(Italics are Japanese)
Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence
Part Two: Field Trip
Kaito glared at his homework. The cause of all his problems. And in a way it was. This school was serious when it came to studying. He'd been so busy with his homework and classes and class sponsored events that he didn't have TIME to really explore properly. And here is was on a Saturday when he didn't actually have any classes, or obligatory outings…But he was still in his room finishing his homework.
///Every or many a before a word or series of words is followed by a singular verb….///
There was a knock on the door. "Yes?"
It was Adam, one of what Kaito had dubbed in his brain, the Geek Squad. From his time spent with the other boys Kaito noticed something of a food chain of the people spending their summer at school. They weren't disliked especially; it was obvious that each of the four had a special know-how. From Adam and his computers to Hakuba and his detective abilities. But they weren't exactly the guys you picked out for a party. Which was too bad. They were all nice enough, and he'd have been lost without their and Hakuba's help over the past two weeks.
"We're going on a trip into the city. Would you like to come?" Adam asked. Kaito especially liked how Adam was good at remembering to speak slowly. Except for Detective Boy, he was by far the easiest to understand.
"I would like to…" Kaito said with a frown, "But I have a test on Monday. I don't understand this."
Adam looked over his shoulder at the textbook and made a face. "I don't know Kaito. I don't understand either. Let's ask Oliver. He understands English the best." He walked back to the door. "Oi! Oliver! English question over here!"
The stockier boy poked his head in. "How can I help?" Kaito gestured wordlessly at the textbook. He frowned for a moment. "It means…when you say something like 'every dog' you have to treat it like it's just one thing, and not lots of them. Think of it like it's One group. So it's 'This dog likes bones.' 'Those dogs like bones.' And 'Every dog likes bones.' Does that help."
Kaito looked from Oliver to the textbook and back again. "No. Sorry."
Oliver ran a hand through his hair. "I'd be glad to help you more with it later, but if we don't leave soon, we'll miss the train into London. We'll be late. Do you want to come?"
Again Kaito looked from Oliver to the textbook. "Yes. This is very boring."
Adam laughed, "That's the spirit. We're going to the Wolfe Art Museum. It's little, but my Aunt works there so we can see behind the scenes."
So a short train ride later and they were in the thick of downtown London, looking up at a medium sized brick building. A banner at the door proclaimed. "Coming soon to the Wolfe Art Museum, Treasures from the time of Nero."
"It's closed," said Hakuba.
"It's all right. My Aunt Diane works here as a Restorer. We can get the grand tour," said Adam. He took them around to the back entrance and rang the bell.
A security guard answered. "I'm Adam Bell. We're here to see my aunt, Diane Lowry."
"Just a second. Let me see that she's expecting you," said the guard, a pleasant looking man in his late '40's. He closed the door on them and walked over to a phone. Kaito's mind naturally started to check out the security system, noting how the door was wired, and watching the guard's mannerisms in case he ever had to repeat them.
He finally came back. "Looks like you boys are in for a treat. Not everyone who can see the museum on an off day."
James grinned and rubbed his hands together. Kaito found out quickly what a history nut the other boy was. They all thanked the guard politely and walked inside.
A woman appeared walking up from a set of basement stairs. Her hair was starting to pepper with gray and she looked a little worn and tired, but she broke into a wide smile when she saw Adam.
"It's such a surprise to see you here. Your friends finally tear you away from your computer screen?" she said affectionately touching his hands.
"I'm not that bad, am I?"
Hakuba smiled. "Yes Adam, you are."
"Well someday my job will pay more than all of yours combined," he shot back, "Anyway, we're showing an exchange student around London, Aunt Diane, and thought this might be a good learning experience. Especially since we could tour more slowly than with a guide. I'd like you to meet Kaito Kuroba."
"Lovely to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too."
"And besides," Adam continued, "James has been begging for a backstage tour for forever."
"Then he's in luck. We're getting ready for a new Greek and Roman exhibit at the moment. Would you like to come downstairs and see how we do restorations?"
* * *
The downstairs room was filled with a kind of priceless clutter. It was like a curio shop run by a thirteen year old boy. Buckets, chemicals, tools and paints scattered across a handful of tables. Bits of ivory, mother of pearl, sheets of gold leaf were piled in a corner. Trays of shattered pottery laid out in mathematic precision.
"Welcome to the restoration department, I'd like you to meet Suzanne O'Brian and Gideon Haig." Mrs. Lowry said. "Suzanne, Gideon, this is my nephew Adam and his friends." Introductions were quickly passed around.
"It's very nice to meet you!" said Suzanne, "Pardon if I don't shake your hands, I'm a bit clay-y at the moment." A young woman with a great lot of wavy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was standing behind a very large pot filling in gaps with a pale gray clay.
Gideon Haig was in his mid to late thirties with a sharp face and dark complexion. "Nice to meet you boys." The table behind him had bottles and jars of different chemicals and the beads of a necklace gold with green gemstones…Hakuba shot a sharp glance at Kaito, but his attention was on the giant pot.
"What is this?" He asked, "The shape is strange." It was tall with two handles, with a small mouth. But the strange thing was the way it tapered down to a point instead of a flat base. It's surface was peppered with gray-white barnacles.
"This is called an Amphora. It's from Greece. It probably used to hold wine or oil. They found it at the bottom of the ocean, see all the shells? It's really rare to find one of these intact. Right now I'm filling in the missing spaces and later I'll use some of the shells from the inside so you'll never even know it was broken!" She smiled.
"Aunt Diane, you're still working on that box?" Adam asked from the other side of the room.
She sighed, "Afraid so. It's proving to be a lot harder to finish than I thought at first."
"What is it?" Oliver asked.
She held up the black lacquer box with a butterfly motif all done in mother of pearl inlay. "This is supposed to be part of our Chinese collection. I'm behind my deadline. You can see all the places where the shell is missing? All the shell I have to work with is too thick to fit into the space. I even ordered a sheet of shell veneer online, but it's still too thick."
Hakuba asked, "Well, how did they get the shell in there in the first place?"
"Oh that was much easier," Mrs. Lowry said with a smile, "When they made the box they sanded the shell down to the right layer and applied the lacquer afterwards."
Oliver scratched his head, "Couldn't you do something like that? Just build the lacquer up to match the mother of pearl?"
"Oh no! I wouldn't want to hurt the original finish. I'm restoring it, not making something of my own."
James looked a little uncomfortable. "Sorry if I'm being rude, but…I mean, wouldn't it be better just to leave it in the original state anyway?"
Gideon scooted his chair over towards the group. "Aha! The ethics of restoration, you mean." He grinned.
"Well, yes I suppose…I mean, isn't it better the way it is? Isn't fixing it up kind of cheating?"
Suzanne gestured towards the amphora, "Would it be better if I left that as fragments? You'd have to have a very good imagination to see how it all went together."
Gideon leaned back in the chair making it squeak. "It's all in where you draw the line, I think."
"Right," Suzanne nodded, "Some museums would have me stop here. The amphora's been put together as best as I can, and the white plaster added for stability. But they'd leave it white so you can see exactly where the restoration occurred. Show all the cracks and such."
"But that's only one school of thought," Diane put in.
The man nodded, "The way we do it here is to recreate the original to the best of our ability. We want it to look like it did the day it was made so you can see what it was really like. For instance if you go out into the country there are dozens of drafty gloomy castles, and people think that's what it was like. But really they used lots of tapestries and even painted the walls. They were probably really quite charming. But the image people come away with is cold and dank. We want to make sure that no one gets the same idea about these pieces."
Diane picked up her box again, "But all the restorations we do are completely reversible. You can take away all the modern work and you won't have caused any damage to the piece itself. Whatever we do, the piece itself isn't damaged in any way. It's why I have to be careful not to damage the lacquer finish while I replace the mother of pearl."
"Or take the amphora for instance." Suzanne held up a small shard of pottery the same gray-white as the gaps in the pot. "The clay I'm working with is water soluble. All you have to do is soak it for a little while and you'll be right back where I started." She dipped the piece into a blue plastic bucked by her feet and swished it around for a moment before pulling back her hand. "See? All gone."
Hakuba looked over at Kaito whose eyes were starting to glaze over. "Are you getting any of this?"
"Sort of. I'm not really sure. The clay dissolves in water? So…you can undo everything?"
"Basically. They're talking about how much restoration is ethical. Whether it's better to make it look like it looked originally, or just keep the piece from further deterioration."
"Here look," Suzanne wiped her hands off on a rag and walked over to her table, pulling out a manila file full of photos. "This is a ceramic bull from the Amlash culture…it's about 4000 years old. Obviously it didn't survive very well." The head of the figurine is half caved in, a missing leg, not to mention great cracks and missing pieces. "It's not very impressive this way, and most people wouldn't bother to care about it."
She held up another picture, "And here it is when I finished with it."
"Is this really what it would have looked like?" Oliver asked.
"According to other figures, and more Amlash art, I believe so."
The finished picture had handlebar like horns and little beady eyes and ears high up on the forehead. The nose was a lot like a trough and the body hollow so that it gave the effect of a kind of ceremonial pitcher, though Hakuba really had no clue what it would have been used for. He was a bout to ask about it when he noticed that Kaito's attention had wandered over to Gideon's table where the restorer was using a kind of fixative on gold leaf to repair the gold beads from a necklace.
"Ah!" Kaito snatched a jar of acid off the table just before Gideon knocked it over with his elbow.
"Oh thank you! I can't believe…so clumsy of me."
"Please be careful. This is not good, that necklace."
Gideon nodded, "Yes, the acid would have damaged the peridot and I would have been fired. How did you know that peridot is especially sensitive to acid? You must know a lot about jewelry."
Hakuba gave him a sharp look…an especially sharp look and Kaito started to sweat. "Oh, uh, no, I just…it's bad if it's dropped I think."
The restorer looked satisfied with the explanation, but the detective certainly wasn't. He was about to call him on it when there was a knock on the doorframe. A petite woman with a mass of black hair pulled back into a bun was glaring over the top of her dark rimmed glasses at them. "This does not look like working. Nor does it sound like working. And what are these children doing here?"
"I'm sorry Mrs. Calwell, I was just showing my nephew and his friends the restoration department." Diane said. "Boys, I'd like you to meet Ms. Samantha Calwell, our curator."
"Charmed," she said with a frosty smile and a disapproving look at the teenagers.
"C'mon Samantha, they're not causing any harm," Gideon said, leaning back in his chair.
Her eyes narrowed into slits, "And how is YOUR project proceeding Mr. Haig?"
"Swimmingly, Samantha," he said unrepentantly.
She sniffed and walked over to Suzanne's corner. "That seems to be coming along very nicely. Any estimate on when it will be completed?"
"It'll be done in time," she said in a clipped voice.
The woman smiled a very catlike smile, "Glad to hear it. A piece like this is very valuable to us."
"A real collector's item, you might say?"
The smile widened. "You might at that." Suzanne frowned at her and smacked some more clay onto the pot a bit more violently.
She turned to Diane, "I don't mind you bringing guests into the museum, but only on your own private time. Look at this! You're still working on this box! This should have been finished ages ago. You need to be working on something for the Roman exhibit."
"Yes, I know," the older woman said timidly, "I've told you before that this is turning out to be particularly tricky. The thickness of the shell…"
"I don't care about the thickness of the shell! I just want it done! If you can't do it, say so!" There was an uncomfortable pressure in the room as the rest of the people tried to ignore the scene unfolding in front of them. There was nothing quite as painful as watching people argue.
Samantha Calwell sighed, "Listen. You can give your nephew a tour during your break. In the meantime I'd like you to come to my office."
Diane was white with a mix of anger and shame. "Yes, all right."
Hakuba stepped back to let her pass, and accidentally knocked the file folder with all the information on the ceramic bull onto the floor. He apologized, but as he was picking it up he noticed a clipping…It looked like a page from a Christie's auction catalogue and had a picture of a bull identical to Suzanne's. The estimate was for four thousand to five thousand pounds. Hakuba raised an eyebrow as he stuffed it back into the envelope. Quite a bit of money.
There was a moment of silence as the two women left, and an awkwardness because no one knew quite what to do with themselves. After a second Gideon put down his tools and stripped off the rubber gloves he was wearing. "Well, I was thinking about taking my break soon anyway. How would you boys like me to start the tour at least? I feel like stretching my legs."
The main entrance of the museum was under construction, a few scaffolds here and there, card tables set up at random for the construction worker's tools and such. It was all very messy and disorganized, but you could still see the inherent beauty of the layout. The main hall was a wide half circle, with two staircases that arched in a graceful curve to the second story. A high railing of intricate wrought iron trimmed the edge of the second floor like some kind of black ivy or lace.
The first room Gideon led them through was full of arms and armor. Hakuba and James both enjoyed looking at the thick broadswords and slender rapiers. But of course, Holmes was a consummate fencer.
The second room was of the oldest antiquities. Before the time of Rome, the beginnings of the Greek. "This is that Amlash bull Suzanne was telling you about," Gideon said pointing.
Hakuba frowned. "Really? It looks somewhat different from the photos she showed us. Something about the curve of the horns. These are really much rounder, aren't they?"
"Are you sure? Maybe you're thinking of it from during the restoration…before it was completely put together."
He turned to Kaito, "Do you see a difference between this and the pictures she showed us?"
A guilty smile played over Kaito's face, "Sorry, no. But then, I wasn't really paying attention."
Well, if an international art thief with an eye for detail didn't see it… Hakuba shrugged, "We only saw them for a moment. I must be mistaken." He knew that people's perceptions and memories were often faulty…and usually the last thing that you wanted to trust in an investigation. But he still didn't like being unsure of his own observations.
"Here you all are," said a bright voice behind them. Suzanne walked up, drying her hands on the front of her jeans. "I decided to take a break and see how the tour was coming."
"We were just looking at that bull you did. Saguru here thinks it looks a bit different."
Suzanne looked at the glass case and scowled, "I'm still not happy with the results," she tried to say lightly, but her voice was tight. "Those pictures I showed you…well, I thought they were right, but Ms. Calwell had me change a few things. You have a good eye."
Hakuba was pleased.
"Huh. I don't remember that," Gideon mused.
She smiled wryly, "Of course you don't. You were busy with that Incan parrot bangle, I think. I'm surprised you remember anything that was going on around the same time."
"You're right. That was hell. Aliens could have invaded and I wouldn't have batted an eye."
Suzanne looked solemnly at the bull for another moment. "Well, enough of this, has Gideon shown you the Renaissance collection yet? We have a panting by Van Eyck."
"Who's Van Eyck?" Oliver asked.
"Exactly," Suzanne said with a grin, "Only the finest and most fabulous pieces for our little museum."
Gideon suddenly jumped a little. "Ah, my cell phone just went off."
"I didn't hear anything," Adam said.
"I've got it set to vibration mode." He glanced at the display. "It's my wife, I've got to take this. But the reception inside is horrible. I'll just pop outside for a moment. Suzanne, do you mind showing them the rest of the exhibit without me? I'll catch up when I can."
"Not a problem. Say hi for me, will you?" She waved him off. "Now boys, why don't I show you where all the sexy paintings live?"
* * *
The paintings were nice enough, Kaito thought, sexy or unsexy. He admitted that he really didn't have much appreciation for anything Picasso forwards. Honestly, as an art thief and not an artist, he expected the pieces he stole to be at least something he didn't think he could have accomplished in the fourth grade. But other than that, Kaito really liked art. And not just because he was stealing some select jeweled pieces of it.
It was a nice change to be able to look around at a museum without any serious thoughts of stealing from it. Of course he noticed Some things, but not on the same level he did when he was casing a place.
They'd just finished looking at a collection of stained glass when Gideon and Diane rejoined them. "Look who I found!" Gideon said.
"Oh I'm so glad you were able to look around while I was with Ms. Calwell," Diane said. "I'm sorry to have kept you."
"It's no problem, Aunt Diane. Is everything all right?"
"Oh fine, fine."
Gideon sighed, "Just a weekly reaming. Remember this for when you are grown up. Not all employers are nice. Some make you want to kill them on a regular basis."
"We shouldn't talk like that," Suzanne said with a laugh. "Well! Shall we head across to the other wing?"
Everyone agreed and so they milled back towards the main hall, Suzanne was in the lead. "Hey, I think there's something on the floor. What could it…" She broke off with a gasp and then started to scream.
Kaito, Hakuba and the other boys ran forward. Lying on the marble floor, like a fallen rag doll lay Ms. Samantha Calwell. Her eyes were closed, but her limbs were all at awkward angles, and a small pool of blood puddle beneath her.
"Quick! We have to call an ambulance!" Gideon flipped open his cell phone and was already heading for the door and better reception.
"No…you have to call the police," Hakuba knelt in front of Ms. Calwell, two fingers pressed to the side of her neck. "I'm afraid it's too late. She's dead."
Hakuba's voice was even and detached. "Yes." He flicked open his pocket watch. "I can't be exact, but I'd place time of death somewhere between two thirty and three. In other words, sometime in the last half hour." The watch clicked shut.
Diane's eyes filled with tears and Suzanne pressed her hands to her mouth. "What a horrible accident, what a horrible, horrible accident."
"She must have fallen over the railing," Adam said looking up at the second floor.
The teen detective frowned, his eyes on Ms. Calwell's still form. Then he looked up and his eyes were sharp. Kaito recognized that look.
"I don't believe it was an accident, Ms. O'Brian. I believe it was murder."
To be continued…
1. I used to work in an antique gallery that did it's own in house restorations. I loved talking to our Restorer. I learned so many interesting things. All the ethical stuff is real, but I have no idea how this particular museum handles it's pieces. For the sake of the story, I've given them the same set of ethics that we used at the gallery. Where yes, there was an amphora, a lacquer box and an amlash bull. (If you have lots of money please buy antiques from the wonderful people at haiggalleries.com.)
2. Four thousand pounds are roughly six thousand US dollars, just in case you were wondering how much an item like that started at. The ending bid would likely be more in the ten thousand dollar range.
3. I hope I've set up an interesting mystery. The major clues are all in place, though a few incidental things will show up in the next chapter. Please be gentle with me, this is the first murder mystery I've tried to write since the 5th grade.
4. So far reviews have been a bit mixed, and I want to say thank you for not saying "Oh I love it!" and cushioning my feelings, I'd much rather know how people really feel. For those of you who are anti shonen ai, I ask you not to give up on the fic. I'm hoping to do something delicate and tasteful, and this really is an action adventure story, so I hope you can appreciate it on that level. As for mistakes…sorry, totally my fault. Likely to keep cropping up.
5. Thanks very much for reading!!