The Mystery of the Third Lucretia

BOOK: The Mystery of the Third Lucretia
Table of Contents
“It's him,” I said.
“Him who?”
“Him, the man we saw in the Art Institute painting the
First Lucas looked blank, then her face changed.
“What are you thinking?” I asked finally. She had an expression I'd seen before.
“Oh, nothing.”
“Nothing my meep. When you get that look, it usually means you're making some plan that's going to get us in trouble.”
“No, no, nothing like that,” she said, trying to sound all innocent.
But I was right. She was planning something. In fact, that afternoon in the National Gallery was the beginning of something that would get us into more trouble—and get the whole Gleesome Threesome in more danger—than we'd ever been in before.
Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2008
This Sleuth edition published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009
Copyright © Susan Runholt, 2008
All rights reserved
Runholt, Susan.
The mystery of the third Lucretia / by Susan Runholt.
p. cm.
Summary: While traveling in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, fourteen-year-old best friends Kari and Lucas solve an international art forgery mystery.
eISBN : 978-1-101-16287-3
[1. Mystery and detective stories. 2. Art—Forgeries—Fiction. 3. Best friends—Fiction.
4. Friendship—Fiction. 5. Travel—Fiction. 6. Europe—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.R888293 My 2008 [Fic]—dc22 2007024009
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

For my mother, Helen,
who always believed in me,
and my daughter, Annalisa, who
helped me write this book.
My name is Kari Sundgren. This story is about how my best friend Lucas and I got mixed up in a big international art crime, and all the adventures we had doing it. Lucas is Lucas Stickney. She's a girl.
My ninth-grade English book says when you're telling a complicated story, unless you're a real expert, it's usually best to begin at the beginning and go all the way to the end. That makes sense.
But since I read that, I've noticed that finding the beginning of a story, especially when your story is a complicated one, isn't always as easy as it sounds. Some stories don't seem to have a beginning. They just sort of happen because of a lot of things that have been going on for a long time. And some stories have too many beginnings. You could start almost anywhere.
This story is like that. It has a lot of beginnings. I could start it when we noticed the guy painting at the Art Institute, or when we saw him again in London, or in Paris when we saw the article in the Herald Tribune, or in the museum in Amsterdam—well, you get the idea. So I asked my English teacher how you find the real beginning of a story, and he said it's the first thing that happened that you have to explain.
That's what I was afraid he was going to say.
So I guess I have to start twenty-six centuries ago. In Rome.
Lucretia was this woman who supposedly lived in the sixth century BCE. This was, like, when they used to have gladiators. She was married to a Roman soldier who was always bragging about what a wonderful, good, pure, loving woman his wife was.
When he was off fighting some war, a guy named Sextus Tarquinius, one of his rivals, sneaked back to Rome and flirted with Lucretia to try to get her to have an affair with him. She wouldn't, so he raped her.
Now back in those days it wasn't bad enough that a woman had that kind of thing happen to her. What made it even worse was that it totally wrecked her reputation. A lot of women who got attacked like that would have been kicked out of their house. It was the kind of thing that makes my mother go on and on about what a rotten deal women have always gotten. I have to admit, it does seem pretty unfair.
Anyway, Lucretia was a truly good person. So she called her husband and her father back from the war and told them about what had happened to her. They said it wasn't her fault and it wasn't that big of a deal. But because it was so dishonorable, she picked up a dagger and killed herself. Can you believe that? Even though she didn't do anything wrong!
By the way, I'm not making this up. This may not be absolutely true, but it's a real legend. Google it.
The second part of the story happened in Amsterdam way back in the 1600s. You probably know this, but Amsterdam is a city in the Netherlands, which is in Europe. It's the place where they have windmills, and where people used to wear wooden shoes. Anyway, there was this painter named Rembrandt van Rijn. Nowadays most people just call him Rembrandt. You've maybe heard of him, and you might even have seen some of his paintings if you go to museums. He even has a toothpaste named after him.
Rembrandt painted two pictures of Lucretia. In one, she's all dressed up in a beautiful white and gold gown, and she's holding a dagger like she's getting ready to stab herself. In the other picture she's already stabbed herself, her dress is hanging loose, and there's blood coming out of her side. Lucretia's expression in the paintings is so sad. It just makes you feel sorry for her.
Now, you probably know this, but if you don't I'll tell you, because it's going to be important. Old paintings by famous artists are worth a lot of money. Millions. Sometimes millions and millions. So far the artist whose painting has sold for the most money is a guy named Gustav Klimt, who painted pictures that have lots of little gold squares and twirls and things in the background. Anyway, one of his paintings sold for $135 million, if you can believe that.
But Rembrandt's pictures are also worth a lot. As artists go, he's a Very Big Deal. Let's say somebody found a painting by Rembrandt that nobody had discovered before. They could probably sell it for twenty or thirty million dollars. Maybe more, depending on how beautiful and interesting it was.
I'm telling you this because it's what makes everything else in the story make sense. The man in the galleries, the picture of the dead Lucretia, the car that almost ran over Lucas, the kidnapping—none of that would have happened if old paintings weren't worth a humongous amount of money.
Lucas the Lionheart
Lucas and I met four years ago, when we were both ten. We were taking a summer drawing course at a museum called the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which everyone calls the Art Institute.
I hated her right away.
There were eight of us in the class, all from different schools, so I didn't know anybody. Lucas and I had easels side by side, but we didn't start talking until it was almost lunch break. All morning we'd been working on drawing a basket with a bunch of fruit in it and some cherries scattered around the side. We were all kind of circled around this table with the fruit on it, so none of us could see anybody else's drawing. The teacher walked around and muttered privately to every student.
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