The Billionaire Professor 2 (2015)

The Billionaire Professor 2

Chapter 12

 

Max

 

I got the shock of my life when I walked into my penthouse that day. The living room had been stripped of every single painting on the walls, from by Blue Period Picasso to my abstract Jackson Pollack.

It seemed as if thousands of pieces of paper had taken their place, hung randomly across every wall.

“What in the . . . ?” I couldn’t help myself, I was totally stunned.

Carly, who was behind the computer, looked up. She appeared to be concerned about my reaction. Paul, however, quickly took control of the situation and put me in my place.

“Max,” he began. By the tone of his voice, it sounded as if he were reasoning with a toddler instead of talking to his older brother. Hmm. Then again sometimes my maturity level hovered around that point. “We carefully took the paintings down so we could hang all the pertinent information about those who might want to frame you.”

I guess the look I gave him wasn’t approving, because he hastily added, “If you like, we can put all the pictures back up, but it certainly would slow down our work.”

Luckily, Jazmin jumped in and answered for me, “No, by all means I’m sure those masterpieces aren’t being hurt one bit for this little bit of time they aren’t being displayed. Are they, Max?”

I knew I was outnumbered. But more than that I knew that, for I think the first time in my life, I had a core of people around who I could call friends. Friends and family. And they were all working hard to keep me out of jail. I needed to be as cooperative as possible.

Then an odd thought bounced into my head. With all the money I had stashed away in the form of liquid assets, paintings and investments, I didn’t have enough to pay these people back for their attempts to help me.

While my mind was going through all of this, Paul and Carly had been busy explaining what they had been discovering about potential suspects.

 

Jazmin

 

With all the paintings taken down, and biographies, photos of individuals, string connecting one piece of information to another it was a regular Crime Scene Central. That’s what the living room of Max’s penthouse looked like. Obviously, Paul and Carly had gone to great lengths to find anything at all that might help clear Max and point the police to focus their attention on someone else. Max made a few weak attempts at complaining about his precious paintings. While I certainly understand his concern – those paintings are worth millions of dollars. Hell, one alone is probably worth upwards of twenty million dollars by itself.

But right now, he has to learn to be flexible. He won’t be able to enjoy this fabulous collection if he were sitting in jail. A few moments of inconvenience for a lifetime of freedom. Let’s see. That’s a tough decision to make.

Carly and Paul wasted no time in explaining to us what they had found. They started in describing their findings even before Max was done complaining about the transformation of this living room.

“We’ve checked out all the ex’s, brother,” Paul said. “All the remaining three living ones. Abbie is in the Cayman Islands, enjoying her time as ex-Mr. Maxwell St. James. She took the money she got in her divorce settlement and invested it well. From the way she talked, I got the impression that you two haven’t talked in a long, long time.”

Max nodded affirmatively.

“Well, she thinks it’s a dirty shame that someone wants to frame you and wishes you the best of luck.”

Carly jumped in. “She says she harbors no ill will against you because you and your settlement helped her establish her own business. She said she actually owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Paul then took another turn. “That’s pretty much the same with the other two ex’s, Belinda and Christine. They are both living out of the country loving every second of their lives, thanks to their divorce settlements from you. Not only did they appear not to have a motive, they had no means and certainly no opportunity.”

Max’s brother paused for a second before commenting, “You really are generous with your divorce settlements.”

“Uhm . . . I have one question before we leave this topic,” Carly said weakly.

“And that would be?” Max asked.

“Did you purposely set out to marry alphabetically?”

I laughed, but poor Max didn’t get it right away.

Paul jumped in and said, “Abigail, Belinda, Christine and then Daphne  -- A, B, C, D -- do you have any ladies hiding in the closet named Edith or Ethel.”

“If I did, with names like that, they’re staying in that closet,” Max said.

He then carefully wrapped his poison ivy covered arm around me. “The only lady waiting in the wings is right here next to me.” He looked me in the eyes, the swelling in both of our eyes was beginning to subside. What a relief to be able to see, even a little again. “Her name starts with a J and I have no intention of working through E through J in order to enjoy her company. I’ve got her right here and right now.”

“If we can eliminate the ex-wives – pardon the wording on that – then who else have you found?”

“I’m glad you asked that. Because we’ve hit a dead end,” Carly said.

“Not quite a dead end,” Paul said, “but we certainly need your help with this one, Max.” Paul walked from one wall, which had all the ex-wives information pinned up on it, to another.”

“This wall contains the names of just about everyone I can remember and the internet can tell me about your former comrades in crime. Those people who may be carrying grudges because they felt they got a bum deal in your art heists.”

Carly gracefully joined Paul at the wall and was beginning to point out those art thieves Max had worked with. Most of them were still in prison. Only a handful had been released.”

Paul read the list of potential suspects. “Anyone else you can think of Max? Now think carefully before you answer.”

Max stood up and paced. “It seems to me we’re missing someone,” he said. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. “Is there anything good in here to eat? I can’t think without something substantial in my stomach. How about pizza? I can get Joel to pick it up for us.”

“Is this your way of avoiding the conversation?” Paul asked.

“No,” Max said firmly, ‘it’s my body’s way of dealing with the steroids the doctor gave me because of this damned poison ivy. I don’t think I’ve ever been this hungry in my life.”

“Thank goodness,” I said. All eyes were now on me. “I’m starved too and I couldn’t figure out why.”