Short Story: The Verrochia Miniature

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade November 2001

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It was past midnight when Adam left his seat at the café. He walked along the canal, past the endless line of stereotypical restaurants and cafes. He had stopped to look at a gondola gliding by, silent like the darkness, when a shadow fell over him and he heard a mans voice.

"˜You American?' Adam nodded silently.

"˜Just arrived in Venice?' He turned to face the stranger, he was tall and lean with haunting grey eyes that Adam couldn't help but look at. Even though it was a humid night he wore a coat and an old, tattered hat, probably his only possessions Adam thought.

"˜Been here a couple of days.' Adam said. The sleeves on the stranger's coat were frayed with age, and his gaunt face had untidy stubble, that looked like a wire brush.

"˜Maybe you can help out a fellow American.' He asked. He reached with his hand into his coat pocket and produced a small object that glistened in the night.

He placed it in Adams hand and he found that it was cold, almost icy to touch like it possessed some inner evil.

"˜A miniature. I painted it myself, it's worth at least one hundred. Two hundred, maybe more, but you can have it for ten dollars. It'll give you something to take home.' "˜Well, I am going home tomorrow.' "˜Home.' The stranger repeated, and was then silent. He pulled Adam to a small pool of light beneath a street lamp. Adam saw that it was beautiful, it was the face of a woman with blue, almost liquid eyes and auburn hair. It was the eyes that haunted Adam, - the amazing liquid eyes.

"˜It's a copy of the Verrochia miniature. The original is in the Florence Museum.' He said in a hushed voice. "˜I sat there for days, day after day to get it perfect, and it is.' Adam gave him the money and placed the miniature in his pocket.

"˜What will you do with the money?' Adam asked "˜Eat, and then get a ticket out of here, but,' He paused, staring at Adam, the grey eyes boring into him like a drill, he forced himself to look away. "˜Where can a doomed man go?' The stranger's eyes disappeared into the sheath of darkness.

As Adam walked back to his apartment that night, he felt like he was being followed. Several times he looked over his shoulder, each time seeing nothing and each time chiding himself for being paranoid. Even so, as he entered his apartment he felt relief at not being down in the dark, empty streets.

Before getting into bed he paused to stare at himself in the musty, old mirror. It was the same face that looked back at him but he somehow felt as if had changed somehow. His face was now pale and riddled with fear. He felt now, for some strange reason that, in buying the miniature that he himself had become a doomed man.

His sleep that night was restless. He woke several times in the night, once he was sure he heard something. He leapt out of bed, knowing that he could not stay in this cramp, fearful room any longer. He dressed quickly, but then stood as still as a sleeping baby, staring at the bedroom door. He could have sworn that it was turning. Slowly. He screamed and the doorknob stopped moving. After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity he went to the door. He opened it inch by inch, peering out cautiously. The long, dim lighted hallway was empty; there was no one outside.

It was then that he made his decision. He went to his coat and reached inside the pocket. He felt the familiar icy touch as he picked it up. He looked at it for the last time, then he moved stealthily over to the open window and threw the tiny painting down into the cold, dark water. He heard the faint splash as it hit and then the silence that followed. For the first time since he met the mysterious painter he felt like himself again "" like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and it felt good.

He climbed back into bed, and this time he slept soundly, through the night until the sun streaming into the small room woke him up.

Just before his plane took off that afternoon, Adam bought an Italian newspaper from the stewardess. It had been the main reason he came to Italy, to improve his Italian. He settled back into his seat and began to read. It always gave him pleasure to read and speak Italian so as he turned the first page there was a smile on his face. As he turned the second page the smile slowly left his face. On the page there was the picture of the man he had met by the canal, lying dead in some dark cobbled street. Adam read on. The stranger had been one of three men who had stolen the Verrochia miniature from the Florence museum. He had double crossed them a fled with the treasure. His partners had finally caught up with him in Venice, after chasing him all over Italy. The police had captured the murderers and were now searching desperately for the miniature, worth over five hundred thousand dollars.

"˜Is anything wrong sir?' The stewardess asked politely. Adam did not answer