Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Hunt for Avon’s Ghost

By DB Dakota
Cozy Mystery, 239 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans

From down the hall, Jorge hurried forward. “What took you so long?”

“It was that El Ecbat what’s-his-name guy that Jake rescued.”

“Do tell. Name? Can’t help you. I don’t keep lists.”

Thornburgh said, “I can tell you who it was not, and that name, I’ll swear, is Jester Yorick. Not him, not Yorick. The guy I’m bettin’ on who did the thieving—Gwen Bonnard told me his name is Vuelta Attar Hakim.”

“Pleased to hear that, except I don’t remember the character, haven’t heard of him. Now, how about me running along? I’ve got another case that—”

“Wait a minute. You know what? I take it back about Yorick. He still could be— Think clockwork.”

“I will, I will.” Prima frowned. “I did. Now what?”

“One half of the heist team. Yorick waited outside in the bushes while Hakim waited in the closet.”

“Everybody’s waiting. Waiting for what?”

“For the guard in the lobby, Brad Hardy, to leave,” she replied. “His shift ends sometime around midnight.”

“What happened after that?”

“How’s this? There’s only one way Hakim could have done it. He sneaks out of his hiding closet inside, this one right here that I was just in, and walks back through the empty building, the totally vacant conservatory…sneaks back to the lobby, grabs up the lighthouse, trots back to the little back-end service door and with the lighthouse in the bag, squeezes out onto the grass in the bushes, fastens the latch and, wow, outta here.”

“What about the clockwork Yorick person?”

“That’s my question too. What about Yorick? We don’t need Yorick. Hakim didn’t use him. Did it all by himself. So, okay, he fastens the latch, Hakim does, and—”

“He’s gone from here.” Prima chuckled. “By himself, alone, solo. Gotcha.”

“Makes a run for it, yep.”

“Where to?”

“El Ecbat, don’t you imagine? Think you anyplace else?” Thornburgh asked.

“Fine. But if you have plans to go there, you can’t, we can’t, so we won’t.”

“I know, I know, it’s a colony, whatever, foreign territory, a country, a nation inside a state of the United States, man, is that cockeyed or what? And we have to show a pass or something to get in, I assume.”

“I’d rather have a ticket to Disneyland. Who wants to visit a towel-headed miniature I-ran?” Prima noted. “You just want to catch Little Sire Hakim and make him cough up the lighthouse.”

“Is it getting sticky in here?”

“Awkward and hairy somewhat, yes it is sticky, and smelly. What say we send for the Marines to march across that pasteboard colony border, just storm in there and drag that kleptocrat outta there?”

“What we’ve got to figure out is what Hakim’s black market is.” She stared at the floor. “He can’t peddle it. There’s no market for a lighthouse, I wouldn’t think.”

“That means he already has a customer for it, for that particular lighthouse. Meaning, yes, he can peddle it. Gwen Bonnard knows of people who bid for it.”

“If she doesn’t have a list of would-be buyers,” Prima observed, “we’ve got to get a list together, haven’t we? But do with it, what? Start dogging each customer on the list, each one that lost out on the bidding? Impossible…wouldn’t be reliable. People lie, hide their swag. How about we wait till we hear of a mysterious explosion?”

“A lighthouse blowing up? Then we’d know. We sure will know who stole that lighthouse. Jorge, I keep thinking about the Joe Crystal call to Gwen, warning about the bombshell in the model. On some level, the two people, Crystal and phone caller, had to be acquainted. That person had to have put in a bid for the lighthouse. It was gone, already sold. So why did the caller call?”

“Sour grapes?”

“Said the fox. Thank you, Dr. Aesop. We’ve talked about that. But why the call? To frighten buyers away from the lighthouse, drive it onto the flea market table so it can be picked up for a song. Anyhow, the burglar turned out to be Hakim, an El Ecbatski, according to the candy bar wrapper, a student who was into Shakespeare lore off and on. His education is Western, Hakim’s is. There are bound to be others like him, Americanized. I can’t believe he stole the lighthouse for his personal pleasure.”

“Can you believe he stole for someone else?” Prima asked. “Or that he’s got a partner? A fence, maybe?”

“Had to have! That’s right, an accomplice. Not talking about Yorick, though. I will lay dollars to Danish there’s not a solitary soul in El Ecbat who cares one whit or even knows about Shakespeare and that lighthouse, except—”

“A fence. I already said that.”

“That’s a question, isn’t it, Jorge?”

“I’m thinking like you’re thinking, yeah, sure, no penalty in me being stupid, is there?”

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