The DeWitt Agency Files

For the first time, Allyson looks out the window. I’m not sure she’s seeing anything, but she isn’t X-raying my soul anymore. After a few moments, she sighs, clicks off her tablet, then closes its cover. I guess the interview is over.

She looks up. “I never told you what it is I do, did I.”

“No. All you said was, you ‘fill needs,’ whatever that means.”

She nods. “I do things for people who need things to be done.”

“Why don’t they do it themselves?”

“They haven’t the skill set. They can’t be seen to be involved. They’re restricted from operating. Any number of reasons, none of which you’ll ever be privy to should I employ you.”

I roll that around a bit. “Who are these people? The CIA? Oil companies? Political parties?”

She arches an eyebrow.

“The Mafia? Terrorists? Drug cartels?”

“Are they so different?”

From The Collection

Allyson DeWitt is the president of The DeWitt Agency. Its headquarters is a brass plate outside a discreet Luxembourgeois lawyer’s office door. Its corporate treasury is in Vanuatu. Its directors are strangely untraceable. Its only other full-time employee is Olivia, who’s able to arrange for the damnedest things when an Agency associate needs help.

Matt Friedrich is the Agency’s newest employee. He has a certain useful set of skills that he learned while working in a crooked L.A. art gallery, and other knowledge that he gained while hanging out in federal prison with Wall Street types who had bad lawyers. He’s out on supervised release and working for $10 an hour at Starbucks to pay off over half a million in debts and restitution.

When one of Allyson’s clients has a need to fill that involves art in whatever form, Matt gets the project. He can knock down a chunk of his debt with each payoff… so long as he stays alive and out of jail. Sometimes he’s paired with Carson, a disgraced Toronto cop who has her own debts, problems, and useful skills. Together they make a pretty good team — if they don’t kill each other first.

Follow Matt as Allyson’s projects drag him around the world, where he sees new places, meets new friends, avoids new enemies, and discovers (or pulls off) new scams. If he plays his cards right, he can make a lot of money, pay off his debts, and build a new life. All he has to do is not screw up… which is much harder than it sounds.

Criminal Element: The Fall of the House of Knoedler

Glafira Rosales in court, 2013

Glafira Rosales in court, 2013

I’m abetting the Criminal Element again, this time with an article about the most spectacular modern art forgery scandal of the last twenty years.

Between 1994 and 2008, Knoedler & Company — the oldest art gallery in the United States — sold for $80 million dollars forty paintings created by some of the leading lights of Abstract Expressionism (such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko) to some of the big names in New York City’s high-profile contemporary art scene.

One problem: all forty were painted by a 73-year-old Chinese artist working out of a garage in Queens.

Read the entire story — and other good stuff besides — on Criminal Element.

From Thailand with Love: Operation Antiquity

In yet another scrape with the Criminal Element, I talk about an operation smuggling a different sort of pot (not the green kind) from Thailand into the U.S. A crowd gathered outside the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, on … Continue reading

New! Renovations to the Burrow

It was time to dig for some more room here at the Burrow, so I’ve made perhaps the most changes at one time since I built the place. The Collection is the start of a series. The DeWitt Agency Files … Continue reading