Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Ten : Homework

The paintings were smaller than Jericho expected, somewhat faded, and matte.

“Watercolors,” Zeke commented. “Difficult medium. We have quite a few rejected paintings here; because Lady Frieda worked in watercolor, she frequently had to start from scratch when Crowley changed his mind. Must have been maddening.”

The outside of the building was a large brick cube, with annoyingly symmetrical brickwork and regimented, white-framed windows crowding each other for space and almost begging to have a rock thrown at them. It reminded Jericho of a sanitorium from years gone by, but with too many windows. He imagined that most old institutional buildings shared similar bones. The inside of the building was entirely different. It looked like a cathedral, the walls covered with books and those that were bare covered in large, gorgeous, and no doubt painfully valuable tapestries. The ceiling was gothic, apse and corbel meeting in a gilt arris. The cross-vault was painted in amazing scenes from Christian and pagan myth, while a painted frieze with gilt festoon capped the walls. Enameled coffering and stained-glass lunettes added to the ostentatious décor. Far above, a translucent window in filigree frame let in the nascent sun. Where the walls were covered in books, they stretched three stories high, flimsy iron decking with scrolled railing protecting the expectant reader from falling to his doom. The decking was surprisingly narrow, with barely enough room to turn around, and the books were set behind ornate grille-work. Apparently they were quite valuable. Jericho briefly considered the probability of liberating the entire room and he wondered what he could expect on the black market. Other than the sunlight filtering in stories above, the room was lit with round, frosted globes that evoked Victorian sensibilities. In other words, it was dark, and the paintings were already of questionable contrast. They would need good light and patience to really capture.

Jericho grunted. This was the kind of tedious fieldwork that made him question his career choices. For each painting he took two photographs with his iPad – one portrait, one studio – uploaded them to the project document, and saved the file. Zeke had a Limo Studio 600 watt light umbrella and a set of Neewer collapsible disk reflectors which they used to make sure every detail was captured by the camera. It took several minutes to set the equipment up, test various reflector colors, and then take the shots. There were several discrete signs posted about the room forbidding photography, but the room was mysteriously empty, which Jericho suspected Zeke was largely responsible for. Jericho vowed not to look at his watch. He thought about the night before, and quickly put it out of his mind, a blush creeping unbidden up his neck. That made him angry, which reminded him of Caytlyn. He motioned for Zeke to try the gold reflector. He thought about lunch and his stomach growled. The picture seemed a little washed out, and he adjusted the angle of the umbrella. A twinge went through his back, and he wondered why every museum display seemed to be at that magic height that makes you stoop just a tiny bit. The kind of stooping that leaves your back in knots after only a few minutes and takes days to recover from. Do not look at your watch!

“Hey Zeke, try turning the umbrella toward me for this one; I want a less diffused look. Yeah, that’s good.”

I’m on my fifth painting. It must be almost lunch time. My back hurts. I wonder if these displays are low because they were set up by a woman? Maybe men were shorter when they built these things. These paintings are kind of shitty; I wonder why Crowley worked with Lady Harris? I will not look at my watch. Crap, that photo isn’t right. At least watercolors don’t reflect. Good god, I’m glad these aren’t oils. I can’t imagine trying to deal with the glare. I wonder if the light will damage the paintings? That’s probably why there’s no photography allowed. Or maybe they’re just assholes. Man I’m hungry. It must be nearly noon. At least when we photograph the cards we can sit down. I need more exercise. I sure got some exercise last night! Shut up you idiot. Maybe you should focus on making some intelligent fucking decisions for a change. Argh!!! That was not supposed to be a pun! Stop laughing! I’m hungry. Maybe we can find a burger for lunch. I should probably watch my diet. Haven’t been to the gym for a while. Gosh my back aches. Maybe I’ll avoid the gym for a while. I will not look at my watch. Of course, if I went to the gym my back probably wouldn’t hurt so much. Then again, maybe it would hurt even more. I can’t believe how long this is taking. It must be past noon already. I can tell by the light coming in through the skylight. I am a pretty hard worker! I hope Zeke appreciates my diligence. Why does he look so happy? Nerd. I’ll bet his back hurts more than mine. I bet he is over there suffering in silence. I’ll bet he is just waiting for me to knock off – he probably is just too proud to admit he is suffering. I’ll bet he is hungrier than I am. Oh, well, I don’t want the poor guy to suffer. Maybe we should break for lunch. I’ll just check my watch real quick –

It was 10:30.

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