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June 4, 2021

Abs Seen Episode 1 ‘The Belly of the Beast'

HOUGHTONS MICHELIN: From W-Brie-ew-ah and the Tossed In Globe, this is Abs Seen Episode 1, ‘The Belly of the Beast,' I’m Houghton Michelin.

MICHELIN: It is the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, and Greater Boston is still busy getting itself green to the gills celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

Cue the Micks! [Irish music in the background]

It was a dark and stormy St. Patrick's Day evening, or what we in Boston call “Amateur Night.” when despite the hour, city denizens were still not finished paying their final Lucky Charms tributes to American Standard, the porcelain patron saint of blown chunks, [puking and flushing sound] when these two thieves dressed as male strippers —they had police hats, badges and wax mustaches — conned this gullible burnout of a security guard into thinking that they were in fact real Boston Police Officers.

The guard decides to let these two guys into the Four Quads Museum, he now claims, because they said they were responding to a disturbance. But it turned out they weren’t strippers or cops and that’s NOT a whole ‘nother story. It’s this one.

So listen up now, to this true crime story of the greatest art heist in history. Priceless masterpieces worth up to a billion dollars in today’s money, ripped from the walls, and never found. And who the thieves were still remains a mystery to everyone to this day, heh heh heh... or almost, everyone.

Leave us begin our deep dive, our very deep dive, our Wilbur Mills and Fannie Foxx deep, very deep dive into this great mystery. Starting with the guard,

“Don’t I know you?” The guard claims one of the stripper-dressed crooks said to him before asking him for some i.d. But while he’s doing that, okay, the other fake cop is reaching high up on the ceiling to turn the freaking security camera toward the wall.

The guard claims: [Mocking stoner Voice] “You know, when the fake cop started turning the camera around like that, it did seem a bit strange, I was like, "Whoa why would he be turning the camera around like that?" But they had hats, badges, they looked like cops so I didn’t question it. Now I think maybe I should have.

[Laughing] Yeah. No shit, Shitlock. So this guard is either the most brain dead fucking individual in the whole fucking world, who can somehow draw a breath without being hooked up to a machine or something, all right, or the fucking guy is in on the robbery. Those are your two choices. Pick one. But not yet. First listen to this podcast, which will give you a better idea about what really happened, which, spoiler alert, was totally fucked up.

Recently though, and when I say recently I mean in Four Quads Museum Heist time, where “recently” can be like ten years, twenty years or more. The clock doesn’t start ticking until they get around to sharing some tidbit with the public for their own reasons, which the press treats like it is the second coming of King Tut or some shit.

So recently, as in 18 years ago, the same guard who let the thieves in suddenly remembered something. That there was this seven-inch birthmark on the lower abdomen of one of the crooks. This coffee stain looking blotch was spotted when the crook reached up to turn the video camera around. At that point, it seems that his stripper police-shirt came untucked, exposing an unwholesome portion of his Boston crime underbelly.

The distinctive birthmark, it can now be told, looks very much like a very hairy um upside down map of Florida, let’s say, except it has this dark mole at the tip of it, which I guess makes it Miami.

This is just the latest clue, which investigators, don’t stop me, even though you’ve heard THIS a million fucking times before, are convinced could split the Four Quads heist case wide open.

[Cynical Monotone] With one of the greatest investigative teams in history working tirelessly to solve the greatest property crime in history, or at least it was the greatest property crime in history until Donald Trump signed his 1997 federal tax return, this billion-dollar museum theft mystery for the ages may now at last be solved.

The latest breakthrough, in the form of a birthmark on one thief’s stomach, came about as a kind of vision, the guard says he had, during a state of fungus induced transcendence, I shit you not. It was while he was shrooming up in Addleboro, Vermont. This was back on New Year’s Days 2002. And it was that experience, which led to the recollection of the birthmark clue, which he finally then shared with investigators.

This latest break in the case is such a potential game-changer, they decided to name this podcast for it, “Abs Seen.” Nobody ever got around to asking what I think of the name, so there it is.

Meanwhile the authorities, for their part, have decided to drug test the guard every week. Because, after all, those tripping mushrooms are illegal. And the authorities are determined to find out who it was that supplied the former guard with this controlled-substance in the first place, another freaking tangent. And so, with their brains on drugs they have even gotten the DEA involved.

More on the guard and his story of the case in Episode Two. Here in Episode One of Abs Seen, and remember it was not my idea to name it that, we’re following Yonda Starr, our podcast producer and Senior Reporter into a strange place with the Four Quads Museum Security Director Augustine Toomuchi.

AUGUSTINE (HAYSTACK) TOOMUCHI: We're in a strange place. Many people don't come up here. You might have to duck a lot. We're in the attic.

YONDA STARR: The attic. Of course. Just as I suspected. All those rickety stairs, the wooden beams overhead, the ducking and ducking and ducking, until I’m tired, tired of all the ducking. We are in-deed in the Four Quads Museum attic.

Across the way, near a pile of boxed up Christmas decorations, I spy a gasping, sweating and vibrating HVAC unit. It keeps all of the priceless treasures, and assorted gold-plated bric-a-brac below us, as cool as a proverbial cucumber, like our S[l]erpa guide to the Four Quads Museum robbery investigation, Mr. Augustine (Haystack) Toomuchi himself.

The ‘Abs Seen’ podcast has been given unprecedented access, with hardly any strings attached at all, any to speak of really, okay maybe a few little ones, to this, the Four Quads Museum attic, as well as to so much more as you will hear in our weekly episodes.

We are here on a typical sweltering 21st century October day in Boston. Not only is the heat quite stifling up here but it’s also as stuffy and dim, as many of the Four Quads Museum trustees. But we are under turd, ready to take it all in, and share it with you, our listeners.

STARR: Why the attic? Because Four Quads Heist lead investigator Augustine Toomuchi. the museum's head of security, has something he wants me to see.

TOOMUCHI: We’re going to go around a corner here.

STARR: Toomuchi is right. It is a corner, there’s no denying it. And a sharp corner at that. So sharp you can’t even see around it. Now we are in another part that is not a corner at all. It is what one might call a space, an attic space. And there is stuff in it, from object d’art, and tapestries, to a tiny yellow screen, the size and shape of a quarter, covered in a mysterious black tar. Some of it is the stuff of mystery and intrigue. But which stuff? Hold on, because we’re about to find out just that.

On our way, we pass a large bucket with the word “Fire” painted on it in bright orange-red letters. The bucket is nearly full of something called guaiacum, or holy wood, which Toomuchi tells us, the husband of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Mr. Jack Gardner, stored here for safe keeping. Holy wood was one of the things Jack Four Quads decided to bring back from Europe, owing to one of the other things Jack Four Quads brought back from Europe, without deciding to bring back, in the long ago days before penicillin.

TOOMUCHI: We’re almost there Toomuchi says.

STARR: Was this true? Were we really all...most...there? We’re in the attic, which he has already acknowledged. We couldn’t get much higher. There is so much suspense in the asbestos tinged air, you could practically slash it very neatly with a halfway decent box cutter.

Was Toomuchi stooping down now to avoid the overhead beams we are approaching, or from the weight of the 13 albatrosses around his neck, one for each priceless work of art missing from the Museum, that he and he alone is destined to recover? The weight of being the lead investigation on the biggest, most historic robbery in the history of the known universe, and not finding jack, does at times take its toll, and a heavy one indeed.

TOOMUCHI: Hahznzfrasanfalnin

STARR: Hmm. The lead investigator of this historic crime has pointed and said something undoubtedly brilliant, but at the moment, unintelligible. Our pick of the litter sound engineers can only do so much with the fact that Toomuchi can be quite soft spoken in a way that belies his strapping six foot two inch frame.

Tall and trim in his tidy civilian camouflage: a navy blazer, crisply pressed khakis, and a striped silk necktie from Lord & Taylor (mostly Lord), Toomuchi at 53 years of age still cuts a striking figure even with his head dodging the ancient wooden beams overhead, or trying his best [thud].

TOOMUCHI: Ouch.

From Toomuchi’s dashing and urbane manner, one would never guess that he grew up in a wine cellar, that had been converted into a fallout shelter, which had then been used as a storage unit for stolen furs, by a Providence, RI crime ring, headed up by Herman “The Ermine” Mattarazo, before it was finally converted into a small ranch dwelling, adjoining a Cabrini green housing project.

TOOMUCHI: Hahznzfrasanfalnin hahznzfrasanfalnin hahznzfrasanfalnin.

STARR: OK. Now Toomuchi seems to be speaking in tongues. Is he channeling one of the long dead thieves? Isabella Stewart Gardner? John Singer Sargent? Brandon Stark from Game of Thrones?

Our sound engineer is knitting his angry-brows at me. But the great investigator’s sometimes unintelligible speech lends itself to a delicate balance. The balance he is fated to strike, between granting interviews to media outlets from all over the world, and with the overarching imperative of never ever EVER revealing more than he can or wants to share with the public about this very much ongoing investigation, as he did only that one time at a Belmont Historical Society talk he gave back in 2014.

Although our sound engineer insists on mitigating what a considers a certain simpering quality in Toomuchi’s voice, with an equally unsettling Wizard Of Oz echo effect, there remains something perfect about Toomuchi’s natural cadence, slow and clear, crumbling at the edges. It leavens the Gardner Heist story’s inherent sensationalism, brings it down to the ground, and moors it in a too true, true-crime reality.

STARR: I’m sorry. What did you say, Gus?

TOOMUCHI: My name isn’t Gus. It’s Augustine.

STARR: Oh. Yes. Augustine of course. Sorry. [Whispering] Our sound engineer assures me that back at the studio he will have no problem softening out the icy tone lurking around the edges of this last statement by Toomchi.

STARR: [continues]: But you are also sometimes called “Haystack.”

TOOMUCHI: [Chuckles, Bellylaughs, Wheezes, Strikes his Head]. Ow!

STARR: Are you okay?

TOOMUCHI: Oh sure. Ahh. It’s just that one of these beams is not like the others and I… Anyway it is true some of my very close colleagues in federal law enforcement and the media do at times, call me that like in a game of cards or over a pint, from time to time.

STARR: Why do they call you that?

TOOMUCHI: Some say it is because I take this approach to the Four Quads Heist case that we're trying to make this haystack smaller, in search of a needle, which is the stolen art. And every time we eliminate a piece of information we're getting closer to the art.

STARR: Really? Because I heard…

TOOMUCHI: Others says it’s because of a disguise I wore during an undercover surveillance operation we conducted, years ago, and I’m not at liberty to say much about it, but it was at a horse track in East Boston that has since closed. It was known to be frequented by, and I don’t want to name anybody or single out any one or any particular group of people but their names to tend to end in vowels, such as “i” or “o” most of the time, sometimes "a," but not always. And let’s just say it’s not only their garlic and tomato marinated calamari appetizers that are organized into tight well-organized rings. But I cannot stress this enough. I’m not naming anybody or any group of people, Capisce?

Toomuchi can be infuriatingly adept at scuttling a reporter’s efforts to probe at times. But it’s all just part of the job of being of being the lead investigator on an internationally watched and followed unsolved crime investigation.

TOOMUCHI: Right this way.

STARR: We step out of the low amber light into a darkness with much cooler air, where all is calm, all is quiet around us.

Is this what Toomuchi has taken me to see: this storeroom full of sumptuous textiles used on furniture and walls throughout the Four Quads Museum? Or is it this stack of old, no longer glossy covered dog eared magazines with names like “True Detective”?

No, that's not why we're here. But in the back of this room, in a space barely wide enough to accommodate us both. Toomuchi pulls out his cellphone and flips on the flashlight. He then pulls a cover off something. Something big. Oh wow.

TOOMUCHI: We're looking at the rosewood stretcher that held “Storm On The Sea Of Galilee,” but what you're really looking at here is Rembrandt.

STARR: Or in other words a stretcher that once held a Rembrandt painting Is that right?

TOOMUCHI: Yes but it’s so much more than that. What we’re looking at here is Rembrandt.

STARR: This is what was left behind after the thieves slashed "Storm On The Sea Of Galilee" from its frame. So, in a sense, it’s Rembrandt?

TOOMUCHI: Exactly.

STARR: Wow, it's enormous.

TOMMUCHI: Yeah, you can see why they wouldn't have been able to take it with them.

STARR: No, it wouldn't have been something you could carry out, to a waiting van on the street, or to your office on the fourth floor, for instance, so I wouldn’t have to view it here in a dark stuffy attic. Achoo.

But there is — that is paint that Rembrandt put there. What a thing to see. Not a Rembrandt painting, but Rembrandt paint. It kind of takes the breath away. But the thieves also left a clue.

TOOMUCHI: Yes. they certainly did. If you look closely here you can see they cut into the stretcher. You see that?

STARR: Oh, yeah. So they were pressing hard, with something extremely sharp, because it's a very clean cut. So we know the thieves relied on a sharp pointy object of some type. The kind you mother told you not to run with, like scissors, or a knife, or a box cutter. But they most very likely DID run with it.

TOOMUCHI: Exactly.

STARR: That really narrows the possibilities of what happened here and by whom.

TOOMUCHI: Possibly yes. It's a crime scene, really. It's a victim.

STARR: It's like the chalk line of the body, at the murder scene.

TOOMUCHI: It’s a victim. It’s not the chalk line around a victim.

STARR: It is. It's a victim. And I don't know why, but it makes me feel very queasy to look at it.

TOOMUCHI: It does, yeah. I get the same feeling every time I look at it. You get, like, In fact, I usually have to take seasick pills before I come up here. There's so much to it. It's Rembrandt so you're in the presence of greatness. And it’s greatness that everyone has heard of right? So you're in the presence of history, too. This is THE stretcher that held [escalating] one of the most valuable things that was ever in stolen in the WORLD. [Angels singly softly in Background] Why am I, Augustine Toomuchi, the author of more than one book about art crime, available at amazon.com and fine retailers everywhere, although this is such a personal thing to me that I don't want people to get the impression that I'm capitalizing on it in any way because it's not that, but why am I this close to something that Rembrandt once stretched?

STARR: Because I am in here with you in this cramped attic room and we're doing a pod..."

TOOMUCHI: I'm from Providence, there's no Rembrandts, or stuff like this in Providence. About the closest you get to fine art in Providence is a stick in your good eye. You know, it's just this awe-inspiring thing. I gotta get it back — because this is torture. You almost feel like, why? Why me? Why did I get stuck with this? You know. Why? [pause] Why? [pause] Why? [pause] OK since you asked, I’ll tell you.

STARR: I didn’t.

TOOMUCHI: Fate. Because it's, look at it, right? You understand. I can never walk away from this.

STARR: What? This rosewood stretcher?

TOOMUCHI: No. Yes, but not only the damned rosewood stretcher; from all of it, this attic, this Museum. the Heist, the interviews, the book deals, the movie rights. It’s destiny.

STARR: Destiny?

TOOMUCHI: Yes. My Destiny. Getting the stolen art back. It’s gotta be, and it’s up to me.

STARR: Like the Holy Grail?

TOOMUCHI: The Holy Grail

STARR: Or in this case the Holy Gu?

TOOMUCHI: The Holy Gu and everything, all of it.

TOOMUCHI: I can see it all in my mind’s eye, in its ear nose, and throat.

[IT’S A DREAM MUSIC]

ELDERLY WOMAN: [DOOR OPENING SOUND] Mr. Toomuchi, thanks for coming here on such short notice. I was cleaning out the effects of my sister’s eldest, Francis X, down in the basement and I found this steamer trunk filled with these picture paintings. And at least of them says Renbrant [sic] down at the bottom in the corner.

TOOMUCHI: That’s no problem ma’am. I cannot overstate how determined the museum is to recover this stolen art. We leave no turd unstoned, heh heh, and no stone unturned. That’s our motto.

ELDERLY WOMAN: What did you say?

TOOMUCHI: Nothing. Forget it. It’s just a motto.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Hrmph. Well I don’t know much about art. I’m from Providence, RI originally and the closest you would get to a Renbrant there is…

TOOMUCHI: I know. I know. Is a stick in your good eye.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Why no. It would be a trip to Hartford or Boston. What’s wrong with my bad eye?

TOOMUCHI: Nothing ma’am nothing. It’s just a saying. I grew up in Providence myself. Both of your eyes actually look pretty terrific.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Well, you’re not the first gentleman to say so. As good as they may look, though, they do not exactly SEE so well as they once did. Be that as it may. I know what I saw, and it said RENDRANT on these picture paintings.

TOOMUCHI: Let’s have a closer look shall we.

[Footsteps heading down stairs]

ELDERLY WOMAN: As I was saying I don’t know much about art.

TOOMUCHI: Well you’re never too old to learn.

ELDERLY WOMAN: I’m seventy seven years old.

TOOMUCHI: Well, practically never too old.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Hmm. Anyway. There’s the trunk.

TOOMUCHI: May I?

ELDERLY WOMAN: Of course. That’s why I asked you here.

[Sound of trunk opening] ELDERLY WOMAN: We Happy? [pause] Vincent?

TOOMUCHI: Yeah we happy. But my name is not Vincent.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Oh. That wasn’t my late husband’s name either. We had to have his hearing checked. He passed with flying colors. It turned out he could hear but he couldn’t listen, unless it was Bill O’Reilly on cable TV of course, then he was all ears. Or if you called him Vincent. It really annoyed him, but it was the only way I could get his attention, some days.

TOOMUCHI: Ma’am, I must caution you, just having these works, assuming, they are authentic, on your property puts you in violation of several federal statutes. I have a couple of associates outside who will help me get this trunk removed from the premises, to protect you from some serious legal trouble, while our experts make a determination.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Well I don’t know. I should really see what Francis X thinks. He’s been away camping with his buddies, but he did call from the road and he should be back any time now.

TOOMUCHI: I thought you said these were his effects.

ELDERLY WOMAN: They are his effects. He’s been living in my basement for almost six months without paying me a nickel in rent. I can’t even get him to clean the gutters. Says he’s afraid of heights. I’ve been thinking of kicking him out and leaving his stuff out on the curb. I’m not even sure he is my sister’s eldest. She never told me about any Francis X, when she was alive. She never married. And I wasn’t aware she had ANY children.

TOOMUCHI: Are there any guns in the house ma’am?

ELDERLY WOMAN: Oh sure. You have to in these crazy times. Wait. Maybe not. Francis X usually takes the guns with him when he goes on his camping trips. I tell him, “please just leave me the thirty eight,” but he won’t do it, and they’re my guns!

TOOMUCHI: There could be a reward for your assistance if these paintings are what we think they are, up to ten million dollars not to mention all of the legal complications you’re saving yourself from, by having me take these now. You could buy the whole Providence Armory for that kind of money.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Well I hope this is the right thing to do. Francis X is a hot headed son of a something. He doesn’t get it, from our side of the family. His friend Taters calls him “Vice Grip.” What kind of nickname is that for a young man. So yeah ten million. You may have to wire it to me, in Mexico though. France X might take a dim view. He might think he is entitled to a share. And he wouldn’t know a Renbrant from

TOOMUCHI and ELDERLY WOMAN [in unison]: a stick in his good eye.

TOOMUCHI and ELDERLY WOMAN [in unison]: Exactly

TOOMUCHI and ELDERLY WOMAN [in unison]: Inky-dinky-pinky-winky! Flush it down the kitchen sinky!

ELDERLY WOMAN: Well. You really did grow up in Providence. [Shouting] Jinx on a Coke!

TOOMUCHI: Ow ma’am, now that was uncalled for.

ELDERLY WOMAN: Oh I’m sorry. Well you said you were from Providence.

TOOMUCHI: Yes ma’am. Yes I did. And don’t worry ma’am. We will be in touch. [DOOR CLOSING SOUND, TOUCH PAD TAPPING SOUND, SENDER RINGTONE SOUND] Shilly, it’s Augustine. Have I got a story for you. [ENGINE REVVING SOUND]

[AWAKENING OUT OF A DREAM MUSIC]

STARR: No one knows more about what happened the night of the robbery than Augustine Tommuchi, or more importantly what is most likely to happen next. Toomuchi took the job as security director at the Four Quads Museum 15 years after the heist and today is the beating heart of the investigation. Organized, meticulous, dogged.

STET SIEVEMAN: Don’t forget smaht and indefatigable.

STARR: Oh I wouldn’t. BUT you might even also say haunted.

SIEVEMAN [OVER THE TOP BOSTON ACCENT]: He’s not alone. But there should be many more. There must be many more who are haunted, if we are going to solve this thing and return ah paintings to their propeh place in the Fahquad Museum.

When nine Impressionist paintings were stolen from the Mahmottan Museum in Paris in 1985, the loss of the paintings evoked a sense of personal loss for the whole city. Detective Pierre Tabel, who investigates art crime in France said of the thefts: [Bad French/Boston accent mashup] "It was like a pall of gloom had fallen oveh zee city. Every Parisian felt it.” And that deep collective sense of loss motivated so many — from legislatehs to common folk — to maintain a commitment to solving the crime.

Five years lateh Paris got their aht back. We need the people of Boston to be haunted, about the Four Quads robbery, in the same way that the missyurs and madam-oizles of Paree were. We have to haunt them, or inspire the people of Boston in some way.

STARR: That’s our consulting producer Stet Sieveman discussing his views on what it will take to get the stolen Four Quads art back. His reporting on the Four Quads Heist spans decades. Armed only with a mobile phone, a fax machine, and a cassette recorder Sieveman, by necessity dives deep into the underbelly of Boston’s crime syndicates. His motto: keep your eye on the narrative has guided him through his butter knife coverage of the investigation.

Brash, punctual, and literate, he’s had all of his shots and administered a few of his own. The Washington Post said of his book, Grasper Straws, about the history of the Four Quads Museum heist case [serious tone] ahem: “Sieveman has gathered so much information that explaining the smallest bit of it leads to a spate of cross-references, qualifications and digressions.”

That’s the kind of dedicated devotee Sieveman is to the investigation and the kind of expert he has become.

SIEVEMAN: I would try this approach: have two individuals who are respected by all segments of Boston society, both haves and have-nots, such as Boston Mayor Walsh. He’s a recovered alcoholic, by which I mean, there are people in Boston who could tell you stories, but only from years ago. And maybe David Ortiz, who spoke so eloquently for us all after the Marathon bombing. Have them make a public appeal for the artworks safe return, while standing in front of the empty frames, in the Four Quads Museum Filch Room.

SIEVEMAN: My family and I grew up in Dorchester and the thing about Boston is the tribalism and that is intense. And I think that that has factored into a code of silence. You know, you don't help out, those aren't us, you know, we're, whatever your high school is. We're old school. And that stopped an easy flow of — a sense of, if I haven't lost something, I'm not going to get involved in the recovery. I'm not going to try to clean it up. Unless it hurts me and my family, I'm not going to raise my hand, because it's going to get me in trouble.

Secrets that could lead to the whereabouts of the artwork remain hidden among associates, family members and friends of the thieves, and it's these individuals who must be convinced to break their traditional code of silence.

STARR: But lead investigator Augustine Toomuchi isn’t waiting for some low life relative or ex-wife from among Greater Boston’s sprawling proletariat to finally do the right thing. “I’m still wildly obsessed, more than ever,” he says. “I constantly think about those paintings.”

Like so many other private investigators on high profile cases, working on behalf of tax exempt nonprofits, Toomuchi has complete access to government FBI files on the Four Quads heist case. He also talks to the Boston FBI's lead agent, who considers himself equally obsessed about the investigation every day.

With their shared interests in Broadway musicals, like “Hamilton,” and soap operas, like the New York Yankees, the two investigators co-heading up this historic heist investigation effort, enjoy exchanging everything from funny memes about current events and political figures, to article links to the work of serious thought leaders, like Kevin D. Williamson, of the National Review, in addition to getting into the hard business of the latest developments in the 30 year old case.

Abs Seen podcast was granted a font encrypted glimpse at Toomuchi’s elaborate spreadsheets. They cross-reference details about potential suspects, crimes, associates, and tipsters. The 15 year year veteran of this 30 year old mystery, responds to every single tip. Even the patently cuckoo ones, 'cause you never know.

He then saves every bit and byte of it, utilizing the latest in spreadsheet technology, including proprietary spreadsheet algorithms known as Excel macros. Toomuchi’s spreadsheet definitely scissors that of our own Stet Seiveman, whose spreadsheet includes a column dedicated to the approximate location of yellow sticky notes containing information and his thoughts on various aspects of the case, in his bathroom mirror, the dashboard of his car, sometimes even his pets.

Code named “the mother of all spreadsheets dot C-S-V,” TOOMUCHI’s database contains over 30,000 facts, factoids and other digital flotsam and jetsam related to the case. It is all securely safeguarded by way of a secret multi-character alpha numeric password, which includes more than one special character.

STARR: There are a lot of special characters in Boston so we have to keep this database secure, Toomuch told me, and even claims to have commited the password to memory.

TOOMUCHI: We don't throw hardly anything away, except what we call, fourth group data. [spitting sound].

What we have out there is a lot of unstable people who contact us with their theories. [spitting sound]. We always say we don't want theories [spitting sound], we just want facts. We've heard all the theories [spitting sound]. But there are people that persist, who won't let go of their theories [spitting sound]. which we have zero interest in. And they take up a LOT of our time. They contact our trustees, they contact the head of the FBI, the senators, the congressmen. There's something wrong with them and they just can't let go of their theories. [spitting sound]. So there's a scary element to it as well.

STARR: Do they make YOU scared?

TOOMUCHI: No, you can’t scare easy in this type of job, but maybe if you’re mission is disseminating pet theories [spitting sound], you should be.

Anyway, I have a conceal carry permit, because of the dangerous nature of this business, my business, which I mind, just as other people should mind their business. A gun could come in handy in the historic art recovery game like this.

In fact, I am so inundated with emails and phone messages, that one of these days I just might have to shoot my way out, or maybe just stop printing everything. We go through ink toner here, like the typical American family of ten, eleven or twelve goes through gallons of milk.

So it is not scary for me personally. But it is scary in a big picture kind of way. Just the idea, that there are people out there, people who may appear normal in every respect, who you might see on the train, or hailing a cab, these very same people might be going home and writing their Congressmen, emailing J. Edgar Hoover, or calling someone on the Four Quads Museum board of trustees. Over what? Their stupid, hairbrained theory [spitting sound]. that they happen to be fixated on, and can’t let go of. It’s at the very least, goddamned annoying and time consuming. It gives one pause, let me put it that way.

STARR: Indeed. The Heist has fueled a cottage industry of authors, documentary makers, bloggers and self-appointed sleuths who believe they’ve done what the FBI could not. Or at least want to make some money claiming they have. But why after decades of investigating with the best investigative teams has the result been nada, zilch, bupkis? And where are the paintings now?

STARR: I’m Yonda Starr

MARK ROLODECO: And I’m Mark Rolodeco

STARR: And from W-Brie-ew-ah and the Tossed In Globe, this is Abs Seen.

ROLODECO: The thieves who pulled off the greatest art heist in history had a pretty simple plan. Dress up like police officers bring walkie talkies, and speak in code numbers. Bring along boxcutters, mace, duct tape, handcuffs, and fake moustaches. Then just ring the bell of the museum side entrance in the middle of of the night with complete certainty that you can sweet-talk whatever schmuck happens to be manning the security desk to let you in, while also being certain that after a couple of minutes, you can lure this lousy random bastard away from the silent alarm, which would notify the police. Simple.

But who were these audacious simpletons and where are they now? And more importantly where is the billion dollars in priceless art the thieves took with them?

MICHELIN: Ha ha. Ya gotta pay to play, my friend.

ROLODECO: In upcoming episodes, which will drop once a week, Abs Seen podcast will take an Abs Seenly deep throated dive inside the tantalizing mysteries of the Four Quads Museum Heist. It’s a tale of two shitties; of cops and robbers, hangers on and wannabes, of finders, and grinders, sausage stuffers, and lovable rogues, of con men and conned women, and most of all, of a relentlessly single-minded investigator, with more side deals than a parking lot attendant on the Las Vegas strip.

STARR: I’m Yonda Starr

STET SIEVEMAN: I'm Stet Sieveman.

MICHELIN: I’m late for dinner.

ROLODECO: And I’m Mark Rolodeco

EVERYONE: And this is Abs Seen

See you next week for Episode 2 of Abs Seen, “Mark Spots the Pects.”

Kerry Joyce

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Gardner Museum Heist