ARRANGER STORIES - VERSIONE INGLESE
the RIVER MIST
by Crystal Jones
Lady Sylvia had been invited to dinner at her friends’ house.
“I never realised you and Mark were vegetarians. Apart from anything
else, it’s good for keeping your weight down and is so tasty. I
did enjoy that celery soup, you must give me the recipe,
Sir Mark had asked Lady Sylvia to come that particular day because
the famous picture, The River Mist, was arriving, as his aunt
had left it to him in her will.
“Now shall we have coffee and unveil the painting all together?”
said the baronet inviting his guest to come into the next room.
“It’s extremely generous of you to give it up for auction for the
benefit of The Children’s Hospital. If all goes well, we shall be
building the new ward by next year,” remarked Lady Sylvia now
settling down on the Queen Anne sofa.
“You know why we’re so interested in giving this picture to the
hospital, don’t you?” said Sir Mark. “Our son, Stephen, was taken
ill when he was seven. He was at death’s door but they looked after
him and saved him and – well, you’ve seen him yourself – he’s grown
up healthy and is studying medicine now!”
The picture was already positioned on the wall opposite and had a
curtain in front of it. Sir Mark, smiling at his own theatricality,
pulled the curtain away from the picture with a flourish.
“And here we have The River Mist – painted by the famous
Leonora interrupted her husband, “Mark – oh no – that’s not The
River Mist at all!”
All three friends stared in horror at the fake picture.
“It’s a painting of a river, it’s true – but it certainly isn’t
The River Mist!” observed Sir Mark, not quite being able to
piece everything together.
“It looks pretty amateurish but it’s about the same size of The
River Mist.” intervened Lady Sylvia going up to the picture and
scrutinising it. “Very clever, the burglars took the real picture
away and left you with a fake one so that its absence wouldn’t be
The brutal fact started to sink in. Sir Mark went pale and had to
sit down to recover from the shock, while his wife poured him out a
glass of water.
“Call the police, Leonora – I never imagined a thing like this could
happen to us!” said the distraught baronet. “They must get it back
for us! The Children’s Hospital mustn’t lose out on this!”
Leonora immediately left the room to ring 999.
“I’m so sorry all this has happened but – er – it’s insured, of
course, isn’t it? If you don’t get the picture back, you can give
the insurance money to the hospital!” pointed out Lady Sylvia.
Sir Mark shook his head with dismay, “We haven’t had time to insure
it – we only received it yesterday!”
“They’ll send someone over shortly,” Leonora reported, coming back
from the phone. “Now I’ll have a quick look around to see if
anything else is missing.”
“I don’t suppose they’ll ever find the burglars.” Sir Mark said
sadly collapsing back onto the sofa. “Oh Sylvia, I’m so sorry – your
children’s hospital charity – it’s a complete disaster! But I swear
I’ll try and make it up to you – I’ll sell some of our antique
furniture – it won’t be enough but at least I will have made a
“Mark, please don’t make yourself ill over the matter! Let the
police make their investigations and see what happens.”
“I fear the picture is far away already,” said Sir Mark woefully,
“you know, this type of thing is sometimes bought as an investment
even though it can’t be sold on the legal market. That’s how they
launder their money!”
Lady Sylvia desperately wanted to help her friend get his picture
back and a plan was already forming in her mind.
“They don’t seem to have taken anything else,” Leonora announced,
back from inspecting the house. “Sylvia, I’m so sorry the evening
has finished like this, let’s hope the police will be here soon.”
The next morning, Lady Sylvia rang her friend Pierre Amsang, “Could
we meet today, Pierre? The coffee shop near your place at eleven
o’clock, all right?”
Lady Sylvia and Pierre managed to get a table where they could talk
undisturbed. “I suppose you want some information on the burglary…
or even better, who contracted it,” said Pierre getting straight to
the point. He had seen the news about the theft of the Scottish
painting on television that morning.
“Was it anyone we know?” asked Lady Sylvia. “I don’t want to tread
on anybody’s toes!”
“Et bien, it was obviously l’Infiltreur, the Infiltrator. But
as to the name of the person who contracted the job, there was
someone mentioned in my antiques shop this morning, an Armenian
fellow who bought up some property in the East End a couple of years
ago, a bingo hall, had it all flattened and rebuilt from scratch
into a super futuristic-style home with strange lighting and things
and a couple of rooms dedicated to works of art and antique
furniture which he appears to be still furnishing, shall we
Pierre Amsang’s mobile started ringing. “Allo? Ah oui, Albert! Quoi
de neuf? Alors c’est bien lui ! Bon, merci et au revoir!” Pierre
nodded, “Sylvia, it seems that it was the Armenian!”
“The Armenian? What’s his name, Pierre?”
“Alecko Kapikian. He’s in all sorts of businesses but, mostly,
property development. Apparently he loves art, illuminated books and
manuscripts amongst other things!”
“Alecko Kapikian?” she repeated, “I’ve heard that name before. How
could I get to meet him, Pierre?”
“That’s a bit more difficult,” replied Pierre thinking for a moment.
“You could try the Armenian Church on a Sunday morning. It’s
not far from here!”
“Just a minute – I believe I met him at a wedding there last year.
Has he got prematurely white hair and rather strangely focused dark
Pierre Amsang laughed, “I couldn’t tell you, as I’ve never had the
pleasure… but his photo was in a Sunday newspaper this week and
there was also one of his futuristic home! Look, I’ve brought it
along for you!”
Lady Sylvia got Alex to find Alecko Kapikian’s phone number which
was ex-directory. She telephoned the Armenian that very evening.
“Mr. Kapikian! Excuse my phoning you – but we met at the Armenian
church last year. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Kingston
Voulto, and we talked about the wonderful icons…”
“Yes - I remember,” apparently Mr. Kapikian had very quick reflexes,
“we discussed the fact that Armenia was the first Christian nation
in the year three hundred and one… and you must be Lady Sylvia!”
“Yes, that’s right.” Lady Sylvia was surprised he remembered her.
“Well, I’m telephoning a number of people to help get funds for the
LHCN – the charity which supports The Children’s Hospital,
as we need to build a new ward for seriously ill children.”
“With pleasure Lady Sylvia – I’ll send you a cheque…”
”Might I come and collect it personally, as I’m always afraid that
cheques can get lost in the post or something?” Lady Sylvia
“By all means. If you can manage tomorrow, come for tea and I’ll
have some Armenian pastries sent in for you to try!”
The first thing Lady Sylvia noticed about Alecko Kapikian’s house
was the high security. The former bingo hall had been converted into
a spectacular modern building. There were CCTV cameras placed all
around the house and twelve foot high spiked iron railings. Also,
the gate could only be opened by first speaking through a video
intercom with night vision. It was an ultra-modern house with lots
of huge windows letting light in with hidden shutters which, she
surmised, would close down instantly electronically.
Alecko Kapikian came forward to welcome Lady Sylvia as she walked
through the gate. “Do come in, Lady Sylvia!” he said smiling at her.
He now turned to a man standing behind him who looked like a
bouncer. “Could you ask someone to bring some tea into the Greek
Room please?” he said in perfectly colloquial English but with a
slight accent which confirmed Lady Sylvia’s impression that he
wasn’t born in the UK.
The bouncer vanished as they walked through the house. The Arranger
saw that there were no dark corners and no prohibitive doors – only
a feeling of total freedom. The lighting was adequate but not
blatant, which made one feel comfortable. The other thing that was
particularly noticeable was the sense of space, large rooms leading
onto other rooms or ‘spaces’ with circular comforting furniture.
Mr. Kapikian lead Lady Sylvia through his home to a room at the
back. It was totally different from the rest of the house she had
seen. It was furnished with beautiful antique furniture and on a
pedestal there was an exquisite Greek statue representing Odysseus
disguised as a beggar.
A delicately-coloured tapestry hanging on the wall immediately
attracted Lady Sylvia’s attention and she paused for a moment to
contemplate it. On the opposite wall she could see photos of Alecko
Kapikian with famous film directors who were either Armenian or of
“I see you are an admirer of Armenian cinema, Mr. Kapikian!”
remarked Lady Sylvia sitting down on a Georgian sofa.
“Yes, indeed. I like to support the cinema of my country – and the
church – not that I’m really very religious – but I consider it part
of our Armenian heritage!”
“These pastries are absolutely wonderful, Mr. Kapikian.” said Lady
Sylvia trying out the delicious sweetmeats placed in front of her.
“Thank you for introducing me to them!”
Mr. Kapikian went over to a small writing desk from where he
extracted a cheque book and sat down. As he looked over to Lady
Sylvia, he noticed that Lady Sylvia’s eyes were not focused on him.
“I would like to make my small contribution to your charity – but,
forgive me, Lady Sylvia, I have the impression that there must be
some other reason for your coming here besides talking about cinema,
cakes and hospital wards!” said the Armenian still studying her
Lady Sylvia realised that she must come to the point, “I can see
you’re very perceptive. Well, what I said about the children’s ward
was true. I am collecting money – and the real reason I’m
here is because of the children’s ward!”
Mr. Kapikian frowned, “Not very clear, Lady Sylvia!”
The Arranger tried to reply as delicately as possible, “How can I
put it? It’s a little misty, Mr. Kapikian!”
The expression in the Armenian’s strange dark eyes became frozen for
a brief moment at hearing the word misty but immediately
afterwards he regained his composure and smiled.
“I don’t really follow you.”
Noticing this minimal reaction, Lady Sylvia realised her gamble had
paid off and continued, “It’s like a river that flows in the
early morning and then suddenly disappears…”
Mr. Kapikian hesitated for a moment and then continued, “I see, but
where exactly is this conversation leading to?”
Lady Sylvia spoke out. “Actually, I was really hoping for something
quite different to go towards my charity! Two days’ ago Sir Mark
Gilsen’s house was burgled and a very precious painting, The
River Mist, that was intended to go under auction for the
benefit of The Children’s Hospital, was removed, shall we
say, from the legitimate owner’s house. Unfortunately the painting
Mr. Kapikian seemed to be losing his composure, “My dear lady,
what’s all this got to do with me?”
Lady Sylvia continued, “From the way it was done, we were able to
establish who, from our circle of collaborators, actually did it.
Maybe the name Infiltrator rings a bell?”
Mr. Kapikian blinked and replied without thinking, “You know The
Infiltrator? I don’t understand. Are you trying to tell me you
are involved in a certain type of…commerce?” Mr. Kapikian
asked almost in disbelief.
Lady Sylvia nodded slightly and said, “But that is not the point. We
are firmly determined to let those seriously ill children have what
the auction money for the painting would have supplied them with: a
new ward where they would be looked after properly.”
Now the Armenian was seeing her in a new light. “So we are part of
the same… fraternity, more or less. Just imagine! What I still don’t
understand is, why should I give the picture back? What would I get
out of it?”
Lady Sylvia replied instantly, “Well, to start with, also Armenian
children are being looked after in that hospital. And secondly,
because in exchange for this personal favour I could extend
the benefit of my expertise to you.”
Mr. Kapikian smiled, “Let’s not exaggerate! I’m not keen on
Lady Sylvia replied, “Speaking of embroidery, I could tell you that
the tapestry you have on the wall over there, for example, is
certainly not the Rochester medieval tapestry it purports to be, and
is not even older than twenty years. It was made in a factory in
Poland by a family who excel in this sort of bogus artefact. Well, I
think you could do with the help of a real expert!”
At first Mr. Kapikian looked aghast. Then he remembered that he too
had had some doubts on whether the tapestry was original or not at
“I see.” he said. “Well, what can I say other than you are a
remarkable lady and I’m willing to take you up on your offer.”
Mr. Kapikian sat down again opposite this astonishing woman. “Have
you got some idea as to how on earth I could give it back?” he
Lady Sylvia replied, “Please just put it in a safe wrapping and give
it to the woman I will send over to collect it at eight o’clock
A more than middle-aged woman dressed rather shabbily with greyish
hair and thick-lensed glasses arrived at Mr. Kapikian’s the next
morning punctually. “Have you got the parcel for me sir?” she asked
briefly, not pulling off her thick woollen gloves. The Armenian
nodded and indicated the parcel resting against the wall. She looked
at it and pulled out a coarse sack, some string and a pair of
scissors from inside a plastic shopping bag. She then proceeded to
put the parcel in the sack and tied it up so that it was easy to
transport. When she had finished she made her way to the front door,
“Good day to you sir,” she said and left the premises.
As soon as she reached the first turning on the right she proceeded
along it until she came to a taxi rank and got into the first car.
“Kensington High Street please,” she said. As soon as she arrived
she got out of the taxi and walked off. When she was sure the taxi
had departed, she got into yet another taxi which took her to Lady
Sylvia’s mansion. Here Alex, still disguised as the middle-aged
lady, took The River Mist up to his laboratory and wiped off
any possible fingerprints as it was imperative that the police
couldn’t trace him, the contract burglar or Alecko Kapikian to the
Once again dressed as the shabby woman, Alex drove his car to a
street near a Catholic church on the outskirts of London taking with
him the painting in its brand new wrappings.
There were a couple of women in the pews praying and Alex could see
a rather young Irish-looking priest talking to a man about the
electric lights. Alex made his way towards the empty confessional
box, the painting under his arm, and tried to look as though he
wished to confess himself. When the priest noticed him, he came
over, entered the confessional box and awaited the penitent. Alex
began to speak.
“Father Dominic, I have a stolen painting with me. I didn’t
steal it – but could you please see to it that the picture is
returned to its rightful owner, Sir Mark Gilsen, as I can’t take it
to him myself. You can inform the police if you like. I’ll leave it
here in the confessional with a hundred pound note for the poor!”
The startled priest had hardly had time to come out of the
confessional when Alex was already scuttling away out of the church.
He picked up the painting with the hundred pound note tucked under
the string around it and chuckled to himself. “The cheek of him!
Anyway, he’s left a nice little sum for my homeless worshippers!”
Sir Mark Gilsen consulted his friend Lady Sylvia, who advised him to
hold the press conference in the Charlton Hotel in Chelsea.
The television networks had just begun to squeeze all they could out
of the story and everybody was looking forward to knowing more about
the unexpected recovery of the picture.
Pundits were anticipating a huge turn-out at the forthcoming auction
which would guarantee raising even more money for The Children’s
Under the vigilant eye of a specialised team of the Metropolitan
Police the painting itself was on show in the conference room to
ensure maximum coverage of the event. The Police Commissioner Philip
Teely was happy to say that they clearly deserved all the merit for
the recovery, as they had been closing in on the culprit forcing him
to take the picture back rather than being arrested.
Professor Morris Turnhill, who was the head of the psychiatric unit
of Barton Prison, was asked if he had any idea who the criminal was
or if a profiling had already been made of the golden-hearted
burglar. He replied that it could indeed have been a woman as the
picture wasn’t very heavy to carry about and could represent the
misty part of her intimate life.
The last word went to Father Dominic who was asked about how he had
found The River Mist in his confessional.
“Well,” the likeable priest started to explain in his thick Irish
brogue, “I can’t tell you anything other than the fact that true
repentance is something that occurs also to criminals and that we
all need to be forgiven for something. Personally I think it was a
sign from heaven, God touched the heart of this criminal and a
miracle resulted and I rejoice in it!”
Seated in the last row of the conference room, Mr. Alecko Kapikian
pulled an envelope out from his pocket to have another look at what
he had received that morning: a sheet of paper with an A in wax
printed on it with the words “Semper victor” and a blank visiting
card saying simply “Welcome to the brotherhood.” The Arranger had