Saturday 27 June – Wednesday 1 July 2015
‘Suppliers are not a problem. Anything that you want, I can get it. You just let me know. Now, I’ll leave you to peruse the works, and if you need anything or you decide upon something that you might like, whether I already have it here or you need me to get hold of it, you let me know.’ He smiled, but it looked more like a leer to Darcy.
‘That’s the look of a hungry lion getting ready to go in for the kill,’ Darcy exaggerated a shiver as he spoke, hoping to demonstrate to Phillipa just how creepy he found Albert Monroe.
‘You’re being far too complimentary, Darcy. He’s more of a hyena than a lion. Waits for others to do the dirty work, and then he goes in and feeds off the scraps. That man never gets his hands dirty.’ Phillipa slapped him on the shoulder and wandered off to examine the paintings that Monroe had referred to as ‘works’.
‘Do you think he’s got any idea who we are?’ Darcy caught up with his partner, casually strolling beside her, and feigning interest in the paintings.
‘He will if you continue to converse in that volume. For Christ’s sake, Darcy, keep it down.’ She slapped him on the shoulder again, only this time much harder. He pulled silly upset face, and rubbed his shoulder where her hand firmly connected. Tomorrow he’d wear a bruise in that spot.
‘I think I’ll go look at the stuff over there.’ He pointed to the artwork on the opposite side of the room. Phillipa glanced quickly in the direction he pointed, smirked, and then moved along to the next painting. ‘See if I can find our host. He seems to have disappeared.’
Comfortably seated on his Chesterfield sofa, Monroe watched his invited guests wandering around in the private gallery on the wall of CCTV monitors he’d installed in his office. The monitors showed the gallery from every possible angle, and caught everything that the buyers did or said. Of particular concern to Monroe were the newcomers, Darcy and Phillipa Entwhistle. While it wasn’t unusual for a couple to split up and view the merchandise individually, it was uncommon for them to be so intently taking notes on what they saw.
‘Richards, have two of your best shadow these two.’ Monroe zoomed in on live footage of Darcy and Phillipa. ‘I want to know what they’re up to.’
Richards didn’t say a word in reply. Instead, he nodded once and strode purposefully out of his employer’s office.
Darcy and Phillipa wandered extensively through the gallery, examining each piece of art, making notes and jottings, and trying to blend in with the art aficionados. The two goons that Richards picked out and assigned to Darcy and Phillipa looked exactly that – goons watching two of the customers. Phillipa picked up on it first, and sauntered over to Darcy who was making faces at what Phillipa believed to be an early sketch possibly by Van Gogh.
‘We’ve been made, Darcy.’
‘What? Where?’ he asked, swivelling his head around trying to scope the people watching them.
‘Two goons. One’s on you, the other’s on me. Black suits. Ear pieces. Bad haircuts. They’re both looking a little uncomfortable now that I’ve made them as well.’
Darcy located the two goons quite easily.
‘What do you suggest?’
‘I suggest that we get the hell out of here, right now,’ Phillipa replied. She shoved her notebook and pen into her clutch, grabbed Darcy’s arm, and yanked him back through the gallery to the exit. Two new goons stood at the door preventing Darcy and Phillipa’s exit.
‘Going somewhere?’ Monroe had appeared from nowhere. Phillipa had to think quickly.
‘Yes, actually, Mr. Monroe. I assume you’ll take cash for a purchase?’
Her reply caught him off guard. ‘Um, yes, of course.’
‘And that’s why I’m leaving. We’ve compared notes on what you have here, and there are two or three pieces that we’d like to purchase, but I’d prefer if the transaction was, shall we say, difficult to track? I find that paperwork can be painful to explain to a number of authorities. I will withdraw cash from my account, Darcy will withdraw an amount from his, and the three of us can then engage in some serious bargaining regarding the pieces we’re interested in.’
‘Oh, of course, that would be most acceptable. My two associates here, Mr. White and Mr. Black, will accompany you to your respective banks, and act as security for your return journey. I’d hate to think that the two of you were out there in the big, bad city all alone with a large amount of cash in your possession.’
The goon Monroe had referred to as Mr. White opened the gallery door, and ushered Darcy and Phillipa out. Mr. Black followed closely behind.
‘Where’s your car?’ Mr. Black asked.
‘This way. Just a little further down the street,’ replied Darcy, leading them towards the surveillance van, and the team of waiting agents.
. . . To be continued . . .