Friday, December 26, 2014

Has Anybody Seen my Picasso - Ch. 2 - The Nazis

I remember this like it was yesterday. Well, maybe not yesterday because I can’t say I remember everything from yesterday. How would I know for sure? If I’ve forgotten it, I don’t remember it. Sometimes you remember things you have forgotten, but then you haven’t forgotten them anymore; you’ve remembered them. And maybe it was more like four days ago; or perhaps more like a week and a half ago. Yeah, that’s probably more accurate. I remember it like it was a week and a half ago on a Tuesday morning. Possibly a Wednesday afternoon. Yeah, okay. I remember it like it was either a Tuesday morning or a Wednesday afternoon a week and a half ago, or maybe four days ago. Or something like that……. You know, really, I don’t remember it all that well. Anyway....she said, "I'm going to tell you now that this involves my grandmother's art collection, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, twelve Russians, a strange coincidence, a Ouija board, a trip to Paris, a secret society of Jesuits, a Polish nun by the name of Sister Kazienka, and a secret door behind a bookcase in an English cottage." She sighed, took a deep breath, crossed her legs, and looked me in the eye. "Are you with me so far?" she asked. I was mesmerized by the crossing of her legs and I thought of the Bermuda triangle and all the ships that had disappeared there, all the planes that have gone down there, all the sailors who have perished there, a deep, dark, secret place, dangerous to all who enter, a place where men die lonely deaths, in despair, with no hope of rescue, all mysterious and final. "Are you with me?" she repeated. I didn't register the question for several seconds, and then I realized she had been speaking. "Uh, yeah, I'm ready," I said, reaching for the pack of Lucky Strikes on my desk. "I've always like that word, 'mesmerized'," I thought to myself as I typed this manuscript. Although it has become another word for hypnotism, Mesmer himself was a physician who thought the tidal forces of the moon affected human health, and was appointed by French King Louis XVI in 1794 as a member of the Faculty of Medicine to investigate animal magnetism. Additional commission members included Josef Ignace Guillotin and the American ambassador Benjamin Franklin, whose picture is on the c-note and whose membership in the Hellfire Club and the Illuminati becomes relevant to this tale in a way which is sure to surprise even Aphrodite Mandrake, the beautiful dame sitting across from me at this moment. Well, not actually at this moment because I'm typing this right now. But it's a narrative convention to say at this moment even though it really isn't. Perhaps that's why they call it fiction. Guillotin was the inventor of the apparatus used for the beheading of Marie Antoinette and many others during the French Revolution. "Hello," she suddenly said. "Are you still with me?" "Sure," I said. "I was just thinking. Please continue." "In 1939, Adolph Hitler stole my grandmother's art collection which included works by Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Chagall, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Kirchner, Delacroix, Daumier, and Courbet. There was a Dürer. A Canaletto. It was worth a small fortune. They called them Degenerate Art. That meant any art done by a Jew or was not representational. My grandmother had over 1,000 pieces. Hitler and his stinking Nazis stole them and left her destitute. She lived in Munich and she died shortly thereafter." (Author's note: neither Aphrodite Mandrake or the narrator of this tale would know this, but these works would be found in Feb. 28, 2012 in Rolf Nikolaus Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich apartment. The Nazis in the late 1930's established a program of cleansing Germany of all Bolshevik Jewish art. Joseph Goebbels, the Reich minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, began confiscating "degenerate art" and selling it oversees in order to purchase art of the Old Masters. As wealthy Jews fled Germany and France in desperation, Goebbels' deputies would collect the abandoned art from their homes. According to Alex Shoumatoff's Vanity Fair article, "The Devil and the Art Collector," "From March 1941 to July 1944, 29 large shipments including 137 freight cars filled with 4,174 crates containing 21,903 art objects of all kinds went to Germany. Altogether, about 100,000 works were looted by the Nazis from Jews in France alone. The total number of works plundered has been estimated at around 650,000. It was the greatest art theft in history.") "I want you to find them," she said. "I'll pay you 10% as a finder's fee." "Uh, how much are we talking about here?" I managed to ask. "Well, I don't really know, but it's a lot." I lit another cigarette, took a drink from the dirty glass on my desk, and looked her in the eyes. This cigarette tasted better than the last one. I could see tears forming in the corners of her eyes. I had a soft spot for crying dames and could tell she was sincere. "I usually don't work on a finder's fee," I said, "but I'll tell you what, you give me $20 a day plus expenses and a 5% finders fee and I'll do it. I need $200 in advance." I'd find out later that all this art would be worth a whole lot of $$$. I took out a clean handkerchief from my desk drawer. I'd dealt with a lot of broads whose husbands cheated on them and wanted me to follow them and knew to always have clean handkerchiefs in my desk drawer. They always liked that. It was usually worth another $50. "Okay," she said reaching into her purse, "here's $200." As she took the handkerchief and dabbed at the tears in her eyes careful not to smear her makeup, I took another look at her crossed legs, at her white dress and that button that was ready to fly, noted the mystery of her cleavage again, thought of the Bermuda Triangle, looked into her deep eyes, and then out the window and thought, "Well, at least this is going to be interesting."


Blogger Unknown said...

It's like getting the Christmas present I've always wanted! Chapter 2!!!! Can't wait for the next chapter.

8:45 AM  

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