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Harry slept poorly that night before finally giving up at 6 am and heading to work to start setting up some files on the tackboard in the conference room. After he had sufficiently listed all of the pictures and business cards and such that he had collected the day before he started to write out a timeline of events and details on each person involved in the case on the large whiteboard.
He worked non-stop, pushing the information from his head into the pen and allowing the words to flow out without thinking. He didn’t know what might be the one thing that would crack the case and he didn’t want to get in his own way by deeming something irrelevant too early on. The quiet of the few staff in during the night grew more and more disturbed as the morning wore on and people came and went. Jones arrived at quarter to nine, chipper (“ready for the joys of another day on the force” as he put it) and carrying two coffees.
“So, when are we going to Toronto to find the sister?”
Harry finally took a break and sat down to look at his work, deftly collecting the coffee from Sam’s outstretched hand as he collapsed into the chair in one smooth motion.
“Just give me a minute to stare at all this, you stare too, tell me if there is anything we need to add.”
“I’m not your boss.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. Half an hour later they were in the car, and three and a half hours later they drove through the suburbs into the city. Mass-produced and identical, houses, high schools, shopping malls, basement bars, and backs of cars. He spent his time filling Sam in on the events of the morning.
They pulled into the parkade near the condo tower where Adrianna lived and walked over to the doorway to her building, collecting as much sand and salt in their boots as possible.
The doorman let them in and sent them straight up to Adrianna’s place. It was facing the lake, near the Skydome, the blue of the lake and the blue of the sky ricocheting off each other, magnifying the colours and making the room feel like an aquarium. It was certainly too large to be a fishbowl.
She sat them in the living room and brought them both a coffee. He could hear Sam in his head while she handed him the cup, “people always wonder why cops love donuts, but we need to have something to sop up all the coffee we get offered and would be rude to turn down. If we didn’t our insides would burn”
He smiled, to himself but also at her, “thank you.”
“So why did my brother send you here?”
He reiterated the story of the robbery and his conversation with Bill, trying to watch her reaction to all of the various parts as they arrived, arose, and descended. She remained stoic, maybe more placid than stoic. She was perched on the arm of her leather couch, like her brother ready to turn sour in an instant and kick us out he thought. He reached the end of the story and paused. Sam inched up to the edge of his seat. They were quiet, the anticipation lurching forward like a night on the town.
Finally, she spoke, “he said I wanted to sell it?”
“Yes, to some art dealer in New York.”
She barked out a laugh, an angry one, “Ha, I told him a million times I wanted to donate it to the ROM, neither of us had children to leave it to.”
“He said you had an art dealer in New York,” he fished, clumsily, but it was getting late and he was tired.
“I have a friend who works in a gallery in New York, calling her a dealer is a little dramatic,” she laughed, her greying bob of hair bouncing at the curves on the edges of her face, “but Bill always had a flair for
the dramatic. I’ve come to learn now that I’m older, being the second child may have meant I was stuck with hand-me-down boy’s toys and boy’s clothes as a kid but at least I managed to avoid collecting all my parent’s neuroses as he did.”
He smiled, picturing the meticulous cottage and its owner, before catching himself and flattening his mouth again, “still, I wouldn’t mind getting her information in case something connects.”
“Sure,” she walked over to the desk in the corner and rummaged around, pulling out a business card and bringing it back over to him. He flipped it over and read it, Susannah Dawson, Whitney Museum of American Art.
“Oh wow, The Whitney, we went the last time I was in New York,” his mouth staying slightly ajar after he finished speaking.
“Yes, it has got some beautiful works.” Adrianna stared out the large windows of the living room, looking out onto Lake Ontario. Her mind was working but whatever it was she didn’t care to share it. He knew his time was up.
“Well, thank you for your help,” he stood up from the stool, “if anything else comes to mind please give me a call.”
He handed over his own business card and they returned to the hallway and elevators and the mushy streets of the city to pick their way back home.
The precinct Christmas Party was in full swing, but Harry and Sam still sat in the conference room. It was the 19th of December and in the week since the painting had been stolen, they hadn’t been able to track down any further leads. The temporary patch in the basement of Algiers and The Arts Centre was already being torn down and replaced by a proper new divide. Sam had suggested they just add a door to make it easier on the next thief. Nobody laughed but him.
Harry stared at the whiteboard. Then switched to the tack board. Neither seemed to provide any insight.
He turned to Jones, “so how on earth did anyone find out the painting was here?”
“It must have been the sister.”
“Yeah?” Harry raised his eyebrow at Sam.
“Yeah, who else could have had the connections?” He stated confidently, “we just need to figure out who the connections were.”
He stared out of the boardroom through the window into the main area of the office. They were playing Yankee Swap and cheers and laughter erupted, punctuating the joyful equilibrium.
“I have an update,” the chief’s voice floated across the waves of emotion and through the doorway.
“What?” he and Jones jerked their heads in the chief’s direction. He hesitated, surely for effect, then slipped quickly into the room and closed the door behind them.
“They found the painting. There is a fence in Toronto that the RCMP has a plant working with.”
“Yep,” the Chief nodded, just once, with his lips pressed together until they disappeared.
A thought went off in his mind, “shoot, we are going to lose this case to them, eh?”
It was Christmas Eve and he still needed to get a gift for his wife. He had found a spot to park on McIntyre in front of Algiers Furniture and was just returning to the car with new knitting supplies when he saw Lauren and John walk into Algiers with David. Lauren noticed and smiled as he passed, and he smiled back.
The RCMP had taken over the case and had managed to collect the painting and take in the fence before it was put on the black market, but not before whoever stole it had been paid. They had found $100,000 in small bills had been paid out recently by the dealer in Toronto but he had no further information on the person he had paid it to so the trail was cold. The national media had descended on North Bay for a three-day stretch and Lauren’s face had been on the cover of newspapers across the nation; the gallery had never had more visitors. Bill was inundated with requests for interviews but only agreed to do one with Field & Stream. Adrianna had been at the opening when the ROM officially revealed the new piece. Then the world had moved on and everyone settled back into preparations for Christmas.
He placed his wife’s gift gently on the seat of his car, looking inside while he did. He saw Lauren and her father smiling while they paid for some new items they were buying. Her uncle Dave was on the other side of the counter taking the payment. He watched them for a moment. They came out smiling and laughing.
Dave and John were carrying a new recliner that they started to load into the back of their truck. He walked up beside Lauren while she watched the loading process.
“Hi, how are you doing, been a crazy few weeks eh,” he smiled as he spoke.
“Good, yes, I never thought I’d be on the cover of a newspaper!” she laughed, “now that it's happened I wish I hadn’t been!”
A thought appeared in his mind, just on the edge of it at first.
“Your uncle works at Algiers?”
“Yep,” she said nonchalantly.
“What does he do?”
“A little bit of everything. He just started a month ago.”
She fidgeted, just slightly but it was there. She had something more to say but she was holding it in.
“Is this a new truck?” he touched the side of it gently, it was so new it still gleamed despite the weather. The snow was starting to fall and seemed to make it shine brighter.
She tensed up, “it is.”
“Must have been very expensive,” he stretched his mind forward, “I thought you were all low on money.”
“Yes,” he could see her mind racing, pawing in the dark for an explanation. Then she broke and dropped her head to look straight down.
“The possibilities are always more exciting than what actually happens,” she smiled down at the sidewalk
as she spoke. The sidewalk ran beneath her, ready to take off at any moment if she said the wrong thing. He could feel the tension rising from his feet to the top of his head as it might just open up and release everything inside his head. They should have a saying for that feeling, he thought, not a light bulb moment, maybe more like fireworks.
“My dad told me and my uncle that he was being laid off at the end of the year back in November. We just sat there stunned for ages, trying desperately to say reassuring things but nothing was working. My father finally just accepted what we were saying and hid in the garage. My uncle told me then that my dad had just told him a couple of months earlier that he was behind on his mortgage payments and his credit was maxed. We were gonna lose the house if he lost his job. I told my uncle maybe we had a way out.”
Harry stood with his hand against the truck, he’d forgotten his gloves and his hand was slowly freezing to the metal but he hardly felt it.
“Your father didn’t know?”
“No,” she shook her head vigorously, “it was my idea.”
“Wait, wait. Not here,” he reached for the cuffs on his belt. She froze.
“Please don’t make a scene, I’ll just come with you,” her eyes were pleading. Harry looked up and saw kids approaching with a man, “just let me talk to Travis, I’m supposed to be taking them for my week. I promise I won’t run.”
“Okay,” he kept his eye on her while he reached into his car and to radio Sam. He held the radio in his hand while he watched Lauren hug her children. She held on until they squirmed and broke free. So did his insides.
She whispered in Travis’ ear, his response was instant, recoiling first in shock and then disgust. He just shook his head and grabbed his kids by the hand and pulled them toward Main Street. He could hear the lights emitting their colours around him, he steadied himself on the car door, looking down at the present he had just deposited on his seat. He could see the kids cry as they looked back at their mother.
She walked back to him with her head down. Lifting it only when she reached him.
Tears were streaming down her face, catching the snow that was falling and liquefying it instantly.
He opened the door to his car.
He got in and drove away.