A retired police officer stumbles onto a mystery at the Louvre
“Welcome to France, Mr. Black,” said the customs officer in monotone. I hate flying but was glad to be in France. I was excited to see all the architecture and history. I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Seine. But first, I wanted to visit the Mona Lisa.
The Louvre was even better in person than in pictures. It was a work of art itself. It’s the world’s largest museum and held 35,000 works of art. It was easily 100 feet tall.
After fighting through the big line, there was something odd about the Mona Lisa. It looked different, but I couldn’t tell what. I pulled out my phone and googled “Mona Lisa.” That’s when I realized that there was an extra tree in the background. It meant that I was not looking at the original.
I ran to the guard and told him everything. We raced back to the Mona Lisa, and I showed him the extra tree in the background. He told me that last night was rough, and all the cameras and security alarms were broken, but they couldn’t tell why. I pointed out that we now knew that the forger broke the cameras and security alarms. We called Interpol, who were baffled. Interpol’s experts were also baffled. They reviewed the camera footage and saw there were five people acting suspiciously in the museum before it closed last night.
A helicopter pilot named Emmet,
A YouTuber named Preston,
An art researcher named Avery,
A museum exhibit builder named Tom, who loves Michelangelo over da Vinci, and
A reporter named Big Ben. He was British and was very thin and tall.
Interpol wanted someone on the ground to interview them. Because I was a retired cop, I smiled and told them I could do it. My reputation for solving hard cases was well known. The French police brought me all five suspects. But, out of the corner of my eye I could see something. Footprints leading to a helicopter outside on the grounds. I looked closely and read “Courtesy of French Helicopter Airways” on the helicopter. I asked Emmet what the name of his helicopter company was. It was the same.
It could be all of them. It could be one of them. It could be none of them.
I went back to the Mona Lisa exhibit and saw something weird in the frame. I looked closer and saw a strand of long, blonde hair wedged in the frame. Then I looked at Avery’s long blonde hair. Could it be her? Tom was late because he was writing a blog on how Michelangelo is a genius and da Vinci stinks. It could also be Tom. Again, Preston was also a good suspect because he had been making a new YouTube video about the Louvre’s security. It could be Preston. But ah ha! I thought to myself. Let me learn about the Louvre’s security. Big Ben was writing a story about the Mona Lisa heist. It could be all of them. It could be one of them. It could be none of them.
The two cops and I strolled into the interrogation room. The interrogation room was musty and dark. The walls were rough like sandpaper, and I could smell something stinky, like old, forgotten food. When the six of us and the two cops strolled into the room, I knew this was a moment that could help me save history. I knew that I could make a major arrest. My hearing aid fell out and I put it back in my left ear quickly.
“I got this,” I mumbled to myself to give myself courage.
“Avery, what were you doing last night?” I asked curiously.
Avery remembered that she was eating chocolate when everything turned black. She recalled that she had probably been dizzy from walking in the hot sun. I asked Avery where the wrapper was, and it was still in her purse. I pulled the wrapper out and it smelled funky. On closer inspection I realized that this is the type of chocolate thieves use to knock people out and kidnap them. I told Avery that it was knockout chocolate. She was shocked.
The cops and I went outside to Emmet’s helicopter. I saw the footprint that was just when Big Ben stepped in mud. He left the exact same print leading to the helicopter.
“Ah ha! It was Big Be—” I stopped myself. I needed more evidence, because the footprint could be the thief wearing the same brand and size as Big Ben. Tom told me that he wanted to get out of this mess and confessed something amazing. He secretly admired da Vinci and thought that the Mona Lisa was way better than Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel. Preston articulated that his video showed one hidden security camera that the thief didn’t tamper with. We reviewed the tapes and saw a man in black punch security guards, break the security cameras and alarms, and use a red laser to cut the glass to swap the paintings.
Emmet’s eyes widened and he screamed, “That’s him! That’s him!” Everyone turned to look at him and I prompted, “That’s who?”
Emmet replied that he had flown a wealthy, masked client to France to see the Louvre.
I had noticed something else in the footage.
“Preston! Rewind! And turn on the sound this time!” I exclaimed. Preston shrugged and did as he was told. I saw that the thief grabbed scissors off a table, walked off camera, came back with something in his hand. I asked Preston to zoom in. A confused Preston said, “Uh, Okay?” I looked closely. He had a strand of blonde hair. On the left side of the screen, I could see something. Or someone. A sleeping woman. And that is when Avery screamed.
I thought that I should go back to the forged Mona Lisa to see what I could find. The answer was right under my nose, but I couldn’t see it. I stared at the forged Mona Lisa and blinked. Under the Mona Lisa’s left eye but above her small smile was a smudge in the pigment. I looked closely. I could see the ridges of a thumb print.
Big Ben exclaimed, “It’s a scoop!” after talking with Avery about being knocked out. He took out his pen to write in his notebook. At that exact moment his pen leaked black ink, drenching his fingers.
“Aw, man!” he exclaimed. He rested his fingers on the table and leaned against the wall. The black, leaky thumbprint on the wall had similar ridges to the one I saw on the Mona Lisa. I gasped and took a photograph of the fingerprint on the painting. I lined the phone up with the wall. I looked back to see Big Ben red and sweaty. I smiled and realized that the two prints were identical. The cops around me got out their handcuffs and placed them on Big Ben. Big Ben was flown to jail by French Airways, and Emmet waived to me from the cockpit. All the other people stood beside me. I explained to Avery,
“Ya know, Big Ben used your hair to frame you—with an actual frame!” Everyone burst out laughing.
I got back a letter from the French police chief. Big Ben was questioned, and it turns out that he was an infamous art forger who wanted to sell the Mona Lisa for $900 million. His nickname was the “Renaissance Man” because he specialized in forging Renaissance paintings. His real name really was Ben, and he was now as famous as the real Big Ben. He had confessed that he had stashed it in the back of Emmet’s helicopter in case it was found to frame Emmet.
You are probably wondering what happened to the rest of our characters. Avery learned to never accept chocolate from strangers and always look at the wrapper. Preston made YouTube videos about my cases and became a fan. Emmet continued to fly helicopters. Tom wrote articles about Michelangelo not being as good as Da Vinci. And, well, me? I was the hero of France for saving the Mona Lisa.