A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 41

SO, FINALLY PICKING up where we left off with the original plan, we all sat down in the living room of the weekend home of Marion Altward’s neighbor, Henry Arthur. As it turned out, Mr. Arthur had been a policeman in San Diego before his retirement, a quiet old man enjoying the ocean view and the nearby golf courses. He offered us drinks and snacks and then discreetly left for his garage to paint his boat.

Juanita phoned Marion Altward to tell her about her ex-husband’s entry. She appeared surprised that he still had a key, she wouldn’t have granted permission anyway. Treat it like a burglary, thank you very much.

Andrew Altward sat on the couch, his hand held a shopping bag filled with ice to one side of his face, arms on his knees. Juanita sat on a chair behind him. Fowler and I were across from Altward with a good view into Mr. Arthur’s immaculate green garden and the spectacular blue ocean.

We were all there, except Ron, who was organizing the police mayhem outside. Although his Ford was equipped with every airbag ever invented, Billy Bounce was injured slightly in the crash. After administering first-aid, they transported him to the police hospital in the San Diego Correctional Facility. The interview with him was planned for later tonight; at the least, the police could charge him with breaking and entering, public weapon discharge, shooting at officers and reckless driving.

Ron came in with a stack of papers, a small audio recorder and a flat shoebox. He placed the stack of papers on the floor beside a chair and the recorder on the table in front of Altward. The box sat in the middle of the table.

Ron took a chair, looked at each of us, his eyes resting on me for a second longer.

“So,” he began, “we are here to shed a little light into the events of the afternoon. Starsky and Hutch here… ” He waved at Fowler and me, “were so friendly to catch the other bad guy for us.”

“Is there much damage?” I asked timidly.

“The neighborhood has survived, insurance will cover. Mr. Wynn’s nerves resting now?” Ron asked and Fowler nodded.

Ron got down to business, switched on a small digital recorder and put it on the table. He stated purpose, people present and repeated Mr. Altward’s right to a lawyer, which he declined.

“OK, Mr. Altward. Would you be so nice to tell us what you were doing in the weekend home of your ex-wife?”

Altward was silent. Then he removed his hands from his face, his mustache slightly disturbed, his right eye featuring the latest blue-greenish color shades.

“Mr. Altward!”

“Yes, yes. Where to begin?”

“Why not answer my question?” Ron helped him.

“This was a trap, wasn’t it?” Altward looked at me.

Instead of an answer, I fished for the fake necklace in my shirt pocket and dangled it in front of his face. He recognized it for what it was.

He nodded slowly. “Yes, I was perplexed when you visited me this morning. And the photo was of such high quality.”

“And you decided to check whether the rest of the Maximilian Jewels were still where you hid them?” Ron asked.

Another nod. “Marion’s house was ideal. She rarely comes here. It is close to San Diego, a perfect hiding place.”

“What happened then?”

“Well, I drove here, made sure that I wasn’t followed… ” He made a helpless gesture around. “See how effective that was. I looked for the box… ”

“Where did you store it?”

“Under the sink. There are several shoeboxes filled with household knick-knacks, I simply pushed it down under them and let it sit there. Anyone opening one of the first three boxes would find rarely used wood polish, boat wax and shoe strings.”

“When did Mr. Bounce come into the picture?”

“Is that his name? I was just putting the box on the kitchen table, ready to open it, when I heard a noise from the living room, like a dull crash.”

“The window was forcefully opened with a crowbar by Mr. Bounce,” Ron clarified for the recorder.

“Anyway, I had just walked to the living room to see what had happened, when I ran into… ” He winced slightly as he said it, “… Mr. Bounce. Realized he was bad news and tried to get away from him. As it turned out, that chunk of meat was quicker than I was. He grabbed me on the shoulder, spun me around and hit me in the face.” Altward touched his shiner and winced.

He pointed toward the garden. “Then things got chaotic. Mr. Bounce ran past me into the kitchen, came back with the box that I had left lying on the floor. Suddenly, the other man, a policeman as I now know, came running onto the terrace. Mr. Bounce pulled a pistol and started shooting, pulled another pistol and shot some more. The poor policeman jumped into the pool, I couldn’t see whether Mr. Bounce’s shots had hit him or not. Then you… ” He turned back to Juanita, “… came running and shot back from around the corner. It was like something from a Tarantino movie. The Mexican housemaid comes running, suddenly draws a big gun out of her purse and starts shooting wildly. I was lying on the floor with all that shooting going on above me. I simply curled up and tried not to get hit. Mr. Bounce retreated into the kitchen and after a few moments, I could hear the shooting continue from the front of the house, a crash, probably the kitchen window, and then more shots. Then Detective Garcia came in and rescued me.”

Ron helped him out. “Billy Bounce jumped through the window, shooting two-handedly, the box tucked under his elbow. Quite some stunt.” Ron gave me another one of his quick suspicious glances. “Have you met Mr. Bounce before?”

Altward shook his head.

“Please, speak up, the recorder can’t see you.”

“No, never. Although I suspect that he is behind the annoying phone calls I have been receiving over the last two weeks.”


“No, the silent type, like a message. As if forcing me to concede to something.”

“What something?”

“You know what—the Maximilian Jewels.”

“But you don’t know why he wanted the jewels so badly?”

Altward gave a huffed laugh. “Of course I know. It’s the money.”

“You had a buyer for the Maximilian Jewels?”

“Yes, I do. I did. An Argentinean collector. We had set an exchange date for the coming weekend.”

“How much?”

“Fifteen million.”

“No doubt the latest news coverage and celebrity helped to increase the street price,” I said.

“Anational treasure!” Altward exclaimed, raised his hands including the ice bagto the ceiling, shaking his head and pressed the bag over his colored eye again.”The whole thing got so out of hand.”

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