Tag Archive: The Gallery

Jun 04

In the Company of Angels: Episode 14.1 – Smoke and Mirrors



In the Company of Angels, Episode 14.1 – Smoke and Mirrors

The two swarthy men had just reached the top of the fire escape when they heard a loud clanging from the platform below them. It sounded like someone had struck the metal of the fire escape steps with a pipe. They put their gas cans down and flattened against the wall, hoping that if anyone was in the alley below them, they wouldn’t be noticed. After a few moments, they carefully leaned out to look, but there was no one to be seen. The van that had brought them was at the end of the alley, but there was no sign of anyone else. They breathed a sigh of relief and turned back around to see if they could break into one of the windows on the landing.

There were two windows, both of them set with mirrored glass. Neither was very large, but the two men were sure if they could get one of them open, they would be able to slip in and out easily. The smaller man pulled a toolkit out of his coverall pockets, unrolled it on the landing, and began to study the casing.

“Don’t break it unless you have to, Pavel” said the larger man. “We don’t want to attract too much attention until the fire is set.”

Pavel nodded. He was just about to try a chisel on the window frame, when they once more heard the clanging below them.

“What the heck?!” the larger man said. This time he wasn’t cautious. He looked over the railing at the 2nd floor landing below them. He thought he had seen something moving, but couldn’t be sure. “Stay here and get that window open,” he said. “I’m going to go find out who’s down there.” He pulled a Glock from its holster beneath his shirt and threaded a silencer onto its barrel.

“Ahmed, remember, if you have to shoot, try not to break any glass. That sound carries….”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Just get the window open,” said Ahmed. He stealthily stepped down the steps until he was standing on the 2nd floor landing. He looked carefully at the window. There was no sign that it had been opened, and no obvious way for him to pry it open. He put his hand above his eyes to block out the light and put his face up next to the glass, straining to see if he could see anything in the darkness beyond.

“Nothing,” he hissed. He dropped his gun to his side and turned around to survey the other buildings around them.

Pavel had just gotten his chisel set well into the window frame when he heard a short yell and the sounds of struggle below him. Then came the clanging of metal upon metal. He jumped up and leaned over the railing. Ahmed was nowhere to be seen, but Pavel recognized his gun lying on the landing floor. He put his chisel back into the tool kit, swore, and ran down the fire escape. When he reached the 2nd floor landing, the gun had disappeared as well.

Pavel started sweating. He looked wildly around and beneath the landing. Everything was exactly as it had appeared when they had first climbed the fire escape. He looked down the alleyway. The van was still there, thank heavens!

He shook his head. There was nothing to do but keep working on the window and hope that Ahmed would show back up again. He climbed the stairs to the 3rd floor once more and stopped abruptly. His tools were gone! Not only that, but the two gas cans were gone too!

     o o o

The two men in The Gallery’s stairwell had reached the mirrored door leading onto the main floor. One of the men was heavy set with blonde hair. The other was almost as large, but with a great black bushy beard.

“I still think we’d do better spreading this stuff on the first floor. Fires move up, not down,” said the blonde.

“We have to get the jewels first, moron, then we torches the place,” said Blackbeard.

“Whatcha think those jewels are worth, eh Blacky?”

Blacky shook his head and grunted. “Don’t go making plans we’ll regret, comrade. We don’t want to cross Aym. You do that and….” he ran his finger across his throat. “Jewels first; then fire.”

They returned to the door. Blacky reached into his coat pocket and retrieved his lock-picking tools. The blonde stood aside with his arms crossed, watching him.

Suddenly the two men heard the door downstairs open. Someone was below them, whistling a merry tune. The blonde leaned over the railing and saw a tall, bearded man with grey hair shutting the street door behind him.

“Hello?” said the blonde.

“Oh, hello up there! Can I help you? No one else is here at present, I’m afraid.”

“We’re…uh…here to make some repairs. Someone called and said they had a lock that needed fixing. Can you let us in?”

“Oh, my, now, I couldn’t do that, could I? That wouldn’t be sporting! No, I’m sorry, whoever it is that called you, they must have been mistaken. I’ll have to ask you to leave now.”

“Well, we’ll need to be paid before we leave,” said the blonde. He nudged Blacky, who grunted and grinned.

“No, no payment. And, this will be your final warning. Leave now, or I can’t answer for the consequences.”

“Oh yeah? Well, we ain’t leavin’ grandpa, and neither are you!” said the blonde. He pulled a gun out and aimed it at Azarias.

Suddenly the blonde heard a voice in his head say “Blacky is going to double-cross you.” The blonde shook his head, wondering where that idea had come from. “Show me your hands!” he said. Azarias held his hands up.

“As soon as you go downstairs, Blacky’s going to shoot you both,” said the voice in the blonde’s head. He looked nervously behind him at Blacky, but his partner was continuing to try to pick the lock on the door. As soon as he turned back to look down at the first floor landing, Azarias had disappeared.

“Hey!” the blonde cried. “You come back here!” He raced down the stairs, expecting to see Azarias crouching in the corner, but there was no one downstairs at all. And he knew he had not heard either of the downstairs doors open.

He stood there perplexed and looked up. Blacky was standing with his gun pointed at him.

“Go on, say it,” said Blacky.

“Say what?!” asked the blonde.

“Say ‘come on down here, Blacky, and help me with this guy’. I know what you’re up to, comrade. You and the geezer are gonna try to steal the gems. Well, it ain’t happenin’, pal. Put down your gun, then put your hands up and come back up here. I’ll deal with the geezer later….”

The blonde had no choice. He put his gun down and started walking back up the stairs. That was when both men heard the sirens in the distance.

   o o o

Jack was alone in the van, keeping an eye on the alley and on the road at the end of it. He had backed the van into the alley so that they could all leave quickly once the blaze was set. There was additional equipment in the van; more gas cans, some climbing gear, and even masks. They’d decided against the masks.

Jack glanced in the rearview mirror. He had seen Ahmed and Pavel climbing up the fire escape stairs a few minutes back and suspected that, by now, they would likely be inside the warehouse. He glanced at his watch. They’d only been here for ten minutes. The goal was to be gone in twenty. “This should be a piece of cake,” he thought to himself, and lit a cigarette. He rolled down the window to flick out the ashes and noticed the loading dock door was being raised. The door was situated just in front of his parking spot, on the right. It led into the warehouse.

At first, Jack thought that some of the boys had already gotten in and that they were going to get back out to the van by way of the loading dock. “That’s pretty slick,” he thought. “Should get us out of here that much faster.” But then he spotted Azarias.

“Who the heck is this?!!” he grumbled. Jack got out of the van.

Azarias waved at him. “Your friends are all inside. They’re asking for you.”

Jack pretended to look confused. “What friends, pal? I’m just parked out here having a smoke.”

“Ah, well then, you must not be the getaway driver. Just as well. Then you’re not in any hurry to leave, are you?”

“Uh, no. Should I be?”

“Not particularly. But my friend there is going to need to stack a few things up outside the loading dock door, and he’s liable to block your exit route for a bit.” Azarias gestured behind him toward the open door. “Don’t worry, he’ll get them out of your way soon. But if you were hoping to leave immediately, I suspect you’ve already lost your chance.”

While Azarias had been talking, Jack noticed several pallets, loaded with heavy metal barrels, being pushed — he couldn’t see by whom — out into the alleyway. They had soon closed off the street so that there was no hope of his leaving in that direction. He looked back behind the van. There was no exit in that direction, either, because the fire escape and a dumpster narrowed the alleyway too much to get the van through.

“Look, mister,” he said angrily, turning back around to face Azarias. But Azarias was not there. Instead, he found that he was looking at an enormous blue-skinned creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. The creature had blazing red eyes, and these were gazing none too kindly at Jack. Azarias was nowhere to be seen.

“Uh…uh….” Jack gurgled. He grabbed the van door and hurled himself inside, rolling up the window behind him. Then he locked the doors and stared in horror at the creature, who was still glaring at him angrily. He then desperately started searching through the bags behind his seat to try to find a gun…a knife…anything that he might be able to use as a weapon.

The minotaur (for that is precisely what the creature was) reached down to the bumper of the van and lifted the front of it into the air. He then slammed his great sledge-hammer fist against the inner side of the van’s right front wheel. It popped off like it was a child’s toy, bounced off of the brick wall of the warehouse, and rolled down the alleyway toward the fire escape. Pavel, who had just fled in a panic down the fire escape, was running toward the van. He was hit and flattened by the wayward wheel.

In the meantime, the minotaur continued to rock the van back and forth, preventing Jack from keeping his balance and slamming him against the sides, floor, and even the roof of the vehicle. Then the beast dropped the front of the van, strode around to the back of it, and ripped both of the rear doors off. Jack was bruised and in a panic, but was still trying to find a weapon to use on the monster.

“Too late again, I’m afraid,” came a voice from the alleyway. Jack looked up. The minotaur was gone. In its place stood Azarias, holding the gun he had taken away from Ahmed. Jack put up his hands and painfully crawled out of the van, wincing, just as he heard the sirens. Police cars had completely surrounded the warehouse.



     [ To read Episode 14.2, click here…. ]



May 28

In the Company of Angels: Episode 13.2 – The Aftermath (cont.)




In the Company of Angels, Episode 13.2 – The Aftermath (cont.)

Another hour passed before Jill began to stir. Luke had spent the time touching up the sketch and walking back and forth upon the plaza to keep warm; the sun, far away beyond thick clouds, was apparently setting, and the temperatures were beginning to drop.

Jill sat up and rubbed her eyes. She was startled for a moment as she surveyed the strange landscape around her, but then she remembered where she was.

“Mr. Luke?” she called.

“Yes, dear?” he said. He was a good distance away, near the edge of the plaza and looking down into the dark canyons beneath them.

“I’m sorry, I must have dozed off. Hasn’t Brother Azarias returned yet?”

“No, but he will in due time, I’m sure,” said Luke as he returned to the monolith.

Jill looked at the sketch, now far more detailed than it had been when she had drifted off. It truly was remarkable what Mr. Luke was capable of.

“The sketch is lovely! But what exactly does Azarias need it for?” asked Jill.

“He’ll tell us in his own good time, I’m sure,” said Mr. Luke, as he surveyed the drawing once more, “but there must be a very important reason for him to have requested it. Particularly since he wanted me to reproduce that precise moment, just as we were leaving The Gallery. I can’t imagine why that would be important. But, Azarias…er…Brother Azarias, doesn’t always explain things fully. He holds a lot back. My brother, Charles, has often said so.”

“Oh! You have a brother?” asked Jill. She yawned and stretched her arms.

“Yes. Charles is an artist as well, but he’s not part of the Order.”

“No? But you said he knows Brother Azarias. How do they know each other if not through the Order?”

“Charles works more with Father Hildebrandt and the Benedictines proper. I don’t know exactly in what capacity. It’s a different part of the same family, though, to be honest. We’re all trying to do the same sorts of things, just from different perspectives and with different tools.”

“But, what sorts of things, Mr. Luke? I mean, after today, I hardly know what it is we’re trying to do….”

Luke looked down at Jill. “We’re trying to do what is right, my dear. That’s all. It’s not always easy to tell what that might be, but today, I think we’ve seen what we can be up against. And, I must tell you, you have held up very well: very well indeed! Although I know I’m not someone with whom you are well acquainted yet, I wanted to tell you that I’m very proud of you and very happy that you were with us when…when….”

Mr. Luke turned away for a moment, and Jill again found herself tearing up. But just then they both heard a voice behind them.

“Luke, that is splendid! Bravo!” It was Azarias. “And…are you both sure that that was the precise scene of the gallery when you left it?”

“Yes, I certainly believe so,” said Luke.


“Yes, Sir. That’s how things looked.”

“Marvelous! Then I intend to make immediate good use of your sketch, my fine Rendering friend,” said Azarias. “Once I am gone, I would like to ask you to begin work on a second sketch: one that will allow you both to return to the portal at the base of the cliffs. That is, the one that brought you here in the first place. Sam could take you there via the Maze, but he’s tied up at present. He will meet you down below, and although I anticipate no problems, if for any reason you should find the portal gone…”

Gone?! What do you mean, gone?!” asked Luke.

“Do not trouble yourself! It is quite likely that all shall be well. But, on the off chance that the portal is missing….”

“Yes? What should we do then?” asked Luke.

“I’d suggest waiting a bit, and if after, say, an hour, the portal has still not reopened, then you should gather everyone and return to my flat in London. Proceed from there to Rome. I don’t believe it will come to that, but if worse comes to worst, you may need Father Hildebrandt’s help and advice.”

“But shouldn’t we just return to The Gallery?”

“No, not to The Gallery under any circumstances, should you find the portal closed! Do you understand?” Azarias looked keenly, almost ferociously, at Luke.

“Well I don’t understand, not really, but we’ll certainly do as you say.”

“Good. Do not fear! All shall likely be well! And if that is indeed the case, l shall see you both again very shortly!” With that, Azarias clenched a sapphire in his hand, and, with no hesitation whatsoever, stepped into Luke’s sketch and was gone.

    o    o    o

When Azarias arrived at The Gallery, Luke was just disappearing into the painting of Orbaratus. Azarias moved toward the painting and briefly saw the four figures silhouetted against the ruined landscape of Polydora’s home world; then they faded and the painting looked once more as it always had.

Azarias glanced around at The Gallery. Everything appeared to be in order, but he knew that, within minutes, someone would almost certainly be breaking into the warehouse. Whoever it was would not be subtle, for within a very few hours, news of their work would have already traveled overseas and been reported to Father Hildebrandt. “And to myself,” Azarias thought, remembering the tricky position he was in. At this very moment, he was not only here, in The Gallery, but also in his London flat.

Time travel was always a bit unnerving, even to him. It was never something to be taken lightly.

All that Azarias could do was to await the Amenta and their agents, and to watch for them to make the first move. But he could at least try to sense whether anyone else was currently in The Gallery, or just outside of it. He closed his eyes, listening and “feeling” as intently as possible. All yet seemed quiet.

The Gallery, Azarias knew, was guarded against the Amenta themselves: the spirit creatures that were the bane of the Fratrum Simulacrorum. But the Amenta could recruit agents of their own: flesh and blood men and women willing to carry out their wishes whenever physical action was required. These they corrupted by whispering to them and persuading them to become agents of evil. It was usually a long and slow process: corrupting souls was not always easy. Yet every generation gave rise those who were more or less susceptible to the lies of the dark agents.

The Amenta themselves were always drawn to the crystals. Because the Gallery was protected, they were unable to enter it themselves, even if no one was present within. But their agents could. And what their agents were about to do, Azarias knew, was to burn the Gallery, and all that was in it, to the ground.

The Gallery, along with all of the paintings and other archives stored within the warehouse, would be a mass of charred rubble within a few hours. The loss of the paintings alone would be devastating to the Order, but what would ultimately be even worse, Azarias knew, was that whatever crystals were still in the warehouse would be taken. Whether their theft was planned for before the fire was started, or to be left for afterwards — when the stones could be sifted from the ruins of the building — Azarias did not know. He only knew that they were the primary target.

The framerunning sapphires were the key to reaching all worlds drawn or painted, whether those images existed on earth or in another universe entirely. The crystals were absolutely unique, and they could only be found on earth. The location of the mine that yielded them was kept as secret as the existence and location of the stones that had been recovered and safeguarded. Without them, there was no known way to framerun to another world or another time.

The Amenta, in order to be able to move their agents into other Iconic Realms, needed the crystals. And the Fratrum Simulacrorum was formed, in part, to prevent their obtaining them.

The long battle between these two adversaries had now spanned millennia. “And the battle will likely span even more before the final end of all things,” thought Azarias. He listened again and thought he heard noises coming from the stairwell that led up to the main floor of the Gallery. He looked around and found a full-length mirror near him. Grasping his crystal, he stepped into the mirror.

When the Gallery had been built, great effort had been made to insure that there were many, many mirrors scattered throughout the building. Mirrors were even placed on the inside of the safes that held crystals that were not currently in use. As a result, the first thing Azarias did once he was inside the Maze was to sift through the swirling, multifaceted panes that surrounded him, looking for the one that might open onto the crystal safe. It would be small, he knew, and dark, since no lights were kept on within it. He soon found one or two likely panes, and reached through these to feel around just outside of them. The second was the one he sought: within, he felt jewelry and loose stones. These he carefully retrieved and stored in his pockets.

Now that the sapphires were safe, he turned his attention back to what was happening elsewhere within and without the Gallery. Searching through pane after pane, he finally discovered one in which he saw two figures creeping up the fire-escape at the back of the warehouse. The men were dressed like construction workers, but each was carrying a large jerry can. “Likely filled with paraffin or petrol,” Azarias thought. Then he saw two more men in the stairwell; they, too, were carrying jerry cans, and they were climbing up the last steps to the second floor. Through a third pane  he saw a large van with at least one man in it, sitting behind the wheel. It was parked in the alley behind the Gallery.

“As I thought, these men are going to be none too subtle,” thought Azarias. “I have no weapons, but if I’m to stop them at all, I haven’t a moment to lose….”


       [ To read Episode 14.1, click here…. ]



Feb 04

The Painting of Orbaratus



“The Painting of Orbaratus

Digital, 11″x7″ wide.

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.

Feb 04

Jill arrives at The Gallery



“Jill arrives at The Gallery

Graphite, 11.4″x8.0″ wide.

8.0″x8.0″ original graphite sketch – AVAILABLE

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase this original sketch, please contact Jef by clicking here.

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.