A Job in the Museum 1

25. june 2013 at 14:26 | Thalia Contostavlos
FIRST CHAPTER
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

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......It was exactly nineteen minutes after ten on Wednesday morning when the doorbell rang. Wolfe was upstairs on the roof indulging himself in his regular two-hour session with his orchids and our cook Fritz was out hunting for fresh caviar. That left me to answer the door. I set aside the revolver I've been busy cleaning since there was no real business to tend to, and went to the hall. Our visitor was a tall gentleman with graying hair and a well tailored suit, who was wearing a worried expression on his face and an expensive-looking watch on his wrist. He introduced himself as Mr. Thomas Everson, president of the New York Historical Society and an owner of the American History Museum at the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West.
......I gave him my name in exchange but since I'm not a president of anything nor am I an owner of any museum, all I said, after taking his hat for him and hanging it, was: "Now how can I help you, Mr. Everson?"
......He sized me up carefully before answering: "I came to see Mr. Wolfe. I have a very pressing matter to discuss with him."
......I led him to our office and positioned him in one of the yellow leather chairs in front of my desk before sitting down myself and tucking away my revolver in a drawer. "Alright, why don't you tell me about it?"
......He squirmed in his seat. "I'd much rather talk to Wolfe, Mr. Goodwin."
......"And you will, at eleven o'clock. Before that, however, you'd have to talk to me since Mr. Wolfe is currently engaged and can't attend to you."
......Mr. Everson scowled. "Mr. Goodwin, I don't mean to offend you but I'd really rather talk to someone more competent."
......I decided not to comment on my state of pique and went on to explain things: "Look Mr. Everson, you'd be surprised how many times I've had this conversation with potential clients before. The truth is Mr. Wolfe won't even entertain the thought of accepting you as his client without me, his personal assistant and legman extraordinaire, hearing your story first." Now that wasn't exactly truth, of course, Wolfe would and often did accept clients without consulting me, but he also preferred to hear in advance all the information I could gather and my opinion of said client. That morning though, I could talk all I wanted because Mr. Everson wasn't buying any of it.
......"I demand to see Wolfe this very instant! I come here with a very important matter and only a man of Wolfe's qualities will be able to help me. The police are a group of buffoons, the trustees of my museum are impatient and the whole Society is very troubled." I couldn't comment on the accuracy of the last two statements but, needless to say, I did agree with the first one entirely, the police have shown their lack of wits and intellect in my presence so often I could write a book about it.
......All in all, I decided not to continue with our pointless bickering and offered our guest some brandy. He accepted it with a curt nod of his head and leaned back in his seat. After the drink was delivered, I excused myself and went to the plant rooms to disrupt Wolfe's daily routine. I reported everything that had been said in our office word for word and got only one-syllable response for my troubles: "Pfui."
......When the elevator finally descended at eleven o'clock I was already sitting back behind my desk watching Mr. Everson dab on his forehead with a handkerchief for the fifth time that morning.
......He jumped up when my employer entered the office. "Mr. Wolfe? My name is Thomas Everson, I am the president of the New York Historical Society and-"
......"I know who you are, Mr. Everson," started Wolfe after he sat down in his custom-made chair and rang for a beer, "Mr. Goodwin told me all about you. He also told me that you refused to tell him anything except for a very vague information that you are in trouble."
......"I am, Mr. Wolfe, in terrible trouble. The diamond necklace that used to belong to the wife of our late president Abraham Lincoln was stolen! One minute it was there and the other it wasn't. Terrible trouble, sir."
......"Mr. Everson, it would be very helpful if you could start at the beginning and explain everything that happened. And sit down, would you? I prefer eyes at a level."
......Our visitor did as he was told and opened his mouth to start explaining but was interrupted when Fritz chose that exact moment to come in with Wolfe's beer. Only after it was poured safely in his glass did Wolfe motion for Mr. Everson to proceed.
......"My museum displays many precious artifacts from American history and one of the most valuable ones is a diamond necklace that Mary Todd Lincoln wore at her husband's funeral. However, two days ago on Monday evening, it was stolen by an unknown culprit right before my very eyes. One minute it was there and the next minute I hear Jimmy yelling for the security!"
......"Jimmy?"
......"Please forgive me, Jimmy Cooper. He's a nineteen-year-old boy helping out at the museum. A bright kid and what a help he is! I was inspecting a lipstick smudge on one of the painting tags I noticed during my usual checkup when I heard him scream, I turned around and the necklace was gone. It couldn't have been more than two minutes."
......Wolfe leaned back in his chair and looked at our guest through narrowed eyes. "Who else was responsible for the exhibits?"
......"Other than me, there were three museum employees in the room when the theft happened - Jimmy Cooper, Carla Strauss and Perry Winston. They all claim not to have seen a thing and I believe them."
......"Very well. The police are investigating at the moment, I presume."
......Mr. Everson nodded. "Yes, but they haven't found anything yet. A whole day has gone by and they didn't even figure out how the necklace disappeared, let alone who's responsible! That's why I'm here, I need your help. If you could just take a look, I'm sure you'd figure it all out."
......Wolfe waggled his forefinger at him. "Mr. Everson, I don't go around taking looks. That's what I have Mr. Goodwin for. If I decide to accept you as my client, it'll be Mr. Goodwin I send out to investigate."
......Our visitor shot me a quick glare before looking back at Wolfe, then he decided it wasn't enough and turned to me again to inspect me properly. Only then did he nod in acceptance. "Of course, Mr. Wolfe, I wouldn't want to disturb the way you work. I will fully cooperate with both of you, I give you my word."
......My employer pursed his lips in satisfaction. "Good, I will accept your case then. Now will you be so kind as to tell Mr. Goodwin everything you know about the people that were present at the time of the theft?"
......I pulled out my notebook, just to look like the proper secretary I wasn't, and looked expectantly at our client while Wolfe did the exact opposite, he clasped his hands over the top of his stomach and closed his eyes. Mr. Everson started talking and for a while I even took notes but after the first three minutes of his unorganized speech, I gave up and busied myself with just listening. We learned that at the time the necklace disappeared there were nine people in the room - the three aforementioned employees, five museum visitors and Mr. Everson himself. Jimmy Cooper is a nineteen-year-old student working part-time at the museum as some kind of flunkie. His job description was anything from making coffee to throwing out ill-behaved visitors and it still didn't pay all of his bills. In the mornings, he served in one of the cafés on 9th Avenue and on the weekends he worked on construction sites. Mr. Everson said that Jimmy had had a very hard life but never complained about it. At the time of the theft, he was patrolling around the room checking exhibits, all the while paying close attention to passing visitors. Despite that, he hasn't seen a thing.
......Miss Carla Strauss is thirty-two years old and works as a receptionist, which is a very pompous name for someone who sells and checks tickets, if you ask me. She lives with her mother in a four-room apartment on East 47th Street and is hoping to move out. At least that's what I've gathered from various hints Mr. Everson had dropped on the way. Miss Strauss is also a very dutiful worker, who tries not to socialize too much with her colleagues, never comes late and always makes her own coffee. She was talking with Mr. Perry Winston when the necklace was stolen.
......Perry Winston is a fifty-six-year-old night guard who has been working at the museum since he was twenty-eight. His hearing and eyesight are not what they used to be but out of respect for fellow war-veteran, Mr. Everson didn't have the heart to fire him. Mr. Winston is a widower who spends his mornings sleeping and his weekends reading, which provides him with a never-ending stream of quotes from well-known authors. He is apparently very likable, and I didn't have to discern any hints to find that out, because Mr. Everson mentioned it five times exactly.
......The other witnesses were namely Mr. Michael Corigan - a post-office supervisor, Mr. Richard Cassidy - a car salesman, Mrs. Paula Cassidy - heavily pregnant wife of Mr. Richard Cassidy, Mr. Robert Gravey - unemployed, Miss Jeanne Taylor - unemployed as well. Our client wasn't able to give us anything more than just those names, it seemed that the police hadn't even taken down their addresses. Talk about group of buffoons.
......Mr. Everson also told us that after the theft was discovered, the security guards were called in and all people present were searched thoroughly. Still, even after the policemen came and did the same thing, the necklace was nowhere to be found which had proven the assumption that the thief hid the necklace somewhere in the room to retrieve it later to be false. Neither the witnesses nor the room itself were able to provide the investigators with any clues that would help to figure out what exactly happened. The working theory is that one of the visitors must have somehow smuggled the necklace through both the guards and the police despite all the frisking. Our client wasn't exaggerating when he said that the police knew nothing.
......When Mr. Everson left, I turned to Wolfe: "So why did you accept the case? When I was upstairs in the plant rooms, all you said was: Pfui."
......Wolfe slowly inclined his head. "That was because you disturbed me during my only time of peace, but after carefully listening to all the facts, I reconsidered."
......I grinned at him. "What did he say that made you reconsider?"
......"He said that the police hadn't been able to figure out how the necklace disappeared. That is very interesting, wouldn't you agree? Normally they only fail to find the culprit not the way the crime was exercised."
......I nodded but didn't believe a word he said. Don't get me wrong, the reasoning Wolfe gave me was nothing if not believable, but I think that what really made him take on the case was, what our client said before, about the police being a group of buffoons. I decided to let it slide though and waited for instructions.
 

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