I just can’t picture three German brutes behind the robbery of four Masterworks from a museum in Zurich last week. I imagine that the crooks were three slender French mice, hardly taller than the paintings themselves, wearing black and white gondolier’s suits.
They rode into the gallery on diminutive unicycles. Brie, the smallest, followed her brothers, Hamlin and Armand. Her wheel was rigged to a crank for her tail—she couldn’t quite reach the pedals with her feet.
Armand and Hamlin hopped from their unicycles, which clattered together in a heap. “Everybody to the floor!” cried Armand, revealing a pistol made of black licorice. He pointed the confection across the small gallery. The museum patrons and staff dropped to the ground.
Brie cranked herself to a stop and slipped to the floor. Ever so carefully, she tilted her unicycle against the piano in the center of the room. She patted the floral-print scarf tied round her sleek neck.
Using his bristly tail, Hamlin bounced up on to the brocade seat of a chair in one corner. From the little pocket in his cropped trousers, Hamlin produced a French harp.
“Armand; Brie! This one! And that one!” he cried, pointing at the paintings on either side of his post. He poised the harmonica beneath his wiry whiskers and began to hum out The Flight of the Bumblebee.
It was Armand’s cue to dash forward and reach out for a Cézanne; Boy in a Red Vest. He bumbled backward under the weight of the frame and he spent a moment hopping this way and that and juggling the painting before he could collect himself. He turned to look at Brie.
“Oh, all right,” she sighed. She wound up her tail, bounced herself upward, and plucked van Gogh’s Blossoming Chestnut Branches from its spot on the white wall of the gallery. Her picture was wider than her brother’s, but it was held in a more delicate frame. Still, it took all of her might for Brie to propel herself and the painting over to the glossy piano top, where descend on to her unicycle.
Armand was already pedaling around the room, narrowly missing the limbs of the anxious museum patrons fastened to the floor. He gripped his portrait under one matchstick arm. “Hamlin, we’re off!”
Hamlin hastened to conclude his recital and returned the harmonica to his pocket. He coiled up his hairless tail and heaved himself off the brocade chair, straight toward Count Lepic and his Daughters, a Degas portrait. In midair, Hamlin snatched the painting from the wall. He alighted to the floor as though bearing no enormous weight at all and scampered to his own unicycle.
Brie, now, was also cycling around the room, following Armand with a bit of a wobble. Hamlin fell in behind her. “Around again! Once again!” he commanded gleefully. The horizontal stripes did a little something to disguise his flat-chestedness. Brie wondered if it had perhaps gone to his head.
The trio began their final loop. Hamlin fished the harmonica from his pocket once more. He managed a grand finale of three thunderous notes with the instrument clamped between his jaws.
Boswell, the oldest and the very largest mouse, was waiting outside with a getaway car and a thick slice of cheese. He tossed his snack aside and threw open the van doors when he saw Armand and Brie racing down the walk.
“Where is Hamlin?” he cried as he pushed their unicycles and their spoils into the truck.
“Coming!” they heard Hamlin call. He had just emerged from the museum.
“What happened to you?” asked Brie as she draped her scarf over her glistening head and knotted it under her chin.
“I stopped for one more. Nabbed it with my tail.” Hamlin held up the Monet that had hung beside the gallery door, Poppies Near Vétheuil. Everybody paused to admire the impressionist landscape. Brie tilted her head to one side and squinted. Boswell stroked one of his whiskers.
“Stop! Thief! Thieves!” The museum director and two respectably muscular security guards were charging down the front walk.
“Eek!” shrieked Brie. She hopped into the passenger seat and popped on a pair of dark glasses. Boswell ran around to the driver’s seat. Hamlin and Armand hopped into the van and pulled the doors closed, taking good care not to slam their silken paws.
“Just go!” urged Hamlin. Boswell put both of his little feet on the gas pedal.
Together, they hummed The Flight of the Bumblebee as they drove the four paintings toward the city limits.