The Painting

“Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes,” said Jose’ and shuddered.

“Come on Junior, it’s been almost six months and its time you put that behind you, “commented Juan wryly.

“I know Pa but  I just can’t shake that image from my mind. It was as if he was accusing me of betraying him!”Jose stared at the fire burning in the grate, his eyes full of an unknown fear.

Juan came over and put his arm over Jose’s shoulders and squeezed lightly-a rare gesture of affection from this seemingly unemotional man. José understood and on an impulse hugged his father.

Looking a bit embarrassed by this show of emotion, Juan quickly strode towards the table where the blueprint of a floor plan was spread out.

“I know you do not like bloodshed and this was your first time. Possibly this is the reason why you feel the weight on your conscience. Our times were different. By the time I was your age, I had already dumped half a dozen bodies into the sea. Your Gramps, as you know, formed this gang when he was just 19 and he has killed more men than he can remember. It’s our family business son.”

“Yes Pa and look where it sent poor Pedro even if he was a bad ‘un.” grumbled Jose.”Then there is cousin Moe doing time and cousins Alberto and Francesco are missing since the past ten months .If all the males in the family keep falling prey to this business, where will our women and children go?”

“Juan and I have been discussing this for the past few months. Drug dealing is losing its sheen. There is too much competition among the cartels and not enough to go around. The cost of shipment and the blood money that we have to shell out is neither satisfactory nor desirable. On the other hand, the Policia has become more active and is not so easily bribed. The need of the hour is a change of business,” said Carlos.

José looked at his Grandpa in astonishment.

“You mean a new business Gramps? What else can we do?”He asked excitedly.

“Hold on to your horses’ young lad”! His Grandpa chuckled. “Yes, we have decided to branch out .Our clients are high end consumers. They may be private collectors who love the risk involved in acquiring something which nobody else owns. Then again, they may be just interested in the exorbitant money that would exchange hands if such a deal went through.”

Jose whistled.

“Wow!”

“We thought you would like it. The risks are high but the returns are sweet-sweeter than anything we could have ever imagined,” said Juan with a smile.

“There is more good news. We have already been commissioned for one such deal. Juan continued, “The job is to “spirit away” a painting by Albrecht Dürer from Casa Guidi, in Florence. Here is the replica of the painting which you have to use as replacement. You are in charge of this mission José. Juan will help you.”

José came forward to have a look at the panting and almost screamed. Somehow he steeled himself to look at the replica. “Those eyes remind me of Pedro’s glassy stare after I throttled him-ugh! Who would want to own such a creepy piece of art?” He mused.

Next Friday night Juan and José were at their destination. The four uncooperative guards had been dispatched -temporarily. The last one was inside the surveillance room. Juan stood guard while Jose entered the museum.

Shining his torch on the painting José shivered. The light fell directly on those eyes. He was sure he was being watched. He shook his head. His imagination was playing tricks. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice from behind, “Hello José! I have been waiting for you. Did you miss me?” Shocked to hear Pedro’s voice, José turned to look back, only to feel icy hands grabbing him and pulling him up.

After waiting for 30 minutes, Juan sneaked in to the surveillance room where the unsuspecting guard was put to sleep. Strangely, he could not find any trace of José in the museum. Puzzled and worried, he decided to have a look at the CCTV footage. What he saw was so eerie that he fled……

Next day there was a big brouhaha at the museum. Experts scratched their heads in bafflement at Albrecht Durer‘s painting where a new blurry figure had made its appearance.

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This is my response to Speakeasy’s weekly prompt #162 which required us to (a)write a response(fiction or poetry) in 750 words or less (mine is 748, including the title) (b) using the following sentence as the first line in your submission: “Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes .” and (c) make some reference to the media prompt,which this week is a painting  by Albrecht Dürer  . For more details and rules,please click on the url below-

http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/fiction-challenge-162-open/

 

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