Brent, Ivory, Cliff, and Elliot sat in the IT room at Quayles Jewels, watching the security videos rewind in slow speed. They were powerless to speed up the technology that stared all four in the face.
“Can’t you speed it up?” Brent demanded.
“I don’t know how,” Cliff said. “I’ve tried.”
“So you don’t know where the fat man got the pigeons?” Ivory asked Elliot.
“It must have been a bag, but I swear he had nothing on him. He was just a man in a suit. It was like magic,” Elliot explained, because he had not seen where the birds had come from.
“And they were so many!” Ivory said.
“You saw them?” Brent said.
“Yes, we did,” Cliff said.
“Many, many birds. It must a have been two dozen or more,” Ivory said.
“Two dozen. Where did they come from? Could the perp have placed them inside your store ahead of time?” Brent asked.
“I don’t think so. No. Impossible,” Cliff said.
“Why not?” Brent asked him.
“They make too much noise,” Cliff said.
“I see. The staff would have heard them even before opening,” Brent said.
“Exactly. What I’d like to know is where are the pigeons going?” Elliot said.
“Tell me something, Elliot, how much do the diamonds weigh?” Brent said.
“The largest stones he took are three-and-a-half carats, and they weight three-quarters of a gram!” Elliot said.
“So we can see how much weight the bird was going to move by examining the pouch of the one in the room,” Ivory said.
“Where are we on the handler?” Brent asked.
“I’ll check,” Ivory said and left.
“Cliff, call IT at the precinct and find out what the smallest battery-operated GPS weighs,” Brent said.
“It sure needs to be small if we are to have the bird carry it,” Cliff said.
“Get the answer and don’t waste time with the obvious, Cliff!” Brent scolded.
“Yes, sir, I’m on it,” Cliff said.
Ivory came back with Peng, and Savanna followed, all walking into the room. Elliot was happy with the idea of placing a GPS tracking device on the bird. And overall, with Brent now taking the lead, he sure appeared to know what to do.
“The animal is safely in the handler’s birdcage, and she removed the bag from the bird’s ankle,” Ivory said, handing the little pouch to Elliot.
Elliot snapped open the clasp on the small rectangular bag with a folding top. Four large diamonds were inside. Cliff returned, having called the IT department at the precinct.
“Look,” Elliot said. “Four, which weigh about three grams.”
“Peng, right? Can you speed this tape back?” Brent asked Peng.
“Easy,” Peng said and clicked twice on the Rewind icon.
The DVR started to rewind at four times its normal speed. Peng double-clicked again, and it increased to eight times, then sixteen times. In a jiffy, they got to the portion of the tape that had recorded the chaos of the birds on the floor of the store.
“Stop there!” Brent said.
It took them a few minutes to go through the crime. A single, blond heavyset man entered the store, walking in from the parking lot after having crossed through the hedges. He hadn’t parked in the lot, and when he walked past the cameras, he never looked up—he always had his head angled down. He wore glasses, and they watched him interact with Savanna at the counter, then enter Elliot’s office.
Then Cliff came back. “Twelve grams!” he interrupted, as if his information were foremost on everyone’s mind.
“What?” Brent retorted, annoyed, as he kept watching the cameras.
“Twelve grams is the weight of the smallest GPS IT can get hold of. It is solar powered. No batteries, and it’s about the size of a quarter.”
“Mr. Quayle, can you weigh the leather sack and the stones?” Brent asked.
“Savanna, bring me my scale,” Elliot said.
“Yep, coming up.” Savanna was happy to play a role.
The tape now showed how the heavyset thief entered Elliot’s office and a few moments later the door closed. The cameras showed the store was operating normally, and no one looked suspicious.
“You have no camera in your office?” Brent asked Elliot.
“No,” Elliot drily answered.
“Peng, please fast-forward through this part, up to the point where the perp opens this door,” Brent said.
Peng did it.
“There!” Brent said.
They all stared at the camera, trying to see the perp’s face. The fat man walked straight to the front door looking down and ignoring the show. All the other people were looking at the birds fly about desperately, trying to get out. The man left right when Cuco opened the door, and on the outside camera angle they watched as he walked straight through the hedges.
“Did you notice that?…Ivory, you didn’t see this guy,” Brent said.
“I must have, but I thought they were two couples. See, it’s four people leaving,” Ivory explained.
On camera they could see Ivory and Cliff enter the store less than a minute after the perp left.
“Did you notice the difference?” Brent said.
“I didn’t notice the man,” Ivory said. “I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t notice him either, sir,” Cliff said, supporting Ivory.
“I’m not talking about that. Peng, can you go back to where the perp walked in the first time. Now everyone look at him here, when he’s leaving. Now show us when he enters,” Brent commanded gently.
Peng had been taking notes on a pad. Almost instantly, he was back at the time 11:01 where the crime started. They all looked at the man walking in.
“Same guy,” Cliff said.
“Yes, stupid. Not that!” Brent admonished. Elliot and Ivory laughed, but Peng was too serious for laughter.
“He’s fatter,” Ivory noticed.
“Exactly,” Brent chimed.
“He is also walking much faster leaving than coming,” Elliot said.
“You realize that he is not holding any stolen goods!” Ivory said. “Even if we stop him now, he won’t have any evidence on him. How can we prove he is the criminal?”
“Cliff, get access to the camera in the adjacent building, and see where he goes after he crossed this hedge. Maybe he parked there, and we can get a plate. Also, instruct them that we will need copies of all the tapes they have. As far back as possible. This guy must have cased the joint. And cordon off where he crossed, and look carefully there. We might get a footprint, torn fabric, etc.…Take forensics with you and seal that area. Also, get forensics to examine the feathers, maybe they can discover something we don’t know about these birds.”
A police officer arrived.
“Captain, we found the perp’s gun in the office. It’s a toy,” the officer said, handing over a Ziploc bag containing the black spray-painted toy gun.
“Thank you. I need you to go outside and release all the people who have given their statements. The perp is not among them, but we can’t rule out an accomplice,” Brent said, grabbing the toy gun as he instructed the officer.
“Yes, sir. Got it,” the officer responded and left.
Meanwhile, Savanna was plugging in the jeweler’s electric scale on the desk next to Peng.
“I feel so stupid,” Elliot said.
“Don’t,” Brent said. “You couldn’t have known it was a fake. You were right to cooperate. Period.”
“Thanks,” Elliot said, then saw Savanna with her what-are-you-waiting-for look, prompting him to weigh the sack and stones on the scale.
“Peng. I want copies of these tapes made immediately. I want my team to look at them more closely,” Brent said, turning to him.
“Will you provide the necessary subpoena?” Peng asked.
“We will,” Brent said.
The scale displayed “7.31963” in digitally lit red letters.
“Just over 7.3 grams,” Elliot announced.
“That is 4.7 grams less than the GPS the officer mentioned,” Peng said.
“Thanks for the math, Peng,” Brent said. “What we need to know is, can the bird handle twelve grams, and can we get the GPS in time?”
“In time?” Elliot asked.
“Well, I don’t expect the thieves will sit with the birds and the loot and wait for us. Do you?” Brent said.
“You got me there. So if this bird leads to the thief’s home, he could be gone from there by now?” Elliot asked.
“Maybe. I would. I expect people in the vicinity have seen the birds, and once the news reports this, they might put two and two together. I really doubt the thieves will stay near the pigeon coop.”
“Aviary,” Peng said.
“Pigeon aviary, not coop. A coop is for chickens.”
“Thank you, Peng. Aviary. Motherfucking aviary,” Brent said the last line very quietly, but they all heard it.
“Sir, I just Googled how much weight a homing pigeon can carry, and they say here they can handle up to 2.5 ounces,” Ivory said. “But I don’t know how many grams that is.”
“That is…about…70 grams,” Peng said.
“What are you, a computer?” Ivory asked.
“Seventy grams, hmm.” Brent thought out loud.
“That is enough for the GPS,” Elliot said.
“Yes, but why would the thief only load up each bird with seven grams when he could have sent seventy?” Brent said.
“Well, it says here that they can carry up to seventy on their backs, with training,” Ivory said. “This pigeon was carrying its pouch on the leg, though. And perhaps with no training.”
“Still, either he didn’t know, or there is a reason,” Brent speculated.
“What if the distance the pigeons were to travel was great, and the thief wanted to be sure the pigeons would make it? It makes sense to send them light,” Peng said, feeling like a detective.
“Good thinking,” Ivory said.
“Thank you,” Peng shyly said, gazing at Ivory as if she were the last woman on earth.
Ivory felt a bit creeped out by the silence that ensued. Finally Brent spoke, breaking the awkward vibes she was getting from Peng. “Ivory, take this to forensics and see if we can get a print.” Brent handed the gun to Ivory.
“You won’t,” Elliot said.
“Come again?” Brent asked, annoyed.
“He wore latex gloves,” Elliot said. “He put them on while I looked for a loupe.”
“Do it anyway, Ivory, and see where that toy came from, where it was made. I want the full story on the weapon,” Brent said. “Capisce?”
“On it,” Ivory said, then left.
“You are a thorough man, Captain,” Elliot said.
“I am also done here. Peng, prepare our copy of the footage as soon as you can. How many months do you have of archived tapes?” Brent asked as he stood up.
“Six,” Elliot replied.
“Well, I want my people to view them all. Like I said, the perp had to have cased the store. Ivory and Cliff are lead on this; I will have Cliff come to pick them up when he has time.”
“Can you send Ivory?” Peng asked, then regretted having said anything at all.
“I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that,” Brent said. He picked up the pigeon’s leather harness that had held the diamond pouch, put it in his jacket pocket, and left the IT room.
He walked to the office of the manager and looked around. The bird was still in there, in a cage. The handler was gone, and there was no one from forensics. He looked for Yonit, his favorite forensic expert, but didn’t see her anywhere.