He was a detective, and he loved his job. He enjoyed solving puzzles, finding clues, and catching criminals. He had a reputation for being smart, diligent, and resourceful. He had solved many cases, big and small, but none as intriguing as this one.
He was hired by a wealthy art collector, who had reported a theft of one of his paintings. It was rare and valuable, painted by a famous artist in the 19th century. It was worth millions of dollars and had been in the collector’s family for generations. It was also his favorite painting, and he was devastated by its loss.
He showed the detective the room where the painting had been, on the wall above the fireplace. It was a large room, filled with other paintings, sculptures, and antiques. The wall where the painting had been was now empty, except for a small nail and a thin wire.
He told the detective that he had last seen the painting two days ago when he had hosted a dinner party for some of his friends and associates. He had left the room for a few minutes to check on the food, and when he was back, the painting was gone. He had searched the entire house but found no trace of it. He had called the police, but they had no leads or suspects.
He asked the detective to find and bring it back to him. He offered him a generous reward for his services. He gave him a list of the guests who had attended the dinner party and their contact information. He also gave him a photograph of the painting, which showed a beautiful lake and a mountain.
The detective thanked him for his cooperation and promised to do his best. He left the house and drove to his office. He looked at the photograph of the painting and felt a surge of curiosity and excitement. He loved mysteries, and this one was challenging and fascinating.
He decided to start by interviewing the guests at the dinner party. He hoped that one of them might have seen something or heard something that could help him solve the case. He called the first name on the list and arranged to meet him at a nearby cafe.
He arrived at the cafe and looked for his interviewee. He spotted him sitting at a table by the window, reading a newspaper. He was a middle-aged man, with gray hair and glasses. He wore a suit and tie and looked like a businessman or a lawyer.
The detective approached him and introduced himself. He showed him his badge and his photograph of the painting. He asked him if he recognized it.
The man nodded and said that he did. He said that he was an old friend of the collector and that he had admired his painting many times. He said that he was shocked and saddened by its disappearance.
The detective asked him if he had noticed anything unusual or suspicious during the dinner party. The man shook his head and said that he hadn’t. He said everything had been pleasant until they discovered the painting was missing.
The detective asked him if he knew who might have taken it or why. The man shrugged and said that he didn’t. He said that he didn’t know anyone who would do such a thing, or what they would gain from it.
The detective thanked him for his time and moved on to the next name on the list. He repeated the same process with each guest but got no useful information or clues. They all claimed to be innocent and ignorant of the theft.
He was frustrated and puzzled. He wondered how someone could have stolen such a large and conspicuous painting without being seen or heard by anyone. He wondered where they could have hidden or taken it without leaving any traces or witnesses.
He decided to go back to the collector’s house and take another look at the crime scene. Maybe he had missed something there that could help him crack the case.
He drove to the house and rang the doorbell. The collector opened the door and greeted him warmly. He asked him if he had any news or progress.
The detective shook his head and said that he didn’t. He said that he had interviewed all the guests, but none of them had given him any leads or suspects.
The collector sighed and said that he was sorry to hear that. He said that he was losing hope of ever seeing his painting again.
The detective told him not to give up yet. He said that he still had some ideas and methods to try. He asked him if he could take another look at the room where the painting had been hanging.
The collector agreed and led him to the room. They entered the room and walked to the wall where the painting had been. The detective examined the wall, the nail, and the wire. He looked for any signs of tampering or damage. He found none.
He turned to the collector and asked him a question.
“Are you sure this is the only painting that was hanging here?”
The collector nodded and said that he was. He said that he had never changed or moved the painting since he had inherited it from his grandfather.
The detective frowned and asked him another question.
“Are you sure this is the original painting, and not a copy or a fake?”
The collector looked offended and said that he was. He said that he had verified the authenticity and the provenance of the painting and that it was genuine and priceless.
The detective apologized and said that he didn’t mean to insult him. He said that he was just trying to cover all the possibilities and angles.
He looked at the photograph of the painting again and compared it with the wall. He noticed something that he hadn’t noticed before. Something that made him gasp and smile.
He had solved the mystery.
He turned to the collector and said:
“I know who stole your painting, and where it is.”
The collector looked surprised, and asked him:
The detective pointed at the wall and said:
“There. It’s still there.”
The collector looked confused, and asked him:
“What do you mean? There’s nothing there.”
The detective explained:
“Look closer. There’s a painting there, but it’s not your painting. It’s a different painting, painted over your painting. It’s a clever camouflage, designed to fool the eye and hide the theft.”
The collector looked closer and saw what the detective meant. He saw that there was indeed a thin layer of paint on the wall, covering his painting. He saw that the paint had been applied in such a way that it matched the color and texture of the wall. He saw that the paint had been shaped into a subtle image of a lake and a mountain, mimicking his painting.
He realized that someone had stolen his painting by painting over it with another painting.
He was stunned and asked:
“But how? When? Who?”
The detective answered:
“How? With a brush and some paint. When? During your dinner party. Who? One of your guests.”
He showed him his photograph of the painting again and pointed at a detail.
“See this? This is a signature. The signature of the artist who painted over your painting. The artist who stole your painting.”
He showed him his list of guests and pointed at a name.
“This is the name of the artist who painted over your painting. The name of the guest who stole your painting.”
He looked at him in the eye and said:
“This is the thief who stole your painting.”
The collector followed his gaze and saw who he was pointing at.
It was him.
He was speechless.
The detective smiled and said:
“I’m sorry to say this, but you are under arrest for grand theft art.”