Evan sipped his latte and looked over the newsletter again, comparing it to the genuine article, making sure it was all good. Satisfied that he had done well he glanced at his watch and saw that it was show time. He headed down the street to make the delivery.
Lance looked up from his sudoku as Evan returned to Starbucks. “So?”
Evan grinned. “It’s all go, my man. He’ll have it in hand in about ten minutes. I should get set up soon so we can get this show on the road.”
Lance looked doubtful. “Ok. I sure hope this works. I mean, I know you’re good and all…”
Evan shook his head. “Look, man, you gotta have faith. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but if you’re gonna take down one of the big dogs, you’ve gotta have an angle. I’ve thought this through. The newsletter will do the trick. He’ll tumble.”
“Yeah, but what if he recognizes…”
“He won’t. I was nobody to him. Besides, do I look like somebody he would have ever known in this get up?”
“No. I guess not.”
“Right. Now go get changed and get in place. You know what he looks like. Give him a few minutes while I set the hook and then move in. Got it?”
Martin Halsworth arrived at his gallery promptly at ten a.m., as he did every weekday and let himself in. He picked up the mail and proceeded to his office to check his messages. Sorting through the mail he noticed that the Art Society newsletter had arrived and opened it to keep abreast of the latest news.
He was idly adjusting his ascot when his eyes fell on the news that a Vermeer had been reported missing from an Upper East Side home. Not just any Vermeer. It was the small harbor scene that he had fancied for so long now. He had no idea who owned it, only that it was in New York. So it had been stolen. This was incredible. He couldn’t imagine that the thief had any idea of it’s actual worth. Why, it was priceless. Where on earth would a common cat burglar unload such a treasure? What a fool. It would be back in its owner’s hands soon. The minute it turned up anywhere it would be too hot to handle. Only a private collector lacking scruples would touch it.
He put the newsletter aside and attended to the business of getting the gallery open for business. It was a slow day and around noon he informed the staff that it was time for his afternoon walk and left the building and strolled down his usual path towards Central Park.
A block down he passed the usual street vendors, hawking their silly wares. Honestly, he couldn’t understand why they were given permits. It made the street look so tacky. He passed one selling household items and did a double take. He stopped in his tracks, unable to believe what he thought he had just seen. He held his breath and turned around. No, it couldn’t be. He approached the stall for a closer look. The vendor was talking to a potential customer, so he quickly picked up the painting and examined it. My god. It certainly looked real. The canvas was old. Very old. The paint had the right look, and the patina was there. He quickly examined the signature. His hands were shaking. The vendor finished with the other customer and came over.
“Hi. You an art fancier?”
Martin looked him up and down. “In a manner of speaking. Might I enquire how you came to own this painting?”
Evan darted his eyes back and forth for effect. “Oh, its, uh, been in the family for awhile…you know…” He shuffled his feet. “You interested?”
Martin tried to relax. “Well, it’s interesting. How much are you asking for it?”
Evan looked thoughtful. “Well, I think it’s worth a bit, you know?” he grinned. “I mean, this guy is famous, isn’t he. It’s only here because it was with my other stuff. I was gonna take it to a gallery or something…”
Martin could sense things getting away from him. He needed to move quickly. “Well, yes, he’s a well regarded painter. Tell you what; i’ll give you $5,000 for it. I’m sure that’s more than you make in several months,” he said, waving his hand in the direction of the household goods on display. He could feel his pulse racing.
Just then Lance, decked out in an Armani suit walked up and looked at the goods on display and then at the Vermeer. “Oh wow, that’s a Vermeer, isn’t it?”
Martin gave him a withering look. “I believe it’s a copy, but not a bad one. I’m negotiating here, do you mind?”
Lance did his best to look affronted. “Hey, it’s a free country.” He turned to Evan. “Hey, I don’t know what he’s offering, but i’ll give you $7,000 for that if you can hold it for me until I get off work today.”
Martin was apoplectic. He grabbed Evan’s arm and pulled him aside. “Look,” he hissed, “I know about the painting. Tell this guy to get lost or this is going to go badly.” He was praying hard his bluff would work.
Evan hesitated, looking as if he was unsure, then, “Yeah, ok. Hang on.” He turned to Lance. “Sorry man, the painting is sold.”
Lance shrugged and walked away. Evan looked back at Martin, who was smiling coldly. “Now suppose you tell me about this. The word is out in the art world already, so don’t try to bullshit me.”
Evan gulped. “Ok, ok. It belonged to my father. He’s, you know, wealthy. I come from a good family, but i’m the black sheep, you know?”
Martin kept smiling. “Go on.”
“Yeah, well, I knew they were away on holiday, so I went over there with a key they didn’t know I had and I, uh…appropriated some stuff. Including this,” he said, indicating the Vermeer. “Look, it’s worth a lot, but my father won’t tell the cops the truth, he’d rather have the insurance money.” He twitched a bit. “You’re not gonna turn me in, are you?” He couldn’t believe how easy this was. It was perfect. The greedy bastard was his, hook, line and sinker. The only thing that could have killed it all would have been if he had talked to another dealer about the blurb in the fake copy of the newsletter, but of course he hadn’t had time and he had no reason to be suspicious.
Martin put on a stern look. “I could. I happen to be… a man of means. One word from me…” he trailed off, letting the words sink in, then made his move. “But i’ll tell you what. I happen to want this painting. I’ll give you $50,000 for it, and you disappear. What do you say?”
Evan looked thoughtful. “Yeah, ok. Deal. I was gonna get out of town anyway. That kind of dough would sure make that happen.”
Martin was over the moon. “Stay here, i’ll be right back.” He raced back to his office and got the money out his safe and returned.
As soon as he was gone Lance came around with the van and they packed everything in and left. As they drove Evan riffled the bills and grinned. Lance looked over at him.
“Man, I don’t understand why you don’t just use your talent to make a name for yourself instead of doing fakes, but I sure do like the money.”
Evan got a serious look on his face. “I told you, man. The bastards wouldn’t give me a chance. I couldn’t get in any of the galleries. That asshole told me I wasn’t original, that I had no ideas.” He smirked. “I had heard how much he likes Vermeer. It was too good to pass up. Let’s see how original he thinks I am now.”
Lance shook his head. “So now what?”
“So now what?” Evan grinned. “There’s a dealer in Boston who’s crazy about Van Gogh”.