Shadowy Corners

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Grimdark Mystery: Double Dealer-Chapter 12

Back at his desk, Detective Hernandez pulled the file folder of invoices towards him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to be gleaned. Looking through them with fresh eyes, he noticed that there were more questionable invoices for the Schauman auction house than for other businesses. Hernandez went online and found the company website. He sat scrolling through pages of antiques posted for auction, unsure what might be relevant. On the antique books page, he stopped and stared at the screen gape mouthed.

A grimoire as up for auction, posted shortly after Liam Anderson’s death. Hernandez was more than a little shocked. He shook his head in disbelief. Surely that was not the grimoire which had gone missing from the crime scene. Was the murderer stupid enough to put something that hot up for auction, so soon after killing him? Then again, Hernandez had kept law enforcement’s awareness of the missing grimoire out of media reporting on the murder. So, it was entirely possible that the murderer or whoever had taken it was unaware that police were looking for it.

Hernandez started to pick up the phone and contact the owner of the auction house, then decided a surprise visit would be a better strategy. No need to give him or her a chance to fabricate or destroy evidence. He wrote down the auction house address, grabbed the folder and headed for the door.

Twenty minute later, he was greeted by business owner Paul Schauman, who turned out to be a squat, barrel-chested man with strips of greasy black hair combed over his balding pate. He smiled broadly and welcomed Hernandez in like a long-lost friend, patting him on the back. His jovial manner continued, even after Hernandez implied that his auction house had knowingly accepted and was attempting to auction off the ill-gotten gains of a murder.

“Detective Hernandez, we accepted the grimoire for sale in good faith. The owner provided us with provenance which appeared to be above board,” explained Paul.

“Who is the owner?”

“I’m sorry detective. That is privileged information. We provide our clients with complete anonymity for their safety. Some buyers can be quite relentless in their attempts to secure highly sought-after artifacts.”

“I can appreciate that but as I said, I’m conducting a murder investigation. Surely you understand that the need to find the killer supersedes your client’s desire to avoid pesky buyers.”

Paul smiled apologetically and spread his hands palm up saying, “nevertheless, I cannot help you.”

“At least let me see it.”

“Let you see what?”

“The grimoire. If you’ve nothing to hide then bring it in here and let me see it.”

“Are you a certified appraiser?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Then forgive me, but I don’t see how you would get anything out of looking at it.”

“If you force me secure a warrant, then I’ll ensure that it empowers me to search through your entire store of antiquities. It would be a real shame, if something got irreparably damaged during the search. I can be very clumsy at times.”

Paul sat watching him, smiling as though he believed it was a joke. Hernandez gravely returned the gaze. Several awkward moments of silence passed with neither of them yielding. Still smiling, Paul shrugged his shoulders and stubbornly folded both arms across his broad chest.

“I’m not a lawyer, but even I know you would have to have some sort of legal justification for a warrant that broad,” Paul said smugly.

Hernandez opened the manila folder he had brought with him and placed several invoices on the table between them. Schuman glanced at them with disinterest and looked back up at Hernandez.

“Okay, so you have some invoices,” he challenged.

“Correction Mr. Schuman I have falsified invoices issued by your company.”

“If those are phony, then they were not issued by my company. You have no proof that they were.”

“And yet, them being in the possession of a murdered client, coupled with the grimoire which had gone missing from the crime scene turning up here, is enough justification for a judge to issue a warrant which will allow me to dig through your files and auction pieces.”

“I assure you the grimoire which we are auctioning off is a different one.”

“I’m told that the Lesser Key of Solomon is very rare. The odds that someone just happened to procure another genuine grimoire are slim and none. So, I can’t just take your word for it. I need to see the grimoire.”

“I cannot in good conscience just hand over what does not belong to me,” protested Paul.

“You could contact the owner and get permission from them. Would that ease your conscience?”

“You don’t know the owners. If they find out that the police are here sniffing around, then they’ll pull the grimoire from the auction. Word will get out and everyone will want to pull their entries from the auction. That would be very bad for business.”

“Okay, then here’s another option Mr. Schauman. Why don’t I have Officer Palin come down here in his patrol car with lights flashing and siren blaring, walk you through your busy lobby in handcuffs, then take you down to the precinct so that I can interrogate you about these phony receipts, while we wait for the warrant to come through? You can stay in protective custody while I come back, rifle through your client’s things and go over the provenance for them with a fine-toothed comb. Who knows, it might even be necessary to confiscate anything questionable. Do you think that would be better for business?”

The self-satisfied smile slowly slid off of Paul’s face. In record time, the grimoire was brought in and placed in front of Hernandez. Paul handed the detective a pair of cloth gloves, to prevent any transfer of dirt or oils from his hands to the book. Hernandez took his time examining the grimoire and leafing through the pages. Paul watched with growing agitation.

“How much longer are you going to be detective? I have a meeting starting in twenty minutes. I think you’ve seen enough.”

“Yes, I certainly have.”

“Good, see I told you that looking at the book wouldn’t benefit a layperson like you.”

“Oh, I beg to differ. Looking at the grimoire has been very instructive. I don’t have to be a certified appraiser to recognize blood when I see it.”

“I beg your pardon,” Paul blurted incredulously.

“There is a bloodstain on the binding of this grimoire. If I was a gambling man, I’d wager that lab tests will show this is Liam Anderson’s blood. I’m going to have to insist that you tell me where you got the grimoire.”

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