Had I learned to fiddle, I should have done nothing else. --Samuel Johnson

A Viola/Capitol Hill/Mon Nov 1/11:33 am: Late this morning, Officer Stevenson and his partner, Officer Gerry, were dispatched to one of three stores in Seattle that repairs, restores, rents, purchases, and sells stringed instruments, Bischofberger Violins, and made contact with its owner, Henry. The owner explained to the officers that on October 24, a distressed female named Jing called his business and said that a very expensive viola was stolen from the San Francisco Conservatory earlier that day. Jing described the viola, pinched while was she was in the lavatory, as a Giuseppe Desiato 1898 with the value of a German executive automobile, $40,000.

Today, at approximately 11:30 a.m., an Asian male in his mid-30s wearing a gray sweatshirt and wire-rim glasses entered Bischofberger Violin and explained to the owner that he was interested in exchanging his viola for a violin. (A viola is larger than a violin and smaller than a cello.) The Asian male was a heavy smoker and rather loquacious; he kept talking about his past, his special interests, and his professional background in music. He once played for the Baltimore Symphony but his brilliant career was destroyed in a car accident that injured his hand, he told Henry, who noticed several scars on the man's hands, and also noticed that, as the stranger sampled potential violins for the trade, he was a little rusty. His playing lacked the certain smoothness of strength that is the mark of a sound player.

Henry told the stranger that a trade or sale was in his interest but he first had to examine the instrument before making any decision. Henry took the cased instrument to his lower-level workshop, opened the case, and began looking for cracks and other defects. In the hollow of the viola he found a label with the inscription Giuseppe Desiato 1898. The instrument was the one that had been stolen in San Francisco. He quickly found the number of the viola's owner and dialed it; but while explaining the situation to her, Henry suddenly noticed that the chain smoker was standing in front of him. The suspect had noiselessly made his was down into the workshop. Henry hung up the phone and confronted the suspect. "This appears to be a stolen instrument," Henry said. The suspect calmly claimed that it wasn't, and that he had documents to prove that it was indeed his property. These documents were, however, in his room at the Vance Hotel, where he was staying during his visit to this fine city. It would only take him but a few minutes to retrieve these papers of proof and he'd be back to resume their little business. The suspect failed to do two things that day: One, show any identification and, two, return to the scene with the imagined documents in his mangled hand.

"We took custody of the viola," reports Officer Stevenson, "and placed it into evidence under a case number. I called and spoke with Inspector Leon from the SFPD. He told me that he was working on possible suspect information and would be in contact with our Theft/Burglary."

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