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Open Features: Jugs And Apples

...Arthur knew he would only be able to steal one of the thirteen paintings in the room. Size would be all-important...

Derek McQueen brings us another tale.

It seemed strange to say the least. To Arthur, it was very strange, remarkably so in the circumstances. The young girl, he never knew her name, was sitting on a three-legged stool, dressed as a milkmaid. She looked up into the eyes of a guitar player. His name was Otto and he was completely naked as he returned her gaze.

Pale yellow light struggled to penetrate the huge window, curtained only on the left side and patterned with giant yellow crocuses.

The girl hummed quietly to Otto's soulful guitar playing. He shivered with the pleasure of it.

Arthur knew he would only be able to steal one of the thirteen paintings in the room. Size would be all-important and he furtively took rough measurements of the steep, wooden staircase, the only way he would be able to get a painting out of this charming basement room. Disguising himself as one of the house servants, he made much of attending to the pot-bellied stove with its enormous smoke stack and pottered back and forth, seemingly for no reason but taking in details he would need later.

The most valuable painting, a Rubens or more likely 'School of Rubens', was being haggled over by a trio of very well dressed men, in the middle of the room. The highly ornate frame alone weighed a ton and Arthur mentally crossed it off his list. A bearded, good looking young man in a maroon suit, sat upright at the German piano in the corner. He had been waiting patiently for Otto to end his guitar solo and now he could begin. The playing was hypnotic and everyone turned to listen. The young man played so softly and with so much feeling for the music that all were entranced by it. Otto handed his guitar to the milkmaid and began to weep quietly until the pianist had finished.

The stunning still life, near the window, attracted Arthur's attention from the moment he set foot down the stairs. He would keep it himself if his contacts weren't interested. This would be unlikely; they had come to trust his judgement for one thing. For another, the 'Jugs and Apples', Dutch masterpiece stood for itself. He gave himself another hour.

After asking Otto to pull himself together and get dressed, Arthur asked the young pianist to play once more. 'Jugs and Apples would be his before nightfall.


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