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Copyright 2011 Neil S. Plakcy

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Thank you to Miriam Auerbach, Mike Jastrzebski, Christine Kling and especially Sharon Potts, for their help in bringing this book together.

Cover design by Kelly Nichols.

Smashwords Edition copyright 2013 Neil S. Plakcy

The Restorer’s Studio

Paris, Friday night

By ten o’clock at night, as Dmitri Baranov was cleaning the floor of the painting studio at the Institute des Artistes in Paris, the building was deserted, the classrooms and studios dark. The cold winter air snuck in through the centuries-old walls, making Dmitri shiver as he scrubbed a stubborn spot of dried paint on the ancient marble floor.

Or perhaps he shivered because he realized this was the last studio he had to clean before … well, better not to think about it. Just do it.

The institute was housed in a rambling four-story building with mansard roofs and tall windows, located just off the Place Pigalle in Paris, a few blocks from Sacré Coeur. Through one tall window he could see the glowing spire of the Eiffel Tower. The Institute was halfway up the hill of Montmartre and during the day offered commanding views of the grimy streets and leafless plane trees that surrounded it. He loved Paris with all his heart, and he felt at home there in a way he had never felt back in Kursk.

When the marble shone in the sharp overhead light, he stood up and stretched his back. He was only twenty-two, but hours hunched over an easel during the day, then the effort to clean studios used by dozens of messy art students, wore him down.

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