The painting was dark green, sort of like what one might imagine the sea looked like at the end of a pier with the algae grown thick around rotting wood posts. Where it wasn’t green, it was deep black and mean shade of red.
But the colors weren’t why anyone was there. The four collectors were there because the painting moved, and it had been promised to them that they were looking through the murky veil of their world into the very plains of Hell.
Tristram, the British guy, was speaking into the ear of the trophy blonde he’d brought along while giving her ass a good squeeze with the hand he wasn’t using to hold his martini. The woman was giggling and trying to get him to see something in the left corner. She seemed to think she’d found a point of interest.
Karl the German stood still, unmoving, but to Frank’s eye he looked scared. Frank didn’t think the man would have the courage in the end to make a bid.
The one collector Frank was worried about was the other American, Yusef, who stood close to him and smirked whenever he caught Frank’s eye. Frank had lost too many lots to Yusef in the past; he didn’t want to lose this one, too.
“What do you think, Yusef?” Frank said. “You see anything in there worth bidding on?”
Yusef turned to him slowly and ran his tongue across the edge of his upper teeth. Then he blew Frank a kiss. “Don’t you?” he said.
Frank rolled his eyes. He turned back toward the painting. Karl was pretending his glasses needed cleaning and had his back to the work. Tristram and his whore were growing increasingly furtive. The martini had been set on a bookcase, and Tristram’s hand had disappeared up between the blonde’s legs. She moaned and threw her head back.
That was when Frank saw something in the painting stir.
Something huge. The canvas itself was sixty inches wide and forty inches tall, and whatever it was that was moving in the sea of paint was at least that big, if not even bigger.
Frank took a step forward to get a closer look.
* * *
The steward of the manor where the painting was housed stood still and silent by the door when a bloodied Frank came screaming and weeping toward him. Most of what Frank said was indecipherable. Something about “horror” and “death” and “put it behind a drape.” The steward couldn’t tell; the steward, in fact, didn’t care to tell.
He opened the door as the man scurried toward him. There was a large gash across the shrieking man’s face, and the iris of one of his eyes had turned bright gold.
“Thank you, Mr. Osgood,” the steward said as two large men came out of the shadows and grabbed Frank Osgood by the arms. He struggled to wrestle free, but it was little use. He was carried through the open door beside the steward. “Your offer will be considered along with the others. We will let you know in due course if the lot is yours.”
Frank was still screaming and babbling as he was dragged out of the manor and into the night, the steward closing the door gently behind him.