Mystery and Crime Fiction posted June 27, 2021 Chapters:  ...4 5 -6- 7... 


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Photos, Perils, and the Painting

A chapter in the book Running Blind

Running Blind ~ Chapter Six

by Sally Law


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

Previously, from Chapter Five~

A stranger came in the front door of the precinct with an inquiry.

"Excuse me, pretty lady. I know this sounds awfully gushing, but I was hoping to say hello to The Blind Girl... Detective Sally Law. Is she in?"

He looks like something out of a comic strip in that tiger-striped blazer, thought the seasoned detective. "No, she's on a case."

"So...she's out of town?"

"No... just busy. And you are...?

"Aw, just a fan. I'll check back another time. Have a pleasant day," he said, rapping his knuckles on the desk.

He turned and walked out; his face turned away from the surveillance cameras.

Lieutenant Harris walked to the door and nabbed his license plate number, then ran it through the computer system.

"BR7-113Y belongs to Lonnie Hastings. He just doesn't look like a Lonnie Hastings!"

She radioed Sergeant Dina Ray and gave her the address from the vehicle's registration. "Sergeant, go by the Hastings' residence and make sure everything is okay. Something feels off."

"Roger that, boss."

For protection's sake, she called Detective Lembowsky to tighten security around the force.

The criminal mastermind raced away in the stolen car towards the Vermilion River, regretting he didn't have another body to dispose of. "I'll get you too, Blind Girl, and the paintings...."

{Chapter Six}

{New Orleans}

The first day at the storage unit had far exceeded my expectations. Having the mobile crime lab was a huge help in processing the artifacts of missing person, Camille Jean-Baptiste.

Extra hands made for light work too. Everything was processed and on its way to our main lab in Lafayette Township, and from there to the different centers and agencies for missing persons. We'd head back to New Orleans tomorrow and begin our search of the club areas with the only vintage photo we had of her, and a composite of what she may look like today. I sent the photos to Suzy's cell phone, and asked her to print them out for the case file.

A few minutes later, I received an urgent call from Suzy; so I excused myself.

"Sal, is this supposed to be an educated guess as to what Camille Jean-Baptiste looks like today?"

"It's more than a guess, it's a forensic composition photo. Why do you ask?"

"How tall is she?"

"Five feet, two inches."

"Yep. This age progression photo looks exactly like Olivia Henry. I spent about a half hour with her this morning."

"Suzy, are you sure?"

"The resemblance is astounding!"

"Mum's the word for now, Suzy. If this is true, then we will have the science to back it up. Second, maybe she doesn't know who she is, or doesn't want to be found. We have to tread lightly here for Miles' sake. Another disappointment would be crushing."

"I understand. You're absolutely right. I saw a woman in the street who looked just like you, Sally, and I ran after her. Most everyone has a look-alike."

"That's true; and there's probably more than one Elvis impersonator walking around in New Orleans today. King and Samson have her scent," I assured. "I will pay her a visit as soon as we return to River Ridge."

A second call came in, and I had to catch it. "Gotta go, Suzy. It may be The Fountain Gallery. Talk soon...."

**********

{On the outskirts of Louisiana Township}

Sergeant Dina Ray was on her way to the Hastings' residence when she sighted the suspicious man that had just left the precinct. She put on her siren and beeped, and waved the sedan over. Being alone, and not far from the county line, she radioed the sheriff and waited for his assistance.

The driver took off again gaining speed, breaking through a barrier, and plunged into the waters of the Vermilion River. Sergeant Ray watched in horror as the car was swept downstream. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel, and another man was seen jumping into the current from the passenger's side window. Gripping her chest, she radioed Lieutenant Janelle Harris.

"Boss, send me all the available help you've got! The sedan in pursuit, license number BR7-113Y, is in the Vermilion River. I repeat, the sedan in pursuit is now in the river going downstream! There appear to be two men in the car. Do you copy?"

"Copy that. What's your 20, Sergeant?"

"Vermilion River Bridge Road, near Cold Creek. I'm parked on the northwest side."

"10-4. I'm leaving now with Vanta. Sheriff Holt and EMTs are on their way."

Sergeant Ray looked both ways and prayed. This will be over in five minutes. Oh God, help me! She dove into the chilly waters fully clothed.

**********

A deep fuchsia sky kissed down upon Bourbon Street. Street musicians and revelers were already crowding the sidewalks and narrow byways.

The keepers of the light took great care until each of the lanterns were illuminated. If the weather was fine, like tonight, the sidewalk was swept one last time and the tables and chairs brought outside. Crisp white linens adorned each table, and southern magnolias were arranged in glassware. Gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, and smoked fish dip filled the dinner plates.

So many visitors from every walk of life: the good, the bad, the rich, and some just gettin' by, come looking for a game of chance, or just fine Louisiana cuisine.

Spectators and music buffs seem to enjoy the rhythm and blues, no matter their persuasion or pocketbook. This is the best of New Orleans on a summer's night.... It is never unspoiled though, not when evil moves about with a smile.

**********

Jackson, King, and I were released from our crime solving, and had cleaned up pretty well in the small lavatory of the mobile crime lab. We found a little clothing shop and were transformed to take our place for this evening's impromptu art event downtown. We purchased evening wear for ourselves and a black bow tie for King. Jackson set aside some glad rags for Detective Lembowsky too, and emailed him an invitation.

Around six o'clock, Detective Lembowsky arrived at the gallery, dressed in a silk sport coat and tie, flashing his badge and bearing my oil painting. We entered The Fountain Gallery as honored guests for this special auction. We introduced ourselves and turned over the painting after I confirmed its authenticity from my uncle's art journal. It was number twenty of fifty-two in the Andre Dupree Collection.

We sat in the front row with the curator, Annalise Irving. The minimum starting bid was set at $100k. Best of all, I was guaranteed housing of my painting in a vault until it sold to a reputable buyer, however long it took.

Still, Mrs. Irving assured me it would be snatched up tonight. She knew someone who was interested in it; an avid buyer and collector of French and Americana art. What the potential buyer liked the most about my uncle's art was..."His eye for color and detail." I didn't let that dazzle me too much, seeing as Duran Gibbons had said the same thing, and had most likely been sent to the bottom of the Mississippi wearing a concrete overcoat.

My painting was the first one up for bid. You could feel the electricity in the room, circling like a Louisiana thunderstorm.

The painting was given a fine introduction, almost too wonderful. "One in a coveted collection by the famed Louisiana artist and painter of florals, Andre Charles Dupree. We don't know if we will ever see anything of this magnitude again in the near future."

The auctioneer opened the bid at $100k. "Thank you ma'am, do I hear two hundred thousand... three?" The auctioneer hardly took a breath, talking as fast as any human could. "One million... two million... do I hear three million...? Three million once... twice... sold!" The gavel came down.

"Sold to the gentleman in the back for three million dollars!"

Jackson lifted my chin and closed my mouth.

To be continued....

**********

{Main Characters}

Detective Sally Law, that's me, also known as The Blind Girl, Lead Detective for Lafayette Township Police Department: Cold Case Division. I'm also heiress to the Andre Dupree Art Collection and fortune.

Detective Jackson Law: my husband, and a consultant to the force.

King: my guide dog, Superdog, and ace crime-solver.

Detective Lieutenant Mike Lembowsky, Homicide, Lafayette Township Police Department. He also lives next door to us on Main Street in Lafayette Township.

Detective Lieutenant Janelle Harris and her German Shepherd, Vanta.

Suzy Fleming: My personal assistant.

Detective Lieutenant Miles Jean-Baptiste, Lafayette Township Police Department: Cold Case Division; and brother to missing person, Camille Jean-Baptiste.

Sergeant Dina Ray: Lafayette Township Police Department.

Dr. Marie MacLavish: Tri- County Medical Examiner and Forensic Anthropologist; married to Alan.

Mr. Duran Gibbons: Former curator and owner of The Duran Gibbons Gallery of Fine Art. Mr. Gibbons' remains haven't been found yet.

Floyd and Boyd Clarkston: Local criminals for hire, now seeking a better life. Waiting arraignment in River Ridge.

Criminal mastermind, Tony Alfanzi, aka, Anthony Fabio, and street name: Tony the Tiger. Likes to work alone unless it suits him to do otherwise. He has recently set his sights on The Blind Girl and her fortune.

Captain Will Moran: New Orlean Police Department.

{Louisiana of 1990 and now}

Olivia Smith Henry: Amnesiac and missing person, Camille Jean-Baptiste.

Pastor Lyle Henry: Formerly the Pastor of River Ridge Mission Church and the community hostel. He is currently the Sheriff of River Ridge. He lives with his wife Olivia; and their daughter, Danielle.

Albert Lee Reynolds: Owner and proprietor of Al's Barbecue and Such; his wife, Shirley.



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June
2021
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