Anatomy of a Lie | New 2013 | Synopsis : Robyn Porter must track masterminds who are trafficking master pieces past the FBI.
The late afternoon sunlight hit the front of the gallery in long yellow bands, glinting blinding hotspots on the glass and steel. The square modern structure was softened by yellowing maples that stood in parallel lines to its geometric footprint. Cars went by indifferent to the art inside. People rushed to the hospital nearby, across the street to the shopping center with the new Italian restaurant that the Observer has given a favorable review, or detoured into the parking lot for AAA to pick up maps and travel books. The gallery stood on a lot that had once housed a youth detention center. The only structure from its former resident was a faded brick boiler tower. Somehow the square building and tower seemed to fit together, as though their oddness on this street made them compatriots.
The Beck Gallery, named for Tony Beck was due to open in a few weeks and was in the process of filling the interior rooms with artwork from some of the most famous names in art…as reproduced by art forgers.
Robyn Porter closed her cell phone and redirected her attention to the light, making a left hand turn onto the drive that led to the rear of the building. The phone beeped again but she ignored it. In the past two days her mother had called her no less than twenty times insisting that she have dinner with a “nice man” that she met at the health food store. “Honey, he’s smart and has a job, a REAL job.”
Robyn had resisted the urge to hang up on her mother but had exhausted all patience with the subject. She had a REAL job, just one her mother didn’t like. And of course it didn’t pay much, which is why sometimes she didn’t like it, but it was a real job. She stopped her van just inside the parking lot and jumped out to survey the entrance. It looked closed, but Randy the assignment editor had assured her the owner would be there. She pulled the rear door to the van open and hauled out a camera and tripod. From behind, she heard a door open and close. Turning, she saw two men step outside. One waved off at the other and walked to a dark blue BMW. He watched her as he backed out and crawled past towards the driveway. Robyn could barely see his features through the heavily tinted glass and noted that the license plate read BECK1. That was likely her interview driving off.
“Holy damn.” She muttered and glanced at the other man still standing at the door.
He smiled in her direction, a smile that lightened his features into an attractive arrangement. That’s when Robyn noticed the cut of his suit and the designer shoes.
“Hello,” he called. “Are you from TV 6?”
“Yes, I’m Robyn Porter. I have an appointment to interview Mr. Beck.” She tossed a gear bag onto her slim shoulder, hefted the tripod to the other and picked up the camera adding about forty extra pounds to her body. Endeavoring to look strong enough to actually carry all the gear she moved steadily toward the man holding the door.
“Hello, I’m Mr. Beck’s assistant and gallery manager. “Reed Eugene,” he extended his hand, looked at her, then dropped it and pulled the door open a bit wider.
“Thank you,” she replied, maneuvering the awkward equipment through as best she could without banging the door frame. Most men offered to help, but Reed Eugene instead stepped back to avoid the dusty feet of the tripod.
“Mr. Beck has been delayed but asked that I extend his regrets and answer any questions you may have.” The glass door swished shut with a vacuum like effect leaving a blanket of stillness around them. “You may also film in the main gallery where most of the collection has been installed.”
The doorway had led them to a lobby type entrance way with a dark cherry desk curving an S shape through the space and topped with opaque recycled glass. This would serve as an information deck and reception area. Directly behind the desk two arches lead to the galleries and private rooms reserved for high-powered events.
Robyn took in the details of the space and then turned her critique to Eugene. He was young, much younger in fact than someone usually in his position, so close to Beck, one of the richest art investors in the world. Beck, from a long line of Beck’s, artist, bankers, politicians, pretty much anyone with the name Beck that was famous or rich came from this family. Robyn wondered how Eugene managed to get in. His hair was blonde with just enough curl to look boyish, but cut expertly that screamed New York. She was no expert on clothing but his suit looked much too well fitted to be off the rack or to even be from anywhere she had ever shopped. This made her a bit self-conscious about her own clothes that until this moment had been one of the better outfits in her closet. She wasn’t poor, she just didn’t like to spend a lot on clothes that always wore out, went out of style or simply didn’t fit. She liked her practical black pants that matched everything and turtle neck. Through on a blazer and she was ready for air, take off the blazer and she was able to handle the more physical parts of her job like lugging forty pounds of gear through parking lots.
“Tell me about the exhibit you have for the grand opening,” she asked looking around. She took a few steps toward the left arch and peered into the room. The gallery had placed movable walls that reached half the height of the 16-foot ceiling towering above in intricate angles to create alcoves and sitting areas to showcase walls that were still bare.
“Follow me this way,” he motioned to the other room with a smile and again Robyn was stunned by the transformation. The smile swam from his blue eyes to jiggy places inside her stomach. She left the equipment in the lobby and followed Reed Eugene as instructed. It took a moment for her to realize he was already answering her question about the exhibit.
“The artists that created these forgeries are now as famous as the original artists. Some of the masterpieces we have on display have hung in prestigious museums around the world, this one for instance,” he stopped in front of a Monet with soft swirling folds of color over a landscaped. “This Monet reproduction hung the NC Museum of Art for almost 20 years before experts discovered its true origin.” He stepped back to let her have a closer look. Robyn looked at the textured paint and hairline cracks of age. Somehow the artist had made a perfectly new painting look over a hundred years old, matching the frame and signature of the original artist.
“Call me Reed, please.” She turned to find him peering over her shoulder and much closer than she expected to find him and stepped back almost brushing the painting. He reached out hand to steady her and pulled her slightly forward while taking a step back himself. “Your question?” he asked.
“How prevalent is art forgery today? My background research revealed most of the better known forgeries were done by Elmyr de Hory who died decades ago.”
“The lineage of every great work of art must be questioned. The forgeries that turn up aren’t always from modern imitators, but often from pupils of the artist themselves. Many works attributed to Rembrandt, for instance, have now been traced to a very adept apprentice. That’s what makes this exhibit so exciting. The history each painting reveals tells us about the artists and how they lived, who they knew.” He chuckled, “and of course the stories of frustrated collectors that have been fooled can be amusing.”
“Has Mr. Beck ever been tricked into paying for a forgery passed off as authentic?”
He spared a glance at his watch as he spoke. Sounds carried into the gallery from the recesses of the building. “Mr. Beck? No,” he added distracted. “If you don’t mind, I need to take care of some business. Do you think you can manage without me for a while?”
“Of course.” Robyn watched him cross through to the first gallery and then heard a door close with a beep and click. She turned and looked at the painting again, stepped back and turned her head. She’d never guess it was a fake. She made note of the artist and then spent a few minutes scanning the room for the shots she would need and played how the story would unfold. The feature would play on the five thirty news cast, a softer audience that really watched for weather and sports. This story would be the first one cut if the show ran long. She sighed and afternoon and a dissertation’s worth of information boiled down to one minute and expendable. “It is a REAL job. It is a REAL job” she whispered to herself, a mantra to negate the futility of her reality.
Before she could retrieve the camera gear, her cell phone vibrated in her pocket. She screened the number then answered.
“Don’t worry, I’m not calling about Jamie or dinner. I have something I forgot to tell you.” Robyn could hear her mother shuffling through paper and her characteristically dangly earrings clacking against the phone. “Here it is, remember how we talking last week about needing a vacation?”
“Sure,” Robyn answered with her eyes staring upward, her hands and body miming “No”.
“I found us a cruise. It’s fabulous and if we book this month we can get either a discount or free cabin upgrade. This is perfect timing. You want the details?” Her voice was breathless.
“I’d really loved to hear more but I’m working right now.”
“Are you with someone right now? Anyone interesting?”
“Yes I am,” she lied, looking around to make sure no one could hear her mother checking up on her at work. The voice in her head screamed, “My God, I’m twenty-five years old, I can get through the day mom without falling apart.” Her mouth politely said good-bye to her mother and disconnected with a promise to call after work.
It took about thirty minutes to shoot the close-ups and pans that would illustrate the news story. It would have taken longer if there had been any electrical outlets for the lights, but the locked floor boxes precluded any additional lighting. She would have to rely on the natural glow from the skylights reflecting off the white walls to work…or hopefully not suck too bad.
She still needed an interview to add a sound bite to the story. Eugene…Reed, had not returned and the building was quiet as a tomb. Occasionally a fan would run air through the ventilation system and a small air current would brush her skin. She set the camera and tripod up in the main lobby where the lighting was best and then sat at the S desk and waited.
Her watch ticked off twenty minutes, just long enough for her to check her email from her phone and update her Facebook page. An old friend from elementary school had just posted pictures of his three kids and her cousin Frankie was heading to a Jimmy Stewart film festival. She had considered a moment before typing “at work…again” and logging off. She slipped the phone into her pocket and looked around. Somewhere in the far recesses of the building she could hear voices. Sometimes they grew louder, then seemed to moved away. She checked her watch again. If Reed didn’t come back soon she would miss her deadline. She still needed to take the footage back to the editor and record the voiceover by four to make the show.
Robyn swung her legs around from under the desk and surveyed the options. Reed had disappeared through the far door in the opposite gallery and that was where the voices seemed to emanate.
Her shoes echoed on the tile floor as she crossed the half-installed gallery and tried the door handle. It was locked. She slid her hand along the wall, there were no other doors leading to the other section of the building where presumably business was conducted.
This gallery was mainly filled with crates, some empty and dismantled, others waiting to pried open. A few along the far wall were open with only the gilt frames of the work showing through acid free wrapping. She wandered through the maze and tried to remember the names of the artist. The styles were recognizable, but she wasn’t sure she could differentiate a Monet from a Reuben. The swirling impressionist paint looked out of focus this close up.
She finally sighed and pulled out her phone, speed dialing the assignment desk. “It’s me. I got the story and b-roll, but Beck is not here and his assistant has disappeared. You want me to wait to go with what I’ve gotten?” She knew what the answer would be, on feature stories the deadline was more important than a sound bite. One day she would be waiting for the Governor, she thought, and they would hold her slot for a live report. But this story was salami in a mediocre news sandwich.
She propped the door open with the camera and loaded the rest of the gear into the van. Around the side of the building a rental van was pulled into the loading dock. A man in khakis and a polo paced with a cell phone while another slouched in the cab with a cigarette. He took an exaggerated drag and pitched the butt into the gravel. The man with the phone shot him glare that was ignored. Robyn heard voices, barely audible, arguing somewhere just out of sight.
She left the back of the van open and returned for the camera, deciding to have a last look around before giving up on Reed. Holding the camera one-handed, she maneuvered through the door and let it seal behind her. A faint chime signaled its connection to the security system. She hadn’t noticed the chime before, but now it made her wonder what type of security you would employ in a brand new state of the art gallery. Perhaps that could be another story angle for tomorrow. Two stories for one shoot.
She shouldered the camera and scanned through the view finder. Along the upper walls were a series of sensors and surveillance cameras. She passed through to the maze of crates and notes that the archways had small pin holes framed a few inches above the floor. The viewfinder image swept over the crates and half-unpacked contents. Following the path laid out by the exhibition walls, she found marble statues trapped inside wood frames and Styrofoam molds. She rolled tape on the inventory, showing the progression of intake to inspection to installation. It would frame up the story.
The aching in her shoulder reminded her of the time and she retraced her path to the lobby and back out to the van. The two guys with the moving van were gone; the only other vehicle was a red Audi barely visible under a molting maple. There was no other sign that Reed was even still in the Gallery. The door had locked behind her as she left. Turning out into the early afternoon rush, she calculated how long it would take to edit and confirmed with the clock on the dash that she had time to grab a pick me up.
“Oh my God, my life is soooo boring!” she screamed. No one heard her or even looked from the cars in the lanes next to her. The light cycled to red and she stopped, laying her head back and closing her eyes. Her mother was right, if she didn’t change something she would die alone having bored away all her friends and alienated every man she ever dated. The car behind her honked and she started then slammed on her brakes. The light was still red. She looked around behind her where a man in a plaid button collar shirt was waving at her. She motioned “what?” in the mirror, but he kept waving. The light turned green so moved and headed down a half mile to a drive through for a latte. Just as she pulled to the speaker a horn bleated again. It was the same man, who was now getting out of his car and walking toward her door.
For a moment she panicked wondering if this was road rage or a carjacking, but then looked at him again. Khakis and a plaid shirt, how dangerous could he be? She opened her door and hopped out. He was older than he’d looked in the rear view mirror with brown hair matching brown eyes and a faint trace of a graying beard on his chin.
“I was trying to tell you that your rear door is open. It flaps every time you move.”
“What? I know I closed it.” She looked at the door and sure enough it was resting on the latch but not closed. She lifted it open and surveyed the contents to make sure nothing was missing or about to fall out, then pulled it down with her weight slamming it shut. It bounced off with a clank.
“Hold on, let me see if I can help.” The man pushed a pin under the locking mechanism and swung the door in place. This time it stayed latched.
“Thank you. I can’t believe it came loose like that. I could have lost everything in the middle of the street.”
“No problem, I noticed it when you pulled out of the drive back there. I guess the guy that was helping you must have engaged the lock by accident.”
“What guy? Nobody was out there.” Robyn looked through the window at the gear, steamed inside realizing she’d left the van open while she was shooting the crates. Thank God she’d had the camera with her or otherwise it could be stolen right now. She’d have to go through everything to make nothing was missing. “What did this guy look like?” she asked.
The good Samaritan looked down at the van thinking, “Young,” he finally said. “Well dressed, but young. Maybe a teenager.”
“Well, thank you,” Robyn said, “can I offer you a cup of coffee?”
“No bother, I’m happy to help.” He retreated to his car and pulled around her waving good-bye.
“Hey miss, are you going to order something?” a voice called from the speaker.
After a latte with full fat whipped cream and caramel drizzle, Robyn maneuvered back to the TV station with 30 minutes to spare to deadline. Like always, she wrote the copy in her head as she drove and uploaded the finished file to the server right on time. Like always, her story was cut in the last news block, with possible resurrection for the five AM news in twelve hours.
She slid down in the swivel chair and let her eyes glaze over the bank of television screens lining the wall. Every local and major news outlet had its own feed. The competition ran a sound bite with Reed Eugene.
She punched up the feed and rolled it back, expecting to hear him say exactly what she’d wasted an afternoon waiting around for him to say, surprised, she saw the story cut away to a museum in Onslow Norway where a bevy of onlookers vied for a look at a young man being escorted down the entrance steps. She turned up the sound. “The painting, a nude of the artist’s wife, is possibly one of his most famous and is valued at more than 3-million Euros, over (conversion) US dollars.” The image switched to a montage of artwork and a history of the artist.
“Hey Marty,” she called across the news room.
Marty Weiner looked up from his computer with a nod and then went back to typing. His shaved head showed peach fuzz where his receding hair-line was trying to grow back. Marty was the late night producer and amazingly blocked out the chaos around him to hammer out new copy on day-old stories. “What’cha need?” he asked.
“She needs a real lead,” smirked Daryl walking by with a Styrofoam cup of coffee. Daryl was an imposingly large man with a bad sense of humor and sometimes did his actual job as a Videographer. Mostly he shared his opinions and volunteered editorials for everything he shot.
Robyn ignored the comment, “What’s up with Eugene Reed and this painting?”
“A Margritte was stolen this afternoon from a Museum in Belgium that Tony Beck had some connection to.”
“Anything I would recognize?”
“Not unless you’re a fan, but it’s supposed to be worth a mint.” Marty kept typing as he spoke, his eyes moving back and forth between his notes and the screen.
“How do you do that?”
“Type and talk at the same time?”
“I’m a man, I have two brains.”
“Want to know which one is doing the typing?” Daryl’s voice came from much too close to her ear.
Robyn closed her eyes a second and took a deep breath. “You’re in my space again.”
Marty snorted. “Daryl, leave her alone or else we all get sensitivity training.”
Daryl gave a chivalrous wave and bowed himself into an edit suite and shut the door. Marty continued to click away at this keyboard. The assignment editors were in the conference room with the News Director watching the show leaving the newsroom mostly empty. The rest of the crew was either in the studio or upstairs in the control room. Robyn turned her attention back to the Margritte story.
She logged in to her computer and scanned the national headlines for the details and then ran a search for Tony Beck and the name of the Belgium museum. Very little come up. The story, as released by the local police and museum was bare bones. The latter search only yielded a two-year old clip about Beck donating five paintings to the museum for an exhibit. The donation did not include the painting stolen today.
Robyn pulled out her cell phone and dialed the gallery. No answer. It was after closing hours, but with the opening so close someone had to be there. She heard guffaws coming from the hallway and recognized Daryl’s tenor relaying some unsolicited factoid. She grabbed her keys and purse and headed for the door.
“Going home?” asked Marty.
“Might as well,” she smiled. “I have a fresh lead to run down in the morning. Need my rest.”
Robyn pulled into the gallery parking lot and slowly eased her car around to the rear where the truck had been unloading earlier. The air had taken on a wispy chill characteristic of an oncoming thunder-storm. The sky was steel-gray to the west just behind a strong wind that was stirring the dust left over from the construction. The lush green sod that had been installed the previous week was already looking parched under the late August heat wave.
The front of the gallery had been dark with the exception of a few security lights casting a bluish glow over the neutral walled interior. Around back the shadows elongated to dip murky pools of gray around two brown dumpsters.
More than once, Robyn wondered what she was doing there. Reed was probably gone by now. The only other vehicles in the lot were a beat up blue sedan with flaking paint and Mardi Gras beads hanging from the rear view mirror and a white bread truck type moving van. The rear door to the gallery was firmly locked with a dead bolt and a security pad for entry card swipes. She gave the perimeter one last look before walking back to her car. Inside, she flipped open a note-book and jotted a reminder to research Reed Eugene, and then find out more about Beck and the gallery. The national news had covered the theft pretty well, but maybe there was a new angle she could figure out. They both were insiders in the art world, there could be links. She tried to remember the names of other famous paintings that had been stolen recently. The Scream, a Degas from a private home and then there were the museum looting in Baghdad. All were distanced by time and geography. She cranked her car and joined the other commuters on the interstate. By the time she pulled into the parking lot of her condo, the sun was close to setting and her stomach was asking for dinner.
The condo connected to three other units and was flanked by two more buildings forming a horseshoe. Bradford pear trees ringed the parking lot and shaded the upstairs windows from the last bits of sunlight. Robyn was greeted at the door by her Maine Coon, Mango, who was an orange mottled fluff ball weighing in at eighteen pounds. He was actually small for his bread, but had all the personality. He mashed his face into her leg and tugged her jeans with his teeth.
“Hold on boy, I’ll feed you dinner, don’t eat me.” She dumped a cupful of cat food in his bowl and refreshed his water. Occupied, he ignored her while he purred and noisily crunched his meal. In minutes, she’d changed into shorts and a t-shirt with Rum Runners across the front. She noticed succulent cooking smells were wafting in from next door just as her phone rang. The caller ID told her it was her mother.
“Hello?” She asked, making it sound like she didn’t know who was on the line. It irritated her mother when she just picked up and said “Hi Mom.” Her mother thought it was rude to assume.
“Robyn, its Mom. I just wanted to make sure you were home okay. What are you eating for dinner?”
Robyn opened her refrigerator and took stock of the meager contents: jelly, ketchup, left over lo mein and beer. The smells from next door were really making her want something better than her selection. “Hi Mom, I’m having chicken and I thought I’d make some mashed potatoes.” If she told her mother what she really had, she’d insist that Robyn come over. That was not in Robyn’s plans for the night.
“Oh, well I just had some beef stew left over and thought you might like some.” She sounded disappointed. “About that cruise, do you think you could go in January? The rates are good and the weather would be perfect in the Caribbean.”
“Sure,” she replied with a cheerful voice while shaking her head no. “January sounds great. No competition for vacation time in January.”
“Fabulous, I’ll send the information in your email and we’ll make plans this weekend.” Her mother was new to the internet and email, but had embraced it with zeal. Robyn was now the recipient of countless chain letters and news tidbits gathered from the far reaches of the cyber universe and her mother had taken to visiting forums for everything from stencil art to iron chef cook offs.
“Oh did you hear about the new gallery downtown? My friend Artbuff480 says they have a copy of the painting that was stolen today. Evidently, it was copied by some famous forger years ago….now what was his name…Hershey, Hershwaller…something like that.”
Robyn’s attention snapped from her growling stomach back to the phone. “Which gallery do you mean?”
“The Beck Gallery. The one that was on the news tonight.”
“We didn’t run a story on that Gallery tonight. That was on channel 12. And who is Artbuff480?” Robyn rolled her eyes. No wonder the ratings were bad if her own mother wasn’t watching.
“He’s a friend from my Around Town forum. Anyway, I have to run, my shows are about to start.”
Robyn hung up the phone. It was eight o’clock and she was still hungry. The aromas from next door still smelled better than her offerings looked.
She booted Mango out the back door and picked up her keys. Her neighbor, Pete was a second year vet student and usually had too much food. She considered the possibility that he was feeding her to entice her company, which did not bother her in the least. Pete was a head taller than her with dark shoulder length hair and pale skin that had a faint glow as though a tan were fading.
She grabbed two bottles of beer and stepped across the concrete patio to his back door. The French door was open with the screen pulled across.
“Isn’t it a little hot for so much fresh air?” she asked letting herself in. She set the sweating bottles on the counter and rummaged for an opener. Pete popped the bottles on the counter, flipping the caps to the floor.
“It’s better than having the place smell like garlic all night. Here you go,” he said handing her the bottle. “Are you ready for dinner?”
“How’d you know I’d be over for dinner?”
“I haven’t seen you bring home grocery bags in over a week. I figured you’d need a green vegetable by now.”
“So what do you have?” Robyn lifted a lid from a wok that was responsible for the delicious smells. The mixture inside included carrots, broccoli, spring onion, red peppers and rice noodles in a brown sauce. The faint scent of ginger mixed with the garlic. “This smells like heaven, what’s it called?”
“Haven’t a clue, just made it up with a bottle of sauce.” Pete replied as he turned off the stove. “Grab some plates.”
Robyn watched him pile the plates with food and looked around. Something was missing. “Where’s Ralph?” Ralph was Pete’s golden retriever and was usually asleep on his pillow in the living room this time of day.
“I’m heading out-of-town tomorrow so I left at the kennel at school.” He handed her a plate and they both sat at the table with their beers.
“Where are you going”
“Asheville. I have friend that I’m meeting and we’re going to do some hiking.”
Pete filled two plates and set them on the table. “Did you hear the news today?” he asked.
Robyn pulled her chair out and sat opposite Pete, just then noticing Mango mewing silently through the glass door. Pete followed her gaze, leaned back and let the cat in. Mango ran over and began licking the dog’s food dish.
“You mean the Magritte painting being stolen? I was just over at the Beck Gallery before the story broke.” The realization made her wonder if Eugene had known something at the time. Perhaps that was why he had disappeared so suddenly.
“No,” answered Pete. “Vann Berinato was found dead today.”
“That name sounds familiar. Who is he?” She picked through her brain cells trying to connect the name Berinato to any recent news stories.
“You met him at my Dad’s birthday party. He was the corporate Art Director.” Pete’s father owned a software start-up that had exploded with success when computers were still new to the average Joe and anyone smart enough to figure them out owned the market. He had corporate offices in three countries and enough money to hang fine art in his lobbies.
“Not sure yet,” Pete said through a mouthful of noodles. “His partner found him in his office already dead. It will be a few days until the autopsy is done and says what happened to him.”
“When was he found? Was this in your Dad’s building?”
Pete nodded. “When he didn’t come home, Edward went looking for him and found his car in the lot. He flagged the security guard who let him in and they found him together. He’s a mess.”
“I can’t believe you’re leaving town. What does your Dad think?” Robyn had met Pete’s Dad on several occasions. His strong personality tended to supersede Pete’s plans. This didn’t negate the fact that he was very handsome for his age and attracted women just by walking into a room; two traits that Pete showed signs of having too. Pete had a way of bending her thinking as well.
“The funeral won’t be until at least next week and I already had this trip planned with Terry and Cy.”
“What was Vann doing at work so late? Surely someone had to have seen him.”
“He is researching a new installation for the Queensland office and had a conference call.”
Robyn connected the geography and guessed at the time difference. “He had to call at night for a morning meeting on their end?”
“They’re eighteen hours ahead.” He downed the last of his beer and rose. “You want some more?”
Robyn declined. “I’m beat and I have some thinking to do.”
“That sounds like your Mother. What are you thinking about now?”
“I was right there at the Beck gallery and missed out on the interview that ended up on our biggest competitor’s newscast. My instincts suck. Why do I do this?”
“You’ll feel better if you stop feeling sorry for yourself and figure out how to fix it. What did you do at the gallery?”
“I shot footage of the Famous Fakes exhibit and some crates that were being unpacked.” She pushed her plate away and leaned her elbows on the table. Condensation had pooled under her beer bottle. The beer was nearly warm. She replayed the footage in her mind.
“Something weird happened,” she said, remembering the open door. “I left the van open in the parking lot so I could go back inside the gallery, then later a guy flagged me down because the rear door wasn’t latched. He said someone had been helping me with the gear.”
“Who was that?” asked Pete.
“I don’t know. I was alone.” Mango had finished cleaning the food dish and was now kneading the dog pillow and closing his eyes in bliss. Outside the sun was finally setting with an orange cast to the southwest and a faint roll of thunder.
After another beer and much discussion of trail heads and mole skin, Robyn scooped up Mango. “Call my cell if you need anything,” she said. Pete would be gone before five AM, long before Robyn would consider decent to wake up.
She left the cozy familiar kitchen, crossed the five steps to her own door and went in. The condo was pitch black now but she could navigate by the red light on her answering machine then triangulate with the time display on her cable box and reach out to touch the banister to go upstairs. At the top she switched on the hall light. Feeling a draft she turned to gaze back down into the empty living room. On the far wall a dark rectangle stood out from the grayish walls. She stepped back down turning on more lights. The front door stood half way open, swaying slightly in the breeze that was turning into an actual wind ahead of another late summer storm.
She looked out into the parking lot. There were a dozen cars parked, most she recognized. Lights were on through curtained windows and she could hear music from an open window. Stepping back in, Robyn firmly closed the door and locked the dead bolt and chain. She was sure she’d closed it earlier.
She ran through another moment of self scrutiny and wondered if this was the beginning of a mental illness. Nervously, she glanced through the living room to the kitchen and decided to double-check the lock on the back door. Everything seemed in order. Everything had seemed in order this afternoon, but someone had gone through the station van.
The wind picked up outside and tossed leaves against the windows. Robyn unplugged her laptop and carried it upstairs. She turned on the bedroom tv and looked for anything mindless on cable to distract her thinking. “Thinking too much can be unhealthy,” Pete had told her.
She brushed her teeth, changed clothes and settled on her bed with the computer. She had wonderful wifi access from Pete’s router through the wall. First she pulled up Vann Berinato’s story. There wasn’t much revealed to the press yet. She could use her inside connection to get a better story, but that felt wrong. She liked Pete and it would bother him if she exploited her connection to his father.
Next she pulled up the public records for the Beck Gallery. The city council required all new construction to file blue prints and property right-aways with property deeds office. The PDF that came up was sketchy with only the building outline and measurements listed. She’d have to go downtown and request the full copy with the interior specs. She wondered what kind of security they had. Surely, if an armed thief could walk into a well know Belgian museum in broad daylight and take a 3-million dollar painting, what would a small local gallery have for protection?
Looking at the outlines, Robyn began putting threads of a story together. Maybe she had missed the sensational news break, but what about an in-depth exposé on museum security? After all, she had supporting footage. She smiled, closing her laptop and making a note to herself to call Eugene first thing in the morning.
Pete had been right, action negated self-pity. Mango raced into the room, landed with a skid on her bed and began to manically wash his feet, leaving bits of cat litter on the bed spread. She pushed him to the foot of the bed and brushed off the grit. She was about to turn off the lights and television but shivered remembering the open door and countless horror novels she’d read about serial killers. She turned off the light in the bedroom, left on the light in the hall and left the television humming at a low volume. Satisfied, she finally relaxed into sleep with Mango stretching his full three feet length against her side.