If someone told Shirley that she was going to have another case not even a week after her one at Bear’s Belly Bar, she would be inclined to not believe them. After all, Hamview was still a bit stagnant in the area of major crime, so a phone call from Hercules got her attention.
“There’s been another murder,” Hercules stated when Shirley answered. “It’s the Art Gallery down Avant Garden Boulevard, you want me to drive you over?” Shirley agreed and hung up. Grabbing her coat, she made her way down to the entrance, running into both Parvath and Aimi, who joined her in entering Hercules’ car.
Along the way, Hercules gave Shirley some more information on the building. They were heading to the Ferguson Art Gallery, named after one of Hamview’s founders, Ferdinand Ferguson. The gallery was the only one in Hamview and was well known for its diversity of artists and mediums for art. It had been a while since she visited the gallery, since her last time was during her second major case.
After parking, the four entered the gallery and saw a bunch of officers and a worried woman, whose eyes lit up upon seeing Shirley.
“Oh, Miss Shirley H.!” The young woman exclaimed before jogging over. “It’s great that you are here; there’s been a horrible crime at the main exhibition. Follow me!” She said before motioning for the others to follow her as she jogged beyond the main desk. The four said nothing as they matched her pace.
“My name is Katherine Vogts,” the young woman said when the four rejoined by her side. “I am the curator here at the gallery. I was opening up the halls and rooms and as I unlocked and opened up our main one, I saw... well, it’s best if you see,” she concluded as they reached the exhibition hall. Katherine opened it up and the five of them were met with a room full of mannequins looking at a large frame loosely mounted at a slant on the wall. Inside the frame was a body, pinned to the wall with large nails in the ankles and wrists.
“The body belongs to Mr. Masters, our current event partner,” Katherine explained. “He was making art to show off how corrupt society is, but it seems he was made to become a permanent part of it.”
Shirley turned towards her friends. “Parvath, please lower the frame to perform an examination for the cause of death. Hercules, please investigate this room for any clues. Aimi, please round up any possible suspects. Katherine,” Shirley took a moment from her rapid commands to turn to the curator. “Is there a workshop area where the artists can work?” Katherine nodded her head. “Please, show it to me.” With that, the group split up to do their tasks.
Katherine led Shirley to the workshop area, pulling out her key ring to grab the right one to unlock the workshop door. As she pulled off the right key and moved it towards the door, she stopped.
“Huh? That can’t be right,” she mumbled to herself before turning to Shirley. “The door is already unlocked!”
“I take it you didn’t open it?” Katherine shook her head.
“No! There are only two keys to it, like every room here. I carry one set of keys and our guard, Gema, carries the other. She gave Mr. Masters’ the key to the workshop, and last I saw before I clocked out, he locked it behind him before he went to the exhibition hall. I would check our footage, but something happened, and all our camera recordings are gone!”
Shirley processed this as she opened up the room. The workshop was dusty and dark. Katherine turned on the lights, which flickered to life. The workshop was full of art, some started, some finished, and even a few that were still drying. What caught Shirley’s attention the most was a pile of wood projects that were broken into pieces, almost as if they were destroyed in pure anger. A pile of loose nails rested on them like parmesan cheese atop pasta. Delicately examining the ruined wood, Shirley spied the initials G.M.
“Sometimes we store ruined or abandoned projects here before we recycle them, it helps declutter the main gallery,” Katherine explained, earning a nod from Shirley. "And sometimes, unfortunately, it is also a place where loose trash is stored,” Katherine stated, picking up a ripped box with the label “NA--” on it. Shirley, having turned to listen to Katherine, took the box from her hands and examined it for a bit before her phone pinged. The group chat had responded with their results.
“Victim’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the back of the head. Instantaneous death.” Parvath texted.
“Found some loose nuts and bolts and a ripped label that just had the letters I, L, and S. I also noticed that some of the mannequins had items in their hands that represent different occupations. The one made to look like a plumber had his item, a monkey wrench, turned backward.” Hercules texted right after.
“The only suspects I could find were Gema Martinez, the guard on duty, and Marney Oak, a carpenter and Mr. Masters’ protégé. Obviously, we have to include Miss Vogts as well,” Aimi sent.
“Meet up in front of the body, it’s time to put this case to rest.” Shirley texted, earning her thumbs up emojis from her three friends.
As she and Katherine made their way back to the main exhibition hall, a question formed in Shirley’s mind, prompting her to turn towards her current companion.
“It seems we have a short list of suspects counting yourself, Miss Vogts. How come there are so few people working here?” Katherine looked embarrassed.
“It’s quite a dumb rule that we haven’t succeeded in changing out of fear of backlash from the locals. When the gallery was made it was a rule that only people studying under an artist could work here. I was a student of Mr. Masters, as was Gema. Does that satisfy your question?”
Shirley smiled. “Most certainly. In fact, I believe it may be the final piece of the puzzle for me,” she stated confidently as she opened the door to the main exhibition hall.
Who do you think committed the crime?