“Why are you carrying a cage? And what is inside? Not something exotic I hope?” Neal was studying Mozzie suspiciously.
“No, of course not, it is an American singer.” Mozzie explained while slowly lifting the cloth that was over the cage.
“Why would you have Justin Bieber in there?” Neal snickered.
“Har di har, you featherbrained know-nothing,…an amer…”
“Sorry, that was uncalled for,… I know it is a type of canary. Why would you need one?” Neal gave Mozzie a questionable look.
“Well, for one thing, did you know that canaries who live in captivity sing more beautiful than wild ones?
To emphasis his point, the little bird started chirping a wonderful tune.
“I didn´t, but you didn´t answer my question.” Neal smiled, leave it up to Mozzie to deflect.
“Did you know that until the early sixteenth century it was not possible to find female canary birds for sale outside of Spain. Only males were sold and exported up to this point, so that Spain maintained tight control of the trade in these birds.”
“However fascinating this fact is, why. do. you. need. one? And an even better question. Why is it in my house?” Neal was starting to lose his patience.
“Ah, that is a good question. Remember the vault in Guzzman´s office?
“Stop right there, don´t tell me. Plausible denial and all.” Neal moaned, rolling his eyes.
“Hey, you told me I could anything without a height requirement.” Mozzie shot back.
Neal thought about it a minute. Mozzie was right. He had told that, well, not that he did remember it, he was under the influence of Mozzie´s solution, but Mozzie had been thorough and taped their little experiment… For educational purposes of course.
“You are right, OK. So, Guzzman’s vault. I understood there was a stash of uncut diamonds in there. What type is it?”
“It is an ORG-4200 with a voice activated lock.”
“You are going to have to find a person with the same voice timbre. Wait, don´t tell me I…”
“No, if it were only that simple.”
“Guzzman has a Harz Mountain Roller.”
“That is supposed to ring a bell?”
“They are a breed of canaries that sing with their beak closed and they are well known for their singing as well as his mimicry.”
“I see where this is going. You want some wine?”
Neal walked to where he kept his wine collection.
“Please, don´t insult me, not that bottle, I want the one in the back you have been saving for yourself.”
Neal sighed and took the mentioned bottle and poured two glasses.
“To… What is his name?”
“You were telling, a Harz… something.”
“Yes, these types of canaries are well known for their mimicry, so I got Celestino here.”
“How did you get him to learn the tune to open the vault?”
“Ah, that is the clue isn´t it? Guzzman is a loner and canaries sing better when there is movement, so he takes Gerald to the park when the weather permits.”
“His canary! Stick with the story, Neal.”
Neal just shook his head.
“So you got yourself a Harz and took him on walks as well?”
“Yes, it was quite easy. Celestino is a very young bird and he still learns by mimicry. And I must admit, he is a natural. I am very proud of him.”
“But how did you get Celestino inside the office? The last time we checked out that place, there was tight security.”
“We managed to gain Guzzman´s trust and he hired me to take care of Gerald while he was on a “business” trip with his secretary.” Mozzie made air quotation marks.
“But if you were Gerald´s birdsitter.” Neal smiled at his own choice of words. “Why did you need Celestino?”
“Well Gerald is very particular and doesn´t sing without Guzzman…”
“Ah, loyal little fellow.”
“So, while Guzzman was doing the hokey pokey with his secretary I visited his office with Celestino. The guard accepted my story that Gerald needed company. It was even better than I expected. When I entered the office with Celestino and he started singing, Gerald couldn´t stay behind. No need to say that the vault opened without a hitch.”
“Nice work Mozz.”
“Thanks.” Mozzie gave Neal a satisfied smile. “Well, that said, can he stay with you for a while?”
“You want Celestino to stay with me?”
“Yes, he is not safe with me at the moment. I don´t know whether or not Guzzman is looking for him. I bought a similar canary that doesn´t sing his tune, so that he wouldn´t accidentally start singing. And I left some incriminating evidence. So another cross out on my enemy list, I guess.”
“I can´t refuse a fugitive refuge, he can stay.”
“Tell me what I need to do?”
* * *
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in, it´s open” Neal called out.
“Good morning Neal.”
“Peter, what a pleasant surprise on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. Coffee?” Neal got up from his stool behind the easel.
“That would be great. I brought Danish.” Peter dropped the paper bag on the table. That was the moment Celestino started to sing.
“Hey boy, you want a fruit snack?” Neal took a strawberry and placed it in the cage. The little bird immediately jumped towards it and started pecking it.
“Since when did you get a bird?”
“Celestino is a rehomer.”
“He was unwanted, something to do with allergies and I told them I would take care of him.”
“That is a nice gesture.” Peter said sincere.
The water boiled and Neal walked back to the kitchenette to make the coffee. He took the pot and two cups to the table, and then went back for cream and plates.
“El threw you out?”
“Yeah, something like that, she has a couple of her girlfriends over. I hope I am not interrupting anything.”
“No, I was just painting, hadn´t planned anything today, so you are welcome to watch the game if you like.”
“That would be great. Thanks.”
“Do you mind if I continue?”
“No, not at all. Please do.”
While Neal sat down again in front of the easel and picked up his brush, Peter walked to the cage. Celestino kept singing.
“Celestino? What does it mean?”
“It means heavenly in Italian.”
“He has a nice voice. But he sings a specific tune. I sound familiar.” Peter noticed.
“I just have him a day, so it must be something his previous owner thought him.” Neal kept painting, he hadn´t lied to Peter, so no need to stress about it.
“I don´t know anybody with a canary, must be something he picked up from television or something. Oh, and we got a new case on Monday, some vault that was cracked. You will love it.”
Peter walked back to the couch and switched on the TV. He made himself comfortable. When it was time to go home, he got up. He had to admit Celestino livened up the place. While he walked out he just mentioned.
“I guess jailbirds do flock together…”
Neal jumped up, but Peter was already descending the stairs.