* * * * *
Dan eyed the gun. "There are a lot more paintings downstairs than there were when I left," he said. "I don't know much about art, but I recognize a few of them."
"Copies," Snithian snapped.
"This is no copy," Dan tapped the top painting on the stack. "It's an original. You can feel the brush-work."
"Not prints, of course. Copies." Snithian whinnied. "Exact copies."
"These paintings are stolen, Mr. Snithian. Why would a wealthy man like you take to stealing art?"
"I'm not here to answer questions, Mr. Slane!" The weapon in Snithian's hand bugged. A wave of pain swept over Dan. Snithian cackled, lowering the gun. "You'll soon learn better manners."
Dan's hand went to his pocket, came out holding the automatic. He aimed it at Snithian's face. The industrialist froze, eyes on Dan's gun.
"Drop the gun." Snithian's weapon clattered to the floor. "Now let's go and find Kelly."
"Wait!" Snithian shrilled. "I can make you a rich man, Slane."
"Not by stealing paintings."
"You don't understand. This is more than petty larceny!"
"That's right. It's grand larceny. These pictures are worth thousands."
"I can show you things that will completely change your attitude. Actually, I've acted throughout in the best interests of humanity!"
Dan gestured with the gun. "Don't plan anything clever. I'm not used to guns. This thing will go off at the least excuse, and then I'd have a murder to explain."
"That would be an inexcusable blunder on your part!" Snithian keened.
"I'm a very important figure, Slane." He crossed the deep-pile rug to a glass-doored cabinet. "This," he said, taking out a flat black box, "contains a fortune in precious stones." He lifted the lid. Dan stepped closer. A row of brilliant red gems nestled in a bed of cotton.
"Flawless--and perfectly matched." Snithian whinnied. "Perfectly matched. Worth a fortune. They're yours, if you cooperate."
"You said you were going to change my attitude. Better get started."