Only One ‘North by Northwest’ Reference, I Swear.

I’ve been tailing this one for a while now. He’s very methodical. First, the painting disappears, usually from a private collection, always from somebody who acquired it under circumstances shady enough that they won’t involve the police. Then two or three weeks later it turns up in an auction. Then finally it also shows up in someone else’s private collection.

There’s pros and cons to being methodical. On the plus side, you get hit with a lot less of the unexpected, which is always handy when you’re of the less-than-legal persuasion. But on the minus, if you’ve got a detective smart enough, he can usually figure out your pattern, and then it’s just a matter of stepping in at the right time.

Guess who I meant by ‘a detective smart enough.’

I’d buy it.

Next up, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker!” Do I hear 20 thousand?

Twenty. Though it’s so banal that I can’t think why I’m even bothering, says the dog in the front row through his carefully britishified nose.

Cut yer editorials! Twenty One! bellows the oil-tycoon elephant from the back row. Aint nobody that can bellow like an oil-tycoon elephant.

Well now, how about we make this more interesting? chirps the woman in front of me, Put me down for Twenty Five Thousand, please.

I have Twenty Five, do I hear Twenty Six?

I pass an idle moment looking at the ceiling, and wondering if anyone ever contemplated shooting spitballs at it. You’d think that’d do a real number on the decor. Or maybe mashed potatoes. Or maybe mashed potato spitballs.

Huh. Well, this is entirely unjustified on an academic salary, but… Twenty Five fifty, pipes up the nutria in the corner.

Honestly. Why do you even bother trying, you ridiculous little man? sniffs the dog. Twenty Six.

Twenty Seven thousand, Nine hundred Thirty Three dollars and Thirty cents, announces the bear sitting front and center, in one of the creepiest voices I’ve heard in a long time. This bid, being numerologically perfect, is guaranteed to win me my prize. He also sounds like a nerd.

Ho really? Is that so? harrumphs the elephant. Thirty thousand!

I have Thirty Thousand, goes the auctioneer over the bear’s disbelieving tears. Going once, going twice-

“Forty two.”

There’s that audible ‘Oh!’ sound they always put in movie crowd scenes, but the auctioneer doesn’t miss a beat. I hear Forty Two Thousand. Do I hear Forty Three?

“No, not Forty Two thousand. Forty Two dollars.”

That gets him. What?

“Well that’s more than it’s worth.”

Finally, someone with good taste, sniffs that pretentious bastard in the first row.

If the gentleman in the cape and hat will please cooperate?

“Oh, I’d love to, but that’d technically be aiding and abetting, so I’m gonna have to pass on helping you sell your forgery.”

What?

And how would you know whether a work of art is a forgery? Do they have art interpretation classes at the local station?

“Because I’ve been tailing this guy for several weeks now. He always includes a single visual error. Like a lighthouse shadow pointing toward the sun. He’s copied that Mendez about fighting dinosaurs, and the Warhol with the crazy guy in the taxi, and that’s just in the last few months.”

How trite, pronounces the snooty waste of air on his way out. Good riddance.

I assume you can offer some kind of proof?

“Well, we could just have the painting examined by an expert. But I think it’d be easier to take a quick look around, because something tells me the forger is gonna be hanging around right nearby. It’s kinda a family trait.”

Aw hell, says the curtain, fine, you got me, it’s a fair cop. How the hell did you know who I was, though?

My mind recycles back through some dark and stormy night, holed up in the office, and you-know-who at the other end of the desk, talking about how she doesn’t want her little brother mixed up in her kind of life, and she’ll do anything if only I promise not to go after him.

Part of me is sorry, I have to admit. But it wouldn’t be the first time I broke my word, and at least this time it’s for a good reason.

Besides, she’d only have turned on me if I didn’t turn on her. “Let’s just say I’ve got more than one source of information on you,” I tell him as I slap on the cuffs. “C’mon, Max, let’s- what are you doing?”

You sed dat an expert should look at dis thing!

“‘Expert’ and ‘You’ are mutually exclusive terms. Now come on.”

Do ya fink it’s a cloo dat the boom mike fell down into the frame?

“What, that?” I point.

Quit breakin’ the fourth wall, yoo stupid cops! snaps Koppy.

The auction hall is almost empty by now, but then from the front row someone says Forty Three Dollars!

So the bear went home with his picture. Didn’t seem to care it was a forgery.

At least somebody got what he wanted today.

The Final Word.

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