an enjoyable two-month hiatus from running the gallery had, in two days, mushroomed into high-profile murder against the sedate, genteel background of the Library of Congress.
Who would have wanted to kill Michele Paul? she wondered as she slipped into bed beside her husband.
A cast of thousands, she decided as the warmth of his body helped lull her to sleep.
“Warren A. Munsch, a two-time loser. Armed robbery, possession of stolen goods. Four other arrests—a couple of gambling charges, kiting checks—no other convictions. A wise-guy wannabe.”
“A jerk. So, what’s he doing stealing a painting?”
The two Miami detectives sat in a room used for interrogation, surprisingly clean and modern considering its use. An empty Dunkin’ Donuts bag, paper napkins, and coffee cups cluttered the Formica table. A file folder containing the report on the theft of the Reyes painting from Casa de Seville and the murder of the security guard was between them.
One of the detectives said, “His two amigos gave him up fast enough once the maintenance guy with a habit surfaced. Honor among thieves.”
“You believe the Cuban was the shooter?”
“Yeah, why not? The weapon was in his apartment, and his partner said he pulled the trigger.”
“But the Cuban—what’s his name? Garraga—Mr. Garraga says the missing Mr. Munsch did the deed.”
“Where the hell is Munsch? He flew to L.A. We know that. Used his own name to buy the ticket.”
“And then he goes to Mexico City. With the painting? Hey, I don’t get what’s the big deal about this paintingthey stole. The manager of the museum said it wasn’t worth much, was just sort of a backdrop, like wallpaper.”
“There’s mega-bucks in some stolen art. Don’t you know that?”
“Yeah, I know that, but come on. A lowlife like Munsch isn’t out stealing art. What does he know from paintings?”
“Like Jankowski says, he must have lifted it for somebody else, on assignment. Maybe some big-shot art collector.”
“I feel bad for the guard who got it. Christ, his first night on the job.”
“Guarding a second-rate museum. Who’d figure getting shot in a second-rate museum?”
“Yeah, who’d figure. You’d think that gut of his would have stopped a bazooka, let alone a Saturday night special.”
“Look who’s talking. You’re not exactly a male model.”
“What do you expect, you keep bringing in doughnuts. Did you see that newscast last night about some expert on Christopher Columbus getting killed in D.C.?”
“No. What about it?”
His partner shrugged. “Columbus, that’s all. That painting had something to do with Columbus, and the guy in D.C. was an expert.”
“Yeah. Lucianne Huston was there reporting.”
“In D.C. She’s everywhere these days, huh? Never sleeps, it looks like.”
“Who with , that’s what I’d like to know. She’s a real fox.”
“Not my type. We going back out to the museum again?”
“No. Jankowski wants us on that automotive partsbreak-in. The after-market in car hardware is big bucks. Bigger than C -plus paintings. Finish your coffee.”
The man in the white jacket and straw hat who’d relieved Warren Munsch of the painting on the terrace of Ivy on the Shore in Santa Monica had, as instructed, taken the rolled-up canvas home with him that night to his Venice apartment and put it in a closet. The next morning, with the painting on the seat next to him in his BMW convertible, he drove into downtown Los Angeles and parked in a garage on Olvera Street, near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles monument, the historic core of the city. The cafes, shops, and stalls along the brick sidewalks were busy, the surrounding streets swimming in go-to-work traffic.
He walked a block until reaching the entrance to a three-story building with a plaque announcing its architectural significance, went up the stairs to the second floor, and opened a door at the end of a short hallway. A sign on