The book begins with a mysterious letter that is delivered to three people. The letter tells them they are of great need to the sender, but begs them not to tell the police.Two Children, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee. Their teacher, Ms. Hussey, is very interested in art. Through her knowledge of art , they discover the artist Johannes Vermeer and his paintings. The children learn that Lady Writing was traveling from The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. to Hyde Park. The next day there is a story in the paper of how the painting mysteriously disappeared. A letter from the thief appears in the newspaper, telling the public that he will not give back A Lady Writing until they prove which Vermeer paintings were truly painted by him. Calder and Petra investigate. Mrs. Sharpe requests police protection and it is revealed that she and Mrs. Hussey were two of the three recipients of the thief's letter. Calder and Petra eventually find out that the painting is hidden in the local Delia Dell Hall, and they sneak out and find it. They barely escape from the thief, who is later found dead by the police. They learn that the man is Xavier Glitts, who was posing as Tommy's stepfather under the name Fred Steadman. A known art thief, he was asked to steal the painting and sell it for sixty million dollars. The other recipient of the letter is revealed to be Mr. Watch.
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