"--The look on his face. You should have been there,” King said, giving a laugh. “Oh man, it was great.”
Dominique threw in a laugh of his own, nodding his head. “I wish I had been there.”
Dom, including those around him, had their attention drawn to Tom, when the boisterous man practically shouted out. Dominique watched the other artist make his approach over to Sam, though it seemed like they were just conversing about her painting. Dom smiled over at Samantha, until his attention was once again pulled away by King.
“See, I knew we were alike.” King offered, placing a well-meaning hand on Dom’s arm, then he leaned in a fraction, a rapid change in his expression, to a more serious look. ”Hey listen,” the man began, looking around as though he had something else of the private nature to share.
“Hmm? Dom asked, leaning in slightly. He could see King’s eyes land on Charles. “I have something you might be interested in. Cause you know, I can tell we see eye-to-eye on things.” He paused briefly, his blue eyes meeting Dominique’s. ”...But uhh...just you, okay? Everyone knows Charles can’t keep a secret to save his life. I know how you both are friends and all. How that’s….ya boy,” King’s tone came with bitter sarcasm, as he and Dom straightened up. Dom said nothing in response, just merely watched King sweep his hand through his blonde hair. “We’re buddies too though, remember that.….Well anyways...we’ll talk about it later, yeah?”
Dom gave a shrug of his shoulders. “Yeah, okay.” He looked back over at Sam. Her body language was clearly displaying the fact that she wasn’t in the mood for whatever Tom was trying in vain to sell her. Dominique smiled privately, as he watched the exchange between the pair.
“Aww, come on, now! Don’t be like that,” Tom practically whined at Sam. The man smiled after a moment. “I get it. I get you. I see. You’re with him, aren’t you?” he inquired, pointing towards Charles. “I saw you guys together earlier. Along with Frenchie over there,” he added, gesturing toward Dom. ”That’s okay. That’s all right. But, I should let you know. You’re missing out, cause I’m man-sized. You know what I’m saying?” He ceased his words momentarily, as though waiting for Sam to suddenly change her mind. When he didn’t receive the answer he was hoping for fast enough, he continued in a blatant sort of way for Charles to hear. “And Splatter-boy, there? He’s nothing special. Let me tell you, that’s why everyone calls him,“Splatter-boy”behind his back.”
Admittedly, though perhaps not to Charles himself, it was true. There were some that called him “Splatter-boy”, or, “Splatters”, within the community. Dom didn’t. He was well aware of Charles’ actual talent when the man took actual time on his craft. It was obvious though, that King was among those who had used the nickname, as an observable smirk crept up on the man’s face. It was hard to say exactly why King had such disdain for Charles. Perhaps he was jealous of the man’s wealth or talent, or at some point they might have had a falling out. At least Sam was able to see what the community was like, the full spectrum of it. It wasn’t always friendly faces and compliments.
Dominique found his attention drawn away from the chatter, and back towards the front entrance, where he could see Sander looking as though he were locking the gallery up. It was odd. Alongside the man were his favorite few: Arthur Moore, Sera Lynn and Sander’s protege, Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick appeared quite distressed. As a matter of fact, Sander was looking a bit miffed as well. Arthur carried his usual pompous smirk, and Sera, typical of her nature, hid behind the others, there but not.
“Attention, everyone,” Sander announced, his hands beckoning the crowd towards him. “Please, if you could all come this way. Quiet down. This is important.”
Everyone did as told. Dominique moved back over to Sam and Charles. Even Tom had quieted down.
“I’m afraid I have some dreadful news…” Sander began, though he did pause as if so add suspense. Count on the man to be dramatic over anything and everything. “A grievous calamity has occurred. An atrocity most foul. Someone has taken it upon themselves to sabotage, maim, ravage, Jezebel!”
Gasps and hushed whispers came from his audience. Looks of concern and dismay painted across the wide-eyed faces of the artists.
”I’m afraid it’s true. We don’t know who it is, this culprit. This apostate, but we will find out. That is why….I have locked the doors--”
Looks of dismay quickly turned to looks of offense. People began speaking up, immediately asking for the doors to be unlocked. But Sander didn’t appear as though he were going to budge. “I understand, I do. If anyone wants to leave, they are free to do so. But if you have nothing to hide, this shouldn’t be an issue. All I am asking for--” There were more complaints, which Sander talked over. “All I’m asking, is for a silent protest. I ask for everyone to be patient, while we get to the bottom of this. It’s unpleasant. It’s unfair. All it takes is for one person to ruin a perfectly grand evening. We will simply be coming around, asking a few questions. I urge anyone with any information to come forward now, or at any time during our query.”
Despite the objections and outcries how this was unfair and unheard of, no one made an actual move for the door. No one wanted to upset Sander or get on his bad side. Leaving meant more than just exiting the premises. The artist, and gallery owner, was a prominent figure within the community, to be on less than favorable terms with him could mean the end of someone’s career. And Sander was the type to hold a grudge.
It was going on a little over an hour now. Everyone stood around in small clusters, talking among themselves while they waited for their turn to be interrogated. It didn’t appear as though Sander was making much progress. Everyone vehemently denied having anything to do with the destruction of the painting. The destruction of Jezebel. The thought that so much fuss was being made over that painting made Dom want to laugh. He didn’t care for it, the feathered creature with it’s leering eyes and long neck. Jezebel was meant to be the main feature of the event, and she was only an ostrich. Not even the full body, just her head and her long neck painted against a simple blue background. But Sander said it was art, and what Sander said, went.
Fitzpatrick, Jezebel’s creator, was beginning to look more and more pallid as time went on. Maybe it was due to his “fine” work being destroyed, this was going to be his first time on center display after all. He looked around nervously, fidgeting with the end of his shirt. Sander held the young man in high regard, making him his protege. That meant that Fitzpatrick had quite a standard to uphold. And now, for his prized work to be gone, it was a wonder if he had anything to replace it with.
This wasn’t how Dominique had expected the day to go. He certainly didn’t foresee this being how Sam would be introduced into the fold. He turned to the young woman, offering her an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Sam.” He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders, casting a glance around the gallery. “If I had known it was going to be like this...I wouldn’t have brought you. I’m sure…” His eyes met her’s. ”...this isn’t how you wanted to spend your day.”
Before he could say more, the inquisition approached the trio. “Dominique,” Sander said, before his gaze drifted to Sam. “Ah, and you must be Miss Samantha Childs. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m only sorry it’s under such deforested circumstances.” He took her hand, giving it a gentle kiss, then smiled as he looked back at her painting. “I was appreciating your work earlier today. It’s so nice to have a breath of fresh talent within these walls. I do admire the mollifying tone of your piece. So often do artists believe they must go bold and exaggerated. This isn’t always the case. You must be able to bring a variety of emotions to your spectators. And yet--” He said, holding his finger up as if to make a point. “You must never change yourself for them.” He clapped his hands together. “Now, let us get to the unfortunate business at hand."
“I’m sure you know what happened some time today. And I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.” Sander said, steepling his fingers together.
“I didn’t care for the painting,” Dom answered honestly. Sander looked a bit taken aback by the sudden, genuine response. Fitzpatrick didn’t look as though he were affronted in any way. If anything, he shifted around on his feet, avoiding everyone’s gaze.
“So it was you then?” Arthur asked accusingly. A self-satisfied look displaying upon his features.
“I didn’t say that,” Dom responded.
“Well, you practically admitted it right now. I mean, you bring her in here and suddenly this happens? I wouldn’t be surprised if you did it in the hopes to get her painting on center display.”
Tom must have seen this as an opportune moment to come over. He gave Sam a gentle nudge against her arm. “So, Miss Thang, any chance you’ve reconsidered? Any chance I can get your number?”
Sander looked at Arthur and shook his head. He looked back at Dominique. “Mon ami, c'est sérieux. Ce n'est pas bien de ruiner quelque chose que quelqu'un a passé du temps à créer.”(My friend, it's serious. It's not good to ruin something that someone has spent time creating.)
Dominique’s brows furrowed marginally, as he shook his head. “Pas moi. Je ne ferais pas quelque chose comme ça.” (Not me. I wouldn’t do something like this.)
“No, no. You wouldn’t.” Sander agreed, squeezing Dom’s shoulder as he spoke. “But have you seen anything suspect? Anything...unusual?”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” Dom began, “Two men holding a group of people against their will. I didn’t know you were police.”
“And didn’t know you couldn’t speak english, Dom,” Arthur retorted. “I think “detectives”, is the word you’re looking for.”
Sander cast his friend a look of warning, turning back to Dominique and smiling. “Hah. Hah. Fun-ney.” he emphasized, then moved on to Charles. Dom only smiled back, saying nothing else.
“Charles King,” Sander greeted. “You didn’t bring the work I expected. The one we agreed upon.” His tone was light and amicable, though he was passively giving the young artist a hint that he wasn’t very pleased with the sudden change. “I don’t suppose you witnessed anything out of the ordinary? Hmm? I know you tend to be a bit of a tricky trickster yourself, but I have full faith that you know when something has gone too far.”
“Your work at the last event was quite impressive,” Arthur chimed in. “You have a lot of creativity. You work is unique. It’s a shame not all artists can boast about that kind of talent,” Arthur mused, casting a noticeable side glance Dom’s way. “A lot of artists can create something beautiful, but it can still be dull. Lacking any sort of real creativity.”
Tom gave another gentle tug on Sam’s arm. “So how about it. Ditch these goons and we can get out of here. Or at least, make plans for some other time? I really like hearing you talk. Even your sassy talk. You just got a way about you that is unmistakable. So, can I have your number?”
Dom gave a short sigh, avoiding Arthur’s glance, as he already knew what the man was doing. I wasn’t going to work. He wasn't going to let it effect him. Even if it did bother him somewhat, the man's words, he certainly wasn't going to let it show. Everyone had insecurities, their moments of doubt about their work. The trick was to not let it get to you.