The Night it Rained Rembrandt – 9

THE STORY THUS FAR…

Concluding the rewrite of “The Night it Rained Rembrandt.” Confused? Don’t be. Simply begin with part 6 of the narrative and it’ll all be crystal clear.

Might I also suggest giving Halloween Party ’21 a try. The latest horror collection from Gravelight Press, with cover and design by me.

From the disturbing undercurrents of “Insecticide” to the psychologically charged drama “Unwell” to the speculative thriller “Before She’s Gone Forever,” there’s an entire trick-or-treat bag of goodies awaiting you between the pages of this unique anthology. Don’t miss it!


They stood amid the metal wreckage strewn across US 24, the entire cavalcade in pieces. Stopping the convoy had been easy. They had simply awaited its arrival under cover of darkness. Upon its approach, Blitzkrieg had employed telekinesis to veer the vehicles into one another’s paths. He’d remained cognizant not to damage the transport vans and their priceless cargo.

“Let’s find what we’re here for; I don’t like this wind,” Blitzkrieg told MAN FORCE, and the two masked criminals approached the first of the inoperable vans in search of their prize.

In the dark distance car doors were opened as weapons were drawn. Clichéd threats followed. Blitzkrieg and his partner ignored them all. A hail of gunfire shattered the stillness of the early morning but none of the hollow-point bullets hit their mark due in no small part to Blitzkrieg’s mental control of the environment around him. As he kept the law at bay, MAN FORCE tore into the crates one by one. The drivers of he vans had long since fled on foot.

“Got it,” MAN FORCE said, emerging from the back of the second van.

“Let me see.” Blitzkrieg pointed a small flashlight in Jackson’s direction and beheld “The Music Party,” Rembrandt’s 1628 oil on wood that typically hung in the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam. “Good work.”

The gunfire ceased and the night again fell silent.

“You okay flying and holding onto that?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” MAN FORCE said and nodded.

“Let’s go. I won’t be able to divert bullets forever.”

Without warning, Jackson screamed. The painting slipped from his grasp as he collapsed to the pavement. Barry searched their surroundings, not sure which silhouetted cop had fired, not sure why his telekinetic shield had failed to prevent the bullet from finding a mark. He suddenly realized there had been no gunfire. He dropped to Jackson’s level. He lay unmoving, hands clutching his head and body semi-fetal. Barry called out to his friend but received no response. Had Barry been a trained physician, he might have recognized that Jackson was experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm and that emergency treatment was critical to survival. Lacking medical acumen, Barry assumed Jackson’s injury had been sustained by an external force. Jackson suddenly glanced up at Barry in faint moment of awareness.

“I think you’re right,” he managed.

“About what?” Barry asked pensively.

“The wind. Storm’s coming.” Jackson’s body fell limp.

Any emotions Barry might have felt at his friend’s passing were hidden behind his mask and lost in the darkness. First and foremost, theirs was a business partnership, and Barry intended to complete their present assignment.

He quickly retrieved the canvas from the roadway and stood up, only then realizing that Jackson was right. Barry became acutely aware of a sharp increase in wind speed accompanied by a drop in air pressure. He was surrounded by police, weapons drawn, but their presence was insignificant.

“Come on then,” he said. “Take me!”

“On the ground!” one of the cops shouted.

“You’re going to have to kill me!” Barry replied, through the now howling wind.

One of the surviving officers would later report that the Blitzkrieg’s final statement seemed to be addressed not to them, but to someone or something else. The sound of a runaway freight train materialized, distant at first but growing louder by the second. Barry’s eyes widened as, behind the officers a massive funnel cloud appeared. Everyone scattered at its sudden approach. Everyone except Barry. The twister enveloped him as he became one with its terrible vortices. In those final moments of his life, Barry realized that his years spent in fear had been for naught. The whirlwind’s hold was rapturous. He succumbed to its deadly embrace, content that this was where he was meant to be.

––

In the days that followed, the weather service bureaus could find no scientific explanation for the presence of the Carbondale tornado. It defied all weather logic. There had been no thunderstorm activity that evening, no humidity, and no updraft. The sky had been clear and cloudless. Low-level jets of warm, humid air that blow from the south at 3,000 to 5,000 feet and serve as kindling in the formation of tornados had also been absent. The storm received a Fujita Scale ranking of 3 and contained multiple vortices. Despite this classification, virtually no damage had been reported, and the tornado had lasted less than one minute, vanishing almost as quickly as it had appeared. Despite searches in the area, neither the Blitzkrieg’s body nor the Rembrandt work were ever found.

––

At 3:26 a.m., shortly after Jackson succumbed to a fatal brain aneurysm and Barry was pulled into the heart of a twister, in a small suburban house twenty miles north of Carbondale, nine-year-old Christina Armitage awoke from her sleep, suddenly aware that she’d left her favorite stuffed animal, King Mouse, on the lawn. She quietly tip-toed down the stairs, through the living room, and unlocked the front door. Christina giggled as her bare feet pressed atop the cool blades of dew-covered grass. She stumbled along in the darkness.

As she reached down to retrieve her stuffed animal, Christina felt a rush of air overhead. Glancing skyward, she watched as an oblong object, a silhouette barely visible against the glow of the moon, tumbled ever closer, finally landing on the grass just a few feet away from where she stood. The child picked up the object and eyed it curiously. She had never heard the name Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and was unaware that the work she held dated to 1826. She mostly felt captivated by the wooden painting’s sudden appearance in her yard.

Christina waited outside for several minutes, wondering if additional objects were forthcoming from the sky, but eventually gave up and returned to her room, King Mouse under one arm, and Rembrandt’s “The Music Party” under the other. She quietly placed the work beneath her bed.

“Finders keepers, she said to King Mouse and fell fast asleep.

NEXT: A new story arc begins!