She'd been hiding too long. What had brought Jimmy into her mind today? Ten years. He'd be out soon. She prowled around the room and sat down again in front of the easel. She focussed on the painting, dragging her mind away from the past and Jimmy.
After loading a size 1 round brush with a mixture of burnt umber and white, the exact shade of a missing flake, she touched the painting, replaced her brush on the palette and focussed her microscope on her work. Satisfied, she moved the lens to the next area and loaded her brush.
She dropped her brush on the palette. It bounced and landed on Veronica's pale brown shoe, marking the surface with orange.
"Damn. Hand me a clean paint rag, would you?"
Veronica, owner of Houstead Conservation and her boss, took the cloth and wiped at the paint. A faint stain remained.
"Why are you so jumpy? All I did was say your name."
"You startled me. I was concentrating—"
Veronica crossed her elegant arms over her brown smock and tapped a Morse code on the grey tile floor with her right shoe, the one without the stain.
"It is normal here to speak to people. You will have to get over the inclination to drop your brush. I thought you had experience in a studio before you came here."
"Of course. Of course. I'm so sorry."
"I see you have the Caravaggio copy ready. Much to do?"
"Cleaning, perhaps some inpainting. It's a shame we can't authenticate."
"It's a copy, and the owner said no to the expense."
Veronica strolled out of the studio. Sarah ran her fingers along the wood enclosing Fillide. A copy. She was sure from the moment she saw it the painting was genuine, that Caravaggio had painted the flowers tucked into the white blouse. She'd pay for some testing herself and talk to Simon Wolfe. Perhaps he would want to know, too.
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