Chicago attorney Izzy McNeil is ready to take a break from private investigation and focus on her career in criminal law. But as a favor, she agrees to work with Madeline Saga, a beautiful art gallery owner who fears that artwork she has sold is fake. Who in Madeline's tight circle of artists and gallery owners is guilty of the forgeries?
When Madeline's life is threatened, Izzy is suddenly asking a more troublesome question: Who wants the gallery owner dead?
As the case spins out of control, there's only one person who makes Izzy feel safeDetective Damon Vaughn. But getting close to her former nemesis is full of surprises. Astonishing truths about the glittering Chicago art scene will introduce Izzy to the deadliest art of deception.
About the Author
Laura Caldwell, a former trial lawyer, is currently a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. She is a nation-wide speaker and the founder of Life After Innocence, which helps innocent people begin their lives again after being wrongfully imprisoned. Laura has been published in thirteen languages and over twenty countries. To learn more, please visit www.lauracaldwell.com.
Read an Excerpt
"I need you on something, Izzy," Mayburn said, looking serious, his brown eyebrows pushed together.
"Can't," I answered without asking what the assignment was. I leaned back to give the waiter room to place our plates.
Mayburn continued to talk as if he hadn't heard me, as if the waiter wasn't between us. "It's a part-time gig. Just part-time."
I waited until the waiter finished.
"That's nice," I said to Mayburn. "But since I have a full-time job now " My friend Maggie Bristol, who was also my boss, was pregnant and due in nearly a month. She needed me to take more responsibility at the criminal defense firm of Bristol & Associates, so I had little or no time for a freelance private investigation gig.
"You have to do it." Mayburn bit into a lobster roll, then looked around the restaurant on North Sheffield. "When did all these damn fish places open in Chicago?"
"You don't like your lobster roll?" I tasted my crab cake, which was delicious.
"It's not that I don't like the food." He gestured around with his sandwich. "But when did every second bar start looking like a boathouse from northern Michigan?"
I glanced around. Kayaks, rowboats and oars hung from the ceiling, accented by netting and fishing poles.
"Anyway," Mayburn said, putting his lobster roll on his plate. "This is an assignment only you can do."
"Put Christopher on it," I said. My dad worked occasionally for Mayburn, as well. Somehow the part-time private detective work that I did with them had become a family affair.
"I did get Christopher on it. Sort of. Research. But I need you at the front of the house."
"What house? Does this have to do with Lucy?"
The love of Mayburn's life, Lucy DeSanto, was a lovely woman, someone I admired for her kindness and her devotion to her family.
"It's not Lucy," he said.
"Then who's the client?"
Mayburn pushed aside a bottle of hot sauce. There were two more still on the table. He lifted oneMojo Hojo Calientethen anotherCrazy Billy's Brain Damage. He pushed them away.
He looked at me. "It's the Saga."
"Madeline Saga?" I couldn't keep the surprise from my voice. "From what you told me about her, I guess it's good that you're pushing away the hot sauce. Stay away from the heat."
"Ha. Yeah." According to Mayburn, he and Madeline had engaged in a very sexy and tumultuous relationship. Mayburn was the first to admit that the tumult was his own. He'd always feared she didn't love him as much as he did her, that her true love was art and her gallery.
"Does she still have her own gallery?" I asked. He nodded. "She moved it from Bucktown to Michigan Ave. But now she might lose it."
He glanced around to see if anyone was listening. "She found out that some of the paintings she's sold were forged. But they were not fakes when the gallery acquired them."
I returned a bite of crab cake to my plate and sat back. "Whoa." I didn't know much about art, but that didn't sound good. "What did the cops say?"
"She hasn't contacted the cops."
"Why? Something was stolen from her, right? The paintings would have to be stolen before they were replaced with fakes."
"Right, but the CPD doesn't have an art crime division. Almost no local police departments do. And it can take decades for a stolen piece to show up on the market again. Plus, Saga doesn't want anyone to know this is happening. Reputation, for an art gallery owner, is everything."
"What about security cameras? Did she have them?"
"Yes and no. She didn't at the Bucktown gallery, but when she built out the new space, they were installed. I've analyzed the video for her. Nothing strange. Just Madeline in and out all the time, people she had working with her, customers."
I continued eating my crab cake.
Mayburn looked deeply troubled. "The worst part," he said, "is that whoever is stealing the paintings is trying to hurt her."
"What do you mean? Was she attacked?"
"Not yet. But things have been weirdfinding doors open at her house that she swore she'd closed and locked. Things that seem moved around in her office, although she can't be sure. And then there's the fact that anyone who knows Madeline knows that taking her paintings away would cause her great pain."
I noticed he referred to the paintings as if they were her children. "Sounds complicated."
I thought about it. "You know what's interesting? A lot of jobs you've had me on have dealt with your love life."
"What do you mean?"
"A lot of these cases have had to do, in one way or another, with Lucy or Madeline."
"Look who's talking!" He was clearly annoyed. "You came to me last year because of Sam, when he up and disappeared. And then last year? You had me on Theo's case. Both involved were your boyfriends. One was your fiance, if I remember correctly."
Zing. That hurt. The relationship with the fiance Samwas done, fault of no one. And the boyfriend Theohad taken off to Thailand.
Mayburn saw my look. "Sorry," he mumbled. He picked up his sandwich and began eating again.
"It's okay," I said. I put my fork down. "So this thing with Madeline Saga, you really need me?"
"I do. I need you to work as her assistant in the gallery."
"I know absolutely nothing about the art world. You sure you want to throw me into this?"
"I need someone on the inside. We need to figure out who would have access to the paintings and any pertinent info on those paintings, plus we need ideas of anyone who might want to hurt Madeline."
I thought about Maggie. I could talk to her. "How long would you want me?"
"Shit, I don't know. Two weeks. Max." He looked across the restaurant, past the net curtain festooned with shells. "God, it would just kill me if something happened to Madeline or her business."
He shot me an irritated glance. "Hey, I might not be in love with the Saga anymore, but " He took another bite of his lobster roll. He chewed, shrugged. "I just want her to be happy, okay? It's like I don't know. This is hard to explain. But Madeline draws energy from everyone around her. Really. Everyone. And even though I don't see her much, she'll sense if I'm gone. She's like that. And I want her to be content, settled, before I can totally move on to Lucy."
"It still sounds complicated."
"It is." A pause. "Which is why I need you. For two weeks at the gallery. Cool?"
Because he was a friend now, because he had helped me out of more than one bind, I nodded.