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Geraldine Worthington was a moderately competent artist. She had a few years success as a greeting card designer until the company she'd worked with, ran into a paper shortage. Her Husband who owned a shuttered storefront in Kensington decided that he would open a business that was most assuredly never going to fail...Alcohol sales. Beer, wine, whiskey, ales, ports, schnapps, all under one roof. He was absolutely right about it's potential success. For twenty years it was, and continued to be, a thriving enterprise. 

Geraldine decided years previously to decorate the unused wall space with paintings. She sold several pieces and encouraged artists to hang their work inside, splitting sales profits 80/20. Many artists approached her, but she had the final say in who would be represented. Augustus Wilson Pettigrew had a reputation as a landscape painter, although his real success came in painting the obscure towns ugly children. His unabashed style was sought out by many, and now after years of representing him, his unfortunate incarceration meant that the demand for his work would increase. Nothing sells more art, than controversy. She was being approached daily for requests of his work, and she usually only hung a few of his pieces at a time. 

Damien Collgraves was going up next. Augustus painted this imp on a black background, fitting to the nature of this mischievous brat. Slick black hair combed forward on a pale blank face. It was creepily devoid of any expression, with sunken eyesockets that gave the appearance of having two black eyes. The pupils were nearly slits giving him a reptilian look. His tiny mouth and pursed lips looked perverse. He had a sullen yet feminine quality.  His father was the county coroner, and by the look of Damien,  he would most certainly follow in his father's footsteps. Geraldine had intended to put him up on Halloween,  but went for the "Pumpkin head" portrait instead.

Her first meeting with Augustus was while he was feeling some melancholy,  he had already purchased several bottles of port, but had drank them by mid afternoon. He came in asking for credit in the store, promising to pay back whatever he'd consumed, but Geraldine explained that this was her husbands shop, and Algernon would not give credit to alcoholics. She asked if he was, in fact,  Augustus Wilson Pettigrew, the painter, which he confirmed while drunkenly straightening his jacket. She proposed that he bring in some paintings to display, and gave him the terms of the sales, offering to advance a purchase against one of his paintings. He agreed, and rushed home to get a few of his pieces.

Augustus returned with two landcapes, and the portrait of "Ugly Stan" the Butchers boy.

Geraldine marveled at the landscapes, but went gaga over the ginger brats unique portrait. She immediately offered a case of the Port wine to Augustus for the portrait,  which he gladly accepted. As an even trade, they agreed that she would keep the profits from that particular painting. To this day the agreement made over Ugly Stan, while AW was drunk, is still in dispute as far as he was concerned.

Their tenuous arrangement continued for years, and was mildly calm as long as Augustus had no dealings with Geraldine's husband, Algernon,  who, in his words, had "No patience for drunken idiots." One notable altercation between Augustus and Algernon had them brawling in the streets, each wielding a broken bottle neck as a weapon. It was a fight that had to be broken up by Coolie, who drove around them three times before they stopped. They both spent a night in gaol and had refused to ever speak to one another ever again. 

She still had 16 portraits left in inventory,  but pondered how she could get Augustus to produce more during his incarceration. She thought of suggesting it to the constabulary as a sort of therapy for the condemned man.

Just then, J. Harold Bilby walked in and asked for a litre of scotch, and noticed the portrait of Damien behind the bar. "How much?" He pointed at the demon childs portrait.  "£500" she proclaimed folding her arms, then corrected herself..."No, sorry,  £600" Bilby frowned and fingered at her to bring the painting closer.  He took out his cheque book and proclaimed his outrage at the price increase.  He had purchased "Fat Patty" a few months prior for only £500. She explained that Augustus had been arrested for murder, and his work, should he be executed, would certainly cease production. Bilby nodded and feverishly wrote out the full amount,  for the portrait and litre.

Submitted: February 02, 2022

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