The Magician Murders

By: Josh Lanyon

The Art of Murder Book III


Nothing up his sleeves. Nothing but murder…

Jason West, hot-shot special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team, is at the Wyoming home of Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy, recuperating from a recent hit-and-run accident, when he’s asked to consult on the theft of a priceless collection of vintage magic posters.

But before Jason can say “presto change-o,” the owner of the art collection turns up murdered in a National Forest.

When the dead man is revealed to be the Kubla Khanjurer, a much-hated part-time magician accused of revealing the highly guarded secrets of professional illusionists, it seems clear this is a simple revenge killing—until Jason realizes an earlier suspicious death at the trendy magic club Top Hat White Rabbit might be part of the same larger and more sinister pattern.





To Johanna—

Thank you so much for regularly working your own magic on my behalf.








Chapter One



Rain flicked against the apartment windows in random, off-beat splash and dissolve.

It was sort of soothing, and Jason had not had much sleep the night before, but he could not afford to drift off in the middle of a phone call with his boss.

“If the legendary West charm has failed to convince Ursula Martin to file charges against Fletcher-Durrand, maybe the DOJ should take a swing at her,” Karan Kapszukiewicz was saying.

Kapszukiewicz was chief of the Major Theft Unit of the Criminal Investigative Division. She oversaw the Art Crime Team agents from her Washington DC office, which was where she was calling Jason from. Jason was on his cell phone, lying on Sam’s sofa in Sam’s apartment in Stafford, Virginia. The apartment was not far from the training academy where Jason was attending routine in-service refresher training.

“Respectfully, I don’t think that’s the approach we want to take with Martin,” Jason replied. “I think there’s still a good chance she’ll ultimately come through for us, but not if we push her. Her situation is complicated.”

“Isn’t everybody’s?”

Jason waited politely.

Karan sighed. “I had a feeling you’d say that, so…okay. I’ll let you make the call. She’s your complainant. Or was.”

Jason winced. The collapse two months ago of charges against the Fletcher-Durrand art gallery was still painful. He had worked his ass off building a prosecutable case of fraud, grand larceny, and forgery—only to have the rug yanked out from under him when his original complainants had agreed to settle out of court with the Durrands.

There had been a hell of a lot more to it than that, of course, but the bottom line was the US Attorney’s Office would not be filing charges against Fletcher-Durrand at this time. Especially since the Durrand most wanted by law enforcement and everyone else seemed to have vanished off the face of the planet.

Not that Jason was so naïve as to imagine hard work and determination alone ensured the successful prosecution of every case—luck always played a role, and his luck had definitely been out. At least as far as the Durrands were concerned. In other ways…

His gaze traveled to a large Granville Redmond painting of California poppies beneath stormy skies, hanging on the opposite wall.

In other ways, his luck had been very much in, which was how he came to be lying on Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy’s sofa, waiting for Sam to get home. Two months ago, he’d feared his relationship with Sam had run its blink-and-you-missed-it course, but against the odds, here he was.

“All right,” Karan said more briskly, her attention already moving on to bigger or more winnable cases. “Keep me posted.”

“Will do.”

She was clearly about to ring off, but Jason being one of her protégés, Karan asked suddenly, “How’s training? You’re still at Quantico?”

“Yeah. I fly out tomorrow night. Training is…training.”

“Always,” Karan agreed gravely. “Okay. Have a good flight home.” She did hang up then, and her timing was perfect. Jason heard Sam’s key in the front door lock.

He clicked off his cell and rose as the front door swung open. The scent of April showers and faded but still slightly jarring aftershave wafted in.