It sounded like a scene out of a high-intrigue film about white-gloved burglars, something with the tone of a James Bond caper or The Thomas Crown Affair.
This time no suspension of disbelief was necessary: It was real. A $250,000 ink drawing by 17th century Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was snaked with the utmost finesse over the weekend from an exhibit at the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey.
The artwork's curator was distracted and, in an L.A. moment, the little 10-by-6 inch Rembrandt called "The Judgment" was gone. It all happened ...
... Saturday night at the hotel -- sometime between 10:20 and 10:35 p.m., according to a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
The Linearis Institute, which owns the drawing, reported the theft right away, according to our reading of the sheriff's account.
The work was hung in a hotel lobby, according to the sheriff's department. It appears the thief had an accomplice who used a distraction technique that would have taken the curator's eyes off the artwork long enough for it to walk away.
"There was some kind of distraction," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told TV news crews. The curator "noticed immediately that this individual drawing ... was gone."
He said detectives are looking at security video to see where that leads.
In the meantime Whitmore seemed adamant that hotel security, which he called "top quality" and the best "in the nation," wasn't to blame here.
Witnesses indicated that the artwork was for sale on an easel in a hallway lobby alongside works from Pablo Picasso and others.
Anyone with info about the stolen piece was asked to call sheriff's investigators at 310-482-6000.
Just remember bad guys. It's called "The Judgment."
Update: A statement from the sheriff's officials sent out to the media early Tuesday says they recovered the drawing.
Sheriff's officials say a Marina Del Rey watch commander heard from an informant late Monday who indicated where the artwork might be found.
Sure enough, a trip to Encino "around midnight" turned up the drawing but, apparently, no suspects, the sheriff's department says. The statement says the "Linearis Institute verified the drawing" early this morning.
Authorities still want your help finding the bad guys (see the number above).
Added: The Los Angeles Times reported that the find was made at the pastor's office of Saint Nicholas Episcopal Church, which is in the 17100 block of Ventura Boulevard.