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Authors: Lee Lamond

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Spoils of the Game

BOOK: Spoils of the Game
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of the




All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, photographic including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. No patent liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

Copyright © 2014 by Lee Lamond

ISBN 978-0-7414-9856-4 Paperback

ISBN 978-0-7414-9857-1 eBook

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013916486

Printed in the United States of America

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published April 2014


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Chapter 1


It was about four o’clock on Monday afternoon when Claude Badeau received a call on his cell phone. It had been a bad day dealing with the conflict between his expectations and the performance of some of the people in his department at the Louvre, and he just didn’t need any more issues in his life. He looked at the number on the phone and didn’t recognize it. For a second he debated not answering, but his ego wouldn’t allow it.

Badeau speaking.”

“Monsieur Badeau, my name is Simon, and I am calling at the instruction of Antonio Caron.”

The mention of Caron’s name captured Badeau’s attention. It was a name that deserved respect, if not fear, and it was a name he wished he didn’t know.

“Monsieur Badeau, Monsieur Caron wants you, your wife, and your associate to attend a meeting at the Galerie Louis Bergeron tomorrow at ten.”

Claude Badeau mentally checked his calendar and realized he would need to make some changes to attend. “I believe that ten will be fine. Is there anything that I should prepare for the meeting?”

“No. I just recommend that you not be late,” said Simon with an instructional tone.

As the director of the Renaissance department at the Louvre Museum, Claude Badeau could make an excuse for attending, especially since Caron’s wife was a noted contributor to the Louvre and because his intuition suggested that not attending would be unwise. Antonio Caron identified himself as a businessman with his offices in Marseilles. A check with the French National Police would reveal a different perspective that suggested he was a key member in the French underworld, with connections to drugs, extortion, and prostitution. The child of a Sicilian mother and a French father, a more detailed study would reveal a life of street crime, time in some of France’s more notorious prisons, and a list of murders for which he was a suspect but had not been convicted. In his later years Caron had taken to cleaning up his image, and often he could be found in public, making contributions to a hospital or to a museum with money that came from what were identified as legitimate businesses. Regardless of his contrived image, he was still the same Antonio Caron and a man to be feared.

Badeau put his phone back in his pocket, and for a few seconds his mind was flooded with thoughts. Was there a problem, or perhaps a new opportunity? Perhaps the style, if not rudeness, of the invitation was just a reflection of the faceless person named Simon. Whatever the reason, Badeau was concerned and unprepared.

Badeau had been with the Louvre for over twenty-five years, and two years ago he was given the opportunity to become a department director. He was perhaps one of the most respected authorities on Renaissance art in France, and the promotion made sense to some. Badeau was a small man with very thick glasses. His thinning black hair, poor posture, and limp (given to him by a bad hip) made him look older than his fifty years. Unfortunately he was not a good manager of people, and resentment had developed quickly within the department. Few could satisfy Monsieur Badeau, and many that worked for the man had given up trying.

The invitation had included Badeau’s wife, Catherine, who was the official owner and president of the Galerie Seine, a small art investment company; and the “associate.” as Simon called him, was a Monsieur Phillip Bertrand. In this city of style and glamour, Catherine had a matronly appearance. She was the face of the company, but it was the influence and expertise of her husband, Claude Badeau, that people saw when they did business with Catherine.

Monsieur Phillip Bertrand was an art consultant who sometimes worked for them in acquiring art for clients. He was large man with a large waistline. Gold rings could be found on each of his fingers, and he was always very well dressed with a slightly feminine touch. His small mouth almost always presented a smile, surrounded by large cheeks on his red face.

The relationship of the small group with Antonio Caron had been casual, with a few sales to Caron’s wife. Badeau had to be careful to maintain the appearance that the Galerie Seine was his wife’s venture; as an executive at the Louvre, he could have no official involvement. But the invitation to meet with Caron was personal, and he had no option but to attend.

The Galerie Louis Bergeron was a well-established art galerie reserved for the most exclusive art clients in the world and much more significant than the small firm owned by Badeau’s wife. A person did not walk in off the street to survey the current offerings; admission was by appointment or referral only. The gallery was only a few blocks from the Louvre, in a modern white three-story building with only a small brass plaque to identify the business. Visitors would enter the building through a rear entrance behind a white wall intended to preserve security and anonymity. The receptionist, a petite dark-haired girl, was dressed in a form-fitting white dress and was seated at a large white desk. The walls were white, the carpets were white, and the seating in the lobby and the table and chairs in the conference room were also white. The theory was that the white color provided excellent ambient light and provided a contrast for the works displayed.

Upon their arrival the next day, Badeau and his associates were immediately ushered into a large private conference room where four paintings were hanging on the wall. Badeau and his small group took seats at the far side of the table and surveyed the art that was before them. Badeau looked at his watch and confirmed that they were on time. In about two minutes, the managing director’s office door opened, and through that door entered Antonio Caron, his wife, Michelle, and a gentleman introduced as Simon. Badeau had hoped for a cordial meeting, but it was clear from the beginning that the atmosphere would be cool. Caron was about sixty years old and perhaps sixty pounds overweight. He was dressed in a well-tailored suit that tried to make him look thinner. Handshakes were exchanged, but something was wrong. Caron took his seat in a very deliberate manner, as if he was in a hurry. His wife, Michelle, was about forty-five with long dark hair, stylishly dressed, and very much a lady but with a generous touch of slut. Those who had known her in her former life would have seen some changes to the lovely Michelle, including a new nose, a new chin, and greatly enhanced breasts that seemed to have a mind of their own. The man known as Simon sat at the end of the table in a dark suit, a blue shirt, and a black tie; Badeau did not know his role.

“So, do you like my wife’s new paintings?” asked Caron as he looked at Badeau and pointed to the paintings on the wall. It was clear that he was being a little sarcastic, and it was also clear that his wife was very happy with the new purchases. Badeau guessed that the value of the four paintings might be as high as one and a half million euros. Regardless of the estimated value, it was very good art from a well-known artists and a valued addition to any collection. Caron’s wife was building a weak reputation as an art collector and a patron to the art community. To those who got to know her, it was also becoming clear that she had not really studied the topic, and she often mispronounced the names of some of the artists whose works she was collecting.

Caron wasted little time in getting to the purpose of the meeting.

“Claude, I am in Paris for just two days and have imposed on my friends here at this gallery to let me use this room for some meetings. The first meeting on my list is with you and your associates. Claude … you have a problem. Your problem is that I am angry and very disappointed.”

Badeau’s mouth went dry. Badeau’s wife reacted with great surprise, knowing full well whom she was dealing with.

Caron reached under the table and pulled out a small painting with an ornate frame. “Claude, do you recognize this painting?”

The painting was
Madonna and Child with Four Angels
by Giacomo Coppi. The painting could be traced back to the painter, with a varied list of previous owners including Napoleon. Claude Badeau had obtained the painting through a meeting established by his friend and consultant Andre Bertrand, who sat quietly to his right.

“Monsieur Caron, this is the painting that we sold your wife about a year ago,” said Badeau. “It is a beautiful painting, and I believe that she was thrilled that we could provide it.”

A dispute between two people was a problem, but a dispute with a known member of the French underworld was more than a problem. Badeau was sure he could resolve any issue; perhaps she did not like the frame, or perhaps it needed a cleaning. Whatever the issue, the look on Caron’s face was intimidating.

“Monsieur Badeau, do you remember how much you charged my wife for this painting?”

“I believe it was one hundred and fifty thousand euros.” Badeau looked to Bertrand for confirmation.

Caron stood and looked down at Badeau. Caron’s wife gave the impression that she was distressed, in a manner that suggested poor acting instead of genuine unhappiness.

“Monsieur Badeau, that would be a very good price for this piece of art, except it is a damned fake!” screamed Caron. “You have embarrassed my wife, and you have cheated me, and I do not like being cheated. My friend Simon will tell you that I have a very small tolerance for those who cross me, and you and your friends have crossed me.”

BOOK: Spoils of the Game
5.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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