Tess: OK, I think that’s the last of the boxes on the floor!
Allison: Holy cow, there’s actually one of those under all the “objects”?
Tess: amazing right? and its wood too.
Allison: Now we just need to sweep and mop.
Allison: What? Oh please, Of course, we need to sweep and mop. There’s so much dust in here I think my lungs have aged to about 50 since I’ve been here!
Tess: ughhhhhhh, I don’t want to clean anymore, let’s find food. The dust will be here when we get back.
Tess: Seriously? dust or food, and that’s a hard choice? COME ON! let’s go.
Allison: okay okay, but when we get back we are making this place dust and grime free!
Tess: sure, of course… Why don’t you grab one of the files off the top there, we may as well keep working on something while we eat.
Allison: Tess why are you recording this nonsense?
Tess: fun, besides it should add some personal touches to my report later.
Allison:isn’t that due in like a month?
Tess: yup, I have plenty of time.
Allison: Tess, you haven’t even started it yet!
Tess: Thanks for the ego boost, mom, I’ll be fine. Besides, I have plenty to work with, and more every time we open one of those files from Grandpa. This is still the research phase. Now come on I’m Starving!
Allison: fine, but turn the tape recorder off, your whole class does NOT need to hear us eating, thanks.
Tess: Ignore the background noise, we decided to go to the Brew Pub for lunch. But get this. The file I had Alleyway grab was titled Dorian Black, which I think is a great reference on my grandpas part by the way, but anyway it mentions the famous artist Georgia O’Keefe. I couldn’t wait for us to get back to the house to narrate it, despite Ally’s ridiculous protests.
Allison: Excuse me VALID protests. this stuff is like.. classified.
Tess: Do you see that word anywhere on these papers? NO. Now shush I’m trying to narrate here.
March 8th, 2016:
My buddy George the art collector asked me over to his gallery “Hide and Hare” last night. He claims that he has quite an interesting story in store for me to listen to this coming weekend. Apparently, they have a certain painting that they can’t seem to get rid of. If he is trying to sell it to me then he is out of luck. Art really isn’t my forte. However, he seems to think there is some kind of deviousness going on and he wants my opinion. Therefore I intend to take him up on the offer of drinks at his gallery and a private showing. He tells me the painting he wants to discuss is one of Georgia O’keeffe’s. He told me that part as though I should know the name. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I do. Apparently, she is someone very famous and her works sell for millions. Art truly is an expensive hobby, bad for the health of wallets everywhere. I intend to leave with the same amount of money I walk in with, thank you very much.
March 13th, 2016:
It is very early on a Sunday now, I just got back from “Hide and Hare”. The wicked tapestry that was spun to me tonight has truly boggled my mind. I am unsure what to make of it all..
When I arrived George was waiting with wine in hand. He handed me a glass and small talk was exchanged. Upon finishing our first glass each I finally had to ask. “So where is this devious painting you claim won’t stay gone,George? Is it this one here?” At this point, I gestured to a frankly absurd portrait of a man’s head surrounded by cartoonish clouds. He responded with a distasteful glance and tsk of the tongue. “Of course this isn’t it, you uncultured swine,” he growled and began to move off into the back room. I ignored the insult and followed, pouring a second glass of wine for myself.
He led me to the back of the gallery and into what must have been storage. It was overflowing and dusty. Filled with stacks of paintings against the walls, lovingly covered with tarps and blankets. “Is this how you treat your brilliant works of art?” I asked, with maybe a tinge of malice. It was his turn to ignore the insult and he did so. I decided to shut my trap and simply join him beside the painting he had now stopped before. He gently pulled the blanket off to reveal the work in all its glory. I gasped.
As we are all well aware I am not a man of fine things. I have no true appreciation for the arts. However, I had never laid eyes on anything that evoked such emotion. I looked at the garish colors and the bold thick lines and felt pure dread. “This is a very little known work, and what you are now feeling is exactly why it has stayed so unknown,” George announced, correctly guessing my feelings toward the piece. “This piece was found in a local basement by a man across town. He found it hidden beneath the floorboards of his home. How it got there is a mystery. It was not believed to be a true O’Keefe at first. However, it is a recognizable work. This seems to be a painted version of a piece created in 1915 using charcoal. That work was entitled “Special Number 9.” This painting dates back to a time about 5 years after that original work.” George explained.
I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I thought for a few terrifying moments that I was having a heart attack. My head was pounding and my ears ringing. Leave it to irony to kill me with a painting. Obviously, I survived the ordeal more or less intact. Once I had torn my eyes away I was able to regain composure. I found myself shaking and I requested that George cover the hideous thing up again. He obliged thank goodness. He then took my arm and helped me to a couch in the corner, topped off my glass and settled himself beside me.
“I can see why no one would want that thing, but how has more than one person bought it, to begin with?” I asked. I really didn’t understand how anyone could see it once and still want to see it again and again. In their own homes nonetheless. I guess I really must be uncultured, but it’s still nothing but confusing to me. “It is a form of vanity Robert. People with a lot of money are willing to pay for things they don’t like if they think it will be a status symbol and trust me, a little-known Painting by a famous artist is certainly that.” George explained. “Well I suppose its time you tell me about the poor creatures that bought such a.. “ I let the phrase die on my lips, sincerely at a loss as to what to call the thing. “masterpiece?” George finished. I imagine I looked more than a little dumbfounded as I said, “That’s not what I would call it, but your word is nicer, so sure.”
“ Well, let’s start from where it entered my life, seeing as how I have no idea what it went through prior to that. A young man who had just bought an old house was tearing up the old wood floors when he found a secret compartment hidden underneath. Hidden there was none other than our beauty over there.” He began, gesturing over to the beast under the cover. “ He honestly took one look at the work and felt so distressed that he began calling all over Santa Fe to see if any gallery would take it from him. Apparently many agreed initially but as soon as he would bring it to be viewed and authenticated he would be turned away immediately. He was ready to simply throw the piece away when he finally showed up on my gallery doorstep. The poor man was practically in tears. He begged me to just take it from him, no questions asked and no money requested. I brought him in and asked him what had happened. Finally, he showed me the piece. Quite frankly I had a similar reaction to it as you had a few moments ago. I came very close to saying no myself. Honestly, I wish I had sometimes. I told the young man this “ I will take this painting from you on one condition.” to which he agreed heartily, and I could see relief and hope begin to spring into his eyes. “You need to tell me 2 things. First, why do you seem to be afraid of it, and second, Why you never simply destroyed it?” I really couldn’t fathom why he would keep putting up with something he obviously detested. His response was very puzzling.
“ The young man looked at me, with guarded fear in his eyes, but a hint of hope was there as well. He said “Ever since that painting has entered my life everything seems to be burning down around me. Out of nowhere, my wife of 10 years left me. I quickly ran out of money and was unable to finish the renovations on my new home. There is still a large hole in the floor from where I uncovered its grave. It was never meant to be found. It didn’t want to be found!” He was nearly yelling at that point. He seemed to realize that fact and so he shakily caught his breath and began again, running his hands through his hair. He continued “ About 3 weeks after finding that thing, I began having terrible nightmares. I saw houses burning and people I loved died in them, again and again. I wake up drenched in sweat every morning. I think it is getting worse. just this morning I woke up to the smell of burning wood, I looked everywhere in my home and found no source. Then I walked by the room where this painting was hidden and the smell was overwhelming. I went in and only found the painting staring back at me, and I swear I saw smoke trickling out of the corner. I am afraid that if I have it even one more night, that it will set my home on fire.” He fell silent then and I took a moment to try and digest this far-fetched story. I feared that this man was insane. I didn’t know what else to say so I simply asked again “ Why did you never destroy it or abandon it?” He looked at me stunned and said. “It wouldn’t have liked that.” I think he realized then that I thought he was a madman. He quickly got up and after some mumbled excuses ran out the door, leaving me with my new masterpiece. “
“ I promptly decided that since I had acquired it that I may as well see who it was by and what it was worth. I realized within 5 minutes of seeing it that it was a recreation of the “Special Number 9” by Georgia O’Keeffe. I have always enjoyed her charcoal drawings so I was very familiar with it. I had never seen it in anything other than black and white, however, so I was understandably skeptical that it was actually one of her works. There was also the fact that she is well known for using very soft colors and gentle lines. This painting was bold and brash. There are bright oranges and reds, deep greys and black. It is certainly very outside of her usual modus operandi. However, after going to multiple specialists I finally had confirmed that it was indeed an original O’Keefe. It took several specialists because at least two of them laid eyes on it and forced me to remove it from their offices immediately. However, I eventually got my answers and was able to safely value the piece at just under two million.” I interrupted George’s telling at that point with a gasp and a look of shock. I couldn’t believe any paint on a canvas could sell for so much money. I had made plenty of money working for the lab but certainly not enough to justify spending 2 million on a piece of art. I promptly told George this and he simply laughed. “ your lack of culture is showing again Mr. Groves, he said laughing.
Strange man: “ Excuse me, young ladies, I hate to admit I was eavesdropping but, did I just hear you say the name, Mr. Groves?”
Tess: “um.. yeah, why?”
Man: “ I use to work with a Mr. Robert Groves at the Lab, and I do believe that you were just reading something that mentioned him. How do you know him?
Tess: “ Robert Groves is.. was my grandfather. He passed away a few months ago. We have been trying to go through some of his old things.”
Man: “Oh, I am so sad to hear that he died, my condolences to you and your family.”
Allison: “ I’m sorry we didn’t catch your name..?”
Man: “How rude of me, my name is Evan Grey. As I said I use to work with your grandfather miss..”
Tess: “ Tess..”
Evan: “ Pleasure to meet you miss Tess. What is that you are reading from, is it perhaps a journal?”
Tess: “ Yeah, It’s just a journal I found in some of his old things.”
Evan: “ I see, well dear, you really should be careful of where you read such things. If he is an old labbie he could have classified information in anything, especially a personal journal.. you should take anything like that which you find to a lab employee directly in fact. If you would like I can take that journal right now and dispose of it properly.”
Tess: “Hey, give that back to me!”
Waiter: “Excuse me is there a problem here?”
Allison: “ This man just came up and took my friend’s journal!”
Waiter: “Sir I am going to have to ask you to return this girl’s property and leave the premise.”
Evan: “Of course. I do apologize. Here you go miss Groves.. “
Tess: “Thank you, Come on Allison we are leaving.”
Tess: “ well that was really strange.”
Allison: “ I told you that you shouldn’t have read it in public.”
Tess: “Yeah, Yeah, I know. Let’s just say I learned my lesson. Anyway, let’s get back into the story. Now, where were we… Oh here. “your lack of culture is showing again Mr. Groves,” he said, laughing. “
March 13th, 2016 (cont.)
Once our glasses were filled once more and we have settled into the couch again, he continued. “I was a little concerned about finding a buyer for the work considering how negatively it seemed to impact anyone who saw it. However, no sooner than a week after listing it, I had a hit from a rather eccentric millionaire snowbird who had just arrived back in Santa Fe early just to see it. Since he wanted to see the piece immediately, I invited him over for a private viewing. He took one glance at it and asked, “is it really an O’Keeffe?” When I assured him that it was and showed him the certificate of authenticity, he promptly told me he would take it. I was a little flabbergasted. He seemed to be completely unphased by the emotions this painting seemed to evoke in everyone else. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.
” A month after selling the piece I received a panicked call late at night from what must have been a maid. She begged me to come to the home of the buyer right away. When I arrived I was hit with a strong feeling of unease. I was immediately taken up to his bedchamber. The large oak door was pulled back and a wave of stench washed over me. The entire room smelled strongly of urine and feces. In the center was the eccentric man that just a month prior had competently walked into my gallery. He was laid up in bed swathed in thick blankets, his face a sickly pale shadow of his former vitality. I went to his side and began to gently probe him with questions until this story had been delivered.
“ That painting is a wicked thing. You need to remove it from my home immediately. I will pay you double what I bought it for if you take it.” He said, sounding weak and exhausted. “That horrible thing has brought me nothing but pain George. I fear it will be the death of me if it stays here a second longer” I was very confused and so I told him I would not accept his money but that if he told me what had happened that I would take it for free. He agreed heartily and began to weave me a tale so bizarre I feel you will think I have gone crazy just for repeating it, Robert. “ After I brought that painting into my home I had it immediately set up above my fireplace in the den. I thought that such a magnificently fearsome piece couldn’t belong anywhere else. It looked stunning there, as though the fire from the furnace had burned through the wall above. I wanted all my friends and enemies to see the brilliance, so I asked many over to view it. That night went smoothly enough but I began to feel uneasy then. I swear that as the night progressed I caught the painting undulating like the fire below it. I tossed it up to a trick of the light and the abundance of champagne I had drank. After everyone left I told the maids to let the fire die and I went up to my room. That is when I had the first nightmare.”
“ I was a child, standing outside of a farm house. I could smell thick sweet wood burning and began to feel heat at my back. When I turned an inferno raged there. My hand moved of its own accord and reached deep into the fire. I felt the flames licking my skin and I woke up screaming. I immediately checked my hand that had reached into the fire in the dream. It was bright red and very tender to the touch. I called a maid in and she dressed the strange wound. I was unable to fall back to sleep for a long time that night. When I woke up in the morning, my hand was perfectly healed. As though it had never been harmed. This formed a routine that repeated every few nights. The same dream every time. Every time I would wake up screaming with my hand burning to the touch and every morning the wound was gone. I began to notice I avoided going into the den. Every time I neared the door I would begin to sweat and smell the scent of flames. I discovered that the maids refused to go in at all and they eventually begged me to remove the painting. I thought it may be worth a shot. I had to remove it myself however because no one else dared to enter the room, let alone touch the vile thing.”
“I walked into the den five mornings ago. Immediately I felt dread and began to sweat profusely despite the freezing temperature of the room. I found that I could not bring my eyes up to the painting. I began walking towards it but I was only able to look as high as the top of the fireplace. As I got closer and closer I felt as though I was beginning to slow. I began to shake as I felt the effort it took to walk become greater and greater. I felt like I was walking through molasses. Finally, I reached the base of the fireplace and I forced myself to look up at the artwork. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. As soon as I laid eyes upon it I felt a burst of heat against my face. It made me feel rage, I hated that painting at that moment more than I had hated anything in my entire life. I reached my hand towards it anxious now to destroy it. As soon as my hand touched the frame searing pain exploded into existence. I screamed and pulled my hand back only to see that now familiar shade of red on my skin. Just like after all those nightmares my hand was burned. I knew then that this painting needed to be destroyed at all costs. I ran to the other side of the room and pulled a blanket from the couch. I ran back to the painting, thrust the blanket over it and yanked it from the wall. I swear the blanket began to smolder. I rushed to the basement because the heat from the painting was now oozing through the protection of the blanket. I thrust the door open and began to rush down the stairs. That was when I slipped.”
I fell end over end down a full flight of steps. As I fell I saw the painting go flying into the air. The blanket wrapped around it burst into flames. I heard something snap in my neck as, I landed at the base of the stairs flat on my stomach, my cheek against the cold cement floor. Just a second later the painting landed in front of me. The blanket was nothing but ash. The painting was smoking but completely intact. The maids rushed in upon hearing the commotion. They found me lying there still. I could not get up. When the ambulance came I finally passed out. I woke up in the emergency room I had been out for a full day at that point. When I awoke I was informed that the fall had robbed me of all feeling in my body. Everything from my neck down is completely paralyzed now, George..That wicked painting has taken it all from me including my dignity.” At that point, he stopped speaking and began to cry.”
“ I was at a loss as to what to say or do, so I sat there a while longer. Then a home nurse walked into the bedroom. She asked me to leave him so that she could change his bed and clean him up so he could rest. I agreed but realized I had one more question that needed answering. I asked him where the painting was so I could take it away. He looked seriously at me and said: “it is still where it landed in the basement.” I left then and went to the basement, stopping only to ask for a towel from the maid to wrap the painting in. I found it in the basement as he said. Ashes surrounded it and the frame slightly cracked, but otherwise perfectly intact. I wrapped it up and brought it to the Hide and Hare, where it has sat for a week now.”
I did not know what to make of the tale George had just told me. I sat in silence for a while as I finished the last of my wine. Finally, I asked him “ Why did you ask me here?” He looked at me solemnly with a hint of sadness in his eyes and said, “ I wanted someone I could trust to know what happened. Robert, I don’t think I will be here much longer. I have begun to have the nightmares myself.” He refused to say anything more after that. I left in the wee hours of the morning and came home to get it all down on paper before I forgot. I feel something bad is going to happen.
Allison:” Oh my gosh..
Tess: “ Agreed”
Allison: “ Well, what happened after that?!”
Tess: “I don’t know that was the last page. Grandpa never wrote anything else.”
Allison: “No way, There has to be more. Look up the Gallery! It was called Hide and Hare.”
Tess: “ Ok hold on…. Oh God…”
Allison: “ What?”
Tess: “The Hide and Hare burned down, April 3rd of 2016. There was one casualty.. Mr. George Rivera, the owner.”
Allison: “ Oh my god”
Tess: “ Get this, there was only one surviving painting found in the rubble. It had a certificate of authenticity on the back. It was a Georgia O’Keeffe original.”