Writing Prompt #1 – A forger’s painting

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Writing prompt: A counterfeiter’s coins or a forger’s fake works of art have magical properties.

Sophie sat back, eyeing her work critically. She glanced over at the original her client had given her. She smiled. The copy was perfect. She’d even managed to get the faded paint look, which most of those in her line of work seemed to forget. She laughed at the look on the curator’s face when she told him the million dollar Klimt he’d won at a highly overpriced auction was a fake.

Sophie’s legitimate job was assessing and confirming the value of paintings acquired for the Silverman Memorial Art Museum. The curator – Abel Silverman, great-grandson of the man the museum was named after – was good at business but terrible at judging art. That’s why he relied on Sophie to pass judgment on the paintings brought in by his auction hunters. She thought he’d have done better to hire real art collectors to do the auctions. They at least would have a better idea of what was real and what wasn’t, but he’d ignored her suggestion and was paying his nieces and nephews to do the work for him. It was job security for Sophie, since her second job was sporadic and didn’t always pay that well.

Sophie dipped her smallest brush in the antiqued white paint and dabbed it in the center of the eye on the rather lovely woman’s face. As she made this final touch, the woman blinked and yawned. Sophie sighed and set her brush down. It had happened again. The woman looked at her. “Who art thou, and why hast thou disturbed my rest?” she asked in a hollow, melodic voice. Her face twisted in a mask of irritation. “Do not say that thou art a thief of souls, for if that be true, I will call down the wrath of the Holy Father upon thee.”

Sophie pinched the bridge of her nose. “My lady, I am no thief. My purpose is to preserve and facilitate the further spread of the brilliant art of the past. The only way to do that is to make certain that each painting is duplicated so that it may reach other parts of the world. I speak true when I tell thou that I would never steal the spirit of the artist from their works. That would bring the curse of the artist and, as you so spoke, the wrath of the Holy Father upon me and mine household.”

The woman sniffed. “I am not certain I believe thou, but thou hast not said anything to bring me to the conclusion that thou art a liar,” she said. “Where would thou send me?”

“To a distant land, my lady,” Sophie said, glancing at the clock. “An island kingdom filled with the wealthy elite, who have graciously given me a small commission to ensure that thou art sent with haste and well protected from the rigors of such travel to them.”

“What be the name of this kingdom?” the woman asked. “Mayhap I have heard of it before.”

“My lady, this kingdom was discovered long after thy days on this earth were ended,” Sophie said. “However, if thou dost truly wish to know, the land is called Japan.”

The woman yawned and blinked sleepily. “I think I will rest again. See that thou protects me in a most careful and precise manner. I wish to come to no harm upon my long journey.”

“My lady, nothing – not even the worst storm the sea may throw at thee – will harm thee upon thy journey,” Sophie said fervently. The woman smiled vaguely before settling back into her original place. Sophie waited for another fifteen minutes before poking at the now dry paint. There was no reaction.

She ran her fingers through her curls. That was the part she hated about creating the forgeries. Something always came alive when she put the final drop of paint in place. Most of the time the paintings were benign and she just had to wait until they settled down. But there had been a few where the canvas itself was destroyed by the paintings because of what was shown.

Her cell phone rang, playing the theme for Game of Thrones. She giggled and picked it up. “Sophie, it’s John. That damned painting had better be finished,” a surly voice said on the other end.

“I finished it fifteen minutes ago and it’s already dry,” Sophie said. “Send Alphonse to pick it up. He can also take the original back to the client.”

“Make sure you mark which one’s which this time. The last time the client damn near turned us in for giving her the copy instead of the original,” John said.

“I told you which one was the copy. It’s not my fault you didn’t pay attention,” Sophie said. She heard him take a breath. She cut off the rant she knew he was developing before he could speak. “I’ll put a ribbon on the copy so there won’t be any dispute.”

“You’d better,” John said. “Alphonse will be there in half an hour.” The phone went dead.

“Asshole,” Sophie muttered. She slid the copy into a crate and, as promised, wrapped a long strip of red ribbon around it several times. She tied it off, and then glued the ribbon to the crate so it wouldn’t fall off. She went to the original and put it back in its crate. She set both of them near the front door and grabbed the next crate. She put a new canvas up on her easel. The next painting was waiting and she didn’t have time to waste.

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