Generation 2,  Monte Vista Stories,  Stories

Monte Vista Stories | 2.7. The Forgery

Regina ran to her destination. A summer evening in Monte Vista rarely got cold, and since returning home, she welcomed any distraction. So long as she took these long runs and tired herself out, she didn’t shout at people who didn’t deserve it. It was just her luck that she had run into Rico the day after getting home. She needed this. She ran until her head was full, not of regret and misery, but of the sound of her straining breath and the wind in her ears. All her muscles stung and the pain drowned out the anger, until it was only a whisper at the back of her mind.

By the time she made it to the apartment complex past the bridge, her breath came in short bursts and her heart pounded, but she felt better. Fine enough that she could bear to pull this theft. It hadn’t taken long to find the van der Ast for Ms. Antonini, and today was the best day to get it.

Carlotta was already waiting, flashlight in hand. Her long, blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she was dressed in dark colours. As soon as she heard Gina’s footsteps, she put her face into appropriate Supportive Friend mode. Her eyes grew more worried once she noticed her shortness of breath.

“Don’t start,” Gina said bending over to catch her breath.

Lotta hadn’t had a chance to talk, but now she sighed and said:

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were thinking about how to express sympathy and ask me to talk about my feelings about the break-up and shit. We’re not doing it today. All I want is to go get the van der Ast and go home.”

Gina immediately felt a stab of regret as she saw Lotta’s face drop. She hadn’t managed to tire herself out enough to not be a terrible friend, then.

Great, Gina. Chase away your best friend as well, why don’t you.

“I was just going to say that if you need to talk…”

Gina made a feeble attempt at counting to ten and keeping the anger down. But everyone around her were like this. Their voices were gentle and careful, as though she would snap in half if they talked to her normally. Even her dad, once he came home and out of ‘business-mode’ acted like it. It wasn’t like she didn’t go through break-ups all the time.

She couldn’t keep the harshness in her tone away as she replied.

“I don’t. Let’s just get the painting.”

“Fine then,” Lotta said coldly. “The painting is in that building, on the second floor, as far as Franco could figure out.”

She pointed up towards a window on the second floor where she could barely see a set of dark curtains, but not much else. It was one of the more expensive properties in town, even more expensive than some of the larger, prettier farms on the outskirts. Her dad claimed they were mostly used by wealthy men when they wanted a trip in Monte Vista—without wives or families.

Because they were owned by wealthy people, they were a common target for robberies and art thefts.

“I had a look at the alarm system before you arrived and I think you can disable it, but I’ll leave that to you.”

“Good. Do you know about the other houses?”

“All are empty. There’s an important society function that everyone who’s anything are attending. I made sure.”

Gina did her best to smile. Lotta didn’t react, however, instead telling her where she could find the alarm system. After another feeble attempt at an apologetic smile, she went about disabling the alarm.

She focused completely on the work. It was just another good distraction from both the pain of the break-up and, now, the regret at snapping at Lotta. She managed it without any fuss and went to work on the lock. If it hadn’t been a bad night, it would have pleased her that she beat her lockpicking best.

Her friend was like a sculpture of ice all through it, until Gina started feeling so bad that she had to apologise. At the muttered apology, Lotta looked at her from under her dark lashes and said:

“What was that, Regina? I don’t think I could hear you.”

“I said I’m sorry, damnit. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Apology accepted, though.” She relaxed and smiled a gentle smile. “Are you holding up?”

“Of course.” She still didn’t want to talk about it, and Lotta backed off this time.

The lock clicked open and she put away her tools. They had a thorough look around before entering. There was some rattling in a bush, which she guessed must be a cat or something. Nowhere nearby did she see any people, so Lotta must have it right that all the residents were away. When Gina was sure the coast was clear, they slipped inside.

The room they entered into was a bedroom. The furnishings were, best as she could describe them, horrendous. The walls were white marble and the wall decorations in here were all big, elaborate paintings with gilded frames that really stood out against the background. There was an enormous four-poster bed with deep blue blankets. In theory it was a nice bed—in practice, it looked big and gaudy. Rooms like these were the result when you had a lot of money and no taste.

“Oh, a Renoir,” Carlotta said turning to one of the paintings. “Is it the real deal?”

Gina shook her head. “It’s a reproduction.”

“That’s too bad. I’d have liked to have a real Renoir.”

“I’ll get you one for your birthday.” Gina shone her light on another painting and nodded. “The Monet over there is a reproduction as well. I think most of them are. The one we’re after is the real deal.”

“How do you know it is?”

Gina paused to shine her light over the dark shapes around her.

“Our client says she had it appraised. Got a certificate of authentication that she showed me and dad. So we’re working under the assumption that it’s real, at least.”

Of course, certificates didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but she was going to find the real one for Ms. Antonini no matter what.

Gina swung the light around the apartment, letting the circle of light dance over several other reproductions and an ugly table sculpture, before the light fell on the familiar mass of flowers, shells, and writhing insects.

“There it is,” she said.

She felt a flurry of excitement in her chest as soon as the light landed on the still life.

“It’s pretty,” Carlotta said. “Dutch baroque if I’m not mistaken?”

Gina smiled. “My, my, you’ve been reading up on your fine art.”

“The Internet is a magical thing,” Carlotta said, tossing her hair. Then she wrinkled her nose when she came close to the picture. “The webpage wasn’t joking when it said he liked painting insects into his art.”

Gina laughed. “Nope. Van der Ast just really liked bugs. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“I could do without the bugs, and it’s pretty big.”

The size wasn’t a thing that subtracted from the piece’s beauty, of course, but it did make it harder to get it out of here. Gina had already realised that it would be this big when she saw it at the client’s place.

“How do we get it back to headquarters?” Lotta asked.

“We’ll see how heavy it is. If it’s bad, we’ll have to see if we can’t haul it outside together. Franco is going to be parked a few blocks away to take us home. I hope he took the van.”

She walked closer and inspected the painting, wanting to see the brush strokes. It always gave her chills to think of the artist sitting with that very painting hundreds of years ago. However, when she came close to it, the shiny metallic paint on the frame caught her eye and her stomach dropped.

“This frame is new.”

She reached out to touch it and found it clean and free of dust. More disturbingly, the paint gilding wasn’t cracked at all. There were no hints of wear. Carlotta’s eyes reflected her own worry back at her.

“So, they had it reframed?”

Gina shook her head. Their client had described the frame as old, in decent condition, but slightly worn. It was still in the original frame. Unless the frame broke completely, you wouldn’t reframe it, as it risked damaging the painting. Not to mention it decreased the value.

“Help me lift it down,” Gina said, putting her flashlight away into her jacket pocket.

Carlotta took her light between her teeth, and together they managed to lift it down. It was surprisingly light. When Gina saw the back of the painting, she swore under her breath. If this painting was from the sixteen-hundreds, so was she. The back was the purest white, without a single sign of age.

“It’s a forgery,” Gina said.

Disappointment settled heavily in her stomach and they helped each other to hang the painting back up.

When the painting was back in its spot, Carlotta asked:

“What do we do?”

She looked around, as though this was a decoy and the right painting waiting around the corner.

“I haven’t been in this situation before, but I guess we leave it and go find the real one. I doubt our client wants some fake from China.”

Though what if it was fake to begin with?

But there was no way their client wouldn’t have noticed a fake that was so obviously new.

Before she even had a chance to consider the implications further, the door to the apartment swung open and the lights came on. Gina blinked in the sudden light, and adrenalin started coursing through her body.

Nobody was supposed to be here, she thought, turning slowly.

Next to her, Carlotta carried an equally terrified expression. They came face to face with two men roughly their own ages. One was smaller and dressed in green, while the other… Gina’s breath caught in her throat.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” the taller man asked.

Carlotta’s eyes were fixed on the other man, because he had a gun out and he waved it around like a toy.

Gina, however, was drawn straight into whatever you called the bastard child of a nightmare and déjà-vu. The gun didn’t faze her. Her eyes were on the other man. He had black hair and striking blue eyes, set in a face that was still stupidly gorgeous. But it couldn’t be. She couldn’t stand the thought that it was him. Not right now.

Please be someone else, she said in her head. Please be anyone else…

But then Enzo raised an eyebrow and said:

“Regina?”

If you need a recap of previous events, head on over to my recap page!

Author’s notes: Hi guys! Time for another chapter 🙂 Surprised to see the reunion happening this quick? Well, there’s no time to lose, I felt. This was actually originally chapter 6. No joke! But I wanted a little intro to Gina’s current work and Enzo’s family situation, so this got moved down a bit. I figured I wanted to get the plot rolling as soon as possible, rather than having too much filler before getting to the good stuff 🙂

A few things to note: The pictures in the first half of this chapter are… kind of bad. I thought they were okay, but then I looked at them again and was like: Woah, they’re bad. Sorry about that. I had already re-shot the last two pictures (and half of the next chapter), so I’m not going to do the same for the first ones here. Just know that I know they’re kind of poorly shot with weird angles and lighting that makes even less sense than usual 😛

I did some cursory research on the painting here, so the information that Gina and Carlotta are rattling off about it should be fairly accurate. It is, indeed, by Balthasar van der Ast, and coincidentally, it’s a picture that belongs to a private collector in real life. I thought that was funny, because I didn’t know that before picking that particular piece. I just thought it was pretty.

In blog news, my problems with commenting on the blog directly are STILL not solved. I replied to a mail from my webhost and they ignored me for a week. I’ve written them a bit of a passive-aggressive e-mail now. If they keep ignoring me, I guess I’ll have to open another support ticket. And consider another host when this one runs out… sigh. It seems everyone’s able to comment just fine through the Reader, though, so at least we have that.

Finally… pleeeease, tell me if I’m bungling something with this post, links, and so on. I’ve been sleep-deprived most of this week and that’s not an ideal time to be juggling several hyperlinks and updating menus. Not to mention my sister’s going to be staying with us for a few days, so I’ll likely rush things. Sorry for any inconvenience my sleep-deprived, stressed-out brain may cause.

Other than that, I thank you guys for reading if you bothered to make it this far despite the bad pictures, and I’ll see you for the next post.
Cheers!
~Louise

24 Comments

  • amyqueen

    Gah, you can’t end it there! I mean I guess it is the perfect, suspenseful, place to end the chapter from a writer’s standpoint, but as a reader, I don’t want to wait another week XD I don’t know what you are talking about because I feel that the screenshots at the start did the perfect job of setting the mood for the chapter 😀 Carlotta (who has gorgeous hair) is quite pretty and both of the girls look so good in black with their ink peeping out. I loved the flashlight pics, with the light shining on the paintings – as well as the paintings themselves – those little details are just amazing, and time consuming no doubt. On the bright side, I am glad the reunion happened quite quickly, and unless Gina and Lotta jump out of the window in a hasty escape attempt then there shall be some chatting I’m quite looking forward to seeing next week. No worries about the website stuff, I, for one, don’t mind reading on your side and commenting in the reader. Tech support are never prompt I’m afraid, I hope you manage to get everything resolved though! Great chapter <3

    • NotJustaBook

      Ha, ha, yes, isn’t it just perfect? :’) I can’t say I feel too bad for you after the last chapter of Sight! 😛
      I’m glad you don’t mind the pictures. They did indeed, take a bit of work 😛 Thank you for your kind words <3
      Things are definitely going to happen next chapter, that's for sure 🙂
      That's good. So far the website trouble doesn't seem to be too big of a deal, but it's still a total pain. Support can be quite bad, but I've never been just plain ignored before.
      Thank you for your kind words, and for reading and commenting <3

  • Lila Remonn

    I like Carlotta! She seems nice but definitely not a pushover, which I suppose is how she is Gina’s best friend. I had to give a nod of approval at her refusal to soften until Gina apologised. And Lotta is very pretty 🙂
    The pictures look great, I love the one with the flashlight, it’s a good creative detail!
    Ooh what? A forgery, huh… I wonder what’s up with that. Was it Enzo’s family that stole the original painting in the first place?
    Take cover, Enzo, I think Gina might be about to explode 😶
    Great chapter <3

    • NotJustaBook

      You’re right that Lotta isn’t one to be pushed around. Gina needs that! I’m glad you like her!
      I’m glad you like the pictures as well. I had to do a bit of editing for them :’)
      Things are about to happen, for sure!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting ❤️

  • Kymber

    I thought your photos were just fine. 😀 Don’t be hard on yourself. You are one of the most creative people I know and your site always looks amazing. I really am disappointed that tech support has ignored you. My experience has been good with them. I use SiteGround.

    I wonder where the real painting is? And, what a reunion! I wonder if Enzo will still be cold to her, especially under the circumstances. Might’ve known she’d get caught by him. lol If it was up to me, Gina would go all medieval on Enzo. haha

    I really like Carlotta! Her personality is awesome!

    • NotJustaBook

      Thank you, Kym <3 I'm afraid I hold myself to some very high standards and I see all the little flaws. It means a lot that you liked them 🙂
      It's really, really annoying. WP tech support (or, rather, Jetpack) has been amazing, but my own host isn't great 🙁 Not happy with them, for sure!
      I can't wait for you guys to read more about it, ha, ha 😛 She's really fun to write - I can safely promise that she's none too pleased to see him.
      I'm really glad you like Carlotta as well 😀
      Thanks so much for your kind words, for reading, and commenting <3 :)

  • loladiamond01

    So the art was forged? What a shocker, I thought. But turns out there was even more of a shocker on the horizon. Enzo 😮 What does he want? Is it his family’s doing with the art? Did he use his newfound abilities of lockipicking that Gina taught him? Wow, I don’t know what to expect.
    Welcome to the sleep-deprived club :’)

    • NotJustaBook

      😀 It’ll make a bit more sense next week, I can promise you that! I’m excited to share it.
      It’s the saddest club :’) It’s getting better for me now, but it’s been a rough week!
      Thank you for reading and commenting, Jowita. Time for me to catch up to you guys’ stuff soon 🙂

  • audreyfld

    Okay…FYI, I am having a hard time commenting from your page, but seem to be okay from the reader…..I love this so far and still need to go back and catch up with gen one. I adore the summaries and will do that for my story. Even with the summaries I fully plan to read the entire thing when I get a little free time! So. This chapter was beautifully shot and written. With a cliffhanger! Eeeeek….

    • NotJustaBook

      I am SO sorry about that – I’m aware it’s a problem and tech support for my host is just ignoring me so far 🙁 I hope it’ll be fixed soon! At least the Reader works!
      I’m really glad you like it, Audrey <3 and I'm glad you think the summaries are a good idea 🙂 I used to have a long time between chapters and I know not everyone remembers events as well as me. You should definitely do it for your stuff 🙂 Sounds awesome!
      Thank you so much for your kind words, and also for reading along and commenting! 😀

  • socallucyfan

    What?! You mean I have to wait a whole week to see WWIII between Gina and Enzo!! Not fair!!
    I really like this Lotta character. Like others have already commented, she isn’t a push over, and Gina really needs that in a friend. And it is good to see that Frank is still active in the gang!
    I can’t believe the painting is a forgery. But I am learning a lot about classic art (who says that SimLit can’t also be educational?!)
    Lastly, but certainly not least, you need to not be so hard on yourself. The pictures look amazing. I loved the first couple, I thought that there were at a really creative angle and I really liked the flashlight effect you used in the other one. I was totally in awe of all of them, so have confidence in your creativity!!

    • NotJustaBook

      I’m afraid you do! :’) Though next week’s chapter will be a pretty long one!
      You’re definitely right! Gina’s a pretty strong personality so she needs a strong personality friend to match hers 🙂
      He certainly is! 😀 Franco is Gina’s godfather and he’ll be making a few appearances later!
      I’m certainly learning a lot about art and forgery researching this and other chapters. It’s really interesting, actually! 😀
      Thank you so much <3 I know I'm my own worst critic and it's hard to let it go. It's wonderful to have you guys encouraging me 🙂
      Thank you for your comment, my friend 🙂 <3

  • sempreviva

    I knew it! I knew those two were going to meet again – but under what circumstances though..! 😕 I must say, even though the girls are on the wrong here, I kinda look forward to Regina lashing out to Enzo, haha! He kinda deserves it!
    Carlotta is sooo pretty! And she seems like a good friend, I love her attitude 🙂
    I wonder what happened with the painting… did their client want to trick them to begin with? Or was it replaced in the meantime?
    Your pictures (not only at the beginning but all of them) are gorgeous! I love how dark and ominous they look – they sure set up the mood for a robbery going down! 😉 <3
    Great chapter (and I'm so glad that I get to read the next one today too, haha)! <3 <3

    • NotJustaBook

      The circumstances could have been better, ha, ha 😛
      I’m glad you like Lotta. There’ll be more of her 😀
      Thank you for your kind words on pictures and everything <3 :)

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