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Authors: Hazel Edwards

Tags: #Children's Fiction - Mystery

Artnapping (8 page)

BOOK: Artnapping
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Chapter 11

On Board

Who was Mr Wang? Could he be the same person as Mr Ng? The post office box address on the newspaper clipping and on the photos was the same. But the name was different. Excitedly, Amy shared this with Christopher. ‘A clue!'

They were back in their plane seats now. Even the honeymooners were happily showing gifts they'd bought to take home. Still looking uncomfortable, Mr Kei fiddled with the silver chain to his briefcase.

‘Maybe it's someone else who lives at the same place? Or who works for him? Like Samuel's a dealer. Perhaps he's done some work for a wealthy collector like Mr Ng?' suggested Christopher as he doodled figures on his sketch pad. The Mr Wang doodle became a Mr Ng doodle.

‘William, is there a Mr Ng on board? Could you check your list?' asked Amy. She was longing to reach Tokyo and ask Tess some questions.

‘We're not supposed to release names of passengers,' said William firmly.

When he bent across to serve the drinks, William looked very closely at the restless Mr Kei and the empty seat alongside where Brut had been sitting.

‘Drink sir?'

‘No thanks William.' Mr Kei was very polite. He didn't seem to like to draw attention to himself.

Amy had been doing some thinking. She had bits of facts like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. They just needed to fit them together. She thought about Brut. What if Brut had taken Red's bag because he wanted to check whether the Ming vase photo was the same vase as the one he'd stolen from the Amsterdam gallery? Or was it the original one taken from the family shrine.? Were they a pair and if so, who owned the photo? Who had the two vases? Were they together or had someone mixed them up?

The owner of the photo probably had an original Ming vase. Mr Wang's name and address were on the FAST FOTO envelope. But officially there was no Mr Wang on the Tokyo flight. Did Mr Wang have a Ming vase? Or did it belong to Mr Ng? Did they have one each? Then the idea struck Amy. Perhaps Mr Ng the private collector and Mr Wang the drug dealer worked together? Mr Wang was known as Mr Big. Could Mr Wang also be Mr Ng? Perhaps that's where the money came from to buy the artworks. Drug-dealing!

Amy squirmed around. Tess was sitting a few rows away, but she couldn't see Gloria nor Mr Samuel. Perhaps they were in First Class? Amy took out her sleuthing notepad. She wrote WANG? Underneath she listed the people who might be Mr Wang. Then she showed them to Christopher who nodded and pointed to one name. ‘I think that's the one.'

‘Samuel? Why?'

‘Because he's a dealer who can easily sell artwork. And he travels a lot, buying for his business. No-one would suspect him. Anyway, I didn't like him.'

‘Neither did I. But that's not a good enough reason.' said Amy trying to be fair.There was a whole plane load of people around them. Who was Mr Wang?

‘I've arranged for you to visit the cockpit, after your meal.' William said as he checked on them again.

After his airport meal, Christopher was full already, but Amy had eaten her green salad, chicken with spicy bits and her strawberry shortcake. She had drunk two orange juices as well. And eaten the mints on her tray. Then she thought she'd burst!

‘Ready?' asked William.

‘When we go through First Class,' Amy whispered to her brother. ‘Let's see if Gloria is there?'

After the meal trolley had gone, William escorted them up the aisle to the captain's cockpit. They walked past the wide, velvety First Class seats. They noticed Gloria in First Class sitting next to Samuel, but she pretended not to know them.

‘Excuse me William, do you know a Gloria?' asked Christopher in what he thought was a whisper. But his voice was louder than he meant it to be. William's face switched onto automatic smile.

‘I know lots of people.' answered William. ‘There could be one called Gloria.But then some people use more than one name.'

The twins looked at each other. That was one of those non-answers. Gloria kept talking her face turned away from the aisle.

‘Some people might even have three names,' suggested William.

What did he mean? Who was he hinting about? Did he mean Mr Wang? Did William know who Mr Wang was? Why three names? They walked past the crew's area where the meals were prepared. There was still a smell of hot bread rolls and spicy chicken.

William knocked on the silvery door. It was opened from the inside.

‘Hi,' the pilot didn't look around. Facing the cockpit were two very comfortable seats, the second for the co-pilot. To the side sat another man, the navigator.

Amy was pleased to see more than one. Aunty Viv would be glad to know that if the pilot had a heart attack, there was someone to take over.

In front of him was a bank of winking, blinking instruments. Apart from the V shaped window of the cockpit, it looked like flying a computer. His hand rested lightly on a control.

‘Ace.' Christopher's normally pale cheeks were flushed. ‘About an eight.'he muttered to his sister. That meant that on a scale of ten points,he was enjoying himself at about eight. ‘Aunty Viv would freak out! Especially if we went close to a mountain or near the water.'

‘Don't worry.' The pilot explained. ‘We learn to prepare for emergencies.'

‘We learn in flight simulators. Cabin attendants are trained in safety procedures too. ‘

‘Like William?' suggestedAmy.

‘Who?'

‘Our cabin attendant.' said Amy waving behind her.

‘William?' the pilot looked at his co-pilot. ‘The cabin attendant? Oh, yes of course. He's a slightly different case. Not a regular.'

‘Shh sir,' cautioned the co-pilot nodding in the twins' direction.' Security.'

The twins noticed that. Why was William considered different? Wasn't he really an attendant? Could he be an undercover person? Was he really working for security like Gloria?

Behind them, William nodded,' Safety is expensive but air crashes are more expensive. It costs about a million per person killed.'

Amy thought about that. If you were dead, you wouldn't worry how much the crash cost, would you? When they got back and gave Aunty Viv her present, she might be glad to know that it cost less than crashing. ‘Our Aunt doesn't like flying, but we do,' added Christopher quickly.

‘Lots of people are scared of flying. It's still far safer to fly than drive your car to the airport.'

‘Especially if Aunty Viv is driving in her Animal Actors van!' added Christopher.

With all the lights blinking, the cockpit looked like a high tech. computer game. But it was real. Christopher thought about different sorts of games. Role Playing games. Mindgames like sleuthing. Smugglers versus security. ‘Do you ever play computer games at home, Captain Richards?' asked Amy. ‘Just for fun?' Or is it too much like flying homework for you?'

Captain Richards turned for a moment and smiled.

‘Funny you should say that. I own a few shares in the games company like the ones in the airport. Love playing electronic games.' ‘We have some game-players on board, sir. The R.P.G. group who are going to the Confest in Tokyo. Red is one of them,' said William.

‘Really? My son plays too. He says Red's the best games creator around. Hope they'll sell their games. Earn us a few export dollars,' the captain said across his shoulder. ‘We need more original thinkers, who are on the RIGHT side of the law. Too many drug smugglers and illegal couriers, eh William?' ‘Yes, sir.' said William.

The twins were becoming more and more certain that William was not only a cabin attendant. Amy was longing to sit in the pilot's seat. ‘D'you ever worry about flying into a mountain?'

‘Our planes have electronic sensors designed to warn us about nearby mountains. An electronic voice says, Pull up! Pull up!' explained Captain Richards.

‘And then what would you do?' Fascinated, Amy imagined talking to a flying computer.

‘Pull up of course.' The captain laughed. ‘Security has a harder job than us. No easy choices for them.' The captain winked at William. ‘Our instruments tell us there will be turbulence soon. Better go back to your seats.'

Christopher began to wonder. If the plane's electronic system did all the thinking, why was a pilot necessary? But he supposed it was like the electronic security scanner at the airport. Sometimes the sniffer dogs and guards noticed things that slipped through the electronic screen. Maybe the twins could notice something Gloria or the officials missed?

Occasionally it was useful to be shorter or smaller. People didn't pay so much attention to you. Then you could sleuth without being noticed.

Just then, the plane started to go up and down. They'd hit the turbulence.

As they walked past the First Class seats, Gloria, slipped a note to William whose hand was level with her seat.

Both the twins noticed that! Luckily Samuel was busy writing a note, his head bent over the table and DIDN'T notice. Somehow, Amy slipped, knocked William's hand, the paper fell, she picked it up, speed read it and handed it back. ‘Must be the turbulence. Sorry William.'

‘I don't think you are sorry at all. Go back to your seats. You know I'll be busy for a few minutes now.' He hurried away.

Gloria's note to William was a message for INTERPOL in Tokyo. He was to radio ahead. They were to meet the plane and arrest Wang!

‘Wow!' said Christopher when she told him. ‘Perhaps it is Samuel. She was sitting next to him.'

Amy fished out her list of possible Mr Wangs. She crossed William off her list. He was obviously working WITH not AGAINST Gloria.

But why had Gloria passed a note instead of speaking to William? Was it because she was sitting next to Samuel?

Amy left a question mark against Samuel on her Wang Suspect List.

Chapter 12

Fake

William vanished for a few minutes.

During the flight,Tess had been quiet except now she left her seat to go to the toilet . Christopher noticed Tess's bag was left in the overhead lockers. Amy followed her to the toilet queue.

‘Hi Tess.' They stood in the unisex queue. The cabin attendants worked around them, in the alcove,clearing up after the meal.

‘Hi Amy.' Tess's green hair looked a bit darker in the half-light. Her face looked white and a bit worried.

‘Tess, couldn't you tell me why you were running with Red's bag?' Amy paused.

‘AFTER we get to Tokyo,' said Tess firmly.

‘Why wait until then?'

‘Because some details are not yet worked out. And if...' she turned to look behind her. Amy looked in the same direction. She could just see Mr Kei's head above the seats. Beyond him, Red's head bobbed as he played a game with the other gamers. The two guards sat chatting in the front seats.'...if some people get worried, they might vanish.'

‘Which people? Vanish where? ‘There weren't many places to hide on a plane thought Amy. But Tess ignored her questions.

‘D'you want to go in first Amy?' Tess offered as an elderly man came out of the toilet.

‘Thanks,' accepted Amy. If she hurried, there might be time to check something in the overhead lockers while Tess was still in the toilet.

Mr Kei sat upright, not even relaxing when William closed the blinds getting ready for the in-flight movie. The tour director fussed around, visiting his clients in their seats. Then the overhead lights went off and some people flicked on their individual reading beams. Some like Mr Kei were dozing. Christopher was in his socks, standing on the arm of his seat. He was getting something out of the overhead lockers.

‘Tell me when she's coming,' Christopher warned his sister.

‘Who? Tess?' Amy went on guard .

Christopher felt for Tess's bag. It was alongside his. Quickly he undid the strap and felt inside. Where was the silver container? Did it have the Ming vase wrapped inside? And if so which Ming vase? ‘Tess is coming,' hissed Amy. Christopher turned, his foot slipped, the bag fell and so did Amy.

‘Don't drop it!' yelled Tess. ‘It might break!' Tess dived and caught the bag. She was very quick. But so was Christopher. He caught the silver container and somehow managed to open it.

‘Hey! That's mine.' said Tess. Inside was a vase. And there was something like a canvas wrapped around it.

‘The missing Ming vase?' The one in Mr Ng's advertisement? The one stolen from his house?' Amy was really wound up. Had she solved one of the mysteries? Was Tess the thief? ‘SSShhh. I'm not an art thief, if that's what you're thinking,' said Tess closing the container. 'Sometimes things are not what they appear. That's why I told you to wait until we reached Tokyo. You might have spoiled our operation.' She peered around to see who had noticed, but most were dozing.

‘SShhh,' William bustled up the aisle. ‘Passengers want to sleep or watch the film. It's about a train robbery.' He gave a strange smile.

‘Do you choose the movies William?' Mr Kei had suddenly woken up.

‘No sir,' said William. ‘Most passengers like a bit of a mystery, but only on film, not in real life.'

‘Of course,' said Mr Kei. ‘Real life is too dangerous.'

The inflight movie began . Amy kept thinking about the probable arrest by INTERPOL of Mr Wang. Gloria had worked out who he or she was. Could it possibly be a Miss Wang?

Christopher whispered, ‘I'm going to sit with the guards. I want to ask them about art forgery.' He slipped into the spare front seat next to the guards who had their reading lights on. They weren't watching the film, so Christopher pulled out his sketch pad and offered. ‘Would you like me to sketch you?'

‘Okay son. Do him. He's the handsome one,' laughed the first guard. ‘I'm too ugly.'

Christopher started sketching AND asking questions.

‘If someone copies somebody else's picture, is that forgery?'

‘Yes and no.' The first guard watched Christopher's sketching.' If a famous painter's name is on the work and he didn't paint it, that's forgery.'

‘But it's still a painting.' Christopher exclaimed. ‘What if the buyer just likes the painting?'

‘A fake is a painting of the period but not painted by the person who is said to have done the work. Couriers who try to pass of the works for the forgers often tell the story about an uncle who has died and left them the painting in his will. But the picture might have been painted yesterday by an unknown art student,' explained the first guard.

‘Tess said she had an artwork from her uncle.' Christopher was excited.

‘Get-rich-quick dealers comb the overseas auctions to see what they pass off. Most forgeries were done by artists desperate to make money. Some of them are art students. Sometimes they are often better artists than the person whose work they forged.' The guard tried to peer at the sketch of himself upside down.

‘Could you sit still, please?' Christopher remembered Tess talking about her pavement chalk paintings. Had she copied some famous painters?

‘Who buys the forgeries?' asked Christopher finishing off the sketch. The guard's mouth looked so life- like, he was talking on the page.

‘Collectors. A painting signed with a forged famous name, might be worth $20,000 instead of $1,000 if it wasn't signed.' The second guard looked down at Christopher's sketch pad. ‘Good drawer aren't you? Don't take up forging son.'

They laughed loudly.

‘Doesn't the real artist complain?' asked Christopher.

The guards laughed. ‘Usually the artist has been dead for years. That's why the ‘experts' can't always check how many paintings he did.'

Carefully Christopher signed his name on the bottom of his sketch.

Then he ripped it off and gave it to the guard.

‘Thanks son. I owe you one.'

The inflight movie had finished now. Passengers were settling down to sleep. Gloria hurried past the twins' seat. ‘Talk to Mr Kei. Attract his attention.'

‘Why?' whispered the twins.

‘Tell you later. Could you also check if there is one or two keyholes on the padlock holding the silver chain?'

The overhead reading light hit the silver padlock, making it gleam.

‘Excuse me Mr Kei,' Christopher sat next him. ‘I've been sketching some of the passengers. Would you like me to sketch you?'

‘No.' Mr Kei still didn't like wasting words.

Amy thought quickly. They needed another excuse. ‘Would you like me to show you my phone card collection?'

‘No thank you.' Mr Kei fiddled with his briefcase chain. Christopher leaned over to look more closely. ‘What a shiny chain.' There were two keyholes on the padlock.

‘Like to look at my coin collection?' Amy felt for her bum-bag.

‘Your coins would not interest me. I have my own collection of rare coins...' he stopped. ‘My client has a collection of rare coins.'

‘You both collect coins?' asked Christopher. ‘That's a co-incidence.'

‘Er, yes.'

Amy took a quick look down the aisle. William, Tess and Gloria were talking near the toilets. Tess was giving her silver container to Gloria! They MUST be on the same side! Amy unzipped her bum-bag and took out her best old Australian penny. ‘Have you got one of these?' Mr Kei shook his head. ‘Look, it's late. Why don't you go and have a sleep.'

‘We're not tired,' Christopher tried to think of some way to keep the courier's attention. What's your client's name?'

Mr Kei answered, ‘... er Mr Ng.'

Then Amy remembered something. She scrabbled inside her bum-bag and pulled out a piece of newspaper . Mr Ng's ad. fell onto Mr Kei's lap. He picked it up with his free hand. A card fell from his pocket onto the floor. ‘Damn! Have you read this?' His face looked strained. ‘I suppose everybody on the flight has read it! Newspapers turn up in the wrong places! Or at the wrong time!'

‘ Is it the same Mr Ng?' asked Amy. Quietly she picked up the card from the floor, glanced at the name and slipped it in her pocket.

Mr Kei didn't notice nor did he answer her question because at that moment, William arrived to collect the twins.

‘Thank you Amy and William. It's time to go back to your seats now.'

As William ushered them back, the twins wondered what they were being thanked for. Was it the information about the number of keyholes? Was it just so that Mr Kei would not see Tess, William and Gloria together? Or was it the silver container Tess was handing over to Gloria? If they were planning to catch Mr Wang, who was he? Amy felt it was safe to share a clue with William.

‘William, does Gloria know that the Mr Ng the collector in the newspaper clipping is also the Mr Ng that Mr Kei is working for?'

‘You've found that out? Gloria said her sleuths were good. She wasn't kidding!' William's perfect white teeth gleamed in the half-light.

‘Why did Tess give the container to Gloria?' asked Christopher.' By the way, there were two keyholes.'

‘Gloria will explain, SOON.' William left.

Gloria sat beside the twins. ‘I should share a few facts with you. We needed to know how many keys are necessary to open that briefcase.'

They were surrounded by sleeping passengers. Occasionally one snored.

‘Where does Mr Ng come into this?' Amy, thought about rare coins.

‘Tess was working for him, as a courier' said Gloria. ‘She's carrying a Ming vase to Tokyo. Carrying such a valuable item in a backpacker's bag, puts likely thieves off the track.'

Like the Gold Buddha story, thought Christopher.

‘Is she a ‘goodie' or a ‘baddie' courier?' asked Amy.

Gloria laughed. ‘Goodie, now she's working for us. That Ming vase belonged originally to Mr Ng's family. It was one of a pair. His family was very poor. His grandfather told him one vase had been smashed by soldiers. The other had been sold to the west. When Mr Ng made his millions, he tried to track down his family's Ming vase. He paid Samuel to look for him. A mock-up vase was photographed and given to Samuel who used it to find and buy the original vase.'

BOOK: Artnapping
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