Part II – by Courtney Webb
Mouth open, she took his food and Sam turned to go back in the main foyer. There were several loud bangs! Accompanied by flashes of light. Out of the wing housing the Degas Exhibit, a short, black clad figure emerged. He was dressed in all black and red and looked like a Ninja complete with a drawn scimitar. A black mask covered the face and hair.
Sam’s heart stopped when he looked at the walking figure more closely and realized that dynamite was strapped to the assailant’s chest. A large red, digital screen was above the tapped sticks and the numbers were counting down. People were screaming and running.
The masked figure kept swinging the curved sword at anyone that got close but was eerily silent. It seemed to Sam that time slowed down. He wasn’t sure how long he stood here, frozen. Suddenly, there was a crackling sound like a radio and the figure stopped, paused, seemed to listen, then ran through the foyer and around a corner.
“Stop him,” a guard shouted. The guards couldn’t seem to decide whether to advance or retreat. Sam followed at a distance.
He poked his head around the corner that way the Ninja had gone and realized it was a pair of elevators. A large sign read Observation – 9th Floor.
Weird, he’s going to blow us up and then takes the elevator?
Sam could swear that he heard a helicopter.
I’ll take the stairs. What the hell, only nine floors.
Huffing and puffing he got up to the ninth floor and saw a group of people huddled in a corner. Large pane glass windows framed awe inspiring views of the San Francisco Bay. He didn’t see the Ninja. He looked at the people. One man looked up and pointed to a door on the far side of the room. It was marked Emergency Exit Only – Keep Out, in large red letters.
Sam ran to the door and saw it wasn’t shut. Cautiously, he peeked out. There was a loud Whoosh! Sound and furious air knocked him back. A Black-hawk helicopter swished upwards; the figure of the black Ninja dangled from a rope cord below the chopper.
Sam could see that the bay door was open and two men were busily pulling the Ninja into the open door. The chopper did a left swoop and headed out to sea. He shielded his eyes against the sun but could see no identifying marks on the bird. He didn’t have a camera on his phone so he couldn’t get a picture. He closed the door. By this time, the guards had gotten over their fright and were spilling into the observation room like ants.
Sam went back down the way he had come. He could hear the sound of sirens in the background as he made his way back to the coffee shop.
Man, could I use that sandwich now! That and maybe a beer, too.
An hour later, sandwich eaten, coffee drunk and an endless series of high pitched blabbing questions from his girls, Sam separated himself. SF police had questions and he gave them the short bits of information he had.
“To wrap up,” Sam mashed the paper coffee cup in his hands,”the whole thing started with a girl getting pinched in the restroom. Then,an old man got slapped so hard it knocked his false teeth loose so that he started to choke. As soon as that was over, a Ninja suicide bomber showed up, who, it seems, wasn’t a bomber at all.” He stopped for them to catch up.
The two beefy officers both had out little black notebooks and short pens and hastily made notes, shaking their heads. In the end, the shorter one, Vasquez, his badge read, said, “So, that’s it?” He closed his notebook and was tapping it with the little pen.
“Pretty much, I guess.” Sam ran a hand through his tousled hair.
Vasquez looked at his partner, Wilson.
“Ah, no more questions at this point,” Wilson added with a slight shrug.
“So, Mr. Reynolds,” Vasquez turned back to Sam, “you got a business card where we can reach you if needed?”
“Sure.” Sam pulled his wallet out of a back pocket and pulled out a little card, somewhat curved with wear and handed it over.
Vasquez examined the card and stuck it into his notebook.
“We may be in touch.” The two men departed.
The museum employees and curators closed the museum for the day. Sam could see frantic employees running back and forth with clipboards and pens, scratching notes. They spoke to each other in hushed notes. It looked to Sam like they were looking for something.
Just as they were about to leave, a Miss Jones, PhD, of the museum staff tracked him down.
“Oh, Mr. Reynolds is it?” he heard behind him and stopped.
A tall, pretty young woman in a business suit approached. She held out a hand and Sam gave her a shake.
“I am Ms. Jones, curator for the museum. Here is my card,” she handed Sam a crisp, white square with her name. “I understand you saw some of what happened.”
“Maybe we can talk about it sometime?” she looked over toward Sam’s little group.
“Sure.” Once again, Sam dug out his wallet and pulled out another beleagered business card and gave it to her.
“Ah, Sam Reynolds, PI. Hum,” she gave a faint smile and finished with “Well, another time then.”
Ever the nosy one, Sam waved at the beleaguered employees. “So, what’s all that now?” he asked.
“Oh,” she smiled. “They are re-cataloging the collection.”
Sam arched an eyebrow.
“Trying to figure out what, if anything had been taken. We’re still not sure.”
“Ah,” Sam replied. “Well, be seeing ‘ya.”
Ms. Jones smiled again and giving them a little wave, turned and retreated back to the museum.
Sam ushered the girls back to his truck.
“Well, can you believe all that?” a stunned Chelsea commented as they worked their way back to the car. “Wow, and I though LA was bad. Whew!”
“Yeah, but it was kind of fun, wasn’t it?” Angela added. She turned to Sam. “Somehow these things always seem to happen when you’re around. No wonder Mom likes you so much.”
“No, your mother likes me because she has good taste. Isn’t that right Kristie?”
Kristie tossed her dark blond curls. “That and he makes a good fried egg sandwich.”
Sam shrugged with a ‘what can I say? look. They laughed.
Later, they were back home in Tranquility, California, in Kristie’s kitchen. The girls had disappeared to their respective rooms and Sam and Kristie were alone. Standing at her granite topped island, she poured them both mugs of coffee.
“You know you really scared the shit out of me chasing after that guy.”
“I know sweet. But, I really didn’t think he was going to blow anything up if he was also running for an elevator. Didn’t make sense.”
“Still, wish you wouldn’t play hero all the time.”
“I know, I know. I’m okay though. We’re all back home. Give me a hug.” He pulled her close and she reluctantly let him. At that very moment, Sam’s phone rang.
“Shit.” He looked down. “415 area code. Maybe I should get this.”
Kristie grimaced and went back to her coffee.
“Sam Reynolds. Yes. Yes, Ms. Jones. How are things? It was a what? Let me get a piece of paper.” He gestured to Kristie and she handed him a notepad and pen.
“Let me spell that. R e n o i r. Renoir, French, right? Yeah, got that part. At the Milliners, 13” by 9”. Is that worth a lot of money?” There was a pause. “Well, yes, I would say that’s a lot. Sure. Well, it’s kind of late now. Tomorrow? Yup, will call you first thing. Thanks, no problem. Talk to you then.”
He hung up the phone and looked at the note. “It was a painting by this Renoir guy. It was switched during all the commotion with a fake one. Very close to the original. That’s why they didn’t know right away what was gone.”
Kristie gaped. “Renoir, unbelievable.”
“Guess so,” Sam replied. “Like I always say, what I don’t know about art …”
“Would fill several volumes, right, I remember. Wow, this is big.” She looked at him. “What does Ms. Jones want from you?” She eyed him cautiously.
“Well, since I did see the Ninja guy and I did see the getaway chopper, and since I do a little PI work …”
“She wants you to help them get the paining back,” Kristie finished.
“Well, something like that,” Sam replied with a smile.
“Oh, Sam Reynolds, I can never take you anywhere!” Kristie shook her head and they both laughed.
(Sam’s adventure continues in Discovering Fine Art.)