A.N. I know it's been quite some time since I put this story up, and I give my most sincere apologies. But here's the next chapter! This one isn't going to be a complete case, but it's going to be split into two to three parts. Enjoy!
The Case of the Five Foot Forgery
Nathaniel Terrence stretched lazily, yawning as he walked toward the door. A quick glance at the clock told him that his morning paper should have arrived a half hour ago, at most. However, upon opening the door it was not a newspaper he saw, but a very familiar painting and an infuriating piece of black velvet. He stood looking at them leaning against the wall for a few moments before taking slow, careful steps. When it seemed unlikely that the culprit was going to come charging down the hall, he bent and scooped up the fabric. He wasn't at all surprised to find a note attached to the back.
It seems I underestimated you, Mr. Terrence.
Hold this until I deserve it.
In Great Anticipation,
Nathaniel scowled at the note as if it would somehow convey the expression to the writer. He walked back into his apartment, painting in hand, and dropped the offensive material in the garbage. Any happiness he may have felt at the repossession of the artwork was lost due to the single line of postscript. The crook had gone too far. There were just some things that one didn't do, no matter how rotten that one may be. Some lines were never crossed, and this man practically danced on that line. For beneath the signature, it read:
And thank you, Mr. Terrence, there is so much
interesting news today.
"I don't see why I should." The less than polite words brought Detective Johnny Dale's attention to his assistant, the ever lively Anna-Beth.
Johnny raised an eyebrow and quietly asked, "Who is it?"
Anna-Beth gave him a false smile. "Your friend, Mr. Ego. I thought you said we wouldn't hear from him again."
Johnny noticed she didn't cover the mouthpiece as she spoke. It must be Nathaniel, but why? He had been reasonably certain that he wouldn't hear from the man again unless he was having him arrested. "What does he want?"
"He wants me to give you a message. And not a very good one, at that." It appeared the man on the other end said something else. "He wants to talk to you." She held the phone out to him.
With a sigh, Johnny pulled himself up and walked over to take it. "I thought we decided this wasn't going to happen again, Nathe."
"Really? I didn't know." Sarcasm; that couldn't be a good sign. Nathaniel was usually such a charming individual. "And just so you know, your secretary's obnoxious."
"She feels the same way about you. So, you have a bad dream, slip in the kitchen, or give yourself a paper cut? Come on, Nathaniel; give me a reason before I hang up." He saw Anna-Beth smother a laugh and he turned away from her to hide his own smile, the phone cord pressing against his arm.
Nathaniel mumbled something that Johnny couldn't quite make out.
"I said he stole my newspaper!"
Now the smile faded. "Should I be laughing?"
"I should hope not, Jon! Doesn't that 'Darkness' person know that stealing a man's morning paper is off limits?" Nathaniel was clearly angry. He seemed more upset about this "theft" than the paintings. Then again, Nathaniel had always loved to read.
"I suppose that was rather cruel of him. But why call me? And how on Earth would you know it was The Darkness who stole it?" It was good that Johnny was a patient man.
"A note," Nathaniel said with a sigh. "And my last painting."
Johnny's eyebrows drew together. "A note…" he murmured. "I received one as well."
"Oh? And what did yours say? Did he steal your morning cup of coffee, Jon?"
Besides being somewhat concerned over the fact that his estranged friend knew his coffee habits, Johnny was too preoccupied with his thoughts to keep the information to himself. "It didn't say much. Just, 'It's so hard to see friends fight.' And his signature, of course. What did yours say?"
Still grumbling, Nathaniel rummaged around in the garbage bin until he found it. "It seems I underestimated you, Mr. Terrence. Hold this until I deserve it. In great anticipation, The Darkness."
"Then I was right. He didn't mean for you to see him."
"Good for me. But then under all that, it says thank you, Mr. Terrence, there's so much interesting news today! He's mocking me! He knows I won't know about the interesting news today because he took my paper. It's sabotage!"
"Nathaniel… You can get another paper."
"Well, of course I can get another paper. But it's the principal of the thing, isn't it?"
Johnny heard a click followed by a series of low beeps, signaling the end of the conversation. "He hung up on me." Johnny handed the phone back to Anna-Beth, who watched him curiously as she placed the phone in its cradle.
"Well? What did he want?"
Johnny gave her a teasing smile. "For someone so eager to be rid of him, you're sure curious about what he had to say."
Anna-Beth made a face. "Just tell me what he said."
Johnny related the conversation to her and took a deep breath to prepare himself for the barrage of insults the woman was sure to aim at his once-friend. He had to cure himself of this misplaced loyalty.
"I think this Darkness fellow overestimated him," Anna-Beth sniffed. "The big baby probably heard himself breathing and went to check it out."
Johnny gave her a look.
"You said yourself he's paranoid."
It took a moment, but Johnny did remember saying that as an excuse for some of Nathaniel's actions. It made him upset with himself all over again to realize he had lied to her for Nathaniel's sake. He certainly liked Anna-Beth more, didn't he? Of course he did.
"So you both received notes this morning. You got one last night as well, though, didn't you?"
"How did you…"
"You have to stop teaching me so well, remember?" Anna-Beth flashed him a grin and continued. "The one from last night said something about today being a big day, right?"
Johnny nodded, his face covered in concentration. "That's right."
"And this one said something about you 'fighting' with Terrence, yes?"
"Yes, which doesn't make sense. We're not fighting. We're parting ways."
Anna-Beth shrugged. "I don't think how you term it is going to matter to this guy." She paused, and then added. "Whatever he's planning, could we assume it has something to do with both you and Terrence, and perhaps a large object to be stolen? Maybe the paper plays into it somehow."
Johnny grinned at her. "I think you may be onto something." Even as he pulled his coat on and hurried out the door, he called, "I'm going to go get a paper, and then I'll be right back, alright?"
He was gone before she had the chance to answer. With a sigh and a shake of the head, she said, "I'll just be here." The phone rang. "Right here, answering the phone…"
There was complete silence in the office aside from the steady breathing of the two occupants. Johnny was leaning back in his chair while he scanned through the headlines, page by page. Anna-Beth had pulled a chair up to the other side of his desk, and now sat watching him.
"Maybe you should just give me a few pages, even the ones you've already read and I could double-check for you. What do you say?"
"I say you need to stop staring at me."
Anna was silent again until Johnny turned the page and let out a yawn. Mistaking the noise for something important, she jumped and asked, "Anything?"
Johnny settled the paper on his lap and returned Anna-Beth's stare, saying nothing.
"What? What is it?"
There was no reply from Johnny.
"Stop staring and answer me!"
"No, Anna. I have not found anything yet, and nor will I until you stop pestering me."
Anna-Beth let out a huff before turning around in her chair and facing the other wall, which was a rich brown.
Johnny smiled, picked up the paper, and continued to read. It wasn't very long before he found what he was looking for. It seemed almost as if the second page had been inserted somewhere in the middle. The headline was large enough and the topic was even bigger: theft.
FIVE FOOT PAINTING STOLEN!
Sometime in the night, a new addition to the collection of Rufus Grinkon, big time art collector, was stolen and replaced with a forgery. Of course, thefts are not unusual, but this particular feat had to have been extraordinary. Grinkon's collection is protected by the latest security technology along with his own, personally hired security guards. However, the security is not the biggest hazard to any possible thieves. The painting itself, Big Day in the Market, is five feet tall! It is so far unknown how a person could get in with a replica of such a huge artwork unnoticed, make the switch, and then carry out the original five footer. There were very few clues left behind at the scene, but the painting itself is riddled with odd additions. Among these oddities are purple skies, mirrors in every stall, and, probably the most obvious, a phone number on the receipt in one customer's hand. It is unknown if this holds any significance, and as of now, the authorities have not yet decided whether they are going to call the number or not. Grinkon says, "Whoever did this is not only a thief, but a severe insult to the world of art. His forgery is absolutely horrendous!" When asked about his opinion on the phone number, he replied, "Call it! Call it now! What harm could it possibly do? Will the phone burst into flame? I think not! Call the blasted phone number!" Even after that statement, it is unclear if the authorities plan to 'call the blasted number' or not.
"Given the ease and cleverness this scoundrel has pulled this theft off with, we simply do not want to risk calling an unknown number. We still don't know if that's what this criminal wants, or if such an action would cause harm to fall upon the painting," said Police Chief Yraz. At this time, it seems the primary objective is to see if the number shows up in any databases or, in what will prove to be an enormous and likely yawn-inducing task, searching the phonebook for the number. "It's too much to think that this could be the culprit's number. We really have no idea what it could be. We don't have much to go off of. We don't even know if this is a real phone number!"
Look for more information in tomorrow's paper and remember to wish our fabulous law enforcers open eyes and plenty of energy; it's going to be a long day.
Johnny wondered how long the officers had been poring over phonebooks by this time. They had to be exhausted. He sincerely hoped they found what they were looking for quickly. This certainly sounded like the work of The Darkness, but if that were true, what did any of it have to do with him or Nathaniel? Purple skies and mirrors meant nothing to him, and he wondered if Nathaniel would have any idea… It seemed he could not be rid of the man just yet. Now, if only the journalist had been able to put the actual number in the article.
Sighing, Detective Johnny Dale resigned himself to the fate of once again working with Nathaniel Terrence, but before he could get to the phone, there was a ring and Anna-Beth's voice saying, "Johnny Dale's office, can I help you?"