Mudbath (Part 6)
Noel T Chase, CEO of Jerry Chase Firm, was an important man making millions in a year from garages ranging from automobiles to fibre-glass. He was ready to go to work when a CBS Network he tuned brought a live show in the morning of an underground band called Mudbath who did gigs around Texas and New Mexico. It started with Max Yasgur’s Mudbath but Claude decided to change the name and today only one original member remained. For a moment he thought Noel was right.
“Linni, it’s Claude playing,” he sat down on the sofa with a drink.
“Claude!” cried his wife from the kitchen.
Claude Chase was singing…
Stone the crow!
Stone the crow!
Stone the crow!
And the guitars, keyboards, the bass and even the drums did the same rigid riff-work. Abruptly, it cut there and Claude paused in the act. He straightened to applause his young band for performing well, tightness and the tempo…they pulled out his arrangement. The cut…was right on point.
Noel burst into laughter, “Bahahaha!”
“What’s so funny?” asked Lindsey.
Next song was a slow one. Claude played some prolonged notes on his guitar using the tremolo effect and began to sing in Spanish, “Amor!” And the drummer had to apply the brushes in a technique and a sudden stroke on the snare in an off-off beat. He even counted on his breath half-half-split to strike.
When the song ended Claude Chase watered in his mouth and acknowledged this youthful drummer for delivering it so brilliantly.
Noel sat stunned. Who could tell he delivered the off-beats accurately…
Meanwhile, two FBI agents and a dozen police officers were waiting outside the studio in Houston, in Texas, for the show and interview to end.
Sixty-nine year old Claude Chase was ushered to a police car. “What’s all this about?” he asked.
“Take it easy! Mr Claude,” said the FBI agent, “I am Peter Fowler and my colleague…Clark Atkinson.”
He just had his proudest moment in the recent time at the studio and briefly. His hair turned white, weighed a little and not in good health.
They drove off.
“Mr Claude, you have to be with us for a while it seems. Well, you do play great music.”
“You were an artist, a painter, a craftsman. So what made you play music?”
“Ah! I thought it’d make an income.”
“And did it?”
“Honestly, I have to keep up with my live gigs to make ends meet.”
“I wish you stick with paintings. What was your greatest hit?”
He laughed, “Nothing reached the charts. Eh! Stone the Crow…people like it.”
“Do you?” asked Mr Fowler.
“I like your song Beauty…crazy tune. What kind of a melody is that? Strange…”
“People don’t like that stuff.”
“People don’t get it. I saw one of your concerts in the 80’s in Albuquerque.”
“Were you there?”
“No. I watched a video. That beautiful Mexican girl with a tambourine doing a solo dance to this tune, that was fabulous…”
“You’re well informed. That was my idea. That song I feel proud of but shy to sing these days. God did not make anything perfect…just curiosity.”
They reached a destination and Claude Chase was ushered for questioning.
It was 30th September 2016, a Friday.
“Well, Mr Claude,” began Fowler, “I don’t know how to put it or who brought up your name…when this case, we’ve been working on, came to my desk with your name all over it more than a hundred times. It wasn’t too difficult to find you. Do you know where the glass called ‘Bottom’ is now?”
“No,” said Claude.
“After Mirage was demolished to the ground a New Yorker bought it for half a million dollars.”
“Half a million!” cried Claude.
“Now it is in a luxury hotel in Dubai worth one million dollars.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“Mr Claude, see this picture. Do you know who this is?”
“Yes, I do. Her name is Jennifer McConkey. I did several drawings and paintings for her.”
“Do you know where she is?”
“I’m afraid, not seen her since nineteen sixty-nine, not after Woodstock.”
“If we can’t find her, you are in for big trouble. Well, she goes by different names. Beth Johnson, Vivian McGowan, Sarah McQuillin…”
“Did you say McQuillin?”
“I know a McQuillin house in Reno where I sent my drawings.”
“That house is inherited by David McQuillin but those days maintained by Freddie McQuillin, his uncle, and this Freddie was a pilot, jetfighters and commercial flights. When he became a board director in Boeing he did leak and sold a lot of hardware military technology to Arab countries. CIA discovered a bomb in a storage bin in Las Vegas and it led to Boeing…at that time this model originally built by Martin Marietta was handed to Boeing with drawings of a new missile called Tomahawk to study feasibility. Finally, this contract was passed to General Dynamics.
“Freddie made a lot of money from Al-Bakri, a pro-Soviet guy, then President of Iraq but not so much from Libya because that was a poor nation. No records show any country able to develop these weapons. He was jailed and died in 1973, cause of death unknown.
“Freddie was helped by this woman. Beth. She carried most of the stuff in her luggage. We still do not know where she is.”
“What’s my part in it?” asked Claude.
“Tell me everything…”
“I opened the storage because I saw her going in there. That missile was lying there dismantled.”
“Those paintings that you do were framed with microfilms in layers on the back with technical data and information of advanced American technology.”
“I have no idea.”
“Claude, few days ago we discovered two pieces of Vincent van Gogh stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002. The mob fled the scene leaving only a ladder and a rope. These two paintings are worth hundred million dollars.
“The one, Congregation leaving the Reformed church in Nuenen is authenticated. That means under X-rays when compared to two previous versions where a peasant with a spade paused in the foreground, it can be seen. He altered parts of the painting later replacing the peasant with a cluster of churchgoers and added autumn leaves to the bare trees.”
Claude listened in total silence.
“How did we discover these pieces? We found the original of View of the Sea at Scheveningen about five years ago when Colonel Gaddafi was ousted. It was hanging in his palace. We picked a lead to a mafia group linked to Libya known as Naples Camorra.
“After a lengthy investigation dubbed ‘Vincent’ Naples police recovered them in a country house owned by an alleged drug boss linked to this mafia group.
“Only we shockingly found another View of the Sea at Scheveningen. And this time X-rays show your signature on the canvas with a verse form one of your songs.” Fowler produced a photograph of the X-ray.
Lies in her eyes,
I can read those lines,
There’s no spark like the stars,
In the skies tonight…
Las Vegas, NV
“The question is why? And there’s a date,” he asked Claude Chase. “The canvas is American…Utrecht Art Supplies.”
“I don’t know what to say. I wrote those lines because she asked me not to sign any paintings.”
“You’re in for big time problem if we can’t find this woman. We found the paintings but didn’t solve the mystery.”
“There’s no end to this…”