“Yes.” I called out. The door opened, and Detective Jacob Rollands peeked inside. He was a tall man, middle-aged, and with a full head of graying, dark brown hair
“Got a minute, Mr. Chattel. You’re maid let me in. Told me to go right ahead.” he lied.
“You told her I was expecting you, didn’t you, Jake-” I fenced, faking annoyance.
“You could say that. I figured you might need a break from your work. Maybe a little inspirational stimulation.”
The truth was that I was grateful for the distraction. Detective Rollands often sought my unofficial consultation on certain cases that he found to be unusually…unusual, though it remains mine and Detective Rollands’ little secret. He also looks the other way when I take certain liberties with these cases as context in some of my short stories.
“Very well.” I smiled, and motioned for him to sit down. “What’ve you got-”
“It’s a burglary. An antique mantle clock was stolen. Ironically it’s called a ‘Square Mystery Clock’ though don’t ask me why.” he informed me, opening the file he had brought with him. “Earlier today, Mr. Quinton Mockey from Dovercourt reported that his clock manufactured circa 1900 and valued at around fifteen thousand dollars was taken from his home sometime early this morning before he awoke. He came down to his study at around six-thirty five a.m. and noticed that it had been taken from its usual location atop the mantle of the fireplace.”
“Any signs of forced entry-” I asked.
“Yes. According to Mr. Mockey, upon his realizing the clock was gone, he noticed that the panes closest to the inside lock of his French doors had been shattered from the outside. On further inspection I theorized that the doors were then unlocked through the broken window by the perpetrator.” Rollands went on.
“What did this clock look like-” I asked, my interest piqued.
“Mockey called it an ormolu and glass illusion mantel timepiece. It’s basically rectangular, beveled glass with a painted dial in roman numerals within an ormolu frame. The frame itself is quite ornate,” Rollands went on, glancing at me from his notes, “It’s a French clock and has some kind of French crest adorning the very top of the frame. The glass is signed ‘Rottier Fabt. Palais Royal Paris’. The whole clock rests on a pedestal-shaped ormolu base. It’s got an eight day movement and a half hour striking on a gong.”
“Sounds impressive, Detective.” I added. “Just one thing. What the devil is ormolu-”
Rollands cleared his throat, “It’s a copper and tin or zinc alloy that resembles gold and it’s used to decorate furniture, architecture, and, as in this case, clocks among other things.”
“Really. So as you have said, this clock must have been quite ornate.”
“Yes it was.” Rollands confirmed, solemnly. We sat a moment in silence, not completely uncomfortable, but there was a sudden awkwardness to the quiet.
I cleared my throat, “Well…is that all, Detective-”
“I assume then that your men will make inquiries to some of the better known fences or pawn shops of the area, correct- In all likelihood it would seem that who ever stole the clock would want to sell it shortly.”
“Yes, I’ve already advised my men. They are making their rounds. Nevertheless, sometimes these robberies are all prearranged and the loot is fenced very quietly, at least when the crime is done by proper professionals.” said Rollands, very much on edge.
“Any interesting finger prints left behind-”
“None were found on the French door handles.” Rollands informed.
“Then we can assume gloves were used.” I observed more to myself than to the Detective.
“No blood from the broken glass, either.” the Detective added, “We pretty much made a clean sweep of the scene. Nothing came up.”
“Then short of a lucky break there doesn’t seem much you’ll be able to do to recover the clock. Maybe your men might dig someone up that might have heard something on the street about this little heist-” I added.
“As important as this clock is to Mr. Mockey, I feel this was a very small operation and the probability that there was any word of it at all on the street is quite slim.” Rollands explained with reason.
“I’m sorry, Detective. I just don’t see how I can help with this case. It seems pretty straight-forward. The only way to solve it is by doing some good, old fashioned police legwork, I’m afraid. There just doesn’t seem to be any clue that might enable me to make some kind of calculated guess or theory as to who the perpetrator might be.”
Rollands continued to sit in silence, pondering what I had just said. “I was afraid you’d say that. I see exactly what you mean.” he confessed. “No mysterious footprints et cetera. Just a straight-forward case of breaking and entering. A burglary. Clean, quick, and without clues.”
“It wouldn’t exactly make for great fiction, Detective, that’s for certain.” I chimed in with a small smile. I very much like Jacob Rollands and his informal, impromptu visits, and I always try my best to encourage future ones. Unlike today, these meeting are more often than not extremely interesting as well as perfect fodder for the artistic creations of my imagination.
“It is rather dull.” he responded, already in better spirits, and reaching over my desk to shake my hand. “It’s the reason I think I brought it to you. I honestly have nothing to go on and thought I’d give you a go at it. But you’re right, of course; extremely vanilla case. Good old-fashioned police work, that’s what will do it.”
“That’s the spirit, Detective!” I encouraged as he started for the door. “Be sure to drop by anytime, fascinating case or not!”
“Will do, Mr. Chattel. Sorry to have bothered you,” he waved as he left my study, “I’ll let myself out.”
I remained standing after Detective Rollands walked out, closing the door behind him. I glanced at the work on my desk, the final draft of my novel that I still needed to finish tweaking. I turned and looked out the window, took a deep breath, and felt a strong surge of satisfaction.
Not long ago, I came to the realization that writing about the crime was no longer enough. My stories, alas, had lost their appeal to me of late and I needed desperately to fill the void, something to instill the passion of literary mystery within me anew.
No, it wasn’t enough to write the mystery, to pen the crime. It was now time to actually start committing them myself, off the paper. And with great satisfaction I can say that I can follow through with an actual crime with as much prowess as I can write about them, though without as much flare.
I headed toward the liquor cabinet across the room that was built into part of the bookcase. I opened a decanter of scotch, and poured myself a good, stiff drink. I took a healthy sip, bent down, opened two of the lower liquor cabinet doors and peered inside.
I was looking at Mr. Quinton Mockey’s ‘Square Mystery Clock’ and it was truly beautiful. I was proud to have it, not because of what it was, but because of what it meant to someone I took it from. I didn’t have to worry about being caught selling it to a fence as Detective Rollands and I had discussed. I had absolutely no intention of ever selling the clock to begin with. Simply having it was all the treasure I ever wanted. Simply having it by the mere fact that I stole it and got away with it was really, and truly the only value it could ever have for me.
At that very moment, however, I realized that I wasn’t as clever as I had thought. In fact, I was actually luckier than anything else. Something had slipped my mind, and since I hadn’t been in my study all day, I never once thought anything of it.
If Detective Rollands had lingered in my study for a mere two minutes longer, I would have had some serious explaining to do. It was exactly three p.m. and do you know the damn thing started to gong.