A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 25

I GAVE RON a call and caught him at the police station before he left for the weekend.

“Calendar, good to hear from you again. Hope you are not expecting to present the murderer?” Ron said, well humored.

“No, but I stumbled on something that I wanted to talk to you about. Maybe it has something to do with the murder, maybe not.”

“Everything counts. Shoot.”

“You remember the ex-wife of Altward telling us about some dealings that Andrew had with Thomas Cornelius and someone called ‘Max?'”

Ron could be heard flipping pages in his notebook. “Yeah, about 18 months ago they started some kind of Mexican deal.”

“I found out through some of my art world channels that there is a set of antique Mexican jewelry for sale. The seller is Altward, the price is not named,” I told him.

Ron sounded weary. “OK, he deals in antique jewelry. Tell me something I don’t know.”

“The jewelry in question is a set of ten pieces. It was a present from some Aztec priests to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1865.” I told him some of the highlights. “The value is somewhere between the two and eight million dollar range.”

Ron whistled and I could almost hear his gears going into motion. “That is a lot of money and worth a deadly risk for some people. But they obviously failed, didn’t they? Remember, something else was stolen.”

“Maybe it was, but not reported. At least it might give us an idea why someone was breaking into the gallery. It’s the motive, stupid.”

Ron laughed his nicest laugh. “I give you this. The motive is OK. And it gives me a reason to give Altward another visit and ask him.”

“There is another thing that doesn’t make sense but maybe it will someday. Do you remember the necklace Phoebe Eastman wore at our interview?”

“I do. You said it looked particular and valuable. Highly above Phoebe’s standard of living. Or something or the other.” Ron flipped pages again in the background. “Oh no, you said, ‘spectacular.’ I wrote it down and underlined it.”

“The style and make had a Mexican flavor to it. In my farfetched opinion and female intuition, it is possible that it was a piece of the Maximilian Jewels. Don’t you think that strange, a girlfriend wearing a million dollar necklace in the morning for a police interview?”

Ron was quiet for a minute, then in a weary voice, “Are you sure this is all you have to tell me?”

“What else do you want? I am giving you all of my clues,” I said.

He sighed. “I will make that two interviews—one with Altward and one with Phoebe. Maybe it will bring a little movement into the case. It desperately needs some kind of break.”

He was silent for a few moments while I heard him tapping on a computer keyboard.

“You said that the Maximilian Jewels are on the grey market and that the price is not named. Does that make it sound suspicious in any way?” Ron asked.

“Not really, if it is a valuable piece with collectors’ recognition, all bets are off anyway. There are approximate prices from comparable objects that were paid at auctions. But each sale is a new game of showing your cards. And it is like a closed offering. It is not on the public market, it’s only by invitation. And probably highly illegal if the source turns out to be the Museum of Mexican History.”

Ron was silent for a minute; I could hear him scribbling and turning paper. “Thanks again for all the input. Different topic: Remember the hacker guy, Hans Polter? He vanished off the face of the earth. Never came back to work again after Thanksgiving weekend.”

“No line on him yet?”

“None whatsoever. But the last thing we know of him is that he boarded a plane to New York City the day after Thanksgiving. I never believe in coincidences. He is hiding low either because he is directly involved or he is scared to be involved.”

“I assure you, I will call you when I meet him.” At least one line I could truthfully deliver with honest humor.

“You will,” Ron hung up.

I hungup slowly and wondered who was feeding whom.

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