Cozy Mysteries

Rembrandt Rides a Bike


This book will launch on Feb 17, 2021. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

Julia felt her heart palpitating as they hid in the shrubbery near the ancient windmill watching the elusive truck, waiting to see what would happen next.
Julia and several members of her dance group are dancing their way through several German cities along the Rhine River before ending the organized tour in Amsterdam. The relaxing vacation threatens to unravel when Julia finds herself enmeshed in a series of missing art from museums that she has visited. And one of the dancers disappears.
Carly, her charming sidekick sister, thinks Julia is looking for trouble when she uses her doctor-detective skills to try to solve the pair of problems which seem to be unrelated. Julia claims it just falls into her lap.
Then Carly disappears.

Chapter 1 FIRE DRILL? “Can you believe this mayhem?” Dr. Julia Fairchild forged her way through the Frankfurt am Main Airport toward the baggage claim area, trailed by her younger sister, Carly Pedersen. “Come on, relax,” Carly replied as she brushed her honey blonde curls out of her eyes. “We made it to Germany in time for Oktoberfest, and it’s a beautiful day. We don’t need to be in such a hurry. This is supposed to be a fun vacation!” Julia paused to take a deep breath. Carly was right—though she hated to admit it. Despite having slept on the plane, she still felt a little wound up after making a frantic drive from her Washington State medical clinic to Portland International Airport the afternoon before. In her typical fashion, she had decided to work until the last possible minute, seeing to a critically ill patient. Luckily, she hadn’t triggered any highway patrol radars. 2 3 REMBRANDT RIDES A BIKE FIRE DRILL? “Julia! Carly! Over here!” Julia spotted two members of their tour group—friends from their hometown—calling to them from the next carousel. “Hi, Lindy! Hey, Mary Jo,” she said, waving. She and Carly retrieved their luggage and joined their friends. “Too bad we had to take different flights, but here we are!” “I’m so glad you both decided to come,” said Lindy, a blonde-haired woman in her forties with a trim figure and a beautiful smile. “Carly is always the most animated and sparkly dancer on the stage.” Carly grinned broadly at Lindy’s comment. “I do love my sparkles! Plus, I couldn’t let my sister come alone. I had to convince Rob that it’s my duty to keep her out of trouble.” She winked at Julia. The sisters had come to Europe on a ten-day dancing tour with fellow tap and jazz dancers. They would have masterlevel dance classes twice a day and would rehearse and give an evening performance on the second day in each of the four cities on the tour. After Frankfurt, the group would move to two other cities in Germany, then end their travels in Amsterdam. Julia didn’t consider herself a great tap dancer. She and Carly had only started tapping a few years ago. They put a lot of energy into it, however, and enjoyed the fun and exercise. Most of the women in their group back home, including Lindy and Mary Jo, were around their own age—early thirties to forties—with a few who were older, though no less energetic. The tour schedule would also leave ample time for sightseeing, and Julia planned to visit museums in each city. She was determined to become more knowledgeable about art and art history. She’d come armed with a list of key paintings to see that had been recommended by her dear friend Paula, who taught art history. “Over here, ladies.” Mary Jo led their caravan to a waiting bus, and within the hour they had registered at Hotel Concorde. The dancers on the tour would be meeting the instructors and each other that evening, but their dance classes wouldn’t begin until the next morning, so Julia and Carly had time to settle into their room, which they found to be nicely furnished and comfortable. “We’ve got all afternoon free,” Julia told her sister once their belongings were squared away. “I’m ready to kick off our tour. The Städel Museum is nearby, and it’s the first one on Paula’s list. Want to join me?” She held out the list for her sister to see, Carly scowled at the detailed art history assignment. “We have to see all those paintings? What about lunch?” “We ate on the plane, silly,” Julia answered. “And we’ll have a big dinner here at the hotel with the group tonight. So let’s go!” A short taxi ride took them over a bridge across the Rhine River to the Städel, a stately building that housed one of Germany’s most prestigious art collections. They were happy to find the museum still open and not very crowded. Julia picked up a guidebook and identified the rooms that contained 4 5 REMBRANDT RIDES A BIKE FIRE DRILL? works by the designated artists on the list. They had enough time to meander through several rooms. Art history wasn’t a course of study either of them had taken in high school or college, so they read the descriptions carefully to learn more about what they were seeing. They decided to see the paintings from the earlier years first, starting with Botticelli. His “Idealized Portrait of a Lady” caught their attention with its simple beauty. This painting was noted to be one of the highlights of Renaissance artistry. Julia was a little saddened to learn that this “lady” had been married at the age of sixteen, not uncommon for the day. She reflected that her own father had insisted that his four daughters wait until they were at least twenty-one before marrying, preferably after also completing college. In fact, all four girls had complied with his wishes. Julia smirked at the memory of her short but passionate marriage to Denny right after college and wondered if waiting till she had her degree had made her any wiser in the area of romance. Next, they admired a beautifully detailed “Madonna and Child” by Guercino—an excellent example of Italian Baroque, Paula had said. Julia was mesmerized by the intricacy of the faces and their illumination from an invisible light source. The Madonna’s expression, she thought, radiated the pure love of a mother for her child. Then Rembrandt’s “The Blinding of Samson” was in front of them. The painting seemed brutal yet magnificent at the same time. Julia tried to remember Paula’s comments about detail and how every figure in the scene seemed to be interacting with the observer. An amazing skill, she thought to herself. No wonder generations of artists and viewers remained awed by Rembrandt’s artistry. After a few more minutes, with only half an hour left for viewing, they found Monet’s “The Luncheon.” This was a painting of his own kitchen, created once the archetypal “poor, starving artist” was able, after many years of work, to afford his first house. Finally, with Carly getting restless, they happened upon a much more modern painting: “Two Women with Wash Basin” by Ernst Kirchner. They giggled at the description of the ladies, who were sisters like themselves, and who worked as dancers at a nightclub. Julia and Carly had done a few shows in lounges for fundraisers but didn’t consider themselves “nightclub” dancers. A loud “Ahem” caused them to turn toward the sound. An older man was frowning in their direction. He was elegantly dressed, while his wife wore an expensive-looking but rather crass—in Julia’s opinion—leopard print jacket. Julia quickly said, “I’m so sorry. We were giggling because we’re dancers too, but not that kind of dancers.” She offered her hand as she continued. “My name is Julia Fairchild and this is my sister, Carly Pedersen.” She noticed the distinguished, gray-haired gentleman wore a rather incongruous diamond stud in his right earlobe. He reluctantly took her hand. “Charles. Gilbert. This is my wife, Sue Anne.” He nodded toward the woman to his left. “Oh, you’re Americans,” said Julia. “Are you here on a tour like we are?” 6 7 REMBRANDT RIDES A BIKE FIRE DRILL? “We’re from near Denver, but we know this area quite well from when we lived here in my Air Force years,” the gentleman explained. “We are traveling on our own itinerary this time.” “Those were wonderful years,” Sue Anne gushed loudly. “Charles was a dentist here, and we had great parties. And we got to visit a lot of cities and countries. Charles, do you remember when our travel trailer broke down in France and we had the kids and had so much trouble getting it fixed?” Charles patted his wife’s hand. “I’m quite sure these ladies don’t care about our misadventures.” To the sisters he said, “What kind of tour are you on?” “We’ll be traveling with a group of about twenty dancers from all over the United States,” said Julia. “We’ll take tap and jazz classes from a couple of experienced teachers and even get to do a few performances along the way. They’ve arranged for us to stay in several cities along the Rhine.” “Well, we’re very pleased to meet you,” said Charles. “I hope you enjoy your dancing and touring. Now we must be getting back to the hotel to meet our friends.” “What friends are we meeting?” Sue Anne asked with a puzzled frown. “I’ll explain in the taxi,” he replied softly”. He smiled politely to the sisters and led his wife to the next room, gripping her elbow. “They were an interesting couple,” Julia remarked to Carly as she watched Sue Anne extract herself from Charles’s grasp. “I got funny vibes from him. Did you notice anything?” “Not really.” Carly gave a tired sigh. “But I do agree with him that it’s time to be heading back to the hotel.” Julia nodded. The museum was closing anyway, and they had just enough time to get back and change for the group dinner at the hotel, where they would meet the rest of the dancers on the tour. They glanced around the room to find the exit. A pretty, dark-haired woman with a badge identifying her as a tour guide was ushering a small group out. She pointed them in the right direction. Relieved, Julia blew her a “thank you” kiss as they scurried for the main door. At that moment, a loud alarm pierced the air. Security people emerged from nowhere and yelled, “Halt!” Startled, Julia and Carly held their places, glued to the floor. A flurry of activity erupted in the hallway just outside the room in which they were currently imprisoned. Julia whispered to Carly, “I hope it’s a false alarm.” “Yeah, or we could miss dinner,” Carly whispered back. A long fifteen minutes passed before the museum security staff allowed the visitors to leave the room, walking in single file, silently. They were escorted directly to the main door, which was being guarded both inside and out by German Polizei. Once outside, Carly spoke first. “Wow! What a fast lesson in Art History 101! I hope there’s not going to be a quiz on those artists. And I don’t think that alarm was for a fire drill.” Julia shook her head as she replied, “Definitely not a fire drill. I see an ambulance parked in the fire lane just beyond that side door.” Julia pointed to the vehicle that was parked just outside the entrance. “Do you see it? There’s an old orange cargo truck parked right behind it.” 8 9 REMBRANDT RIDES A BIKE FIRE DRILL? Carly peeked back to her right as they walked down the sidewalk. “Now I see it. Nice truck.” “Hmmph. If you like orange, I suppose.” Julia continued, “Maybe there was a medical emergency and someone pulled the alarm for that, instead of for a fire. As for art history, I’ll keep the museum guide so I can show Paula what we saw when we get together next month. I, for one, am certainly not wellversed yet in art.” She glanced up and down the street. “Let’s see. Which way back to the hotel?” Carly spotted a taxi just up the block. “We don’t have to know, because that taxi driver will. Let’s go. I’m starving!” Julia and Carly found their name badges on a table in the hotel’s elegant dining room where the tour organizers, dance instructors Sally and Barbara, greeted each of them in turn and indicated the table at which they would be sitting. Lindy and Mary Jo had saved places for them at a table for four. The sisters mingled with some of the other dancers until it was time to sit and eat. Sally Mack was well known in dance circles. One of her sons had been a professional dancer on stage in Las Vegas. Her fellow instructor, Barbara France, had taught tap dancing for many years in her own studio, then judged competitions around the country for another fifteen years or so. Her daughter and granddaughter were exquisite dancers in their own right. Both master instructors were vibrant and seemed much younger than their years. During dinner, Sally and Barbara explained the format for each of the cities on the tour. Except for traveling, there would be daily morning classes, free time in the afternoons, and, on the second night in each city, an evening workshop and rehearsal for the performance at the hotel, as had been described in the promotional material. This would be an opportunity for the dancers to demonstrate their new skills as they entertained the guests at each hotel on the tour. “Sounds like fun,” Lindy said with her usual smile. Lindy Mason taught adult tap-dancing back home where the four friends lived. She had taken lessons herself from Sally Mack as a child. In recent years, she had created a dance troupe called “TAPestry,” which performed for local events such as anniversaries, class reunions, and even the county fair, when invited. She had asked Julia, Carly, and Mary Jo, who were three of her students from her advanced class and performing team, to join her on the tour. They all simply loved to dance and had jumped at this opportunity to go on the tour and learn new dances as well. They enjoyed dressing up in glitzy costumes, putting on stage makeup, and performing for an audience. And then there was the applause! Sometimes Lindy came across as a stereotypical ditsy blonde, but she was adept at juggling her flight attendant schedule and teaching dance. “I wonder how many routines we’ll have to learn,” remarked Mary Jo Kelly, who had danced as many as eight or nine numbers on dance cruises in the past. She had taken classes from Sally as a youngster as well, in addition to many years of dance experience. Her main concern about this tour was 10 11 REMBRANDT RIDES A BIKE FIRE DRILL? the need to be kind to her trick knee. She was active in many organizations and had told Julia that she was putting off any kind of surgical intervention until she could find the time. It seemed there was never a good time to take that step, as the post-op recovery period seriously interfered with any kind of dance schedule. She lived up to her Irish heritage with auburn hair and green eyes, and a mischievous laugh. “I hope I brought enough moleskin for blisters,” Carly piped up, laughing. She always seemed to have multiple squares of it on her feet. Julia and Carly had grown up on a small farm in the country. Being from a family of eight with a grandmother who didn’t believe in dancing, they hadn’t had an opportunity to dance as kids. Julia had talked Carly into trying it a few years before, when Lindy had needed additional dancers for a production. Although Carly had been skeptical, she discovered that she enjoyed it, and continued to dance for fun and the camaraderie of her fellow dancers. “I’m not even going to think about patients and pagers and being on call for the next ten days,” exclaimed Julia. A young internist with a busy clinic practice in a medium-sized town in Washington State, she squeezed in as many tap classes with Lindy as her schedule would allow. Dancing was a lot more fun than doing calisthenics at the gym, in her opinion. She also loved to travel and especially enjoyed the architecture and history of Europe. This was a great way to combine dance, travel, and sister time. There was no mistaking that she and Carly were sisters, with their striking high cheekbones from their Finnish ancestry. Taller Julia was a brunette with blue eyes, like their dad, while Carly had inherited their mom’s blonde hair and had hazel eyes. And their mom’s silly gene, according to Julia. “One thing for sure,” Carly added, “we won’t be finding any dead scuba divers on this trip.” “What are you talking about?” asked Lindy. “You and Mary Jo probably don’t know about Julia playing amateur detective when she was in St. Maarten last year,” Carly explained. “It didn’t make the local newspapers, but she helped shut down a drug-smuggling ring. She even got a free week of vacation there as a ‘thank you.’” Julia felt her face redden. “It was nothing, really. Being a doctor is a lot like being a detective. I just followed the clues.” “In that case,” said Mary Jo, “I hope this will be all vacation and no ‘detecting.’” “Same here,” echoed Carly, as they all laughed. The group made plans to meet for breakfast in the morning, and Julia headed to the room she was sharing with Carly. The next day would be a long one of dancing, sightseeing, and fighting jet lag. “Ahh,” sighed Julia as she slid between the crisp white sheets. “Ten days of utter bliss. No worries. No dead bodies.”

About the author

I'm a retired Internal Medicine physician with time on my hands. I've written and published two scientific articles and four non-clinical pieces in the past. Writing is my outlet for dabbling in medicine within the confines of a mystery. view profile

Published on January 13, 2021

Published by Capucia Publishing

60000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Cozy Mysteries