A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 30


“Mind joining us for a little trip south?”

“San Diego is a nice town this time of year, but two times in a month is too much,” I replied.

“I don’t mean San Diego, I mean Mexico City.”

“You have a lead there?” I asked.

“The thing is, I don’t have enough leads. We have had search orders for Altward’s Newport apartment, the gallery and Altward’s San Diego home. Found nil regarding the case.” He sighed heavily over the phone. “And now Altward’s lawyer, the judge and the district attorney are raising issues as to whether there was actually enough probable cause to justify the search orders. My options are running out.”

“Anything about the Maximilian Jewels?”

“Just some general stuff, the same that you got. The thesis of that UCLA guy, some newspaper articles. Nothing of substance pointing to the value, the private auction or anything else.”

I thought about the valuations and expertise I had seen in the office at Altward’s Newport apartment. I couldn’t tell Ron about those.

“So why Mexico?” I inquired.

“The Maximilian connection seems to be the best lead. I agree with your theory that the Maximilian Jewels and their value have something to do with both murders. It’s exactly why people kill each other, loads of money or the possibility of money.”

“And you hope to find answers about ‘The Max’ in Mexico City?”

“Everything so far has been hearsay and some articles. I want facts. Authenticity. So we start at the beginning. The National History Museum in Mexico City. Plus, so far, you are the only one who has spotted a single piece of the set. Maybe the rest is still lying in the vaults of the Mexican museum?”

A good point I hadn’t yet considered.

Ron already had an appointment with the head of the museum for tomorrow, early afternoon. We discussed our travel arrangements.

“A thought occurred to me over the weekend, has nothing to do with the murder, however,” I delivered in an attempt at tactical influence on the investigation.

“Tell it to me anyway,” Ron humored me.

“Collectors like Nakamoto don’t buy jewels just by the looks. Especially when such an amount of money is involved. Altward would need to produce expertise to prove the authenticity.”

“But we didn’t find anything in Altward’s possession. No receipts, no valuations, and no official looking papers bearing any relation to ‘The Max,'” Ron said.

“Maybe he is good in hiding. I bet he is pissed off about the police ransacking his homes so shortly after the burglary,” I said. “Anyway, don’t look near Altward but ask the source.”

“What source?”

“The experts who wrote the valuations. There are not too many jewelry experts around, and I bet Altward hired the best.”

The long silence at the other end of the line told me that this was a good idea.

“I will mail you some good contacts to start asking. The insurance detective Fowler Wynn can give you additional names. Gives you guys something to do.”

I managed to buy a ticket for tomorrow morning, a United flight leaving LAX around six a.m. would bring me into Mexico City around noon. I was also able to reserve a room in the same hotel where Ron was staying, the Galleria Plaza Hotel.

A quick call to Mrs. Otis arranged my absence for the next two days. She would manage the place and try not to forget to lock either the shop or the safe in the evenings. Then I made another quick call to Mundy to make sure that every evening he checked the locks and the safe at the shop and got a quick update.

“Can you give me one good reason why you should be with Officer McCloseky in Mexico City? He can ask questions alone, can’t he?”

“Do I detect a hint of jealousy?” I asked annoyed, instantly regretting it as Mundy hung up with a bang.

The trip was uneventful. I hated getting up early but flying business class made it bearable. I managed to persuade the steward not to wake me whenever he was running around with food or drinks, which was all the time. That settled, I slept like a log through the whole flight. I was shielded by the pack of common travelers by class distinction but the second I left the business class finger that led to the terminal, the anthill hit me like a hammer. LAX had the feeling of a solid big city airport for a multimillion citizens but Mexico City Airport felt like a vibrating high pressure cooker on an overheated plate. After immigration and luggage retrieval, I caught a taxi and made my way to the hotel.

Ron and I had agreed to meet in the hotel lobby around two, enough time to freshen myself up and dress for the museum meeting. The moment I stepped out of the elevator I knew why Ron had said “… join us… ” the day before.

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