Elite Crimes Unit #2
by Michele Hauf
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: 8/8/2017
Olivia Lawson’s bosses at Scotland Yard don’t take her work very seriously. Art and antiquities? Bor-ing! But her latest investigation, at London’s world-renowned Tate, is turning out to be far more explosive than anyone expected. In fact, the vandalized, booby-trapped painting hanging on the gallery wall would have blown her off her feet if it wasn’t for the tall, dark-haired stranger who tackled her at the last second—a stranger as finely sculpted as any masterpiece in the museum.
Ethan Maxwell is working this case for the Elite Crimes Unit because it was a choice between that and lockup. A (barely) reformed art forger, he’s got the expertise to lead Olivia through a dangerous manhunt. But the crime may have a more personal connection to him—and the all-too-real feelings he’s developing toward Olivia could pull her into the line of fire too . . .
Olivia Lawson stood before the most hideous painting she had seen hung on the esteemed walls of the Tate Britain museum. Around her the forensics team and various police constables had begun to trickle in. Olivia had arrived twenty minutes ago, as soon as dispatch had forwarded her the call from Camila Wright, the museum’s director. The director had been frantic, and had suspected a vandalism.
Olivia had called in backup officers from Scotland Yard to search the outer perimeter of the museum. As she’d headed out, she’d stopped into her boss’s office. Superintendent Wellbrute had just been informed a gallery in SoHo, not far from where she lived, had been hit last week with methods similar to this morning’s incident at the Tate Britain. He didn’t understand why she hadn’t been on top of the SoHo incident. It was her job with the Arts and Antiquities Unit to investigate art crimes.
How could she be on top of what she hadn’t been aware of? Apparently the SoHo gallery owner had gone directly to Interpol instead of Scotland Yard. Which had miffed her boss. And baffled Olivia only so much. Private galleries had a lot at stake in keeping thefts quiet. They couldn’t have their reputations tarnished should Scotland Yard release information to the press. But it did stab at Olivia’s pride to have her boss angry with her. She should have heard about that one or picked up information from the art- world grapevine. Her lacking knowledge wasn’t going to help her status at Scotland Yard.
She needed to solve this case to show her boss she had what it took, and that she was not expendable. A promotion from constable to detective constable was her goal.
A promotion from constable to detective constable was her goal.
Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Unit had been reduced to two police officers, her and Nigel Bellows, who was out with shingles. Not a day passed that Superintendent Wellbrute didn’t grumble about lacking funding, and who cared about art crimes, anyway? Wasn’t as if the perpetrator caused physical damage or violence to people such as with robbery or murder. Wouldn’t she be happier in dispatch or even—and this was always delivered with a wink—bringing him coffee and answering phones?
The cuts and insults never ceased, but Olivia would not break under such demeaning treatment. She was proud to be a woman working in the field of law enforcement and she would show the men exactly how valuable she was to Arts and Antiquities.
But before she tied herself up with worry knots over not learning about the SoHo incident, she had to decide if this call to the Tate was related to last week’s gallery vandalism, or was something else entirely.
Approaching the painting on the wall, Olivia took careful note of all surroundings, moving her gaze from the periphery and inward. As she reached the painting, she scanned the pale gray wall for fingerprints, smudges, disturbed dust. No dust. The museum’s housekeeping was meticulous.
Standing akimbo three feet away from the piece, Olivia scanned the ornate gold frame, which the director had insisted was the original that had framed the John Listen Byam Shaw masterpiece, Now Is Pilgrim Fair Autumn’s Charge, which had been the painting displayed on the wall. Or maybe it still was that painting. It was difficult to determine such.
Because pinned over the original—or whatever was beneath—was a stretched canvas, on which had been painted a copy of the Byam Shaw. An awful copy. Even the worst forger in the world would never take credit for such an aberration.
Trying not to stare too long at the horrible piece, Olivia took in everything else. No dirt in the curves and arabesques carved into the frame. Forensics would dust for prints and do a thorough run-through of the crime scene, but she always asked for a few minutes alone to take everything in. To make notes, both physical and mental. The painting hung about a foot above the green marble base that bordered the walls. Numerous other paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite period hung on the wall, close together but seemingly untouched.
With her cell phone, Olivia snapped a few pictures of the entire frame and pinned canvas. Some were close-ups of the frame; the texture of the paint on the new canvas; brushstrokes. It was a slapdash job, but she sensed whoever had painted this copy had sincerely attempted to imitate the master. The colors in the original were bold oranges, reds, and browns. The copy had matched them perfectly. And the wispy ghost-like creature crawling out of the water in the foreground was also executed with a careful hand.
Olivia stepped back and bumped into a man wearing white scrubs over his jeans and T-shirt. “Sorry, Howard.”
Howard Leeds smiled and nodded at the painting. He was deaf, but he didn’t need to hear to become one of the most honored technicians in London forensics over the past two years. Having learned sign language as a project in the fifth grade, and using it on many occasions over the years, Olivia signed that she needed a few more minutes, then he could do his job. Howard flashed another beaming white grin, punctuated by some killer dimples, then walked over to a wooden viewing bench and sat out his equipment.
Elite Crimes Unit #1
The Elite Crimes Unit works behind the scenes of Interpol—and employs some of the world’s most talented criminal minds. Because as everyone knows, it takes a thief to catch a thief—or to seduce one . . .
The old farmhouse in the French countryside is a refuge for former jewel thief Josephine Deveraux. Admittedly, there aren’t many men in the vicinity, but she has her cat to cuddle up with. It’s a far cry from her former life, constantly running from the law, and she’s enjoying her peace . . . until the intruder in the three-piece suit tackles her. He wants her back in the game, helping with a heist—and he’s not above making threats to get his way.
Little does Josephine know that notorious—and notoriously charming—thief, Xavier Lambert, is after the very same 180-carat prize she’s being blackmailed to steal. To his chagrin, he’s doing it not as a free agent, but as a member of the Elite Crimes Unit—the team he was forced to join when his brilliant career came to a sudden end. And little does Xavier know that his comeback is about to include a stranger’s kiss, a stinging slap, and a hunt for missing treasure—along with the infuriatingly sexy woman who’s outfoxing him . . .
Michele Hauf has been writing romance, action-adventure and fantasy stories for over twenty years. Her first published novel was Dark Rapture (Zebra). France, musketeers, vampires and faeries populate her stories. And if she followed the adage “write what you know,” all her stories would have snow in them. Fortunately, she steps beyond her comfort zone and writes about countries she has never visited and of creatures she has never seen.
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