by Courtney Webb
(Discovering Art – Part V – Back in the States)
“So, how did you do it? In fact, how did the whole thing go down?” Ellen Jones stared with big eyes at Sam.
“Well, from the beginning?” Sam shifted around in his chair.
“Well, yes.” Ms. Jones glanced at Mr. Smithers, her boss. He was sitting in a chair close by looking vastly uncomfortable, like he couldn’t figure out what to say to this cowboy.
“Okay,” Sam took a breath, “from the beginning. The woman’s restroom and the old man.”
“Old man?” Smithers seemed to not follow. Ms. Jones waved a hand at him.
“The old man twho supposedly pinched the young girl’s bottom.” Smithers rolled his eyes like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Man, this guy is totally out of the loop, Sam thought.
“I’ll tell you later,” Ms. Jones hissed at Smithers.
“Okay, the old man told me he never pinched the girl and I believed him. Didn’t look like the type. In fact, I thought he was going to have a heart attack on us before they could get him out of there. What that was, was a classic diversion.”
“Diversion?” Smithers blurted out.
“Yes, Sir. A diversion, the girl screamed, the man almost fainted, the women were yelling and the guards (the important point,) got distracted by the whole thing and came running to help.”
“Ah,” replied Ellen, nodding.
“Then, we no more get the girl pinching affair settled, when the flash, bang, the Ninja shows up strapped with dynamite and waving a sword.”
“Sword?” Smithers gasped. Ms. Jones placed a hand on his arm.
“Right, swinging a sword and strapped tight with several sticks of dynamite and a flashing red sign that indicated the time counting down.”
“The point?” Ms. Jones asked.
“The point, my dear Ellen,” she dimpled, “was exactly the same the second time as the first time, a diversion, a distraction.”
“Distraction?” Smithers was at it again.
“The distraction was to get the guards on the second floor to look away from the display long enough for the transfer of the pictures to be made. Perhaps one minute or two at the most.”
“Transfer?” Now, Bill was butting in asking questions. He was along for the debriefing too.
“Right, transfer. One person in the woman’s restroom to do the pinching, another person acting as Ninja and a third person with the fake picture just the right size to fit in a back pack.”
“Back pack.” Smithers was looking redder in the face by the minute.
“Right, back pack. The entire theft was carefully planned, all the way to the size of the picture to be taken. The swap was made with a picture easy in size to bring in and then take out.”
Smithers was looking a little faint.
“So, the Ninja?” asked Bill.
“The Ninja was a complete ruse, 100%.” Sam answered. He looked at Ms. Jones.
“Do you remember how I said there was something about that guy that was familiar, but I couldn’t place it?”
“I thought you said he was like guys in the Army, going up the ropes hand over hand.”
“Yes and no. Seeing him climb that rope reminded me of something, but because it was out of context, I couldn’t place it. Then, later, I remembered.”
She stared at him blankly as did the others.
“Yes, Ellen. When was the last time you went to the circus?”
Ellen Jones stole a look sideways at her boss and smoothed her skirt down.
“Maybe when I was nine or ten.” She had on her proper face now.
“Ah, don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve been to the circus several times as well as Cirque de Soleil.”
“And, the circus employs a ton of these young guys, maybe 22, 23 years old, very fit, very buff, athletic. Many former gymnasts.”
“The point, Mr. Reynolds?” Smithers was trying hard to look severe.
“The point is these guys have a special rope climbing technique that they use all the time.” Sam gestured with his hands. “They pull the rope tight, from the source, wrap it around their legs. Once it’s tight, they then pull themselves up with both arms and keep feeding the ropes through their legs as they move up. I’ve seen them do this trick tons of times. That is what the Ninja was doing; he was climbing the rope just that same way.”
“You think …”
“I think he is or was a circus performer. Yes. Think about it. The costume, the flash and bangs, the scimitar, waving it at people, not saying anything. Very theatrical, the whole bit. Then, rushing upstairs, escaping by helicopter and the dramatic rescue by his crew. What was everyone looking at?”
Bill looked at Sam. “They were looking at him.”
“Exactly, they were looking at him. Just long enough for the real thief to swap the pictures. Put the fake on the wall, the real one in his backpack, and casually stroll out of the building.”
Breathless at this point, Ms. Jones asked “Well, who do you think the real thief was?”
“Probably just some very average looking, nerdy, San Francisco type who absolutely would not stand out in a crowd.”
“But sensors, the gates have sensors.”
“The backpack was specially prepared to foil any sensors once the picture was inside. The thief might have gone out some service entrance or just slowly strolled out the front door with all the other customers. Like I said, the entire operation was very carefully planned.”
Sam sat back and folded his arms.
Ms. Jones and Mr. Smithers both looked at each other with an air of disbelief.
“New security ….” They were both spoke at the same time.
Finally, Ms. Jones turned back to Sam. “What about LaSalle. What happens to him?”
“Well, probably not much. Remember, won’t you, Mr. LaSalle is first and foremost a big deal business guy. He is worth a lot of tax money to the French government. This was just one little painting. And, what the heck, by a French painter anyway. Maybe their sympathies are with him that the French should have French paintings and let the Americans have American paintings. C’est la vie, I think they say.”
“Oh,” Ms. Jones looked deflated.
“However; if I were you, I’d take him off your special VIP invite list.”
She looked up, smiled and winked at him again.
“You know, Sam Reynolds, I just might do that.”
Back at home in Tranquility, California, Sam and Kristie were each enjoying a small glass of wine before going to bed. Kristie’s daughters had both gone back to their homes so, the couple had the place to themselves.
“So, you got the dumb thing back.” She rested her long legs in Sam’s lap.
“I did. Rather, we did. I did have a little help.”
“All this over one little picture so small it fit into a guy’s backpack.”
“Yup.” He patted her thigh.
“Well, I guess that’s Art for you,” she sipped her wine.
“I have a little art in mind, myself.” Kristie smiled.
He raised his eyebrows.
“My garage is sorely in need of some paint.”
Sam grabbed at Kristie and gave her a little kiss.
“I’ll think on it Darlin, I think on it.”