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The Portrait of Antoinette (standard:horror, 5619 words)
Author: Tom SoukupAdded: Jan 06 2002Views/Reads: 2482/1579Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An international art thief pulls off the greatest art heist in history. Every villian reaps what he sows, however, and his world shatters around him in a most unusual way. (Please read my older stories. Comments are greatly appreciated.)


By Tom Soukup 

The dim lamp along the rue de Rivoli forced his shadow against the
centuries old stone of the building.  He pressed himself tighter to the 
wall trying to become a part of it until the slow moving vehicle turned 
away to leave him alone once more in the midnight darkness.  He 
clutched the package near him, its valuable contents protected by his 
grasp.  He had escaped the same way he got in, using the cunning 
mastery of his trade to breach the security of the Musee du Louvre, the 
most prestigious art museum in the world ... the Louvre.  Darkness fell 
on the street again and he stole the opportunity to break for his car 
parked quietly at the top of the street.  His black form blended into 
the background perfectly. 

Neil Hamilton was a thief.  He had made a successful career of it,
traveling the world in search of treasures.  He worked alone, unable to 
trust accomplices who might turn on him for reasons that may only be 
known to themselves.  They could get in the way, complicate things and 
then sing loudly to the authorities if it would save their own necks 
... even if it also meant that his would be sacrificed in the offing.  
And tonight he had made probably his greatest "find". 

The guard had come dangerously close to discovery twice while Neil
tiptoed through the eerie silence of the galleries.  Each time he held 
his breath, finding cover behind a statue or a bench, disappearing into 
the darkness until the sleepy guard shuffled around the corner on his 
rounds.  Neil was not anxious for confrontation; he had success-fully 
avoided it through these past twelve years so far and he did not want 
to have to defend himself against a frightened cop who was most likely 
more heavily armed than intelligence safely dictated.  But Neil was 
prepared both mentally and physically to handle such a confrontation 
should it be presented.  His hand rested gently on the grip of the cold 
nine-millimeter pistol as the guard passed, and Neil knew that he would 
have used it if pushed.  It was really just a law of his profession; 
kill or be killed. 

But other than those two moments of tension, this mission had gone quite
well.  He found the hall easily even in the dark, his reconnaissance of 
the previous week etching paths deeply in his memory.  The painting 
hung where it had for years and Neil deftly disabled the security 
devices dedicated only to this piece of art.  He slid the razor from 
its sheath, the dim glow of the security lighting catching its honed 
surface, and he slid the sharpened edge slowly along the frame to free 
the canvas.  Da Vinci's Mona Lisa curled in response to its freedom, 
rolled neatly to a scroll that slid effortlessly into the cardboard 
tube, her mystical smile caught within the coils.  He had done it.  
Neil swelled with pride at having stolen one of the world's most prized 

He started the small car now and cut into the street, the west wall of
the Louvre disappearing slowly behind him.  The night was a beautiful 
one and Neil lit a cigarette, the strong smell of French tobacco 
stinging his eyes.  He motored carefully ... no sense in calling 
attention to himself now ... and wound through the empty streets to the 
tiny flat in the center of the Ile de la Cite. 

*       *       * 

"Is that you, my darling?"  The sleepy voice came from the partly closed
door of the bedroom. 

"Did I wake you, Toni?" Neil said as he pulled the black sweatshirt over
his head. 

"Come to bed," she replied.  "I've been waiting for you."  Her words
were soft and inviting and Neil was glad he had made this particular 
change in his life. 

It had happened so fast.  Barely three months ago, he had been strolling
the wooded paths of the Bois de Boulogne, thinking deep thoughts and 
planning his next deception.  The shouts of children could be heard 
among the trees, the foreign sound of French lost in the playful sound. 
 It was little different from the same scene in his native Long Island 

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