How does Detective Nick Spectre catch a thief he can't see?
| The museum was silent, except for the sound of the footsteps of the night watchman fading down the hallway. Shadows from dim lighting cast eerie figures on the wall. A light creak signaled the opening of a skylight and a dark figure appeared, barely visible in the twilight. Silently, as if a spider on a silk thread, the dark figure descended. It merged with the shadows cast by the statues on display. The faces in the paintings looked on silently as the dark figure came within a few feet of the floor and stopped.
The museum had taken extra precautions in preparation for the arrival of the Painted Lady, the last and most valuable work of Fredrick Grogan. Invisible lasers surrounded the painting, weight sensors were installed into the floor, and bullet proof glass covered the priceless work of art. Triggering any one of these would set off an alarm that could be heard for a four block radius.
The infrared display inside the helmet showed the invisible laser beams surrounding the painting. The figure reached to the belt and took out an air pistol, took aim between the laser beams and fired a dart into the wall next to the glass display case. Attached to the dart was a slender line. A hand reached to the other wrist and touched a button. The black suit shimmered momentarily and then, amazingly, vanished! Inside the helmet a countdown timer displayed 15:00; 14:59; 14:58; 14:57…
Flipping a switch on the pistol then pulling the trigger again the line went taught and the thief was pulled right through the lasers and up to the control panel on the wall. The faceplate removed, wires were attached and numbers scrolled on the display until, one by one the ten digit code locked in and the glass slid upward. The painting was removed from the frame, rolled up and slid into a special compartment inside the suit. The now empty frame was replaced on the wall, the line was cut and the figure swung free of the laser beams.
Just then the footsteps of the night watchman could be heard echoing in the hallway growing louder as he approached. Another button on the wrist was activated and the figure silently rose toward the ceiling. Just as the guard entered the room the figure stopped not wanting the guard to detect any noise betraying the presence of another person. The guard casually glanced around the room and began to walk away but then halted in his tracks. An icy chill ran down him as he slowly turned his head to glance over his shoulder. His jaw dropped open as his gaze fell upon the empty frame on the wall. Breathing shallowly but quickly he reached for the microphone on his shoulder. The countdown inside the helmet continued on its descent toward zero, 57; 56; 55; 54…
“Control this is rover one come in,” the guard said with a touch of panic in his voice.
“What is it now Harry, did you see another shadow?” the laughing voice responded.
“This ain’t no shadow you goof, this is serious, the painting is gone!” His voice mingled with panic and irritation.
“Now just which painting would that be Harry, we’ve only got a couple thousand here.”
“What painting do you think you numb skull, the Painted Lady!”
“Give it a rest will ya Harry, I’m not bitin’ tonight, there’s no way that painting could
“Oh yeah? Well take a look at this!”
Harry took out his cell phone, aimed it on the blank frame on the wall and took a picture, then brought up the number of his co-worker and hit send.
There was a moment of silence before his panicked reply, “What the….? How in the world…? How could this happen? Have you checked all the doors and windows? Is everything locked up tight?”
“That’s all I’ve been doing all night long, of course they’re all locked.”
“Well check ‘em again then head for the main entrance, the cops will be here in a few minutes.”
“Copy that.” Harry said as he secured his phone and sprinted down the hallway. Just as he sped away the suit shimmered and reappeared only a foot above where the guard had been standing just a moment before. The sigh of relief was obvious as the dark figure touched the button on the wrist panel and swiftly ascended toward the skylight. A loud alarm began to sound as the skylight was raised, and the dark figure slipped out and then melded into the shadows of the night.
Police detective Nick Spectre drove through the rain as drops battered his windshield. His sleep deprived mind drifted back to a hot and smelly jungle as rain soaked through to his skin. He acquired his target and a shot rang out.
He forced his mind back to the here and now as he pulled his car in front of the art museum and turned off the flashing lights. He detested using them because he hated drawing attention to himself. But, then again, he hated waiting for stoplights even more. As he opened the door and stepped out his body reminded him that four hours sleep just wasn’t enough for one night. He looked at the long flight of steps leading up to the museum and regretted answering his phone thirty minutes earlier. He pulled out a stick of gum to get a sugar rush going and made his way to the top where two uniformed officers guarded the door. They stepped aside as he flashed his gold detective’s badge to allow him entry. No sooner than he set foot in the lobby he could hear the shrill voice of the museum director, Charles Storall.
“Thank goodness you’re finally here! I’ve been frantic. That painting has only been here two days and it’s been stolen. The director of the London museum has been on the phone screaming at me.” Storall was in his late fifties and neatly dressed in a suit and a bowtie. He wiped his brow with a handkerchief as he half walked, half ran over to Spectre.
“Just try to stay calm, please.” Nick told him in a reassuring voice, “Now, first things first. Have you got any coffee in this place?” He asked as he scanned the museum.
“Coffee? At a time like this you want coffee?” The director asked throwing his hands in the air.
“It’s four in the morning,” Nick replied flatly. “Can you think of a better time for
“Oh, very well. Miss Jennings…” Storall called out waving his arm at a woman in the main hall. Rita Jennings was an attractive forty something brunette with long hair loosely pinned up with a few unruly wisps falling down around her face and shoulders. Her white blouse and tight skirt showed signs of getting dressed in a hurry, much the same as Nick’s attire did. Coming over as fast as her four inch heels would allow her she asked,
“Yes Mr Storall? I’m nearly done with the inventory of the East wing.”
“Yes, Rita, this is Mr, uhmmm, I’m sorry,” Storall said to Nick, “I didn’t get your
“I haven’t given it. It’s Nick, detective Nick Spectre, homicide,” Nick said as he pulled back the lapel of his coat to reveal his gold badge with his left hand and extended his right to Rita.
“Homicide?” The director screeched. “Please! Don’t tell me someone has been
murdered on top of this mayhem.”
“No, no, nothing of the sort,” Nick said as he shook Rita’s hand. “Half of robbery
division is out with the flu so I got the call. Now, about that cup of coffee, I need to
clear my head.”
“There’s a coffee pot in the office,” Rita replied, smiling at Nick while pushing a wisp of unruly hair out of her eyes. “I’ll just pop over and make a pot. I could use some
myself, how do you like it?”
“Strong and black with a little sugar, if it’s not too much trouble,” Nick said with a slight smile.
Rita was an attractive woman and it was obvious that she felt an immediate attraction to Nick. But he couldn’t afford to divide his concentration now.
“I’ll be right back then.” Rita said as she headed for the office.
“Oh, and Rita,” Storall called after her, “could you make a cup of tea for me while
you’re at it?”
“Earl Grey, sir?” Rita asked
“Oh heavens no my dear, I need to soothe my jumbled nerves,” Storall replied. “A cup
of Chamomile might help calm my nerves.”
“Right away Mr. Storall,” Rita said over her shoulder as she hurried to the office.
“OK, now you can take me to the crime scene,” Nick said to Storall.
“Right this way,” Storall pointed in the direction of the east wing and began walking at a brisk pace. Nick’s found himself trying to keep up with the director as his tired legs didn’t want to move that fast so early in the morning. As they neared the east wing Nick could see a uniformed officer talking to the security guard and taking notes.
“What time did you start your rounds?” The uniform asked Harry, the guard who discovered the theft.
“I start my shift at midnight. I checked in with the security desk behind the main office
and started my rounds, that would have been about twelve fifteen. I can make it around
in thirty minutes, but when that Grogan painting got here from the London Museum they wanted me in the east wing every fifteen minutes.”
“And when was the last time you saw the painting still in the museum?
“I came through at 3:15 and it was still there,” Harry said pointing to the empty frame on the wall. “When I came back through at 3:30 it was gone.
That’s when all hell broke loose. Say, who’s the suit that just came in? He
with you guys?”
The officer looked up from his notes quickly and looked around.
“That’s detective Nick Spectre. Normally he works homicide. But with
half of robbery division out sick, looks like he got the call.”
“Spectre ehh, he don’t look very spooky,” the guard said hoping to lighten the situation with a little humor.
“Well, they call him the ghost.”
“It’s a nickname he picked up in the military. He’s got this creepy way of
sneaking up on you without making a sound. You have no idea he’s
around and he pops up out of nowhere. Then you blink and he’s gone
Just as Nick rounded the corner a camera flash went off that nearly blinded him. He stopped in his tracks and took a minute to rub his eyes.
“Geeze, I’m sorry about that Nick, I didn’t see you coming,” Nick heard a familiar voice say. It was Tommy King, police photographer and long-time acquaintance of Nick. They had known one another from their days in the military. They were in the same unit until Spectre was transferred to Special Forces. He didn’t see him after that until he joined the police force many years later.
“Is that you Tommy?” Nick asked as he rubbed his eyes trying to make the spots burned into his retina go away.
“Yeah, Nick, it’s me. I was wondering who they’d tab for this one with
half of robbery out sick.”
“You’ve had a chance to look things over,” Nick replied, “What have you
seen so far?”
“Well, this ain’t no ordinary smash and grab that’s for sure,” Tommy said as he moved closer to Nick so he could show him what he was holding. The spots in his vision were beginning to grow smaller as Nick tried to look at the plastic bag in Tommy’s hand.
“Alright, what am I looking at Tommy?” Nick asked. “It looks like some sort of arrowhead. I still can’t see too well yet,” He said as he squinted at the object in the bag.
“Oh, it’s more than just an arrowhead. It’s a dart, probably fired from an air pistol or a small crossbow.” Tommy said as he held it up to the light. “But this ain’t no ordinary dart. We won’t know for sure until the lab gets a gander at it, but from the looks of the metal I’d say it was titanium. And look here, the barbs pop out when the head strikes something.”
The spots in Nick’s vision were nearly gone and he took the bag out of Tommy’s hand, holding it up to get a close look at it.
“Hmmm, not something you’re going to pick up at any sporting goods store.” Nick said as he spotted the empty frame on the wall and headed toward it.
“And that’s only the beginning,” Tommy said as he followed Nick over to the far wall. “The perp cracked a ten digit security code to get the bullet proof glass out of the way.”
The clicking of high heels announced Rita Jennings entry into the room with one Styrofoam cup and one ceramic mug. She handed them to Spectre and Storall in that order. Nick thanked her and took a long drink as he closed his eyes hoping the caffeine would soon work its magic on his still sluggish brain. Looking closely at the wall Nick could see the hole next to the control panel made by the dart. Looking up, then down, he could see the laser emitters on the ceiling and the floor. Noting where his gaze was going Tommy spoke up from behind him.
“Oh yeah, there’s the biggest mystery of all, the laser alarm. You break any one of those beams and a skull splitting alarm goes off.”
“So, I take it the alarm didn’t go off?” Nick asked
“Nope,” Tommy replied, “and here’s the thing. The control panel on the wall there only raises the bullet proof glass. But to get to it, you have to walk across the weight sensors in the floor, then, go through the lasers.”
“And just where are the controls for those?” Nick queried.
“The controls for both the floor sensors and the lasers are in the security room.” Rita chimed in as she stepped toward the empty display hoping to get Nick’s attention.
“We had those installed before the painting arrived. We presumed those measures would be adequate. It seems we presumed wrong.”
“It would seem so.” Nick said as he rubbed his chin studying the scene. He turned on his heel and began to pace while he thought. Stopping occasionally to sip his coffee while observing different objects in the room and mumble beneath his breath. He stopped pacing when something on the floor caught his eye. Reaching into his pocket and putting on a plastic glove he picked up what looked like some white flecks of confetti. Tommy came over to see the new discovery.
“Looks like paint chips.” Tommy said as both he and Nick looked straight up at the skylight directly above them.
“That would be the point of entry,” Nick mumbled as he gazed upward.
“So the perp lowered himself down, fired the dart into the wall to pull
themselves over to the painting and avoid the sensors in the floor. But how
in the hell did they avoid triggering the lasers?”
“Then it’s gotta be an inside job.” Tommy chimed in. “The guard in the
security room had to have turned off the lasers to allow access to the
“Impossible,” Charles Storall objected. “Carl is one of our longest tenured
employees. I can’t believe he would do a thing like this, I just can’t believe
Storall began wiping his brow with his handkerchief as he looked intently at Spectre.
“Excuse me detective,” a voice from behind them spoke, “I’ve gotta agree
with Mr. Storall. I’ve known Carl most of my life. He helped me get my
job here. Carl is a straight up guy. I don’t think he would throw in with
anybody that would do something like this.”
It was Harry, the guard who had discovered the robbery. Nick eyed him up and down trying to get some sense of whether to trust what he was saying or not.
“Right now, everyone associated with the museum is a suspect until we
can get to the bottom of this.”
To be continued…