Monday, October 31, 2016

An Extract From my Next Art Mystery.


The Hero meets the Girl - for the second time.....

I'm on my way to Paris in the Eurostar.
Some time ago Interpol put up on their web-site a list of stolen paintings and works of art. Now they've decided to organise a travelling exhibition of replicas or digital photographs of 'recently stolen paintings', an exhibition which has just started in a room at the Louvre. Somebody in Interpol must have thought that there would be more chance of locating these paintings if more people saw them. I thought I'd take a look. When I'd finally negotiated all the Japanese students and elderly tourists in the lobby, and queued to buy my ticket, I walked up the stairs and into the exhibition. Nicely laid out and well lit. Nothing great in the way of paintings except Renoir's 'Jeunes Filles au Piano'. A lot of stuff by artists I don't know with strange names like Grimu, Albotte and even Hulk.

I am looking at Molinari's 'Hercules and Omphale' when a group of girl students comes up alongside. To my surprise, I think I recognise one of them. But why? How many students with a ponytail do I know? Zero. But this girl, very cute, seems familiar. And she's glancing at me with a surprised look on her face. Then, suddenly, I realise. She's the girl from the Grand Vefour. The one I had dinner with. The one who pushed off rapidly when I asked about getting together again. She looks different in jeans, shirt, ponytail, different from my chic dinner partner. The group moves off, but, wonder of wonders, she detaches herself from them and comes up to me.
“Hallo,” she says.
“Hallo again. It's a pleasant surprise to see you.” To say the least of it.
“I wanted to say sorry for disappearing so quickly after you had kindly bought me dinner. At that lovely restaurant.”
“Not at all. It was your driver who finished the evening.” She laughs.
“Yes. I suppose it was. Are you enjoying this exhibition?”
“Not sure. I haven't seen anything I would want to steal, except the Renoir.”
“It has a lot of names I don't recognise.”
A large lady tourist asks us to move on and have our tete a tete elsewhere. So we do. We are now looking at a group of six paintings by a guy called Willy James.
“Despite his name, he's a Swiss artist,” I say.
“Really? His work reminds me of somebody.”
“Lowry?”
“Yes, that's it. Little stick figures and urban backgrounds.”
“Willy is almost an unknown. Beats me why anybody would want to steal six of his paintings in one go.”
“It is odd, isn't it?”
“Unless it was his mother. Care for a coffee? At one of those places in the Palais Royal?”

We fight our way out of the Louvre's pyramid and walk across the gravel, go through the arch, cross the road at risk of life and limb, and settle in a small cafe, half way up the rue de l'Opera.
“So you're interested in art,” I say.
“Oh yes. I'm a third year student at the Beaux Arts. And you?”
“I'm a dealer. I have a gallery in London.”
“That explains why you're here! But, I couldn't work out why we had dinner in that lovely restaurant and why I had to give you the envelope so... surreptitiously. It seemed very odd but it was what my father asked me to do. He said it was urgent. So, of course, I did it.”
At this, I froze.

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