“Is this about Richard Cameron?” Irene asked her assistant as he passed her a file. She sat facing the floor-to-ceiling glass window of her office on the 25th floor in Chelsea, which provided a panorama of the Thames and the Stamford Bridge.
“Yes, and the list of all his family members,” Jackson replied.
Irene nodded as she skimmed through the file, “A dead sister?” she said, her head still buried in the file “Died only 3 months ago due to cancer. He didn’t tell me about her.”
“Says she was a disgrace to the family since she married some guy whom the father didn’t approve of,” he informed.
“What’s the husband’s name?” she asked as she turned the pages.
“Umm…it’s not there” Jackson said. “I can find it for you.”
Irene closed the file as her mind wandered to her most recent client. Richard Cameron.
“Irene Sanderson, a pleasure to meet you.” he had said as they shook hands “I’m Richard Cameron, owner of the Tifton Hotel in London. I need your help.”
He seemed agitated. “I had a Degas, The Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers. The painting was a family heirloom and extremely valuable, but it was stolen yesterday. Miss Sanderson, I want you to find it. I don’t want to take this to Scotland Yard since I don’t want any publicity. Bad for business, you know.”
“Mr Cameron, I’ll do my best. Now, if you could give me some details…”
Jackson re-entered the room. “Well, Javier Cassillis is his name, Cameron’s brother-in-law. He’s Spanish .Any idea why he didn’t mention his name?”
“Maybe he suspects him, or maybe he thinks he’s a useless piece.” Irene replied. “Anyway, we need to go through every possibility. Go talk to Cassillis, and I’ll take Cameron’s brother, Kyle.”
1 week later
“This is going nowhere, Sanderson,” Jackson said frustrated. They were in the office on the 25th floor. “I say it’s Cassillis, isn’t he the one who couldn’t provide an alibi?”
“No,” Irene interrupted “the thief will always have an alibi, you know that. Maybe Cassillis doesn’t like Cameron, but let’s narrow down the search and keep Cassillis out.
She paused for a few seconds, gazing out through the window. With the traffic surrounding Stamford Bridge, it seemed as though Chelsea would be playing an important match today. Finally she looked up. “Jackson, on the day of the theft, who checked out as Kyle’s alibi?”
“Greta Cameron,” he told her.
Irene smirked, the way she always did when she got a lead. “Greta told me the same thing but the receptionist remembered seeing Kyle at the Tifton hotel, asking for Greta .”
“And…?” Jackson prompted.
“How can you be so obtuse? That was around 8:30 pm, when they were both supposed to be at Greta’s place at some family dinner. Richard Cameron couldn’t make it since he was down at Liverpool. The sister was dead and I’m sure Cassillis wasn’t invited.”
“So you think Greta Cameron stole the painting?”
“Both of them checks out as each other alibis, right? It is possible that Kyle helped her with it.”
She paused for a moment. “Maybe an affair or maybe some kind of revenge. Cameron said both his brother and sister, before she died, were unhappy when he was bequeathed the painting by their father.”
“Jackson, wasn’t Greta the manager at the Tifton in London?”
“So, let’s look at this from a different angle. The Tifton is fairly new and Greta used to work there. Richard Cameron bought the hotel, met Greta, and after a whirlwind romance, married her.”
“But why would she steal from herself? Bit stupid, really,” he said.
“So it would seem. But why is Kyle Cameron here? Wasn’t he living in New York?”
“True. I mean he might be jealous and all, but why steal the painting? It would be difficult to sell unless you had the right contacts. And why would he help Greta?”
“I don’t know. Only one person can give us the answer.”
Irene sat opposite her in the living room. It was big and spacious, and tastefully decorated.
“So, you’re Irene Sanderson?” the other woman began sourly. “Richard mentioned that he had asked you to investigate the ‘case of the missing painting’.
Irene observed the woman, the dark brown hair tied in a glossy knot, the pale blue eyes.
“Greta, we both know that you stole the painting.” Irene stated directly.
“What? Are you out of your mind?” she said coldly “Did you come here to accuse me of stealing the painting? If so, you’re wasting your time. I didn’t steal anything.”
“Better if you came clean, Greta.”
The brunette leaned forward. “Okay, let’s say I did steal the Degas, how are you going to prove it? Both Kyle and I shall keep to our stories and then what? ”
“What you said just now proves that you and Kyle are working together.” Irene said, her expression neutral.
Greta glared at her and abruptly got up. “I need a drink. Can I get you one?”
She walked over to the bar and occupied herself by looking at the various bottles.
“Are you going somewhere?” Irene asked, still sitting on the sofa “I couldn’t help noticing the packed suitcases.”
Greta smiled from the bar. “Do you want to trade information?”
Irene smiled back and nodded.
“You first.” Greta said.
After a few moments of silence, Irene told her the progress of the case.
Greta smiled again. She came back to her seat with two glasses. Handing one to Irene, she said, “I was wondering whether to bring a pipe for Mr Holmes or a martini for Mr Bond. I chose the latter.”
Irene accepted the glass, but placed it on the table. “Now your turn. Why did you steal the painting? The security in this house is so tight, only a family member could access the place.”
“I didn’t.” Greta said, shaking her head. “Kyle did. I just covered up for him. Anyway, part of what you said is true.” She continued, “Richard is rich, but he’s more interested in his business than in me. Why? Because he doesn’t love me. Kyle was always there for me.” she finished fondly.
“So, an affair, then?”
“More than just an affair, it was love. Something I dreamt of since I was a child. I was going to get a divorce. Then, Kyle and I would move to America and get married.”
“Okay, then why steal the painting?”
Greta paused as though the question never hit her. “I…Kyle said that he had equal right to it. He said that.” She spoke slowly. “That he was more responsible and I would be there…” she trailed off.
“Damn it.” Irene said, getting up from the sofa. She immediately pulled out her phone and speed dialled Jackson. “Jackson, listen, we were wrong, it’s not Greta, It’s…”
“Put your phone down, Irene.” Greta was standing with a gun pointed at her. “Put your phone down, now.” she repeated.
Irene could hear Jackson faint voice from the phone calling out her name repeatedly. She slowly put down the phone on the table next to her drink.
“Greta, you have to understand. Kyle doesn’t love you, okay; he doesn’t want to marry you. He only wanted you to help him get the painting. I bet he told you to stay here for a while and then he’d come get you, right?”
Greta’s hand quivered. “No, you’re wrong,” she practically screamed at Irene.
“It’s not like that,” Irene said. “He’s probably across the Atlantic by now. We have to stop him before it’s too late. Just let me call my assistant and maybe we can reduce the charges against you.”
But Greta stood stubbornly with the gun in her hand.
This is going to be bad, Irene thought. She slowly bent down to pick up the martini glass, then suddenly threw the contents at Greta. Grabbing the end of the gun, she pulled it right out of Greta’s hand before the other woman could react. Irene pointed the gun at her. “Stay here until someone comes to get you.” And then she dialed Jackson again as she ran out the door.
2 hours later
She watched him from the other side of the glass barrier of the interrogation room as he confessed of stealing the painting. Jackson had alerted the Scotland Yard just in time and they had caught Kyle before he could escape.
“Sounds odd, but he was desperate for money. Had a lot of debts he couldn’t pay.” a man said as he entered the room.
“Inspector Hamley.” Irene acknowledged, “Did you catch him at the docks?”
“Yes,” he answered. “Yes, we did. It’s strange. How did you know he would try to escape by sea?”
Irene shrugged. “I keep my secrets. By the way, do you have the painting?”
He nodded. “Returned to the rightful owner. Just a bit of rolled-up canvas, but worth a fortune. Richard Cameron extends his thanks to you.”
“Of course,” Irene said crisply. She looked through the one way glass window as Kyle Cameron signed his confession.
Kyle hadn’t asked for a lawyer. A policeman came around and cuffed him. Just before exiting through the door, Kyle looked at the one way glass window-directly at Irene. He smiled and then walked out of the door.
A few minutes later Jackson joined her. “Can you believe it? A 10,000 pounds cheque from Cameron. Not bad, eh? What did the Inspector say ?”
“He asked how I knew Kyle would be at the docks,” she said matter-of-factly.
“What you tell him?”
Irene smiled. “I told him that I keep my secrets.”
Jackson grinned. “But not from me, right?”
“I saw a booklet of ships on the coffee table at Greta’s house; ships that were sailing for America. It was just a guess.”
Then his smile faded. “Have you heard about Greta?”
Irene sighed. “Is it suicide?”
“No, it’s murder. She was shot point blank.”
“You think Kyle had a partner in his crime?” Irene asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “What about you?”
“I think so. He didn’t tell Scotland Yard how he managed to steal the painting, though he couldn’t have done it alone.” She said, thinking about the smile he had given her earlier.
“So what about Greta? Will we be working on that case?
She laughed at his enthusiasm.