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A Road Paved with Good Intentions: Part Five

“I’ll give it to you straight, Brian.” CJ straightened up and turned his eye from the exotic furnishing to focus straight on Maxwell. “I know you’ve got motives to see this dig fail. I know your protestors aren’t fond of Peter Glenn or his operation. I know the university trampling about the place goes against just about everything you stand for … but somehow, more than all that, I doubt you’re the type to organize the mass theft of cultural artifacts, especially if said theft involves clubbing a woman with a baseball bat.”

Maxwell listened passively as CJ laid out his thought process. The collector had his fingers steepled, and his only reaction to the implicit accusation within the former half of CJ’s statement was a clenched jaw. His posture relaxed only a little when the PI concluded with something resembling an olive branch.

“Damned by faint praise.” He replied icily. “I know we’ve crossed each other in the past. In spite of all that … I am willing to help you.”

CJ nodded. “Ante up then.” He said with a half-smile. “Why is the university corresponding with you, an outspoken opponent to their operations in the area? Why notify you the dig was happening? They basically gave you an open invitation to attack them.”

Maxwell offered a bemused huff and nodded. “I believe that was the idea. ‘If you can’t beat them, join them,’ as the old adage goes. If I’m not mistaken, it was in an attempt to placate me, to have the university be seen actively coordinating with local special interests.”

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CJ’s eyebrow went up, and he gave an analytical ‘hmm.’ “You’d think they’d do a little bit more to publicize that then, if their goal was good PR.” He mentally cataloged all the times the university had trumpeted their achievements through the local media channels; they’d never been shy about such fawning gestures of humanism before.

Maxwell laughed dismissively. “I’m sure they would have done just that, if I chose to play along. I refused their offer. They wanted to plan my protest, parade me and my people about as we fell in line. They offered me rather generous compensation if I would have members of my organization only appear at specified times and places, with university oversight every step of the way; a ‘planned consultation fee’ they called it. I refused.”

CJ shook his head. He grit his teeth in frustration, pausing a moment to calm himself before speaking. After examining the carpet for a moment just to avoid looking at Maxwell’s face while he composed himself, he continued. “That just puts us back at square one then. You and them are at odds. You still know the dates and times of their operation, and you have ample opportunity and motivation to oppose them.”

“Not at all. I hope to have affirmatively established two facts.” Maxwell stood, and CJ cocked his head as the collector moved over to a desk nearby to unplug a smartphone, which he showed to CJ with confidence bordering on smugness. “Fact the first: the university’s desperation. They’re stooping to make deals with the enemy. They aren’t confident that things are going well here. Fact the second: I hope to have proven my intent to be honest with you. You can cross-check all of the information I have given you thus far with the university’s extension, I’m sure they’ll confirm them for you, albeit bitterly since I would not cooperate. With that in mind …”

Maxwell began rapidly working on the smartphone, his fingers flying as he worked something out - whatever it was, he’d clearly had practice, as there wasn’t a moment of hesitation throughout the process. With a satisfied smirk, he pressed send, and seconds later, CJ’s own phone buzzed. The PI gave the collector an aggrieved frown. He had no idea how Maxwell had found his personal cell number; a fact that Maxwell seemed to revel in.

The man is exhausting. CJ groused internally, but he nonetheless pulled out his phone to see what information Maxwell had sent with such a flourish.

In CJ’s inbox awaited a series of screenshots of a text conversation. They showed Maxwell’s perspective, coordinating with someone named Blake - presumably one of the protestors on site, considering the dates and times listed in the correspondence. CJ browsed the mundane exchange, reading about the logistics of organizing the protest, the status of tents and blankets and seemingly everything else. This Blake had been there for days and never left. CJ leaned in as the date of the exchange approached the date of the theft. He felt Maxwell’s gaze as he read intently - clearly the man was awaiting some sort of dramatic epiphany.

CJ read the portion of the text conversation that was had just that morning. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he read, and his thoughts began to whirl as a few words stood out, clear as day.

“Nobody’s come or gone all night.” the texts from this Blake said. “It’s been quiet after the smashing sounds at the camp. Only car we’ve seen is the old Sheriff’s truck going by this morning.

CJ scrolled down to a text he knew would be coming: “Jeep went by just now. Two ladies inside, one of them looked hurt.” Not long after that, “Sheriff went by with the site manager. Site’s empty for now, guess they’ve given up on looking.”

The PI looked up at Maxwell with more than one question burning in his eye.

“Nobody?” CJ prompted suspiciously.

“Nobody.” Maxwell responded with a careful nod. “Whoever robbed our good friend Peter neither approached nor left by the main road, and the camp heard no vehicles approaching from off-road.”

CJ stood and put a hand to his chin. Maxwell stepped out of his way with a bemused smile, allowing the PI to pace a little as he worked through his thought process.

“How can that be? Nobody showed up all night, and the camp is just magically smashed by morning? How could they have towed all of their stolen dig site items away if they didn’t have a vehicle? It was a haul - it would’ve taken a dozen guys to backpack all that stuff out of there …”

“A mystery.” Maxwell commented blithely. CJ looked up at him, pausing in his pace.

“A mystery … but I’m pretty sure there’s only one solution that makes sense.” The PI stated, finally giving a knowing smile right back to the collector. “The baseball bat, the equipment that’s still intact on site, no cars leaving, the university getting ready to pull out… I think I’m putting it together.” CJ’s smile faded a bit as he realized where things were headed next.

The clues are coming together … It’s time to head into the final act. Where should CJ go next to begin the wrap up of this whole thing? A. The Hospital - find the archaeologist and the security guard. B. Glenn’s home - find the site manager. C. The Sheriff’s Office - find the Sheriff.

Choose One:

  • 0%A. The hospital

  • 0%B. Glen's home

  • 0%C. The sheriff's office




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