If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, here are the links.
This last part is almost twice as long as any of the previous ones. But I said this would be the last installment, so it is. I hope you like it.
An officer was put on duty inside the gallery from regular closing time to when it would normally open in the morning. The patrol car for the detail was eliminated. Although Ms. Strong would have rather had both, the cop walking the halls of the art work was an improvement.
That second night after the Melancoly Woman had been found turned upside down was quiet except for the clicking of the officer’s shoes on the polished floors. Bernard sat on one of the many crates in the basement biting his fingernails. When he heard the clicking fade away, he made his way upstairs and peeked out the door into the hall. The shoes were still clicking away but obviously not close to the hall where the basement stairs were. He crept against the wall toward the Picasso exhibit. Crawling under the yellow tape that barred the entrance, he sprinted to the dark corner of the wall that was shared by the outer corridor. He sat all folded up on the floor muttering to himself.
The cop came back through the hall leading to the basement stairs. He began to sing softly to himself keeping the beat with his footsteps. Bernard covered his mouth in fear and huddled closer to the corner. The cop stopped at the yellow tape and shined his flashlight into the Picasso hall, paying special attention to the paintings on the walls. When his light got the closer edges of the wall on the left, he couldn’t get the beam past the sculptor.
He ducked underneath the tape and strolled to that side of the large room. His light caught the cafe painting hanging on that wall shared by the outer hall. He moved the beam to the left where the small curb of the wall met the entrance. Then he swung it around to the other corner. The beam shined two feet up from Bernard’s bended form. The cop was about ready to leave when Bernard involuntarily jerked. The officer shined his beam on the homeless man’s body.
“Hey you. Get up.”
Bernard obeyed hugging his corduroy jacket around him and looking down at the floor.
The officer pulled out his cell phone and made his call to the station, keeping the light shining on the vagrant. “Yes, he’s harmless, sir.” A couple of minutes of silence passed. “Sir, are you sure she’s willing to come down here?” During the brief silence that followed, red crept up to the cop’s face. “Yes. sir.”
Ms. Strong got to the gallery just after Lt. Nice arrived. Striding down the outer hall, Ms. Strong asked questions. Nice wasn’t too happy about answering them.
“Lieutenant, where was he hiding? How did he get in?”
“I’m not clear on that yet, Ms. Strong. Let’s see what the officer can tell us.”
“But you have a forensic team here. Why didn’t they find anything leading to this person?”
“Ma’am, let’s just wait and see what has happened here, okay?” Nice was having a struggle keeping his anger in check.
Bernard was sitting on one of the benches in the middle of the room. He was, as usual, muttering to himself. The officer was standing next to him. Nice broke the tape and let Ms. Strong enter the exhibit first. She couldn’t help but smile when she saw the man sitting there looking intently at the Melancoly Woman.
“Can I talk to him?” she asked.
Nice shrugged. “Sure, why not.”
“What’s his name?”
The officer answered, “He says his name is Bernard and his friend’s name is Pablo.” He shook his head in disbelieve.
“Bernard, why did you turn the paintings upside down?”
“No one come to see Pablo’s work except for that one lady.”
“That’s Ruth probably. Yes, she likes Pablo Picasso’s art. So you thought if you changed things, maybe more people would come to this room?”
“It worked, didn’t it?” Bernard looked up at Ms. Strong and gave her a toothless grin.
“Bernard, I need you to stop doing this.” Bernard started mumbling. “Bernard, do you hear me?”
“Yeah. But Pablo doesn’t like it.”
“Doesn’t like what?”
“No one seeing his work.”
“What if I put ads in the newspaper? Would that make him happy?”
Bernard sat there a few seconds and then replied, “Yeah, that’ll be okay.”
“Bernard, how are you getting in?” Ms. Strong asked as she sat down beside him.
“The glass is out of one of your windows downstairs. I pull the screen back and hop in. No one else knows. Pablo and I don’t like visitors.”
Ms. Strong laughed, making Bernard’s face crinkle in puzzlement.
Ms. Strong stood and looked at Nice. “I don’t want to press charges.”
“Ma’am, he broke into your gallery. He’s a criminal.”
“I’m not going to argue with you. I am not pressing charges. He’s a patron of the arts.”
She then turned, facing Bernard. “You aren’t going to turn anything else around, right?”
“No ma’am.” He hung his head in shame.
“I guess it’s time for you to go fill out your reports. Have a nice night, you two.” She walked to the entrance of the outer hall, turned, gestured with her arm that told them to leave.