The Courbet Connection (Book 5) (Genevieve Lenard) (5 page)

BOOK: The Courbet Connection (Book 5) (Genevieve Lenard)
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Yet the newspapers used that photo to create a profile of him as going on drinking binges that could last a week. Two anonymous sources said Matthieu frequently disappeared, and sometimes when he returned, he had no recollection of where he’d been.

It had been his landlady who’d phoned the police when she’d gone to collect Matthieu’s rent and found the flat in disarray. When the police had found blood, they had decided to investigate. It had been eight days since Matthieu’s disappearance and no one had heard from him.

Nikki had emailed me a description of Pascal, and I’d found very few similarities between the two young men. Pascal’s reputation for abusing substances and for not being predictable in his routine directly contradicted Matthieu’s. Pascal seemed to have a lot of friends, but no one really close. I would have to ask Nikki if anyone knew him on a level deeper than just socialising.

I closed the windows with the kidnapping information. I wasn’t willing to spend more time on this, not until I could ask Nikki a few questions to focus my research. I would much rather spend that time going through the video footage I’d received this morning.

Two weeks ago, a prominent businessman had been murdered in the leafy suburbs of Salzburg. Nothing of note had been stolen, except for two antique clocks and a collection of watches. That report had caught my interest and Manny had contacted the Salzburg police.

I spent the next two hours studying the twenty-six minutes of footage frame by frame. The man caught on the cameras was unmistakably Dukwicz. It was of no consequence that he was wearing a ski mask. His posture and body language were easy to recognise, even in the dark shadows of the evening. As soon as he entered the house, he disabled the videos and the monitor went blank. However, the footage recorded prior to that moment had already been uploaded to the security company’s server. That was what I was studying.

Secretly, I was grateful that I didn’t have to watch him murder someone. A few months ago, I had seen the sick
pleasure on his face as he’d garrotted and repeatedly stabbed a politician.

After going through the footage for the seventh time, I decided there was nothing of use to be gleaned from it. It was greatly disappointing that we were still no closer to stopping this man from continuing his murder-for-hire services.

I pushed myself away from my desk and stretched my arms above my head. My muscles were getting stiff. As I lowered my arms, movement in the team room caught my eye. Colin was standing in deep discussion with Manny. Colin hadn’t come into the office with me this morning. He’d had to meet a contact about a forged painting, something he did from time to time to maintain his profile as an art thief.

I swivelled my chair to have a better view of the two men. Colin must have gone home to change out of one of his disguises he always wore when working as a thief. He was wearing light gray summer suit pants and a tailored black shirt with the top button undone. Juxtaposed with Colin’s immaculate outfit, Manny looked even more rumpled than usual. He was wearing cheap brown pants, his cream shirt not crisp in colour or look, and his tie askew. Two days’ stubble finished his unkempt look, an image he cultivated to ensure he was underestimated in intellect and competence.

It was not the men’s attire that interested me. It was their nonverbal cues. The two men had been on opposite ends of the law when they’d first met. It had taken more than a year of working together before they were willing to show respect for each other. What I was witnessing now was not only respect, but trust. Their torsos slightly leaning forward and the openness of their other gestures made it very clear.

Colin said something that brought a jerk to Manny’s body. Manny frowned deeply, leaned even closer and replied, his eyes never leaving Colin’s face. The micro-expression of
unease around Colin’s eyes had me sitting up in my chair. The few times I’d seen Colin uneasy about something had been times he had been deeply concerned about something. Those times he’d usually predicted a negative outcome for a situation. And had been right.

I stood up and Colin looked in my direction. His expression softened and he waved me over. The glass doors slid open when I keyed in my code and I stepped into the other room.

“Hey, you.” Colin’s smile wasn’t successful in erasing his concern. “Want some coffee? I was just about to go get some.”

“What’s wrong?” I walked closer and studied his face.

He closed his eyes and grunted. “Sometimes I really wish I could lie to you.”

“Why?”

Manny camouflaged his reaction with a cough. “Morning, Doc.”

Colin opened his eyes and his smile widened. I exhaled sharply and turned to Manny. “Tell me what is wrong. What were you talking about?”

“Frey was telling me about the artist Caelan mentioned yesterday.”

“You might be a good liar, Manny, but I know you too well. You are not lying, but you are deflecting. Why? What won’t you tell me? What is wrong?”

Colin rested his hand on my shoulder and I shook it off. The look I gave him communicated my ire.

“Jenny.” Colin put his hand back on my shoulder and held on. “It’s something I’m a bit concerned about, but since it’s only a gut feeling at the moment, I didn’t want to bother you with it.”

“Your expression was much more than just a ‘bit’ concerned.”

He lowered his chin to look me in the eyes. “It’s still just a gut feeling. Allow Millard and me to check this out before we get everyone up in arms about this.”

“You’re using metaphors.”

“Yes, I am.” His smile was affectionate. Respecting my literal understanding of what people said, Colin seldom used figures of speech. Only when he felt the strong need to emphasise something did he give in to his need for a richer use of language. “If I promise to tell you everything the moment I have facts, can we talk about Caelan now?”

“I will remind you of your promise.”

“I know.”

I nodded. “What about Caelan?”

“Mornin’, all y’all!” Vinnie’s greeting boomed through the room as he stepped through the doorway. “How’re y’all doin’?”

“Bloody hell.” Manny shook his head in disgust and walked to his desk. “Again with the bleeding fake Texan accent.”

“Don’t get yer britches into a knot, old man.” Vinnie fell into one of the chairs at the round table, groaned and then smiled. “It’s a beautiful mornin’.”

“I have to agree with Manny on the accent, Vinnie.” I found it amusing that Vinnie felt the need to adopt a different accent depending on his mood. “You seem to be in pain, but at the same time you seem happy.”

“I’m both, Jen-girl. But I’m more happy than sore.”

“Why are you in pain?” I looked more closely, but couldn’t see anything other than mild discomfort.

“I worked out with Daniel and the team yesterday.”

“What has this world come to?” Manny didn’t look away from his keyboard as he pressed a key unnecessarily hard. “The criminal working out with GIPN.”

Vinnie’s criminal past was still mostly unknown to me. Three years ago, I would have refused to even talk to him. Now
I considered him one of my best friends. He was a kind and generous man, loyal to his friends and fiercely protective. I suspected his involvement with Interpol was on a level similar to Colin’s, but I had never asked him and he hadn’t volunteered that information.

In the last year and a half, we’d worked closely with GIPN, France’s rapid response team, similar to SWAT teams. Daniel was the leader of the team we mostly worked with and had proven himself to be a reliable and trustworthy ally. Recently, he’d invited Vinnie to train with his team. Vinnie loved the challenge of showing the team they were not as good as they thought they were. Daniel enjoyed Vinnie’s sense of humour and focus. They worked well as a team.

“Aw, old man.” Vinnie leaned across the table. “You’re just jealous that your puny little body would splinter if you had to train with us.”

“Don’t insult my hero’s Michaelangelo body, Vin.” Francine walked into the room, dropped her designer handbag on her desk and look at Manny. “I know you hide steel muscles under those messy clothes you wear, handsome.”

Francine enjoyed pestering Manny. Today she was wearing a strappy sundress, hoop earrings and sandals. She looked like she should be on a beach holiday somewhere, not in a high-end insurance office as a member of an investigative team. With a natural elegance few women had, she walked to Manny and rested her derriere on his desk. She tilted her head and picked up his tie.

“If you let me, I’ll dress you the way a man of your stature should look.”

“Get off me, you evil woman.” He pushed her hand away.

“You and I both know you don’t want me off you, sexy.” She ran a dark pink nail over his stubble and dropped her voice a
bit. “I’m a patient woman, handsome. I can wait until you’re ready to admit your animal attraction to me.”

“Doc!” Manny looked around Francine. “Get your friend away from me.”

“Why?”

Everyone except Manny laughed. I seldom knew how to respond to their teasing. Manny grunted and pushed Francine with his elbow. “Get off my table, woman. We have work to do.”

“Have we found Dukwicz?” Francine gave Manny an exaggerated wink and walked to her desk. She turned on her powerful computers. “Girlfriend, did you get those vids?”

It took me three minutes to tell them my findings, or rather the lack thereof.

“You guys were talking about Caelan when I came in,” Vinnie said.

“Who’s Caelan? What did I miss?” Francine looked up from her computers. Her curiosity made her a good investigator.

I allowed Vinnie and Manny to relate the tale of yesterday’s strange visitor. They gave a very general overview, leaving out many details—details I considered important. Manny often found my explanations too comprehensive and annoying.

“Poor baby.” Francine pressed her hand to her sternum. “Is he okay? Did you take him for a meal?”

“You don’t take a kid like that out to a restaurant, supermodel.”

“But you did take care of him,” I said. It wasn’t hard to see the memory of it on Manny’s face.

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing, handsome. What did you do for him?”

Manny threw down the pen he was toying with. “I took him home. I don’t know how he managed it, but the kid rents a studio apartment. It would be quite a big place if it wasn’t stacked to the roof with crap. He’s one of those hoarder people. One look inside and I knew he couldn’t possibly have food in there.”

“You bought him groceries? You really are a hero.” The warmth in Francine’s eyes was genuine.

“No, I didn’t.” Manny slumped deeper into his chair. “I took the little shit to the shops, but he was impossible to buy for. He only eats green food. No rice, potatoes, bread, pizza, normal stuff. Only green food.”

“Some people on the spectrum have such food preferences.” I felt fortunate that I didn’t have that particular limitation.

“Why?” Vinnie’s interest was sincere.

“You are the only person I know who likes Brussels sprouts. Why? What makes you like Brussels sprouts, but hate cabbage? There are different schools of thought explaining this. One is that it is connected to our body and brain chemistry. Since autism is a neurological disorder, Caelan’s brain is probably telling him only green food is acceptable.” Although a lot of people on the spectrum preferred white foods. I looked at Manny. “What did you buy him?”

“Broccoli.” Manny spat out the word as if it tasted bad. “He also chose cucumbers, green peas and lentils. I don’t know how the kid—how anyone—can live like that.”

It was hard. I lived with mental limitations every day. Still, I considered myself less complicated than most neurotypicals. I didn’t have to deal with their emotional complexities and nuance misunderstandings.

“But you did buy him food.” Francine blinked away threatening tears. “You’re the best, handsome.”

Manny rubbed the back of his neck and turned his attention to Colin. “What were you going to say about the artists?”

“I mentioned to Jenny last night about the 2012 art haul in Munich and Salzburg. Do you know anything about this?”

“I vaguely remember it being in the headlines a few months ago. The paintings found were all from the Second World War. Nazi-looted art. The German authorities kept a lid on it for more than a year.”

“Yes, they wanted to authenticate the works and determine provenance.” Colin sat down at the round table. I was the only one still standing, so I joined Vinnie and Colin at the table.

“How did they find the paintings?” Vinnie asked.

“Very Al Capone-like. The old guy had a house in Salzburg and an apartment in Munich. That day he’d gone to his bank in Switzerland and was on his way home to Germany when customs officials did a routine inspection of the train. They searched him and found around nine thousand euros on him. It’s below the legal limit of moving cash between countries, but it did raise their suspicions. So they started an investigation which led them to his flat in Munich. There they initially found more than one thousand two hundred works of art. ”

“Holy Mother.” Manny straightened. “How the bleeding hell did he manage to hide that many paintings for over six decades?”

BOOK: The Courbet Connection (Book 5) (Genevieve Lenard)
5.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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