Anastasia Hanna is an undergraduate student from Temple Hills, Maryland, pursuing a BA in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. Her passions include creative fiction writing, poetry, drawing, and video games. Just Bad Sketches is her first published story.
Just Bad Sketches
Robert slipped a box cutter from one of the front pockets of his stolen Boston PD uniform and narrowed his eyes as he cut along the edges of the gold frame. The black gloves he wore made it hard for him to cut with better precision, but he couldn’t take them off, not unless he wanted to leave prints. A sudden, loud crash startled him, and he cursed as he cut a piece off the painting. It chipped, fell to the ground, right next to some shards of glass. He sucked his teeth and whirled around to the man across the room.
“Damn it, Charles. Can’t you be any quieter?” he said, and Charles turned to face him, a lazy smirk on his features.
“You’re the one who wanted to take the extra paintings.” He used the box cutter he was holding to sweep away any remaining glass from the frame. Robert furrowed his brows and shook his head.
“But why come for just one painting? I mean, look at all of this,” he said, outstretching his arms as if to emphasize his point. Charles shook his head and pulled the frame from the wall. The inscription on the frame read ‘Vermeer, The Concert’. He held it out in front of him, took a moment to look it over before laying it flat on the ground and cutting away at the edges.
Robert rolled his eyes, but didn’t return to removing the painting. Instead, he stared at the chipped piece next to the pile of glass. “Which one did he want again?”
“The Chez Tortoni,” Charles said. “It’s a work by Edouard Manet.” Robert hadn’t remembered all of that, however, the Chez whatever was supposed to be in the Blue Room on the first floor when they got here. It wasn’t. So, he insisted they take some other paintings instead.
Rembrandt’s paintings were familiar and famous enough. The Degas paintings weren’t very impressive, but he figured those were the ones that went for the highest price anyway. He stared down at a Degas painting. Program for an Artistic Soiree, it read. He winced. His three-year-old daughter could have drawn this if it hadn’t been labeled and displayed in an art museum. Was this all art really was—bad sketches and poor shading? No. He shook his head. He took that back. He liked the Rembrandt paintings. The one with the boat and stormy sea was his favorite so far.
“Hey.” Charles’s voice cut through his thoughts. “That’s 12 total. Want to keep going?” Robert stood with the Degas in hand and grabbed one of the cardboard boxes they’d brought up earlier. For some reason the paintings wouldn’t roll, so they had to improvise. He paused to check his watch. It was 2:43 AM. He shoved the painting into the box and shook his head.
“Nah. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
They left everything as it was and exited the building. A cold wind blew at them, compelling them to hurry to their car, a police vehicle. If they were going to dress the part then they might as well go all the way, right? They stuffed some paintings in the trunk and a few in the backseat, then got in themselves.
“All right. Let’s go,” Charles said as he turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared to life, and then his cell rang. He answered it. “Hello?” A moment of silence filled the car, and Robert fidgeted in his seat. He checked his watch again. It was 2:48 AM. Charles’s cell came into view next to his watch. He looked at him, but Charles wasn’t looking back. He took the phone.
“Robert.” He paled.
“Of course. Did you get my painting?”
The car jerked as it moved away from the curb. He looked to Charles again, but his eyes were on the road now. He attempted to swallow a hard lump in his throat. “No.” There was a click followed by a dial tone. He stared at it, looked to Charles, who gawked at him. Those shitty Degas paintings flashed in his mind—bad sketches and poor shading.