Nathaniel said his piece and reached for the door handle, to let himself out of the patrol car. Realizing there were no handles inside of the cage, he glanced expectantly at Officer Palin busily writing in the front seat. A minute passed with no acknowledgement. Nathaniel noisily cleared his throat.
“I have a few more questions for you Mr. Boyce,” Palin said without looking up.
“I don’t see what you could possibly need to ask me. I’ve told you everything I know,” he said impatiently.
“What do you do for a living,” asked Palin.
“That has nothing to do with the murder,” asserted Nathan.
“I will decide what is and isn’t relevant. What do you do for a living,” persisted Palin.
“I’m an archaeologist, but I don’t see how that’s relevant…”
“You strike me as a man who is pretty knowledgeable able about what goes on around here. What can you tell me about the decedent?”
“Liam? I don’t know what you want me to say…he was my neighbor. We weren’t friends or anything.”
“Do you know what line of work he was in?”
“I think he dealt in antiques.”
“There’s your relevance.”
“What, the fact that I’m an archaeologist and Liam was an antiques dealer? That’s just a coincidence.”
“I don’t believe in coincidences.”
“Are you accusing me of murdering my neighbor?”
“It’s far too early in the investigation to even speculate on who murdered him. But you definitely know more than you’re telling me.”
“What? As I said before, I have told you everything I know! I wasn’t present when the man was murdered Chrissake!”
“I wasn’t referring to the murder. As an archaeologist, you must know something about the antiquities black market.”
“Oh I see, you’re not accusing me of murder. You’re just implying that I’m a thief!”
“Please stop trying to put words in my mouth. Anyone who is knowledgeable about their field knows about all aspects of it. That doesn’t mean that he/she acts on that knowledge.”
“Oh, I…” Nathan began uncertainly.
“So, tell me something. Where does one go, when they wish to procure stolen artifacts?”
“How should I know,” Nathaniel said blandly.
The sly look in Nathaniel’s eyes belied the statement. Palin smiled, suddenly certain that he was on the right track. He was going to enjoy watching this worm squirm.
“I was hoping that you would be more forthcoming. Then, it wouldn’t be necessary for me to…pry.”
“But, you just said that I’m not being accused of…of murdering Liam.”
“If I served you with a search warrant tonight, what would I find in that big house of yours? Any “undeclared” artifacts from archeological digs, kept as souvenirs or up for sale? How does an archaeologist even afford such a fancy house? What would an inspection of your finances reveal about your income?”
Nathaniel’s expression remained unchanged. A silent minute passed with them looking into one another’s eyes. Under the weight of Palin’s stare, Nathaniel’s mask of indifference slipped and he abruptly broke eye contact. Palin allowed pressure to build in the uncomfortable silence. He watched Nathaniel gazing out of the window, turning things over in his mind. Any moment now, the dam would break. When Nathaniel finally looked back at Palin, resignation was etched on his face.
“Nowadays, most of the black market trade in artifacts takes place online. There are a few individuals who regularly hold local auctions.”
“Okay, so where would I go to find out about these auctions? Is there some sort of website?”
“Not for serious collectors. The kind of auctions I’m talking about are by invitation only. You have to have an established reputation. That way, they don’t run the risk of accidentally inviting an undercover cop or Federal agent.”
“I need to know about the auctioning of occult artifacts. Who auctions off that kind of stuff locally? I’m trying to track down an ancient grimoire.”
“The Key of Solomon…that’s what you’re talking about isn’t it? So Liam actually got his hands on it. I thought he was lying. Everybody has been trying to get their hands on that thing!”
“Who has been trying to get their hands on it?”
Realizing that he had said too much, Nathaniel’s eyes widened and he reflexively shook his head. Palin could see that he was afraid and allowed him to have a few quiet moments to process everything. One way or another, Nathaniel was going to tell him what he wanted to know. Even if it took all night.