Title: CAPTCHA Thief
Author: Rosie Claverton
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
Agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane and her sidekick Jason Carr are swept up in a tortuous and increasingly dangerous adventure following the murder of a security guard at the National Museum of Wales and the theft of a priceless Impressionist painting. As Amy seeks to help track an art thief and Jason seeks to impress the National Crime Agency investigator Frieda Haas sent to recover the missing painting – and its abductor—Jason and Amy become entangled in a perilous web. As the evidence leads Amy and the police in circles, Jason finds himself taking more and more risks in his hunt for the thief. Nothing is as it seems. Are Amy and Jason merely playthings for a vicious murderer? Can they survive the game? The stakes are high, and this game is serious. Dead serious….
About the Author:
Rosie Claverton grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. She then moved to London to specialize in psychiatry. Her first short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. She co-wrote the ground-breaking series of short films The Underwater Realm. Between writing and practicing medicine, she blogs about psychiatry and psychology for writers in her Freudian Script series.
Chapter 1: A Mere Impression
Night after night, he returned to that one place.
If he listened very carefully, he could hear the water lapping against the gondola. His body seemed to sway with the gentle motion of the little boat, and the air held the cloying mist of a Venice evening, the rich aroma of ripe, roasting tomatoes drifting across the canals. The last rays of sunlight played warm across his face, before the great orb finally dipped below the horizon.
In that beautiful half-light, the vivid pinks and oranges of a Mediterranean sunset, the glorious San Giorgio monastery loomed before him. With the sun behind the tower, he couldn’t see the detail of it, only shadows in grey and greyer and black. It was breathtaking. It was priceless.
But the real beauty lay in the reflection. The building stretched out over the water, rippling with every wave, the boat moving with the monastery. No clear, still reflecting pool this. The ever-shifting waters tossed the light this way and that, until the magnificent tower was no more than an uncertain shadow on the water. An absence of colour.
The sharp noise broke his reverie and Paul Roberts was back in Cardiff.
Angry at the disturbance, he moved his flashlight towards the sound. It was probably just the old building settling, shifting some of the workmen’s tools. The museum renovations were taking bloody months—Mike from the day shift said the builders were more often holding mugs of tea than hammers and saws.
Paul returned to the picture, but Venice was gone, the illusion faded with that rude awakening. He was alone in the chilled gallery, his ill-fitting uniform chafing against his skin. He itched at the reddened skin where the waistband of his trousers dug into flesh. He had put on weight again.
He lumbered across the gallery, the last vestiges of Italy falling away behind him, as he headed for the pokey little security office and his instant noodles. He might stream the NFL kickoff game—working night shifts had given him a taste for American sport. As a Welshman, his first loyalty was to the rugby, but American football had its charms. Even if those boys were sissies for needing all that padding just to run about a field.
The ripping sound cut right through him and Paul turned on his heel, flashlight raised like a baton. “Who’s there?”
Between the little puddles of light around the artworks, the black was absolute, only made deeper by the brightness of the lights. Paul squinted into the black spaces, his head beating up into his throat as the seconds stretched into millennia in his panic. Who was lurking in the darkness and what did they want? His boss was never going to forgive him—neglecting his duties, mooning at paintings. If something was lost, could he forgive himself?
He heard a whisper of movement to his right. Despite the screaming of his nerves, Paul ran through the archway into the adjacent gallery, looking left and right for the intruder.
Then he saw her.
The cruel rend was jagged, uneven across the background—more like a lumberjack’s hack than a surgeon’s precision. The top of the canvas had flopped over like a dog-ear, obscuring face and gloves and bustle. All that remained visible were her perfect skirts, fold upon fold of cerulean, azure and sapphire, and that cheeky inch of scandalous toe protruding beneath them.
The bastard had cut The Blue Lady.
Paul could weep for her. His hand stuttered forward, to restore her beauty, but then he jerked back. He must not damage her. Talia and Soo-jin and Noah—they would know what to do for the best. They would save her.
He should call them right away, before the cops. They had to preserve her—the weight of the canvas threatened to tear her further, rip her open like one of Jack the Ripper’s whores. Split open for the vultures—
Paul’s head collided with the painting and he slid, stunned, to the ground. He tried to get up, face his attacker, but his arms were strangely heavy, his legs uncooperative. His body was a sack of stones, beyond his control, a ghost of something like pain spreading over the back of his head.
He gasped for air that would not come and, as he looked up at the encroaching darkness, his vision was filled with the most perfect blue.
And a splatter of red.