Chapter 5: The Yellow House
Location: The Netherlands
Key Date: Thursday, 22nd July, 1999
Laughing probably wasn’t the wisest thing Lorne could have done but the absurdity of being accused of stealing a painting had the honest reaction out of him before he could contain it.
“You’re joking right?” he said. Looking at Smit and seeing the other man’s very straight face, his amusement abruptly dropped away. “Okay – not joking.”
“No,” Janssen De Jong took over, looking to the police inspector and getting a nod of approval to explain. “Some time on Friday evening one of our Van Gogh canvasses was stolen from the Museum.”
“And you think it was me?” Lorne was honestly incredulous. “If I stole something why would I come back here?
“Perhaps to divert suspicion,” Smit shrugged. “You spent most of the morning here on Thursday and returned again in the afternoon of the same day,” he catalogued impersonally.
“Me and about a thousand other people,” Evan pointed out logically.
“Yes but unlike them, you arrived here from Copenhagen where another work was recently stolen,” Smit revealed. “And were you not in St. Petersburg before that?”
“Something was stolen from there too?” Lorne asked worriedly.
“You know very well it was Mr Lorne,” Smit shot back.
“Ah ... no ... I don’t,” Evan returned. “Listen, I can see why this might all seem neat and tidy from your point of view but you’ve got the wrong guy. I didn’t steal anything.”
“I’m sure all thieves say the same thing on being caught,” Smit noted mockingly.
“Since I’m not a thief that hardly applies to me!” Evan retorted irritably. He took a moment to calm himself before continuing. “If you can tell me when these paintings were stolen I’m sure I can provide an alibi for where I was at the time.”
“That might be a problem,” De Jong said uncomfortably. “We don’t know exactly when our painting was stolen.”
“Someone ripped a canvas off the wall and you didn’t notice?” Evan’s brow rose sharply. “How is that possible?”
“You do a good job of professing ignorance Mr Lorne,” Smit laughed harshly, “but we have evidence that places you at the scene here in Amsterdam. I am sure in time more evidence will be found linking you to the other crimes.”
Evan realised the Dutch inspector wasn’t open to considering that he didn’t have his man. “Do I need a lawyer here?” he asked mildly.
“You will need to come to the station for further questioning Mr Lorne,” Smit advised. “We will allow you to call for legal representation at that time.”
“Fine,” Lorne scowled, more angry than worried at the turn of events. “My sister – Elaine Lorne – is somewhere in the museum. I need to let her know where I’m going.”
“I will have someone locate her and inform her of the situation,” De Jong said, not unkindly.
“Thank you,” Evan nodded to the curator gratefully before turning to Smit again. “Okay – let’s get this over with,” he suggested, moving to the door.
At Lijnbaansgracht 219 police station, ironically only a block away from the American Hotel, Lorne was led towards the rear of the building. Sitting in a small, non descript room he noted the large ‘mirror’ on his side that fairly screamed that people where watching from the other side ... well, if police shows on TV were at all accurate.
“Mr Lorne,” Smit returned to the room with another man in tow. Where Smit was short and stocky with classic Dutch features this man was tall, slim and cultured, dark haired and pale skinned, looking very at home in the expensive suit he was wearing.
“Anton Lefèvre, National Central Bureau, Interpol,” he introduced himself in a pleasant voice as he took a seat across from Evan, placing a thick file on the table in front of him. “Thank you for joining us Mr Lorne.”
“I didn’t realise I had a choice,” Evan replied a little sarcastically, trying not to worry that Interpol was involved. From his understanding they were all about supporting any organisation involved in preventing international crime ... which had him thinking he was about to have a very bad day.
“There is always a choice,” Lefèvre replied, his dark eyes blank as he observed Lorne emotionlessly. “Of course, some choices present a more difficult road than others. Which path you choose remains to be seen.”
“Since I haven’t done anything wrong I’m gonna go with the truth and getting to the bottom of this,” Evan’s tone was purposeful and determined.
“I rather expected you’d say that,” Lefèvre noted, appearing amused. “Perhaps you could start by telling us about the missing Van Gogh?”
“From what I understand you don’t even know when it went missing,” Evan pointed out. “I’ve only been here 3 days – how do you know it wasn’t stolen before I arrived?”
“We have our reasons,” the Interpol agent replied. “The painting Mr Lorne ... tell us about the painting.”
“How about you just pretend for a minute that you’ve got the wrong guy,” Evan suggested blandly, “and tell me what exactly went missing?”
“Very well,” Lefèvre sighed, exchanging a glance with Smit who’d been silent so far. “Inspectuer?”
“The Yellow House,” Smit revealed.
“I know of it,” Lorne said thoughtfully, recalling vaguely the sandy yellow tones and blue sky of Van Gogh’s depiction of the French house he’d lived in for a time in the late 1880’s. “I don’t remember seeing it at the Museum though.”
“You wouldn’t have,” Smit returned. “It was not on display.”
“Ah,” Evan nodded, some of the prior comments finally making sense. “You don’t know exactly when it was stolen because it was taken from storage, right?”
“Correct,” Lefèvre smiled. “As were the other works stolen most recently from Statens Museum in Copenhagen, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the National Gallery in Budapest, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. That is an interesting point of commonality to note, but even more so is the fact that you personally visited each museum before the works went missing and you were still at each location when each robbery most likely took place.”
“From where I’m sitting that just makes me the worst case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time ever,” Evan retorted. Inside though he’d felt his stomach drop when the Uffizi Gallery had been included in the tally of sites that had been hit. Even he could see that was a worrying chain of coincidences at best.
“Or perhaps it makes you our primary suspect,” Anton Lefèvre countered.
“The inspector here mentioned evidence linking me to this latest robbery,” Lorne ignored that last part. “Do I get to see this evidence?”
“Ah ... yes,” Lefèvre smiled in a way that had Evan feeling very worried even though he knew himself to be innocent. Opening the file he removed a single sheet of paper enclosed in a protective plastic envelope. Wordlessly he placed it on the table, rotating it so that Evan could see it.
“Fuck,” the curse slipped out as Lorne looked at the evidence in disbelief. It was a sketch he’d done of the Van Gogh Museum the afternoon of their first day in the city. It showed the main building and the wing still under construction. He hadn’t signed that specific sketch but clearly the one he’d done after it had been signed because the faint outline had been brought out very simply. The “E Lorne” he’d jokingly scrawled on a sketch for Elaine was easily readable. “Okay, clearly I can’t deny that I drew this but I’d have to be the dumbest thief on the planet to leave it at the scene of the crime!”
“It was not found at the scene,” Smit admitted. “We received an anonymous tip to check the storage rooms at the museum. This sketch, clearly showing the entrance compromised by the construction of the exhibition wing, was offered with the tip as evidence.”
“So you’ve got nothing linking to me directly to the crime at all,” Evan pointed out, eyes still on the drawing. “For all you know the real thief sent that to put you on the wrong track.” He’d carried his sketch book around for most of the past two months, completing a number of very similar sketches at every Museum or Gallery he’d been to. Maybe this particular drawing had fallen from the book while he’d been sketching – he did tend to get very focussed when he was drawing. And maybe he was just deluding himself that something more sinister wasn’t at work here.
“We have enough to hold you for further questioning Mr Lorne,” Lefèvre replied, shifting his chair back and standing. “I suggest you think about telling us the truth ... because there is some connection between you and these crimes. I know it.” With that he turned and left the room.
“This way,” Smit motioned for Evan to get up as well. Another silent journey through the station and Lorne found himself being shown into a holding cell.
“This is just great,” he muttered, looking around distastefully and thanking his very tarnished lucky stars that at least he was alone for the time being. Smit said nothing, obviously intending to just leave Evan there. “Wait ... what about my phone call?” Lorne demanded.
“Your sister is waiting at reception,” Smit admitted. “You may speak to her.”
Evan watched the man walk away, standing at the bars of his new accommodation before beginning to pace around the small enclosure.
“Evan!” Elaine was led into the area, moving straight to the bars and reaching for his hands.
“Elaine,” Evan squeezed her hands before letting her go, meeting her eyes intently. “I need you to go to the American Embassy, tell them my situation and get them to recommend a lawyer here in the city.”
“They can’t hold you like this!” Elaine was upset and trying not to show it. Being called to the curator’s office at the Museum had been worrying enough but finding out that her brother was being held for questioning over the theft of a famous Van Gogh painting had sent fear chasing around her system.
“They can ... for a few more hours yet,” Evan corrected. “It’s okay Lainee ... I’m fine. We just need to show them I’m not responsible as quickly as possible so I can get out of here.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Elaine exclaimed, close to tears, “and on your birthday too!"
“I don’t think it would have gone down any better any other day Sis,” Evan pointed out gently. “Now I need you to focus okay ... go and talk to the embassy folks. Can you do that for me?”
“Of course,” Elaine pulled herself together, nodding. “I’ll be back,” she promised.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Evan noted ruefully, watching her hurry away.
The embassy sent someone to the station to talk to Lorne, an American official who reassured Evan that they were looking into his case and instructed him to cooperate fully with the Dutch police.
Elaine returned as well, looking calmer and reiterating that she was making sure he got the help he needed.
“You’ll be out of here in no time,” she promised at the end of her second allowed visit.
No time turned out to be a serious under estimate. Evan ended up being a guest of Lijnbaansgracht 219 overnight. He spent the hours of darkness interchanging between pacing the tiny room and sitting with his back against the wall glaring at the bars.
Twelve hours after he’d passed through them the doors opened to reveal the last person he would have expected to see.
Captain Andrew Rider ... Canadian air force pilot, fellow ex F-18 rookie and one of Evan’s closest friends.
“Drew?” Evan jumped up from the floor, standing back from the cell door as the police woman accompanying his friend unlocked and opened it.
“Ready to blow this joint?” Drew asked with a grin. Out of uniform, dressed in a similar style to Lorne himself, Drew still managed to look commanding.
“What do you think?” Evan shot back, moving quickly through the door, following the official with Drew walking silently beside him.
“Captain Lorne,” Inspector Smit greeted Evan, his expression open and respectful where before it had been only suspicious. “Our apologies for detaining you in this manner.”
“You finally worked out I’m not the dumbest thief on the planet?” Evan quipped sarcastically.
“The evidence against you is circumstantial at best,” Smit admitted. “We would not have been able to hold you in any case, and given your military record, brought to our attention by Captain Rider, we are willing to recount your presence at the time of the theft as merely a coincidence.”
“Lucky me,” Lorne sighed before relenting. “I appreciate that Inspector. Maybe in your place I’d have been a little suspicious too.”
“Before you leave, if you would complete a statement and sign it,” Smit requested, “it would put an end to this unfortunate incident.”
Agreeing, Evan moved to follow him across the room.
“I’ll see you outside buddy,” Drew promised.
Evan nodded, sitting down to dictate events from his point of view. It didn’t take long ... ten minutes later he was done and finishing a read through to make sure it was accurate before signing it.
“Captain?” Evan looked up from signing his statement to see Anton Lefèvre standing silently a few paces away, his expression questioning.
“Air force,” Lorne said simply.
“You should have mentioned that,” Lefèvre remonstrated.
“Why, would it have made a difference?” Evan shot back, handing over his completed paperwork and then getting up to head for the exit.
“Yes,” the Interpol agent admitted, falling into step beside him.
“What – you think servicemen can’t be thieves as well?” Lorne was being sarcastic, again probably not smart but after the last 24 hours he wasn’t in the best of moods.
“Perhaps, but it is unlikely,” Lefèvre shrugged philosophically.
“Well then next time I’m arrested for a crime I didn’t commit I’ll be sure to bring it up right at the onset.” They’d arrived at the front door and Evan gave the Frenchman a considering look. “You never told me what was stolen from the other galleries.”
“The Birth of Venus, Fishing Boats, Portrait of a Lady in Blue, and Christ as the Suffering Redeemer,” Anton reeled off the names in quick succession. “In order of when they were taken.”
“Monet’s Fishing Boats?” Evan asked in surprise.
“Yes,” Lefèvre confirmed.
“I wanted to see it,” Evan commented. “They were readying it for shipment to New York.”
“Another common theme between the robberies,” Anton nodded. “There is little doubt each is connected.”
“Well, whoever they are they’ve got good taste in art,” Lorne noted.
“Or they know what will fetch a high price,” the Interpol officer suggested.
“There is that too,” Evan agreed. “I won’t say it’s been a pleasure,” he concluded, pushing open the door and leaving the station without another word.
If he’d looked back he would have seen Lefèvre watching his retreat with a thoughtful and somewhat calculating expression.
“I’m a little surprised you didn’t tell them you were military as soon as you worked out what was going on,” Drew commented. He'd checked into the hotel as soon as they'd returned from the station and given Evan his 'space' for the remainder of the day. Now it was early evening - the three of them were sitting at a secluded table in the hotel restaurant and Drew had decided if Evan wasn't going to volunteer anything about his current mood he'd have to force it out of him. “I was all set to do some serious arguing but it only took them accessing your military record to do a complete turnaround. You could have done that the first hour you were there.”
“Yeah, well I forgot,” Evan dismissed.
“You ... forgot?” Drew shot Elaine a puzzled look.
“He’s pretending to be Mr Evan Lorne right now,” Elaine commented with a faint smile.
“What, because of what happened to John?” Drew didn’t pull his punches.
“I’m tired,” Evan got up abruptly, not wanting to have an open discussion on his state of mind. “Drew – thanks for coming. I’ll see you both in the morning.” Leaning down, Evan gave his sister a quick kiss goodnight before leaving her with his friend.
Elaine sat watching her brother walk away before turning a worried gaze to Drew.
“You were right,” Drew acknowledged, reaching across the table to cover her hand with his. “He’s got ‘mid life crisis’ written all over him.”
“You’ll talk to him?” Elaine pleaded.
“Tomorrow,” Drew promised.
Drew was all set to live up to that promise until Evan side tracked him, waking him up with a phone call early the next morning.
“I need to talk to you,” Evan said “I’m down in the lobby,” and then hung up before Drew could reply.
Frowning, Drew looked at the clock. “06:00! This better be good,” he muttered, jumping out of bed.
Five minutes later he was showered, dressed and on his way downstairs. Spotting his friend pacing around near the doors, he headed straight over.
“Evan,” he said as the other man turned to greet him.
“Drew,” Lorne greeted him with a smile and a slap on the shoulder. “Let’s walk.”
“Okay,” Drew fell into step beside him. “Could you maybe be a little less mysterious though? Because seriously, you’re starting to freak me out.”
“Sorry,” Evan said lightly. “After I left last night - sorry about that by the way - I started thinking,” he paused for a moment, “no, actually I was already thinking during that long night in jail. Anyway, something occurred to me,” he turned a serious gaze to his friend. “It’s not a fluke they suspected me Drew ... I was set up.”
“Okay ... explain it to me,” Drew invited. Evan had expected a measure of disbelief rather than quiet acceptance and it threw him for a moment.
“Ah ... sure,” he paused to collect his thoughts, leading them around the corner from the hotel to the nearest canal bridge. “Let’s just talk about the Van Gogh first. The Danish police had a tip off that something had been stolen from storage ... it came with a sketch of the outside of the museum. My sketch. The one I completed only three days before.”
“How’d they get it?” Drew asked, resting his arms on the railing and looking at the water flowing below.
“That is the question isn’t it?” Lorne agreed. “It’s possible and I don’t know how but maybe the sketch fell out of my book somehow and whoever’s behind this is an opportunist who took the chance to head the police off in the wrong direction.”
“But you don’t think that’s what happened,” Drew concluded.
“No,” Evan said simply. “I’ve been going over it in my head ... the times I didn’t have the book with me, all the people who might have seen my work. It’s a long list ... too long. I don’t exactly lock my sketch book up but I really don’t think anyone could have gotten close enough to just pick up that particular sketch - not without some careful planning. Somebody knew I’ve been sketching the outsides of art galleries. They knew I’m travelling around Europe visiting all the big ones. And they’re setting it up to make me seem like the most likely suspect. Right about now I bet they’re patting themselves on the back thinking I’ve been detained and they’re off the hook.”
“Instead you’re the one who’s off the hook,” Drew pointed out, turning and resting his back against the bridge.
“For now,” Evan agreed. “Who knows what ‘evidence’ they’ve left for the other crimes that points to me. I could get back to Italy and find myself arrested again.”
“So what do you want to do about it?” Drew asked.
“Apart from find them and beat the crap out of them for ruining my holiday?” Lorne smirked, letting his friend know he was joking ... mostly. “I don’t know. I don’t see what I can do.”
“We could turn the tables on the thieves,” Drew suggested. “Use them using you against them.”
“And how do you propose we do that?” Evan retorted, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’d like to think I’m more observant than the average Joe and I couldn’t tell you who to suspect. I’ve talked to lots of people – at the galleries, on the train, at hotels I stayed at. Never noticed anyone paying me more attention than they should have.”
“Yeah, well you’ve had a lot on your mind,” Drew pointed out, getting close to the topic he’d promised Elaine he’d talk to Evan about.
“Maybe,” Lorne excused his lack of picking up any real clues reluctantly. He didn't want to go there ... not even for Drew.
“Where were you heading next?” Drew asked.
“The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Belgium,” Lorne replied, his French pronunciation perfect. Drew would have picked him up on it if it wasn’t, being bilingual in French and English like many of his countrymen.
“Okay, so we go there as planned,” Drew proposed. “You do your usual art appreciation gig while I pretend not to know you. That way I can stake you out and see if anyone’s paying undue attention to you.”
“You’re inviting yourself along?” Lorne asked with a frown. “What about work?”
“Turns out you’re not the only one who can get an extended leave of absence,” Drew said lightly. “I’m good for as long as it takes to sort this out.”
“Thank you,” Evan said simply.
“You’ll owe me one,” Drew pointed out with a grin. “And believe me, one day I’ll collect.”
“Fair enough,” Lorne agreed. “Let’s head back to the hotel before Elaine wakes up and finds us both gone.”
“Are you going to tell her your theory?” Drew asked.
“Ah ... I guess I’ll have to, unless I can convince her to go home,” Evan replied.
“Yeah, good luck with that!” Drew shot back.
Chapter 6: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Key Date: Sunday, 25th July, 1999
“No way,” Elaine said firmly when Evan broached the subject with her later that morning. He’d told her that Amsterdam had lost all interest for him and that he was moving on the Belgium. And then he’d casually suggested that she might want to head home.
“You don’t need to look after me Lainee,” he pointed out gently. “Drew’s gonna stick around for a while – I won’t be alone.”
“No,” Elaine said again, folding her arms stubbornly across her chest in a gesture that reminded Evan too much of himself.
“Why not?” he persisted.
“Because something’s up with that whole robbery thing and I’m not leaving you to get arrested again,” Elaine retorted. “Whatever plan you and Drew cooked up this morning will have to include me.”
“You ...,” Evan trailed off, speechless.
“I’m not stupid Evan,” Elaine pointed out somewhat smugly. “When two air force pilots go out walking at 6am it’s not to hold hands and see the sights!”
“Right,” Evan just barely stopped himself from squirming uncomfortably.
“So what’s the plan?” Elaine asked, letting him off the hook with grace.
Evan knew there was nothing he’d be able to do to dissuade her. She was a free woman and he couldn’t stop her from tagging along even without his approval. Giving in, he filled her in on his theory and the strategy Drew had suggested.
“So we have to pretend we don’t know Drew?” Elaine seemed troubled by that. Of all the details she could have questioned, Evan was surprised that was the one she’d targeted.
“Unfortunately yes,” he agreed. “It’s just for this next leg ... hopefully we won’t need to do this for longer than that. Drew will be fine by himself.”
“Wait a minute,” Elaine frowned. “How do we know they’ll follow you to Belgium? Won’t they be expecting you to be detained here?”
“Good point,” Evan thought for a moment. “Either way it doesn’t matter,” he finally decided. “If they’re watching us then they know the police let me off – for whatever reason. If not then we’re out of it in which case we have no choice but to continue as we would have. I’m not letting them chase me out of Europe.”
“And we don’t know which it will be,” she concluded.
“Not yet,” Evan agreed. “The safest thing we can do is assume they are watching us. Seeing me free they’ll probably assume that sketch wasn’t enough to pin a robbery on me. That’s what I’d think anyway, and I’d only be more determined that my chosen scapegoat looked even guiltier.”
“Meaning more thefts and more evidence pointing to them,” Elaine finished.
“Exactly,” he shrugged. “It’s gonna be tense for a while but I think if nothing happens in Belgium we can probably conclude I’m off the hook. To be honest I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.”
“Why?” Elaine frowned in confusion.
“Because then we’ll never know who was behind this,” Evan said simply. “And with whatever evidence they’ve contrived since they first decided I’d make a good target still out there this could come back and bite me down the track.”
“It could,” Elaine agreed worriedly. “Okay then ... let’s do it.”
After so many long legs in his journey, travelling to Brussels was a welcome change. At just under three hours it was by far the shortest trip Evan had made across Europe so far.
He’d grown fond of train travel ... the steady, continual motion, being able to walk freely from one compartment to another, as well as views of the surrounding countryside he wouldn’t have seen otherwise. He didn’t think Elaine would be won over anytime soon but then, it was his big adventure not hers so he tried not to feel guilty about that.
This journey was made difficult by the simple fact that Drew was on board too ... Evan had passed him in the corridor once as well as seen him when they were both getting coffee and been forced to pretend the other man was a total stranger. Thank god the journey was such a short one ... Lorne didn’t think he’d be able to resist the urge to burst out laughing if he had to put up with Drew’s deliberately pompous ‘you’re too far beneath me to be noticed’ expression much longer than that.
At Brussels Station South Evan led his sister from the train, not noticing her wistful glance back as he focussed on his map.
“It’s about a half hour walk from here to the Musée des Beaux-Arts,” he told her. “Are you okay for that or do you want to find somewhere to rest first?”
“No, let’s go straight there,” Elaine insisted, shouldering her own small pack easily and grabbing her brother’s arm. “So this is us, just acting normal,” she commented with a weak chuckle.
“Yeah. If normal ever involves trying to outsmart an art thief we’re gold,” Evan replied, glancing down at her with a sudden frown. “You sure you’re okay with this? It’s not too late to go home.”
“I’m okay,” she said firmly. “Now, since I chose the last hotel I’ll let you choose this time. As long as it’s somewhere nicer than the one in St. Petersburg.”
“Hey - I liked that place,” Evan pretended to be insulted.
“And it was perfect for you,” Elaine said loftily. “I require something with just a little more ... class.”
“Watch it missy,” he teased, “or you’ll be staying somewhere by yourself.” It was an empty threat - they both knew he’d never let her stay anywhere without him, even without the increased tension of chasing an art thief.
“Is Drew following us right now?” Elaine couldn’t resist asking the most obvious question any longer.
“He better be,” Evan returned. Catching his sister’s look of concern he rephrased. “He’s pretty good but I spotted him a block back. He’s on our tail and travelling nicely so stop worrying.”
“I wasn’t ...,” she trailed off when he looked at her with a raised brow. “Okay, fine, I was worrying.”
“He can take care of himself,” Evan reminded her.
“I know, but that doesn’t mean he should have to,” she pointed out.
“True,” Evan narrowed his eyes as he wondered for the first time just how close his sister had gotten to Drew since their first meeting. Drew had stopped by to tell her about John personally and Elaine had known how to reach him fast enough to have him on a plane and across two continents within twelve hours. For a moment Evan considered questioning her but then decided it wasn’t the time.
They walked in silence for a while, each taking in the feel of a new place. “There it is,” Evan pointed across the street to a large building. The main entrance put him in mind of the White House with its multiple columns framing the large door. They crossed the street and walked up the stairs, lining up at the front desk to check their packs as was the usual practice.
As Evan watched the security guard placing his and Elaine’s packs in a portable trolley, handing him a small numbered token in exchange, a new possibility occurred to him. Like most museums the Musée des Beaux-Arts didn’t allow its visitors to carry anything beyond the usual handbags inside the museum. The procedure there was to attach a number to the bags patrons checked at the desk. If you knew what to watch for you could potentially observe the number assigned to a particular visitor. Make yourself a set of the right tokens and you could claim any bag you wanted, relying on the fact that the volume of bag traffic at the desk was enough for the guards not to recognise that you weren’t the person who’d checked a bag in.
Maybe that’s how they’d done it – the ones behind the theft of Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow House’. Thinking back Evan remembered that he’d taken a small bag into the museum in Amsterdam – the afternoon of his first visit. He’d intended to do some sketching and had thrown his sketch book, pencils and a few other items into his bag, checking it at the front desk as usual.
He didn’t know for sure but it seemed the most likely way for the thief to have gotten hold of his sketch. Which meant they’d been watching him pretty closely ... a thought that sent both dread and anger running through him. On the plus side, if that had been their method then Drew would have something to observe as he too watched Evan and Elaine closely.
“What’s your must see here?” Elaine asked curiously as they moved away from the desk and inside the museum.
“Bruegel’s Fall of Icarus,” Evan replied distractedly, discretely looking around while trying to look like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“What’s so special about this one?” she asked, drawing his attention back to her.
“Its reverse ekphrasis,” Evan explained as he led them up the stairs and turned right, heading for the Museum of Ancient Art. Rather than just one museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts was actually comprised of four separate museums, two of which were contained within the main building, the others located further out in the city.
“And that means?” Elaine prompted him. Although she’d studied art in more depth than her brother, her area of interest was Modern Art. ‘Art’ as a subject was so broad it was impossible for anyone to know it all. If it was painted before the mid 1800’s Evan was more likely to know the details than she was.
“Sorry ... rather than verbal text describing a work of art, Bruegel used art to describe literature – Ovid’s Metamorphoses in this case,” he explained. They walked down a long gallery containing works from the 16th century until he saw it ... “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”, painted sometime around 1558.
“It’s the story of Daedalus and his son,” Evan said as he looked at the painting closely. “You know it ... or a version of it anyway. Daedalus was an inventor of sorts who got locked up in a tower to protect the secrets he’d learned. To escape he constructed a pair of wings, using wax and string and made a smaller set for his young son, Icarus. He warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun because the wax would melt but the thrill of flying was too much for the boy. He got too close, the wax melted and he fell into the sea and to his death.”
Elaine frowned at the picture for a moment. It was familiar to her but she’d never studied it closely before or considered the story behind it. “So – where’s Icarus then?” she asked curiously.
Evan pointed to the tiny figure under the sun, falling to the sea trailing fire.
“But he’s hardly visible!” Elaine protested. “Why call it the fall of Icarus when if you didn’t know the story you’d never notice him?”
“It’s Bruegel’s interpretation of the entire story,” Evan explained. “Ovid mentions the ploughman, shepherd and fisherman as well – all holding useful implements crucial to their livelihood. Making them central and Icarus barely visible was Bruegel’s way of placing greater value on the renewal of nature than he did on Daedalus altering nature artificially by creating mechanical flight in the form of bird wings.” Evan paused, glancing down at his sister to see her looking at the painting intently. “No plough stands still just because a man dies,” he said softly.
When Elaine turned to look at him, he explained. “Bruegel read a lot of biblical literature and often painted to common proverbs. That’s the one he was believed to be thinking of when he painted this. The three intent on their work while behind them Icarus fell to his death.” He sighed. "Life goes on."
“And that’s why it’s on your list,” Elaine concluded softly, taking his hand and squeezing it comfortingly.
“I guess,” Evan admitted.
They both turned to look at the painting, standing silently and just letting the story and what it meant to each of them wash over their minds. Eventually Evan roused himself, nudging Elaine with his elbow.
“You need to go look at your art,” he said in a low tone, reluctant and yet purposeful. He didn’t want to be separated from his sister, worried that somehow she’d be in danger alone even though it seemed he was the target.
“You’re right,” Elaine replied. She didn’t move though, clinging tightly to his arm now.
“I’ll be fine,” he reassured her. “I’m not alone ... remember?”
“Be careful,” she said before breaking away and heading for the stairs leading back to the Museum of Modern Art.
Evan watched her go before resolutely turning back to Bruegel’s Icarus. Now that Elaine had left him he found it difficult to get into the art ... instead he made a play at pretending to behave as he had at the other galleries, all the while wondering which, if any, of the other patrons was the one watching him.
After a suitable amount of time had gone by Lorne left Ancient Art behind and went searching for his sister. Regrouping in the lobby they claimed their bags and walked unhurriedly from the Museum back the way they’d come.
Half an hour later Evan and Elaine had checked into a simple hotel suite big enough for them and Drew, and were sitting down to talk about their morning when a knock sounded at the door.
“Drew,” Elaine said, jumping up quickly.
Evan beat her to it, looking out the spy hole before nodding and stepping back to let her open the door.
“Anything?” Evan asked as soon as the other man was inside the suite and the door closed behind him.
“Unless you count an increased knowledge of that Bruegel guy’s motivations for painting a farmer no,” Drew quipped back. Sitting down, he smiled as Elaine sat beside him before directing his attention back to Evan.
Lorne stood near the window, glancing out at the view of the street below before turning his attention back to his companions. They looked ... close, even though there was a respectable gap between them. Putting his concerns aside, he focussed on the issue at hand. “So either no one’s watching me or they’re really good at staying hidden ... or they’ve got another way of tracking me. Either way we’re still in the dark here.”
“So what do we do now?” Elaine asked, leaning forward and angling herself so she could look at both men.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Evan grinned across at Drew.
“Catch them in the act?” Drew suggested.
“Exactly,” Lorne replied. “I’ll go back to the museum this afternoon and do the customary sketch before I go back inside. You see if you can source a floor plan for the museum, just enough so we know roughly where they store the works not on display. Then from tomorrow night we stake it out ... if they run true to form they should be hitting the museum within the next couple of days.”
“And what about me?” Elaine asked pointedly.
“You go and do ... girl things,” Evan replied, hurrying into speech when it looked like she was going to protest. “We can’t afford to suddenly start acting differently Elaine,” he said seriously. “What would you be doing this afternoon if we were still in the dark about the robberies?”
“Staying with you?” she tried hopefully. He just stood with a raised brow, saying nothing, waiting for her to come to the right conclusion on her own. “Fine,” Elaine gave in abruptly. “I’d be checking out the shops and looking up what the best local tourist attractions are.”
“Right – so you do that, Drew looks for the plans and I go and sketch,” Evan summarised. “Simple.” Not waiting for protests he headed for the door, saying over his shoulder “I don’t know about you guys but hunting art thieves is hungry business. I’m going downstairs to find some food.”
“So ... how long have you been in love with my sister?” Evan’s voice was low in the silence of the car Drew had hired the day before. They’d stuck with the plan and were on their second night of staking out the eastern corner of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, parking in an alleyway across the street out of sight but still with a clear line on the section of the museum where the undisplayed works were kept.
“Since the day I met her I think,” Drew didn’t try to pretend he didn’t know what Evan was talking about.
“You weren’t just ‘in the area’ after John’s funeral,” Evan stated that fact, his tone still giving no indication of how he felt about the situation.
“No,” Drew admitted, squinting in the darkened car in an attempt to see Evan’s expression. “I heard about your abrupt departure and I knew she’d be worried ...,” he paused for a moment. “And I needed to see her ... needed to talk to her about John.”
Evan said nothing, the silence beginning to feel more than a little weighty as Drew wondered what the hell he was thinking. “You’re angry,” he finally said.
“No,” Evan denied. “You’re a good man Drew ... I just .... I want more for my sister than to spend her life waiting hopefully for someone who might not be coming home.”
“Not everyone ends up like John,” Drew returned, just a little exasperated even though he understood what was driving his friend.
“Elaine’s already lost a lot in her life Drew,” Evan ignored the comment. “I don’t want to see her grieving like that again.”
“Is that why you broke it off with Steph?” Drew asked intently.
“It wasn’t a ‘forever’ thing,” Lorne said dismissively. “We both knew that going in.”
“Yeah, except she did the unthinkable and fell in love with you,” Drew shot back.
“That was a long time ago now ... and besides, this isn’t about me,” Evan retorted irritably, not wanting to go there.
“No,” Drew argued. “I think this is about you. Why you broke it off with Steph when I’m pretty sure she wasn’t the only one in love, why you’re having a mid life crisis over what happened to John, and why you don’t want me involved with your sister.”
“You haven’t lost someone you loved so don’t sit there like you know what the hell it’s like!” Evan returned, his voice echoing harshly in the confines of the car. Calming only slightly he continued. “My Mom was broken after my Dad died ... I remember what she was like before so I know she was never the same after. She lost something ... her spirit ... her nerve ... a piece of herself ... something. Now she’ll talk about being out there seeing the things she’s always dreamed of seeing when we all know she’ll never do it.” His breathing echoed harshly in the enclosed space as he struggled to calm down. “I won’t do that to someone ... and I won’t see it done to Elaine.” The quiet purposeful tone was like a knife after his passionate outburst.
“You were ten,” Drew said gently. “Trying to cope with your own grief as well as all the changes that had to take place. Don’t you think that maybe your memory might be flawed ... that’s a lot for anyone to handle, let alone someone so young.”
The knock on the window startled them, both too absorbed in their conversation to pay enough attention to what was going on outside the vehicle.
Evan looked out and then groaned. “Perfect,” he muttered under his breath, winding down the window. “Yes Officer?” he asked the uniformed man standing beside his door.
“Is there a problem here gentlemen?” the officer asked, the implied ‘what the hell are you doing here in the middle of the night?’ clear but unspoken.
“Ah ... no Sir,” Evan shot Drew a quick glance before continuing. “We were just ... admiring the Musée des Beaux-Arts ... it really is a beautiful piece of architecture isn’t it, particularly at night.” He’d considered for a nanosecond telling the man the truth – that they were attempting to catch a thief – but discounted any chance he’d actually believe them.
Drew swallowed down the urge to laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation. He was glad it was Evan doing the talking though – there was no way he could have said something like that as sincerely as his friend had.
The officer looked at both men for a moment, assessing their open, honest expressions. “Of course,” he finally said. “I’ll have to ask you to leave now ... loitering in the area is prohibited.” He paused again, meeting Evan’s eyes sternly. “If I see you around here again there will be several questions I’ll be compelled to ask.”
Evan nodded, the unspoken message clear. The policeman was suspicious but prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt ... a privilege he’d revoke if they came back. “Thank you Officer,” he said respectfully, reaching for the keys and turning on the engine.
“Gentlemen,” the officer stepped back to let Evan drive slowly forward, obviously intending to wait until they’d left.
“Well ... that went well,” Drew concluded as they exited the alleyway.
Evan said nothing, driving them silently back to the hotel car park. He remained silent until they were getting out of the car. “For the record, I wasn’t in love with Steph Riley,” he said insistently.
“Only because you wouldn’t let yourself go that far,” Drew retorted.
“So you’re saying it’s possible to stop yourself from falling all the way, even if it’s the right person?” Evan asked.
“I’m saying ...,” Drew stopped, realising where his friend was going. If he said yes then Evan would immediately come back with a request that he stop whatever it was he was doing with Elaine. “Nice try,” he complimented. “I never really thought about it before but since you ask maybe I have to conclude that Steph wasn’t the right girl for you.”
He pushed the button for the lift back to the ground floor, getting in first when the doors opened. They rode the lift silently, Drew not speaking again until they were inside their suite and he was standing outside his room. “Either that or you’re more miserable than even I gave you credit for,” he finished, leaving Evan standing there staring after him.
Chapter 7: The Storm
Key Date: Wednesday, 28th July, 1999
“This isn’t working,” Evan said grimly, pacing his hotel room with Elaine and Drew looking on from their places on the couch. It was very early the next morning and they'd congregated in the lounge area to discuss their progress. “We’re dealing with professionals here and we’re just blindly stumbling around in the dark!”
“What do you suggest then?” Drew asked placatingly.
“The hell if I know,” Evan retorted, moving to his favourite spot by the windows. Sighing he turned to look at his companions. “I’m sorry ... this entire situation is beyond frustrating.”
“It is,” Elaine got up and came over to him, touching his arm lightly. “Are we still convinced this is all a set up? Maybe it really was a coincidence,” Elaine suggested hopefully.
“Twice is a coincidence” Evan replied grimly. “Five times is a carefully constructed master plan.”
“Evan’s right,” Drew agreed. “There’s no way this can be anything other than a set up.”
“But we’re not going to find them like this,” Evan concluded, leading Elaine back to the couch and sitting down across from her. “The only other thing I can think of is leaving immediately ... if they’re not expecting that we might be able to lose them.”
“I thought you said you weren’t going to let them chase you out of Europe?” Elaine accused.
“I’m not,” Evan returned, smiling suddenly at her irritation on his behalf. “But there are a lot of art galleries I haven’t been to ... if they don’t see me leaving the chances of them finding me at one of them go down drastically.”
“And then what?” Elaine persisted. “You just forget you were set up?”
“Of course not, but I’m not willing to be somebody’s pawn here,” Evan shot back. “We need some breathing space ... without anyone looking over our shoulders. Then we can work out a smarter plan.”
“Okay – where to then?” Drew asked casually, his question making it clear he had every intention of tagging along.
“I was going to go to Germany next,” Evan said. “That’d be the predictable thing to do. But we’re close to England so I reckon we go there instead.”
“Sounds good to me – I always wanted to see Big Ben,” Drew quipped.
“And the London Bridge,” Elaine smiled at Drew, appreciating his levity.
“Okay, England it is,” Evan decided, getting up. “Pack your stuff guys ... we’re catching the next train out of here.”
Another short journey was between the three travellers and their next destination. This time there was no pretence that Drew was a stranger ... half an hour after deciding to leave Brussels they were on the 7:30am train, tired enough that conversation was minimal as each appeared lost in self reflection.
Lorne hadn't forgotten Drew's cutting words from the night before ... but he was ignoring them, focussing instead on his annoyance with their current situation. As he looked out the window at the concrete of the Channel Tunnel passing by at high speed he found himself wondering what had happened at the Musée des Beaux-Arts after their abrupt exit. Had the theives struck again or had the presence of the police put them off? That was certainly a question he wanted an answer to but the biggest question by far, the one that had been eating at him since Amsterdam, was why him? What had painted the big target on his back that said 'art thief stooge here'? Lorne promised himself grimly that as soon as he caught up with the culprits - no room for doubt that he wouldn't - he'd be sure to ask them.
Sighing, Evan turned his attention from the window back to his companions. He'd noticed the looks exchanged between Drew and his sister as they got ever closer to English soil ... and chose to ignore them too. He might not want the kind of future it seemed his sister was heading for but there was nothing he could do to stop her from wanting to at least allow it as a possibility. And in the end, if the two did end up together he couldn’t withhold his approval. His friendship with Andrew Rider was important to him, sure, but his relationship with his sister was much more than that – it was crucial. Whatever the future held Evan knew he’d find a way to live with it.
Three hours after embarking Drew led them from the train at St. Pancras International station in London. It was still Europe but the bustling city had a different vibe to the other places Evan had visited recently. Edgier ... more hurried ... with the feel of a place hiding a large population and a colourful history of secrets.
“Let’s find somewhere to stay,” Evan proposed once they were out in the street.
“Breaking with tradition?” Elaine asked lightly.
“Tradition?” Drew queried, looking between the siblings quizzically.
“Evan always goes straight from the train to the gallery housing the work that drew him there,” Elaine explained. “This time it’d be something from Turner’s watercolours.” She looked at her brother with a faint smile. “Am I right?”
“I didn’t realise I’d gotten so predictable,” Evan muttered, spotting a taxi stand and heading straight for it. Drew and Elaine followed, Elaine clearly still waiting for her answer. “Yes you’re right," Evan admitted, "although to be accurate I always head in the direction of the gallery I want to see – most of the time I find somewhere to stay before I actually go there.”
“I don’t mind walking if you want to do that here,” Elaine suggested.
“Are you sure?” Evan looked at his sister, concerned at how tired she appeared. “It’s probably at least an hour’s walk from here and none of us got much sleep last night.”
“Then we find something about half way,” she smiled. Breaking out of the line waiting for a taxi she started walking. “Are you coming?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Yes,” Evan caught up, putting a hand on each of her shoulders and pulling her to a stop. Gently swinging her around, he grinned. “But it’s this way,” he pointed in the opposite direction to the one she’d taken.
“Oh,” Elaine laughed. “Fine, so following a map isn’t exactly my strong suit.”
“You’ll do,” Evan wrapped his arm around her shoulder, getting them moving again. When he was level with where Drew stood waiting he let her go, taking the lead and trusting the other man to stick with Elaine. Maybe it was subtle but he wasn't quite ready to declare his approval yet.
It might have seemed risky to just pick a place to stay off the cuff without a reservation but Evan had found there were enough small hotels in every city to find something appropriate. Given that they were trying to be unpredictable that approach might even have worked in their favour - although it hadn't stopped Evan ending up in the situation he was now in. Relying on a random selection of accomodation worked just as well in London as it had elsewhere and Lorne gratefully checked in at the Crown Regent Hotel, again choosing a suite big enough for the three of them to stay together. He was tired after only a few hours sleep the prior night but he couldn’t settle, pacing around the living area restlessly as his sister looked on.
“Go,” she urged him abruptly.
“What?” Evan frowned.
“Go see the picture you wanted to come here for,” Elaine expanded. “I’m just going to go lie down in my room anyway. There’s nothing for you to do here ... Drew can go with you.”
“To be honest I’d rather stay here and kick back for a while,” Drew countered. “I know you guys are big on the whole art appreciation thing but I don’t know enough about it to be good company – especially when I’m tired.”
“Too refined for you buddy?” Evan teased. Drew just rolled his eyes, not rising to the bait. “Okay ... I’ll go,” Evan decided. “You guys get some rest ... in separate rooms.”
“Evan!” Elaine blushed as his meaning became clear. Drew had mentioned during a brief moment when they'd been alone that her brother knew about their burgeoning relationship but she hadn’t seen anything to indicate how Evan felt about it until then. Not that his comment said anything about how he felt ... Elaine would probably have to confront him head on to get him to admit to anything but she knew her brother well enough to make a good guess on what he'd be thinking.
Evan shrugged unrepentantly, exchanging a glance with Drew that had the two understanding each other. Drew would protect his sister ... it was as simple as that. Leaving them alone, Lorne walked down the sidewalk, following the sequence of directions he’d memorised on the way to London.
The Tate Britain was the national gallery of British art, housing amongst other things the most extensive collection of watercolours painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Turner was equally well known for his oils but Evan was more interested in his watercolour landscapes, and in particular one titled The Storm.
From what he’d read, the artist had experienced the storm and subsequent shipwreck depicted in the painting first hand, having himself lashed to the mast for four hours in a deluge he’d felt some fear of surviving, because he wanted to show the viewer what such a scene was really like. That level of realism had rewards ... Turner was acknowledged as unrivalled when it came to the depiction of the natural forces of ocean, storm and rain. Where others struggled to make their seas more than lifeless contrivances of the real thing, Turner’s ocean had movement ... the rhythm and weight of the waves, the disorderly deluge of rain falling ... all rendered with startling brilliance. The power of nature itself had captivated Turner and forced him into a new means of expression in his efforts to capture it as art.
Walking along Millbank, adjacent to the Thames, Lorne passed Westminster Bridge and the Victoria Tower Gardens before he caught sight of the Gallery in the distance. Outwardly its facade was not dissimilar to the Musée des Beaux-Arts ... a square entrance jutting out from the main building with large columns supporting its rooftop.
This time he’d brought nothing with him, just his wallet and the mobile phone Elaine had given him that he'd grown accustomed to stashing in his jacket pocket. Taking a floor plan from the main desk he opened it and scanned it quickly before heading to the second floor and the specially built Clore Gallery that housed the entire Turner Collection.
He found The Storm after searching for some time, standing back a few steps to consider the painting he’d only seen in books. It was another one of those times when seeing it for real made you realise how little pictures in a book conveyed. The waves leapt from the paper, their height and fury easily felt, as was the predicament of the ship caught up in the urgency of the storm. It was a tense scene and Evan could feel that tension rising as his eyes tracked the various aspects of the composition.
In a way he could identify with that little ship, caught up in a stormy sea with no real control over direction or where he might end up. Someone else’s hand held the reigns ... be it the forces of nature as in the picture, or the unseen menace of an enemy who’d chosen him for no apparent reason.
Given the circumstances he hadn’t been sure he’d even be able to appreciate what he was seeing but thankfully that proved not to be the case. As he left The Storm and continued on through the thousands of Turner watercolours displayed at the Tate, Evan found himself forgetting his woes and losing himself in another time and place.
That was until he caught sight of someone familiar out of the corner of his eye and snapped back to reality abruptly. Keeping himself in check Lorne pretended to continue his tour of the collection, spending another hour walking through each room before deciding that would be enough to not arouse suspicion. Walking down the stairs back to the ground floor Evan made a play of checking his watch before leaving the gallery and heading back to his hotel.
He led his shadow all the way there, only able to catch sight of him here and there because he knew he was being followed. Inside the hotel lobby he moved quickly to the windows, standing out of sight as he watched the figure stop outside the hotel, wait for a minute or so and then turn back the way they’d come.
Waiting a few moments more, Evan exited the lobby again, turning the tables and becoming the shadow himself. He followed the man across the street and around the corner, walking far enough back that he almost lost him a couple of times. Finally they arrived at another hotel where the man walked in, Evan on his heels. Inside the hotel, similar in appearance and decor to the one Evan was staying at, Lorne stopped, scanning the room looking for his target.
There ... taking a seat at the bar.
Evan silently made his way over, sitting down on the next stool. The man paid him no notice until Evan spoke. “You’re a long way from home Mr Lefèvre,” Lorne said conversationally. “Here to pick up a Turner reproduction?”
“Mr ... my apologies ... Captain Lorne,” Anton recovered quickly from the surprise of having his target make him.
“Why are you following me?” Evan got to the point up front.
“For the same reason I had them bring you in for questioning in Amsterdam,” Anton replied, no hint of guilt apparent.
“Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me!” Evan regarded the Interpol agent with an incredulous look. “They let me go – surely that tells you I’ve got nothing to do with these thefts.”
“I did not say you were responsible Captain,” Lefèvre pointed out. “In fact I believe you to be innocent of any wrong doing. But the fact remains that you are connected to these crimes. I have ... struggled to apprehend these particular thieves for a number of years. Your involvement provides the best lead in some time ... there was no other choice but for me to keep a close eye on your movements.”
“You’re using me to get to them,” Evan concluded angrily. “What gives you the right to do that?”
“Come now Captain,” Anton actually smiled. “I’ve had the opportunity since our last meeting to study your background. You are no happier that the real culprits remain free than I am. Perhaps now that you are aware of my presence we can come to an arrangement.”
“What kind of arrangement?” Evan demanded suspiciously.
“One that will advantage both of us,” the other man replied. “I made sure it was known before I left Belgium that you were headed to London. We can use that.”
“You what?” Evan could feel the anger starting to rise inside as he glared at the Frenchman. “You put my sister and my friend back into the mix with no regard for any of us!”
“Ten years Captain,” Lefèvre countered grimly. “Ten years I have chased them, through numerous calculated sprees spanning months, unable to get close enough to prove their guilt.”
“You know who’s behind all of this?” Anger was sidetracked as Evan realised what the other man was saying.
“I believe so,” Anton admitted. “But never is there proof to link them to the scenes ... despite my best efforts I have been unable to convince my superiors to act in this manner based on my word alone.”
“Hence your need to catch them in the act,” Evan shook his head.
“Yes,” Anton nodded. “With any luck the thieves will take the opportunity to implicate you further ... I will tag them much as they have tagged you and finally get the proof I need to be vindicated.”
“We already tried that,” Evan admitted. “Staked out the museum in Brussels. They never showed.”
“They did,” Lefèvre countered, “and stole Gossaert’s Venus and Cupid from the museum only hours after you and your friend were kindly asked to leave.”
“Damn it!” Evan slammed a palm down on the bar in frustration. That was that question answered!
“My thoughts exactly,” Anton agreed, raising his glass and taking a large mouthful of what looked like scotch.
“Okay,” Evan said abruptly. “I’ll help you ... but we keep my sister well clear of this. And you tell me everything. I want to know about the previous thefts and I want to see pictures of these people you think are behind the whole thing.”
“I will send to the Paris office for my files,” Anton promised. “In the mean time, please, go about your business as you would normally. I will do the rest.”
“That doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence Mr Lefèvre,” Evan said sarcastically.
“Anton, please,” the Interpol officer replied.
“Right ... Anton,” Evan sighed. “Okay, tell me what you can recall without your files. How many paintings are we talking about here?”
Settling back Lorne listened to the catalogue of regular criminal activity spanning years and covering many works he’d even heard of. Whatever he'd gotten him into it was bigger and a lot more serious than he'd imagined. Spying the time and realising suddenly that Elaine and Drew were probably concerned about him, Evan interrupted.
“Listen, I have to get back to the hotel before they start worrying about me,” he said. “How can I get in touch with you?”
Anton pulled out a business card with ‘Interpol’ and his name inscribed in small text. On the back was a hand written mobile phone number. “This will reach me, day or night,” he instructed.
“Okay,” Evan took the card and tucked it in his jacket pocket. “So ... act normally.”
“Yes,” Anton smiled. “And call me if anything unusual happens.”
“These days that’s a little hard to distinguish,” Evan said sharply. Getting up he met the other man’s eyes. “Leave a message at the hotel when you get those pictures,” he said before turning and walking away.
Elaine watched her brother leave for the gallery, turning worried eyes to Drew as the door closed softly behind him. "He didn't need this," she said simply.
"No," Drew agreed, moving forward to take her hands. Drawing her into his arms he hugged her close, resting his chin on her head when she settled in with a sigh.
It still surprised Elaine how easily they'd gone from the occasional phone call shared since their first meeting to the easy familiarity they had now. Although maybe it shouldn't ... the few days Drew had spent in LA when he'd come to tell her about John had been a crash course for both of them on each other, on what they could be together ... on the attraction that existed between them and where it might lead. Drew might not have been in Europe when John's plane had gone down, he hadn't been part of the search or recovery teams like her brother had, but that didn't mean he wasn't equally troubled by the loss of a friend. It was something they'd all have to deal with - the six friends who'd started fighter pilot training together with John - and Elaine was hopeful that she'd helped Drew with his own personal journey there.
Like she wanted to help Evan. Sadly, her brother gave a whole new meaning to the word 'stubborn' - he wasn't making it easy for her. After a few moments she laughed suddenly, pulling away to look up at Drew. "I can't believe he actually said that about separate rooms."
"He just wants to protect you," Drew said lightly, his attitude making it clear he didn't have a problem with that.
"I know," Elaine sighed, turning and moving to sit on the couch. "He hasn't worked out yet that protecting me isn't his job anymore."
"He loves you," Drew sat down beside her. "And I'm pretty sure being a big brother isn't a job you ever get done with."
"Maybe," Elaine frowned for a moment before continuing. "Evan's always been too big on responsibility - on thinking that it's down to him if things don't go according to plan. Maybe it was always in him to be that way but when Dad died it only got worse." She looked at Drew a little apologetically. "The reasons for him doing this trip are tragic but in a way it almost makes me hopeful - he actually took a step back and did something for himself that wasn't about being responsible or what he thinks everyone expects him to be."
"As long as he doesn't take it too far," Drew reminded her of her concerns.
"Exactly," she said with a smile. "So ... what did Evan say when he asked about us?"
"Ah ...," Drew shifted uncomfortably. Just because he'd admitted to her brother that his feelings went as deep as they could go didn't mean he was ready to tell her the same. "He just wanted to know what was going on between us."
"And what did you tell him?" Elaine looked at him expectantly, her eyes like dark, mysterious pools drawing him in.
"What would you want me to tell him?" he turned it back on her teasingly, his eyes intent as he raised a hand to cup the side of her face.
"That you're hot for me," she laughed when Drew's brows rose in surprise. "Seriously, it's not Evan's concern. Unless you feel like you need his approval."
"No," Drew pulled her closer and kissed her, gentle and slow. Pulling away, he added "and I think we've talked about Evan more than enough for the time being." Moving in he kissed her again, this time more purposeful ... the beginning of discovering each other on a more intimate level.
Elaine felt that same connection she thought she'd only imagined the first time they'd met ... the one that only seemed stronger the more time she spent wth Drew. It pulled her in, had her forgetting everything but him and what he was making her feel. There was a lot of ground between 'separate rooms' and nothing at all and Drew seemed intent on exploring that to the fullest extent, with Elaine a more than willing accomplice.
Thanks to MackenziesMomma for the request on writing alone time for Drew and Elaine. Lastly, I made up the Crown Regent Hotel - if there is one it's entirely coincidental. Hope everyone is still enjoying this story.
Chapter 8: Ophelia
Key Date: Monday, 26th July, 1999
“They hit the Musée des Beaux-Arts,” Evan told Drew as soon as he walked in the door of their suite and saw his friend sitting on the couch with Elaine.
“Evan!” his sister rushed forward, relieved to see him returned.
“Where’ve you been?” Drew demanded accusingly. It had been hours since Lorne had left ... time enough for he and Elaine to emerge from their romantic haze and begin worrying about him.
“The Tate gallery ... where I ran into my new friend Anton Lefèvre of Interpol,” Evan revealed. “Turns out he’s using me too ... to get to the thieves who’ve apparently been doing this kind of thing for ten years.” Evan pulled put his wallet and phone and dropped them on a side table impatiently. “That’s not the best part though,” he said, facing the others with his arms folded across his chest. “That would be Lefèvre following us to Brussels and then here, making sure to tell everyone along the way where we are.”
“They know we’re in London,” Drew concluded grimly.
“In all likelihood,” Evan confirmed. “Lefèvre’s trying our plan ... following me to see if he can spot the bad guys. The only good news is that he has suspects ... he just needs proof that they’re guilty.”
“What are you going to do?” Elaine asked worriedly.
“Play along,” Evan shrugged. “Not much else I can do since he’s gonna follow me regardless. It’s not like he needs my approval.”
“We could just go home,” Elaine suggested meekly.
“We could,” Evan agreed mildly, “and I’d be feeling a lot better if you guys did just that.”
“But you’re staying,” Drew knew his friend too well to think otherwise.
“I have to,” Lorne insisted. “I can’t let them get away with this ... and them using me is apparently the best lead Interpol has had for a while.”
“Then we're staying too,” Elaine declared.
“Yeah, I kind of thought you’d say that,” Evan ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "And I suppose telling you it'll be easier if I don't have to worry about you isn't gonna sway you?"
"We're not leaving you here to deal with this alone," Elaine insisted, Evan not missing this time her instinctive use of 'we' instead of 'I'. As an announcement of where his sister's relationship with Drew stood, that was a pretty big red flag.
"Not your call," Evan reminded himself internally. Still, whether his sister stayed or not should be, given the trouble was squarely fixed on him. “Can’t you talk to her?” he asked Drew pointedly.
“Me?” Drew’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “What do you think I can do?”
“If you’re gonna get involved with my sister then you need to learn how to persuade her to do what’s best for her,” Evan didn’t look at Elaine as he said that, sure that angry steam would be shooting from her ears.
“I’m smart enough to not even get near that one buddy,” Drew said on a harsh laugh. “And she’s mature enough to make her own decisions.”
“And talk on her own behalf,” Elaine’s voice was icy as she pinned her brother with an angry glare. “I’m staying and that’s that.” Not waiting for a response she turned and stalked from the room.
“You sure you want to take that on,” Evan quipped, watching her leave.
“Oh yeah,” Drew grinned. “You giving me your approval?”
“She has,” Evan replied, the implications clear. His sister had apparently made her choice and there was nothing Evan could do but support that.
“Thanks buddy,” Drew clapped a hand to Lorne’s shoulder exuberantly.
“You hurt her, I hunt you down and make you regret it for the rest of your life,” Evan promised, pinning his friend with an intense gaze.
“Right,” Drew frowned, trying to decide if he was serious or not.
Evan’s gaze never wavered. He was serious.
Anton didn’t contact Lorne about the suspect pictures or the files he was waiting for from Paris, but he did request a meeting with Evan and Drew two days after they’d arrived in London.
“I believe they will hit the museum tonight,” he began when Evan and Drew sat down with him at a local coffee shop. “With your assistance we can get the evidence needed and bring them to justice.”
“Another stake out?” Drew queried.
“Having studied their usual patterns as well as observing their brief periods of surveillance on Captain Lorne these past two days I am convinced I can apprehend them tonight ... as long as we cover all available escape routes.”
"What about your own people?" Evan asked, expecting that Interpol would send the other man backup as he closed in on the culprits.
"Interpol is chiefly a coordinating organisaton," Anton reminded them with a casual shrug. "At best we would tap into the resources of local law enforcement. I believe we would be better off keeping this as simple as possible ... you and Captain Rider are already fully briefed on the situation and have the skills required."
Lorne nodded, frowning as he considered the situation. Exchanging glances with Drew and seeing the other man's silent nod of acceptance, Evan looked back at Lefèvre. “Okay, we’ll help,” he agreed.
“Excellent,” Anton said, visibly relieved. “Let me tell you what we will do,” he began, unfolding a map of the Tate and surrounding areas.
Elaine had been less than impressed at being left out of the evening’s activities but finally agreed to stay close to the hotel while Evan and Drew did their thing. Evan had the mobile she’d gifted him and promised he’d call her if anything happened.
They’d been at their posts for a couple of hours, shivering in the cold night air, when the silent vibration let him know that someone was calling him.
Evan raised the binoculars Anton had provided, just making out Drew hiding in the trees covering the other side of the building. Pulling out the phone he glanced at the screen, not recognising the number displayed.
“Hello?” he answered the phone in a low tone, keeping his eyes trained on the gallery a short distance away.
“Captain Lorne?” the brisk voice on the other end enquired.
“Yes, speaking,” he replied, straightening instinctively at the businesslike tone.
“Captain, my name is Andrea Knight,” the woman explained. “I’m a nurse at St. Thomas’ Hospital.”
“My sister,” Evan felt as though his insides were freezing over as he listened to her reply.
“Elaine was involved in an accident outside the Crown Regent Hotel a short while ago,” Nurse Knight continued. “There is no need to be unduly concerned Captain Lorne. She’s been admitted to the hospital but is in a stable condition. I found your name and number amongst her possessions and took the liberty of calling you.”
“What happened?” Evan instinctively went into ‘command’ mode, focussing on the details and what he needed to do next while pushing his personal emotions to the background. He was worried ... scared for Elaine, but none of that came out in his voice.
“We won’t know the specific details until she regains consciousness,” the nurse replied. “The police were called to the scene and will want to question her as well.”
“I’ll be there as soon as possible,” Evan promised, already more than half way to Drew’s location. “Can you give me directions to the hospital from The Tate Gallery?”
Concentrating on her response, he memorised her instructions and then hung up.
“Drew, we have to leave,” Lorne got his friends attention as soon as he was close enough, urging him to get moving.
“What’s wrong?” Drew asked worriedly.
“Elaine’s been admitted to a hospital across the river,” Evan revealed. “I don’t know the details, just that she’s in a stable condition.”
“Call Lefèvre,” Drew practically ordered, his expression grim as he too tamped down on the other emotions he’d naturally be feeling.
Nodding, Evan dialled the Frenchman’s number and quickly apprised him of the situation. Despite the Interpol agent’s protests Lorne insisted he and Drew were leaving and hung up. “Let’s go,” he said, heading for Westminster Bridge.
There was nothing worse to Evan’s mind than sitting in a dimly lit hospital room in the middle of the night waiting for a loved one to wake up. As he sat in a chair beside his sister’s bed his thoughts moved from overwhelming concern that she really would be all right as the doctors had assured him to boiling anger.
When he and Drew had arrived at the hospital Evan had spoken to the doctors and then the police. Witnesses had reported a dark car swerving across the road directly towards Elaine. She’d been lucky that a pedestrian walking just behind her had noticed its approach and pushed her clear just in time. Elaine had hit the ground hard, knocking herself unconscious. With a bruised shoulder and hip along with what was hopefully just a mild concussion she’d come away from the accident one very lucky lady.
Lorne wasn’t surprised to find out that the car had attempted to hit and then ran, none of those who’s seen the accident able to give police a full licence plate number.
“I’m going to try Lefèvre again,” Evan said in a low tone, putting a hand over his sisters as he looked across the bed to where Drew was keeping his own silent vigil.
And that was something else that had hit Evan between the eyes. He wasn’t the only man in his sister’s life anymore. She’d had boyfriends, sure, but none she’d loved with any degree of maturity. Growing up without a father’s presence had resulted in Evan’s role as big brother taking on an added dimension. He was the one Elaine came to for things she didn’t want their Mom to know, he was the one who’d taught her to drive ... and he was the one to be there when things hadn’t gone as she’d hoped and she needed someone to ‘make it right’ again.
Looking across at his friend, seeing the expression on his face ... remembering a similar expression of concern on Elaine’s face ... was the beginning of the end of all of that. And while he was happy for his sister, at the same time he was a little sad for himself. Not that he'd ever admit it.
Pulling out the card the Interpol agent had given him, Evan walked outside the hospital, standing on the curb in front of the main entrance as he dialled.
Like the other three times he’d tried since they’d arrived at St Thomas’s Lefèvre didn’t answer and that had the alarm bells ringing loudly. Something wasn’t right and Evan was getting quietly angrier the longer the situation continued without answers.
“I was a diversion, wasn’t I?” Elaine’s voice was quiet and purposeful. She’d woken in the early hours of the morning to the relief of both Drew and Evan. Now, a few hours later, Evan had finally convinced Drew to go stretch his legs, the other man picking up that Evan wanted to talk to Elaine alone.
“I think so,” Evan didn’t bother trying to downplay what had happened. “Pretty sure we're both thinking the same thing on why - and it worked too. I don't know what the hell happened at the Tate after Drew and I left ... because we left. Anton's not picking up the phone either which means we're back to being in the dark. That’s why I’m sending you home as soon as they release you.”
“But -,” Elaine frowned, wincing as she shifted to sit up straighter.
“There’s that too,” Evan looked pointedly at the hand she was using to support her bruised side. “Even if I were willing to take the risk you’re in no condition to be sitting on trains and walking around museums right now. As it is Mom’s gonna have my head for not looking after you better.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Elaine dismissed.
“It was,” Evan insisted. “What the hell was I thinking getting involved in staking out The Tate like that? It was beyond stupid. No,” he held up a hand when she made to protest. “I’ve been too damned passive since Amsterdam ... hell, since before that.”
“This isn’t exactly something you can plan for Evan,” Elaine retorted.
“No, but I’m done being anybody’s pawn,” he promised grimly.
“You’ve got something in mind?” she asked worriedly.
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with,” Evan replied. “The only thing you have to do is focus on getting home and getting yourself better.”
Elaine sighed, looking as his measured expression and knowing there was no way she was convincing him otherwise. “Okay,” she agreed in a low tone.
“Thank you,” Evan smiled, taking her hand and holding it lightly. “Did I tell you how glad I am you’re okay?”
“Only about fifty times so far,” Elaine teased. “But you can tell me again.”
“I’m glad you’re okay Sis,” he dutifully repeated, squeezing her hand fondly before letting her go.
They sat together in companionable silence for a while, Elaine’s attention half distracted by the small television mounted from the ceiling, playing but with the sound muted.
“So ... how long have you been in love with Drew?” Evan broke the silence to ask.
“I knew you were going to ask me that!” Elaine exclaimed irritably, pining him with eyes dark with annoyance.
“Then you should already have your answer prepared,” he countered.
“You know it’s none of your business right?” she pointed out. When Evan nodded but continued to watch her, waiting for his answer, she sighed. “Fine. I don’t really know for sure. There was a spark there from the beginning but I didn’t really consider him as a possibility until I visited you in Alberta.”
“That’s a long time ago,” he said in surprise. “Why didn’t you ever mention it?”
“Because I knew what you’d say,” Elaine replied. “What you’re probably thinking right now in fact. Besides, it’s only been recently that we’ve considered being anything other than friends.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Evan said defensively. “It’s just ...,” he trailed off.
“Just what?” Elaine persisted, knowing he wouldn’t be happy until he’d gotten it out of his system.
“Is that the kind of life you really want?” Evan asked quietly. “Months of separation while he’s stationed somewhere you can’t follow. Times when a situation will erupt and you won’t know what’s going on. Dreading the phone ringing because you know it might be bad news.”
“Do you think Mom would give back even a second of the time she had with Dad to avoid the ending?” Elaine asked just as quietly.
It wasn’t the answer he was expecting. “I don’t know ... she doesn’t talk about it.”
“No – you don’t talk about it,” Elaine corrected. “I’ve spoken to her Evan. She loved Dad more than anything and there is no way in hell she’d give up even a second of the time she had with him to avoid the pain that came after. I know you think you can protect everyone by closing that part of yourself away but I won’t live that way,” she watched him closely as she spoke. “You can’t choose who you love.”
Evan remained silent, struggling to find the words to counter her argument because he knew, deep down, that she was right.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” she demanded when the silence had drawn on for a while.
“You don’t need my approval,” he pointed out.
“No, but I don’t want my happiness to hurt you,” Elaine’s voice waivered a little as she looked away.
“Elaine,” Evan rubbed a hand across his forehead tiredly, thinking he should have known better than to bring this up with her, especially given the circumstances. “You’re not hurting me. I’m happy for you okay. Drew’s a good man ... I trust him in the air and I can’t do anything less than the same down on the ground. Does that make you feel better?”
Elaine said nothing, her eyes fixed on a point above his head.
“Hey!?” he protested her lack of attention just when he was forcing himself to be the good big brother.
“Turn up the TV Evan,” Elaine demanded.
Glancing over his shoulder, Evan registered the location currently being broadcast on the screen and stood abruptly. Reaching high for the volume controls he turned up the sound.
“Security will be stepped up to protect the rest of what remains the most valuable collection of British art in the world. Officials of the museum are urging members of the public to come forward if they know anything about the theft or those responsible,” a female newsreader announced.
“Ophelia is one of Millais’s best known works,” another man appeared on screen with the caption that announced him as the curator of the Tate Britain. “It saddens me that someone would take an important piece of our history and I can only hope that those behind this will be apprehended soon.”
“And in other news ...,” Evan reached up to mute the sound again.
“I guess we know what happened after we left now,” he commented darkly.
With efficient ease Lorne saw to the arrangements for his sister’s return to the States. He’d suggested Drew might want to go back with her, make sure she got there safely but it was Elaine who’d vetoed that, saying that Evan needed Drew more right then than she did. She and Drew had exchanged a long, wordless gaze before he'd nodded reluctantly.
At the airport, Evan hugged his sister tightly, whispering that he loved her and then forcing himself to step back to make room for Drew to say his own farewells. Turning away to give them privacy, Evan only refocussed when Elaine called his name, hugging him again before resolutely making her way to the check-in gate.
She turned to wave one more time, her careful movements reminding the two men of her injuries, before disappearing from sight.
“What now?” Drew asked quietly, eyes still on the doors leading to Elaine’s plane.
“Now we get serious,” Evan returned purposefully.