(Image credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen)
After the theft of a medieval goblet, collector Felix Cheshire became obsessed with security. He improved his alarm system by installing metallic strips on the rear of all his canvases and other art objects. He didn't even trust his two longtime assistants. His latest precaution was to carry a loaded pistol and a sword hidden inside his walking cane.
As usual, Felix began his day by ushering in his assistants and setting the alarm. He had barely entered the rear research room when the alarm sounded. Grabbing his gun and cane, Felix hobbled up to the entrance and found Tanya Garfield standing by the door, a sheepish grin on her face. "I was just going out for coffee," she apologized. "I guess my earrings set it off."
The collector checked his major possessions, found nothing missing, then reset the alarm. He settled back into the research room and accepted a cup of tea from an earring-less Tanya. Felix had no idea for how long he'd nodded off. But suddenly Jack, his other assistant, was shaking him by the shoulders.
"It's gone," Jack shouted. "The da Vinci's gone." Jack led the way to a side gallery and pointed to the small empty frame. A razor on the floor gave mute testimony to how the priceless drawing had been removed. "I was working in the front. Tanya was in one of the middle rooms. I came in here to consult the Iliad codex, and . . ."
Using his cane, Felix hobbled to the front gallery and out the door. His gun set off the alarm. "Stay here," he ordered, then locked his employees in and telephoned the police.
Hours later, the two assistants were putting the distraught man to bed. "The police searched everywhere," the old collector moaned as Tanya took his cane and Jack began taking off his shoes. "The alarm was on. No one could have removed the drawing without setting it off."
The thief suppressed a smile and tried to look as concerned as Felix's other assistant.
How could the drawing have been removed? And who is the most likely suspect?
The whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.