Beyond the Western
The Matter of the Pakistani Pillow Conspiracy
Steve Levi

Beyond the Western

Captain Heinz Noonan, the ‘Bearded Holmes’ of the Sandersonville Police Department, was deep in conversation with Captain Jennifer McDonald in Timber City, Iowa, a metropolitan name which Noonan found strange as neither the city nor the state had timber. But here he was, in Timber City, Iowa, because he had been ordered to be here by the Sandersonville Commissioner of Homeland Security because he was the ‘Bearded Holmes’ and the Timber City Commissioner of Homeland Security had prevailed upon the Sandersonville Commissioner of Homeland Security for Noonan’s services and both commissioners saw headlines in the arrangements. The need was typical of the phone inquiries calls Noonan regularly received. (Called loo-loos by his office staff.) This one was different only in the sense it took place in Iowa in a city named for cordage in spite of the fact it had no timber.

And what was the focus of this oddity call to the ‘Bearded Holmes?’

Someone had stolen a truck cargo container of pillows.

400 of them.

The truck cargo container of pillows had disappeared on its way to the Timber City Distribution Center – at least that was what the transit paperwork indicated – but it either never left the rail station or had vanished on the highway to the Center. Noonan was betting on the former. He was also betting it was a paperwork mix-up and the container would be found in the railyard – possibly empty.

And what was the connection between the pillows and a threat to homeland security?

The pillows had been made in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and any person, thing, hint or whiff of Muslims caused any and every commissioner of Homeland Security from Key West to Nome to wonder just what ‘those’ people were up to. Who knows what ‘those’ people might be smuggling into the country in a load of pillows? It was a good question with an obvious answer which did not result in headlines and that, in itself, made the theft suspicious enough for a “close second look.”

Captain McDonald was apologetic. “On one hand, I hate to see you here. Yes, this was an odd crime, but, frankly, I could have told you all I know in a phone call. On the other hand, again, frankly, pillows? Seriously?!”

Noonan smiled and gave his head an avuncular shake. “Politics. Been the same since the Sumerians. Immediately after they got a king they got politics.”

McDonald chuckled. “I thought politicians came next.”

“Politics is how the king got there. Now, the pillows?” He ended the sentence with a raised voice to indicate a question.

“Just what I told you over the phone. Before you were ordered out here. As near as we can tell we’re talking 400 pillows. Just taken. Nothing else. I’ve been in this business for 25 years. Nothing surprises me. Pillows? I find it hard to believe the crooks are going to sell them. My nose tells me there is something else going on.”

“I agree,” Noonan nodded. “It’s my experience that the ‘something else going on’ usually means money is involved. So let’s do some creative thinking. Where is the money in Timber City? Other than the banks. What we are looking for is a source of money or valuables not in a high security location.”

“The pillows?”

“We’ll worry about them later. Can you give me a list of valuables in Timber City that might be vulnerable?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. We’re not a big city. We’ve got a museum with local memorabilia, a half-dozen jewelry stores, some art galleries, a gold refinery – believe it or not – and, I don’t know, not much else that’s big dollar.”

“I didn’t know Iowa had gold.”

“Not big time. But some. The gold refinery is more for buying old jewelry and purifying it, if that’s the term. I’m sure they sell the gems to the local jewelers.”

“Well, we might pay them a visit. Does the local museum have any big-ticket items?”

“Not the way big city people use the term. It’s been around for decades. Started in a rich man’s living room and over the years expanded into an abandoned railroad warehouse. It’s got the usual burglar and surveillance systems. I’ve checked. Valuable? Nothing I saw made my heart beat fast. No gems or gold. They have traveling shows that come to town occasionally, but, hey!, we’re Timber City, not Des Moines.”

“All the jewelry stores have burglar alarms and surveillance systems?”

“The larger ones, yes. The smaller ones, depends. But they all have secure vaults. I’ve had to do maintenance checks. Now, there are some freelancers who work out of their homes but they are really small.”

“Anyone using a lot of pillows?”

“One upscale hotel and a dozen motels. But none of them have 400 rooms. Combined they don’t have 400 rooms.”

“How about dumpster service?”

“Dumpster service?”

“Right. Whoever took the pillows most likely only wants the pillows. The pillows were in boxes. Whatever they are going to do involves pillows, not boxes. So the pillows have to be pulled out of the boxes. The boxes will have to be dumped. If we can find the boxes, that might give us a clue as to how the pillows would be used and where the truck container is.”

“Good thought. I’ll have my people make some phone calls. Now, I’ll bet you want to see the town?”

“Absolutely. Let’s start with the museum then go to the gold refinery. But it’s the jewelry stores I’m most interested in. Can you make the arrangements?”

* * *

The Timber City Museum was in an old railroad warehouse and it looked just like a warehouse.

From the back.

Three sides were windowless vertical walls. One side had an old crane opening nailed shut while two of the three-story sides fell to the museum parking lot. One side had an emergency exit with a staircase which dropped to a picnic area. That being said, the front was impressive. It had, what real estate agents call, magnificent curb appeal. The approach was a block in length, had a long meandering pool with a fountain at the end near the museum entrance. There were a number of trees alongside the pool – ‘Timber!’ Noonan thought when he saw them – and scattered park benches.

What the museum had not spent on curb appeal on the back three walls, it had overspent on the front. Massive windows on all three floors looked west. There were two patio areas, on the first and second floor, and a sunroom on the third floor. Inside, the museum was people-friendly with a children’s exploratory – the museum’s term – on the first floor and exhibits on the next two floors. If there was anything of value on floors two or three, Noonan did not see it.

Hercules Stephenson, a former circus strongman in his 80s, was the museum director. And he looked like a strongman. “Keep up my figure,” he said as he shook hands with Noonan. “I lift iron to keep weight off. Have a seat.”

Stephenson’s office was a cubbyhole on the third floor against the back wall of the museum. “I have an office back here to give the public as much window exposure as possible. This was a railroad warehouse and from the back, that should not come as surprise.”

Noonan kind of nodded and asked about valuables in the museum. “Everyone knows about the pillows,” he said inclining his head toward McDonald. Then, to Noonan, “We’re a small town. But, in answer to your question, nothing of great value on the market. No old masters, Hope diamonds or golden idols. About one-third of our exhibits are of local Native origin, and by that I mean Indian. Another third is historical. Some of our collection dates back to the Black Hawk War. We have some muskets, old uniforms and the like. Not very valuable – except to the patrons who donated their great grandfather’s uniform. Last third is traveling exhibits. Sometimes it’s birds, other times paintings of Alaska. But we are still not talking about any big dollar exhibits. Hey! We’re Timber City!”

Noonan smiled. “Everything has a value to someone. When does your next traveling exhibit due to arrive?”

“It’s here. Came in last week. A tribute to the Alaska Prince William Oil Spill in 1989. We’re pleased to have the Gary Kremen 66-foot painting which will be here on the third floor. It’s a circular painting. You enter Prince William Sound and are surrounded by artwork and the artist included small speakers so when you look at the whales in the painting you can hear the whales bellowing.”

“How long will the exhibit be here?”

“Three months.”

“What kind of a security system do you have?” Noonan asked.

“Exactly what the insurance company demands. We may be Iowa but we are not hicks.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that.”

“No offense taken. We’re got the usual surveillance cameras on all three floors, alarms on all windows, double locks on the doors – front and emergency exit – and a vault we never use because there is nothing that valuable here.”

“What’s in the vault now?”

“Paperwork, small pieces of jewelry or art we have taken off the walls to be repaired and do not want to leave in a workroom. Nothing else.”

“Where do you store your artifacts when they are not on display?”

Stephenson laughed. “We’re not like a regular museum. We don’t have a storeroom the way most museum do. What we have is out. When we need to store anything, we use an attic,” he raised his head toward the ceiling.

“Anything in there now?” Noonan asked.

“Broken Indian artifacts, some funerary items, a couple of old Army uniform too frayed to be displayed but donated by a wealthy donor. None of the items have a street value if that’s what you are asking.”

“That was what I was asking.”

Noonan and McDonald went from the museum to Sampson’s Jewelry, a building putting the security of Fort Knox to shame. It was a stand-alone building surrounded by a parking lot. The entrance was a double door, the inner one only opening after the outside one was closed and locked. Inside, the building was a jewel thief’s fantasy. There was a double row of display counters – glass covered and locked – along three walls. There was a central counter with jewelry so valuable even Noonan was afraid to look at the price tags.

But there were none.

If you had to ask the price, you couldn’t afford it.

On the back wall was a massive mirror which Noonan knew was one-way. There was no one in the shop when Noonan and McDonald came in. But, as soon as the inner double door clicked shut, a man about the size of a munchkin came out from behind the mirror. McDonald introduced him as Samuel Sampson.

“Let me guess,” Noonan said humorously. “You’re the Sampson of Sampson’s Jewelry?”

“You are correct, sir.” Sampson smiled. “Largest jewelry store west of Des Moines and north of Jefferson City. If we haven’t got it, you don’t need it.”

“Sounds like an ad,” Noonan said.

“It is,” McDonald cut it. “His advertisement. Runs in every station ‘west of Des Moines and north of Jefferson City.’” She and Sampson said the ‘west of Des Moines and north of Jefferson City’ in unison.

“Timber City is a small town by American standards,” Sampson said. “I know why you’re here. The Timber City Commissioner of Homeland Security and I sit on several nonprofit boards together. In a nutshell, yes, there is a lot here to steal.” He spread both arms wide indicating the glass-covered counters. “No, I do not know why 400 pillows would help a jewelry thief but I don’t take any chances. I’ve upped the security measures – which I will not discuss with you – and passed the word to the other jewelers in town. We are competitors but we are not stupid. What affects any one of us, affects all of us.”

“Assuming we are talking about a jewelry robbery, and you being a jewelry dealer – what would you steal and from whom?”

“Forgetting the pillows, Steve Willoughby. The man does not have a sense of security. He runs his business out of his home. Why he hasn’t been robbed before, I do not know.”

“Does he carry high end gems?” Noonan pulled out his notebook and wrote in the name Steven Willoughby.

Samuelson kind of sighed. “Not really. He does not have a store where you go in and buy a gem. He wholesales and occasionally gets a big stone. But he doesn’t own the stones; he takes them on consignment. If someone robbed him, all they’d get is what he had on hand and that wouldn’t be much.”

Noonan kind of grunted. “You’re in the jewelry business, any unusual stones or jewelry come your way lately?”

“Unusual jewelry is always coming my way. Heirlooms and the like. Unless the heirloom is a quality antique, I don’t take it. If it’s not quality, I tell the owners to go to Timber City Gold. Get cash for the gold and see if they can sell the gems to one of the smaller jewelry stores. The only other unusual jewelry is locally created. Some Native but mostly crafts. I carry that jewelry because I believe in supporting local craftsman. Sooner or later, the person who buys a locally-made silver ring will be back for a broach or a diamond pin. Other than that, nothing unusual in the sense it was worth a lot of money.”

While Samuelson was pleasant, Steven Willoughby was downright hostile.

“What’s it to you, copper?”

“Steve,” McDonald said to alleviate the hostility. “He’s here to help.”

“Pillows, Jennifer. This is all about pillows. You couldn’t solve the robbery of pillows so you are leaning on the jewelers. I know it. We all know it.”

Noonan was soft when he cut in. “We’re here to do you a favor, Mr. Willoughby. People who steal pillows today will steal jewelry tomorrow.”

“Then arrest someone for stealing the pillows,” he snapped and slammed the door in their faces.

“Pleasant fellow,” Noonan said dryly as he put away his notebook.

“You caught him on a good day,” McDonald said. “Most of the time he doesn’t even open the door.”

“Any trouble with him at the station?”

“Calls 911 a lot about strange people in his neighborhood. He doesn’t have a criminal record and not so much as a parking ticket. His parents left him with some cash, several hundred thousand, and that house.” She pointed to the Willoughby home. “He doesn’t have to work.”

“We should all be so lucky.”

Timber City Gold looked exactly like every other gold refinery front office Noonan had ever visited. It had a buzz-in front door and inside was sparse with some antique gold items for sale in two dingy glass-covered cases on facing walls. The front counter was chest-high and manned by a human gorilla. If he ever smiled there was no indication in the lines and wrinkles on his face. In fact, he appeared to be permanent frowning. He had a gun in a holster on his hip and he purposefully stood a step back from the counter as they entered. When he saw McDonald, he stepped forward to the back of the counter.

But he did not brighten when he saw her.

“Captain McDonald. No pillows here.” The voice was flat without emotion. Like an engineer telling a joke.

“Didn’t expect them here. How’s your mother, Ipu?”

“Same.” Ipu didn’t spend an iota of energy on the word ‘same.’

“This is Captain Noonan from the Sandersonville, North Carolina Police Department. We are looking into . . .”

She didn’t get a chance to finish. Ipu cut her off. “Pillows. I know. We all know. No gold missing here. Talk to Hernando.” All said in a flat tone with the inflexion of the sound a drone makes.

Hernando Ramirez, the owner of Timber City Gold, was more outgoing than Ipu – no surprise there – but he was closed mouth for many of Noonan’s questions. Timber City Gold had seen no increase in business over the past several months and did not expect any influx any time soon.
“Iowa does not have gold the way California and Alaska do. Raw gold is mostly placer and very small nuggets. And I mean very small,” Ramirez told Noonan and McDonald. “But we are the only gold refinery in this part of the state and northern Missouri so we get quite a bit of long-distance business. Where those people got gold I do not know. Our local, sustainable moneys come from antique, heirlooms, gold from teeth, old gold coins found in crawl spaces. Small stuff.”

“Nothing big coming in soon?” Noonan asked.

“Not that I know of.” He smiled for the first time since Noonan and McDonald came into his office. “But there is always hope.”

* * *

Noonan had zip.

He knew he had zip.

Even after a good night’s sleep he had zip.

That’s what he told Captain McDonald the next morning and suggested the two of them drive around town – to give him a perspective of Timber City.

Just as they were going out the door, they got a summons from his lordship. In this case, it was from the Timber City Commissioner of Homeland Security. When Noonan and McDonald entered his throne room, he was not alone. A member of the press was there and from the way the presswoman was treated, it was clear she was a personal friend of the Commissioner – and was being given the inside track on ‘what’s what’ with regard to the stolen pillows. She, the Commissioner, was clearly intent on a front-page story. She, the news person, thought the story was a hoot and was holding off on whether to put it as a front-page story of crime in Timber City or a ‘strange but true and I swear it’s true’ story for a laugh.

Things went from bad to worse when the Commissioner politely berated Noonan as ‘falling down on the job’ and obliquely mouthed something along the lines of ‘we have spent a lot of money to get you here and so far you’ve given us zip.’ Noonan agreed with the assessment and said nothing beyond, “the case is still open and when all the avenues have been investigated, I and the Timber City Police will have an answer.”

That statement did not satisfy the Commissioner.

After a few more barbs, Noonan and McDonald were told to, quote, “Get on the stick and solve this so we don’t look bad in the press.”

Noonan and McDonald left the Commissioner’s office in two different states of mind. McDonald was silently furious for being told she as ‘falling down on her job’ and “making a laughingstock of the city.” Noonan could have cared less.

He had been here before, so to speak.

Many times.

“Cases come together when they come together,” Noonan told McDonald. “There are a lot of loose pieces here. Just give them time to pull together for an answer.”

The rest of the day was spent driving around Timber City. For a town of its size, there seemed to be a lot of construction, Noonan noticed. McDonald agreed. “There’s a lot happening or about to happen,” she said. “Marijuana is becoming a big industry. In 2017, it became legal to prescribe marijuana for diseases like cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s disease and a lot of others. What it did was draw a lot of sick people – and by that I mean ill people – to Iowa. But the real boom is in the plant itself. So far the emphasis with marijuana has been on the buds. That’s where the THC is. But there is a growing market for the rest of the plant. Right now, it’s being thrown out but a lot of farmers around here see hemp as an industrial product. Did you know that during the Second World War, Henry Ford made car bodies out of hemp?”

“That I did not know,” Noonan admitted. “But why would marijuana stimulate so much construction here?”

McDonald chuckled. “All part of the evolutionary process. An influx of any one business stimulates economic activity. The basic law of greed. The farmers around here saw money in hemp so they started growing it. Medicinal marijuana product manufacturers moved in because the hemp was available. That meant storefronts and warehouses to be constructed. Then we had an influx of workers who needed housing. Followed by stores and restaurants and gas station and car dealers. You know what I mean. There’s talk of an expansion of the airport and then a casino.”

In the deepest recess of Noonan’s mind a distant gong sounded.

“Casino? Is gambling legal in Iowa?”

“Kind of. It’s up to the counties. But the laws are restrictive. We can’t have a big casino but we can have a bunch of small betting houses. Betting on racing is legal but that’s about it right now.”

“Has there been any movement to legalizing casinos?”

“Nope. There’s only one casino in the state. It’s in Tama, a booming town of about 3,000. The Meskwaki Casino is located there. On reservation land. The casino is impressive. Well over 100,000 square feet of slot machines, keno, bingo, poker, blackjack, craps, the whole nine yards. Attracts gambler from all over the Midwest. Has a massive hotel next door.”

“Any Native land around here?” Noonan pointed out the car window at the vacant land around Timber City.

“No. The only reservation land is around Tama, a good hundred miles from here.”

“So, no Native land no casino.”

“That’s about the size of it.”

The internal gong sounded again.

* * *

Whenever Noonan was stuck on a matter, the ‘Bearded Holmes’ turned to his two most reliable tools of crime detection: history and the local newspaper. Iowa had a long history but almost all of it was Native. Iowa, along with the rest of the Midwest, was looked upon as a hinderance to travel to the Far West until the coming of the transcontinental railway. It wasn’t even mapped until 1805 by Zebulon Pike. (It must have been an easy survey, Noonan thought, considering Iowa was flat.) The first settlers came in 1833 and five years later – on July 4th – Iowa became a Territory. Then, in 1846, it became a state. Reading Wikipedia, Noonan came upon a sentence which rang a distant chime in his brain:

Once admitted to the Union, the state's boundary issues resolved, and most of its land purchased from the Indians, Iowa set its direction to development and organized campaigns for settlers and investors, boasting the young frontier state's rich farmlands, fine citizens, free and open society, and good government.

The rest of the write-up was typical for a Midwestern state north of 36°30′. In spite of the fact there were more than a few Copperheads, the population was predominantly in support of the Union. Iowa sent 75,000 volunteers to serve with the Union, more than any other state, North or South, and suffered more than 12,000 casualties. The economy was rollercoaster for the next half century and then exploded into the black with the two world wars and the reliance on American food products. But it would not be until the 1980s that the Iowa economy pulled away from farming. Over the next half century, the state’s economy included manufacturing operations, government services, biotechnical firms and mail order clearing houses.

There had recently been a surge in the economy. Gambling on Indian reservations brought gamblers across state borders and in 2017, the Medical Cannabidiol Act, was looked upon as the first step toward legalizing recreational marijuana – which would also draw ‘clients’ from across Iowa’s borders and pump money into the local economy. But, in a nutshell, the history of Iowa did not tell Noonan anything he did not know or could not have figured out. Afterall, the American Midwest was, after all, farm country which only changed with global warming and the world market price of agriculture goods.

Then Noonan turned to the local news for Timber City. There was not a drop of ink of the pillow theft but more than its fair share of news on the influx of dollars in the construction industry. Construction is the ongoing gift of the gods. It begins with the anticipation of economic growth – a population increase, in-location of new industries, arrival of a new Air Force base – and the private sector rises to the challenge. The economy of the Roman Empire was linked to the construction of roads. Men had to be hired to build the roads and they spent their pay in the local economy. The completed roads brought settlers into previously remote areas and dropped the transportation price of incoming goods and outgoing agricultural products. As the volume of money which could be made went up, so did the population which, in turn, stimulated more construction and thus did the population and dollar transfer increase.

Then Noonan stumbled onto some articles regarding Natives land that used terms he had never heard before: reddendum and habendum. Even after he looked them up on Google he was not sure of the precise, dictionary meaning of the terms. A reddendum was a clause in a deed which reserved something while a habendum was part of a deed which listed the “quantity of interest to be granted.” Both were quite esoteric, unless you were a professional in the real estate business. But, to Noonan, a professional who followed the money, he knew exactly what was going on. Private land was being transferred to Natives who, in term, were going to convey it to some manner of tribal ownership. Noonan saw ‘casino’ written all over the effort.

This was all well and good, as the saying went, but there were a few glitches. First, the transfer to Native ownership was possible, legal and likely, but just owning land did not a casino make. While the Natives could buy the land and convert the status, there still had to be a draw. Tourists go to Las Vegas for more than gambling. In addition to restaurants and nightclubs, there have to be floor shows, recreational facilities for the children and museums for the disinterested spouses.

There was a shiver in Noonan’s gray matter. So he placed a call to MacDonald. “I don’t suppose the truck container ever showed up.”

“Nope,” she replied. “Not a whisper.”

“What other items have been stolen over the last week? Anything unusual?”

“A lot of run of the mill stuff: pickpocketing, some mail from mailboxes, a dog kidnapped by a neighbor because it pooped on his lawn, some cars, some trucks and the usual liquor store robberies. I’m not a construction person so I don’t know what an unusual item is. There has been some theft of material like rebar, cement bags and an empty debris container.”

“Debris container?”

“Yeah, you know. One of those huge dumpster-like containers. Construction workers toss in broken glass, sawdust, wood ends, plywood leftover. This was a big one, eight by eight by 22. Why would anyone steal an empty debris container?”

* * *

Harriet, the Sandersonville Police Department administrative assistant and common-sense maven, did a faux slunk into Noonan’s office while the ‘Bearded Holmes’ took pains to ignore her.

“You’re not there,” she snapped – in faux humor.

“I didn’t need to be,” Noonan said as he looked up.

Toward the ceiling.

His gaze penetrating two floors to the throne room of the Sandersonville Commissioner of Homeland Security. “He’ll do just fine without me. It’s just him and the press, the way he likes it.”

Harriet pulled a press release out from behind her back and read, “The Case of the Timber City, Iowa, Pillow Theft SOLVED!” She emphasized the word SOLVED. “You’d think it was the Brink’s Robbery. How’d you figure it out?”

“It was simple,” Noonan said as he stretched. “You just had to think off the wall. All the clues were there. The Natives had land and were going to build a casino. But they needed a draw, something no one else had in Iowa.”

“Artifacts!” Again Harriet shook the press release. “Their artifacts were unique to area. That would draw not only gamblers but anthropologists and museum geeks.”

“Geeks. A terrible word. Yes. Just like in Europe. Every city in Europe has something different. In the old days it was their fingerprints. Today, it’s a tourist draw. The Natives in Timber City are no different. If you want the tourist traffic, you have to be different.”

“And the artifacts made them different.”

“Make, them. Use the present tense. They just didn’t want to pay for them.”

“Almost didn’t.”

“Got the verb tense right that time. Correct. It was a simple plan. The artifacts were in the museum. One third of the museum. They just had to get them out. How was simple. The museum was an old railroad warehouse. It was secure except for one window, where the railway crane had been located. The window was just boarded up.”

“So it didn’t have a security alarm.”

“Yup. It was just a matter of giving the boards the boot. Out went the boards covering the window and no alarm went off.”

“Then it was just a matter of throwing the artifacts out the window. All the way down to the debris container filled with pillows.”

“That was the plan.”

Harriet gave him a hard look.

Then she said slowly, “I heard a verb tense change there.”

“You are correct. It was a scam, a con.”

“Who got conned? You saved the artifacts and solved the pillow theft.”

“It was con from the start. Everyone was in on it. I can’t prove it.” He looked up to the ceiling again. “But I’m not stupid. Dropping artifacts three floors into a bed of pillows would have damaged some of them. Maybe most of them. The museum didn’t want the artifacts, the Natives needed them. But the museum couldn’t sell them and the Natives couldn’t buy them because whoever donated them restricted any sale.”

Harriet’s eyes tightened. “If they were stolen, everyone in town would know who did it.”

“Yup. That’s why the whole pillow theft was a con. The way I figure it, the pillow theft was to draw an outsider to Timber City. Me. I would be on the case when the debris container full of pillows would be discovered underneath the old crane window with the old crane window boards gone. The conclusion would be obvious. A theft was stopped. The Timber City Police would get credit for stopping a crime. The Timber City Commissioner of Homeland Security and the Sandersonville Commissioner of Homeland Security get credit for crimping a suspected terrorist plot.”

“That’s quite a mouthful. Why do it in the first place?”

“So the local Natives can get the artifacts. See, no one was charged with the theft of the pillows or the debris container. My bet, very shortly the Timber City Museum will loan the local Native artifacts to the forming casino. Right now those artifacts make up one-third of the museum floor space. With them gone, the museum can add more items.”

“And,” added Harriet, “if someone wants to see Native artifacts . . .”

“. . . they go to the casino,” Noonan finished her sentence.

“C-l-e-v-e-r.” Harriet shook her head slowly. “No one’s charged with any theft, the museum gets one-third of its space vacant for more exhibits, the Natives end up with artifacts for the casino at no cost and the Timber City Police end up with kudos.”


“And the commissioners look very good.”

“Yup, just like corduroy pillowcases.”

“Sorry?” Harriet gave him a strange look. “Corduroy pillowcases?”

“They make headlines.”