I was walking along a narrow street crowded with pedestrians. I was carrying an original, framed painting which measured approximately a third of a meter in height and a half meter in length. The painting, which I enjoyed, was predominately red, and consisted of abstract designs, patterns and intersecting lines. I had just purchased it for $50 one or two days earlier. It had been sitting with some other paintings for sale on the porch of a house reminiscent of a house around Court and Third Street in Portsmouth. After having bought the painting, I had passed by the house again and had seen several other paintings which had also been for sale, and which had been marked down in price from $50 to $25. I was now on my way back to the house, intending to probably buy one of the other paintings.
How surprised I was when I was passed in the crowd by two men and a woman (probably in their late 20s), casually dressed, who were carrying what looked like the very paintings I had seen at the house. After first hesitating as they passed me, I suddenly turned around and ran back to them. For some reason it seemed suspicious to me that they would have all those paintings and I even thought there was a possibility they might have stolen them. I stopped them and without further ado began questioning them about where they had acquired the paintings.
One of the two men immediately said they had bought the paintings and he identified the same place where I had bought mine. When they saw my painting, I told them I had bought it at the same place. But I didn't want to mention how much I had paid for my painting, because I thought they had probably bought theirs for half as much, and they would think I had been foolish for having paid so much. I asked them how much they had paid for their paintings. One of the men (a tall, dark-haired fellow wearing a blue denim jacket) replied that they had paid $2 apiece.
I was immediately alerted, for I knew the paintings were certainly worth far more than that and they wouldn't have been sold for that price. I immediately decided not to let them proceed until I had satisfied my suspicions. I forthwith told them I didn't believe them and that they were going to have to accompany me to the place where they claimed to have bought the paintings. They immediately expressed their unwillingness to do so, although I couldn't detect any fear in their refusal. I adamantly told them if they didn't cooperate, I would be forced to summon the police. One of them said that would be fine and he even pointed out a police officer approaching us in the crowd behind me.
I turned to the officer (tall and dressed in a black uniform) and called him over to us. I immediately showed him the painting I had bought, told him the price I had paid and told him where I had bought it. I then showed him one of the paintings in question and explained to him my suspicions which were founded upon my having been told that the paintings had only cost $2 apiece. The police officer took one look at the paintings, gruffly stated that paintings such as those were definitely worth more than $2 apiece and gathered them all together in his arms. After he indicated that we should all follow, we marched off in the direction of the house.
Instead of following, however, one of the fellows began running ahead of the policeman as if he wanted to reach the house first. I raced after him, overtook him and in short order found myself standing in front of the house, an old two-story, red brick. No paintings were in sight on the cement porch now, but instead some fellows were standing there. I walked up to one, whom I quickly recognized as a fellow I had once known named Gerry, and asked him if the people who sold the paintings were around. I then noticed I recognized one of the other fellows on the porch, but I couldn't remember his name. He helped me out and said his name was Bob.
Gerry told me the name of the man who sold the paintings and he said the man was in a room in the back of the house. I walked into the house and headed for the back room, the door to which was closed. I knocked on the opaque glass panel which covered the upper portion of the door and then I walked on in. A woman in a gray tee shirt was sitting with her back to me, apparently typing at a table. After I had told her whom I was looking for, she pointed to my right and identified a young man sitting there as the person I sought.
I immediately showed the fellow my painting, which I was still carrying, explained that I had purchased it and told him of my desire to buy some more paintings. He seemed happy that I liked the painting, but he immediately told me he couldn't sell me any more because his other paintings had been stolen. I excitedly spurted out that I thought I knew who had stolen the paintings. Before continuing, however, I asked him how much he would sell the missing paintings for if they were recovered; I thought I might be able to get them for $10 apiece, since I would have been instrumental in retrieving them. He replied, "$30."
I looked at him, frowned and told him I knew the paintings had already been marked down to $25. He squirmed, but I didn't wait for a response because I heard the fellow whom I had overtaken enter the house. I immediately walked back to the front of the house, roughly grabbed the fellow by the collar and pulled him into the back room. I ordered him to now tell the man how he had paid $2 apiece for the paintings. He remained silent.
The police officer arrived in the front. I went to meet him and he laid the paintings he was carrying on a chair and walked to the back room. The other man and woman (who were now with the police officer) likewise walked into the back room and some other people also gathered. I quietly watched as a bit of turmoil ensued as the people discussed the matter and someone pulled out a small baggie of what appeared to be marijuana which apparently had been found on one of the suspects.
In the midst of everything, the police officer stepped up to me and mentioned that my father was very sick. I was surprised the officer knew me, but then I recognized him as someone whom my father had pointed out to me before. The policeman looked different than I remembered. He was now quite a bit overweight, short and had graying hair. What he told me about my father concerned me and I thought I might visit him. I didn't know what else I could do for him.
Meanwhile it was gradually concluded that a little hearing should be held and the police officer sat down, apparently to conduct the hearing. The owner of the paintings pulled out a sheet of paper which described how the hearing should be conducted. He read that the suspects should be questioned by the complainant or the complainant's attorney. Someone said, "Collier's an attorney."
The suspects seemed surprised to hear that piece of information. I reflected that although I was an attorney, I wasn't an attorney for the owner. However I did feel involved in the matter and I thought I might ought to question the suspects. I wondered how I would get them to identify the marijuana.
I thought we should have the paintings in the room for evidence and I returned to the front room to fetch them. There they lay on a chair. There were four of them, all different sizes, and I looked them over. One was much larger than the others and was probably a little over a meter in length. The others were about half so long and were all about a third to a half meter in height. They seemed not to have been damaged (although the large painting had two small, metal hinges screwed close together on the front of its frame). I wondered if the hinges had been attached by the suspects and I asked someone standing nearby if the hinges had been there before, but he didn't know.
All paintings were abstract in design and each was different in color. One had a lot of pale colors; one had mostly pink. I noticed some marks on the board the pink one had been painted on, but it appeared they had been there before. The large painting in particular had a lot of gobs of paint on it which had been used for a textural effect. It reminded me of a painting of the sea.
I gathered all four paintings together and carried them into the back room. I was still debating whether I should question the suspects. I thought there would be some things only a lawyer would know how to say, such as, "I'm going to show you what has been marked as Exhibit A and ask you to identify it."
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