Two sides of the same coin. Completely alike. Completely different.
What started out as a normal art restoration project for Melinda Martin soon took on a life of its own. Could this unusual painting actually be a Botticelli masterpiece thought to have perished as part of Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities? Had Melinda’s friend, Lana, a well-known art picker inadvertently acquired stolen art; art that might have ties to the occult and worth millions? Did a bad business decision endanger everyone who touched this potential treasure?
When the painting disappears and both women are found dead, the police think it’s an open and shut case. The husband – it’s always the husband. He had means, motive, and opportunity, and acted strangely cold after the fact.
Is it a case of mistaken identity? Does a secret relationship put Mr. Martin in the crosshairs of an assassin sent to retrieve the painting? Or is he really a sociopath forger with mysterious ties to the Vatican?
“Okay, go ahead, Jackson is with me, and you are on the speaker,” I said.
“Detective Cross and Mark retrieved some documents from Mrs. Martin’s safe-deposit box. I just received a copy of the documents. I thought you should know about this particular document marked ‘syndicate agreement’ that I am looking at right now. Mr. and Mrs. Martin’s names are listed on it as well as Ms. Young and ten other people. It appears to be a contract which addresses things such as how the painting should be authenticated, as well as marketed so to be attractive to the top auction houses, and also discusses the split of the profit,” she said.
“Can you quickly identify who has the most to gain?” I asked.
“It goes into language based on time spent restoring and marketing; however, it looks like Mrs. Martin and Ms. Young get the largest share, and Mr. Martin would be next. The first to be paid are Mrs. Martin, Ms. Young, and Mr. Martin. After that, the ten other investors each get a prorated amount based on their investment. However, what is interesting is Mr. Martin, Mrs. Martin, and Ms. Young purchased life insurance on each other making each the other beneficiaries, so—”
“The last man standing collects the life insurance,” I said. “What else?”
That did not sit well with me, especially since this added another check in Mr. Martin’s column for a motive. Detective Cross must have felt she had hit the mother lode. It indeed appeared as if a circumstantial case was building itself without any effort from the police. Why didn’t Mr. Martin give us a copy of the syndicate agreement if he had it? And more importantly, why not tell us about the key man insurance policy? That in itself screamed motive, especially if he was the last person alive to collect on it.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Yes, they also found a European Union passport with a home country of Italy issued in the name of Giuseppe Balestruccio. However, it has Mr. Martin’s picture on the entry identification page. I’m looking through some other documents that look authentic, with seals and stamps, but they are all in Italian. Do you want me to track down an Italian interpreter?” she asked.
“I’ll text you Tyler’s cell, ask him for Carlo to do it. Tell him it’s a priority. The police have it, and if it’s something they are going to bootstrap from, then I’ll need you ready to prepare a motion to quash quickly. Go back to the passport. You say it looks like Mr. Martin?” I asked.
“If it’s not him, it’s certainly his twin,” she said. “His face is thinner, and his hair is way different, but the features are the same.”
“Can Mary run it through facial recognition?” I asked. “And why isn’t she on this phone call as well?”
“Umm, I’ll check with her on that when she calls. She has been incommunicado for the last few hours,” she told me.
“What else did they get?” I asked.
“They also took five flash drives, but we haven’t received a copy of the contents of those, nor told if we can have access to the original ones. Now, I hesitate to tell you this, but Mark said that Detective Cross had applied for an arrest warrant for Mr. Martin. I’ve been monitoring the sheets for its appearance, and nothing yet. I don’t know if the warrant is for murder, and I don’t want to push Mark to do something he could lose his job over,” she said.
I was stunned. There were so many issues to address that each seemed more critical than the previous. Arrest warrant? Maybe something in the papers smacked of fraud, and it was a warrant for that issue. Or perhaps they thought the passport was a forgery? But, certainly not murder. Although, now they had what was shaping up to be a bulletproof circumstantial case.
Thank you, J. McGillick and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right? A Registered Nurse, a lawyer now author.
As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing, she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing
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