Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 56

“I’m starting to think time’s a real factor.” Flynn tugged her along toward the great room.

“Excuse the disorder. I’ve got a lot going out, a lot coming in today.” Brad kicked aside a chunk of broken lamp. “Flynn tells me you managed the art gallery in town.”

“Yes, until recently. Oh, what a fabulous room.” She stopped, absorbed the space. It needed paintings, sculpture, more color, more texture. Such a wonderful space deserved art.

If she’d had a free hand and an unlimited budget she could’ve made this room a showcase.

“You must be eager to unpack your things, settle in, and . . . oh, my God.”

The shock struck the instant she saw the painting. The stunning blast of discovery pumped straight into her blood, had her fumbling her glasses out of her purse and going down to her knees in front of it for a closer study.

The colors, the brushstrokes, the technique, even the medium. The same. The same, she thought, as the other. The three main subjects, the same.

“After the theft of the souls,” she stated. “They’re here, in this box on the pedestal in the foreground. My God, look at how the light and color seem to pulse inside the glass. It’s genius. There, in the background, the two figures from the first painting, with their backs turned here. They’re leaving. Banished. About to walk through that mist. The Curtain of Dreams. The keys.”

She scooped her hair back, held the mass of it in one hand as she peered more closely. “Where are the keys? There! You can just see them, on a chain the female figure holds in her hand. Three keys. She’s the keeper.”

Wanting to see more detail, she fished a small silver-handled magnifying glass out of a felt bag in her purse.

“She carries a magnifying glass in her purse,” Brad uttered in amazement.

“Yeah.” Flynn grinned like a fool. “Isn’t she great?”

Focused on the painting, she shut out the comments behind her and peered through the glass. “Yes, yes, it’s the same design of key. They’re not worked into the background the way they are in the other painting. Not symbolism this time, but fact. She has the keys.”

She lowered the glass, eased back slightly for an overview. “The shadow’s still in the trees, but farther back now. You can barely see his shape. His work’s done, but still he watches. Gloats?”

“Who is he?” Brad wanted to know.

“Quiet. She’s working.”

Malory slipped the glass back into its pouch, then returned it to her purse. “Such a sad painting, such grief in the light, in the body language of the two as they step toward that curtain of mist. The main subjects in their crystal coffins look serene, but they’re not. It’s not serenity, it’s emptiness. And there’s such desperation in that light inside the box. It’s painful, and it’s brilliant.”

“Is it the same artist?” Flynn asked her.

“Of course. This is no student, no mimic, no homage. But that’s opinion.” She sat back on her heels. “I’m not an authority.”

Could’ve fooled me, he thought. “Between you and Brad, I figure we’ve got all the authority we need.”

She’d forgotten Brad, and flushed a bit with embarrassment. She’d all but lapped the painting up, kneeling before it like a supplicant. “Sorry.” Still kneeling, she looked up at him. “I got carried away. Could you tell me where you acquired this?”

“At auction, in New York. A small house. Banderby’s.”

“I’ve heard of them. The artist?”

“Unknown. You can just make out a partial signature—an initial, really. Might be an R, or a P, followed by the key symbol.”

Malory bent lower to study the lower left corner. “You had it dated, authenticated?”

“Of course. Seventeenth century. Though the style has a more contemporary feel, the painting was tested extensively. If you know Banderby’s you know it’s both meticulous and reputable.”

“Yes. Yes, I know.”

“And I had it tested independently. Just a little habit of mine,” Brad added. “The results coincided.”

“I have a theory,” Flynn began, but Malory waved him off.

“Can I ask you why you bought it? Banderby’s isn’t known for its bargains, and it’s an unknown artist.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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