Art Gallery

It was the third time this month and Francis the night security guard was dumbfounded. Already three times this month he had found an unsigned painting in the hallway of the gallery. Each one appeared to be inspired by one of the gallery’s existing works. The mystery however was that it had not been more than fifteen minutes since Francis had last walked through the previously empty hall. Despite this there now stood an easel and completed painting. Just as strange, Francis thought, was that there was not a single drop on the floor despite the fumes given off by the clearly fresh paint. Whatever the artist’s identity, he or she was obsessively neat.

The first two times Francis had found the paintings he had taken them to the curator who was working late both nights. The curator, a quiet man in his late sixties was just as befuddled as to the sudden appearances of the paintings and elected to store them in one of the gallery’s back rooms until the police arrived. The police however were stumped. No art was stolen and there was no sign of a break in and so the cases were dropped. The very next days the mystery paintings disappeared with even less of a trace than they had arrived. Only the curator and Francis were sure they even existed.

Francis now looked over this third painting carefully. He had never been artistically inclined but there was something about this piece that spoke to him, something that he could not quite place. He was not sure if it was the hard jawline the woman had been given or her intense gaze into his thoughts that compelled him to study her more. His eye followed the lines of her dress and…

He saw a face peeking out from behind a corner. Or at least he thought he saw it. It vanished in less than a blink. Francis gave chase vainly trying to follow the watcher’s footsteps but hearing only his own. Too late he remembered his flashlight but by the time he had fumbled to unclip it from his belt he realized he was standing alone next to the easel. Francis vainly searched the room for a footprint or some evidence of his sanity but came up short. The painting was resting on its easel. Francis walked over to it to bring it to the curator. However, as he did so a slip of paper fell off the easel and onto the floor. Francis stooped over, picked it up and read the two words printed there in typeface.

Keep it.

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