WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?! …….. PIET MONDRIAN, chapter 22
I didn't sleep any better than the night before. I didn't so much as wake up Saturday morning as emerge from a patch-work of inconsistencies: Half-dreams; takes on reality as it was at the moment; and a drug-like hangover that I couldn't account for.
I rolled the first shaggie of the day and went through a coughing fit that left me dizzy. I climbed from the bed, made my way to the toilet, squatted and shit out all the bad stuff. I only wished that it could be that easy to get the bad stuff outta my life. Like, NOW! Yesterday would even be better.
I made a grilled cheese sandwich added a sliced red tomato between the two slices of bread and spread a little mustard about. Devoured it by washing it down my gullet with gulps of strong coffee. Last night's dinner had been no more than a shoarma and eaten in a rush. I needed to shop, so that was next on the list.
My mind wasn't on the shopping though. I picked out veggies that were at a good price as well as fruit. Decided on a chicken breast for Sunday's meal. I had several recipes to choose from. For tonight, junk food. Saturday night dinners were all about junk food. But there is junk food and there's junk food that's good junk food. I like to think that that is the kind I prepare. This is one area where I feel that I maintain a high degree of objectivity. My favorite chicken place---their prices were the cheapest---offered "kip gehakt" which was hamburger made with chicken scraps. Yummy! Take two slabs of a heavy brown bread, slice up an onion, sauté it in a pan and put it over the fried chicken hamburger, a sliced tomato and slather on a good dollop of mayo and, presto, a complete and well balanced dinner that was non-junk food junk food. The more that I thought about tonight's meal, the more my interest in food was revived. A little inspiration goes a long way. '
Back at my flat, I sat down at the desk and took out the little note book where I jot down notes. It has become so automatic that I am no longer conscious of the action even when I am doing it. I looked through it, didn't take long, there wasn't much that had been jotted down. Nothing leaped from the page to say: This is it. The Mondrian thing was really, really, really No-Wheresville. Where have you gone,...? Piet Mondrian. I had nothing to go on. No leads! No suspects! No idea why anyone took the trouble to steal it except that they may have liked it. What kind of motivation was that for taking a criminal risk? Damn, damn, damn. I would have to call Jan Jansen, on Monday, and tell him the time on the meter was used up. I was at the end of the road and it was a cul de sac.
All this gave me the feeling that I had the need for a woman so as to have someone to commiserate my troubles to; Vic just didn't do it for me and Sassy was married. I didn't like commiserating to a married lady. Commiserating had a way of taking on a life of its own and getting out of my control. But all this maudlin self-pity was just making me feel worse. I had to move on. And, the truth be known, it was, more than likely, the fact of having to admit failure what was bothering me the most. I was good at finding things. I had an instinct for it which had been enhanced with the training given by the Bureau. Sunday night, I would make a sweep of my contacts at the discos. One last go-around.
I spent the rest of the day doing odds and end jobs around the house interspersed with reading from the Ross Thomas' novel. McCorkle was doing his thing, why was I having so much trouble with doing mine? Too bad there wasn't a toll free number I could call and ask for advice.
I finally went into the kitchen and put together my chicken hamburger. There was enough of the makings that I could make two. I got a bottle of Grolsch from the fridge and the glass I had put into the freezer compartment to chill. Tore off about three or four sheets from the paper towel roll. A chicken burger, with its natural juices and that of the tomato and mayo, was messy eating. I chowed down. Finger lickin' good!
By the time I had cleaned up and washed the dishes it was time to go.
The Hog was there when I arrived. Vic hadn't shown yet. I asked Bert whether he had heard anything in regard to the Mondrian. He said he had been following up by going back to the contacts he had informed. He went over to the table with the beautifully embroidered table covering and picked up a large manila envelope, opened it and extracted several pieces of paper. I could see that the top one was an image of the Mondrian, but in black and white. The Hog had been right, there wasn't much difference from either the colored one or this version. It had probably been a waste of time and money to have gone through the trouble of having the color copies made. He said he was going to circulate them a little more widely to all his contacts in the art world and he smirked, "The underworld." Hog liked feeling involved with gangster and cheap crooks I had surmised more and more over the last several days.
As we discussed the little that I knew or thought that I knew which amounted to nothing, Vic came in. We put aside discussion about Mondrian and went back to talking about precious stones or, to be more accurate, the man who had the stones. I asked if anyone had had any new ideas since last night? No one raised their hand. So we decided to stay with Plan A. Stall him! But we would introduce the fact that there were other elements now involved which could not be ignored by him or ourselves. It was how much we would tell him that was still in question. We decided to go slow and feel him out.
There was a knock at the door which brought us out of our round table discussion. He had arrived. Bert got the door. Vic found an antique chair in a corner and brought back to the table. We all sat down. The Hog suggested drinks. Everyone ordered beer. He went off to a little room at the back. I glanced over at the guy I knew only as Bas and saw his stare transfixed on the Mondrian photograph. His face had gone pale. His jaw and mouth were clinched shut like he had just seen something horrific. Finally, I said, "What's wrong? What do you see?"
He abruptly turned to me and nearly screamed in terror, "Where did you get the picture?"
I was confused and too confused to really think straight. All I could get out of my own mouth was a feeble, "Why does it upset you?"
"I asked where you got it?" And while he was asking angrily what I saw in his eyes was fear.
He got up from his seat and said he had to go. Vic was also out of his seat and saying that there was no need for him to hurry, he had just arrived. About this time, the Hog entered the room with the four beer bottles and glasses and looked from Bas to me to Vic with a quizzical look. He sat down the tray as Vic was trying to restrain Bas from leaving, but without putting any force into the action. He was telling him to calm down that we were all friends, but Bas was having none of it. A lot was going through my mind. But it was immediate things like, should we restrain him; and would that do more harm than good. Bas wasn't paying any attention to the coaxing from Vic. He sidestepped him and made for the door. All the rest of us could do was stare. Once he was out the door, Bert asked, "What was that all about?"
I just shook my head and said, "I don't know. But I'm going to follow him," and I made for the door. I yelled over my shoulder as I willed my feet to make haste, "I'll be back when I'm back ... Wait for me!"
Once outside, I saw that he was already pedaling his bike down the street. He never looked back. He was really spooked. I quickly unlocked my bike and began to follow, but I stayed at a safe distance. Since it was early Saturday evening there were several other bike riders on the street so even if he did look back it would probably be difficult to pick me out from the crowd. At the Weteringschans, he turned right. We went another kilometer or so until we reached the intersection of the Vijzelstraat and he turned left. We crossed the bridge.
On the other side, the Heineken Brewery complex dominated the left side of the Ferdinand Bolstraat. It was a mishmash of different architectural designed buildings built over the last hundred years and took up a complete block. Bas didn't slow down long enough to breath in the fumes of the roasting hops as he continued to streak down the Bolstraat. We crossed the Albert Cuypstraat, the largest daily market street in the city. About two blocks further down, he slowed his bike. I immediately slowed mine and crossed to the other side of the street looking for cover. At the same time, I was keeping an eye on the man. He had now come to a complete stop and had dismounted the bike and opened his lock and, at that moment, he looked up, like he had just remembered something, and checked his rear. Too late, I thought. But it certainly said something for his state of mind. Once the bike was secured, he walked to the door of a shop, put a key in its door and opened it. I waited about five minutes before getting back on my bike and riding around the corner, down a street, turned right and rode to the Ceintuurbaan where I made another right and biked back to the Bolstraat and made another right. As I rode passed the shop, coming from the other direction, I made note of the name, on a sign, stretched across the building's facade, "Bas Meyers, Keys and Locks." He had returned to his nest.
As I rode back to the Utrechtstraat, I lot was going through my mind. The deduction process was at work. Sherlock would have been proud. Two plus two still did add up to four. He was a locksmith. He was someone who could enter buildings without breaking into them. How convenient! It made things begin to fall into place. The photo of the Mondrian had spooked him because he had stolen it! I could now imagine his panic on having seen the photo. A hundred things must have gone through his mind. None of it made any sense to him. He was scared. He was confused. He could not have been more unprepared for this turn of events.
When I reached the antique shop I was greeted with questioning eyes. I told Vic and the Hog what I had discovered.
"You think that he stole the Mondrian?" Bert asked.
I replied, "It's simple logic. When he saw this black/white photo of the Mondrian he had an anxiety attack in spades. And he is a locksmith which means that he has the means to walk through locked doors. Why he stole it is another question one that I have yet to completely work out. But I do have a very good theory that is taking seed ..." They looked at me eagerly waiting for the first bud to break ground. "Maybe he didn't steal the Mondrian---"
"Wes, you just said---"
"Hold on for a minute, Vic. I know what I just said. He didn't steal the Mondrian what he stole was the frame. Our shadows said that they suspected that this diamond thing could be about a trove of diamonds that, well, I guess you could say, went into hiding during the War. Maybe the owner of the diamonds had embedded them into the frame of his Mondrian."
The Hog was shaking his head, "Does not follow in this logical way you talk about. How could he have possibly known that there were diamonds hidden in the frame? And he is obviously too simple to have any interest in art therefore he would not be stealing the Mondrian because he thought it was a Mondrian. What would be his motivation? It does not add up!"
"Yeah, I don't have an answer for any of that. I don't know. I don't know. I just know it all logically ties in somehow." I sat thinking about it then said, "We have to talk with him. We'll have to go and see him."
There wasn't much more to talk about. We sat down and drank our beers.