Art Gallery of Ontario – Toronto, Canada
It was with reluctance that Nick had accepted Janette’s invitation to join her to the opening night of the Johannes Vermeer exhibition at the art gallery. However, once he’d stepped into the great hall he’d forgotten about earlier plans. Vermeer’s use of lapis lazuli and ultramarine stood out, and the daily routines depicted in the paintings were a reminder of how life once was. He went from one painting to the next, following Janette’s lead. She would occasionally point something out to him, or read from a booklet they had received at the entrance.
They were halfway through the exhibition when Nick stopped dead in his tracks and Janette bumped into him. He stood frozen to the spot as he recognized the painting which was designated as Girl With A Book, oil on canvas, 17.5 in × 15 in. It weren’t the specifications which had made him stop, but the girl reading the book.
Johannes Vermeer’s workshop - Schipluiden, Dutch Republic
Nick patiently stood waiting in Vermeer’s workshop. LaCroix had let him go earlier in the evening, after they had found lodgings in a local inn. They were bound for England in the morning. With the Dutch and the English in a constant state of quarrelling, and merchant ships rarely reaching their destinations unscathed, it was of the utmost importance they boarded the right ship at the right time.
When several months earlier they had landed on Dutch shores, LaCroix had led Nick towards Vermeer and had suggested he’d commission a painting of his younger sister, something to remember her by. At the time, Nick suspected Lacroix was just reminding him once again what he had done when they had returned to the castle of the Brabant-family. If he hadn’t protected his little sister, he was sure LaCroix would have brought her across and made her a vampire like him. Now, 400 years later, he had but only his memory to remember her and perhaps Lucien was right to commission a painting and immortalize her another way. He’d given the painter a description of Fleur as best as he could remember and hoped he would do her justice.
“150 guilders is what we agreed upon,” Johannes reappeared from the back room.
Nick nodded, reaching for the pouch on his belt. He had already paid Johannes 75 guilders up front, so he could buy the necessary supplies, and the other half would be paid upon delivery. He waited for Johannes to show him the painting to make sure it was up to his expectations. It was.
It was exactly how he remembered her, with her nose in a book, sitting on the stone bench in the garden by the rose bush. Vermeer had taken his descriptions to heart and had captured his little sister’s image just right.
He handed Johannes the remaining 75 guilders, wrapped up the painting and left the workshop to return to the inn to meet with LaCroix.
Art Gallery of Ontario – Toronto, Canada
Nick was pulled from his memory to find Janette curiously staring up at him. She had her hand on his arm, which she pulled back the moment he smiled.
“I’m sorry, you were saying?”
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Are you sure?” Janette pressed on. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“No, I’m fine.” He said, putting as much confidence in his voice as he could muster in that moment.
Janette shrugged and moved on, reading to him what little was known of the painting of the Girl With A Book. Nick only half listened. The last time he’d seen the painting was when LaCroix had told him they couldn’t take it with, fleeing from an angry mob after killing one villager too many somewhere in what was now Poland, only a few years after he had it commissioned.
He wondered who had found it and what had happened to it in all these years, and how it had finally ended back in the Vermeer Collection. It occurred to him that he had no way of claiming it as his, and for a brief moment the thought of stealing it back. He could use his vampire’s power of persuasion to get the job done, but then he remembered he’d left those days behind to become an honest man instead.
“…and is now part of the permanent collection at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Next is the Girl With A Pearl Earring.”
Janette walked on, following the tour. Nick gazed a little while longer until he heard his name being called again. Janette was waiting for him to catch up.
“Goodbye Fleur,” he whispered, tucking the memory of her image in the back of his mind as he stepped back, allowing others to gaze upon his little sister, and continued walking until he caught up with Janette.