The Fake
Say It Isn’t So
I’d never slept so well. There was nothing left to worry about. No anxiety to keep me up at night. Only three of the twenty-five paintings hadn’t sold at the opening and even they had “serious interest” according to Cynthia. Dad was blissfully happy talking to collectors and taking in every moment of this triumph.
I still felt guilty over my part in the paintings, but the collectors seemed pleased with them and Dad was happy and that was what mattered most.
I dreamed of New York—of a life of excitement and opportunity. Of Grayson. For a few hours I was perfectly happy.
And then the phone rang. Not my phone—the one beside my bed that got calls from friends and Grayson—but the house phone—the one that never rang except when Cynthia called. I jumped out of bed and raced to the kitchen hoping to get it before it woke Dad up. Last night had been wonderful for him, but he’d definitely feel it’s excesses this morning and I didn’t want to make that worse with an early wake up call.
I slid into the kitchen and grabbed the phone before the fourth ring.
“Hello,” I said, still a little groggy despite the sprint.
“Oh, Claire.” Cynthia’s voice was frantic. “Something has happened, something terrible.”
My heart sunk. I hadn’t seen dad this morning. What if he’d gone back to the gallery? Gotten in accident. What if he was hurt? Or worse?
But just then he walked into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and probably hung over, but alive and well.
“What happened?” I asked Cynthia.
“It’s the show,” she sobbed. “The paintings. They were taken.”
“Taken?” I asked, still not quite comprehending what this meant.
“Stolen,” she whimpered. “All of them. Every last one.”
Dad and I sat on the couch in silence after I told him the news and he talked to Cynthia. There just wasn’t anything to say. Everything that we worked for over the past four months was gone.
Dad seemed smaller somehow, sitting next to me on the couch. His face was drawn and hollow and his hands shook so violently no one could have overlooked the tremors. Last night’s show had been his swan song—his very last chance to stand up in front of people and have it all be believed.
He knew this illness was serious. He must have realized it would rob him of everything. But he needed a success to send him off before it happened. Last night he’d had that and it promised to be his crowning achievement.
“Claire,” he whispered. “What are we going to do?”
Cynthia came before breakfast. She was a wreck—no make up, unkempt hair, a pair of yoga pants that had shrunk to reveal her spindly ankles, and an over-sized tee shirt. She took one step into our entryway and burst into tears.
“How could this happen?” She sobbed. “And after opening night too!”
I led her into the family room where she sat next to Dad on the couch.
It was hard to say which one looked worse, Dad with his despondent expression and blank eyes, or Cynthia with her tear stained face and general lack of Cynthia-esque-tidiness.
Since neither seemed very capable of speaking without being prodded I sat facing them and asked the first question.
“What do you know so far?”
Cynthia explained that she left around three-thirty, locking the doors and engaging the security system herself when she did. When her assistant arrived at the gallery at five-thirty the door was unlocked, the code disabled, and the walls bare.
“It must have been an inside job,” she sobbed. “Whoever got in knew the code.”
“But who knew the code?” Dad asked. “I thought it was only staff.”
“It was!” Cynthia cried. “There’s no one else who had access. Just me, Anthony, Caroline, Phil and, of course you.”
And me, I thought. I’d been into the gallery a dozen times, deciding on placement so that Dad could give recommendations to Cynthia. Did she know about that? Should I tell her? Dad had given me the code without a thought and asked if I’d check things out for him. I did what he asked me to do—that’s all. And I was careful with the code. I didn’t give it to anyone else.
It couldn’t be my fault.
It couldn’t be my fault.
Could it?
The police arrived an hour later, after they’d finished questioning Anthony at the gallery. I was prepared to come clean, to tell them that I had access to the code also. They’d find out anyway, surely, when they went over security footage from the last few weeks.
One of the officers sat with Dad and Cynthia while the other asked if she could see the studio. I led her back.
“Have you noticed anything unusual in your apartment lately? Any uninvited guests in the studio?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“No one comes in the studio besides Dad and I.” I said, searching my memory. “And occasionally a friend or Cynthia.”
The officer nodded.
“Could you provide me a list of those friends?” she said, pulling out a pad of paper.
“Why?” I asked. “They’re our friends.”
“Look,” the officer said, leaning against the door frame. “The truth is we know whoever did this must have been someone with access—someone who was a friend either to your father or the gallery owner. I know it’s awful, but that’s the most likely senario.”
The police left by 9:30 and Dad went back to bed to “sleep,” though I knew there was no way he’d get rest with this on his mind.
They didn’t have any leads aside from our friends and family and a few vagrants who sometimes hung out near the gallery. The security footage from the last month had all been wiped clean, which I’m ashamed to admit made me breathe a little sigh of relief. They wouldn’t know I had the code. Dad wouldn’t have to explain. It might save him just a tiny bit of anguish.
He hadn’t reacted aside from looking tired and hurt. I wanted him to cry, to mourn the loss of his final triumph, but he didn’t.
So I went to my room, buried my face in my pillow, and did it for him.

Keep Reading

Chapter 30

The Night the Lights Went Out in New York City

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