Sunday, 17 June 2018

The Forger (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier)

This post is inspired by this article about Sotheby's latest acquisition: James Martin, an expert whose scientific mastery helps him spot fakes.

In the Dracula Dossier there's one story seed and one Node that could be affected. The Node is the Extraordinary Objects Department, and the story seed is the Portrait of Dracula by Francis Aytown, created in 1894.

Sotheby's offers a five-year money back guarantee in the event of a forgery, so it has every incentive to make sure it sells genuine artwork. Leaving aside that expense there's insurance to consider: every time it has to make a claim, premiums skyrocket. That's why it brought Marin and Orion Analytical on board.

The Extraordinary Objects Department handles strange, unusual and unique items from around the world. Everything it sells is scrutinized by experts, to ensure fakes don't slip through the net. Now it has the best scientific examination equipment and personnel on offer. Assuming the EOD is either an Edom or Conspiracy asset, why would it do that?

If an Edom asset, then it's because the EOD is stepping up its game. Orion isn't just expert at spotting forgeries: it has the very best anti-Vampire equipment Tinman has to offer. Anything found in the field or brought in by outsiders is subject to its scrutiny. The department's Recovery Team is the beneficiary of this new scientific wisdom, and is much more likely to spot either Conspiracy influencers or fake vampire-related artefacts. It's also going to be much more capable in the field, should it encounter something a little more dangerous than the norm.

If a Conspiracy asset, then it's because the EOD is trying to make itself look good. Too many dodgy artworks have gone out into the world, and people are getting suspicious. There's only so many times the jug can go to the well before it shatters, so Martin is the "new broom." He's not supposed to uncover anything; his job is to cover up the Recovery Team's activities. If brought on as an innocent, then the Conspiracy will be actively trying to corrupt him, and the agents might try to use him as a way into the EOD. Alternately he might be a Renfield, or even a full-fledged Vampire, the new, unofficial head of the Recovery Team.

Then there's that Portrait of Dracula. If it's a forgery, then Orion Analytical should spot it easily enough. That might lead somewhere interesting, depending on who the forger is. However it could be more interesting to use Aytown's portrait in a different way.

Francis Aytown is hardly the world's most renowned Victorian-era artist, and his Portrait is never going to be worth anything to anyone other than a small circle of vampire hunters. However there are plenty of other artists of his era whose work is worth a great deal more.

As the article points out, there's only so many times anyone can forge a Da Vinci.  "The technical skill needed to forge a Leonardo is colossal," says expert Georgina Adam, "But with someone like Modigliani it isn't." Aytown is in the Modigliani ballpark - someone who wanted a canvas of the right age to forge an "authentic" Modigliani might use the Portrait as a base. In fact, a canvas of Aytown's vintage is even better; Modigliani famously tried to destroy all his early works, so someone wanting to forge an early Modigliani that escaped destruction would love to have an 1894 canvas to work with.

If the Portrait is a minor item, then the deception could be uncovered by Orion. However there probably wouldn't be enough left of it to be useful. The process of preparing the canvas for re-use would have destroyed the original.

Suppose it was a Major Item, with all the psychic essence that implies. Suppose a part of Dracula is in that canvas. Imagine being that forger, working with it every day, having it eat into your soul. 

Story Seed: Dash of Color. The agents are alerted by an art-knowledgeable Contact (Journalist, Art Historian, Sculptor) who points them at a recent scandal in the art world. A Modigliani passed as genuine by Sotheby's has turned out to be a fake, but in a peculiar twist the owner not only refused to accept that she'd bought a fraud, she also committed suicide - cutting her throat while standing in front of the alleged Modigliani. Forensic analysis at the scene notes that there ought to have been blood splatter all over the painting, but not a drop can be seen on the canvas.  

The painting is currently in the possession of the Metropolitan police, but it might not be there long unless the agents intervene. A group who, while not part of the Conspiracy direct, are Conspiracy-adjacent, intends to steal it. This might be some of the Psychic's hangers-on, or the Madman; whoever steals or tries to steal it is highly motivated. Almost psychotic, really - and they show signs of vampiric infection. Former Renfields or unaligned/feral vampires are likely to be members of this group.

Tracing the fake through Sotheby's to the seller discovers that the vendor acquired it from a forger working in an East London garage. It might be the Sculptor, or someone hired by the Sculptor. Whoever it is has a highly sophisticated set-up in that garage, but it's all for naught; the forger's been going slowly out of his mind ever since he worked on that piece. The studio's covered in renditions of the original Portrait, but he can't quite get the likeness.

Meanwhile the Portrait is asserting itself, underneath all that fake Modigliani. The more blood it gets, the more like the original it becomes. If it can get enough sacrifices - perhaps provided by its new owners - the Portrait will be exactly as it was before the forger got his hands on it.


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