Jackson looked at the picture. That looks like.”
“Yeah. It’s the Karaoke D.J.”