The Thunder of Nautilus

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All's Well That Ends Well

When James returned to his apartment empty-handed and filled with dread, he found a note from the postal service informing him of an express parcel to be picked up. It was just before closing time when he arrived at the post office and was handed a package containing four paintings. He had no idea which one was an original and which one a duplicate, or whether all four were copies. After returning home, James contacted Jean, the art expert he used for evaluations, and she agreed to come over right away. As usual, she took her time, and finally said, “Two are very good reproductions, but the other two are definitely Monet.”

Jim burst out, “Hallelujah,” and hugged the always-serious Jean, who looked at him as if he were mentally challenged. “Jean, Jean,” Jim said, “the paintings had been stolen, and I thought all was lost, but now look—here they are!” Then he caught himself and expressed his perplexity out loud: “But how?”

Jean, thinking he’d actually asked her, said, “James, I really don’t know.”

James smiled and said, “Of course you don’t. Thing is, I don’t know either—it’s a mystery. But I tell you, I am so happy.”

Jean said, “I’d never have guessed.”

Jim was far too excited to notice her sarcasm. Instead, he thanked her and told her to send him the bill for the consultation. He called Marie and then Nigel to tell them the good news, but said nothing about the murder and just apologized for having to keep the conversation short. He wanted to call his dad before getting into a lengthy explanation about the trip and the grisly details. Before he rang his father, he called David, who was unavailable, so he left a message on his voicemail, asking him to come over as soon as possible. He knew he had to inform the NYPD, but he decided it would be smarter to talk to David first.

He called his father and told him that the paintings and two forgeries had been sent to him anonymously, and then told him in detail about what had happened in New York. Brian, true to his temperate personality, expressed his happiness and relief that the paintings had found their way back to James, however mysteriously. He listened carefully to what James told him and said, “Could it be that Rebecca had duplicates made to give back to you instead of the originals?”

“Yeah,” James replied, “that would explain the copies.” He paused to allow his dad to follow his train of thought.

“The killer and the reason why she was murdered are unknown?” Brian asked. When James said yes, his father continued: “Who knows about the return of the paintings?”

Jim replied, “Just Jean, my art expert, Nigel, and Marie.” “What about the private investigator?” his father asked.

“I haven’t told him yet—just left a message on his mobile,” James replied.

“All right,” his father responded. “I leave it to your discretion how much you want to involve David, but don’t mention this to anyone else. Can you rely on the others to keep quiet?”

James, uneasy now, said, “Sure, Dad, but why?”

“I think your brother might have something to do with this. We have to be very careful now. I’ll contact Justin, and until I know more, you must ensure that your friends keep quiet.” James realized what his father had suggested, and the uneasy feeling turned into a profound concern for his brother, who may have inadvertently caused Rebecca’s death. That he’d killed her was out of the question . . . or was it? he thought. He told Brian that Jean always kept confidentiality, that he’d contact Marie and Nigel, and assured him that he could rely on them to keep mum.

His father somberly said, “Good, good. For now our foremost concern must be to protect Justin,” and James agreed.

James called Nigel first and then Marie, and both of them asked if they could help in any way, and James told them both that he appreciated the offer, but there was nothing they could do, except to not talk to anyone. He promised he’d enlighten them as soon as he was able. As soon as he’d hung up the phone, David arrived and told him that he’d heard from Detective Gray.

“He tried to call you, but couldn’t reach you, so he told me that the primary suspect was a forger already known to the police who’d fled the country the day of the murder.” David explained that the police suspected this forger and Rebecca were involved in the theft of the paintings and more than likely other art theft and forgery, and something must have gone wrong between them. David further explained that there was conclusive evidence that the forger had killed Rebecca, and the detective had assured him that the search for the killer would go hand-in-hand with the search for the paintings.

James was relieved that somebody other than his brother was responsible for Rebecca’s death, but he still thought that his brother was somehow involved. He looked at David, battling an inner voice that said, I must protect Justin, but it’s better to tell the truth. He then asked David if he could get him something to drink.

“Sure—I’d love a beer.”

Jim went to his fridge, took out two bottles, and poured the beer into pint glasses. He motioned David to take a seat on the couch before he began. “Today I received a package containing four paintings. I had my art evaluator come over, and she told me that two were the originals and the other two very well done forgeries.”

David sipped his beer and said, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

James said, “I know, but what the police are thinking makes sense—that Rebecca made a deal with this forger, who’d made the copies, and it backfired and he killed her.”

“Sure, but—” David began . . . .

James interrupted. “I believe somebody close to me has intervened, and I can’t tell you who because I need to protect this person.”

David took a long pull at his beer before he said, “It’s not my job to determine who helped you, but we have an obligation to inform Detective Gray.” Jim agreed, and David continued. “Is this person in any way connected to Rebecca, or in any danger of being investigated by the NYPD?”

Jim said, “No, no connection. The link is to me alone.” David then said, “All right—I’ll call Gray. Leave it up to

me—I’ll tell him the paintings have been returned, but I’ll just forget to mention that you also received copies. That’s too much information. I’ll suggest that Rebecca may have felt remorse. After all, it stands to reason that she may have thought about returning to England with a clean conscience. Anyway, her murder isn’t our problem, the paintings are—and since they’ve been returned safe and sound, our dealings with the NYPD are over.”

Relieved, James said, “I don’t know how to thank you.” David replied, “Nobody’s served by dragging someone who

obviously only meant to help you into the investigation. My job ends here. If you ever need me again, don’t hesitate to call.” Jim thanked him again, and as David stood they shook hands. “I’m just glad that everything turned out well,” David said. “I really don’t care who killed that woman—she was a bad egg, and as far as I’m concerned, she took a big risk and got burned. C’est la vie, as they say.”

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