A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 33



THE NEXT MORNING, sunshine fell into the room, friendly sun. I blinked and found Ron snoring under some newspaper on the small couch near the window. My bags were stored in the corner. A quick cat stretch brought me back to reality, my back hurt like hell.

A hot and cold shower and an inspection in the mirror, half of my back was black-bluish-green. I dressed, did my hair and opened the bathroom door to face Ron.

“I hope you were not peeping,” I confronted him good heartedly.

“It took a long time, I wasn’t sure whether there was another guy in there to kill you,” he said deadpan.

“Flushed him down the drain. Get used to women blocking the bath.”

“At least you got your wit back.”

While I did some inspection of my stuff and Ron had a quick shower, the Mexican TV news channel showed the hotel, the broken window and a white sheet over the piece of meat that had been my assailant.

I couldn’t understand half of it but the story was simple enough. Attacker in hotel room. American woman defended herself; assassin fell out of the window in fight. Police still investigating.

“Ever been in the news before?” Ron was drying his hair, very sexy look. Unfortunately, he was dressed completely again.

“Hope they didn’t mention my name,” I said dryly, switching off the set and tying my sneakers.

“I called Lobos while you were in the bathroom. He will meet us for breakfast downstairs in a few minutes.”

“Breakfast sounds good,” I conceded.

We rode down in the elevator, both uncomfortable with our feelings after my attempt last night.

The breakfast room was empty. The clock showed ten o’clock and the business people were already gone. Some idle tourists, mostly American by clothing, were reading USA Today, sipping juice and shoveling eggs. That is exactly what I did.

“What became of that health conscious girl I came to know in California?” Ron said reproachfully, glancing at the assortment of pure unhealthy fat on my plate.

“Stepping out on a tenth floor ledge, chased by a madman repositions your approach toward healthy food,” I said, ignoring him otherwise.

After I filled my stomach with four helpings of everything and at least a gallon of excellent Mexican coffee, I sat back and watched Ron watching me.

Lobos finally arrived. His brimming good-humored self gave me a peck on my outstretched hand. He sat down and more coffee appeared like magic a moment later. “My dear, how do you feel this morning?” He asked.

“Stop mothering me, you… father figures,” I smiled weakly. “I am well, as well as I can be.”

“Let me compliment you again on your fast reaction. That sap on the head would have killed you for sure,” Lobos patted my hand.

“It was largely luck and speed. Who is the man?” I asked.

“Who was the man?” Lobos corrected me. “In a way, you made my job a lot easier. Just yesterday, we were asking ourselves who of the curators might have traded the Maximilian Jewels. And right this morning, the puzzle is solved.”

“You mean my assassin was one of the museum curators?” I asked disbelieving.

Lobos nodded gravely. “That was my reaction exactly, and I have seen a lot of strange cases in my time.” Lobos flipped open a slim file folder that showed a blown up driver’s license photo. “Stephano Toledo. Art degree, specialized in Jewelry and Gemstones, studied in Mexico City and Florence, Italy. He was 36 years old, not married and no girlfriend.”

A regular face with Hispanic features, dark hair, dark eyes. Not evil, not particularly handsome, a regular guy.

“Was he was known to be violent in any way before last night?” Ron asked.

“No, nothing. Though, he had a bit of a flamboyant lifestyle. Liked to visit the clubs of Mexico City, had a small fast car. He spread his income thin.”

“Academic gone criminal,” Ron mused.

I almost replied that there was nothing to be said against a little theft, but then I recalled last night and stayed mum.

“Did you find anything that connects him to our San Diego case?” Ron asked.

“Give us a little time, please. This is Mexico City, my dear friend,” he admitted.

“Why did he target me? I am just the consultant.”

“That is another very good question. Presently, we can merely speculate.”

“Humor me,” I said dryly.

“Who brought up the Maximilian connection?” Lobos put his fingers on the table, spreading them.

“I see,” I said slowly but actually, I didn’t.

Ron said, “I must admit, I wasn’t very discreet about your input into the case. Mentioned it to Altward, mentioned it to his associate Mr. Cornelius on the phone. The guy at UCLA, of course, remembered you, Professor Salanca.” Ron looked a little uncomfortable, let him burn.

“But my reasoning wasn’t rocket science. And we haven’t really found out anything regarding the murder.”

Lobos took my left hand and said. “Remember that we are talking about a lot of money. Some people are desperate against anyone who threatens to unravel their plot. You picked up the thread. Maybe someone is afraid that you will start pulling some more.”

Ron took my other hand. I looked back and forth between my two personal policemen. “At least, and that is really the only thing that came out of this sorry affair, everyone is convinced of the fact that the key to the story actually is the Maximilian Jewels.”

Both nodded, glumly.

“Do you think that someone will try again?”

Lobos and Ron looked at each other and started simultaneously patting my hands. I had to laugh.

“I think our friend Ron McCloseky will arrange for protection for you in Los Angeles,” Lobos reassured me.

I pulled away my hands and crossed my arms. “I will not be nannied!”

“Will,” Ron disagreed.

“Will not! And that is the last I will hear about it!” I stomped my foot on the floor to make the point.

“Oh well! There is another thing that you may not be aware of,” Ron slowly moved his index finger in a circle, aiming in on me. “There is someone at this table who may have the solution to the puzzle already in his, or her, head. And I think that this somebody is… ” Pointing his finger at me.

I wasn’t sure at all how Ron meant all that, whether he thought that I intentionally held back information, or whether it was my expertise ready to be exploited. Whatever. It looked as if the world relied on Calendar Moonstone—Supergirl.

My admirers beamed at me expectantly.

I re-crossed my arms, crossed my legs and wiggled my nose. “All that pressure!”

Around noon, we went over to the museum again, including Fowler, who had turned up again, jumbled some “how are’yas” and left it at that. Even Lobos joined us for the second little chat with the director. Pedro Vasolar didn’t look very pleased this morning; overnight, his olive skin had turned white.

“I cannot tell you how shocked I am by the whole affair.”

Ron and Lobos looked at him as if he was suspect number one. “Did you have any indications that your curator Stephano Toledo was involved in any illegal activities?” Lobos jumped right at it. When on the job, he had the same annoying habit as Ron in addressing things directly.

“Of course not! He was a talented young man, had a great gift in organizing exhibitions. Remember the ‘Children of the Revolution’ event last fall?” Lobos hadn’t, held his impassive stare. Vasolar started to sweat, loosened his tie. This was actually fun, I thought.

“Not? Fine. That was Senor Toledo’s success. It is unbelievable that he actually… ” His voice trailed, averting his eyes from mine.

Silence.

“The bad part, the very inconvenient part on our side appears to be… ” Lobos merely raised an eyebrow. “… that I personally ordered Senor Toledo to do the inventory of the jewelry vaults. Your request, you remember yesterday?” His voice trailed again, he probably knew that his last remark was close to ridiculous and that he talked too much.

Ron helped out in a friendly tone. “But you couldn’t have guessed… ”

“Yes, exactly, thank you,” Pedro swallowed. “My colleagues started over this morning. But the Maximilian Jewels cannot be found.” He swallowed again, avoiding Fowler’s death ray looks. “Stolen,” he repeated as if to get absolution by that fact.


Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.