An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Part II

Terzameron Day 24
April 13, 2020
Tim Martin


As the days wore on, the phone calls continued to go unanswered. The trail got colder. Clem Conger said that, strangely, Phillips hadn’t been in church last Sunday. Eric grew more and more anxious. And then, one morning, we got a call from the Criminal Investigations Section of the Alexandria police department. Was there, they wanted to know, such a thing as a pair of antique candlesticks worth $17,500? A few days before, someone had pawned a pair of candlesticks for that amount, vouching that they were worth much more. Supposedly they were by a silversmith from Colonial New York: Samuel Tingley. The high value triggered a review, and they’d been told we were the people to ask.


So, the good news was that two of the sticks were safe—albeit at a pawn shop. The bad news was that the other two were still missing, and so was Phillips. The police, learning that the candlesticks hadn’t been paid for and were still legally ours, agreed that the pawn-broker would not be allowed to sell them or to release them back to Phillips. But neither the pawn-broker, nor the police, knew how to find Phillips and the other pair of sticks.


Clearly out of his depth—and, who wouldn’t be?—Eric called his friend Bobby Pirie, whom we’ve met before in this series. Bobby listened to the whole saga, laughing as always, and asked:


“Ok Eric, let’s deal with the important things first: have you had lunch?


“Yes. Fabulous veal chop.”


“OK. Good. Stay in the shop. Someone who can help will be there within a couple of hours. Oh, and Eric? This is going to cost an absolute fortune.”


No more than an hour later, we had a visit from Emmanuel Bartolota, and one of his associates. Now, reading these stories about collecting, and cultivated tastes, and museums, you might be forgiven for thinking that Emmanuel Bartolota was a renowned tenor, or a Neapolitan épée champion, or a designer of fine menswear. No. Emmanuel Bartolota was a private investigator. Bobby Pirie had called Jules Kroll, an old friend from his Skadden Arps days. Kroll, aka Big Julie, had a company, Kroll Associates, that specialized in investigating fraud and recovering stolen property. Kroll sent us Manny. I’m sure Manny’s qualifications were numerous, but the most apparent to the casual observer was that Manny made Duane “The Rock” Johnson look like he could use a protein shake. He and his side-kick (approx: 6’4″ 280) were prepared to retrieve the candlesticks. They just needed a little information. “A phone numba for the suspect. The address to which da cannelsticks was shipped. Yaw phone numba, and you just sit tight.”


“What are you going to do?” Eric asked, ashen-faced.


“As long as he plays nice? Nothin’, we’ll just take the cannelsticks from him.”


“Oh well I don’t think he’ll just give them to you, do you?

“As a matter of fact, Sir, yes, I do. I do. I will call you when I have them. If by chance Mr. Phillips calls you, just tell him: ‘it would be in his best interest to cooperate.’ Don’t say anything else, just that: ‘It would be in his best interest to cooperate.'”


They left, and we all stood around slack-jawed. We were in a movie.

A couple of hours later, the phone rang. Mary said: “Mr. Shrubsole, it’s him.” Eric had been rehearsing for his big moment all day, and, taking the phone, listened to Mr. Phillips for a moment, and then delivered his line with Clint-Eastwood-cool: “It would be in your best interest to cooperate!” He hung up to describe in delighted detail the pathetic, sniveling whimper on the other end of the line “Oh Mr. Shrubsole please, surely there is some kind of misunderstanding Mr. Shrubsole please…” A few minutes later, Manny called: they had the candlesticks, and they hadn’t had to lay anything but an appraising eye on a susceptible looking kneecap. Success. And if you’re wondering why there isn’t an exclamation point after “success” it is because we eventually got the bill from Kroll Associates—Manny’s services, for about ten hours, cost over $10,000.


Now, for the other two candlesticks…

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