Read Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors Online

Authors: Alex Ames

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - Hollywood

Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors (8 page)

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
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“Lieutenant, please step into my office.”
 

He made two almost timid steps into the cell and placed the package onto the edge of the bed. “Your lawyer said to give you this, clothes for your court appearance.”

“Thank you. Will you turn around while I change?”

“Oh no, not necessary, I will leave right away, but there is one thing I had to arrange.”

I lifted my right eyebrow at him. “You are not talking about rubber hosing a confession from me?”

“I am glad you still have your wit, Mrs. Moonstone.” Graves gave a weak smile. He looked tired and burned out after two days of hunting down Oscar guests and court appearances. “There is a … gentleman to see you,” he said, and the way he hesitated before
gentleman
made me realize that the only thing needed to complete my luck today was—

“Fowler Wynn. He is….”

I interrupted Graves. “An insurance detective from England, thank you. I’ve met the ‘gentleman,’ as you called him. I have no interest at all in seeing him. I want to make you aware of some court restraining orders against him, prohibiting him from coming within one-hundred yards of me in the greater Chicago area.”

Graves obviously wasn’t aware of the fact because he glanced into the hallway, where Fowler Wynn was probably waiting for his entry. Graves licked his lips, unsure what to do, but then his wise cop sassiness took over. “Well, you know, technically speaking, Beverly Hills qualifies as the greater Chicago area, but let’s make an exception.” He cocked his head a little but didn’t smile, so I felt this was something serious.

“Listen, Lieutenant Graves,” I said. “I am aware that Fowler Wynn probably is one of your dream character witnesses in the case against me. But nothing he has ever claimed has ever been proven beyond any initial police investigation. That man has a crazy streak, and by some coincidence, he found his nemesis in me. Whatever he has shown you, look at it with critical investigator’s eyes and draw your own conclusions. It may save you embarrassment later.” That had been my longest speech so far in front of the police, and Graves seemed to be astonished that Fowler Wynn’s appearance had gotten such a prominent reaction from me. In order to put him back into his limits, I added, “And I want to make you officially aware of the fact that I want to have a lawyer present when there is any contact with the police or any witnesses. Otherwise, we will see my civil rights injured and note so at the court hearing.”

Graves looked again in the direction of the corridor, rubbed his tired gray face, and took some steps back. He was obviously unsure what to do. He held up one hand to indicate “one minute” and stepped out of the cell and out of view. He forgot to close the cell door, but where was I going to go anyway?
 

After a minute of muted conversation in the corridor, of which I could make out the words, “Just give me one minute with her…” uttered several times, Graves reappeared and sat down on the made jail bed opposite of me. He looked at me, rubbed his face again, and spoke. “Listen, I know that Mr. Wynn is probably your worst enemy and he has troubled you several times in the past. When I asked him about the Chicago restraining order, he admitted it, even blushed a little.”

“Poor guy, did it hurt him to squeeze out a crocodile tear?”

“This is all against regulations, and if you decide to say ‘no’ after my final appeal here, so be it, then I will lead Mr. Wynn outside and we will continue the process as it should be.”

“What process are you talking about, Mr. Graves? My hearing, you mean?”

“Exactly.” He looked at his watch. “In about thirty minutes or so, you will be called up to the judge, and your hearing will begin. We will release the material to the media and so on.”

“And would my conversation with Fowler Wynn change any of that?” I asked skeptically as I started picking at the clothes parcel.
 

“See this case for a minute from my point of view, Mrs. Moonstone. I catch you with a stolen necklace in your possession, and the federal computer lists you in conjunction with other similar investigations. Plus: jewels are your trade. This is one of the best starts I’ve ever had in a case.”

“To find more evidence against me, you mean.”

“That’s right. As we speak, some colleagues of mine are searching the premises of your shop and your own home in order to find other suspicious goods.”
 

“I can assure you, they will not find a thing except some hot lingerie, some expensive Armani clothes, and jewels of my own making—which are fully accounted for, same as the raw materials I have in my store.”

“This is all irrelevant to the thing I have to say to you. I am conducting an investigation, you are my main suspect, and things are looking good from my point of view and bad from your side.”

I glanced around the cell and muttered, “You may be right about that.”

“What Mr. Wynn had to say convinced me at least so far that I am willing to give him a chance to talk to you. It is all highly unusual, but he has managed to plant a seed of doubt in my head that you are not the thief I am looking for,” Graves said as earnestly as a cop possibly could.
 

“You expect me to believe you?” I asked him back.
 

“No, not really. If you were a thief, you wouldn’t anyway; if you were an honest person, you wouldn’t due to the strange circumstances you are in. But please, listen to me. You could improve you situation immensely if you took the time to talk to Fowler Wynn right now, before your court hearing.”

I thought about Graves’ words for a minute. Fowler Wynn had tried to entrap me several times in the past and had failed. From his perspective, talking to me would gain him nothing, especially when he had me in the position he had always longed for. My curiosity was kindled.
 

I looked up at Lieutenant Graves and said, “All right, bring him in. I want to hear what he has to say. Just stay close by, in case we get violent.”

“I will make sure that he keeps his distance from you … and keeps his temper,” Graves said, a heavy burden lifted from his conscience.
 

I shouted after him, “It was his well-being I had in mind, you know.”

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Deal With The Devil

Years of legal and criminal sparring with Fowler Wynn had distilled a cold, simmering hatred in me. If there was one person I imagined kicking in the nuts or running over with my car, it would be him. He was on my never-get-a-Christmas-card-ever list, and I read the
New York Times
obituaries only in the hope of finding his name printed there. I rightfully assumed that his feelings toward me ran the same way. Perfect enemies.

These facts established, we behaved reasonably well when he entered my cell with hesitant steps. He was dressed in an immaculate pinstriped suit that had cost as much as Lieutenant Graves’ yearly income and presented the role model of an Englishman in America—a long boned, distinguished man with full gray hair and a small, well-groomed mustache. His hands were impeccably manicured, and the only item that was missing was a black umbrella. Maybe he had left it at home in London for his trip to California. Fowler was the best insurance detective that had ever roamed the planet and was invaluable for his employer, Limes & Limes Underwriters. Fowler had retrieved Van Gogh’s stolen
Dutch Market Scene
, cracked the large Japanese collector insurance fraud circle in 1995, and was called into every theft with insurance sums larger than ten million dollars. One had to set priorities. And, of course, there was his quest to hunt me down.
 

“Well, well, well, if that isn’t the right home for my favorite villain.” He couldn’t resist gloating when he entered the cell and looked around.

“Do you have anything to tell me, or do you want me to ruin the career of your detective friend?” I asked in a bored voice from my bunk.

He gave me a glance, checked the cleanliness of the floor and the opposite bed, and sat down, suppressing a smile.

“Fowler, don’t even start,” I said. “I am in deep trouble, and both of us know it.”

“Calendar, my favorite master criminal, nightmare of the insurance industry, you are exactly right.”

Thus spoken, we both contemplated our wins and losses.
 

“Unfortunately, I cannot offer you tea and cookies in my new domain, and I have to get dressed for my court appearance.” I patted the wrapped package beside me.

“I will hurry up then,” Fowler switched to his business voice. “As you rightfully mentioned, you need help. And help is what I can offer.”

“Why should you offer help to your favorite suspect?”

“Simply because you never would have been caught the way you went down last night,” Fowler said. “In all of the previous occasions, I had mere suspicions and very weak evidence that didn’t hold up in court or in the investigation. You were very clever in cleaning up before and behind you, including solid alibis.” He held up his hand to stop my protest reflex. “Protest is duly noted, but we are off the record anyway. Most of the times I suspected you because of your style.”

“You keep a book or what?” I asked him, out of professional curiosity.

“Let’s say modern database technology helps a lot in the identification of certain criminal patterns. But I won’t reveal more because an intelligent criminal, as you are, would try to vary her style.” He gave a playful apologetic smile and continued, “Though the theft of the Collins’ diamonds falls right into your pattern, there are some remarkable variations. Significant variations.”

“Do you lecture at university?” I mocked his stilted language.

“Sometimes at Quantico and Scotland Yard, sure,” Fowler answered as if he hadn’t heard the irony. “One: you were one of the guests at the party at the time of the robbery. You never were before because any amateur criminal knows that the police collect lists of former guests and checks for repeats.”

“I already like you a little more. Go on,” I said.
 

“Second,” Fowler continued, “you were in possession of a stolen piece. You surely would not be if you personally had stolen it. You are too smart to carry.”

“I admire your database already even though nothing you’ve said applies to me.”

“And third, which for me personally is the most convincing one: why would you even bother with Pretty McAllister’s necklace for a second? Any motivated thief would go after Swan Collins’ Metro Imperial diamond directly! And take the Acura along as a souvenir.”

I felt almost amused at him. “You should tell that to the judge,” I said.
 

He shook his head. “Won’t work. They only know me by reputation, and the evidence points at you. Plus, the police are very happy to have you in custody. Case closed. And intelligence doesn’t count as every criminal makes a pretty stupid mistake now and then that sends him—”

“—or her,” I had to add for completeness.

“…into jail.” Fowler spread his hands. “Therefore, all I can do for you is to put in a good word with the judge and the DA and hope for the best.”

“Is that your version of fake British fair-play? Why would you go out of your way to help me?”

“I must admit, as much as I like to see you behind bars, it should end in a fair fight and not like this.” Fowler had that gloating look again but got himself under control when he saw my dangerously glittering eyes from the next bed.
 

“Fair fight, my ass! And what do I have to do in order to show my gratitude to you?”

“That is very simple: catch the real thief for me.”
 

“Magic word!” I said.

“Please?” Fowler asked timidly. Polite until the end.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Thirty Days

An hour later, I had brushed hair, fresh clothes, and a demurred appearance in front of the judge. The first thing that struck me as curious and out of order was the fact that only Terrence, Detective Graves, and a guy I assumed to be the assistant DA were present in the courtroom. No spectators, no press. I sat down beside Terrence; the warden removed my shackles and handcuffs and sat down behind me.
 

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
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